Overlooked No More: William B. Gould, Escaped Slave and Civil War Diarist


Publish Date:
June 17, 2022
The New York Times
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After the war Gould settled in Dedham, Mass., and became a prosperous contractor. His diary ended up packed away in his attic.

There it sat until 1958, when his grandson William B. Gould III and great-grandson William B. Gould IV stumbled across it while cleaning out the house. His great-grandson, then in college, became fascinated with his ancestor’s diary and spent the next 50 years transcribing and annotating it while becoming a prominent legal scholar at Stanford University.

Professor Gould published the resulting book, “Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor,” in 2003.

“He had it first hand; he was there for the first writing of history,” Professor Gould said in a phone interview. “And some of it was humdrum, the life of a sailor day to day, but some of it quite important, and not only in terms of his involvement in the war, but his observations about the war itself.”

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