The Path to Freedom: a review

The Path To Freedom
The History Press, 2010
126 Pages, Paperback, $19.99
ISBN 978-1-59629-992-4


RAW Rating: 5

THE PATH TO FREEDOM: Black Families in New Jersey is the story of four generations of suburban American families with wonderful photographs from the private collection of Nicy Marion Ham Russell, taken between 1935 and 1995. I really enjoyed this view of The Great Migration of black families to northeastern states such as New Jersey because we almost always hear about the migration to states like Illinois and Michigan.  Clearly folks migrated to other regions of the United States. Learning this makes this book and books like it very important as it documents history we would not learn about otherwise.

In chapter one “Early Migrants,” we meet the Ham and Russell families who merge to create the foundation for future generations. Chapter two “Family Life” presents what it was like to purchase a home or gather for a cookout and the risk folks took to do things we take for granted now. Chapter three “Church Occasions” speaks to the function of the church as core to the principles of the people who lived in the community because they created a foundation of morals, work and education. These are values I suggest we go back to as this book points out the successes of attendees. Chapter four “Free at Last” touches on Jim Crow and the dismantling of overt racism.  Chapter five “First Professionals” makes the point that black Americans, while making strides in employment, also spent a lot on consumer goods. Even today, it is suggested the current generation is misguided because as they indulge in the best of everything they have forgotten the sacrifices of people who laid the groundwork for them to have better lives.

The Path to Freedom: Black Families in New Jersey by Walter D Greason is a thought- provoking read of achievement and the realization of racial integration, that I highly recommend.


Reviewed by Linda Chavis

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