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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

AfriAm During Civil War Conf

Conference showcases the African-American experience during the Civil War
By: Ben Bagwell, Staff Writer

ETTRICK - The power of academic researchers will be highlighted when hundreds gather this Thursday through May 28 for the National Conference on African Americans and the Civil War.

The conference, mostly on the Virginia State University campus, is the conclusion of two years of planning by conference sponsors, which include VSU, Pamplin Historical Park, Richard Bland College. the city of Petersburg, the National Park Service, the College of William and Mary, Eastern National and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Speakers are coming from across the nation. Planners say more than 4,000 books on the Civil War have appeared in the last four years. But only 2 percent of these books center on the African-American experience. This conference seeks to respond to this oversight by the historical community and to reveal the fullness of the Civil War experience from another viewpoint.

A. Wilson Greene, executive director of the Pamplin Historical Park, says he hopes this conference will be the first of several such national gatherings to consider history.

Dr. Steven Ramold of VSU says, "We may be able to do this every two years on some historical subject."

Ramold says, "I think this conference is a great opportunity in a historical setting like Petersburg. This will bring a lot of attention to the Petersburg area."

William Gould IV, a professor of law at Stanford Law School in California, will give the opening address, telling about his ancestor, William Gould I, who served with the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.

"African Americans were not allowed in the Army from 1792 until 1863, but the Navy was open to black Americans," Gould says.

"My great grandfather joined the Navy in 1862 as part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squad, which sought to stop ships from Europe sending materials to the Confederacy. During 1864 and 1865, he served with the Navy in Europe, still working to stop the goods from reaching the Confederacy.

"The Navy allowed blacks and whites to serve together. When he first joined he was at the lowest level. When promotions were possible he worked his way up. Eventually, he served as a petty officer in food service."

After the Civil War he settled in Massachusetts and he died in 1923, Gould says.

Tim Reid, president of New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, will speak at the conference's closing banquet at Union Station in Petersburg.

The closing day will be devoted to African-American folklore. Reid has been a mainstay in the entertainment industry.

Reanae McNeal, a storytelling artist from California, will be a featured speaker on the afternoon of May 28.

Active in the anti-violence movement, McNeal's lectures include "And She Survived," "The Color of Violence," "Don't Speak My Mother's Name in Vain," and "And Still I Fly."

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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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