The city of Whitesboro, New Jersey was established in 1902 as a town exclusively for Black Americans.  The idea was in response to increasing white resistance to Black people living in Cape May County, New Jersey.  The African-American Equitable Industrial Association, founded by Reverend J.W. Fishburn and four other members of Cape May City’s AME Zion Church bought the land in an effort inspire the self-help philosophy of Booker T. Washington. With the assistance of many investors from the South, most notably the George H. White Land Improvement Company, the Association bought 2,000 acres of land approximately ten miles north of Cape May City for $14,000.

In December of 1901, four months after the purchase was finalized, ads started being displayed for the sale of the lots in magazines such as Colored American. Prospective residents had to be of good character, and in the spirit of Washington needed to possess steady and industrious habits. Once they were approved, they would receive a number of lots, each 50 feet by 150 feet (about a sixth of an acre) for a down payment of $5 per lot and a promise to till the land.

The residents had no obligation to build a home or any other structure on their lot, however, the land was promised to be good for growing farm produce and raising chickens, so building homes was encouraged.  Potential residents of the land had ten years to pay off the initial purchase price of fifty dollars and were charged an additional $2 to $5 a month depending on their income.  Relatively few of the first residents were actually from New Jersey as the Equitable Association had hoped. However, most of them had moved from Virginia or North Carolina, where the name “George White” was familiar. In March of 1902 the town named itself “Whitesboro” after its most famous investor, George White, who when his term ended in 1901, was the last black Congressional representative until 1929.

In addition to purchasing the initial land for the town, the George H. White Land Improvement Company reinvested its profits back into the community. Although most of the town’s residents were preoccupied with farming the land, many residents were employed by the Improvement Company to construct the first buildings and roads in the town.

Whitesboro’s population grew steadily if modestly reaching 100 residents in 1906. By 1909 Whitesboro had two churches, an industrial school for children, a railroad station, a post office and a hotel, all built by residents.  The town also had three railroad lines including one that went east to the Atlantic Coast. The slow steady growth in population kept going until the Great Depression. Nonetheless, the town survived financial downturn and continues to exist today with approximately 1,000 residents.

Source: Lanum, M. (2011, December 01). Whitesboro, New Jersey (1902- ). BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/whitesboro-new-jersey-1902

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