Murder in Central NJ; A Franklin Park Mystery Unfolds

I never knew several terrible murders happened so close to my neighborhood two centuries ago…not until author & local historian Brian Armstrong hired me to create pen & ink illustrations for his just released book, “The Frankin Park Tragedy”!  While working on the book I learned about the horrible and racially motivated murders that occurred only a couple of miles away over 120 years ago!  Since this fascinating book was just released I invited Brian to discuss this important work…

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Franklin Park Tragedy Book Overview

The book provides a detailed account of the Franklin Park Tragedy murders of March 1, 1894 when Lucretia Baker and her daughter, Gertrude, were murdered in their home and her husband, Moore Baker, fought off the two African American attackers and killed them. The second part of the tragedy involves the group blame of the African American residents of the area and the expulsion of some of those residents by the Franklin Park vigilante society called the Mutual Endeavor Society. Lynchings, expulsions, and sundown town designations, which are normally associated with Southern States during this era, are shown to have been contemplated by Franklin Park residents.

Surviving historical records, land records, and personal stories are used to demonstrate how the Great Migration of African American families from the South in the twentieth century, with the help of a new group of white farmers, changed the “sundown town” designation for the Franklin Park area. This community change began with the arrival of the Coleman and other families in the 1920s which was the beginning of the transformation of Franklin Park into the diverse place that it is today. The book also includes profiles of prominent African American citizens of the Franklin Park area who worked on the farms and in some cases owned land during the 1800s. The media and their role in the racial issues of this era are discussed since key source material for the book came from various newspapers from every region of the US and in countries such as the UK and New Zealand.

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(Recent cover of the Home News featuring an article about the book & illustration by Lauren Curtis)

The book includes:

· Profiles of the ordinary white and African American men and women who worked on the farms in the area and have not been profiled in other books.

· Discussion of the neglected time period after the Civil War where white farmers and the children and grandchildren of the slaves lived and worked together in New Jersey.

· Stories about families that were part of the Great Migration of African Americans moving from southern states to the Garden State during the 20th century.

· Over 80 pictures with major images provided by the Six Mile Run Reformed Church (Martin S. Garretson Collection), Franklin Park Library, and South Brunswick Public Library.  Also previously unpublished photographs from the personal collections.

· Drawings depicting key parts of the story by Franklin Park artist Lauren Curtis.

· Extensive newspaper source material about the murders and the expulsion which shows the value of these resources in chronicling historical events that are not recorded in any other surviving sources.

· A map to orient the 21st century reader with the actual locations mentioned in the book to identify surviving buildings and landmarks.

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“Fleeing the scene”, Illustration (c)2019 Lauren Curtis

Why I Wrote the Book

Three years ago, as the president of the South River Preservation & Historical Society, I wanted to expand our knowledge of the African-American citizens of the town.  Although prominent African-Americans such as Drew Pearson had grown up in the borough, no previous books or articles had been written about this group. I began looking at census records and then the wonderful newspaper archive provided by the New Brunswick Free Library. As I searched for stories about South River African-Americans, I kept seeing stories about the Franklin Park Tragedy and learned of the expulsion which was not mentioned in any other books about Franklin Township or New Jersey. I then postponed my South River research realizing that this story was very important and needed to be told.

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“Racism in Franklin Park” (c)2019 Lauren Curtis



About the Author

Brian Armstrong was born in Flemington New Jersey and grew up in Stanton, New Jersey.  He received a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C. He lives now in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Armstrong has worked for 37 years for various technology and staffing companies including EDS, Kelly Services, and International Technology Solutions, Inc.  He was President of the South River Historical & Preservation Society for 10 years and is now the Vice-President, Central Region, for the League of Historical Societies of New Jersey.  He is an independent historian, researcher and author. In 2015, he co-wrote the Arcadia Book, South River, with Stephanie Bartz and Nan Whitehead. He also frequently writes articles for the Bar Harbor Historical Society in Bar Harbor, Maine where his mother’s family lived for several hundred years.  Mr. Armstrong lectures throughout the state on local history, the U.S. Women’s Suffrage Movement, Prohibition, World War I, the Spanish Influenza, and political history. He is a collector of US Presidential election memorabilia and is a member of American Political Items Collectors (APIC).

