Jack Cudjo – Newark’s Revolutionary Soldier & First Black Businessman

The following is an excerpt from Jack Cudjo – Newark’s Revolutionary Soldier & First Black Businessman by Kofi Ayim.

Slavery in New Jersey

The state of New Jersey officially abolished further importation of slavery in 1786, yet 74 years later (1860) eighteen slaves were recorded in the census.

These slaves were apparently freed by the 1865 thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Before 1865, a New Jersey Act dated February 15, 1804 Acts of the General Assembly titled “An Act for the gradual Abolition of Slavery” was enacted to free black slaves born on or after July 4, 1804 after rendering services to their mother’s slave master for twenty-one years for females and twenty-five years for males.

A similar second New Jersey State law was enacted in 1846 that proscribed slavery and eliminated the apprenticeship for black children. However, existing slaves (mostly senior citizens) were apprenticed the rest of their remaining lives!

Early in 1784, the New Jersey legislature passed a law that freed all slave veterans on both sides of the Revolutionary War.

In 1800, there were about 12,422 slaves in New Jersey, of which 4,500 lived in Newark. The number decreased to 236 by 1850. In 1835, there were about 360 freed blacks in Newark and, by 1850, there were some 23,810 freed colored people statewide, according to Pierson’s History of Newark.

In this same period, the white population in Newark was 37, 664 and colored, 1,230. Ten years later in 1860, there was virtually no population change in the colored community (1287), while the white population jumped almost two-fold to 70,654; Atkinson points out this fact in his book, “History of Newark, New Jersey.”

By 1900, more than 69,000 of the population of New Jersey, representing 3.7 percent of the entire population of the state of New Jersey, were African-Americans.

Volume 35 of The Journal of Negro History highlights a clear conflict between a slave master and a slave. “Seeing that no other alternative presented itself, many slaveholders freed their slaves because of economic reasons,” it writes.

Freeing slaves became an inherent problem for slave owners. For once, slaves had to be of sound mind and body before they could be manumitted. Frances D. Pingeon highlights this point.

She writes that the owner who wished to free a black slave was still required “to post a £200 bond and guarantee him an income of twenty pounds a year – a financially prohibitive arrangement for most slaveholders.”

The State did not want freed, yet poor slaves to be its liability. Notwithstanding, Poor Houses were established for freed slaves who quickly learnt that “freedom” without basic needs and resources only satisfied the mind.

But abolishing slavery was in the interest of slave owners and the government. The fear of slave population explosion alone and the potential of successful slave uprisings and revolutions stared in the faces of the white populace.

It must be noted that black participation in the Revolutionary War, whether fighting on the loyalists’ side—such as Colonel Tye (Titus)—or on the colonists’ side—such as Peter Salem, was supposed to be a route to emancipation from slavery and servitude.

Cudjo’s slave owner was a fourth generation Coe, farmer and tailor, born April 4, 1702, in Jamaica, New York and died December 21, 1788 in Newark, New Jersey.

The Coe family was prosperous and maintained large estates and slaves in and around Newark. Coe V was one of trustees for the First Presbyterian Church in Newark circa 1780.

In November 1776 during the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Coe and his family were looted and roughened by the charging British army, after Washington departed Newark.

The Coe family fled Newark to Hanover, New Jersey to seek refuge with his cousin, also known as Benjamin Coe, leaving Cudjo as the caretaker of whatever remained of their burnt Newark home.

Coe’s house was situated on Washington and Court streets, according to the Newark Daily Advertiser’s “Early Newark Patriots” and “A Collection of the Facts & Traditions of Newark” and purported to have been at present-day 578 Martin Luther King Boulevard. Coe’s residence was at one time rumored to be the headquarters (amongst others) of General George Washington.

According to Bartlett, Benjamin Coe “being too old for military service he provided as a substitute his slave, whom at the close of the war he rewarded with freedom and the use for life of an acre of land.”

A family document at the New Jersey Historical Society says in part of “November 29th 1794 he (Benjamin Coe V) purchased of Josiah Goldsmith for £180, the same land-ten acres at the corner of High and Mercer streets- he received a mortgage of £45 from him May 4, 1791, which land he gave to his slave Cudjo Banquanto for being his substitute in the Revolutionary War.”

Old Benjamin Coe who died in 1788 in Newark, New Jersey was succeeded by his son, Benjamin Coe V. Not all slave owners kept their promise of freedom for their slave substitutes. Barbara J. Mitnick remarked that Samuel Sutphin, a New Jersey slave who deputized for his master Casper Berger in the war, found out at the end of the war that he had been sold, resold and resold before he worked off his sale to buy his freedom for 90 pounds. At pension time, he discovered that his master was drawing his pension.

It is not clear who and when Cudjo was manumitted. Simeon F. Moss contends that there was only one slave manumitted during the Revolutionary period between 1774 and 1783.

Cudjo’s manumission might have occurred in 1784, along with several others, when the New Jersey legislature freed slaves, including Tory ones who had taken part in the war.

The Black Coes

“My two Negro children” mentioned in Benjamin Coe V’s Will was a common and typical case of slave master/slave relationships.

The first colored Coe, James, lived in Nesbitt near High Street from 1835 to 1838. James Coe moved to 41 Academy from 1839 to 1840 near Peter Cudjo, (Jack Cudjo’s biological son) who around this same period lived at 39 Academy7 (see “Where they lived”).

Between 1849 and 1850, James Coe once again moved to 15 Prince, close to Mrs. Peter Cudjo, according to Pierson’s Directory of the City of Newark. James Coe neither appeared in the census of 1830 and 1840 because he was not a Head of Household nor in later census data.

On the other hand, Williams Coe appeared in the 1860 census as a twenty-five year-old barber, who lived in a house at the rear of 118 Mulberry. He had lived at 151 Market Street -26 Fair- between 1854 and 1855, and between 1865 and 1866 had lived at 293 Broad Street.

By 1870, Williams had moved to 782 Broad Street. Williams Coe died between 1870 and 1880 because Sarah J. Coe is entered in the Newark City Directory of 1880 as a widow of Williams. She lived at 24 Division Place.

To be continued…

Posted by on Aug 13 2018. Filed under Artcultainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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