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When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave…
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When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection (Dover… (2002)

by Norman R. Yetman (Editor)

Other authors: Kathy Casey (Editor)

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Excellent piece of historical narrative. History presented by those who actually lived it is always informative and this series of oral narratives give a very good picture of the actual coditions endured by those in bondage during our country's period of slavery. ( )
  kmmt48 | Dec 8, 2011 |
The Federal Writer’s Project during the Great Depression of the mid-1930s sent researchers to locate and interview more than 2,300 former slaves, ranging in age from 80 to well over 100. The compiled narratives from these interviews were archived in the Library of Congress as the Slave Narrative Collection. Editor Norman Yetman carefully selected 34 memoirs from that collection and published them in this book. The youngest narrator was 83 and the oldest, Sarah Gudger, claimed to be 121 years old at the time of her 1937 interview. These matter-of-fact first-person accounts paint a fascinating portrait of slave life in the antebellum South. Some tell of masters treating their slaves kindly and some indifferently, but others tell gut wrenching tales of brutal mistreatment.

Narrators give vivid accounts of plantation and farm slave labor, family life, food, religious expression, the Civil War, the quest for freedom, and the sometimes harsh and capricious punishments inflicted by masters and overseers. What comes through in nearly all these stories is the indomitable spirit of men and women who learned how to hold on to their humanity and dignity in the midst of a degrading, unbelievably “legal” social institution.

Interviewers attempted to transcribe the narratives verbatim in the speakers' actual dialects. Today this might be considered controversial since it tends to reenforce racial stereotypes, but it does help the reader to perceive the relative differences in levels of education and literacy among these former slaves. It also underscores the unfortunate reality that most masters strictly denied their slaves opportunities for formal education, and few slaves evidently received much education after they were emancipated.

Reading this book moved me emotionally and enriched my understanding of this horribly tragic aspect of our nation's history. The Dover Thrift Edition includes a brief introduction by the editor, but no footnotes, photos or index. For those wishing to do further research, the editor gives the web address for the Slave Narrative project archive on the Library of Congress web site (http://memory.loc.gov:8081/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html). All 2,300-plus narratives are available there as well as many photographs of former slaves taken at the time of their interviews. ( )
  deanc | Jun 3, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yetman, Norman R.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Casey, KathyEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Selected narratives excerpted from those originally recorded by the Federal Writers' Project between 1936 and 1938 under the sponsorship of The Library of Congress and compiled as a manuscript collection under the title Slave narratives in 1941, subsequently referred to as the Slave Narrative Collection.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486420701, Paperback)

More than 2,000 interviews with former slaves, who, in blunt, simple language, provide often-startling first-person accounts of their lives in bondage. Includes some of the most detailed, compelling, and engrossing life histories in the Slave Narrative Collection, a project funded by the U.S. Government. An illuminating source of information.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:46 -0400)

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