The History of Whitesboro

Whitesboro, located in Middle Township (Cape May County) New Jersey was established in 1901 as a town exclusively for African Americans. The idea came in response to increasing white resistance (racism) towards African American residents living in Cape May City at the time.  The African American Equitable Industrial Association, founded by Reverend J.W. Fishburn and four other members of Cape May City's African Methodist Episcopal Church, collaborated with investors from the South.  Most notably of these investors was a former Congressman by the name of George H. White of North Carolina. With the assistance of the George H. White Land Improvement Company, these pioneering investors purchased 2,000 acres of land (approximately ten miles north of Cape May City for $14,000) in what now is Whitesboro, Wildwood Junction Heights and Wildwood Heights.  

In December of 1901, four months after the purchase was finalized, advertisements for the sale of the lots began appearing in newspapers and magazines such as the 'Colored American'. Prospective colonists had to be of good character and, in the spirit of Booker T. Washington, needed to possess steady and industrious habits.  Once approved, a colonist would receive a number of lots, each 50 feet by 150 feet (about a sixth of an acre) for a down payment of $5 per lot and a promise to till the land.  

The residents were under no obligation to build a home or any other structure on their lot, but the land was promised to be good for growing farm produce and raising chickens, so building homes was encouraged.  Home owners had ten years to pay off the initial purchase price of fifty dollars and were charged an additional $2 to $5 a month depending on their income.  Relatively few of the first colonists were actually from New Jersey as the Equitable Association had hoped; most of them were migrants from Virginia or North Carolina, where the name "George H. White" was familiar. In March of 1902 the town was named "Whitesboro" after its most famous investor, George H. White.  When Congressman White's term ended in 1901, he was known as the last African-American Congressional representative until 1929.  

In addition to purchasing the initial land for the town, the George H. White Land Improvement Company reinvested it profits back into the community.  Although most of the towns's residents were preoccupied with farming the land, many residents were employed by the Improvement Company to construct the first buildings and roads in the community.  

Whitesboro's population grew steadily modestly reaching 100 residents in 1906.  By 1909, Whitesboro boasted two churches, and industrial school for children, a railroad station, a post office and a hotel, all built by residents.  The town was also on three railroad lines including one that went east to the Atlantic Coast.  The slow steady growth in population continued until the Great Depression.  Nonetheless, the town survived financial downturn and continues to exist today with approximately 2,000 plus residents.

© 2018 CCWI

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