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Slavery and the Making of AmericaDramatic re-enactment of a slave in uniform
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Legal Rights & Gov't
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight You be the Judge Personal Narratives Original Docs
Personal Narratives Legal Rights & Gov't
'He worked for white, white people when they want to be elected ...' - Harriet Smith
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Personal Narratives

Interviewee: Harriet Smith
Interviewer: John Henry Faulk

JHF: Was your husband H. S., uh, much of a [HS interrupts]

HS: J. S.

JHF: Uh, oh, J. S.

HS: Hmmm.

JHF: Was he a church man?

HS: Yes, he was [JHF interrupts]

JHF: What happened [HS interrupts]

HS: Church man, church man, and a politic man too.

JHF: Oh you were, y'all voted in those days.

HS: Yes. My husband was uh, he was known by white folks. He was well, uh, when he got kill them white folks was just crazy about him. He'd gone through [unintelligible]. That boy that killed my husband, I nursed him when he was a baby.


JHF: Well what kind of politicking did he do?

HS: Well, he worked for white, white people when they want to be elected, you know, anything that time.

JHF: He'd work amongst the colored folks.

HS: Amongst the colored people. Men speak, and white folks, you couldn't get in the house when he spoke hardly for white people, all that section there. He had a good learning. Uh, all of them boys did.

JHF: And he'd round up the votes, and that's how come them to kill him.

HS: Uh huh. He rounded, when he set the night for a speech, people from Austin, from San Marcos, from every which way, white and colored, to hear him speak. He'd go to court house and speak for them.

HS: Yeah, he was forever speaking.

JHF: Well, he uh, did the colored folks not like him?

HS: No. The colored people all went too, but these white people, this boy that killed him, old W. B., I nursed him when he was a baby before I was ever acquainted with my husband.

JHF: Well what I was, what I'm trying to, to find out is, how come him to kill your husband. Was it over politics?

HS: Uh huh, politics and different things you know. [mumbles] Poor white people.


JHF: Did the white folks have your husband killed or did uh, did he just, W. B. just go shoot him [HS interrupts]

HS: No, my husband went to cedar break that day, and uh, and on his way back from the cedar break, uh, he lay by the road and killed him. And let's see, there was something about a horse, I don't hardly, how they done, but the white people, W. K. and them, was the first one got to him when he was killed. They had to shoot him, you know. And they brought the news to us. My brother and them.



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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