Historic Jackson Avenue, now named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, runs like a backbone through our district as it crosses Communipaw and turns into Monticello Avenue. We are proud to have associated our Jackson Hill name with that of Jackson Avenue and the 19th century brothers Thomas and John Vreeland Jackson.
The African American brothers, Thomas and John Vreeland, were born in 1800 and 1803. They were freed slaves of the famous Vreeland family and bought land in current day Greenville from Elizabeth Gaultier in 1831 to pursue careers as oyster fisherman.
In 1857 they laid out a lane (Jackson Lane) between the brother's houses, and During the Civil War the Jackson property became a safe house and critical link of the Underground Railroad. Jersey City was the last "station" on the Underground Railroad route through New Jersey. Tens of thousands of fugitive slaves arrived in Jersey City from several states, such as Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina. From these states, they traveled north to the Delaware River where they crossed over to New Jersey and continued on a route to Jersey City. The Jackson brothers helped thousands of escaping slaves along a strip of land which would later be named "Jackson Avenue".
One hundred years later, in the 50's and 60's, Jackson and Monticello Avenues was the place to be. A cornucopia of small businesses lined the corridor satisfying a wide variety of needs, and providing a variety of entertainment venues for the local community. Whatever you wanted could be found at a local, friendly establishment on the avenue. Jackson Avenue was changed to King Drive after the death of the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
Today, historians and residents of the area can view a diorama exhibit of the railroad, photos of the Jackson brothers and a recent Jackson family tree at the Afro-American Historical Museum. At the center of the Jackson Hill district, passengers boarding the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail at the Hub can view a plaque installed by NJ Transit in 2001, honoring the Jackson family's role in the 19th Century Underground Railroad. The plaque is accompanied at the station by a sculpture honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our community is steeped in great heritage and an ancestral history that is an undeniable reflection of our strength and can-do attitude across generations. Join us as we build on the qualities of our past and resurrect the vitality and energy of commerce and community in our district. We understand that bravery is going beyond self, and giving your heart to help all as a whole. Take that first step with us by joining us on this new journey. Step up to action, step up to Jackson Hill.