Master of Mahogany: Tom Day, Free Black Cabinetmaker (African-American Artists and Artisans)

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9780684196756: Master of Mahogany: Tom Day, Free Black Cabinetmaker (African-American Artists and Artisans)

Examines the life and work of master cabinetmaker Tom Day, a free, literate African-American craftsman whose distinctive furniture was much prized in antebellum North Carolina.

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From School Library Journal:

Grade 3-5-A concise biography that places the master craftsman center stage and spotlights the tenor of 19th-century Virginia and North Carolina. Tracing Tom Day's evolution from apprentice, journeyman, to an independent cabinetmaker and one of the largest furniture producers in North Carolina, the author outlines the complexities of his life. He was a free black man and a slaveholder, a wealthy man whose children could not legally attend school, and was witness to increasing racial tension and the imposition of oppressive discriminatory laws. Clear, finely detailed photographs delineate a visual legacy of his superb sculptured carvings. Exhibiting a fine use of language, Lyons writes of the woods in which "whiskery old pines whistled hello" and people were "hysterical with hate." She states at the outset that many details about Tom Day are unknown and must be surmised. A factually stimulating blend of biography and history emerges as a portrait not only of a man, but also of an era. Readers are subtly assailed by a barrage of facts in the guise of rich language; annotated, documented photographs; and an artist's vision. An arresting cover illustration graphically conveys the fine attention to detail apparent on every page.
Joanne Kelleher, Commack Public Library, NY
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

Gr. 5-8. Lyons uses the life of Tom Day, a North Carolina artisan, to discuss the skill involved in woodworking and to examine the place of free blacks in eighteenth-century American society. Little is known about Virginia-born Day's early life, and the blanks are filled in with suppositions and fictionalizations that, though vivid, are occasionally distracting ("Tom winced every time a proud tree cracked to the ground"). The book is at its best when quoting from Day's diaries. Through these personal accounts and other historical documents, Lyons paints a picture of what life was like for a free black man: uncertain, unfair, and sometimes dangerous. Yet as a master woodworker, Day had a life far more successful than many whites, measured both by his wealth and the love of his large family. The numerous black-and-white and color photographs are terrific. You can really see the details of Day's work in his beds, chairs, tables, and newel posts--and be awed by both their utility and their beauty. An excellent addition to nonfiction collections, this will be used in myriad ways. Ilene Cooper

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Mary E. Lyons
Published by Atheneum (1994)
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