Star Ledger: Black History Month: Newark…

Star Ledger: Black History Month: Newark project honors influential city educator James Baxter

“Every ethnic group needs such a person,” Price said, noting that other ethnic groups also sought to have their leaders’ memories immortalized in brick in some fashion. It’s no coincidence that Newark named its 1955 public housing project placed in the First Ward — then the nation’s fourth largest Italian-American enclave — Christopher Columbus Homes.

Now the tradition of honoring local ethnic groups is frowned upon in some circles, Alderman said. Some school boards around the nation have even written formal policies discouraging naming a school after a person. In many cases, he said, the powers that be are simply trying to avoid controversy.

Great long-form piece on how Baxter Terrace came to get its name, and the history of naming locales as a way to honor great achievements and how that process has evolved. With the stereotypes of drugs and crime associated with the housing complex, will the planned city park maintain the Baxter name?

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Newarker, PCA Elder, Business Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

2 thoughts on “Star Ledger: Black History Month: Newark…”

  1. Remembering Baxter Terrace
    Though I haven’t thought much about 157 James Street Apartment 2C in years I will definitely miss it because it was where I grew up. The very idea that it is being demolished is like losing a good friend.
    Baxter Terrace was at the time during the early part of the 1960s a good place for a kid to have grown up, a good place to have been a kid. To my recollection was a time when parents were more connected to community, to each other in the sense that you knew you had better behave because just maybe somebody’s Mother, Father, Aunt, Uncle, Grandmother was always watching – back then the proverbial nosy old lady peeking out of the window was a tradition that was alive and well.
    I remember a recreation program during the summer where we made things, times when we kids donned our bathing suits and bathing caps to cool off in the neighborhood sprinkler system on the rare occasion that it was on – what a disappointment when it wasn’t. Fortunately for us kids our energies were fueled with games of hide and seek. On occasion we walked around Baxter Terrace repeating at least one childish chant that comes to mind that went like this, “we are rough, we are tough, we are the kids don’t take no stuff so take off your shoes and smell your feet ‘cause we are the kids from James Street.”
    In our childhood innocence we engaged our imaginations in play, one time in particular we decided we were going to dig our way to China, and so with tablespoons from our Mothers’ kitchens we shoved our tools into the dirt as we sat beneath a tree that stood a little ways off from my building and frantically began digging our way to the other side of the world.
    Baxter Terrace is where I first learned to dance; I enjoyed doing the Jerk, the Twist and whatever dances were out at those smokin’ playground parties where hot dogs, burgers and sodas were served to a large crowd of party goers.
    I remember having a huge crush on a really cute boy by the name of Freddie who lived in the building across ‘the court’ from mine, whose sisters’ if I remember correctly had beautiful singing voices. It is here that I got my love for Spanish cooking. I learned a little of the language and gained a strong appreciation for Spanish music and culture. “Willie and Junior” I can still hear your Mother calling you. I can still smell the wonderful aroma of her cooking that filled the hallway as I made my way up to visit my friend Linda who lived on the second floor. And I remember how a young man, an older teenager named Reggie had a pet squirrel.
    We lived next door to an African-American opera singer who we knew simply as Miss Archie. Her Mother always made us homemade chicken soup with vegetables and a tomato base. I didn’t appreciate it then, didn’t even like it. But having raised my own family I do now, because I appreciate the work and love it took to create it as I now create my own.
    During the time I attended Burnet Street School there wasn’t much black history being taught, we were mainly taught about George Washington, Abe Lincoln, the usual historical characters, but when we learned about Crispus Attucks, a black man, the first black man to die in the American Revolution – and this I remember well — our hearts swelled with pride. Unfortunately we didn’t know about the historical aspect of our neighborhood, the deep roots that ran as far back as 1864 when a man by the name of James M. Baxter served 45 years as Principal in Newark’s Colored School that in time would become Mr. Baxter’s School. And to think, as I recall, nobody bothered to tell us. No one took responsibility.
    I guess something got lost along the way once the drugs began to infiltrate and take hold of the Baxter Terrace community as it has so many other communities in the United States, including the suburbs. But I can’t help wondering if we had known more about our own history, the meer fact that we had our own local, historical figure of which the community of the past was named, that maybe it would have survived. But I have no qualms about having lived there. I have fond memories, I am proud to have come from there.
    Though it will be torn down, it remain forever alive and well in my heart. With that said — I will say, as the song goes “Thanks for the Memory (of things I can’t forget).”
    Renee McPherson Carr


  2. renee please forgive for not rembering you but the things you have just mentioned I remember very well growing up in the BT. I lived at 147 James , my brother is lewis Gorden aka looney and my sister is Delores. My brother is still in N.J. Im In atlanta,ga . My sister is in Houston, Texas


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