Armstrong has been married to Rosemarie Rufo Armstrong for 32 years and is father of two daughters and one grandson.

Email:  brianarm59@gmail.com

You can read more about the book here: https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/history/2019/10/10/nj-history-franklin-park-tragedy-expelled-african-american-residents/3819260002/

You can buy the book here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467143585

 

Getting “Personaland” with Art

The art world has gone way beyond brick & mortar galleries!  I recently heard about a new, unique online art forum called Personaland & participated in an online art exhibit.  I was pleased to see how fun, original & interactive the site’s creator, Stewart Wilson, has made the site so I asked him to be my next guest blogger so he can tell us how this concept came to be and how you can participate….

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Personaland is the destination of my forty year journey of making the Personas – my “wrapped representatives from another dimension here for peaceful purposes.” As I have made these sculptures, the embodiment of human potential, they have guided me. I have made over 31,00 individual figures in human and animal form which has been distributed and exhibited world-wide. During this time, I have founded and been Executive Director of two non-profit arts organizations, Public Image (NYC 1981-84) and Artwell Gallery (Torrington, CT (1995-2011). I have been a public school art teacher. The Personas are about human connectivity and community building and I feel that they were my gurus in my artistic trajectory. Since retiring from teaching, I have attended dozens of meet-ups, conferences and workshops where I have learned 21st century skills and connected with hundreds of talented people. Personaland has been a quest to create an online cultural platform and community for artists of all media – visual, film. literary and performance arts. Personaland is a welcoming, peaceful, respectful destination that uses the latest in digital technology for positive purposes – screens for good.

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Personaland is an online global village for the arts – an internet sanctuary whose mission is to unite us through our humanity, creativity and community. With an invigorating blend of entertainment, enchantment and culture, we are designing novel adventures and opportunities for you. Our global group and individual art shows have exhibited over 100 artists from nearly two dozen countries, We are adding exciting new activities every month, bring greater satisfaction to an ever growing audience. https://www.personaland.com

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We’re now accepting artwork of all media – images, music, film and words – for our December global group show “Community.” No entry fee https://personaland.com/submit/community-exhib.php

We have Persona Horseback and Dragon rides to our online individual and global art shows, Art Shop, dancing flowers, wishing well and fun games

What’s your Art History IQ? Play the “Name the Artist” game and contest at the Game Bazaar: https://personaland.com/tent/art-clue/

We’d love your participation!

Stewart

Tacky is the new cool at You Tacky Thing’s craft studio!

Time again for me to feature another local artist who makes funky, unique hand crafted items; introducing my friend Stephanie Higgens-Rowley!  I met her when she started taking creative marketing lessons from me to boost her cool, hand-decorated bottle and hand-made jewelry business & so far so good….she’s made tons of awesome decorative items to sell and is now doing NJ vending events, so I invited her to be my next guest blogger so she can introduce herself to you & her “tacky” work…after all, her business is called You Tacky Thing!  Now in her words….
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“Don’t throw that out!”, my mom would yell at me from the kitchen. Anything that could be used again, used for something else, used for something you haven’t even thought of yet was not to be thrown out. Both my parents grew up during the Depression. Everything has a potential use.
This is why I gravitate toward found items. I have access to bass and guitar strings, guitar picks and empty bottles. So when they outlive their usefulness I like to create something interesting. The strings most likely become jewelry while the bottles become decorative. I like using bottles that have an unusual shape or color to them.
I love being creative with things that would have been thrown out. Its like making something out of nothing. You never know what its going to be.
I have been doing this for a while now and I must say its the best job I’ve ever had. I try really hard to create things that are interesting and make you wonder how it got there or where it came from. Some of my favorite themes to use on my bottles are
Gothic and Victorian imagery , mermaids, dragon flies and bats. I even create bottles that can be lit up and I welcome custom commissions. As for my rock and roll inspired jewelry, my creations have been worn on stage by some pretty amazingly talented performers! You can purchase items from my Facebook page You Tacky Thing and you can find me at various vending events throughout NJ an NY. My next event will be at NJ Paraunity  Expo in Woodbridge, NJ. For more info : https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10216158534209635&set=gm.2287489841492576&type=3&theater

Welcome to the DARK SIDE…

Goth is alive..or undead…in New Jersey thanks to promoter Jet of Vampire Freaks!  He’s been bringing the huge, creative and awesome Dark Side of the Con event to us recently and the next one is coming up in March 29th-31st in Parsippany, NJ.  These are such elaborate, fun fests with cosplayers, bands, artists, guest speakers, authors, performers and more so I’ve invited Jet to be my latest guest blogger so he can tell us how he’s been inspired to create these events, what you can expect & how you can attend….take it away Jet….

