Henrietta Green Crawford

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Henrietta Green Crawford, 1842-1917

By James Elton Johnson, historian and education consultant

For more than three decades of the postbellum period, Henrietta Crawford was an uncompromising force in New Jersey based struggles for Black civil rights and women's suffrage. From her long-time residence at 123 Montrose street in Vineland in rural Cumberland County, NJ, Crawford and husband James maintained the city's major center of Black activism in the post-war quests for equal justice before the law, fair compensation for women laborers, education reform, and universal voting rights. Crawford's historical influence extends to her impactful church leadership at the Mt. Pisgah UAME church {still) situated at 315 Plum street and currently known as "Mt. Pisgah Methodist church." Henrietta Crawford's historic example of Black womanhood is a compelling narrative, cherished for its inspirational attributes.

Born in 1842 in the heavily Black enclave of Mannington, NJ, a farming community situated a mile north of Salem city in Salem county, Henrietta was the first child of Maryland natives George and Mary Ann Green (An older half-brother had been born in Maryland during the mother's first marriage.). In Mannington, Henrietta's young parents would have experienced the active role of women in progressive politics, especially the biracial Underground Railroad support campaigns of Amy Reckless, a Black woman, and the White Quaker sisters, Amy and Elizabeth Goodwin. In addition, they may have witnessed Jarena Lee preaching a sermon in Salem or in any of the nearby Cumberland county towns of Greenwich, Bridgeton, and Gouldtown.

Following a culturally rich early childhood in Mannington, where African Americans represented one-third of the population in 1850, Henrietta and her family relocated to Clarksboro near Woodbury in Gloucester County. There, the African American population was only 2% in 1860 when Henrietta was 18-years old. However, thriving Black populations in nearby Woodbury and Swedesboro mitigated the Greens' cultural and racial isolation in Clarksboro. Moreover, as the nation's unraveling over the question of slavery accelerated into civil war, an outspoken Henrietta Green was coming of age in the Swedesboro-Woodbury socio-cultural zone.

In 1861 Henrietta was married briefly and at age 75 she recalled the unfulfilling union. "At the time of my marriage to Jeremiah Collins we were living in Woodbury...soon after our marriage [he] went to Philadelphia, Pa. and the enlisting officer took him to New Haven, Conn. And he enlisted there in the year 1861 as near as I can remember. I know he died during his service in the army because the authorities at Washington, D. C. notified me of this fact."

Henrietta probably knew James Crawford before the war started since they were both living in Gloucester county's Greenwich Township in 1860. A common social venue for the young neighbors would have probably been one or both of the A.M.E. Churches in either Swedesboro or Woodbury. They may have also visited any of the local dives where secular dance music and entertainment proliferated. Evidence from two sources suggests that Crawford also bore two children in her mid-to-late-teen-years. A daughter, Louella, born in December 1861, may have been fathered by Collins.

No marriage record for James and Henrietta seems to have survived, but they were residing together in Landis, Cumberland County in 1870. Two of the three children at that time were probably offspring of an earlier marriage for James.

Confirming the identity of Crawford's biological offspring is complicated because children abound in the Crawford household on every census enumerated. When Rebecca Lassiter, a professor and ordained minister, was featured in a 1961 publication of The Daily Journal, she recalled the following about Henrietta Crawford: "My mother passed away when I was four years old. . . . My father...boarded me with a family, Mr. and Mrs. James Crawford of Montrose St. Mrs. Crawford was an evangelist at the U.A.M.E. church on Plum St. She was a wonderful mother to me." The 1900 federal census of the Crawford household affirmed that Harriet had had two children with one still living. Also, an army pension application submitted by James Crawford in 1915 explained, "[my] wife has one [child] living [and] 3 grandchildren."

By the end of the Civil War, Henrietta Green Crawford had emerged from her sizable nuclear family to become its public leader and primary organizer in both socio-political and church affairs. Crawford's first documented act for social justice occurred when she was at a Vineland women's conference organized by Lucy Stone in 1867. In a doctoral dissertation on women suffragists in New Jersey, scholar Delight W. Dodyk notes that at this venue, Crawford spoke out forcefully against the paltry wages paid to female house servants. From this point forward Henrietta Crawford was a force to be reckoned within Black activism and women's rights. One year later the young activist led the three African Americans, including her mother, who also voted in the Vineland suffragists' mock election. Twenty-six years after that historic demonstration, Crawford took a leading role in another noteworthy election.

By legislative action on April 8, 1887, New Jersey women had gained the right to vote in school district elections. The seven-year-old law was firmly tested at Vineland on July 28, 1894 when women insisted on voting for school board trustees despite opposition from Republican mayor Charles P. Lord and his anti-suffragist male alliance. However, Crawford and other leading suffragists challenged their exclusion from the voting booth. Recounting the incident years later, chronicler Frank D. Andrews shared: "The women--several hundred strong--lined up and, marching to the ballot box, endeavored to vote their ticket....A colored woman named Crawford, who has great influence with the colored voters, managed to force her ballot into the box and then struggled out of the crowd and jeered the officers."

In 1898, Crawford and her husband moved to Woodbury where her penchant for social justice continued. Co-launching one of the earliest campaigns for multiracial education in Woodbury, Henrietta along with neighbor Mattie Bowman respectively led granddaughter and daughter to the all-white Walnut Street Elementary School in 1900 and demanded enrollment for their children. Subsequently falling on hard times, the Crawfords were residing at East Orange, New Jersey by 1915. There, James and Henrietta lived out the evening phases of their lives among relatives before passing away, respectively, in 1916 and 1917.


Dodyk, Delight W., Education and Agitation: The Woman Suffrage In New Jersey (Unpub. Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University, 1997), 135.

Federal manuscript censuses for New Jersey, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900. Accessible online via Ancestry Library Edition.

Gordon, Ann D., ed., The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Vol. 2: Against an Aristocracy of Sex, 1866-1873 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997), appendix C, pp. 646-47.

Johnson, James Elton, "Henrietta Crawford: Radical Black Evangelist In Post-Civil War New Jersey," New Jersey Studies--An Interdisciplinary Journal, 7:1 (2021), 71-106. Accessible online at https://njs.libraries.rutgers.edu/.../njs/article/view/225

Lee, Jarena, Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee, Giving an Account of Her Call to Preach the Gospel, 1849, p. 85. https://archive.org/details/religiousexperie00leej/

Rutland Independent (Rutland, Vermont), 1868 December 12, p. 2.

Still, William, The Underground Railroad, (Medford, NJ: Plexus Publishing, 2005) Orig. pub. 1872, pp. 443-46.

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