River of blood American slavery from the people who lived it : interviews & photographs of formerly enslaved African Americans / edited by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams ; foreword by Adam Green

Book - 2020

"In the late 1930s, the federal government embarked on an unusual project. As a part of the Works Progress Administration's efforts to give jobs to unemployed Americans, government workers tracked down 3,000 men and women who had been enslaved before and during the Civil War. The workers asked them probing questions about slave life. What did they think about their slaveholders? What songs did they sing? What games did they play? Did they always think about escaping? The result was a r...emarkable compilation of interviews known as the Slave Narratives. This book highlights those narratives--condensing tens of thousands of pages into short excerpts from about 100 former slaves. It pairs their accounts with their portraits, taken by the workers sent to record their stories. The book documents what slaves saw and remembered, and explains how they lived. It is an eye-opening account that details what it was like to be a slave--from everyday life to the overwhelming fear they harbored for themselves and for their families and loved ones. The stories are clear and stirring. For some reason, the 700 photographs taken for the Slave Narrative Collection have been largely overlooked. The negatives are missing and the paperclip impressions used to attach the small prints to the typewritten interviews indicates that the photos were never valued or treated as art. By pairing the narratives and photographs, the material takes on new life. Every word from every former slave comes alive when the reader can see exactly who told these accounts. The photographs--with the stories--are essential in helping us understand the humanity behind these stories. The words take on new meeting paired with the photographs. When you hear Bill Homer explain that he was given away as a wedding present at the age of ten in 1860 and then look at his photograph as a proud old man, the true meaning of slavery starts to sinks in. This book is designed so that all Americans will better understand this issue that plays such an important role in present day society. The words and the photographs are profound." -- Publisher's description

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Subjects
Published
Chicago, Illinois : CityFiles Press [2020]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
240 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliography (pages 238-239).
ISBN
9780991541850
0991541855
Other Authors
Adam Green, 1963- (writer of foreword)
  • Slavery and identity
  • Day to day
  • Trauma that lasts forever
  • War and freedom
  • The pain of Reconstruction
  • Once a slave.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* "If you's want to know ‘bout slavery time, it was hell," Carter L. Johnson, born into slavery in 1853 on an Alabama plantation, told a Federal Writers Project interviewer in the late 1930s. Johnson is one of three thousand survivors of extreme crimes against humanity who participated in the Slave Narrative Collection. Men and women who endured enslavement, Reconstruction's cruel betrayals and violence, and the horrors of Jim Crow answered searching questions with searing candor, and several hundred had their photographs taken. While the typed transcripts were preserved, the photographs were inexplicably neglected. For the first time, in this supremely well-designed and sensitively edited volume, select portraits and text are reunited and the result is monumental. A clarion foreword by historian Adam Green leads to an explanatory introduction by Cahan and Williams (Revolution in Black and White, 2019), photo historians dedicated to telling the whole true story of America. They observe, "It took courage to talk," and note the attempt to preserve the interviewees' dialect, for which a glossary is provided. But no translation is needed for these agonizing memories of the heartbreak of families forced apart, sadistic beatings, endless labor and deprivation, and the elusiveness of freedom. The survivors' words are mighty and indelible; their photographs record their strength, dignity, and definitive "witness to the truth." Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* "If you's want to know ‘bout slavery time, it was hell," Carter L. Johnson, born into slavery in 1853 on an Alabama plantation, told a Federal Writers Project interviewer in the late 1930s. Johnson is one of three thousand survivors of extreme crimes against humanity who participated in the Slave Narrative Collection. Men and women who endured enslavement, Reconstruction's cruel betrayals and violence, and the horrors of Jim Crow answered searching questions with searing candor, and several hundred had their photographs taken. While the typed transcripts were preserved, the photographs were inexplicably neglected. For the first time, in this supremely well-designed and sensitively edited volume, select portraits and text are reunited and the result is monumental. A clarion foreword by historian Adam Green leads to an explanatory introduction by Cahan and Williams (Revolution in Black and White, 2019), photo historians dedicated to telling the whole true story of America. They observe, "It took courage to talk," and note the attempt to preserve the interviewees' dialect, for which a glossary is provided. But no translation is needed for these agonizing memories of the heartbreak of families forced apart, sadistic beatings, endless labor and deprivation, and the elusiveness of freedom. The survivors' words are mighty and indelible; their photographs record their strength, dignity, and definitive "witness to the truth." Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An updated edition of the Slave Narratives, collected in the 1930s by the federal government’s Works Progress Administration, incorporates hundreds of photographs that were omitted from the original interviews documenting the slave experience before and during the American Civil War. (United States history). Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

100 riveting and unforgettable accounts from the Slave Narratives, a project of the WPA in the 1930s – with stories and portraits of each former slave paired together and published for the first timeEdited from 2,000+ narratives from men and women who were enslaved before the Civil War; focuses on excerpts that tell the true horror of slavery.Stunning photographic portraits help cast these stories in a personal light; period photos set the context of slavery in the South & bolster the stories and portraits. Photographers: Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano and Russell Lee, who all won fame for their work for the Farm Security Administration, part of the WPA2019 is the 400th anniversary of the first slaves transported to North America in 1619. Extensive education and marketing plan In the late 1930s, the federal government embarked on an unusual project. As a part of the Works Progress Administration's efforts to give jobs to unemployed Americans, government workers tracked down 3,000 men and women who had been enslaved before and during the Civil War. The workers asked them probing questions about slave life. What did they think about their slaveholders? What songs did they sing? What games did they play? Did they always think about escaping? The result was a remarkable compilation of interviews known as the Slave Narratives. This book highlights those narratives—condensing tens of thousands of pages into short excerpts from about 100 former slaves and pairs their accounts with their photographs, taken by the workers sent to record their stories. The book documents what slaves saw and remembered, and explains how they lived. It is an eye-opening account that details what it was like to be a slave—from everyday life to the overwhelming fear they harbored for their lives and for the lives of their family and loved ones. Their stories are clear and stirring. For some reason, the 700 photographs taken for the Slave Narrative Collection have been largely overlooked. The negatives are missing and the paperclip impressions used to attach the small prints to the typewritten interviews indicates that the photos were never valued or treated as art. By pairing 100 narratives and photographs, the material takes on a new life. Every word from every former slave comes alive when the reader can see exactly who told these accounts. The photographs—with the stories—are essential in helping us understand the humanity behind these stories. The words take on new meeting paired with the photographs. When you hear Bill Homer explain that he was given as a wedding present at the age of ten in 1860 and look at his photograph as a proud old man, the true meaning of slavery starts to sinks in. This book is designed so that all Americans will better understand this issue that plays such an important role in present day society. The words and the photographs are profound.