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Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Georgia Narratives, Part 1 Kindle Edition
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- Publication Date : May 12, 2012
- File Size : 365 KB
- Print Length : 204 pages
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B0082V2J80
- Screen Reader : Supported
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Lending : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
- Simultaneous Device Usage : Unlimited
- Best Sellers Rank: #20,489 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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That said, the interviews, collected in Texas in 1937, can be emotionally hard to take. I thought I knew a lot about slavery, but I kept running into details that shocked me. For instance, all the people who mention funerals say their owners didn't allow them; dead slaves were dumped with no ceremony into unmarked pits. Many pre-teen slaves wore just a long shirt; some masters kept even adults in this humiliating garment with no underwear.
Also, many interviewees display what I can only call a slave mentality that was excruciating to read. I take this as evidence of how hard it was for former slaves to hold onto a sense of dignity and self-respect. I wouldn't presume to judge people in their circumstances. But it's still painful when people discuss how many "head" of "n*****s" their masters owned. Or when one man brags of how his master valued him as breeding stock, and reminisces about the entertaining patter of the auctioneers who sold human beings.
One fact that stood out was that despite Southerners' rhetoric about Negro inferiority, owners weren't racially persnickety about whom they enslaved. One former slave's parents were a Serbian and an East Indian who'd been captured overseas and shipped to Louisiana for sale. There were a couple of stories about Indians who were kidnapped and sold. And of course, some slaves were three-quarters or more white, and related to the masters.
What I saw connecting the interviewees' varied experiences of slavery was the way their lives were shaped by whoever happened to own them. A few masters beat their slaves rarely if at all; many were out-of-control sadists. Different masters had different policies on whether slaves could attend church, marry, dance, have their own gardens, visit other plantations, or learn to read. The masters decided what the slaves ate, where they lived, when they worked, and whether parents could know their children. When freedom came, most masters offered wages to any freed people who would stay to bring in the crops. But one threw a day-long party and gave livestock to everyone who wanted to leave; another warned all his former workers to be gone by next morning. Most of the interviewees were children during slavery, but few of them spoke of decisions that their parents made. The masters controlled everything.
These stories should--and must--be read by both children and adults alike; but ONLY after they've been sensitized to the fact that the dialect they'll be reading is not something to be laughed at or held up to scorn but rather present a real and sad testimonial to just how damaging it was to the psyches, not just of the slaves themselves but to all of us, to keep an entire segment of our people from receiving any formal education whatsoever and to systematically do so over a time spanning many, many generations!