Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony, 1862-1867

Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony, 1862-1867

Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony, 1862-1867

Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony, 1862-1867

Synopsis

Click tells the story of Roanoke Island, N.C., freedmen's colony from its contraband-camp beginnings to the conflict over land ownership that led to its demise in 1867.

Excerpt

The story of the Roanoke Island freedmen's colony is one of national significance, yet few people know anything about it. the colony first attracted my attention in the summer of 1981 when, just out of graduate school, I took a summer position as historian-in-residence for the town of Manteo, North Carolina. Manteo is located on Roanoke Island, a sandy, marshy island approximately three miles wide and twelve miles long that lies between the North Carolina mainland and the barrier islands known as the Outer Banks. Roanoke Island is best known as the site of the first English settlements in America, the last of which was known as Sir Walter Raleigh's "lost colony" because of its mysterious disappearance in the 1580s. in 1981 Manteo's energetic and visionary young mayor, John F. Wilson iv, was in the middle of preparing for the 1984 celebration of the 400th anniversary of Raleigh's colonization efforts. He had decided that more of the island's residents needed to become involved in the celebration, and that more than the first few years of the island's history needed to be celebrated. Thus I found myself, early in my summer tenure, sitting across a table from John in the Duchess of Dare Restaurant, the political and social hub of the town. Over a lunch of crabcakes, fries, and slaw, John mapped out his ambitious plans for sprucing up the town and commemorating the island's history. Then, with the combination of charm and directness that I soon realized was key to his many accomplishments, he presented my summer assignment: "I want you to write a history of the colony of former slaves that was established on the island during the Civil War—the Roanoke Island freedmen's colony."

At the time, I nearly went into a panic. What little I knew about the Roanoke Island freedmen's colony came from the general overview that David Stick presents in The Outer Banks of North Carolina, 1584-1958 (1958). Still, the more I thought about it, the more I grew excited by the project. It was probably fortunate that I did not realize then just how much detective work would be . . .

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