James Howe House

Montclair, NJ – Friends of the Howe House saved a historic Montclair home by purchasing it for over $400,000 in December, but there is much more to do secure the future of the first property owned by freed slave James Howe and you can be part of it.

Friends of the Howe House have planned three upcoming events in Montclair aimed at raising $50,000 towards securing the James Howe House, the first African American-owned home in Montclair, dating back to the 18th century, and spreading the word about the home’s importance to New Jersey and U.S. history.

James Howe worked as an enslaved man for Major Nathanial Crane in the early 1800s. After almost two decades in slavery, Crane ended Howe’s enslavement and on his death in 1831, Crane left Howe the house, $400, and approximately six acres of land. Howe used the home and the property to support his family; there is evidence to suggest a small Black community developed around the James Howe House.

The first event is a “Howe House Party” with One River Art School on Friday, January 27th, 6-9 p.m. Participants will paint, draw or digitally create the Howe House with help from expert art instructors from One River during evening of fun and art. No art experience required; final works will be on display at the One River Gallery throughout February. Tickets are $75 (drinks and hors d’oeuvres included).

Montclair Public Library Hosts Program on Howe House History

The second event, on Wednesday, February 8 at 6:30 p.m., at Montclair Public Library, is a panel discussion about The James Howe House and its history.

“The story of the Howe House brings Montclair’s history to life,” says Library Director Janet Torsney. “We are honored to bring together this remarkable group of people to explore its past, present and future.”

This hybrid program is co-presented by The Montclair Public Library Foundation, The Friends of Howe House, The Montclair History Center, Montclair African American Heritage Foundation, The Universalist Unitarian Congregation at Montclair and St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Montclair. Registration is required. Register to attend in person or online at montclairlibrary.org/events.

Moderator Dionne Ford is a journalist, author and member of the board of The Friends of the Howe House. She co-edited “Slavery’s Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation” and is the author of the forthcoming Go Back and Get It: A Memoir of Race, Inheritance, and Intergenerational Healing. (Bold Type Books, April 4, 2023.)

Panelists are:

● James Amemasor serves research specialist at The New Jersey Historical Society and teaches political science at Rutgers-Newark.

● Janice C. Gilyard is the president of The Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society (NJ Chapter), a member of the James Howe House Research Team, New Jersey Genealogical Society, charter member of The Harriet Tubman Chapter of Sons & Daughters of the US Middle Passage, and The National Genealogical Society, and a descendent of the Howe and Crane families.

● Betty Holloway is a member of the Montclair African American Genealogy Group and the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation where she developed a trolley tour of institutions, businesses, and people of importance to the development of Montclair’s African American community.

● Geoffrey Zylstra is an associate professor of history at New York City College of Technology at CUNY. His research focuses on the development of 19-century industrial cities in the US, including the growth of Black neighborhoods.

Get Involved

On Thursday March 9th, an art exhibit and auction titled #HoweHouseMatters will take place at the Gallery at Berkshire Hathaway HoweServices LLC, 695 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, between 5-8 p.m. Artists are encouraged to donate and all forms of art are accepted. Art must be ready to display. The artwork drop-off is March 6th, 7th, and 8th, between 9am-5pm.

The Friends of the Howe House will also have a booth at the Montclair Art Museum during their Carnivale, a night celebrating Afro-Caribbean, African American, and African diaspora culture which takes place on March 2.

“These events are crucial for securing the Howe House’s future and also about bringing the community together so they can be part of the push to preserve African American history in Montclair, New Jersey and the whole country,” says Kimberly Latortue of Friends of the Howe House. “We had a big win last month securing the house after it went on sale. Now the real work of ensuring its future begins.”

“We’ve had so much support already from our community towards this venture and we need that support to keep coming,” says Betty Holloway of the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation, and a board members of the Friends of the Howe House. “We are always looking for financial support but we also want people to know there are so many ways to get involved: volunteer your time, lend your expertise, help supply food and educate yourself on your town’s history. This is a community effort and we need many on board.”

“The awareness-raising and fund-raising events are crucial to preserve the Howe House and its surrounding gardens so it can be developed it as a site to teach the history of slavery in North America and celebrate the impact of African Americans in New Jersey and the local community,” says Aminah Toler of Friends of the Howe House. “This is the legacy we are working for.”

Local groups involved in Friends of the Howe House include the Montclair African-American Heritage Foundation, Montclair Chapter of the NAACP, Montclair Mutual Aid and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair.

For more about the James Howe House, or to get involved in fundraising, volunteering or provide donations in-kind, visit https://www.friendsofthehowehouse.org