Dr. Fields-Black brings history to life with her book Combee


In a presentation of her book Combee: Harriet Tubman, the Combahee River Raid, and Black Freedom during the Civil War Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black put together a puzzle dating back to the Civil War to give identity to the enslaved people in this area.

Introductory remarks were given by Dr. Gail Rearden. Master Cameron Kinloch, an 8th generation descendant of Molly Graham welcomed those present, and Dr. Bernice Brooks Shepherd also gave an impassioned welcome based on her own experiences watching her mother work. Brittney Ferrette Washington, MS formally introduced Dr. Fields-Black who then took the podium.

For those in the audience the book was valuable to them in a way it would not be to the casual reader. Many of those present, including Dr. Fields-Black, were descendants of those who were present and participated in the Combahee River Raid, and it gives a voice to people whose history was almost lost. The documentation was difficult to find and piece together. Sherman’s March burned a tremendous amount of records tracing the enslaved from shore then from plantation to plantation. Fields-Black then discovered the pension files (documents recording those freed who enlisted to fight with the Union allowing them or family to collect a pension after their service) which helped her put together information tracing family histories. Dr. Fields-Black’s book has been described as a “groundbreaking book” that provides “a rich, textured portrait of the lives of Black people previously ignored in historic accounts of the Civil War era”, by The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Fields-Black is also the author of Deep Roots which focuses on the rice-growing techniques that would play a critical role in the commercial rice industry. The thread connecting the two books are the enslaved peoples on these plantations who through countless hours of painstaking research, are raised up from the past to be connected to their descendants now and those to come.