|(Courtesy of Stephanie Turner)|
Transcribing the Civil War journals of William Francis Allen required a unique skill set. Allen was a New Englander with impeccable academic and abolitionist credentials who was "a perceptive observer of culture and events" in Civil War and Reconstruction era South Carolina. Taking an anthropological view of the former enslaved, Allen analyzed and collected their music for the first published anthology of Negro spirituals, Slave Songs of the United States (1867). He studied the syntax of their communication and dispassionately watched their interactions with others sharing his observations with his journal and a series of essays published in the Nation and the Christian Examiner.
Who had the particular set of skills and educational background to pay attention to the details and understand from whence came Allen's entries? According to Stephanie Turner of the Aiken Standard newspaper, Robert Hester, that's who. Hester, an engineer by trade, is well accustomed to paying attention to all the details so vital in a scholarly transcription of manuscript material. Hester also has a deep interest in musical performance, theory and arrangement that equipped him to transcribe those portions of the journal relating to Gullah musical forms.
Hester did his job as historian and musicologist well. Professor George Rable, Charles Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama calls A Yankee Scholar "fascinating reading" and says that Hester's work "immediately becomes an important new primary source for studying the Civil War era."
All are welcome to attend. Books will be available for purchase and autographing from the author at a discounted price. Doors to the Gallery will open at 12:30 pm.