Whenever I visit Plymouth, N.C., a small town near where I grew up, the first thing I think of is the massacre of African Americans that happened there on April 20, 1864.
On January 12, 1934, the New York City chapter of the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina held an Emancipation Day celebration at Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem, one of the most historic churches in America.
At the Boston Athenaeum, I discovered that the young Abraham Galloway was bound for Haiti in 1861 and was determined to drive the United States into a civil war to free his people.
Yet another memory. I am at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the Boston Public Library in Boston, Mass. Founded in 1854, the library houses more than a million rare books and historical manuscripts. I am looking for Abraham Galloway.
A memory. I am racing across New York State after a blizzard. I am searching for historical records on Abraham Galloway, the fiery young slave rebel, radical abolitionist and Union spy who will later become the subject of my book called The Fire of Freedom.
I was delighted to open Michelle Lanier’s beautiful new children’s book My N.C. from A to Z and discover Abraham Galloway on the very first page! I helped bring Galloway’s story to light in my book The Fire of Freedom only a few years ago and now he’s starring in one of the most wonderful … Continue reading A is for Abraham Galloway
Today I am remembering a very special day just a couple months ago, before the quarantines and before the shuttered stores and empty streets, when Marion Evans and I explored a corner of the North Carolina coast that was completely new to me and seemed like an almost magical place.
I am remembering a research trip to the Providence Public Library in Providence, Rhode Island. Built in the style of the Venetian Renaissance, the library is an exquisitely beautiful old building. But when I ascended the Italian marble staircase and opened the door into the special collections room, I thought I had discovered Hogwarts Castle’s Room of Hidden Things from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
A memory. I am remembering a day at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, Mass. The Society holds one of the great collections of early American manuscripts and artifacts, everything from John Quincy Adams’ diary to Paul Revere’s pistol. I was there to look at less famous relics, but ones just as exciting to me: letters and diaries written by Union soldiers that served in New Bern, N.C. during the American Civil War.
I am at the Moorland-Spingard Research Center in the Founders Library at Howard University, in Washington, DC. In the papers of a New England abolitionist, I find a file of Civil War letters written by an African-American woman named Mary Ann Starkey.
On this day I explore the side galleries, not the reading room, and in one of them I find a new exhibit dedicated to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and take refuge there.
My family and I are driving across New York and Massachusetts. For my biography of Abraham Galloway, I am visiting the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Mass. and the Rare and Special Collections Library at Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y.