Catherine W. Bishir
African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900
University of North Carolina Press 2013
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network October 28, 2014 Mireille Djenno
Seeking to fill the gap in scholarship focused on African American artisans in the American South, Catherine W. Bishir uses the very specific location of New Bern, North Carolina to “dig a deep hole” and produce a longitudinal study of black artisans that moves chronologically from the colonial period, through the early national period to the period following the Civil War. Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900 (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) looks at how artisans, enslaved and free, negotiated a complex social landscape that relied on their skills but circumscribed their lives. Specifically, Bishir examines the broader American artisan-citizen identity, the hallmarks of which are independence, mastery and self-determination and how the racial mores of the South made the enactment of this identity a problematic proposition for black artisans in New Bern despite its relatively lenient racial laws.