values, and individual and group agency. Bishir demonstrates that African American artisans employed multiple strategies to achieve their goals of economic independence, stable family life, and community respect. Although it is set in the context of one small town, Bishir's study has broader relevance for scholarship on both black and white artisans throughout the American South. The volume contains numerous illustrations and maps, detailed footnotes, and an extensive bibliography, as well as an appendix that provides biographical summaries of thirty-five New Bern artisans. My only disappointment with this study is the scarcity of female artisans--the seamstresses, milliners, and dressmakers--whose presence in the records, much like products of their trades, remains more fleeting than the bricks and mortar of their contemporary male artisans. This critique, however, cannot be laid at the feet of the volume's author; instead, it is indicative of frustrating absences in the documentary records. Crafting Lives makes an exceptional addition to previous sources on North Carolina's African American history as well as to scholarship on American artisans. This work will be of interest to scholars of North Carolina and African American history; it is written in clear, highly readable prose that will also appeal to nonscholars.
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Feb 5, 2015