Adam Clark / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
The revelation came one pivotal night when Jonathan Holloway was still a young man.
The horrors of slavery had not touched his Black ancestors, he thought, something he mentioned to a girlfriend. Only then did he learn the truth, when his father revealed a dark chapter in the family’s past.
”Jonathan doesn’t know his family history,” Wendell Holloway said, as if his son wasn’t even in the room.
The words hurt because they were true, Holloway would admit years later. Even as a young adult, he had no idea he was the great-great-grandson of an enslaved woman and remained painfully unaware of so many aspects of America’s racist history, he said.
It was a reckoning that would help shape his future.
“I was just horrified,” Holloway told NJ Advance Media. “How could I not know?”
In a quest to uncover that history, Holloway became a history professor and author specializing in African American studies. On Wednesday, the student of the past makes history himself by becoming the first Black president of Rutgers University, founded in 1766.