The Eastern Branch of the Monmouth County Library in Shrewsbury hosts an exhibit about Red Bank’s T. Thomas Fortune House, seen here during a student tour in July. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Press release from T. Thomas Fortune Project Committee
The fourth annual T. Thomas Fortune Birthday Celebration (a fundraiser hosted recently at the Oyster Point Hotel under the title “Fortune . . . Telling the Truth”) kicked off a string of events to highlight the restoration of the T. Thomas Fortune House, a National Historic Landmark, into the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center.
The Monmouth County Public Library’s Eastern Branch (1001 Route 35, Shrewsbury) is currently featuring an impressive exhibit about T. Thomas Fortune and the history of the 1850’s Second-Empire style home. In conjunction with the exhibit, there will be a panel-discussion on Wednesday, October 19 with members of the T. Thomas Fortune Project Committee. Entitled Our Journey in the Historic Preservation of the T. Thomas Fortune House, the 7 p.m. event will detail how this grassroots organization triumphed over a series of setbacks — and how they have galvanized and educated the community about Fortune, in the process of forging a project is that is being looked at as a model for historic preservation between the public and private sectors.
Meanwhile, the Monmouth County Historical Association, a big supporter of the restoration project, was on hand at the birthday celebration, along with such dignitaries as Freeholder John Curley, Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, and Councilman Edward Zipprich. Councilman Zipprich and George Bowden were honored with the first T. Thomas Fortune Foundation Awards, for their action in shedding light on the deterioration of the home. Councilman Zipprich also read a letter from Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman (NJ 12th District), who acknowledged the pioneering efforts of the African American journalist Fortune as a social justice crusader.
Roger Mumford of Roger Mumford Homes, the developer behind the “Fortune Square” project and the restoration of the T. Thomas Fortune House, announced that the work will start in a matter of weeks. Mumford’s compelling words told his journey of getting involved in what he called, “a risky investment.” However, with the state of race relations in the nation he said, “I felt it was the right thing to do.” Mumford is investing close to $3 million in the restoration of the home, which Fortune called “Maple Hall,” when he lived there with his family from 1901-1910.
Close to 100 people were in attendance at the luncheon. Dubbed the “Fortune Tellers,” students from area schools read from the words of Fortune; words that are as relevant today as they were when he said them. The keynote address by Dr. Delindus Brown of South Carolina State University — a 1991 recipient of a T. Thomas Fortune Fellowship in journalism — kept the spotlight on empowering youth through educational opportunities.
Linda Shockley, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, explored Fortune’s life as a highly intellectual man and game changing activist-journalist. Dr. Walter Greason, a history professor of economics at Monmouth University and member of the T. Thomas Fortune Project Committee, addressed Fortune’s rise to fame as a journalist and economist, through his establishment of the National Afro American Business and Investment Company.
The Red Bank Men’s Club was honored and presented with a framed picture of T. Thomas Fortune and his company’s board of directors, taken in the late 1880’s. The T. Thomas Fortune Project also announced that it will establish a T. Thomas Fortune Scholarship for students interested in pursuing careers in journalism and communications.
Overall, it was a joyous occasion that was made possible by the T. Thomas Fortune Project Committee and its sponsors: Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Smallwood Wealth Management, Two River Theater, Two River Community Bank and Hackensack Meridian Health. Please visit www.tthomasfortunehouse.wordpress.com for blog updates, and the website, www.thomasfortunehouse.weebly.com for more information on T. Thomas Fortune . For a charitable donation, make your check payable to The Red Bank Men’s Club Foundation, P. O. Box 2007, Westside Station, Red Bank, NJ 07701.