Portraits: Former slaves in America

January 31st marked the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.

To commemorate the occasion, new photos have been released showing some of the men and women who lived through that era — and were finally granted their freedom.

The portraits focused on a group of 500 people and were taken in the late 1930s, as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), 70 years after abolition.

The set was eventually published in 1941 and called Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. All total, there were 17 volumes. While the pictures give an honest glimpse into an important part of our past, historians agree the stories in the collection are biased since they were conducted by white interviewers.

Slavery historian John Blassingame publicly said that the collection can present “a simplistic and distorted view of the plantation” that is too positive. But no one can deny that the collection preserved hundreds of life stories that may have otherwise have been lost.

In addition to pictures and interviews, the project also captured a vast amount of recordings, which have now proven instrumental in helping us understand how African-American vernacular has evolved over generations.

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves can now be found at the Library of Congress. The e-book that showcases all of the interviews can be found here.

The Library of Congress also collaborated with HBO to make a documentary about the collection in 2003. You can watch it in its entirety below.

 

 

Minerva and Edgar Bendy, Woodville, TX

Minerva and Edgar Bendy, Woodville, TX

 

 

Monroe Brackins, ex-slave, Hondo, TX

Monroe Brackins, ex-slave, Hondo, TX

Clara Brim, ex-slave, Beaumont, Tx

Clara Brim, ex-slave, Beaumont, Tx

James Brown, ex-slave, Ft. Worth, TX

James Brown, ex-slave, Ft. Worth, TX

Mollie Williams, age 84

Mollie Williams, age 84

Andrew Goodman, ex-slave, Dallas, TX

Andrew Goodman, ex-slave, Dallas, TX

Betty Bormer, ex-slave, Ft. Worth, TX

Betty Bormer, ex-slave, Ft. Worth, TX

 

James Singleton Black, ex-slave, 83-years-old

James Singleton Black, ex-slave, 83-years-old

 

John Barker, ex-slave, Abilene, TX

John Barker, ex-slave, Abilene, TX

 

William Green, ex-slave, San Antonio, TX

William Green, ex-slave, San Antonio, TX

 

 

Mary Armstrong, ex-slave, Houston, TX

Mary Armstrong, ex-slave, Houston, TX

 

 

 

 

By The Grio | Published February 1, 2015

 

 

Related Content

Don’t Forget You’re Black

The Gaze On Black Bodies

Black Americans Undergo Cleansing From ‘Slavery Stigma’

Black Americans Free To Give Thanks

Racism’s Big Comeback In America

Everyday Racist Treatment of Africans Abroad

Traveling While Black

Notes From My Middle Passage

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s