How Newark Became Newark: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American City

How Newark Became Newark: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American City

How Newark Became Newark: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American City

How Newark Became Newark: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American City


For the first time in forty years, the story of one of America's most maligned cities is told in all its grit and glory. With its open-armed embrace of manufacturing, Newark, New Jersey, rode the Industrial Revolution to great prominence and wealth that lasted well into the twentieth century. In the postwar years, however, Newark experienced a perfect storm of urban troubles- political corruption, industrial abandonment, white flight, racial conflict, crime, poverty. Cities across the United States found themselves in similar predicaments, yet Newark stands out as an exceptional case. Its saga reflects the rollercoaster ride of Everycity U.S.A., only with a steeper rise, sharper turns, and a much more dramatic plunge.

How Newark Became Newark is a fresh, unflinching popular history that spans the city's epic transformation from a tiny Puritan village into a manufacturing powerhouse, on to its desperate struggles in the twentieth century and beyond. After World War II, unrest mounted as the minority community was increasingly marginalized, leading to the wrenching civic disturbances of the 1960s. Though much of the city was crippled for years, How Newark Became Newark is also a story of survival and hope. Today, a real estate revival and growing population are signs that Newark is once again in ascendance.


The story of Newark is America’s story. It is the story of colonization, indepen
dence, growth, and maturity. It is the story of a brave people

—Lyndon B. Johnson

With those words of congratulations and warm wishes, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson on the first day of 1966, a festive year began in which Newark celebrated its 300th anniversary. It seemed as if every one of the city’s community groups, businesses, schools, and houses of worship got in on the birthday festivities, which were spread over a full twelve months. Social calendars were filled with concerts and banquets, from a health services dinner dance, to a sports awards dinner for local legends holding records in track, basketball, and gymnastics, to an evening honoring Old First Presbyterian, the church founded by Newark’s original Puritan settlers.

Founder’s Day activities on Wednesday, May 18, marked the year’s highlight. Church bells and factory whistles rang at noon, kicking off a threehour parade of bagpipers, historic steam engines, marching bands, soldier brigades, and floats sponsored by corporations and city agencies. Some four hundred banners emblazoned with the circular “Pride in Newark” logo lined Broad Street, the exceptionally wide road that had served as the grand main drag for three centuries. From Lincoln Park, the parade crept north past dignitaries and everyday citizens lined up in front of the elegant granite façade of City Hall. Farther up, just after the Four Corners of Broad and Market streets, once acclaimed as the world’s busiest intersection, the Prudential Insurance Company’s glowing-white corporate headquarters rose twenty-four stories into the sky, where “300” was visible in red hundredfoot-high numerals. Skyscrapers built during the city’s early 1900s heyday sat across Broad Street, followed by Military Park and quaint Trinity Church, whose classic columns and white spire wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a New England village.

The Newark Museum joined the anniversary-year celebration with a series of special exhibits, including a display showcasing the works of Adolf . . .

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