Price was beloved as a historian, teacher, mentor, husband, friend, citizen, neighbor, collaborator, patron of the arts and humanities, public servant, public intellectual, advisor to leaders at all levels of government, and clear-eyed observer of Newark. He taught history at Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N), where he was a Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor. One of Rutgers’ highest faculty honors, the designation recognized Price’s dedication “to the ideas of community, and his sustained impact on the development of cultural, civic, educational and academic institutions in the City of Newark and the State of New Jersey,” as well as his “unwavering commitment to the communities in which he lives, and his concern for social justice.”
The Newark resident was founding director of the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at RU-N, a catalyst of civic engagement that is celebrating its second decade as an interdisciplinary academic center that presents public lectures, fellowships, symposia, film screenings, performances, exhibitions, and other programs that foster broad public discussion on the arts and culture, urban life and development, diversity and race relations, education, and history at the local, national, and transnational levels.
Price also was co-founder of the acclaimed annual Marion Thompson Wright (MTW) Lecture Series, the oldest, largest and most prestigious Black History Month event in the state, drawing thousands of people over the decades to listen, learn, and engage with each other over shared civic challenges. The MTW Series has brought some of the nation’s most revered scholars to Newark, including Annette Gordon Reed, Earl Lewis, Robert Moses, Diane Nash, Charles Payne, Barbara Ransby, Deborah Willis, Sterling Stuckey, Eric Foner, Lonnie Bunch, David Blight, and Nell Painter. To ensure the future of the MTW Lecture Series, Price generously bequeathed $100,000 to Rutgers University-Newark in 2010 to establish the Clement A. Price Endowment for the Humanities.
Price chaired President Obama's 2008 transition team for the National Endowment for the Humanities and is vice chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He was the Newark City Historian and chairman of the 350th anniversary of Newark’s founding in 1666. Past and present leadership roles included the NJ State Council on the Arts, the Fund for New Jersey, the Save Ellis Island Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Newark Education Trust, the Save Ellis Island Foundation, the advisory council for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Scholarly Advisory Committee to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. He chaired the New Jersey State Council on the Arts from 1980 to 1983 and he holds honorary degrees from Drew University, Essex County College, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and William Paterson University.
Clement Price was the foremost authority on black New Jersey history by virtue of his Freedom Not Far Distant: A Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey (1980), and numerous other scholarly works that explore Afro-American History, race relations and modern culture in the United States and in New Jersey.
His most recent book is the three volume work, Slave Culture: A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, co-authored with two other distinguished historians, Spencer Crew and Lonnie Bunch. Slave Culture is drawn from the reminiscences of the last generation of enslaved African Americans. Working with interviews conducted 1936-1938 by the Works Progress Administration's Slave Narrative project, Price and his colleagues created a narrative collection that stands apart from others by presenting topically arranged access to the views expressed in the narratives, rather than a chronological listing. Thus, within each thematic area, multiple excerpts span time, gender, and geography.
His other publications include Many Voices, Many Opportunities: Cultural Pluralism and American Arts Policy; and his essay, Been So Long: A Critique of the Process That Shaped “Victory to Freedom: Afro-American Life in the Fifties, which appears in Ideas and Images: Developing Interpretive History Exhibits ( Kenneth L. Ames, Barbara Franco and L. Thomas Frye).
Price served as the chief historical consultant for the Jewish Museum's 1992 exhibition “Bridges and Boundaries: African Americans and American Jews” and for the 1998 award-winning documentary film Chanceman's Brothers & Sisters: The Origins of the 20th Century Morris County Black Community.
A native of Washington, D.C., Price taught undergraduate and graduate courses that spanned American history, including the Development of the United States; Afro-American History; Civil War and Reconstruction; Intellectual History of Afro-America; Topics in the History of Newark, New Jersey; United States Urban Histor; History of the Civil Rights Movement; Memory and History, Senior Seminar in History; The Black Experience in Western Civilization; Paul Robeson and 20th Century Black Modernism; and Modern America. His courses drew upon current historiographical issues and debates and encouraged students to consider the past from several perspectives and the future of the past in public discourse.
As a leading public intellectual, Clement Price was the recipient of many awards for academic and community service. He was named New Jersey Professor of the Year by The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in 1999 and in 2006, he was inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. Other honors include the 2011 New Jersey Nets Basketball Black History Month award; the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award from Essex County in 2010; a Lifetime Achievement Award from Local Initiatives Support Corporation, New Jersey, in 2008.
Price was married to Mary Sue Sweeney Price, the former director of the Newark Museum, and they were often described as “the first couple of Newark” because of their many contributions to the city and its people. The Prices received the 2006 Ryan Award for Commitment to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Price hosted the award-winning documentary film, The Once and Future Newark, which has been broadcast frequently on public television.
He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Bridgeport, and his doctorate from Rutgers University. He served as visiting professor at Princeton University, the New Jersey City University, Montclair State University, and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The Star-Ledger, "A Lesson in Gentle Enlightment" by Mark Di Ionno, Nov. 7, 2014
NJTV, Remembering Clement Price [video], Nov. 6, 2014
Media are invited to contact Carla Capizzi of Rutgers University-Newark at email@example.com or 973-353-5263.
Photos: inset of Clement Price by Arthur Paxton. Campus photo by Theo Anderson. All rights reserved