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My Folks Don't Want Me to Talk about Slavery: Personal Accounts of Slavery in North Carolina

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Who could better describe what slavery was like than the people who experienced it? And describe it they did, in thousands of remarkable interviews sponsored by the Federal Writer's Project during the 1930's. More than 2000 slave narratives are now housed in the Library of Congress. More than 170 interviews were conducted in North Carolina. Belinda Hurmence pored over each Who could better describe what slavery was like than the people who experienced it? And describe it they did, in thousands of remarkable interviews sponsored by the Federal Writer's Project during the 1930's. More than 2000 slave narratives are now housed in the Library of Congress. More than 170 interviews were conducted in North Carolina. Belinda Hurmence pored over each of the North Carolina narratives, compiling and editing 21 of the first-person accounts for this collection. These narratives, though artless in many ways, speak compellingly of the joys and sorrows, the hopes and dreams, of the countless people who endured human bondage in the land of the free.


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Who could better describe what slavery was like than the people who experienced it? And describe it they did, in thousands of remarkable interviews sponsored by the Federal Writer's Project during the 1930's. More than 2000 slave narratives are now housed in the Library of Congress. More than 170 interviews were conducted in North Carolina. Belinda Hurmence pored over each Who could better describe what slavery was like than the people who experienced it? And describe it they did, in thousands of remarkable interviews sponsored by the Federal Writer's Project during the 1930's. More than 2000 slave narratives are now housed in the Library of Congress. More than 170 interviews were conducted in North Carolina. Belinda Hurmence pored over each of the North Carolina narratives, compiling and editing 21 of the first-person accounts for this collection. These narratives, though artless in many ways, speak compellingly of the joys and sorrows, the hopes and dreams, of the countless people who endured human bondage in the land of the free.

30 review for My Folks Don't Want Me to Talk about Slavery: Personal Accounts of Slavery in North Carolina

  1. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    So I says to myself, I says, stop reading books that make you angry and depressed. To top it off, these are all NORTH CAROLINA accounts! Places that I frequent to boot. I recognized every slave owner last name used in the book now I feel leery. It's hard to believe we've only been free for about 145 years. Not including Jim Crow, which was probably worse. People are so quick to say, get over it! But how can I. This all happened back in my grandparents and great grands lifetime. To think that my G So I says to myself, I says, stop reading books that make you angry and depressed. To top it off, these are all NORTH CAROLINA accounts! Places that I frequent to boot. I recognized every slave owner last name used in the book now I feel leery. It's hard to believe we've only been free for about 145 years. Not including Jim Crow, which was probably worse. People are so quick to say, get over it! But how can I. This all happened back in my grandparents and great grands lifetime. To think that my Great Grandmom or Grandmom and Granddad, as honest and hard working and good that they are, went through things like this makes me hurt so much inside. And it makes me angry and I don't know who to be angry at, so it just chews at me. It'd be nice if more were said. If it wasn't something swept under the rug. If there WAS some sort of apology. Lord knows. seeing how the US compulsory education system does not and apparently will not teach a damn thing about Black history (other than MLK in February), I need to know my history. Even if it is painful. Even if it hurts. Even if it makes me so bitter and sad and infuriated that breathing becomes caustic. Maybe one day I'll gather the courage to ask my grandparents their experiences. But probably not.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Merrikay

