Few People Know South Jersey Almost Became Another State

We all know that North Jersey and South Jersey are a bit different in several ways, but we’re all proud New Jerseyans, right? While it may be that way now, it wasn’t always the case.

On election day in 1980, five South Jersey counties voted to secede from New Jersey in a non-binding referendum. Six counties voted on the referendum, and all but Ocean County voted for the creation of a 51st state south of I-195. The counties which supported an independent state of South Jersey included: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem.

The reason for this attempt at secession was a (perceived) lack of sufficient representation in many of New Jersey’s legislative boards and commissions. While the secession attempt was never actually a possibility, the purpose was more about raising awareness. Instead of seceding, the “Committee to Free South Jersey” succeeded… in bringing attention to their cause.

Many of the movement’s supporters saw personal, not political reasons for a secession. North and South Jersey are undeniably different in several ways. From sports teams (Flyers vs. Devils) to processed meat (Pork Roll vs. Taylor Ham), our preferences vary, but I think that we’re better together.

We have a surprising amount in common, like our love for our beaches, our appreciation of farmland (and passion for Jersey tomatoes) and pride in our Jersey musicians (Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra… for starters). We also each have something unique to offer. North Jersey offers fantastic waterfalls and magnificent (though modest) mountains, while South Jersey offers the spectacular Pine Barrens and popular tourist destinations including Atlantic City and Cape May. Being one state, we get the best of both worlds.

North, Central or South, I’m proud to be from New Jersey, are you? Had you heard of this secession attempt? What are your feelings about it? Share with me, along with what you love most about the Garden State! For another unique bit of local history, click here.