NJ’s top officials want to abolish ‘freeholder’ title as racist and sexist

14 Jul 2020 | 11:27

New Jersey. The New Jersey governor and top legislators want to change the title for elected county legislators from “freeholder” to “commissioner.” Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted on July 9: “As our nation tears down symbols of injustice, let us tear down words born from racism. Proud to stand with @NJSenatePres and @SpeakerCoughlin to phase out the word ‘freeholder’ – coined when only white male landowners could hold office. #BlackLivesMatter.” New Jersey is the only state to retain the freeholder title inherited from pre-Revolution English law. The term refers to a person who owns land, which in those times was not the prerogative of women or Black people. Sponsors in the senate are Stephen M. Sweeney (District 3: Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem) and Joseph Pennacchio (District 26: Essex, Morris and Passaic). Sponsors in the assembly are Andrew Zwicker (District 16: Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), BettyLou DeCroce (District 26: Essex, Morris and Passaic), and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (District 15: Hunterdon and Mercer).