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William Ashby Collection

Identifier: MG Nwk Ashby-(Offsite)

Scope and Contents

This collection of Ashby Family memorabilia consists of ca. 70 items (stored offsite; an inventory list is available in the Reading Room): resolutions, awards, medals, and plaques, presented to Ashby by Mayor Sharpe James, the Municipal Council of the City of Newark, Lincoln University, United Way of Essex and West Hudson, the Newark Branch NAACP, Frontiers International, the E. Alma Flagg Scholarship Fund, the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee, the Mor Fellowship, the Union County Association of Black Social Workers, the National Urban League, and the Urban League of Union County. Also included are correspondence received on his 100th birthday, papers and memorabilia of Mary and Katherine Ashby, family photographs, postcards, ephemera, and a straw hat.


  • c. 1974-1990


Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff. Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

Biographical / Historical

William Mobile Ashby was born in Carter's Grove, VA, on October 15, 1889, and raised in Newport News, VA, one of twelve children; in 1904, after graduating from school in Newport News he traveled north by ship to see his mother, who had settled in Roselle, NJ to seek work as a domestic. After working for a Newark restaurant, and receiving special tutoring from Rev. John H. Locklear, a Lincoln graduate, he was accepted by Lincoln University and received his BA degree at age 22 in 1911. He married, in 1914, Mary A. Arnold of Hopewell, NJ, who became his devoted companion for more than 70 years of marriage. The couple had a daughter, Katherine Arnold Ashby.

He established the Negro Welfare League of New Jersey (later the Essex County Urban League - the organization's first branch in New Jersey), with premises first on Mulberry Street and then in their own building at 58 West Market St. In 1927 he became a caseworker in Newark, and then left New Jersey to serve as Director of the Springfield, IL Urban League (1932-1944).

He returned to the state as Director of the Eastern Union County Urban League (1944-1953), based in Elizabeth. After his retirement from the Urban League he became active with the Newark Human Rights Commission and the New Jersey Commission on Civil Rights. He was also an active member of the Newark NAACP (Secretary), the Newark Human Rights Commission, the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee (Co-Founder, Secretary), and numerous other civic organizations.

Mayor Kenneth A. Gibson declared October 30, 1974 "William Ashby Day" in the City, in honor of his 85th birthday. Ashby was honored again by the Municipal Council of the City of Newark in 1979 as a distinguished citizen of Newark and a pioneer in the Civil Rights Movement. He died at age 101 on May 17, 1991.


2 Linear Feet (c. 70 items (linear feet estimated))

Language of Materials