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Slavery As We've Heard It
August 17, 2005 8:46 PM   Subscribe

"In slavery times the negroes were sold to the white people." In their simple and plain language, elementary school students describe the horrors of slavery as related by their grandparents. The Greensboro Historical Museum has an online exhibit of the interviews. Another quote: "He said that the white men would whip them and sometimes hung men and women when they were mad with them or if the slaves tried to run away." The handwriting is kind of hard to read on some of these, but worth it.
posted by marxchivist (26 comments total)

 
A lot of people are familiar with the WPA slave narratives, previously discussed here and here. One problem with the WPA interviews is that the ex-slaves may have been less than forthright with some strange white guy from the government who came to visit them. I don't know if they'd be more honest with their families, obviously they didn't tell their grandchildren about rape and things like that, but these may offer a more accurate alternative to the government sponsored interviews.
posted by marxchivist at 8:50 PM on August 17, 2005


totally interesting--imagine if we had living witnesses to that (and how we often ignore the living witnesses to atrocities we do have, and are losing)

from Juanita McAdoo's: ...In those days they sold people like we sell cows now. The people also took babies from their parents and sold them. ... Mr. Washington McAdoo told me about this. His master's name was Master McAdoo. ...
posted by amberglow at 9:10 PM on August 17, 2005


Fascinating stuff, thanks Marxchivist.

Fairly off-topic: This reminds me of a teacher who, in despair, showed me a class project she was marking where the 11-year-old pupils were asked to write a story from the perspective of slaves - almost all missed the point in a quite terrifying way, giving their slaves happy endings, reuniting them with families, having them chat with jolly overseers, etc. (though, interestingly, the most cheerful imagined slave narratives came from children who were from refugee families from countries where slavery, or close, still exists; some quite plainly equating transportation of slaves with their own migration from Africa to the UK.)
posted by jack_mo at 2:38 AM on August 18, 2005


Thank you, Marchivist!
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:37 AM on August 18, 2005


I meant "Marxchivist." Still learning English, apparently.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:38 AM on August 18, 2005


This reminds me of a teacher who, in despair, showed me a class project she was marking where the 11-year-old pupils were asked to write a story from the perspective of slaves - almost all missed the point in a quite terrifying way, giving their slaves happy endings, reuniting them with families, having them chat with jolly overseers, etc.

Good Christ, what does this teacher expect from 11-year-olds, Notes from the Underground? Personally, I'd be in despair if the kids did "get the point." It would indicate their lives had been brutal beyond what kids should have to experience.

Great post, Marxchivist!
posted by languagehat at 5:52 AM on August 18, 2005


Yeah, I think that it's pretty much a given that when you ask an 11 year old to tell you a story, It's going to have a happy ending. Nice post!
posted by unreason at 5:55 AM on August 18, 2005


Great post
posted by darsh at 6:50 AM on August 18, 2005


This is amazing. Thank you for this.
posted by voltairemodern at 6:52 AM on August 18, 2005


I found it kind of funny how well written some of these were compared to the ebonic's laden prose flying around these days. Interesting reading.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:36 AM on August 18, 2005


Great post. What this really brings home for me is how recent slavery was. Growing up it seemed like such a distant past, like a fairy tale "long ago and far away." But really, there were former slaves alive when my grandparents were young adults. It boggles my mind to think about.
posted by carmen at 8:36 AM on August 18, 2005


Nice post. Thanks.
posted by caddis at 8:43 AM on August 18, 2005


ebonic's laden
Yeah, grasp of standard written English seems to be at an all time low.

You mean "Ebonics-laden"?
posted by mzurer at 8:56 AM on August 18, 2005


Awesome. I'm speechless....
posted by malaprohibita at 8:57 AM on August 18, 2005


j.p. hung's comment: I found it kind of funny how well written some of these were compared to the ebonic's laden prose flying around these days.

Milred Wiley's introductory paragraph: "It is very interesting especially to know about Negroes in slavery. Now I will attempt to mention it in this way. My mother said that her step mother was a slave. Now I will soon tell you something about it."

posted by nobody at 9:14 AM on August 18, 2005


The slaves worked for the white people, but they weren't paid for what they did, as we do today

--josephine watkins
posted by eustatic at 9:43 AM on August 18, 2005


Now I will soon tell you something about it."

That is straight out of the Preacher's handbook:

First, I'm going to tell you what I'm going to tell you.
Then, I tell you.
Last, I'm going to tell you what I done told you.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:44 AM on August 18, 2005


Heck, SLoG, when you put it that way, that's how I tell my student's to write an essay:

first, tell me what your going to tell me
then, tell me
then, tell me what you told me.
posted by carmen at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2005


From the second page of Mildred Wiley's report:

"The masters would not let the slaves go to church. They would have paryer in a room and put pots and pans at the door so the sound wouldn't go out. If it would the masters would hear them. Then they would strap them across barrels and whip them, and put salt in the split places. They were not allowed to handle books, if they did the same would happen."

This stuff is all the more poignant coming fom the pencils of small black children, reporting the stories of their grandparents. Great post!
posted by LarryC at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2005


Things like this that emphasize how little time has passed always seem disconcerting to me. It's sort of like when they show that rare color footage of Nazi parades. It's a rude shock to see them in color, instead of in antiquated looking black and white. It's just astonishing how little time has passed since people were actually allowed to own other people.
posted by unreason at 11:36 AM on August 18, 2005


*sniffles*

thanks for the post
posted by matteo at 11:43 AM on August 18, 2005


Jonesboro School was an appropriate place to center this assignment, since it had been founded after the Civil War as one of the Julius Rosenwald "X-Y-Z" schools.

Julisu Rosenwald
is also interesting. As is the effort to save these schools.
posted by probablysteve at 11:44 AM on August 18, 2005


Um, carmen? Please say that you were engaging in ironic humor with "student's" and "your".
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:11 PM on August 18, 2005


excellent teaching material for younger children. (4th/5th grade.)
posted by RedEmma at 6:09 PM on August 18, 2005


D'oh!

I swear I didn't make those mistakes before I was a TA and had to read them all the time.

posted by carmen at 7:10 PM on August 18, 2005


first, tell me what your going to tell me
then, tell me
then, tell me what you told me.


Ditto for a good bit of technical writing, too. Intro, information, review.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:54 PM on August 19, 2005


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