On May 23, 2019, the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center officially opened in Red Bank. This new community orgnaization is headquartered in the fully restored T. Thomas Fortune House, one of the most historically significant properties in the United States. The building is significant because of T. Thomas Fortune’s role in African American history.
Born into slavery in 1856, T. Thomas Fortune went on to become one of the most influential American journalists and newspaper publishers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
He was a stalwart for social justice. “His pen knew but one theme, the divine right of man,” said Kelly Miller, Dean of Arts & Sciences at Howard University, upon Fortune’s passing in 1928.
Fortune christened his home in Red Bank, “Maple Hall,” where he and his family resided between 1901-1915. Here he entertained the great African American leader Booker T. Washington and other prominent figures of the time. The Fortune House, along with Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, are the only two National Historic Landmarks in New Jersey significant to African American heritage. The former Maple Hall is now the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center.
The T. Thomas Fortune Foundation was established as a nonprofit corporation to educate the public about the impact of T. Thomas Fortune’s life and work as a journalist, writer, civil rights activist and African American history; to advocate for human rights and social justice broadly and in response to local, regional and national issues of the day; to promote better human relations and journalistic integrity among the upcoming generations of social justice advocates and truth tellers; to preserve the National Historic Landmark home of T. Thomas Fortune as a Cultural Center and gathering place for education, research, community engagement, organizing and celebration, and to maintain the Cultural Center through fundraising, to sustain its operation as manager, providing exhibits, research and meeting space for educational programming.