“On a late summer day in 1870, those who gathered to mourn Abraham Galloway cherished him for the unquenchable fire of freedom that burned so brightly within him...
"His is the oft-told story of the rebel hero who lives a life so deeply unreconciled to tyranny that even the most downtrodden and despised are moved to believe, at least for that brilliant moment of its flashing across the night sky, that freedom and justice may not be just a dream.”
Those are the last lines of David Cecelski’s biography, The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and The Slaves' Civil War. It's a carefully-researched chronicle of the man who was born a slave in the Brunswick County town of Smithville, escaped slavery and worked as a spy and freedom fighter during the Civil War, became a well-respected leader and visionary, and was twice elected to the North Carolina Senate.
Cecelski focuses on the history of coastal North Carolina – including the parts that examine the African American experience. He is the co-recipient (with Timothy Tyson) of the N.C. Literary and Historical Association’s Crittenten Award for lifetime achievement. He is the Author of Along Freedom Road: Hyde County, North Carolina, and the Fate of Black Schools in the South. He co-edited with Timothy Tyson a collection of essays about the coup d’etat of 1898 – called Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy. He’s also written The Waterman’s Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina.
But it’s his most recent book, The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway And The Slaves’ Civil War, that is our focus today.