Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories
The Library of Congress's American Folklife Center is pleased to
announce the release of a new online collection: Voices from the Days of
Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories, available on the Library's
American Memory Web site: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/vfshtml.
Voices from the Days of Slavery features audio recordings made of people
who had experienced slavery first-hand, providing the unique opportunity
to listen to them describe their lives in their own voices. These
interviews conducted between 1932 and 1975, capture the recollections of
twenty-three identifiable ex-slaves, people born between 1823 and the
early 1860s. Several of those interviewed were centenarians, the oldest
being 130 at the time of the interview. The almost seven hours of
recordings were made in nine Southern states and provide an important
glimpse of what life was like for slaves and then newly freed persons.
The former slaves discuss how they felt about slavery, slaveholders, how
slaves were coerced, their families, and, of course, freedom. As part of
their testimony, several of the ex-slaves sing songs, many of which were
learned during the time of their enslavement.
This presentation complements other American Memory collections, most
notably Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers'
Project, 1936-1938 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html, which
contains transcripts of over 2,300 interviews with ex-slaves. However,
unlike the written transcripts, which sometimes represented collectors'
interpretations rather than verbatim reproductions, these recordings
present the actual interview and thereby provide the unique experience
of hearing the ex-slaves' voices with their various inflections and
In addition to the recordings and transcripts, Voices from the Days of
Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories also includes biographies of
many of the interviewers, a special presentation called Faces and Voices
from the Collection, and a Related Resources section.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed
at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife"
through programs of research, documentation, archival presentation,
reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and
training. The Center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was
established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of
ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.
American Memory is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating
to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more
than 8 million digital items from more than 120 historical collections.
Please submit any questions you may have using the American Memory web
form at: http://www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-memory2.html
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