Friday, February 21, 2020

Booknotes: A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time (paperback edition)

New Arrival:
A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time: Julia Wilbur's Struggle for Purpose by Paula Tarnapol Whitacre (Potomac Bks, 2020 pb ed.).

By the time of the outbreak of the Civil War, Julia Wilbur was a middle-aged abolitionist and former teacher. Seeking a more active role in events, in late 1862 she left the family farm in New York and went south, spending "most of the next several years in Alexandria devising ways to aid recently escaped slaves and hospitalized Union soldiers." Using Wilbur's "diaries and other primary sources" as its basis, A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time is a narrative of this "second chapter of her life," when Wilbur dedicated herself to "improving conditions for African Americans who had escaped from slavery and creating a meaningful life for herself."

Author Paula Tarnapol Whitacre "describes Wilbur’s experiences against the backdrop of Alexandria, Virginia, a southern town held by the Union from 1861 to 1865; of Washington DC, where Wilbur became active in the women’s suffrage movement and lived until her death in 1895; and of Rochester, New York, a hotbed of social reform and home to Wilbur’s acquaintances Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony."

During the war, "Harriet Jacobs, author of Incidents of a Slave Girl, became Wilbur’s friend and ally. Together, the two women, black and white, fought social convention to improve the lives of African Americans escaping slavery by coming across Union lines."

The hardcover first edition was published in 2017, and this is the newly released 2020 paperback version.

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