    Somewhere in the Library of Congress there are 10,000 typewritten pages of interviews with former slaves.  This archive, known as Slave Narratives, is the result of a government funded project to provide work for some of the unemployed during the depression in the U.S. in the 1930's:  The Federal Writers' Project.  Out of these stories of 2,000 people, Belinda Hurmence has chosen to edit and publish 21 of these stories, focusing on those who lived in North Carolina.  The location was perfect for Somewhere in the Library of Congress there are 10,000 typewritten pages of interviews with former slaves.  This archive, known as Slave Narratives, is the result of a government funded project to provide work for some of the unemployed during the depression in the U.S. in the 1930's:  The Federal Writers' Project.  Out of these stories of 2,000 people, Belinda Hurmence has chosen to edit and publish 21 of these stories, focusing on those who lived in North Carolina.  The location was perfect for me because I recently read Emma LeConte's diary of her life in North Carolina during the march of Sherman, written from her perspective as a slave owner.  Each chapter is short, around 4 pages, and the interviewers worked from a list of the same questions.  Because of that I found the stories to be somewhat repetitive at times, but realized this method also provided for a good comparison of attitudes and experiences of different people in similar circumstances.  For example, all were asked about their physical care regarding food, clothing, and housing.  In this common experience of slavery, there was a variety of stories as some were starved, while others were fed well.  Other questions were directed at literacy (non-existent), religion, whipping.  No analysis is made of the stories, although there is a good introduction by Hurmence, reminding the reader of the circumstances and timing of the interviews, e.g. during the depression the past may have looked better than it would if you interviewed the same people today.  Of course there is the fact that the period following emancipation was a transition period that did not go smoothly.  Some met it with joy, others with fear, and others with the common Stockholm Syndrome. This was interesting, if painful, reading in light of conversations today as we hear responses to current movies such as Django and Twelve Years a Slave, as well as the class wars addressed by Occupy Wall Street.  There are some who say that plantations have been replaced by ghettoes, which are just as difficult to escape from.  It's difficult for me to understand that comparison when I think about slaves being whipped and starved and separated from their families.  Then I think about the racist use of the death penalty today, hunger and poverty in the U.S. today, and the racist use of child protective services and let's don't even get started on who died in Vietnam. Fascinating if depressing reading, these are stories that deserve to be heard, with a reminder that they were told to white people so need to be followed up by reading African American authors.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ginnie

    A historical gem. I recommend this book to everyone. Ex-slaves give their story to the Federal Writer's Project in the 1930s. The stories are real, and based on personal experiences. This book should make you think. I learned a few things, and was saddened by the hardships and even mindsets I witnessed through these stories. One can not help but admire the strong individuals represented here, and wonder about the lives they were forced to live. I found these humans not to be of the so little they A historical gem. I recommend this book to everyone. Ex-slaves give their story to the Federal Writer's Project in the 1930s. The stories are real, and based on personal experiences. This book should make you think. I learned a few things, and was saddened by the hardships and even mindsets I witnessed through these stories. One can not help but admire the strong individuals represented here, and wonder about the lives they were forced to live. I found these humans not to be of the so little they were given, but to be full of life beyond what I could have imagined; and I am sad that they are lost to us in our time. What little of them we do have, through books such as this, we should cherish. The only thing I didn't like about the book was this nagging feeling I got from reading stories that put white slave owners in a rose color light, though there are also stories of villainous slave owners, it seems the selection does not come from a conscientious effort towards balance.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dee Cherry

    A dear friend loaned me her personal copy of this book to read over the weekend. Most of the slaves lived in or around Raleigh. I understood the interviews took place in 1937 & most of the former slaves were ages 88-104. I had a difficult time understanding how the majority of the slaves interviewed were not against slavery & I wondered if it was out of fear, or totally made up by the interviewer of the Federal Writer's project. All of the former slaves stated they were not allowed to read or wr A dear friend loaned me her personal copy of this book to read over the weekend. Most of the slaves lived in or around Raleigh. I understood the interviews took place in 1937 & most of the former slaves were ages 88-104. I had a difficult time understanding how the majority of the slaves interviewed were not against slavery & I wondered if it was out of fear, or totally made up by the interviewer of the Federal Writer's project. All of the former slaves stated they were not allowed to read or write (which I believed), were well spoken, & mentioned when their freedom was given. The word slave & N-word was used interchangeably by almost all. While there were 21 different people, their stories were similar with only a couple speaking against slavery. I found this book's information interesting & plan to read other slave narratives.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    The actual voices of former slaves really come through in these oral histories. What is so interesting are the differences in experiences. Some spoke of horrific experiences like beatings of slaves to death and selling three year olds away from their parents. Others described how little they had after freedom - some even saying they were better off in slavery. Amazing. More of these oral histories are available for free in digital forms as ebooks.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    This is a precious journal of American history that everyone should read. The folks who told these stories are now long gone. Don't let their voices fade away.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Justin Rose

    I enjoyed reading this and getting to know 21 former slaves. Each unique recollection reveals something of the human spirit that leaves the reader astonished, sometimes angry, but usually with a smile.

