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   Slave narratives from the Real Voices, Real History™ series: 

Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember


Edited by Belinda Hurmence

Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember

 978-0-89587-069-8
 0-89587-069-X
$9.95 paperback
5" x 7 1/2"
135 pages black-and-white photographs


 

During the 1930s, the Federal Writers' Project undertook the task of locating former slaves and recording their oral histories. The more than ten thousand pages of interviews with over two thousand former slaves were filed in the Library of Congress, where they were known to scholars and historians but few others.

From this storehouse of information, Belinda Hurmence has chosen twenty-seven narratives from the twelve hundred type-written pages of interviews with 284 former South Carolina slaves. The result is a moving, eloquent, and often surprising firsthand account of the last years of slavery and first years of freedom. The former slaves describe the clothes they wore, the food they ate, the houses they lived in, the work they did, and the treatment they received. They give their impressions of Yankee soldiers, the Klan, their masters, and their newfound freedom.

about the author
Belinda Hurmence was born in Oklahoma, raised in Texas, and educated at the University of Texas and Columbia University. She has written several novels for young people.

My Folks Don't Want Me To Talk About Slavery

edited by Belinda Hurmence

My Folks Don't Want Me To Talk About Slavery

978-0-89587-039-1
0-89587-039-8
$8.95 paperback
5" x 7 1/2"
103 pages


 

"One day Grandpappy sassed Miss Polly White, and she told him that if he didn't behave hisself that she would put him in her pocket. Grandpappy was a big man, and I ask him how Miss Polly could do that. He said that meant that she would sell him, then put the money in her pocket. He never did sass Miss Polly no more." --Sarah Debro

"Slavery was a bad thing, and freedom, of the kind we got, with nothing to live on, was bad. 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 they called freedom lay with his head pointed north. Both bit the nigger, and they was both bad." --Patsy Mitchner

These eloquent words come from former slaves themselves--an important but long-neglected source of information about the institution of slavery in the United States. 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 Writers' Project during the 1930s.

The words quoted above represent only two of the more than 2,000 slave narratives that 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 in this collection.

about the editor
Belinda Hurmence was born in Oklahoma, raised in Texas, and educated at the University of Texas and Columbia University. She has written several novels for young people.

On Jordan's Stormy Banks

edited by Andrew Waters

On Jordan's Stormy Banks

978-0-89587-228-9
0-89587-228-5
$11.95 paperback
5" x 7 1/2"
196 pages


 

"Marster done all the whippin' on our plantation hisself. He never did make no big bruises, and he never drawed no blood, but he sho' could burn 'em up with that lash." --James Bolton

"I didn't know 'bout surrender and that I was free 'til after Miss Hannah died and I got out on my own. Lots of the owners didn't tell their slaves they was freed, and so we went right on workin' like we had been befo' surrender." --Sally Brown

During the Great Depression, the Federal Writers' Project engaged jobless writers and researchers to interview former slaves about their experiences in bondage. Most of the interviewees were by then in their eighties and nineties, and their memories were soon to be lost to history. The effort was a huge success, eventually encompassing more than two thousand interviews and ten thousand pages of material across seventeen states.

This collection presents the personal narratives of twenty-eight former Georgia slaves. As editor Andrew Waters notes, the "two ends of the human perspective--terror and joy" are often evident within the same interviews, as the ex-slaves tell of the abuses they endured while they simultaneously yearn for younger, simpler days. The result is a complex mix of emotion spoken out of a dark past that must not be forgotten.

about the author
Andrew Waters has worked as an editor for HarperCollins and John F. Blair, Publisher. He lives in North Carolina

We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard

edited by Belinda Hurmence

We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard

978-0-89587-118-3
0-89587-118-1
$10.95 paperback
5" x 7 1/2"
103 pages

 

"Shep Miller was my master. Bought my mother, a little girl, when he was married. She was a real Christian and he respected her a little. Didn't beat her so much. 'Course he beat her once in a while. Beat women! Why, sure he beat women. Beat women just like men. Beat women naked and wash them down in brine."--Elizabeth Sparks

"When you gather a bunch of cattle to sell they calves, how the calves and cows will bawl, that the way the slaves was then. They didn't know nothing about they kinfolks. Most chillun didn't know who they pappy was and some they mammy, 'cause they taken away from the mammy when she wean them, and sell or trade the chillun to someone else, so they couldn't get attached to they mammy or pappy."--Elige Davison

In the 1930s, the Federal Writers' Project undertook a massive effort at gathering the oral testimony of former slaves. Those ex-slaves were in their declining years by the time of the Great Depression, but Elizabeth Sparks, Elige Davison, and others like them nonetheless provided a priceless record of life under the yoke: where the slaves lived, how they were treated, what they ate, how they worked, how they adjusted to freedom.

Here, Belinda Hurmence presents the interviews of 21 former Virginia slaves. This is a companion to Hurmence's popular collections of North Carolina and South Carolina slave narratives, My Folks Don't Want Me to Talk About Slavery and Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember 

  
about the editor
Belinda Hurmence was born in Oklahoma, raised in Texas, and educated at the University of Texas and Columbia University. In addition to other slave narratives in this series, she has written several novels for young people. 

Mighty Rough Times, I Tell You

edited by Andrea Sutcliffe

Mighty Rough Times, I Tell You

978-0-89587-226-5
0-89587-226-9
$15.95 paperback
5" x 7 1/2"
189 pages

 
 

"He came up and said, 'Speak to your young mistress." And I said, 'Where she at?' He said, 'Right there,' and pointed to the baby in my mistress' arms." --Lu Mayberry

"My oldest sister...was fooling with the clock and broke it, and my old marster taken her and tied a rope around her neck--just enough to keep it from choking her--and tied her in the backyard and whipped her I don't know how long. There stood Mother, there stood Father, and there stood all the children, and none could come to her rescue." --Mr. Reed

In 1929, the Social Sciences Department at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, began recording the oral histories of former slaves. During the mid-1930s, the Federal Writers' Project undertook a similar effort, ultimately compiling more than two thousand interviews and ten thousand pages of material in seventeen states.

In this volume, thirty-six former slaves living in Tennessee recount what it was like to live under the yoke. Tennessee was not a large slaveholding state compared with others in the South. On the other hand, it was a leader in the abolition movement prior to 1830 and a powder keg of mixed Union and Confederate sympathies at the time of the Civil War. The voices in this volume thus recall the extreme conditions of slavery in the border country.

about the editor
A writer, editor, and editorial project manager, Andrea Sutcliffe is the author of Touring the Shenandoah Valley Backroads and the editor of The New York Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage. She lives in Virginia.

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