TOMS RIVER, NJ – Toms River Democrat Laurie Huryk on Tuesday said the township is too white and that it needs to do a better job at enticing black people into wanting to live within the community. Huryk, a staunch ally of Governor Phil Murphy noted that Toms River’s white resident population is far higher than that of the State of New Jersey and even of the United States.
“According to census.gov, Toms River is 82% white, 3% black. As compared to the United States on whole which is 60% white and 13% black. New Jersey is 55% white and 15% black,” Huryk said. “We need to take a look at ourselves to examine what we can do as a community to make Toms River more inviting to a greater diversity of individuals and that of our state and the United States.”
Huryk did not provide any plan or preview of how she intends to raise the population of African Americans within her community. During her election, Huryk ran on a ticket that included only white-middle aged candidates, showing no racial diversity.
This is the first time since taking a seat on the council nearly three years ago that Huryk has noted that her community is lacking African-American residents.
We’re not sure when Huryk moved to Toms River, but maybe she doesn’t know one of the underlying reasons perhaps that African Americans chose not to come to Toms River in the middle part of the twentieth century…it was a hub of KKK activity.
Toms River has an ugly history of racism from the turn of the twentieth century. A building that stands in one of the town’s parks once served as the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. The meeting hall in Pleasant Plains is now part of the township park system, but once hosted regional meetings for the Klan. According to journalist Don Bennett, it was built in 1926 and served openly as a klan meeting hall until 1968. The Toms River branch of the Ku Klux Klan even participated in burning down a black church in Lakewood in 1923.
According to Bennett, the Klan was a regular fixture in Toms River, meeting at local churches and in the field near the Klan’s headquarters. Back then, politicians on both sides of the aisle lobbied for the KKK’s block vote during elections.
After opening its Toms River branch, nearly 1 in 10 Ocean County residents were members of the Klan, according to Bennett in the early twentieth century. He said the Klan had 2,000 members while Ocean County had 22,000 residents.
That is all ancient history now and Toms River is actually a very racially diverse town. The town has a large Hispanic and Asian population and sure, while the African-American population is down a bit, Huryk seems to be the only one concerned about it.