The struggle of enslaved African Americans to get access to books, and most particularly the Bible, and the efforts of slaveholders to keep them from doing so, is one of the central themes in the history of American slavery.
“We Take No Negro Prisoners:” Remembering the Plymouth Massacre
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.
Worcester, Mass., 1888: The Sons and Daughters of North Carolina (Part 3)
While doing research on her family’s history, Yvette Porter Moore discovered that her ancestors had organized a chapter of the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina in Worcester, Mass., in the fall of 1888.
Abraham Galloway’s Voyage to Haiti
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.
The Muses of Inspiration
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.
The Light of the Body
I never grow weary of looking at these old portraits at the New Hanover County Public Library. They date from the 1850s to the present day, and they're available to us all even in these times of Covid-19.
“We are Five Africans Seeking Freedom”— A Civil War Story from Beaufort, NC
Late one night in 1862, a slave waterman named Dempsey Hill slipped into the customs house in Beaufort, N.C., removed copies of the latest nautical charts and buried them in the local cemetery-- the one people now call the Old Burying Ground.
A Day in Piney Grove– A Journey into Brunswick County’s Past
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.
A Sociable Time with the Rebs
While exploring coastal Maine's archives and museums this week, I’ve also found quite a few letters from Maine soldiers that served in the Union army or navy on the North Carolina coast during the Civil War. Those letters highlight a different kind of historic connection that ties coastal Maine and coastal North Carolina together.
The Scalawag’s Tale
I’ve been reading an old memoir about Pitt County that I hadn’t thought about in years until yesterday. A UNC-TV reporter was interviewing me, and he asked me if I could think of any white Southerners in eastern North Carolina that had stood up against slavery and racial oppression during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
Hamilton, Burnt and Pillaged
Today I am in Boston and by coincidence I stumbled onto two different accounts, in two different archives, that describe the same event in the history of North Carolina’s coastal counties: the sacking and burning of the town of Hamilton during the Civil War.
A Temerity to Life
Dr. J. W. Page had a very particular view of the Civil War on the North Carolina coast. I was looking at his letters, diaries and supply ledgers at the New York Public Library a couple weeks ago and it was unmistakable: To him the war was all about wounds and injuries, and he breaks … Continue reading A Temerity to Life
All the Fair Faced Pretty Boys
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.
The Turpentine State
When I was using the British Newspaper Archive (BNA), I also did several general searches to see how the British press covered my home state of North Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries. I was interested in what the British public saw when they looked across the Atlantic at us.
Looking for James E. O’Hara at the University of Chicago
While I was in Chicago, I also made a quick trip to the University of Chicago’s Special Collections Research Center. I had never been to the city before, so just getting to the university was an adventure. As I rode the CTA rail line downtown, I marveled at the diversity of the neighborhoods through which I was passing and the exuberant beauty of the murals and graffiti that I could see from my seat on the train. I changed onto a bus downtown that carried me south along the shores of Lake Michigan. After a long ride, I got off at Hyde Park, the historic neighborhood on the South Side that has been home to so many great Americans, including Mahalia Jackson, Muhammad Ali and President Obama.
At the Battle of Fort Fisher
I am still re-playing scenes in my mind from Roger W. Woodbury’s account of the last days of the Civil War on the North Carolina coast. I found his journal yesterday a long way from home—at Norlin Library's Archives and Special Collections Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The Life of the Late James Johnson: An American Slave Narrative from Oldham, England
An exhibit on local connections to slavery at the Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council Archives in Oldham, England, has brought to light an American slave narrative previously unknown in the United States. Titled The Life of the Late James Johnson (Colored Evangelist), an Escaped Slave from the Southern States of America, the pamphlet chronicles Johnson’s youth in Brunswick County, North Carolina, his escape to a Union vessel during the Civil War, his passage to Liverpool as a sailor and a sobering, if picaresque, journey through England and Wales.