If These Stones Could Talk: Reading and Book Signing
Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills document the history of African American families in New Jersey’s Sourland Mountains communities
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Tickets are $10 for Trent House Association Members and $15 for general admission. 50% of proceeds will be donated to the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum in Hopewell, NJ. Free off-street parking is available and light refreshments are being served
Cemeteries have stories to tell, voices to unearth–and lessons from the past that we can draw upon to better shape the future. If These Stones Could Talk brings fresh light to a forgotten corner of American history that begins in a small cemetery in central New Jersey. Authors of If These Stones Could Talk Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills started their journey through the past as two middle-aged African American women with busy but quiet lives. Lifelong friends, they were both board members of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, a cemetery that is nestled in New Jersey’s Sourland Mountain region. The Stoutsburg Cemetery was purchased by three Black men in the early 19th century as a location to bury Blacks with honor and dignity in the early 19th century. When Buck and Mills got an unexpected call for help, what began as a search through the woods for gravestone markers soon had them rummaging through land deeds and making relentless calls to state officials, archeologists and reporters. Their foray into historic preservation work convinced Buck and Mills that they had a lot more work left to do to connect African American history to local and national history books—within which they still felt largely absent from the most visible narratives in United States history. If These Stones Could Talk includes chapter titles such as “The African American Founding Families of the Sourland Region,” “Trapped in the Purgatory of History,” “Pioneers of Liberty: Local African American Military History” and “Queen Hester’s Home Remedies and Recipes” among many others. In warm but unflinching voices Buck and Mills offer readers a unique window into our past which connects us directly with the present. These stories, including dozens of oral histories, consecrate the collected lives of a minority Black community in a predominantly White region, a pattern of community that reflects a larger, deeply important but typically overlooked national story in small towns all over the United States.
Sharon Elaine Buck, who prefers to be called Elaine, is a founder of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum and Trustee of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, a historic cemetery for people of African descent located in the Sourland Mountains in Hopewell, New Jersey. Beverly Mills, also a founder of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum and Trustee of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, co-authored with Elaine If These Stones Could Talk, based on over a decade of research on the contribution of the African American population who lived in the Sourland Mountain and surrounding region. Beverly and Elaine have formed Friday Truehart Consultants, working closely with K-12 educators from various school systems interested in including African American history in their lesson plans and curriculum. Both represent the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum in the Sankofa Collaborative, an initiative created in partnership with the Trent House Museum, the Grounds For Sculpture, the New Jersey Historical Society, and 1804 Consultants with the goal of building the capacity of diverse organizations, groups, and individuals to present and discuss difficult issues in African American history.