Lawnside: A Haven to Freedom

Produced by: 
E. Muneerah Higgs
20 min

This documentary, produced by a life-long resident of Lawnside, New Jersey, tells the story of the historically African-American town founded in the early 1800s as a well-known stop of the Underground Railroad. Using interviews with resident storytellers and footage of its prosperous, tree-lined streets, this video chronicles the history of a town framed by the memories of those who loved it. Since its completion in 1992, the video has been screened annually at the Lawnside Public School, among other places, where it is used as a teaching tool.

The Lawnside Historical Society's mission is to preserve and protect the heritage of Lawnside, N.J., the state's only African-American incorporated municipality, by restoring the Peter Mott House for use as a museum and station along the Underground Railroad, the clandestine network to freedom for fugitives in the 19th century. The Society conducts tours of the Peter Mott House and provides speakers for groups and organizations. In December 2005, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities awarded Lawnside Historical Society a $3000 grant to create an oral history project.

In adition to her work as a videomaker, E. Muneerah Higgs is a veteran of the Lawnside Public Schools, where she works as a Social Studies teacher. She won the 2004 Mildred Barry Garvin Teacher of the Year Award, which crowned her the best history teacher on the elementary level in the state. That same year, she went to South Africa in the summer of 2004 as a Fulbright Scholar. Upon her return, she developed a curriculum for New Jersey teachers called "The Soweto Uprisings."


May 15, 1992 - Philadelphia Inquirer, "Putting Focus on Lawnside and Role As Ex-Slave Haven", by Edward Engel

August 8, 1999 - Philadelphia Inquirer, "New Program Takes Films Out of Theaters and Into the Streets", by Daniel Rubin

Public Screenings, Broadcasts and Festivals: 

May 1992 - Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema (Philadelphia, PA)

November 1992 - Third World Newsreel exhibition series, D'Ghetto Eyes: Films and Videos by New Black /Asian/ Latina/o makers, at The Kitchen (New York, NY)

February 1993 - Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission (Philadelphia, PA)

February 1993 - Lawnside Public School, first of ongoing annual screenings (Lawnside, NJ)

April 1993 - Lawnside Historical Society (Lawnside, NJ)

June 1993 - Rutgers University (Camden, NJ)