324 pp., 6 x 8.5, 62 illus., 1 map, notes, index
Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina
2002 Mayflower Society Award for Nonfiction, North Carolina Literary and Historical Association
2002 North Carolina Wildlife Federation Governor's Achievement Award
2001 Clarendon Cup, Lower Cape Fear Historical Society
A 2002 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
The first major study of slavery in the maritime South, The Waterman's Song chronicles the world of slave and free black fishermen, pilots, rivermen, sailors, ferrymen, and other laborers who, from the colonial era through Reconstruction, plied the vast inland waters of North Carolina from the Outer Banks to the upper reaches of tidewater rivers. Demonstrating the vitality and significance of this local African American maritime culture, David Cecelski also reveals its connections to the Afro-Caribbean, the relatively egalitarian work culture of seafaring men who visited nearby ports, and the revolutionary political tides that coursed throughout the black Atlantic.
Black maritime laborers played an essential role in local abolitionist activity, slave insurrections, and other antislavery activism. They also boatlifted thousands of slaves to freedom during the Civil War. But most important, Cecelski says, they carried an insurgent, democratic vision born in the maritime districts of the slave South into the political maelstrom of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
"A fine book, refreshing in its scope even as it attends wonderfully to the details of local life. . . . A careful, persuasive study, one that will be immensely helpful to those seeking to understand both the diversity of southern slavery and the ways in which slaves embraced, shaped, and used a militant political culture."
--Journal of American History
"Celebrating North Carolina maritime slaves' insurgent, democratic ethos, Cecelski illustrates the variety of experiences under slavery with power and precision. His book ranks among the best of the new slavery studies."
"Cecelski has produced the first major study of slavery on the North Carolina coast."
"A fine study of African American history that joins a growing chorus describing the complexity and variety of life under slavery. . . . Cecelski has recovered a different sort of slave society and a different sort of maritime society, and readers will profit from learning about both."
--William and Mary Quarterly
"By uncovering and interpreting deep structures of meaning inlayed in the African American experience of North Carolina's maritime past David Cecelski has enriched immeasurably our sense of coastal North Carolina. . . . Elegant."
"This lively, deeply researched account traces three centuries of black watermen's experience on the North Carolina coast. . . . Cecelski shows a sure and sensitive touch in depicting the experience of life within the backwater communities."
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