Last week, the junior class embarked on a field trip for an immersive, humanities interdisciplinary experience in our local community. Divided into groups, the students visited the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center in Red Bank, the former residence of prominent historical figure and local trailblazer for civil rights and social justice T. Thomas Fortune. As the students study U.S. history during their junior year at Trinity Hall, this field trip emphasized the significance of learning about both local and national history.
Katie Gillen, U.S. history teacher, explained, “This engaging and empowering experience not only connected with what students learned about in history class, but also inspired students to be the change in society today. The students also gained new insight and appreciation for local history that we will continue to research and incorporate into our curriculum.”
While on their trip, the students heard from volunteers at the Cultural Center who work to educate the public on the impact of T. Thomas Fortune’s life. Born into slavery in 1856, Fortune went on to become an influential journalist, author and social organizer during the late 19th and early 20th century, focusing his work on discrimination, inequality, and civil rights in the African American community. The house was officially named a National Historic Landmark in 1979 after Fortune lived there, and was restored and reopened as the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center in 2019.
The students had the opportunity to explore the Cultural Center, which features Fortune’s work, specialized artwork and exhibits highlighting local history. Currently on display is the Dr. James Parker Legacy Room, sponsored by Monmouth Medical Center and RWJ Barnabas Health and A Love Letter to Count Basie: From The Great Migration to The Harlem Renaissance.
The junior class left with a newfound appreciation for their local history and a deeper understanding of T. Thomas Fortune’s legacy. "This was an unexpected, incredible experience filled with rich history that has gone unnoticed for too long,” said Hannah B. Parker G. added, “I was unaware of how much of our APUSH curriculum is a part of our local history!"