New novel by a VCU alum reveals the untold story of former slaves who freed local slaves in 1863

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The history of surfers on Black Pea Island is carefully told in the year 2000 book Fire on the beach.

Co-authors David Wright, now David Wright Falade, and David Zoby, who met while in graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University, describe the often ignored story of how former slaves, from 1880s, saved hundreds of people from the Atlantic Cemetery.

For this year’s Juneteenth, Wright Falade was recently recognized at the Coast Guard Base in Portsmouth. He is now a professor of English at the University of Illinois. Zoby, according to the school’s website, is now a Professor of English at Casper College in Wyoming.

(Wave Photo/Regina Mobley)

Regina Mobley: When I interviewed you 22 years ago, you explained to me that Richard Etheridge was the central character of Fire on the Beach. 22 years later, Richard Etheridge is the central character of your new book Black Cloud Rising. How did you make this literary leap?

David Wright Falade: All the characters in the book are real – with the exception of Revere – are real real characters. They were soldiers who were in the regiment with Etheridge. Fields Midgett, who grew up with him, and[General] Edouard Auguste wild. I didn’t have to make up much about him; he was just this larger than life character.

Black Cloud Rising is Wright Falade’s novel that reveals the untold story of a young Richard Etheridge and other former slaves who joined the Union African Brigade. For three weeks in 1863, they freed slaves from Hampton Roads to eastern North Carolina.

“They marched from Portsmouth to Elizabeth City and along the way any slaves they encountered are going to be freed. This is Juneteenth this way; that’s how they felt. It’s freedom; it is a great day of jubilee; we are suddenly free,” Wright Falade said.

Given the historical yet troubling events of today facing the nation, this professor has a lesson for those who will write the next chapters of the nation’s history.

“I want them to confront the facts of our history – white students as well as black students – any student. I don’t want us to whitewash history on the one hand; I want us to complicate he We read about by Nat Turner rebellion and then we read the The Margaret Garner story on which Beloved is based and I ask is either justified? I want to complicate matters.

Wright Falade recently got an option that could send Black Cloud Rising to the big screen.

Irene B. Bowles