  8. 4 out of 5

    HeavyReader

    These are the stories of real people who really spent time as slaves. These folks (in their 80s and 90s and 100s at the time) told their stories to people working for the Federal Writers' Project during the Great Depression. Over 2,000 former slaves participated in this project. This book collects the oral histories of twenty-one former slaves from North Carolina. Most of these stories are three or four pages long and are written the way the people who told them spoke. Some talk about beatings an These are the stories of real people who really spent time as slaves. These folks (in their 80s and 90s and 100s at the time) told their stories to people working for the Federal Writers' Project during the Great Depression. Over 2,000 former slaves participated in this project. This book collects the oral histories of twenty-one former slaves from North Carolina. Most of these stories are three or four pages long and are written the way the people who told them spoke. Some talk about beatings and abuse, scarcity of food, and lack of adequate clothing and housing. More disturbing to me where the people who said they had been better off under slavery. This book was sobering, and needs to be read by every person taking an American history class. Hell, it needs to be read by everyone who calls themselves an American.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Anderson

    Very interesting stories about Southern slavery told by slaves in the last 5-20 years before the civil war ended, told through interviews in the 1930's when the people were 80 and 90 something years old. Good masters, bad masters, screwing young slaves and then screwing the resulting daughter slaves to increase the stock, books and reading absolutely outlawed, the churches preaching obey your masters. The feeling that Lincoln did not free them, because they were still utterly dependent on former Very interesting stories about Southern slavery told by slaves in the last 5-20 years before the civil war ended, told through interviews in the 1930's when the people were 80 and 90 something years old. Good masters, bad masters, screwing young slaves and then screwing the resulting daughter slaves to increase the stock, books and reading absolutely outlawed, the churches preaching obey your masters. The feeling that Lincoln did not free them, because they were still utterly dependent on former masters after the war. I knew most of this but it's quietly chilling to hear in their own words.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Such a sad time in our history. I feel it is important to hear the accounts from the real people who lived it. I wish there was an easy fix so everyone would be able to start fresh and not hurt but history has taught us that there is no easy fix. Obviously just saying "You're free" did not fix it even though so many people died just to be able to help that much.I do appreciate that this book included memoirs from former slaves that had bad masters and also from those who loved thier masters and Such a sad time in our history. I feel it is important to hear the accounts from the real people who lived it. I wish there was an easy fix so everyone would be able to start fresh and not hurt but history has taught us that there is no easy fix. Obviously just saying "You're free" did not fix it even though so many people died just to be able to help that much.I do appreciate that this book included memoirs from former slaves that had bad masters and also from those who loved thier masters and were somewhat sad when that part of thier lives was over. Very interesting read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    A quote from one of the speakers: Two snakes full of poison. One lying with his head pointing north, the other with his head pointing south. Their names was slavery and freedom. The snake called slavery lay with his head pointed south, and the snake called freedom lay with his head pointed north. Both bit the nigger, and they was both bad". p. 80

