UAlbany professor to talk about blacks soldiers' role in overturning slavery

Friday, January 25, 2013
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It may have been Abraham Lincoln who set the slaves free, but many blacks were doing much more than just sitting around waiting for the Great Emancipator to make his move.

University at Albany history professor Allen Ballard, the author of two historic novels set during the Civil War, will present a lecture titled “African-American Troops in the Civil War” on Saturday at the Mabee Farm. Ballard’s talk, sponsored by the Schenectady County Historical Society, will address how many blacks were proactive partners with Lincoln and the abolitionists who were pushing for the 13th amendment outlawing slavery.

“Two of the themes I will talk about will be the African-American desire to break the chains of bondage and the much underappreciated role of African-Americans in bringing about their own freedom, whether it be by ‘voting with their feet’ to flee slavery or by force of arms,” said Ballard. “There were upwards of 200,000 black men who served in the Union forces.”

Ballard will read a section from his book, “Where I’m Bound,” the story of Joe Duckett, a runaway slave who joins the Union Army, and his wife, Zenobia.

“Two of my favorite scenes are Zenobia’s attempt to reach the Yankee riverboat and Joe’s company’s attack on the bridge at the Big Black River,” said Ballard, who teaches history and Africana studies at UAlbany. “These are the two passages that I most enjoyed writing, and I suppose they focus on two of the themes of my talk. I will also talk about the history of black armed participation in the war.”

‘African-American Troops in the Civil War’

WHAT: A presentation by Allen Ballard

WHERE: Franchere Education Center, Mabee Farm Historic Site, 1080 Main St., Rotterdam Junction

WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: $5, free for Schenectady County Historical Society members

MORE INFO: 374-0263, ext. 3, or

“Where I’m Bound” was published in 2000 and was selected as a Washington Post “Notable Book of the Year.” It also helped Ballard win the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

His other books include a novel, “Carried By Six”; two nonfiction works, “The Education of Black Folk” and “One More Day’s Journey: The Story of a Family and a People,” and one memoir, “Breaching Jericho’s Walls.”

A Philadelphia native, Ballard went to Kenyon College in Ohio and got his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Harvard. He taught at Boston University, Dartmouth and Cornell before coming to Albany in 1985.

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