Penn State University Press, Libraries host author Judith Giesberg April 14

March 29, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Press and Penn State University Libraries are partnering for two author series events in 2021. The first event, held online at noon Eastern time on Wednesday, April 14, features Judith Giesberg, author and editor of “Emilie Davis’s Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865,” and will be moderated by Kathryn Yahner, Penn State University Press editor.

Giesberg’s book is available from Penn State University Press in both hardcover and paperback editions and as an e-book. Registrants may find that reading the book in advance will provide additional context and likely enrich their experience, but it is not required to enjoy and engage in the conversation. 

According to the book’s description, Emilie Davis was a free African American woman who lived in Philadelphia during the Civil War. She worked as a seamstress, attended the Institute for Colored Youth, and was an active member of her community. She lived an average life in her day, but what sets her apart is that she kept a diary. 

Her daily entries from 1863 to 1865 touch on the momentous and the mundane: She discusses her own and her community’s reactions to events of the war, such as the Battle of Gettysburg, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as the minutiae of social life in Philadelphia’s Black community. Her diaries allow the reader to experience the Civil War in “real time” and are a counterpoint to more widely known diaries of the period.

Giesberg, an expert on the history of women and gender in the U.S. Civil War, is a professor of history at Villanova University. She has written an accessible introduction for “Emilie Davis’s Civil War,” situating Davis and her diaries within the historical, cultural, and political context of wartime Philadelphia. In addition to furnishing a new window through which to view the war’s major events, Davis’s diaries give us a rare look at how the war was experienced as a part of everyday life — how its dramatic turns and lulls and its pervasive, agonizing uncertainty affected a northern city with a vibrant Black community.

Attendees are invited to register online for the Zoom webinar-style event.

The second University Press and Libraries Author Series event will be held on Aug. 11, with details to be announced later in the year. 

Last Updated April 15, 2021