In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Newark was a bustling city, as shown in artists’ drawings and in two articles from the New York Times from 1872 and 1916, which depict Newark as a rising industrial hub in the region. Even then, there was some awareness of environmental issues. Pollution, as shown in an article from 1881 on "The Polluted Passaic," had already become a problem for residents.
Since World War II, Newark has contended with two primary trends: deindustrialization, and the question of how to deal with the environmental impact left by industry, and a dramatic demographic shift where higher-income people relocated to the suburbs and people of color and lower income groups suffered from being disproportionately exposed to the city’s environmental hazards.
The documents here mainly focus on the Ironbound section of Newark’s struggle against the health hazards around them as a representative case study. The discovery of environmental crimes and the struggle to advocate for the rights of the community show another face of the environmental movement: power of the local. The NJCH forum Environment, Equity, & American History: Newark's Industrial Legacy and these documents, including newspaper articles from the 1970s and 1980s, aim to highlight how local initiatives started a chain of changes in the state legislature and in public awareness and involvement. Photos showing protests against the incinerator in the Ironbound or children suffering from the environmental hazards showcase the extent of this exposure. The power of media and the local organizations came together for a long-haul battle that eventually led to legislative changes and the involvement of state and federal agencies.