When the Civil War began, Emilie Davis , a twenty four year old free African American woman, was attending school and sewing clothes to support herself. In her diaries, Emilie wrote short daily entries recounting events, both big and small. Mixed in with the minutiae of Emilie’s everyday life are entries recounting African Americans’ celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, nervous excitement during the battle of Gettysburg, and their collective mourning of President Lincoln.
The recent discovery of Emilie Davis’ Civil War diaries, dated 1863-65, offer readers a lively and deeply personal account of the war’s “memorable days,” as Emilie often referred to them. Fully transcribed and annotated, readers can now bring this unusual source home with them in Emilie Davis’s Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865, edited by Judith Giesberg and the Memorable Days Editorial Team.
We may yet still find other diaries like Emilie’s or other similar sources that will help us to get a more complete picture of what life was like for African Americans during this critical moment in the nation’s history. Until then, Davis’s diaries open a small and very personal window onto this vibrant community. Join us as Dr. Giesberg and other members of the editorial team discuss the project that helped bring Emilie Davis’s experiences back to life. A reception and document display, which includes the original diaries, will follow the discussion. Copies of the book will also be for sale. Act 48 credit is available for educators. Free for members, $10 for nonmembers.
Theresa Altieri is the Archivist of The Abraham Lincoln Foundation of The Union League of Philadelphia (ALF), responsible for managing and developing the archival, manuscript and object collections in the care of the ALF. She is active in many history-related groups throughout Philadelphia, including National History Day Philadelphia. Theresa received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, with a minor in classical studies, from The University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree in history from Villanova University, concentrating in public history.
Rebecca Capobianco completed her Master's Degree in History with concentrations in United States and Public History in the spring of 2013. Currently, Rebecca is working as an education contractor at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County National Military Park and is an adjunct faculty member at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Tom Foley is a PhD student at Georgetown University. He received his M.A. from Villanova in 2013.
Judith Giesberg is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of History at Villanova University. Giesberg is the author of Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women's Politics in Transition (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2000) and “Army at Home:” Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).
Ruby Johnson received her MA in history from Villanova University in 2013. She is currently pursuing her PhD in history from The George Washington University where she is a graduate fellow at the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.
Jessica Maiberger graduated from Heidelberg University in 2008 and received her M.A. in history at Villanova University in 2013. She is Collections Manager at Huron Historical Society and Office Coordinator at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio.