I have been from this blog for too long. Hopefully, this post will be the start of more regular updates.
I was excited to read about Jim Down’s forthcoming book Sick from Freedom in the New York Times this week. The book addresses the health crises which freed people faced after the Civil War. As press material for the volume explains, “With emancipation, African Americans seized the chance to move, migrating as never before. But in their journey to freedom, they also encountered yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, dysentery, malnutrition, and exposure.” This book forms an important part of our ever-evolving understanding of Reconstruction. I may show my students this article in the fall to help them understand historiography. (Another good book which complicates our understanding of this time is Ronald E. Butchart’s Schooling the Freed People: Teaching, Learning and the Struggle for Black Freedom, 1861-1876, which I reviewed for the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society last year.)
Downs’ interest in this project was inspired in part by his work on the Harriet Jacobs Papers. I joined the HJ team after he had left, so we never crossed paths, except when I used his research reports to write annotation. I do wish the Times had mentioned that the papers had been published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2008, and that the volumes include important annotation about disease in the post-emancipation South. (Instead, the article links to the kind-of-clunky website I helped put together in 2002, which has my name in the web address. It looked ok for the time!) But it was still good to see Harriet Jacobs mentioned.