NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The history of New Jersey’s largest city is headed to a significant place.
A new museum is taking over a police precinct to share stories that shape Newark, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported Monday.
“It’s called ‘Congress Versus the Supreme Court,’ but I have changed the name to ‘How This Book Saved My Life,'” city historian Junius Williams said.
There’s a story behind this book that dates back 54 years, when Williams and his friends were pulled over by police on Court Street.
“Ordered us out of the car, up against the car, ‘Mother you know what.’ There were three with the guns drawn and one with an automatic shotgun pointed at my chest,” Williams said.
He said he was ordered to open the trunk and inside was a box of books, including one in particular.
“Because of that, the sergeant said to these guys, ‘Let ’em go. They’re law students,'” Williams said.
That was during the 1967 Newark rebellion, when 26 people died and hundreds were injured over four days of rioting, looting and property destruction, prompted by police beating Black cab driver John Smith.
“This is but one story of many stories that can be told about Newark. There’s nothing more powerful than a story,” Williams said.
And those stories will be shared in the Newark Community Museum — a vision by Mayor Ras Baraka.
“Our community just didn’t turn out this way by accident. There were a series of events, historical educational events, that our young people, that our families should know about — about Newark,” Baraka said.
The museum will be housed at the 1st Police Precinct on 17th Avenue, which is significant because it is where the Newark rebellion began.
“To repurpose it both for the police and for the community to something positive finally coming out of this all these years later,” Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara said.
The design of the interactive museum incorporated community feedback. It will chronicle local activism and positive police changes, and be the headquarters for the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery.
“A place that once was a place people once got arrested now becomes a place of help, now becomes a place of hope, now becomes a place when people can come for a different reason and a different purpose,” director Lakeesha Eure said.
It will be a place to reflect on the past while working toward a better future.
Residents are being asked to donate artifacts to the museum that portray the struggle for justice.
It’s scheduled to open next fall.