Date of Award


Degree Name

MA in History




College of Liberal Arts


Thanayi M. Jackson

Advisor Department


Advisor College

College of Science and Mathematics


Mary Ann Starkey was a pivotal change agent in New Bern, North Carolina during the Civil War. She was born into slavery, yet by 1863 was in a position to bring together abolitionists and recruiters from the North and refugees and freedom fighters from her community. She was president of the 400-member Colored Women’s Union Relief Association of Newbern, North Carolina which worked to heal, feed and support the first colored regiments in North Carolina in their fight for freedom. This thesis looks closely at the Civil War through the life of this one woman, by examining the archival evidence and the ways in which the narrative of her life has been crafted thus far in an attempt to further the excavation of Starkey’s life and work. It contends that the role of African American women was pivotal to the Union victory, and that Mary Ann and her organization were key to providing the sustenance and intelligence network necessary for a Union victory in New Bern. It also looks at the ways that she used domesticity to establish social standing in the late nineteenth century and the ways that the black community organized politically during this time, as well as the changing nature of marriage for African Americans and how that impacted Mary Ann and her daughter Nancy.