UMW Annual Dinner to Focus on Local African-American History

The United Methodist Women’s Annual Dinner is set for 6:30 p.m., Monday, June 20 at the church. We will have a light dinner of salad and dessert followed by a program presented by Elaine Buck and Bev Mills, both are local residents and Stoutsberg Cemetery Trustees.

Their talk is titled, “A Proud Heritage – African-American Presence in Hopewell Valley and Surrounding Area.”

The story behind their work is fascinating, too. A decade ago, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck began formal collaboration into researching the lives of their African American ancestors, most of whom were likely to have been brought up the Delaware River as slaves to–what is now Hopewell Valley. Their mission was to vocalize not just the hardships and stark realities that so many blacks had faced as slaves and then “apprentices” in New Jersey, but also underline the thriving communities, loyal soldiers and wounded veterans, committed churches and very real economic contributions of their ancestors that, without their efforts, were likely to be forgotten in local history accounts.

Active community members, Mills and Buck both serve on the board of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, a burial ground for African American residents and veterans in the region. In April of 2006, Mills and Buck received a panicked call to help prevent construction plans for another sacred slave burial ground in the region. That call and their subsequent struggles to preserve the site both galvanized and energized their plans and efforts to chronicle the lives of their ancestors in print and digital form.

Through many years of research, examination of records and verbal testimonies, Mills and Buck are writing a book with the editorial consultation and expertise of Wild River Consulting & Publishing, based out of Princeton, NJ.

The book aims to provide a clearer understanding of the African American experience and accomplishments in Hopewell Valley (and surrounding area) to be used as an addendum to the little known, missing black history facts left out of our family histories, our textbooks and libraries. The goal is to engage readers –and educate students — not only in New Jersey but also across America and beyond.

All women and their family and friends are invited to attend and hear this often-unheard perspective on local history. Please sign up in the Narthex to bring a dish. 

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