Greetings, my name is Jet and I’m happy to be doing a guest blog for the lovely Steampunk Landing (Lauren’s Steampunk Facebook Group)  & Lauren Curtis Art Blog!
A little about me:  I’m the owner of vampirefreaks.com , which is the #1 gothic themed website in the world, which is a social networking site that also has an online clothing store.   I’m also a professional website programmer and have over 15 years of experience promoting events.
I’m here to tell you about, Dark Side of the Con which is the largest gothic / dark-alternative event in North America, and the only convention of its kind, taking place on March 29th-31st in Parsippany, NJ.
This year is our 3rd year doing this event, and it has grown in leaps and bounds each year.   Focusing on gothic, industrial, metal and rock genres, Dark Side of the Con is broken up into a few different parts.
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Live Bands:   We have over 20 live bands, our headliners are ‘Stabbing Westward’, ‘Aesthetic Perfection’, and ‘Assemblage 23’.    ‘Stabbing Westward’ actually holds a special place in my heart because I was a huge fan of them as a teenager, and I’d listen to their albums over and over again.  I’ve had the pleasure of booking them a couple times in the past few years and these guys are the most friendly and down to earth rockstars I’ve ever met.  And believe me, I’ve met tons of bands over the years, lets just say there’s some big egos going around the music scene and it’s not always the most pleasant experience.  So when I work with somebody as huge as ‘Stabbing Westward’, who’s been all over the radio and MTV and had huge commercial success, when they’re so humble and friendly it just blows my mind and makes me have that much more respect for them.
One other awesome thing about booking bands for ‘Dark Side of the Con’, is since the event has been such a success so far, we get flooded with applications looking to perform!  So it can be hard narrowing it down to band we accept, but it’s very exciting for us.
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Our special guest this year is Youtube sensation ‘Black Friday’, who has over 600,000 followers will be hosting a meet & greet as well as teaching us how to be a successful youtube star.  She is currently living in New Zealand and she’ll be coming to the US just for our event.
Burlesque:  Possibly our most popular event is our burlesque show each night, because lets face it, people love boobs.    We have a variety of burlesque acts each night from professional burlesque dancers, and they really do impress us every year!
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DJ Club events:   We have 2 different club events each night featuring our rockstar djs so that you can pick from different types of music.   This year our club music genres include ‘industrial’, ‘goth’, ’emo’, ’90s’, ‘alternative’, ‘synthpop’, ‘new wave’, as well as some surprises thrown in!
Panels / Presentations / Activities :  We have over 50 various panels / activities ranging in a variety of dark-themed topics, from gothic fashion and horror to oddities and witchcraft.   This year we’ve added some more kid-friendly activities such as ‘paint a ceramic skull’ and ‘Halloween coloring books’.  In addition this year we will have some live bats on display.
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Vendors:  We have carefully selected over 70 independent vendors who have all kinds of unique wares!  Including cosmetics, clothing, accessories, taxidermy and more.
I could go on about how fun this event is but really it’s something you have to experience with your own eyes!   We have some videos for you to check out tho:

 

Link for more info & tickets:
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A new author’s dreams come true!

Bringing a new author’s stories to life is very exciting to me, as a freelance artist, and when you work with someone who you click with it’s even more enjoyable!  That’s why I’ve asked author Hayde Romero to be a guest blogger and share with you how she came to write children’s books.  I’m so happy to have been hired as her artist and I think her stories will be fun & inspiring for young readers!  Here’s what she has to say about her newly published books….

HaydeBookCvrFrontOct2018.jpgThe idea of The Adventures of Mimi and Lulu came to me early one morning as I snuggled with my daughter in bed.  I knew she enjoyed story time and so I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a story featuring her? Slowly, I started developing on that idea and pulled in another character, Lulu which is inspired by one of my closest friend’s daughter. And of course, they had to have a dog (Magellan)!

