Learning about African-American lives in Western North Carolina in the 1850s and ’60s is like reading an ocean floor with sonar.  Aside from a few lists of slave names, there is little firsthand evidence to bring history to the surface. Instead, we depend on distant reverberations.

African-American newspapers in Charleston, Raleigh and elsewhere reflected some of what was going on in the mountains. Many have become available online.

Military rule

On March 2, 1867, the Charleston (S.C.) Advocate reported two months later, the U.S. Army in the Second Military District took control of governments in North and South Carolina. Anyone who violated the…