R. Henri Herbert was the founder of Trenton’s first (and New Jersey’s earliest) African American newspaper, The Sentinel.
Born in 1857, Herbert in his early twenties began publishing The Sentinel, which was a staunchly Republican newspaper. This continued until 1883 heading into the eventual merger between The Sentinel the Trenton Herald located on the second floor of the building at 4 North Broad Street.
A native of Trenton, Herbert was the son of Mansfield Herbert who worked as a cabinet maker and artistic picture framer (to which John A. Roebling was a client). Due to his father’s kindness and reputation in the city, the Herbert family was very well-known and respected during the 19th-20th centuries.
“Through The Sentinel and articles in contemporary publications, including the A.M.E. Church Review and Colored American Magazine, Herbert became an influential spokesman,” as documented in trentonhistory.org. Herbert served under many political appointments during his lifetime, including doorkeeper of the New Jersey Senate from 1881-1883, the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and commissioner to the New Orleans Cotton Centennial.
Some interesting facts about the Herbert Family: In the year 1879 Henri’s sister (Priscilla Herbert) was honored as the first African American to graduate from the State Normal School (which is now known as the college of New Jersey). Priscilla would go on to work a long and enjoyable career as a teacher in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Both of Henri’s brothers (John Herbert and Gustavus Herbert) were businessmen, Gustavus ran the city’s first African American owned hotel and John owned a flooring company.
For more information on R. Henri Herbert and his family, please visit the Trenton Historical Society’s website at www.trentonhistory.org.