A Historian's Coast: Adventures into the Tidewater Past
John F. Blair, Publisher
8 x 9
black-and-white photos and illustrations throughout
Published in 2003
David Cecelski was in a library halfway across the country when he discovered what may be the only existing copy of the memoir of Allen Parker, who grew up a slave in tidewater North Carolina. "I do not know if I can put into words the excitement, almost the sheer joy, that a historian feels at discovering a document like Parker's Reflections," Cecelski writes. "A whole new world opens up before you."
And so it was when he happened upon the journal of a sea traveler stranded at Hatteras Island in 1873, and when his longtime barber unexpectedly gave him a copy of a relative's unpublished reminiscence about growing up in the Great Alligator Swamp.
Originally published in Coastwatch magazine, the 22 essays in A Historian's Coast combine history, ecology, and a homegrown curiosity about the coastal past. Most of them center around a rare travel journal, a long-forgotten book, or a lost diary, excerpts of which are included. But perhaps adventures is a more apt description than essays. In an effort to make musty archives come alive, Cecelski gets in his boat and explores coastal places to see how they have changed since those long-ago days. Maybe you have seen him. "I am the one in the small boat paddling into the swamp and, as always, into the past," he says.
“Illuminating, entertaining, and essential! David Cecelski's work is a historical aid-to-navigation, a collection of literary beacons from Knotts Island to Navassa. Cecelski presents us with the last daughter of Davis Ridge, the rapacious turpentiners of the Rich Lands, and the intrepid boatman in his paper canoe, and lights our way through the trickiest currents and riptides of North Carolina's coastal past.”
Bland Simpson, author of Into the Sound Country and The Great Dismal
“David Cecelski's A Historian's Coast provides over twenty essays blending history, ecology, and a survey of the coastal past of North Carolina. Explorations of peoples and coastal places are filled with insights and will please North Carolina residents and visitors alike.”
Midwest Book Review