Over its 130 years of publication beginning in 1818, the Burlington Mirror, later known as New Jersey Mirror, recorded the history of Burlington County in detail. Death reports and obituaries of African Americans appeared together with reports of whites without fanfare, and frequently paid very flattering comments. The earliest identified African American obituary is from 1824, but they appear more frequently beginning in the 1850s. Coverage of issues of interest to African Americans was frequently positive. For example, a story about a failed attempt to capture a runaway slave near Timbuctoo in 1860, used words like "invaders" and "kidnappers" to refer to the slave catchers, clearly indicating disagreement with the Fugitive Slave Act, which promoted efforts to capture and return slaves who had escaped to the north. That's not to say there weren't pejorative and racist references in other places. In another story, African Americans are referred to as "darkies," even as the article purports an objective review of facts. Overall, depiction of African Americans in the New Jersey Mirror before the Civil War contradicts common assumptions, such as the assumption that African Americans can not find useful and positive information for our genealogical research in antebellum “white” newspapers.
The New Jersey Mirror is partially indexed, so we can sometimes find mid-nineteenth century news coverage about Timbuctoo through an on-line search engine. However, there are a number of articles that have not been indexed yet. Finding those can be tedious and time consuming. We will post them here as we find them, providing a rare contemporaneous window into the lives of free African Americans living in New Jersey in the 19th century.
Several articles are featured below. Additional articles can be found here.
Read this captivating account of a failed attempt to kidnap Perry Simmons and return him to a Maryland slavemaster in 1860.
Here a white journalist "ally" describes his impressions of Timbuctoo, its people, and his experience at a Sunday School exhibition where people "enjoyed themselves, as colored folks only can."
This 1858 account tells a story of a Timbuctoo resident accused of aiding slave catchers who fears for his life.
These are usually brief announcements. In a few cases, details of the ceremonies are featured. Additional reports will be added as they are copied and transcribed.
Deaths reported here include community leaders as well as rank and file citizens. They are mostly male. Usually brief statements are given, but occasionally substantive biographies are provided. Additional reports will be added as they are copied and transcribed.