We don’t usually think of New Jersey as a slave state, Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills told an interviewer, Caroline Katmann. But slavery was present here since the 17th century. The governor enticed settlers with the offer of slaves — one slave for every 75 acres tilled. In the 18th century slaves could be imported “duty free.”

Katmann did this interview for the Sourland Journal, a publication of the Sourland Conservancy. Thanks to Dan Rappaport for calling it to our attention!

The Sourlands Conservancy hosts a talk by Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills on “A Proud Heritage: African American Presence in the Hopewell Valley and Sourland Mountain” at the Hopewell Train Station, One Railroad Place, Hopewell, on Friday, April 11 at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:40 p.m. and $5 is the suggested donation. Buck and Mills will focus on African American history from the late 17th century through today. There will be a display of artifacts and a taste of traditional African American food and song from the Sourlands.

“Some were free,” writes Katmann, “many were enslaved but were still able to build thriving communities that in many respects were ahead of the time. . . They worked the farms, worked in factories that produced pottery and Belgium Block, were blacksmiths, caretakers of homes, nannies for children, basket makers, cooks, shoemakers, laundry workers and more. They even made brandy and moonshine!”

Editors note: if we can find a digital copy of this excellent article, we will link to it. Thanks, Dan!