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

 

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

 

Thanksgiving Greetings!

What am I thankful for? For your support of the arts & my work as well!  Creativity and self-expression are vital for a healthy community & I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read my newsletters, come to the events, purchase work and just show support in any way you can for the wide variety of artists out there!  We couldn’t do it without you!  So, I want to wish you & yours a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!! 

Warm Wishes,

~Lauren

 

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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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Return of the Lazy Blogger

I admit it!!  I’ve been lazy…well, when it comes to blogging anyway.  But I have an excuse…I really do!  It’s because other art related stuff has been taking up my time and I’m really happy about that!  OK, so other social media networking has been a big time suck too…don’t you ever fall into that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. time warp where you start out promoting your craft and get caught up in the home page posts of friends, cute animal videos & political drama when you realize, CRAP!…I just wasted an hour on fluff?  Yeah, guilty as charged but I have honestly been really busy with for-real art stuff too!  So, to catch you up, here’s what’s been happening in my creative world so feel free to post comments about how you deal with the bombardment of social media & how it effects your work.

TEACHING IS FUN!  Being someone who is not a fan of public speaking I didn’t know how I’d feel about giving art lessons but when it’s one-on-one or a small group, I found it’s awesome!  So I have a cool group of students of various ages (even one across the pond that I do Skype lessons with) & it’s so awesome to pass on creative knowledge and see people really get into it & see how their work progresses during the lessons!  Aside from art lessons I also give creative marketing lessons as I have extensive experience in sales, fund raising & marketing from previous art & non-art jobs I’ve had over the years before making the leap to full time artist!  My goal is to give at least one class a day (5 days a week) & I’m pretty close….so if you want to hone your creativity or know someone who does, drop me a line here & I’ll get back to you!

Dream Of Trees 2, oils (c)Lauren Curtis

Dream Of Trees 2, oils (c)Lauren Curtis

ART SHOWS ARE FUN TOO!  Especially when stuff sells!  I’m currently in a 4 artist show at the Merwick Care & Rehabilitation Center in Plainsboro, NJ & the above painting pre-sold!  And I sold both pieces that were in the last show I did at Gallery U in Westfield, NJ.  Now I’m preparing to submit work to 4 new exhibits so fingers (& nails) crossed. (If you know me at all you know I have crazy Ripley’s Believe It Or Not length nails!).  So hopefully my next blog will be about some of the new shows my work will be in…

YAY! COMMISSIONS!  As a full time freelance artist nothing is better than getting hired to create art & design work for clients!  Luckily I’ve been hired to do illustrations for books, graphic design work, and one of my favorite things, pet portraits, for a variety of clients across the US & abroad.  This has not only kept me busy but helps pay those bills too so the more work the merrier!  Keep it comin’! Here are just a few examples of the work I’ve been doing lately that has caused my lack of blogging…

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pencil illustration for a children’s book (c)2017

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Commissions welcome so message me for details!

So, you see?  I haven’t been lazy with my artwork, just with blogging….I’m trying to get back in the swing….so can I ask you a favor?  If you can read, comment, follow & like posts it’ll encourage me to keep at it and to start getting interesting guest bloggers again so it’s not just all about me….there are so many fascinating people out there creating awesome work that I’d like to share so drop me a line if you’re interested & help end the blog slacking!  Thanks for reading…till next time…which will be soon, I hope…..fingers & nails crossed!

Feast for the Senses & art news

Reminisce (c)2013, watercolor and collage

You can sense the excitement in the air as spring all too slowly approaches…but it’s on the way!  And as with all new seasons, comes new art events, especially in New Jersey!  While it’s still too cold for outdoor fests and shows, there are plenty of indoor art exhibits to attend and the following I’m involved with this month are all FREE so no excuse not to check them out!  I hope you’ll join me and many other local, talented artists at these exhibitions:

Reminisce (c)2013, watercolor and collage

Reminisce (c)2013, watercolor and collage

FEAST FOR THE SENSES…Group Art Exhibit
Work by local artists (most living, some not) will be on display from March 7 through March 28, 2016, in the library’s community room. Participating artists include: Judy Brodsky, Joan Arbeiter, Lauren Curtis, Ria Glassman, Joyce Browning, Eric Escobar, Virginia Swanagan, Pat Shamy, Sydney Jean Reisen, Nadine Berkowsky, Jackie Baker, Jill Caporlingua. Deceased artists whose work will be displayed include: Jacob Landau, Stanford White, F. J. Adams, John LaFarge.

The Opening Reception for this Art Show (on Thursday, March 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM in the Carl T. Valenti Community Room) will provide light refreshments and an opportunity to meet and talk with some of the artists.  I’ll have a few paintings in this show.  Here’s Facebook invite link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1694806214135180/

NOLA Cemetery Path (c)2010 Lauren Curtis

NOLA Cemetery Path (c)2010 Lauren Curtis

SACRED SPACES, HOLY PLACES
There’s still time to see this enlightening exhibit of sculpture & photography with 27 artists / 43 pieces of work / 13 pieces of sculpture / 30 photographs.   Aside from being an exhibit, related spiritual & cultural discussions & events typically take place during the run of the show so check the gallery’s website & Facebook page for info.  Nails in the Wall Gallery at St. Luke’s, 17 Oak Ave, Metuchen, New Jersey 08840.
I have 2 photographs in the exhibition which continues until
Sunday, May 15, 2016.

Melody Bar Art (c)2015 Lauren Curtis

Melody Bar Art (c)2015 Lauren Curtis

And a quick question…Do you have a favorite place that you wish you could visit forever?  How about immortalize a beloved home, vacation spot, hang out or historic site in ART?  Commission a pen & ink with watercolor painting of a place you’d like to remember forever!  Contact me for details: forestwalker333@hotmail.com

For more of my work, please visit my newly updated website! http://laurencurtisart.weebly.com

Thanks for reading!

~Lauren