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• Miriam Ascarelli, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Gilda Rogers, vice president, T. Thomas Fortune Foundation, 732-383-5483
RED BANK — The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the T.
Thomas Fortune Foundation will join together on Oct. 26 to co-host an afternoon of festivities to celebrate the African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune and SPJ’s recent designation of Fortune’s Red Bank home as a historic site in journalism.
The celebration, to be held at the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, 94 Dr. James Parker Blvd., Red Bank, will run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The cultural center — which opened this year –once served as the home of Fortune and his family.
The family lived there from 1901 until 1911. Although Fortune’s story has been largely forgotten, Fortune was co-owner and editor of The New York Age, one of the leading black newspapers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
He used his newspaper as a vehicle to speak out against lynching, black disenfranchisement and other injustices. In addition to the unveiling of a bronze plaque from the Society of Professional Journalists designating the Fortune home as a historic site in journalism, the program will feature a talk by Dr. Walter Greason, president of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation, about how Fortune influenced the development of Red Bank and also helped to radicalize the black press.
After the ceremony, there will be tours of the newly restored Fortune house and an opportunity to see the cultural center’s current exhibition, Afrofuturism & Afrofuturist Design: From Ancient Dogon to Wakandan Futures. Light refreshments will also be served.
Fortune’s home — which he named Maple Hall — was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and the New Jersey Register in 1979. However, by the early 2000’s, the house had fallen into disrepair and was slated for demolition.
It was saved from the wrecking ball in 2016, thanks to the efforts of local activists and developer Roger Mumford, who came up with a plan to restore the house and convert it to a cultural center and to build 31 luxury apartments in the style of the home in the back of the property.
The restored home re-opened as the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center at Fortune Square this past May. The Society of Professional Journalists’ National Historic Sites in Journalism program is completely separate from the historic site registries administered by the state and federal governments. Thanks to a nomination by the New Jersey chapter, SPJ named the Fortune House a National Historic Site in Journalism this summer.