Lost Souls Design Competition
The Lost Souls Public Memorial Project, Inc. (LSP) seeks to create a permanent memorial to 137 African Americans who, in 1818, were stolen from the state of New Jersey and transported to the Deep South to be sold into permanent slavery. Jacob Van Wickle, a corrupt Middlesex County judge, organized an extensive ring that included members of his family as well as highly placed members of the New Jersey elite. The state was phasing out slavery at the time, and under the state’s gradual emancipation laws no slave could be sent out of state without having given formal legal consent. Van Wickle and his ring used deception, fakery and outright kidnapping of both free and enslaved people, who were held under guard in his home in what is now East Brunswick, New Jersey. They were sent on ships from Perth Amboy to Louisiana and Mississippi, many ending on the plantation owned by Van Wickle’s brother-in-law. Had they remained in New Jersey, they would in time have become free according to the state’s laws.
Outrage when the ring was discovered led to a few indictments, but Van Wickle was never brought to account, and the affair was forgotten. The purpose of the Lost Souls Public Memorial is to ensure that these people – children, women, men – are never again forgotten, and this horrific event be brought to light. In memorializing these Lost Souls, we can meaningfully contribute to the nation’s ongoing healing from our history of slavery, as we reckon with past and current manifestations of systemic racism.
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