N.C. Highway Historical Marker Recognizes Black Sailor’s Escape from Slavery and His Diary

William Gould

William Gould was a plasterer in Wilmington who escaped from slavery with seven other men via the Cape Fear River. They were picked up by the USS Cambridge and joined the Union Navy. Gould kept a journal of his experiences for three years, producing the only known account by a sailor who was formerly a slave. He will be recognized with a N.C. Highway Historical Marker Nov. 13 at 10 a.m., dedication at the corner of 5th and Market Streets.

Gould escaped Sept. 21, 1862, with a party that headed for a Union-occupied section of the North Carolina coast. He began documenting his experiences Sept. 27 and his record is one of only three known to have been written by African American sailors during the Civil War. He was the son of an enslaved mother, Elizabeth Moore, and an Englishman, Alexander Gould. Although teaching literacy to bondsmen was illegal, Gould learned to read and write.

While enslaved, Gould had worked on the new home of Dr. John D. Bellamy, which is now the Bellamy Mansion Museum. The mansion will present a tribute program to Gould that day in a program by Gould’s great grandson, William B. Gould IV, featuring his lecture on “Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor.” A professor of law emeritus at Stanford University, Gould will discuss his book and research process in a house his great-grandfather helped to construct.

A critically acclaimed author of 10 books, William B. Gould IV was an influential voice in worker-management relations for more than 50 years, played a critical role in ending the 1994-95 baseball strike, and was a special advisor to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on labor agreements.

The 6:30 p.m. free lecture is open to the public; a $5 donation is suggested. The Bellamy Mansion Museum is located at 503 Market St., Wilmington. It is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to interpreting the social and architectural history of the Bellamy Mansion and promoting greater understanding of historic preservation, architectural history and restoration methods in North Carolina.

For information on the Bellamy Mansion and the lecture, contact Carolyn Gonzalez at (910) 251-3700. For information on the N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program, call (919) 814-6625. The Highway Marker Program is within the Office of Archives and History and administered by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The program is collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Natural and Cultural Resources and Transportation.

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