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EdTalk: Black Cloud Rising

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Join Nauticus for an engaging discussion centered around esteemed author David Wright Faladé's acclaimed 2022 novel, Black Cloud Rising. This interactive program will pay tribute to our local hero, Sgt. Richard Etheridge, whose 36th USCT regiment played a pivotal role in Texas during the enforcement of the final emancipation of slaves on June 19th, a day now commemorated as Juneteenth.

About Black Cloud Rising

By fall of 1863, Union forces had taken control of Tidewater Virginia, and established a toehold in eastern North Carolina, including along the Outer Banks. Thousands of freed slaves and runaways flooded the Union lines, but Confederate irregulars still roamed the region. In December, the newly formed African Brigade, a unit of these former slaves led by General Edward Augustus Wild—a one-armed, impassioned Abolitionist—set out from Portsmouth to hunt down the rebel guerillas and extinguish the threat.

From this little-known historical episode comes Black Cloud Rising, a dramatic, moving account of these soldiers—men who only weeks earlier had been enslaved, but were now Union infantrymen setting out to fight their former owners. At the heart of the narrative is Sergeant Richard Etheridge, the son of a slave and her master, raised with some privileges but constantly reminded of his place. Deeply conflicted about his past, Richard is eager to show himself to be a credit to his race. As the African Brigade conducts raids through the areas occupied by the Confederate Partisan Rangers, he and his comrades recognize that they are fighting for more than territory. Wild’s mission is to prove that his troops can be trusted as soldiers in combat. And because many of the men have fled from the very plantations in their path, each raid is also an opportunity to free loved ones left behind. For Richard, this means the possibility of reuniting with Fanny, the woman he hopes to marry one day.

With powerful depictions of the bonds formed between fighting men and heartrending scenes of sacrifice and courage, Black Cloud Rising offers a compelling and nuanced portrait of enslaved men and women crossing the threshold to freedom.

About author David Wright Faladé

He is the author of the acclaimed books, Fire on the Beach and Black Cloud Rising and holds a BA from Carleton College and an MFA from the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.