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Kenneth Allen Gibson Biography: The First African-American Mayor of Newark, New Jersey

Kenneth Allen Gibson

 

A significant eastern American city, Newark, New Jersey, elected Kenneth Allen Gibson as its first African-American mayor.

Gibson, a member of the American Democratic Party, won the election to serve as Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, as its 34th mayor in 1970. In any significant Northeastern American city, he was the first African American to be elected mayor. From 1970 through 1986, he was in office.

He was born on May 15th, 1932, in Enterprise, Alabama, where he also received his education and completed high school there in 1950. Later, he enlisted in the US Army as a civil engineer and served there until 1958. Kenneth Allen found employment as a Highway Patrol trooper in the state of New Jersey after receiving his discharge. He went to Newark College and received a B.S. in civil engineering in 1963 while working as a patrol policeman there.

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After completing his academic education, Gibson joined the Newark Housing Authority as an engineer, where from 1960 to 1966 he directed urban renewal initiatives. In addition to leading Newark’s Business and Industry Coordinating Council, he had advanced to the position of chief structural engineer by 1967. Additionally, he held the position of vice president for the United Community Corporation, which at the time worked to combat poverty in Newark.

Hugh J. Addonizio, the incumbent mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was convicted on conspiracy and extortion charges after losing the 1970 mayoral election to Kenneth Gibson. Mr. Allen assumed charge of the largely African American city that was still getting over the 1967 racial riots, which claimed more than 23 lives.

The economic recovery that revived the city’s economy was credited to Mayor Gibson. For instance, the city was experiencing a population decline from 400,000 to 300,000 when he initially assumed office. However, the numbers gradually increased by the conclusion of his first term. Gibson promoted the return of middle-class residents who had left the city by supporting urban housing projects like Society Hill. Baraka Amiri, a Black Nationalist dramatist and poet, was initially linked to his government and was credited with Gibson Allen’s first election to the position of mayor.

Kenneth Allen Gibson held office for four consecutive terms before being defeated by Sharpe James in 1986 as a result of a scandal that led to his indictment for conspiracy and misconduct. In his subsequent trial, which was held after he left government, Gibson was found not guilty. The National Urban League, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were just a few of the civil rights organizations in which Gibson was actively involved (NAACP). In 1976, Gibson also made history by becoming the first black person to lead the United States Conference of Mayors.

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