East Jersey was even more diverse. Beginning in the 1660s, many of the inhabitants of New Netherland a motley assortment of Flemings, Walloons, French Huguenots, German Protestants, Dutch, and their African and African American slaves spilled over into East Jersey from New York. Non-Quaker English, New England Puritans, Scottish, and Scots-Irish emigrants also settled in East Jersey. Finally, Quakers and Baptists seeking refuge from religious persecution in New England added to the religious diversity of East Jersey. In the 1720s, the Great Awakening a series of religious revivals arose amid this potent religious and ethnic brew, adding to the colony’s religious diversity.
The importance of religion in colonial New Jersey profoundly affected the lives of women, particularly Quakers and Puritans. Over time, they used their place in religious life to gain greater authority in the church and family.
New Jersey was the most diverse colony in terms of both religion and ethnicity, even more than its diverse neighbors, New York and Pennsylvania. Diversity did not necessarily lead to the creation of a cohesive culture, however. New Jersey’s ethnic and religious groups tended to settle in homogeneous communities, allowing them to preserve many features of their culture and institutions. Similarly, the concentration of New Jersey’s African and African American population in two northeastern counties allowed for the creation and preservation of a distinct, Northern African American culture. Most white Jersey families sought ownership of land, and they expected to provide a landed inheritance for all of their children. New York and Philadelphia merchants’ demand for Jersey’s agricultural products created a prosperous economy that allowed most European families to obtain the land that alone provided independence and economic security. To supplement family labor, they turned to free and unfree labor of indentured servants and, in northern Jersey, enslaved Africans and African Americans. Often unable to gain their freedom during the colonial period, slaves instead forged extended family ties and sought greater personal freedoms within the institution of slavery.
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