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Slavery and the Making of AmericaPolitical caricature depicting black and white men and women interacting
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Men, Women & Gender
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight Slave Clothing Personal Narratives Original Docs
Personal Narratives Men, Women & Gender
'You never did see Old Mrs. with the baby.' - Laura Smalley
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Personal Narratives
Laura Smalley
Interviewee: Laura Smalley
Interviewer: Unidentified Woman [with John Henry Faulk]

INT: And they had some of the, some of the slaves who worked in the house and then some who worked on the yard, isn't that right?

LS: No ma'am. They, they, they, ah, them work in the yard. Men work in the yard, some nights. But them there what, what work in the kitchen, they didn't have nothing to do it, in the yard. And they had one, one, you know, to make up beds. Had one to make up beds, you know. And one to cook. And then the girls, had [six at time (?)] make up bed and then they go to field. And they had regular nurse, you know. Nurse you never did see Old Mrs. With the baby. Never no time. They had a regular nurse.

INT: Uhmm.

LS: It's like, you know, when you'd hire somebody's nurse, but it be a grown woman nurse. Tend to that baby. And they keep no can never did get, no, never did carry it to old mister. Now if it was hungry at night or day, and I doubt it was hungry, they carry it there to her. You tend to that baby. That baby slept with the old nurses and all.


INT: Well, did the mistress nurse the baby, or did she have a -

JHF: Yeah.

LS: She, she nursed from the breast.

INT: Ahha.

LS: But see, she'd nursed this baby that, that it would be hungry. Well, this here, nurse would bring it to her, and let her nurse it. And then when she nurse she'd hand it right back, night or day, you know. Had tend to that baby night and day hand it back her. And that baby any kind of sick that nurse had sit up there at night and tend to it.



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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