Digging Up the Backyard: Seabrook Farms and the Importance of Critical Local Histories


  • Andrew Urban




This article explores Seabrook Farms as a relevant case study in how local New Jersey histories can be connected to national and international narratives about displacement, resettlement, and government-sponsored labor migrations. It examines how students can participate in the creation of new scholarship and exhibits, and illustrates that there is still much to learn about the history of our state. In order to maximize its production of frozen foods, Seabrook Farms relied on federal policies and initiatives that allowed the company to recruit and hire Japanese American internees, German POWs, guestworkers from the British West Indies, black and white farm labor from the U.S. South, and Estonian and other Eastern European refugees from Displaced Persons’ camps in postwar Germany. As this article argues, scholars concerned with the relevance of history, and the public humanities more generally, have an obligation to approach New Jersey’s past with a critical and outward-looking perspective, so as to uncover the full economic, political, and social importance of local sites and stories.






Teaching New Jersey History