Lessons in History Presentation with Edda L. Fields-Black
This NCWM Lessons in History presentation will focus on the Combahee River Raid. Most Americans know of Harriet Tubman’s legendary life: escaping enslavement in 1849, she led more than 60 others out of bondage via the Underground Railroad, gave instructions on getting to freedom to scores more, and went on to live a lifetime fighting for change. Yet the many biographies, children’s books, and films about Tubman omit a crucial chapter: during the Civil War, hired by the Union Army, she ventured into the heart of slave territory–Beaufort, South Carolina–to live, work, and gather intelligence for a daring raid up the Combahee River to attack the major plantations of Rice Country, the breadbasket of the Confederacy.
Using previous unexamined documents, including Tubman’s US Civil War Pension File, bills of sale, wills, marriage settlements, and estate papers from planters’ families, Fields-Black brings to life intergenerational, extended enslaved families, neighbors, praise-house members, and sweethearts forced to work in South Carolina’s deadly tidal rice swamps, sold, and separated during the antebellum period.
About the author: Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black teaches history at Carnegie Mellon University and has written extensively about the history of West African rice farmers and technology, including in such works as Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora. She was a co-editor of Rice: Global Networks and New Histories. Fields-Black has served as a consultant for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “Rice Fields of the Lowcountry” and the International African American Museum’s “Carolina Gold” permanent exhibits. She is the executive producer and librettist of “Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice,” a widely performed original contemporary classical work by three-time EMMY™ Award-winning composer John Wineglass. Fields-Black is a descendant of Africans enslaved on rice plantations in Colleton County, South Carolina; her great-great-great grandfather fought in the Combahee River Raid. Her latest book, COMBEE: Harriet Tubman, the Combahee River Raid, and Black Freedom during the Civil War, was published in February 2024 by Oxford University Press.
Guests can tour the Museum Galleries for an entrance fee of $16.00 for Adults, $15.00 for Seniors and AAA, and $14.00 for Students and Military. Admission to the presentation is free.