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African American History in the Sourlands

by MercerMe Staff

Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck have been hard at work uncovering African-American history in the Sourland region and Hopewell Valley for their upcoming book, “If These Stones Could Talk.” On Thursday, November 16, they offer a presentation at the Hopewell Presbyterian Church, along with John Buck, president of the board of directors of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM), the first African American Museum in central New Jersey.

SSAAM plans to open its doors in 2018 with exhibits, reenactments, musical performances, cooking classes, and more.  The museum has already co-sponsored several events, including the latest, “Presenting and Discussing Difficult Topics in African-American History,” at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, regarding issues faced by museums, schools, nonprofits, and faith based organizations when addressing African American history. Participants included art teachers, historians, museum curators, volunteers, and individuals.

“Many people think slavery only happened in the South,” said Elaine Buck.  “They don’t realize that people owned slaves right here in Hopewell Valley. In fact, New Jersey was the last state in the Northeast to abolish slavery.”

As longtime members of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, Elaine Buck and Bev Mills have been working to educate others about the role of African Americans in our region.  Slaves, farmers, business owners, and veterans of every war – American Revolution, Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Viet Nam – are buried in the Stoutsburg Cemetery, and some of their progeny still reside in the Sourland region.

Beverly Mills, also a Pennington Borough Councilwoman, said, “It is important to honor this history and to acknowledge the challenges and contributions of these great mean and women.”

During World War II, Sourland Mountain resident, Verna Nevius Witcher, was the first black woman to enroll in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps – (WAAC) Southern New Jersey and Delaware District. Learn more about Ms. Witcher and hear other important stories as Beverly Mills and John and Elaine Buck present “African American History in the Sourlands” on Thursday November 16, 7-8:30pm at the Hopewell Presbyterian Church, 80 West Broad Street, Hopewell, NJ 08525.  This event is sponsored by the Sourland Conservancy. Advance registration is required.  For event information and registration, please visit http://tiny.cc/AfricanAmericanHistoryFor more information about SSAAM, visit the new website at http://www.ssaamuseum.org/

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