About Me and this Blog


I am Emmanuel Dabney and work at Petersburg National Battlefield. DISCLAIMER: Please note that this blog represents only my views and not those of my various employers. I do not write in any official capacity as a representative of the National Park Service (alternatively abbreviated on this blog as NPS), though I may occasionally write about my experiences working for the National Park Service and may use the blog to promote historical programs hosted by the NPS.  Interpretive Challenges has positively NO official connection to my place of employment.

I am from Dinwiddie, a rural Southside Virginia county.  I hold a M.A. in public history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2010) and a B.A. in historic preservation from the University of Mary Washington (2008).   I am particularly interested in nineteenth-century American history, including the Civil War, slavery and emancipation, free blacks, and slaveholders. However, I am not limited to that specific time frame or region as I also have a great interest in Loyalists during the American Revolution, colonial slavery (in all of North America including the Caribbean), Marie Antoinette, the reign of Queen Victoria, and the R.M.S. Titanic. Furthermore, I am interested in my family’s geneaology/history and the Jim Crow-segregationist period circa 1880-1970.


Based on my myriad of historic time periods of interest, you may find a host of things covered; though no doubt the majority will be about the period circa 1800-1870. There are two themes (often connected, sometimes not): interpretation and preservation. I am not going to make an attempt to make a new post hourly or daily as other more prolific bloggers than I do. As I am inspired I will update. Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated. However, comments are screened by me for content.  I prefer that comments focus on the subject of the post and may try to assist (if the conversation has become wayward) in refocusing on the subject. Blogs are free and at any time you too can start your own blog.  Inappropriate remarks will be immediately deleted and if at my discretion decide a user needs to be banned from the blog I will make all attempt to do so.

Links posted by other users in comments will be evaluated. Most will be accepted if they further the discussion at hand in regard to challenges faced by historic preservationists and/or public historians. These judgments are made at my discretion.


26 responses to “About Me and this Blog

  1. Ricky

    I look forward to reading what you post! 🙂

  2. Dan Hadley

    Greetings Emmanuel,

    I am a new visitor to your blog! I discovered it while checking out links regarding the controversial image of the Chandler “boys”. I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say. I am an old reenactor way out west in the TransMississippi. I don’t frequent the “AC” much anymore, but always enjoyed your contributions on those forums.

    As people who believe in divine things say, things happen “for a reason”, and as such believe I stumbled across your blog as a stepping stone on my journey. In a nutshell, I am one of the organizers to commemorate the 150th of the (rather small) Battle of Lone Jack, MO next August. I am shooting for quality over quantity, and plan to include a civilian component to add much needed dimension of domestic life- you know, the stuff that was REALLY happening before the battles! I also would like to include in some way, the reality of slavery as it existed on Missouri farms, and am struggling on how to pull this off in a respectful, progressive, yet ACCURATE manner. I am at a juncture where I would like to reach out to the local African American community to be a stakeholder in this venture, but I do not have any viable contacts YET, and must take care not to lose sight of my primary goals, to raise the bar on how CW storytelling is done around here, and be as authentically accurate as we can, letting true history be our guide at every turn.

    I don’t mean to impose, but I am a rookie at this. Sadly I have not ventured east to witness any progressive living history events where African Americans are a part of the process. Any suggestions for possible research resources would be greatly appreciated.

    Best Regards,

    Dan Hadley

    • Hello,

      Thanks for reaching out and checking out my blog.

      The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is being viewed by many public and academic historians as a perfect time to recall WHY there was a war to begin with and WHAT the aftermath of the war entailed. Your desire to incorporate the experience of enslaved people in Missouri is noble; yet it will be challenging. As you have correctly noted, there is little participation among Black people in the Civil War living history community. I know, being often alone at sites or perhaps with one other person. Attracting people to portray enslaved folks is difficult at best and often impossible.

      However, let this not be a discouragement to your efforts. My short advice would be to begin a conversation with some leaders within the local Black community at churches or civic organizations. Do a lot of listening as to why these people may not go to historic sites generally and have an open conversation about the importance of the Civil War and emancipation to those living in Missouri in the past. I think it will be a beginning that you will want to include the story of slavery as essential to the war’s cause and the effects of the war on the institution. White civilian reenactors who are portraying slaveholders should be contacted and nurtured with a lot of historical information and some sympathy and compassion which will allow them to accurately interpret slavery even without those portraying the enslaved.

      Good luck in your venture!

      • Dan Hadley

        Awesome. Thank you. I’ve already discussed this with others in our planning group, and we are excited about opening new doors. We won’t get our hopes up too much at first, but your sage advice gives us a great place to start

        Thanks again,


  3. Being an acquintance of both of you fine gentlemen, It is great for the living history community for you both to have met! I met Em while working on a film in Richmond several years ago; and have met and worked with Dan on films in Kansas City with WIDEAWAKE FILMS,INC. I look forward to attending the event at Lone Tree next year, it is always a pleasure to work with Mr.Hadley ! I regret that I’ve not had the pleasure of working with Em but on that one occasion. Perhaps he could see himself clear to attend some of the TransMississippi West events in the coming years ???
    Best Regards to you both
    Vivian Murphy

  4. Mr. Dabney, My name is Bernard kinsey owner of the Kinsey Collection letter Frances Crawford, I read with great interest your work on the Crawford family and what might have happen to Frances. This letter is always identified as one of the most powerful statement of the sheer greed and inhumanity of ordinary Americans during slavery.
    Our family thanks you for the work.
    Question do you have any information on any of Frances brothers or sisters ?

    • Mr. Kinsey,

      Thank you for checking out the blog! I must thank you and your family for this great collection. It bolsters the Smithsonian’s mission of education.

