SLEDGER SPOTLIGHTS FORTUNE HOUSE

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Today’s Sunday Star-Ledger has an extensive piece about the black activist journalist T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune and the effort to save his longtime Red Bank home from the wrecking ball — or, as the article’s author puts it, “from predatory developers.”

The story’s not online; so far, it appears only in the print version’s Perspective section.

Authored by Claire Serant, a journalism professor at St. John’s University, the article notes that Fortune was born a slave in 1856, wrote for the white-owned New York Sun — “which was no small feat in the late 1800s” — and helped found a predecessor organization to the NAACP.

He also founded three national newspapers. One of them, the New York Age, “was the most widely read black newspaper of the era,” Serant writes. And he used the term “Afro-Americans” to denote black people at the time when ‘colored’ and ‘Negro’ were the standards.

From the story:

The periodicals urged African-Americans to agitate for change and equality in the United States and around the world. Fortune co-founded the National African-American League in 1890 and suggested the phrase ‘Afro-American’ to explain that blacks should be proud of being from Africa and being American citizens.

The house, on Drs. James Parker Boulevard, was designated last year as one of New Jersey’s 10 most endangered historic sites by Preservation New Jersey. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Quoted on the effort to preserve the house are Councilwoman Sharon Lee; Historic Preservation Commission chairman George Bowden; and Gilda Rogers, who runs The Source outreach program at Red Bank Regional High.

Rogers, the story says, “plans to encourage students to start a petition drive to save Fortune’s house. Signatures will be taken to Trenton lawmakers.”

Fortune lived in the house from 1901 until 1911, when it was sold in a sheriff’s sale. he died in 1928 in Philadelphia.

The article notes that the Hub’s Sarah Klepner is working with the commission on an exhibit of Fortune’s writings for a Black History Month event. The books and editorials will be on display Feb. 27 at the River Street Commons, 49 Catherine Street, from 6 to 9p.

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