Help Restore the Peter Mott House

Dear Friend and Supporter:

The Lawnside Historical Society, Inc. is marking its 30th anniversary this year, having been chartered in 1990 to preserve the history of this unique African American community. Nineteen years ago we completed restoration on the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum and opened the historic site to the public. Thanks t20150829_131616o support from the State of New Jersey, county and local government, foundations, corporations and individuals, we are still fulfilling our mission.

It has been a pleasure to guide more than 1,000 people each year through the house and explain its significance as a New Jersey waystation for freedom seekers escaping enslavement. Unfortunately, we have suspended public tours since March out of an abundance of caution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has left us without an important income source and means to promote Underground Railroad history in New Jersey.

We are writing to request your financial support for extensive repairs and maintenance for the House. Most significantly, we’d like to raise a minimum of $85,000 to replace the red cedar shingle roof on this 1845 farmhouse, repair the chimney and the exterior clapboard, replace windows, install new interior stairs and an external bulkhead door.

Please mail your donation to the Lawnside Historical Society, Inc., P.O. Box 608, Lawnside, NJ 08045-0608 or click PayPal here or on our Donate and Shop page.

Thanks for keeping our history alive. Stay safe and be well.


Linda Shockley

The Lawnside Historical Society, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization registered in New Jersey. Your contribution is deductible to the extent permitted by law.

2020 Marches in Lawnside

Community organizations, churches, civil rights groups converged in Lawnside this summer to decry racism and police killings of Black men, to pray for peace and promote voter registration. The marches attracted hundreds of people of all ages to the streets of this historically Black community and to the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum. The groups included Mt. Olivet Baptist Church of Haddonfield, the NAACP Camden County East Youth Council, the National Action Network, the Camden County East NAACP, Hiram Lodge No. 5 and borough officials.
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Crucial Protest Comes to Lawnside

PeacefulProtest1Lawnsiders welcomed peaceful protesters today in a demonstration  against systemic racism and police brutality that marched from one end of the historic town to its center.

Nearly 150 people gathered at the community center on Charleston Avenue for the peaceful walk chanting “Black Lives Matter” and other slogans commemorating the deaths of George Floyd and so many other men and women.

The throng massed at the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum where they heard retired history teacher and documentarian Muneerah Higgs encourage them to remember the lessons she taught them, to organize and strategize.

Here is an excerpt of her remarks:

What about Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery and the list goes on and on? This destruction has festered because of racism and poor policing in our communities. Policing that encourages a system of oppression with fear of incarceration and death. So I say there must be reform to these systems NOW!

So where do we go from here? We’ve carried the torch as far as we can. Now we appeal, to you, the younger generations, to pick up the torch and run with it.

What can you do, you might ask?

  1. Follow Shaun King (activist on Instagram-Facebook) who knows the issues and gives a plan. Follow Van Jones who also discussed police and prison reform with a plan.
  2. Get out to vote and get 5 friends to register and if needed give them a ride to the polls!
  3. Get involved in the community issues, be informed, and speak out, go to council meetings, look at budgets, see how they allocate the money.
  4. If your white friends come to you and ask you what they can do, tell them to have conversations with their white friends and family because we can’t change them.
  5.  Connect with the police/talk to them/form alliances.
  6. Read and educate yourselves.
  7. Stop fighting each other and protect each other. Stop selling drugs to each other and support black businesses

Young people, don’t let this opportunity pass you by to make significant change in this country and the world. This is your day and time. This will never stop until we lift our voices and challenge this racism and injustice. Don’t let this be the end of your journey. Let it be the beginning of a new day in Lawnside and America. You must continue this fight for social justice. Be the change that you want to see.
And in conclusion, let us older people remember that our younger people need us to show them love, give them hugs and to be listened to. We must join the younger people in this fight for reform.
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Lawnside March Against Racism and Brutality

Join a peaceful protest in Lawnside, Sunday, June 7 starting at 2 p.m. at the Wayne R. Bryant Community Center, 323 E. Charleston Ave. to the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum, 26 Kings Court, ending at the Lsilenceflyerawnside
Borough Hall, 4 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Road.
Muneerah Higgs, retired history educator and filmmaker, and Linda Shockley, Lawnside Historical Society president, will speak at the Mott House.
Prayers and speakers will be offered throughout. In the interest of health and safety, masks must be worn!

Lawnside Red Cross Chapter, 1918

Members of the Red Cross Chapter gather on the steps of the Lawnside School in 1918

Members of the Red Cross Chapter gather on the steps of the Lawnside School in 1918: Photo from collection of Spencer C. Moore II

As World War I unfolded, Dr. Roscoe Moore of Magnolia, Lawnside school district physician, organized our chapter of the American Red Cross. Members gathered on the steps of Lawnside Public School, now Lawnside Meadows, on Warwick Road to pose for this photograph in 1918. They were sisters, wives, mothers and grandmothers of the Lawnside men who served in the U.S. military during the war. They made bandages, ran fund drives and supported families of service members.

COVID-19: Mott House Closed

The Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum will be closed through March as a precaution because of the coronavirus. Although we operate a small house museum, the Lawnside Historical Society takes its responsibility to the public seriously. The safety of our members, tour guides and guests of all ages is of paramount importance.

We will post an announcement when we re-open.
To learn more about the anti-slavery movement, we recommend

Amazing Grace

Books For Children
Free! Great Escapes from Slavery on the Underground Railroad by Lorene Cary
Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky by Faith Ringgold
47 by Walter Mosley
The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton

Books For Adults
She Came to Slay by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero by Kate Clifford Larson
“Dear Friend” Thomas Garrett & William Still: Collaborators on the Underground Railroad by Judith Bentley
The Underground Railroad by William Still
The Underground Railroad (Fiction) by Colson Whitehead

Stay safe and healthy.


“Lawnside” Play Celebrates NJ’s Black Town

LAWNSIDE, N.J (Jan. 14, 2020) – Playwrights and community organizers Kenneth and Charlotte Brown will premiere their play celebrating Lawnside, New Jersey’s oldest incorporated African American municipality, Saturday, Feb. 1 at 2 p.m. at the Liberty Center, 1121 Elizabeth Avenue, Elizabeth.

The Lawnside Historical Society is sponsoring a bus trip to see the performance leaving Lawnside at 12 p.m. Tickets are $70 and cover the cost of transportation and a four-course dinner at the Cranbury Inn, an Underground Railroad station in Cranbury, New Jersey. Checks can be made payable to the Society and mailed to P.O. Box 608, Lawnside, N.J. 08045-0608.

For several years, the Browns have brought field trips to Lawnside to visit the Benson Multicultural History Museum and the Peter Mott House Underground Museum through their organization  United Youth of New Jersey. They have relied upon information they gleaned from the Rev. James A. Benson, an archivist and founder of the Benson History Museum and the late Clarence Still, borough historian and founding president of the historical society.

“Lawnside” uses a summit of the town’s historic families as a vehicle to tell the story of its origins as a haven for people seeking freedom from slavery and founding the state’s first incorporated African American town.

They always present a multigenerational cast of UYNJ members and volunteers, acting, singing and dancing. Among the Browns’ other historic plays were 2018’s “A Mother’s Cry: The Emmitt Till Story,” “MLK: The Nightmare After the Dream,” “Black Wall Street: A True Reflection of the Sun People” and “Harlem Renaissance: Another Black Wall Street.”

To purchase tickets to play go to