A Treasure Trove of African America History

The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey is a little-known treasure – a small, unassuming and remarkable exhibit space tucked into the backwoods of Newtonville in Atlantic County.

Founded by South Jersey resident Ralph Hunter, the museum began with a modest collection of African American antiques, art prints and novelty objects that Hunter kept in his house and occasionally showed to interested neighbors and friends. Eventually the collection got too large for his home, so Hunter decided to open his passion to the public in 2003.

Today, the museum, which is housed inside a modest, single-story building at 661 Jackson Road, boasts more than 3,000 pieces of African American memorabilia, artifacts, advertisements, artwork and time-capsule trinkets. It’s an honest, captivating and often irreverent collection that tells a uniquely American story of racial tension, the art it inspired and the redemption it eventually ushered forth.

The museum also hosts rotating exhibits. Through the end of January, “The Way We Were: A Pictorial of Club Harlem” examines Atlantic City’s past through photographs and memorabilia, with displays of rare photos of the famous Club Harlem, which opened in 1935. Local artist Quinton Greene’s paintings of black life also are on display, and author Deborah Stalling-Patton has included a series of pictures from her book “Shy Poodle.”

Admission to the museum is free, although you’ll probably be compelled to make a donation once you see this place for yourself. For more information, visit www.aahmsnj.org.

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