Thomas Jefferson Knowledge Institute

Emilie Davis Diaries

Emilie Davis

From the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

Emilie Davis When the Civil War began, Emilie Davis, a twenty-four-year-old free African American woman, was attending school and sewing clothes to support herself. In her diaries, Emilie wrote short daily entries recounting events, both big and small. Mixed in with the minutiae of Emilie's everyday life are entries recounting African Americans' celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, nervous excitement during the battle of Gettysburg, and their collective mourning of President Lincoln.

The recent discovery of Emilie Davis' Civil War diaries, dated 1863-65, offer readers a lively and deeply personal account of the war's "memorable days," as Emilie often referred to them. Fully transcribed and annotated, readers can now bring this unusual source home with them in Emilie Davis's Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865, edited by Judith Giesberg and the Memorable Days Editorial Team.

We may yet still find other diaries like Emilie's or other similar sources that will help us to get a more complete picture of what life was like for African Americans during this critical moment in the nation's history. Until then, Davis's diaries open a small and very personal window onto this vibrant community.

For a biography of Emilie Davis, go to Penn State Alumni Library page.
For the diaries transcribed and annotated, go to Villanova University: The Emilie Davis Diaries.