Bishir publishes book on African American artisans


Catherine W. Bishir, Curator of Architecture Special Collections for the NCSU Libraries and preeminent historian of North Carolina architecture, has published Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900 , a history of the important roles that black craftspeople created for themselves in one of the country's most important sea ports during this era.

According to the publisher, the University of North Carolina Press:

"From the colonial period onward, black artisans in southern cities--thousands of free and enslaved carpenters, coopers, dressmakers, blacksmiths, saddlers, shoemakers, bricklayers, shipwrights, cabinetmakers, tailors, and others--played vital roles in their communities. Yet only a very few black craftspeople have gained popular and scholarly attention. Catherine W. Bishir remedies this oversight by offering an in-depth portrayal of urban African American artisans in the small but important port city of New Bern. In so doing, she highlights the community's often unrecognized importance in the history of nineteenth-century black life.

Drawing upon myriad sources, Bishir brings to life men and women who employed their trade skills, sense of purpose, and community relationships to work for liberty and self-sufficiency, to establish and protect their families, and to assume leadership in churches and associations and in New Bern's dynamic political life during and after the Civil War. Focusing on their words and actions, Crafting Lives provides a new understanding of urban southern black artisans' unique place in the larger picture of American artisan identity."

Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh will hold a book signing for the new publication on November 4 at 7:30.

To learn more about the history of architects and builders in the state, visit the North Carolina Architects & Builders online biographical dictionary ( ), edited by Catherine Bishir.