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Yacovone, Donald, ed. Freedom's journey; African American voices of the Civil War.

YACOVONE, Donald, ed. Freedom's journey; African American voices of the Civil War. (The Library of Black America). Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago Review Press. 568p. bibliog, index, c2004. 1-55652-521-4. $21.95. SA*

Books that feature people telling the story of a war or an epoch "in their own words" are always fascinating to read. They also can be depended upon to make history come to life, and coax reluctant students a bit. There are several collections of these firsthand accounts and reminiscences for the Civil War, but this is the first to tell the story through the experiences of African Americans.

And what stories there are! Black Americans played numerous roles in American society throughout the Civil War, and consequently were able to contribute numerous different viewpoints of the great conflict. Besides escaped slaves and farmers, they functioned as Federal soldiers and sailors, free tradesmen and artisans, newspapermen, spies, schoolteachers, Underground Railway workers, politicians, and scores of other positions. Consequently, the entries in this book are exciting, absorbing, anger producing, hilarious, and pathetic in turn. Indeed, this is the quickest way to learn something of the experience of an entire people throughout the war.

The editors have done an exceptional job of collecting period letters, articles from black newspapers, speeches, memoirs, diaries, and other primary sources. Those who expect these voices to be semiliterate or quaintly rustic are in for a big surprise. Many of the people featured in this book were not only perfectly comfortable with "correct" English, but skilled in the verbal elaborations that were so popular in the Victorian era. Indeed, this unselfconscious fluency in the common tongue readily gives the lie to any notion of 19th-century "Negro inferiority," and it should have been apparent at the time as well. This is an excellent book for dipping into as well. For this reason it ought to be popular with Civil War fans and military buffs in general. Highly recommended to school and public collections. Raymond Puffer, Historian, Edwards AFB, CA
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Author:Puffer, Raymond
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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