Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor

Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor

by William Gould IV, Williiam B. Gould
     
 

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The heart of this book is the remarkable Civil War diary of the author’s great-grandfather, William Benjamin Gould, an escaped slave who served in the United States Navy from 1862 until the end of the war. The diary vividly records Gould’s activity as part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia; his visits

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Overview

The heart of this book is the remarkable Civil War diary of the author’s great-grandfather, William Benjamin Gould, an escaped slave who served in the United States Navy from 1862 until the end of the war. The diary vividly records Gould’s activity as part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia; his visits to New York and Boston; the pursuit to Nova Scotia of a hijacked Confederate cruiser; and service in European waters pursuing Confederate ships constructed in Great Britain and France.

Gould’s diary is one of only three known diaries of African American sailors in the Civil War. It is distinguished not only by its details and eloquent tone (often deliberately understated and sardonic), but also by its reflections on war, on race, on race relations in the Navy, and on what African Americans might expect after the war.

The book includes introductory chapters that establish the context of the diary narrative, an annotated version of the diary, a brief account of Gould’s life in Massachusetts after the war, and William B. Gould IV’s thoughts about the legacy of his great-grandfather and his own journey of discovery in learning about this remarkable man.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[Diary of a Contraband provides] modern readers with vivid insight into the life and thought of a man who overcame the degradations of slavery, actively sought his own freedom and fought to make it permanent, and in the end forged a new life as a full citizen . . . .An unusual work, [it is] one of only three wartime diaries kept by black sailors."—Library Journal

"Diary of a Contraband offers a fascinating picture of everyday life for sailors and cilivians in the 1860s. It also provides tantalizing details of antebellum Willington that have seldom made their way into written history."—Willmington Star-News

"In all, the book is a valuable addition to the continuously growing literature on both the Civil War at sea and the history of race in America."—International Journal of Maritime History

"We can thank both Goulds for Diary of a Contraband. It is a significant contribution to both Civil War and African American literature."—Sea History

Library Journal
Early in the Civil War, slave William Benjamin Gould fled by boat to Union-held territory and gained the status of "contraband of war." Joining the U.S. Navy, he helped win the conflict, ensuring his permanent emancipation. As he had learned to read and write while still in slavery, Gould kept a daily record of his experiences as a newly free man. Some 140 years later, his great-grandson, a former chair of the National Labor Relations Board and a Stanford Law professor, has published his ancestor's journal, providing modern readers with vivid insight into the life and thought of a man who overcame the degradations of slavery, actively sought his own freedom and fought to make it permanent, and in the end forged a new life as a full citizen. Gould IV provides extensive background material through his introduction, epilog, and copious notes to accompany the sometimes brief entries in the diary. An unusual work, one of only three wartime diaries kept by black sailors, it is recommended for larger public and academic libraries, even those who already own the Diary of Charles B. Fisher, edited by Paul E. Sluby Sr. and Stanton L. Wormley.-Theresa R. McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804746403
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
Publication date:
10/31/2002
Edition description:
1
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
800,000
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

William B. Gould IV is the Charles A. Beardsley Professor of Law at Stanford University. He served as Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board during the Clinton administration, and has written extensively in labor law.

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