After a year that was chock-full of protests, civil unrest and deep discussions about racism and inequality in the United States, the African American Museum of Bucks County wants to create a safe space for conversation, education and engagement on these issues.
Since in-person events are out of the question due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the AAMBC plans to launch virtual programming in the form of the video series “Untold Stories and Hidden Figures in Bucks County.”
The series will chronicle the struggles and triumphs of African Americans that took place in Bucks County over the course of more than three centuries. These local stories, according to the AAMBC, are often neglected in school textbooks. They encompass the arrival of the first slave ships into Bristol Harbor in 1681; the 15 stops along the Underground Railroad from Langhorne to Quakertown; and the tireless pursuit of historians to learn more about the lives of civil rights heroines in the 1960s.
In order to fund the video series, the museum is presenting a special virtual program on Sunday, Dec. 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The evening features a showing of the award-winning documentary Standing On My Sisters’ Shoulders, which was produced by the late social worker and museum benefactor Joan Sadoff.
Over the course of an hour, the documentary tells the stories of several heroic women of the Civil Rights Movement, whose valiant efforts reached from the fields of the Mississippi delta to the floors of the U.S. Congress. The producer’s daughter Sherry Sadoff Hanck will introduce the film and host a short Q&A and discussion.
“I am thrilled to be hosting this online event,” she said. “Once my mother started working for the cause of civil rights, she never looked back. Her mission became clear in the early 1990s and her passion for justice took the lead. She, with the full support and encouragement of my father Robert L. Sadoff, MD, built bridges and created community. The women in the film became their family and, over the years, they shared in each others’ sorrows and joys.”
Sadoff Hanck added that the stories seen in Standing On My Sisters’ Shoulders, despite being from a specific historic struggle, are still relevant today and connect the past with the present.
“I have seen this film 100 times and each singular time, I find meaning and inspiration from these extraordinary women,” she said.
It’s safe to say that her mother would’ve been proud to have her documentary support the AAMBC’s latest project, which includes detailed, researched accounts from historians. While most of the individuals featured are African American, there are also people of multiple races, creeds and socioeconomic backgrounds. Local residents comment on-camera how these unearthed histories alter their perceptions of past, present and future, and what these accounts mean for their communities and families.
Each video is being shot on-location in the county, aiming to instill a sense of community pride and attest to the common heritage everyone shares.
As explained by the AAMBC, “These events took place where we live, and these people walked where we walk. Bridging the past with the present helps us to understand the struggles, hardships and inequalities endured by African Americans and recognize their achievements and contributions to Bucks County.”
The museum intends to work with a team of educators and local stakeholders to incorporate the new video series into school curricula, as well as share it with various community groups, faith congregations and nonprofits across a variety of online platforms.
One video has already been completed. It spotlights local historian Dr. Helen Heinz as she tells the untold, personal stories of African American Civil War soldiers whose remains were buried in unmarked graves in Lower Makefield Township. The film also shows interviews with African American veterans and young residents shot on-location at a special dedication ceremony, held at Slate Hill Cemetery on Sept. 26. The event, hosted by the local VFW Post 6393, honored these men with tombstones provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The inaugural film can be viewed at infoaambc.org/virtual-education-program.
Tickets to the fundraising event are $20, and $15 for AAMBC members. All proceeds will benefit the production of the video series “Untold Stories and Hidden Figures in Bucks County.” Tickets can be purchased online at infoaambc.org/events.
For more information on the African American Museum of Bucks County, contact LSalley@aambc.org or call 215-752-1909.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com