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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
'I can plow and lay off a corn row as good as any man ...' - Harriet Smith
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Personal Narratives
Harriet Smith
Interviewee: Harriet Smith
Interviewer: John Henry Faulk

JHF: Who, who did you belong to?

HS: J. B., the baby boy.

JHF: Where was that? Where did he live?

HS: Back, out here in Hays County.

JHF: Sure enough? How many, how many of, how many slaves did he have?

HS: Well, he had my grandma, and uh, and my ma. My ma was the cook, and grandma, you know, and them they worked in the field, and everything. I remember when she used to plow oxen. I plowed, I plowed oxen myself.

JHF: Is that right?

HS: I can plow and lay off a corn row as good as any man.

JHF: Is that right?

HS: Course I can.

JHF: Well good for you. [JHF and HS overlap]

HS: Chop, and chop, pick cotton. I used to pick, I've pick [unintelligible] here since I been here. I've [unintelligible] pick, pick my five hundred pounds of cotton.

JHF: Knock out five hundred pounds.

HS: Knock out around five, five hundred pounds of cotton. Then walk across the field and, and hunt watermelons, pomegranates and [laughs]

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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