School Children to Learn Local Black History Thanks to a Montgomery Museum and Mapmaker
By Barbara A. Preston l October 12, 2021
Kevin Burkman, a Montgomey resident, delivered a poster-sized map of Black history sites in the Sourland Mountain region to Village Elementary School this week as part of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum's (SSAAM) educational outreach program.
Burkman, a board member of SSAAM, says the museum also donated maps to Princeton Day School, and public schools throughout Montgomery, Hopewell, Princeton, and Hillsborough — for classroom use.
As an expert geographic information system (GIS) mapping analyst, Burkman used historical records to pinpoint 25 important Black history sites in central New Jersey. Locations include sites in Princeton, Hopewell, Pennington, and other Sourland areas.
Stoutsburg Cemetery in Hopewell Township, for example, is one of the oldest African American cemeteries in the state, where local Black residents including Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans were laid to rest beginning in the 1700s.
Burkman says he hopes schools will use this map to expand knowledge and appreciation of Black history in New Jersey.
“If students look at this map and think a little deeper about the ways African Americans have contributed to their communities’ histories from the very beginning,” Burkman said, “I’ll consider it a job well done.”
Historic Montgomery Township locations on the map include:
The Higgins Farmhouse on Province Line Road, which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Mount Zion AME Church at 189 Hollow Road. The church is listed on the National Historic Register, and is the current home of SSAAM. It is "one of the most historic buildings in the Sourland region," according to the map. The original church was constructed before 1850 on Zion Road, near the Province Line on Sourland Mountain, and served the black population of the area.
The museum is closed for historic restoration work, but will be open to the public by late spring 2022.
The Camp Meeting Site. Camp meetings were religious revivals held on Sundays during the summer months, starting in the mid 1800s. The site was located at the intersection of Hollow Road and Camp Meeting Avenue. Also at this site is Bessie Grover Park, which is dedicated to a lifelong resident of that neighborhood. Grover was born in 1900, and was the granddaughter of a slave, and member of the Mt Zion AME Church for 50 years.
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Other sites on the new 34-inch by 44-inch geophysical map include: Minnietown, a Hopewell community where African Americans and Native Americans lived until the late 1800s; Put’s Tavern, a popular Sourland Mountain business owned by former slave Harry Put;
Eventually, the map will be a feature at the museum.
SSAAM Executive Director Donnetta Johnson says the museum is committed to sharing the often-overlooked culture, experiences, and contributions of the state’s African American residents from slavery to the present day.
"SSAAM is always eager to engage in educational outreach to our neighboring communities,” she said. “Together we will build a broader engagement with and understanding of our rich history and shared future."
As part of its education program, SSAAM will provide copies of the map to schools, organizations, and local governments free of charge. Email email@example.com for more information.
Visit the SSAAM Webiste to learn more.