Jones has two books in the works

Published 7:53 pm Monday, September 28, 2009

WINDSOR – Alice Eley Jones was her typical, bubbly self recently as she sat in the Roanoke-Chowan Heritage Center at Historic Hope Plantation.

As it always is with this Murfreesboro native, timing is key when interacting with her in conversation. She is a walking history book and loves to share stories of her past as well as those of her beloved Roanoke-Chowan region.

On this particular day, it was hard to figure out if she was happy over the recent news that two of her older books had been chosen for inclusion in the prestigious Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library in Washington, DC or if her glee was attributed to the fact that she’s now back, full-time, in fulfilling her main love in life – writing.

While the DAR news was indeed big, she spoke more about her upcoming publishing plans.

However, she was proud that “Within the Hope Plantation Household: A Cultural History of Bertie County 1550-1828” and “Carpentry and Woodworking Tools of Hope Plantation” will soon land on the shelves of the DAR Library.

“The Cultural History book will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first one I published myself with my own publishing company,” Jones said.

Even the name of that company – Minnie-Troy Publishers – is special to Jones. It is named in honor of her late mother (Minnie) and father (Troy).

The book, published in 2004, was the offspring of a project Jones worked on in the late 1990’s – a collaboration with John Tyler and Dr. Benjamin Speller on interpreting slavery in the South.

Both books are part of the libraries at UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University and East Carolina University. They are also part of the collection at the State Library in Raleigh.

“I’m flattered that DAR wanted these books,” Jones said. “I feel like I’ve landed on Broadway.”

The Cultural History book compares the lives of slave servants in England and America in the 18th century.

“It tracks how people lived on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “Through that research I learned that slavery was an issue of class, not about race.”

Taking a one-year hiatus from research and writing, Jones spent the 2008-09 school year teaching history at Bertie High School, calling it a “very rewarding experience.” Jones is no stranger to a classroom, she taught history at North Carolina Central University in Durham from 1987-1992 and also worked as a middle school and elementary school substitute teacher in the Durham Public School System.

Now she has refocused her energy on writing. First she plans to complete a series of children’s literature books that she had previously worked on. Those books, based in Murfreesboro and Bertie County, will include diverse stories on children of different races and creeds.

“By keeping the story themes local, the youngsters reading these books will be able to touch and feel tangible places,” Jones noted.

Jones hopes to have that project completed by December of this year.

Meanwhile, Jones has another project in mind.

“While I was on the road everyday between Murfreesboro and Bertie High School, it gave me plenty of time to think,” she said. “There’s a project I’ve wanted to do for over 20 years now and that’s a food book. I want to do a book on food that’s typical to northeastern North Carolina. I want to write about why, what and where we eat and add in the history of particular foods – their origins.”

Jones said in her research, the foods now popular in the northeastern corner of the state can be traced to the Roman Empire, West Africa and Native American.

“For me, I cook like I was taught by my mother and my grandmother – by sight, by feel and by sound,” she said.

She wants to hear and read how others have used such advice to cook for their families.

“I want your best recipes, but at the same time I want the stories behind those recipes,” Jones stressed. “Our foods connect us from one generation to the next. I want to share those recipes and those generational stories.”

The book – entitled “Neckbones, Collard Greens, Cornbread and Sweet Tea” – is part of a more formal Food Ways presentation Jones is working on with the Murfreesboro Historical Association. That presentation will be held at Chowan University at a later date.

Jones wants to visit with local organizations, churches and civic groups in an effort to solicit material for the food book. She can be reached at 252-398-5098 or by e-mail at