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Bell Al-guweiri

    Great Book!! It was amazing to read these excerpts from different former slaves that were interviewed and how they viewed slavery, their "Marsters" and families along with the aftermath of "freedom". This was a book that not only changed my mind but also taught me a few things I really didn't know about slavery. I would recommend this book!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Five stars because it is a must read. Fascinating. I wish we all talked more openly about this period in our history. Too sad for words but I'm so glad we have these oral histories.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    This is a collection of 21 out of over 2000 recollections from the 10,000-page Federal Writers' Project Slave Narratives compiled in the 1930's. While most of the accounts speak of extreme oppression and whipping, surprising to today's sensibilities, many of the accounts look back fondly on the slave experience and speak positively of their former masters. This is in large part due to the fact that much oppression continued after slavery. The former slaves were left to fend for themselves withou This is a collection of 21 out of over 2000 recollections from the 10,000-page Federal Writers' Project Slave Narratives compiled in the 1930's. While most of the accounts speak of extreme oppression and whipping, surprising to today's sensibilities, many of the accounts look back fondly on the slave experience and speak positively of their former masters. This is in large part due to the fact that much oppression continued after slavery. The former slaves were left to fend for themselves without land, draft animals, or education. They were still largely dependent on the white people who had previously been their owners. They received freedom without the means to fully enjoy it. Many stayed on with their former owners. Some plantations had 100 to 400 slaves. Some owners had only 25 slaves. Pretty much universally the slaves were worked sun up to sundown with an hour or two meal break 6 days a week. There was a week off at Christmas and maybe a week off after harvest. It was pretty uncommon for a slave father to be with the family. One thing that is apparent was that there were good masters and bad masters. The bad ones administered more whippings, sold their slaves, and molested the women. But even the good ones did some whipping, kept the slaves in their place, and did not allow slaves to learn reading and writing. Some accounts: “They whipped for most any little trifle. They whipped me, so they said, just to help me get a quicker gait.” Jacob Manson “You was whupped according to the deed you done in them days. A moderate whupping was thirty-nine or forty lashes, and a real whupping was a even hundred; most folks can't stand a real whupping.” Willis Cozart “When a slave got so bad he could not manage him, he sold him... They were the unruly ones.” Mary Anderson “When a slave was no good, he was put on the auction block in Fayetteville and sold.” Sarah Louise Augustus “The white folks did not allow us to have nothing to do with books. You better not be found trying to read. Our marster was harder down on that than anything else.” Hannah Crasson “I think slavery was a mighty bad thing, though it's been no bed of roses since, but then no one could whip me no more.” Jacob Manson “For myself and them, I will say again, slavery was a mighty good thing.” Mary Anderson “Lincoln got the praise for freeing us, but did he do it? He give us freedom without giving us any chance to live to ourselves, and we still had to depend on the Southern white man for work, food, and clothing, and he held us, through our necessity and want, in a state of servitude but little better than slavery.” Thomas Hall

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    Culled from the myriad pages of the Federal Writers' Project Slave Narratives, this slim volume focuses on oral history from ex-slaves interviewed in North Carolina. Done at the time of the Depression, some found speaking to the young, white government workers a time to recall slavery as days better or at least no worst than there then current suffering. One thing consistent when mentioned was how Wheeler's Cavalry, though Confederate, were rapacious, horse-borne criminals. Overall, this is a mo Culled from the myriad pages of the Federal Writers' Project Slave Narratives, this slim volume focuses on oral history from ex-slaves interviewed in North Carolina. Done at the time of the Depression, some found speaking to the young, white government workers a time to recall slavery as days better or at least no worst than there then current suffering. One thing consistent when mentioned was how Wheeler's Cavalry, though Confederate, were rapacious, horse-borne criminals. Overall, this is a moving, very human recollection of life-long tragedy and travail and I am certain any sampling from that rich trove of oral history would be, so the No. Carolina connection is merely incidental. Speaking of "incidental", while reading this book, I also listened to the Andre Williams tune "Pass The Biscuits Please". Andre "Mr. Rhythm" Williams started his recording career in Detroit, Michigan on the small but prolific Fortune Records label. Williams recorded upon, or has writing credits upon, in excess of 200 songs - including: "Bacon Fat", "Pig Snoots", "JailBait", "Pass The Biscuits", "Rib Tips" and "The Greasy Chicken". One of the recollections here, of the many about poor food conditions under slavery, declaimed the fact that "Marse" never shared biscuits with the slaves. Thinking of the novelty song and the dialect preserved here, it feels to easy and even possibly stereotypic if not racist humor to unit the two. Thinking more deeply on it, it recalls to mind “Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The House of the Dead Of those interviewed here, few suffered whippings or witnessed them firsthand while most could speak to knowledge of such acute, episodic violent tragedies as corporal punishment, family-separating public sale, etc. But, what emerges is the weight of the small, day-to-day injustices, just like the constant nuisances that may emerge in a novelty song.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Adams

