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Somerset County hosts Black History Month activities

Courtesy of Somerset County "Harambee: Sepia Sisters" by local African American artist Veronica Spruill, Mixed Media, currently on exhibit at the Somerset County Administration Building.

A wide variety of Black History Month activities are happening across Somerset County in February, sponsored by local nonprofits and county government. The Somerset County Board of County Commissioners has published a list of activities on the county website. Highlights are listed below.

“The Witness Stones Project” Exhibit
Now through March 4
20 Grove Street, Somerville

The Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission and the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) present “The Witness Stones Project” in the atrium lobby of the Somerset County Administration Building, open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except holidays.

The Witness Stones Project features artwork from the SSAAM working with Timberlane Middle School classes (in Pennington) in 2022 and 2023 to memorialize two enslaved people who lived in the area: Friday Truehart and Frost Blackwell.

The Witness Stones Project is an organization with a mission to “restore the history and honor the humanity of the enslaved individuals who helped build our communities.” They are based in Connecticut and have since worked in four additional states.

“Meet Phillis Wheatley,” Friday, Feb. 9 and Saturday, Feb. 10
Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum
189 Hollow Road, Skillman

“Meet Phillis Wheatley,” will showcase an unforgettable performance by Dr. Daisy Century as Phillis Wheatley, the 18th-century poet who overcame slavery to become the first African American woman to publish poetry.

The event will take place on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 10 at 11 a.m., with museum open hours from 1-3 p.m.

“Tory Jack Day,” Saturday, Feb. 10
Abraham Staats House
17 von Steuben Lane, South Bound Brook

“Tory Jack Day,” will feature a special presentation from renowned historian and former National Park Service Interpretive Specialist Joe Becton. The Revolutionary War era house will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Seating is limited, and reservations are encouraged.

Attend in person or remotely, via Zoom. For more information call (732) 369-3583.

“Frederick Douglass Day,” Wednesday, Feb. 14
Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum
189 Hollow Road, Skillman

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a birthday gathering for activist Frederick Douglass at True Farmstead! Participate in the national transcribe-a-thon to bring Douglass’ letters to life from the Library of Congress. Laptops are required for this event.

The event will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 14 from 1-3 p.m., with museum open hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Exploring the Underground Railroad with Codes,” Saturday, Feb. 17
Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium
118 Lamington Rd, Branchburg

Explore hands-on activities inspired by codes found in the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and in quilt squares to learn more about astronomy and the Underground Railroad, a secretive network of people and places that helped thousands of enslaved people move northward as far as Canada to escape slavery. Participants may explore hands-on activities and view displays about nature, codes, and African Americans who have made a difference.

The activity will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17 from 3-5 p.m. and is recommended for ages 6-12. Contact planet@raritanval.edu for reservations.

“Rites of Passage: African Drumming and Poetry,” Monday, Feb. 26
North Plainfield Library
6 Rockview Avenue, North Plainfield

“Rites of Passage: African Drumming and Poetry,” will feature beats, songs, and lessons that come from the art of playing the djembe drum by Jahlil Shabazz, of Arts Horizons. Be ready to sing and drum along! Presented by the North Plainfield Branch of the Somerset County Library System. The event will happen on Monday, Feb. 26 from 4-4:45 p.m. Register at https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/9167729.

Black History Month Programs from the Somerset County Library System

  • African Americans in Space: https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/8654902
  • Rites of Passage: African Drumming and Poetry: https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/9167667
  • In the Key of Stevie: https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/8679266
  • Rites of Passage: African Drumming and Poetry: https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/9167714
  • The Tuskegee Airmen America’s First Black Pilots: https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/8650739
  • Art by African Americans: From the Protest of the 60s to the Age of Black Lives Matter: https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/8662569
  • A Look at Black History Through Jazz: https://sclsnj.libnet.info/event/9018842
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