The Days of Emilie Davis: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman during the Civil War

Building: Woodland, Room: 112

The writings of young Philadelphian Emilie Davis bear witness to the flight of refugees into the city during the Battle of Gettysburg, the fall of Vicksburg, and Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession.


Emilie Davis was one of six children born in a middle class, literate free Black family in Philadelphia. During her active journaling years (1863-1865), Emilie worked as a wedding dress seamstress, attended night classes at the Institute of Colored Youth (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania) & may have patronized The Philadelphia Library Company for Colored Persons.


The Emilie Davis Diaries are believed to be one of only four surviving hand written accounts from a free Black woman from this time period.


Presenter Alexia Hudson-Ward, reference librarian at Abington, also discusses the role of the Penn State University Libraries in preserving the crumbling diaries.


A Black History Month and Civil War 150th anniversary event.


Admission: $5

No pre-registration.



Judy Reale