I decided these three characters would embark on adventures that took place anywhere in this and out of this world. But how would this ever possible? It was only possible in their dreams. So, when they fell asleep during sleepovers, they met in their dreams and the adventures began.  I also wanted these stories to have some sort of meaning behind them – to deliver a message of kindness.

I try to portray this in The Fallen Star and The River Mystery.  In The Fallen Star, Mimi, Lulu and Magellan help a fallen star get back home to her mom. And in The River Mystery, the girls and Magellan help with a dilemma their friend (the river) is having.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR….
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My English college professor once told me I was a good writer. And I believed her. From then, I started writing short stories and even wrote an entire novel. Writing is something I enjoy doing. Sometimes the stories flow with ease as I write them. Many other times, they simply don’t.

What I love the most is that I get to control the story and most importantly, the ending.

To order your copy of her new children’s book, click this link to purchase on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Mimi-Lulu-Fallen-Mistery/dp/1726657833/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543947568&sr=8-1&keywords=the+adventures+of+mimi+and+lulu

 

Anti-bully Bunny helps kids!

Art & stories are a great way to teach kids about compassion & life-skills.  This is one reason I love creating illustrations for children’s books, so when author Joan Decker
approached me to commission me to illustrate her anti-bullying story for kids, I immediately said YES!  The book is now complete and available on Amazon & Kindle so I invited Joan to be my next guest blogger so she can share her inspiration for her book with you…..
My name is Joan Decker, I’m a single mother of two son’s age’s 34 & 18 yrs. I am also a retired Special Ed teaching Assistant of 11 yrs. I began writing Poetry at the age of 16 yrs. old, it come’s so naturally to me. I have a compilation of Poems and will make it into a book soon. I’ve been an Advocate against Bullying since 2004, & I mentor children through Social Media. I was bullied as a young child after I had to start wearing glasses at age 7 yrs. old and hated them. We were poor, & my Mom had to use Medicaid for all doctor appointment’s, so my choice of glasses were limited to these ugly blue one’s with pointy corner’s. The very first day I wore them to school, children laughed at me , calling me name’s like ” Cat Eye’s” and “Four Eyes”, It made me sad. I can recall crying all the time and feeling like an outcast. So I mirrored Rosalina’s character (the bunny), after myself in my first book, BE A FRIEND NOT A BULLY: NAMES HURT. My youngest son Antonio was severely bullied since Kindergarten thru 6th grade, due to his Speech delay and quiet demeanor. He was physically and emotionally bullied everyday until I removed him in 6th Grade after being beaten by three boy’s. I then proceeded to Home School him, until he graduated in 2017. Antonio suffers from PTSD; no child should ever be traumatized in a school environment where he should be safe. I created animals in my stories to make each book kid friendly, keeping the bullying at only name calling, no violence. My focus being to inspire children to take pride in their appearance, to be strong in who they are. That bullies only have Power over you, if you let them. We live in a World where suicide is too common, and we as parents and as a society must bring Bullying of any kind to an abrupt end. This book is the first of a three part series, with the hope of giving emotional support to bullied children all over the world. I poured my heart and soul into each story and hope that I can make a difference in your child’s Life.
Joanie Decker
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All Artwork (c)2017-2018 Lauren Curtis

 To purchase a copy:
BE A FRIEND NOT A BULLY: NAMES HURT
This book is the first of a 3 part Series, to help children deal with bullying and diversity. As a Elementary teacher, I have seen first hand the negative effect it has on a child’s self-esteem. My message in each book is the same, be yourself and Stand True. We all have Special & Unique qualities that make us who we are inside. Rosalina Rabbit’s journey is about her appearance changing and while difficult in the beginning, she overcomes all the Name Calling and becomes Proud of how she looks.

A Comic Book Revolution

One great thing about the internet is how easily we can connect with other creative and like-minded people!  I recently made a connection via LinkedIn with Bob Coar, a unique comic book creator.  I liked his original perspective on current topics and political issues and also enjoyed the artistic style of the illustrations.  So, I invited him to be my latest guest blogger & share some insight into his revolutionary world of comics…..

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