Diary of a Contraband

“Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor”
Lecture by William B. Gould IV at the Bellamy Mansion Museum

On November 13,the Bellamy Mansion Museum will host William B. Gould IV, a Charles A. Beardsley Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Stanford Law School, as he presents a lecture on Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor, written by his great-grandfather William B. Gould I. The lecture will coincide with the dedication of a new state historic marker on the corner of Market and 5thstreets in Wilmington that honors the late William B. Gould I. The marker dedication will be held at 10:00 am.

Gould IV will discuss his book and its research process, and the story of his great-grandfather, William B. Gould I. Diary of a Contrabandis the only known diary of a black sailor during the Civil War who was also a former slave. “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Gould back to Wilmington for the dedication of the state historic marker and for the lecture at the Bellamy Mansion Museum,” says Gareth Evans, executive director. “His family’s story is intertwined with the history of the Bellamy Mansion, and it is an honor to have him share the story of his ancestor in the same building that he helped construct.”


The book details the events of September 21, 1862, when twenty-two fugitive slaves boarded three small sailing boats from the docks on Orange Street in downtown Wilmington and rowed 28 nautical miles to the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The slaves’ goal was to reach the Union Navy’s blockading ships and thus gain freedom. William B. Gould I, one of the escapees, was a 24-year old plasterer owned by Nicholas Nixon who had recently finished work as a hired plasterer on the new home of Dr. John D. Bellamy at 503 Market Street.

Escapees aboard all three stolen boats ultimately were picked up by Union ships. William B. Gould I began writing a diary on  September 27, 1862, and he went on to serve aboard two ships in the U.S. Navy keeping up with a diary for the better part of three years–until his discharge on September 29, 1865. What is known of Gould’s life as an enslaved worker in Wilmington, the clandestine escape, and his daily life in the U.S. Navy is chronicled within its pages.  His diary provides a unique insight into the Maritime Underground Railroad and the day-to-day life of a former slave fighting to secure freedom for himself.

William B. Gould IV is a Charles A. Beardsley Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Stanford Law School. Gould has been an influential voice in worker–management relations for more than fifty years and played a critical role in bringing the 1994–95 baseball strike to its conclusion. He has arbitrated and mediated more than two hundred labor disputes. Gould also served as Special Advisor to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on project labor agreements. A critically acclaimed author of ten books and more than sixty law review articles, Professor Gould is the recipient of five honorary doctorates for his significant contributions to the fields of labor law and labor relations.

The lecture begins at 6:30 pm at the Bellamy Mansion Museum and is free to all attendees. There is a $5 suggested donation.