SSAAM Awarded $600,000 Mellon Foundation Grant

The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation. This two-year grant will support organizational capacity-building, interpretation of historic sites, and cultural education programming at the only museum in central New Jersey to tell the story of African Americans from the transatlantic slave trade to the present day.

SSAAM is located at the National Historic Register-listed Mt. Zion AME Church in Skillman. The Mt. Zion congregation was originally organized in 1866 by African American descendants of free and enslaved people who lived in the Sourland region. In 1899, the church was moved to its present location at the base of Sourland Mountain, on land donated by members of the True family. This year, SSAAM – together with the Sourland Conservancy and the support of generous donors – was able to acquire the adjacent five-acre True Farmstead. The historic farmstead was once home to an African American Civil War veteran as well as descendants of Friday Truehart, who was brought to New Jersey from South Carolina as an enslaved 13-year-old boy.

SSAAM looks forward to the expanded hiring, program development, and historic site interpretation that this grant will enable in 2023 and 2024. With funding from the Mellon Foundation, SSAAM will continue to develop its heritage garden at the True Farmstead and transform the farmhouse into a vibrant exhibition and education space. The museum plans to expand with the addition of staff in education, marketing, and fund development. Grant funds will also be used to hire consultants on local African American history, heritage gardening, and Black culinary traditions, as well as to produce educational materials for general visitors and school outreach.

“SSAAM’s distinctive surroundings in the Sourland region, with its powerful and deeply rooted African American history and larger-than-life historical figures, allow the museum to offer a broader and truer vision of the past to inspire future generations,” said SSAAM Executive Director Donnetta Johnson. “SSAAM is grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this grant, which positions the museum to serve as a leading cultural organization in central New Jersey and beyond.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.

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