Young Adult Book Talk: Now or Never! 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery
Ray Anthony Shepard
Now or Never! is the story of two Civil War freedom-fighters, journalists, and abolitionists who answered Frederick Douglass’ clarion call:
Men of Color
To Arms! To Arms!
Now or Never
George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding, free Black men from the North who risked enslavement and their lives to liberate African Americans imprisoned in Southern slave camps, felt duty-bound to enlist in the Union Army and to prove to the country that “they were worthy to be freemen.” But it wasn’t long before they discovered the harsh realities of army life. As soldiers and as the war’s first Black correspondents, they wrote eyewitness reports exposing the dangers and tragedies experienced on and off the battlefield, as well as the shocking injustices they endured in their own army.
Now or Never! gives readers, ages 12 to 80, a deeper understanding of how and why the Civil War changed from a war to save the Union to a war of emancipation. It reveals the critical weapon a hesitant Abraham Lincoln waited two years to deploy—a weapon the Confederates possessed in greater numbers but dared not use —180,000 armed Black men.
Ray Anthony Shepard is the grandson of a slave and was the first African-American editor-in-chief of a major educational publishing house. He holds an MAT degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he received a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. He has taught at Phillips Academy Andover and Brandeis University. This is his debut nonfiction title.
The program fee is for participants ages 5 and up and includes first-floor admission for non-members.
Continue your study of African-American participation in the Civil War as a family. Pick up Black, Blue, and Gray: African Americans in the Civil War by James Haskins in the Children’s Library, and Paying Freedom’s Price: A History of African Americans in the Civil War by Paul D. Escott from the New Book Shelves on the first floor. Contact a reference librarian to set up time to view related rare materials in the Vershbow Special Collections Reading Room, such as a broadside of Frederick Douglass’ “Men of Color, To Arms!” speech from 1863.
To register, follow the registration button on the right. If you would prefer your information to pre-populate, log in to your My Athenæum Profile. To log in to your My Athenæum Profile click on the profile icon found in the upper right corner of each page on our website.
If you do not yet have a profile, select “New User? Create an account” on the Profile Login page. Members create their own accounts; a username and password are not assigned when you join the Athenæum.