Introduction

Newark Police Meet with Residents

Newark police meet with residents of a public housing project in 1991.

In March 2016, the Newark city council created a civilian complaint review board with oversight of the police. The American Civil Liberties Union of NJ called this act the culmination of a “50-year fight” for reform.

This exhibit examines that fight from the perspective of the activists and organizations that led it: women and men like Louise Epperson and Ramon Rivera and organizations as different as CORE and Garden State Equality.

Police accountability was never the only issue. These activists saw it as part of bigger struggles over civil rights, political power, social services and spaces of their own.

This is not a simple story of success. How did differences within and between these communities help and hurt their efforts? What can we learn from this history to make a more just and equitable Newark today?

The companion Spanish-language exhibit, Acción Latina: Protesta y Transformación Socio-cultural en Nueva Jersey, broadens the story beyond Newark by examining the forgotten Latinx riots that took place in four New Jersey towns in the 1960s and 1970s.

While some of these stories are familiar, they have never been put together in an exhibit that helps us understand the present moment of reform in Newark and discussions over police-community relations everywhere.

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This exhibit has been created by graduate and undergraduate students at Rutgers University-Newark. The ideas expressed here do not represent those of the Newark Public Library or Rutgers University.