    This was a rather convenient collection of 21 narratives of former slaves from North Carolina. It was interesting to see the collection of different narratives coming from the same region of the United States. Two narratives that stood out to me were those of Thomas Hall and Sarah Debro. Harris writes that "Harriet Beecher Stowe, the writer of Uncle Tom's Cabin, did that for her own good. She had her own interests at heart, and I don't like her, Lincoln, or none of the crowd. The Yankees helped This was a rather convenient collection of 21 narratives of former slaves from North Carolina. It was interesting to see the collection of different narratives coming from the same region of the United States. Two narratives that stood out to me were those of Thomas Hall and Sarah Debro. Harris writes that "Harriet Beecher Stowe, the writer of Uncle Tom's Cabin, did that for her own good. She had her own interests at heart, and I don't like her, Lincoln, or none of the crowd. The Yankees helped free us, so they say, but they let us be put back in slavery again." Debro writes that "My folks don't want me to talk about slavery, they's shame niggers ever was slaves. But, while for most colored folks freedom is the best, they's still some niggers that ought to be slaves now." This collection of narratives not only challenges your own understanding of slavery but also the variance in experiences and opinions of former slaves. Reading this serves as a reminder of the horrible history in our nation. It also demonstrates the difficulties in navigating such an institution for slaves, owners, and other citizens. It is very powerful and requires deep pondering before, during, and long after reading. The only criticism I have is that I would have preferred to have longer narratives in order to get a fuller understanding of the individual.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Darling

    Terrific read — oral history collection of former slaves sharing their memories of life under slavery and Reconstruction. I picked this up at the gift shop at the former Hofwyn-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick, GA. Included are about 20 narratives, varying lengths, taken from a massive project undertaken in the ‘30s by the Federal Writers Project to track down former slaves and get their perspectives, which of course had not been recorded, before it was too late. All of the individuals are fro Terrific read — oral history collection of former slaves sharing their memories of life under slavery and Reconstruction. I picked this up at the gift shop at the former Hofwyn-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick, GA. Included are about 20 narratives, varying lengths, taken from a massive project undertaken in the ‘30s by the Federal Writers Project to track down former slaves and get their perspectives, which of course had not been recorded, before it was too late. All of the individuals are from North Carolina, the editor’s home state; many are from around Raleigh. The experiences and opinions shared vary greatly, with some people speaking of great hardship and cruelty, others of very cordial relations with their “white folks,” great food, nice quarters, etc. One notable thing is how many remark that it seems to them that life was better for blacks under slavery — because it seemed to turn blacks were “lost” after that, no better off, and conditions got worse and worse. These interviews were done in the ‘30s when things were really bad and the editor notes there was very likely nostalgia at work. Although it is very true that “freedom” did not bring about much change at all, economically or socially.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Themes: The church in America is/was complicit in slavery. Every slave interviewed mentions what they were taught in church, specifically, the command to obey masters. The incorrectly interpreted Bible verses were used to justify and uphold the institution of slavery as Biblical. Few slave owners, no matter how nice, allowed slaves to learn to read and write. Former slaves felt differently about pre- and post-slavery in America. All slaves were deeply disturbed by the selling of fellow slaves. T Themes: The church in America is/was complicit in slavery. Every slave interviewed mentions what they were taught in church, specifically, the command to obey masters. The incorrectly interpreted Bible verses were used to justify and uphold the institution of slavery as Biblical. Few slave owners, no matter how nice, allowed slaves to learn to read and write. Former slaves felt differently about pre- and post-slavery in America. All slaves were deeply disturbed by the selling of fellow slaves. There was fear of the paddywagons. It was powerful to read the actual words of people who were enslaved and then free.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I always thought it was a great thing that the federal Writers Project during the depression provided for interviewing thousands of former slaves, and I still do. But these narratives are very troubling, and I would say suspect. About half of the narratives say how great their marsters were and how it would be better to go back to slavery. I feel like there must have been something really flawed about the interviews. How many black writers were hired? How much freedom were the writers given in h I always thought it was a great thing that the federal Writers Project during the depression provided for interviewing thousands of former slaves, and I still do. But these narratives are very troubling, and I would say suspect. About half of the narratives say how great their marsters were and how it would be better to go back to slavery. I feel like there must have been something really flawed about the interviews. How many black writers were hired? How much freedom were the writers given in how to approach the interviews. They just don't sound authentic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    HistoryNerd

