Algernon Ward Research Scientist; President of the Sixth Regiment United States Colored Troops and 1st Rhode Island Reenactors Inc.

Algernon Ward recently retired from the New Jersey Department of Health, where he became the Department’s first Black Chemist and then Research Scientist. “Growing up,” he recalls, “Trenton State College didn’t feel like it was for kids like me, even though it’s just five miles down the road.” But despite his own misgivings, his mother June Ward, believed in his abilities and insisted that he go to college and do his best. Due to her urging, he went, and achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. He then began to work on research projects at the Department of Health, expanding into the field of chemistry as well. “So many young people in town have the talent and potential, they’ve just have never been convinced that they can do it,” he says.

Many also know “Algie” as a historical interpreter of African Americans’ role in the U.S.military, from the Revolutionary War onward. He immediately became passionate about the craft after being introduced to it by Fred Minus, a retired Master Mechanic who now works as a Docent at the Old Barracks Museum, in part because it brought to life an aspect of American history that is often minimized or ignored. He explains that the victories at the Battles of Trenton, and many other key points in the Revolutionary War, would not have happened as they did without Colonel Glover’s Marbleheaders, or the Colonial Army’s many other integrated regiments, playing important roles in the eventual victory over the British. Feats such as the Marbleheaders ferrying General George Washington and his army across the Delaware River on Christmas Day, or the 1st Rhode Island Regiment’s heroic stand at the Battle of Monmouth, all included African Americans. “Trenton kids need to know their own history,” he says. Through all his community work, he strives to change that.

Photographed by Bentrice Jusu at the Old Barracks.

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