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UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS DISPLACEMENT MAPPING

This interactive map tracks the displacement of the residents of University Heights over two phases of emigration, 1955-1964, when "white flight" began from Newark to the suburbs, and 1964-1972, after African American residents' homes were seized by eminent domain. According to our data, 381 people moved out of the neighborhood during the two periods of displacement.

The next phase of research will be to use archival records and Sanborn maps to figure out what happened to the people who were displaced to create University Heights after they left the neighborhood. We hope to piece together the actual impact that being displaced had on the lives of the people forced to leave their neighborhood in the name of urban development.

If you know someone who lived in this area, or have any related information, please let us know.

Explore the interactive map.

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Welcome to the University Heights Displacement Map.

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UPROOTED

How Newark Acquired a Medical School and Destroyed a Neighborhood

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This is the story of how a neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, was transformed by two phases of out-migration between the 1950s and 1970s.

The first phase (1955-1964) marks the early stages of "white flight" to the suburbs from increasingly black and brown cities and the suburbanization of New Jersey. The second phase (1964-1972) was precipitated by flawed urban renewal policies that displaced the primarily African American families who stayed behind.

A view of homes in Newark's central ward, 1961. (Samuel L. Berg Collection / Newark Public Library)

The Port Authority's civic booster film "This is Newark, 1966" articulated the city's urban renewal ambitions.

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From the film "This is Newark, 1966"

Things did not turn out exactly as planned.

One year after the booster video, Newark was on fire. The uprising in the summer of 1967 left 26 dead and a city in ruins, charring Newark's urban renewal fantasies and the liberal vision of the Great Society.

The National Guard on Springfield Avenue in Newark on July 14, 1967. (Don Hogan Charles / The New York Times)

Newark's summer of discontent had deep roots. For years, the city's African Americans and other residents of color had felt alienated and robbed of opportunity – a simmering outrage that exploded when a primarily African American residential neighborhood was targeted for demolition to make way for a medical school.

The new neighborhood, dubbed 'University Heights', was part of the city's urban renewal project to create a higher education corridor in Newark's Central Ward.

Illustrated map of Rutgers University-Newark. (Rutgers-Newark website, artist unknown)

But the creation of University Heights took its toll on the residents who were displaced to make way for it.

Louise Epperson was an occupational therapist nearing retirement. When she heard about the impending demolition of her neighborhood in a news story, she took it upon herself to fight it.

Louise Epperson, Newark Evening News, July 1970 (Newark Public Library) and Newark Evening News, Sunday edition, page 1, January 1, 1967 (Newark Public Library).

"I went from tavern to tavern that night. After every girl shook, I asked the manager if I could get in the cages and speak to the folks. I got up in the cage and told them I couldn't shake, but I wanted to shake their brains up so they could know what was happening in Newark."

Louise Epperson

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What Newark Mayor Frank Addonizio and his administration called urban renewal looked very different to Louise Epperson and African American residents of the neighborhood.

"Well I say it looks more like negro removal than urban renewal..."

Louise Epperson

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Louise Epperson at her house on 12th avenue.

On July 12, 1967, a rebellion broke out in Newark. It lasted for 6 days.

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From the film "Revolution '67" by Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno & Jerome Bongiorno.

Until the uprising, Louise Epperson's complaints fell on deaf ears. But as the violence escalated, city officials grew desperate. Afraid that the housing crisis would spark another 'race riot', Mayor Addonizio asked her to "call them off".

"I said I can't call them off. I didn't call them on."

Louise Epperson

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"I don't care how many tanks, how many guns, how many K-9 dogs you get, I don't care what the situation is, unless you plan to kill every black woman, man and child in this city it will not work. We must have housing."

Louise Epperson

An armored personnel carrier rolls along Springfield Avenue followed by a truck loaded with troops in Newark, New Jersey on July 15, 1967. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)

Louise Epperson's activism led to significant changes in the city's plans — the medical school finally occupied a smaller territory than was initially proposed, land was set aside for new housing, and hospital services were reconfigured to benefit the communities that were displaced.

Louise Epperson's reputation as a community organizer earned her a job as a patient advocate at University Hospital.

On the left 13th ave and Bruce Street circa 1965. On the right is the same view circa 2016, from a hallway inside Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare building.

The transformation from neighborhood to medical school was dramatic. Rows of middle class houses were replaced by parking lots. Streets became hallways.

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Samuel L. Berg Collection at the Newark Public Library, Ashley Gilbertson, Samantha Boardman

Today, this land that housed African American families is occupied by the campuses of Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

But what happened to the people who were displaced to build the medical school? What about the people who are never seen in the Port Authority film and who stayed in Newark after 1967? What did the transformation of Newark into a college town mean for these people?