“No Med School!” Black Resistance to The New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry (NJCMD) Urban Renewal Proposal, Between 1960 and 1970

Edad Mercier


This article is a historiographical study of urban renewal in Newark, New Jersey. The paper offers a cross-sectional view of policymaking and appropriation at the federal and local levels, which is critical when analyzing the delimitations of ethnic coalition building. The article centers on a typological study of Black resistance to the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry (NJCMD) construction project that was slated to commence around 1965-1966. NJCMD, renamed the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey (UMDNJ) in 1981, was initially proposed as a revitalization project that would stymie urban decay in Newark. However, the project proposal would also displace close to 22,000 people in the Central Ward—a predominately poor, majority Black section of Newark. Using social movement scholarship, specifically the literature on resource mobilization during the mid-twentieth century Civil Rights Movement, this article examines the distinct ways that Black residents of Newark responded to the NJCMD project. The response involved community board meetings, rallies, and surveys that ultimately led to significant overhauls of NJCMD’s initial design. Black resistance to NJCMD also culminated in the 1970 election of Kenneth Gibson, Newark’s first Black mayor. Key concepts such as “collective action framing” and “frame diffusion” inform this study of grassroots mobilization and community resistance. Also included in this work is an exploration of Black Power politics, its key figures in Newark, and the impact that such solidarity movements had on municipal politics. A thorough analysis of “pressure politics” and “protest politics” in the public sphere will also shed light on how racial exclusion frames elections and electorates.


grassroots protest, marginalization, Black, urban renewal, Newark.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/450


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