    So I am very conflicted by this book, on one hand I find it to be a fairly decent resource when showing the many complexities of life during slavery from those who lived in bondage. However, and I say this as someone who has their degree in history, I am deeply concerned by the fact that the narratives compiled in this book was done so by someone who does not seem to have any historical background or training. And has not been taught how to properly evaluate their own biases. I also cannot help So I am very conflicted by this book, on one hand I find it to be a fairly decent resource when showing the many complexities of life during slavery from those who lived in bondage. However, and I say this as someone who has their degree in history, I am deeply concerned by the fact that the narratives compiled in this book was done so by someone who does not seem to have any historical background or training. And has not been taught how to properly evaluate their own biases. I also cannot help but wonder what this book would have looked like had a black historian done this work.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bibliomama

    I’m not sure why I bought this book. Most of the slave narratives are available online, and I have read the account of Benny Dillard, who was owned by my third-great grandfather in Georgia. It breaks my heart and makes me sick that my ancestors owned human beings. All of these accounts were moving in very different ways. My favorite was Thomas Hall, who spoke with brutal honesty and lyrical eloquence about motives - of Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the WPA. It was searing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    A little book that I picked up on a trip to Charleston, SC, this is a selection of edited interviews with former slaves from the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project. Most of these people hadn't talked about slavery before because nobody wanted to hear it, especially their descendants. There are some very interesting voices here, a few even nostalgic for the days of slavery.

  23. 5 out of 5

    M.J. Groves

    A tiny book of first-person accounts gathered early in the 20th century by government workers trying to record the stories of slaves before they perished from the earth. Notable for the banality of evil that accrues from thinking of human beings as property. Utterly and repeatedly shocking to hear one adult after another refer to themselves as "belonging" to Massa So and So...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    It is always a weird feeling to "rate" books like this. These are real people with real struggles and feelings. I'm giving it 4 because it hit me in the feels. It opened my eyes to things I wouldn't normally be privy to know. It is a short and easily devoured book but necessary I think. Read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Jill

