Today, it is with special excitement that I announce my Monday Morning Muse –not one but two women who have spent over a decade bringing communities and students together for a fresh look at the past. It has been my incredible honor to work with talented authors Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills on their book, If These Stones Could Talk, which is now due to be published on November 7th by Wild River Books.
When I first studied history at Rider University, and later went to graduate school for history at University of Connecticut, it would have been my dream to be involved in a project as far-reaching in scope and authentic in voice as If These Stones Could Talk. But don’t take it from me. Here’s what Pulitzer-prize winning historian James M. McPherson said:
“Rooted in an amazing amount of research and written with grace and flair, If These Stones Could Talk brings to light a rich past that had almost been lost.”
I first learned about Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills when Kate McGuire, the lead librarian on what was named the Stoutsburg Project, emailed me for help in transforming an enormous amount of cumulative research –wills, property deeds, vital records, verified oral histories and more–into an educational history book.
But Elaine and Beverly’s research wasn’t your normal shade of arduous. It was downright painful for both authors.
The more Elaine and Beverly learned about the lives of their ancestors, both freed Blacks and slaves, the more they found documents as shocking as runaway slave notices, wills that bequeathed their ancestors’ names next to spoons or signed Revolutionary war papers of Black soldiers who hailed from the Sourland Mountain in New Jersey–and yet no historic markers graced their memory, and no written histories told their stories in museums.
I felt their passion and I heard their powerful author voices from the very first time we met at a local library around boxes of papers they kept neatly organized. I also felt their unwavering dedication to their goal. They needed to write a local history book with national significance–a book that would not ignore or diminish their ancestors contributions–and more fully acknowledge the realities of their past.
My deep respect for Elaine and Bev continues to grow as I watch them build bridges –and truly change consciousness–everywhere they walk–whether through walking into the doors of a school or speaking at a community event or gathering people around their purpose. You can see that impact the moment you take a look at Beverly and Elaine’s popular Facebook page and their weekly post, Friday’s Memory, devoted to Beverly’s 4th great-grandfather. In the 18th century Friday Truehart was brought from Charleston, S.C. to Hopewell, New Jersey, by his master, Reverend Oliver Hart.
I am deeply proud of the final outcome of our work and I’m equally thankful for how our work together has changed me, stretched all of us thin at times and then delighted us as I watched two incredibly wise and hard working authors bring their final manuscript home with grit and determination and an outcome that has been getting rave reviews.