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Fri Dec 25, 2020, 08:11 AM

Meet the 'Detectives' Documenting New Jersey's Overlooked Black History

Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck have spent more than a decade exploring neglected local stories

By Livia Gershon
DECEMBER 23, 2020

More than a decade ago, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck—members of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association in New Jersey’s Hopewell Valley—began exploring the overlooked African American history of their hometowns. Since then, they’ve written a book, created a series of videos and opened a museum detailing the region's past.

As Buck, 67, and Mills, 70, tell the New York Times’ Jennifer Schuessler, back when they were students in the area, their schools taught them almost nothing about the history of local black communities and practice of slavery in New Jersey.

“History wasn’t interesting to me, and the reason is they left half the people out,” Buck says. “All you heard about was white people with wigs on.”

The friends—who describe themselves as amateur “history detectives”—began their work when a local man reached out to the cemetery association for help preventing the construction of a driveway over a historic African American burial ground. As Wendy Greenberg reports for Princeton magazine, Buck and Mills worked with an archaeologist and sought out the archival documentation needed to stop the project. After that success, they kept digging into historical materials.

Working with local historical societies, the pair found old legal documents, newspaper advertisements, family Bibles and other records that fleshed out hundreds of years of black life in the area. In some cases, the only records of enslaved people were property listings that named them alongside other “items.” The pair found one name on a credit ledger from a store.


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Reply Meet the 'Detectives' Documenting New Jersey's Overlooked Black History (Original post)
Judi Lynn Dec 2020 OP
eppur_se_muova Dec 2020 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Dec 25, 2020, 09:08 AM

1. The last 16 slaves in New Jersey were freed in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment.

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