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Slavery and the Making of AmericaPhoto of a slave family on a plantation in Georgia
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Family
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight All in the Family Personal Narratives Original Docs
Personal Narratives The Family
Photo of George Johnson
Photo of George Johnson
Credit: Library of Congress
'My dad learned me. He showed me how.' - George Johnson
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Personal Narratives
George Johnson
Interviewee: George Johnson
Interviewer: Dr. Charles S. Johnson

GJ: Yes, sir. [Mr. Johnson intones] These are quicksteps to these quicksteps. Man, been all through that stuff. Been through it. Been through. See I, the reason I know everything, because when you, fellow got to learned it from a blacksmith. He had lived had something in his mind and he's young. And he knew he'd get old. See. That's why I can tell you something about drilling a piece of iron. Because my dad learned me. He showed me how.

CSJ: Hmm.

GJ: I don't fool with no kind of iron, you see. I played brass band long enough not to fool with a blacksmith. I play every now, you see. But don't take me like, can't use no, I know what, like I tear up a piece of iron like a rock.

CSJ: Hmm.

GJ: See. I got it in my mind. In my head stuck since I was a little boy. You take a man [stick it in his head (?)] he soon forget that thing. You get them boy here he wanna learn it. He get to learn that stuff. Learn, if he's a boy, he can learn. Learned mine sixty-years ago. Sixty-five-years ago.

CSJ: Hmm.

GJ: Got it from Daddy. Grandpa. Got it from pa, he wasn't ??? blacksmith but he know it, understand. You see. He's engineer. Civil Engineer.

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) sponsored a federal project dedicated to chronicling the experience of slavery as remembered by former slaves and their descendants. Their stories were recorded and transcribed, and this site presents dozens of select sound recordings and hundreds of transcriptions from the interviews. Beyond the content of the interviews, little to no biographical information is available on the individuals whose interviews appear here.


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