      Unfortunately, I do not know anything about Frances’ family that were likely owned by the Crawfords. If you (or anyone else out there reading) know anything about them, I would be fascinated to hear from you!


  5. Michael H. Omohundro


    My name is Michael H. Omohundro and I am the great-great-great grandson of the slave trader Silas Omohundro. I recently saw on the web that you gave a lecture on the life and times of Silas Omohundro. I am wondering if you have a transcript of that lecture or if you can provide me any information regarding the life and times of my grandfather.


    Michael H. Omohundro

  6. Beryl F Hunter, Founder Director

    Greetings Emmanuel,

    Congratulations! on your public history blog. While researching the subject of interpretation of slavery I stumbled upon your blog. As a member of this interesting and esteemed field of the preservation and presentation of our American history and descendants of the enslaved community of Louisiana I applaud you.

    This past October I attended reenactments celebrating the 150th year of the Civil War in Natchez, MS presented by Forksofroads and Ft Donelson Nat’l Battlefield. Participants were from the LA/MS region celebrating our shared histories. Freedom is Coming and Stories from da Dirt will be presented by the River Road African American Museum on March 15, 2014 in Donaldsonville, LA. This is a collaboration with the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park and Stories from da Dirt.
    Continue your great work!


    Beryl F. Hunter

    • Hello Beryl,

      Thanks for your compliments! I am glad you got to enjoy time at various programming and that you have been engaged in doing genealogy.

      Stay tuned here for more posts!

  7. dea staley-choronzak (mrs j. choronzak)

    i am at this moment watching your appearance on cspan and are greatly enjoying it. later this evening i plan to sit on my patio, close my eyes and review all i’ve heard today, knowing the i will feel feelings i didn”t know existed when i woke up this morning. i am also very much enjoying reading your blog dea staley- choronzak

  8. Sara

    I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak on the Omohundro Family today at the Capitol– it was a glorious day, weather-wise and event-wise. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your attendance and kind comments! I wish we had more time to get into the details of them but at least I was able to give a quick overview.

  9. Dave Stilwell

    Dear Emmanuel: I was riveted by your monologue presentation at City Point which I visited last week. My brother and I had the luck of being there on a day when no one but us were visiting. We also were present at the Appomattox sesquicentennial “A Nation Remembers” program on April 9th and greatly enjoyed your reading, the themes of which I will be discussing on facebook. Thanks a lot and look forward to online discussions in the future. Sincerely, Dave Stilwell (firmedave@aol.com)

  10. Kim Gossett Klaus

    I’m not sure if you remember me, but I was a ranger at Pamplin Park years ago. I remember you coming and reenacting, touring, and just generally impressing us with your knowledge and dedication. My husband works at Harpers Ferry Center and ran across your blog while doing research. He came home thrilled to tell me how accomplished you’ve become. My memories of you always put a smile on my face. So glad to see you in such a great place.
    Kim (Gossett) Klaus

    • Dear Kim,

      Somehow I have missed that you wrote back in June. Anyway, of course I remember you! I am happy to hear that your husband found the blog (and maybe something useful on it).

      Thank you for writing. Sorry I somehow missed this until tonight.

  11. hausa84

    I just read about you in Random Thoughts on History re: your tours of Petersburg. Is there a schedule that one can reference? I’d love to take one…thanks.

  12. Dear Mr Dabney,
    I am a UK-based writer working on a personal project, and am researching the lives of John Dabney, the renowned Richmond caterer born a slave (c.1824-1900), and his sons Wendell Phillips Dabney (1865-1952) who published The Union, Cincinnati’s earliest black newspaper; and John Milton Dabney (1867-1967) who became a high profile baseballer playing for the Cuban Giants, the first professional African-American baseball team.
    I guess it would it be too serendipitous to imagine you are related to these amazing men… but I have to ask the question! Are you?
    The Valentine had two useful newspaper articlesfor me, I located an old thesis on W.P. Dabney, and there is some baseball related info about John Milton on the web, but relevant source documents are proving hard to come by.
    Any light you could shed would be greatly appreciated, but I realize this is a long shot.
    Kind regards,

  13. Dear Mr Dabney,
    thanks for your reply and for your tip about the Richmond Planet. Will certainly follow it up.
    Kind regards,

  14. Don Heinsohn

    Dear Mr. Dabney,

    I got here via googling your name. I was fortunate enough to have taped your lecture on the Crater on CSPAN. I don’t know if that is online anywhere (if it is you should post a link,) but having watched you on CSPAN I was impressed by two things. First, by your vast knowledge, with citations, of the topic not that was surprise in and of itself, but the fact that as a relatively young man your going to embody the historical study of these topics for a long time to come. Second, and I imagine this is an almost daily part of your work, of the completely undiverse nature of your audience comprised as it was, as a sea of older white faces. So I saved the recording on my DVR till I had time to look you up andjust know that you have a fan, and yes,an older white history teacher nearing retirement who smiles as the prospect of you giving this presentation 40 or 50 years hence. Carry on Emmanuel, you have a fan here on the West Coast. And if anyone reading this has not seen the CSPAN lecture, make an effort to find it, well worth 50minutes of your time.

    • Mr. Heinsohn,

      Thanks for the compliment. You’ll find that I have linked on the blog here several talks that I’ve given that CSPAN was kind enough to record and post online.

  15. Hi Emmanuel- thank you for this great, curated reading list. You can be sure that I will make use of it. Thank you as well to Cheyney for letting folks know about it through her Facebook post. You guys are truly awesome researchers and historians.
    In appreciation and friendship,
    Aunt Sally Ryan 😊

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