November 11, 2020

Regional African American History is Focus of Videos

HISTORY CAPTURED ON VIDEO: Vintage photographs and informative interviews help tell the story of the first African American museum in central New Jersey.

The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) and the Sourland Conservancy have announced the release of two videos that were funded by grants from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH).

Although the videos are very different, each tells the story of the Museum project and of African American history in the region in a unique way, with interviews and historic photographs.

“This is not only a story of this area, it’s the American story,” said John Buck, SSAAM board president. “These are the same stories that you hear from all over the United States,” said his wife, Elaine, co-author of the book If These Stones Could Talk — African American Presence in the Hopewell Valley, Sourland Mountain, and Surrounding Regions of New Jersey.

“These videos present an overview of African American history in the region in different ways,” said Beverly Mills, co-author, If These Stones Could Talk. “One provides information about our work to create the first African American museum in Central New Jersey, while the other focuses on our passion and commitment for the work.”

The first video, which was released November 10, was created by Skillman videographer Nick Christoff, with assistance from Sourland Conservancy staff. The goal of this eight-minute video is to provide insight into the role of the Museum in increasing understanding and facilitating the healing process in this community — especially relevant during this critical time in the nation’s history. Photos were provided by The Hopewell Museum, the Bob Gantz Photography Collection, Hopewell Valley History Project, Patricia Payne, Douglas Dixon, and James Davidson.

The second video, African American Presence in the Sourland Mountain Region, will be released on
November 17 and was created by filmmaker Robert Meola of Skillman. Photographs and artifacts were provided by SSAAM. The goal of this 18-minute video is to provide an overview of African American history in the region, a summary of SSAAM’s mission and accomplishments, and a glimpse into SSAAM’s future plans.

“The SSAAM board is very excited to share these videos on our new YouTube channel. This provides a much richer experience for the public to learn about the true history of our area. We will continue adding videos to engage our members and followers,” said Kevin Burkman, SSAAM trustee. “While we are looking forward to being able to share this information in person, COVID has impacted our ability to host in-person events.”

Videos will be released simultaneously on both organizations’ YouTube channels, SSAAM YouTube and Sourland Conservancy YouTube.

Both videos were funded by the NJCH with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the federal CARES Act.

“We can’t thank the NJCH enough for making it possible for us to engage with our constituents in such a meaningful and creative manner, during the pandemic,” said Caroline Katmann, executive director of SSAAM.

”The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum embodies the spirit of the Sourland Conservancy. SSAAM is much more than a building, it’s a group of passionate people who are working very hard to bring the community together to uncover and share a very complex and difficult story,” said Laurie Cleveland, executive director of the Sourland Conservancy. “Through these videos, we hope to reach a broad audience and raise awareness of the true history of slavery and segregation in the region, the important contributions of the African Americans who have lived here for many generations, and the importance of opening a dialogue to increase understanding and bring the community together.”

“Laurie and I appreciate the special partnership between our two organizations — just as the human history and the natural landscape of the Sourlands are part of the same story, our organizations are part of the same effort to tell this story,” said Katmann.

The Sourland Conservancy’s mission is to protect, promote and preserve the unique character of the Sourland Mountain region of Central New Jersey. For more information, visit

The mission of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum is to tell the story of the unique culture, experiences, and contributions of the African American community of the Sourland Mountain Region. For more information, visit

Both organizations are working together to build an Education and Exhibit Center next to the Museum on Hollow Road in Skillman. Donations can be made to support the Center at SSAAM, PO Box 162, Hopewell, NJ 08525. Donors are asked to make checks payable to the Sourland Conservancy and write Sourland Center on the memo line.