    Powerful text for any student of history

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura Keating

    Heartbreaking but so important. A must read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    3.5 stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This volume is taken from oral testimonies given to unemployed writers during FDR's program in the 1930s, the Federal Writers' Project, in which a variety of viewpoints are presented from people born into slavery regarding their life then and since emancipation. I found the reports and memories credible, and the book helped to make slavery more three-dimensional and human for me. That is, it wasn't some impersonal, monolithic thing called "Slavery" with a capital S; rather it seems to me after r This volume is taken from oral testimonies given to unemployed writers during FDR's program in the 1930s, the Federal Writers' Project, in which a variety of viewpoints are presented from people born into slavery regarding their life then and since emancipation. I found the reports and memories credible, and the book helped to make slavery more three-dimensional and human for me. That is, it wasn't some impersonal, monolithic thing called "Slavery" with a capital S; rather it seems to me after reading this slim volume of some slave experiences in North Carolina that it was human beings experiencing a wide range of enslaved conditions, and comparing them both to the enslaved conditions of other human beings they knew about or saw, and to the conditions they and others experienced during Yankee-Civil War occupation and in the years after the Civil War. It lends credibility to both sides of slavery that we hear about: the horrors as well as the loyalty and affection shown to Masters and their wives. It hardly needs telling but seems to get lost in the Slavery issue we still grapple with in the United States that slavery was about fully conscious human beings no different from ourselves experiencing their day-to-day lives in circumstances that differed greatly but were circumscribed by immutable rules: no end in sight to the restrictions of enslavement; no education to read or write; dire repercussions for rebelling even slightl;, underlying fears of separation from loved ones and punishment, at the very least, and many feared greater and more regular violations of human dignities, and feared for their very lives. It was the very human reactions to these conditions that struck me as a needed addition to our consciousness about our American past.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The Federal Writers Project was to give employment to citizens during the depression (I don’t think any Black Americans was any of the persons who interviews these persons who had previously been in slavery). I can help but wonder if questioned by other than white America if some of the interviews would have been different. It doesn’t matter though, because it shows a myriad of things including if the slave master was compassionate in terms of letting them marry, plant a garden (I think most own The Federal Writers Project was to give employment to citizens during the depression (I don’t think any Black Americans was any of the persons who interviews these persons who had previously been in slavery). I can help but wonder if questioned by other than white America if some of the interviews would have been different. It doesn’t matter though, because it shows a myriad of things including if the slave master was compassionate in terms of letting them marry, plant a garden (I think most owners allow them a plot of ground for food), but one can only wonder if these same slaves had been giving some education and how to use the skills they performed daily if things would have been different. Instead they were told “you are free” and then there were things in place to help them in their decision making. I found the comments of the persons interviewed not unexpected depending on the treatment of owner (e.g. selling various family members and their treatment of the slave as an animal was reflexes in their comments and likewise if the owners allowed some kindness was reflexes likewise.) Not sure if it was a good title because of the family members who had memories in my family a lot of it has been passed along to our family members as a road map of progress of enslaved persons who depict all have survived and many flourished. I am thankful to this author for sharing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    I'd always thought slavery = bad, emancipation = good. In broad strokes, this is true. But, as this book makes clear, that view is also very simplistic. These narratives of former slaves, collected in the 1930s, show that slavery, emancipation, and life afterwards were complex and very difficult. Some people who owned slaves treated them well and kindly, some did not. Some slaves loved and cared for those who owned them, others hated them. The end of slavey was not always positive. Those who had I'd always thought slavery = bad, emancipation = good. In broad strokes, this is true. But, as this book makes clear, that view is also very simplistic. These narratives of former slaves, collected in the 1930s, show that slavery, emancipation, and life afterwards were complex and very difficult. Some people who owned slaves treated them well and kindly, some did not. Some slaves loved and cared for those who owned them, others hated them. The end of slavey was not always positive. Those who had been slaves were suddenly free, but with no money, no where to go, no way to live or eat, they often ended up staying on the plantations where they had been slaves. Relationships between former slaves and the families that had owned them changed after slavery ended, but often lasted for the rest of their lives. One quite surprising things is the number of narratives that discuss how well people had been treated during slavery. The editor points out that these narratives had been collected during the worst of the Depression years, and at then of people's lives, when past times and childhood tends to be remembered as more positive than it actually might have been. I suspect there might be another factor at play, though, too. All of the narratives are from people at least in their 80s. For the most part, they would have had to have been treated at least fairly well in childhood to survive to that age. I wonder what narratives from those who died earlier, and thus were more likely to have lived under less fortuitous circumstances, would have shown. Also, these narratives are all from people who lived in North Carolina, where slavery was more benign that in the delta areas.

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