Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories

Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories – http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/voices/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What songs would US slaves have sung in the fields?
  • How did the life of a female slave differ between Texas and Virginia?
  • What was picking cotton as a slave like?


From the website, “Twenty-three interviewees, born between 1823 and the early 1860s, discuss how they felt about slavery, slaveholders, coercion of slaves, their families, and freedom. Several individuals sing songs, many of which were learned during the time of their enslavement. It is important to note that all of the interviewees spoke sixty or more years after the end of their enslavement, and it is their full lives that are reflected in these recordings. The individuals documented in this presentation have much to say about living as African Americans from the 1870s to the 1930s, and beyond.”

The website notes that a number of the recordings have poor sound quality, but there are a number of transcripts available. The collection may be browsed by audio interviews, song titles, names, subjects and places. The recordings themselves are available in Realplayer, MP3 and Wav formats. Aside from the recordings and transcripts, there are photos of the people interviewed along with an essay about the interviewers.


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