Before the 1967 Newark Rebellion, Mayor Hugh Addonizio was getting ready to sign off on a project that would have used one-hundred-and-fifty acres of the city's central ward to erect a state of the art medical school. WBGO's Ang Santos took a stroll with Junius Williams, the director of the Abbot Leadership Institute at Rutgers-Newark, who says that plan would have destroyed the heart of the Newark community.
Junius Williams: We’re standing in front of what is called the Stanley S. Bergen building which is a part of the Medical School here on Bergen Street. Fifty-years ago it was a sight of very much controversy. This was the old city hospital. The healthcare here was not very good. If you had to come here you were really in bad shape.
If the Medical school had taken all of the land they wanted, it would have been 150 acres instead of 60 acres. This was one of the demands we made in the medical school negotiations because they wanted to build a nice luxurious hospital and do advanced medicine. At that time heart transplants were just coming into being.
We said you can’t come in here and just be about that kind of medicine. You have to be able to fix the boils on somebody’s ass too if they need it. The community all were involved here. People all over the city were happy because this was something they could all unite around.
Ang Santos: And there was a highway plan somewhere in all of this?
JW: There was a highway called Route 75 planned. It was called the mid-town connector. It would connect Route 280 in the north and 78 in the south to bring more commuters in. We said you can’t do that because it’s going to take twenty thousand folks out of their homes. There was a subplot to move this increasingly black majority out of Newark. So Mayor Addonizio and whoever he chose to succeed him since he was planning to run for governor, there was a plan to do that, they would never admit that.
This plan was a highway persons dream. If you have one highway going east and west and another the same way a few miles down the road, you’d want to connect them in the middle right? Wrong. We took a group of ministers on a bus along with some Black Panthers along with my NAPA’s down to the state highway department, and the Panthers and NAPA’s got all over the table and said under no circumstances will you build that highway here. I’m being polite in the way I’m describing it. They got the message.
AS: If the rebellion never happened there might be a massively large medical school here?
JW: Absolutely, people were scared. Nobody wanted violence, I certainly didn’t. This was not what we planned it was a spontaneous emotional set of activities, but without that invisible brother with the brick sitting with us and the negotiating team, that wouldn’t have happened.