This illustrated essay traces the history of African Americans in early New Jersey (1619-1865) as they struggled against slavery and built communities as free people of color. The narrative draws from a wide range of established scholarly research to give a long-term historical perspective on a tradition of African American cultural resilience in the face of consistent anti-black racism. Understanding the contribution of Africans and African Americans is essential to understanding to New Jersey’s past. Their story also provides a richer more nuanced approach to developing heritage practice today. Funding for this project was provided by the Passaic County Department of Cultural & Historic Affairs.