The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 5

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 5

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 5

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 5

Excerpt

In 1972 and 1973, I published with Greenwood Press sixteen volumes of ex-slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers' Project, the written results of interviews with more than 2,000 former slaves conducted in seventeen states. In addition, I added two volumes of interviews done somewhat earlier at Fisk University, but published only in a limited mimeographed edition. There was an introductory volume, which contained my interpretive essay on slave life in the antebellum South, From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community, and some material giving the reader a view of the processes whereby the narratives were collected. The entire series was entitled The American Slave: A Collective Autobiography. In that edition, the manuscripts found in the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress were not edited or altered in any form, although the photographs that often accompanied the narratives were not reproduced. Greenwood Press published these narratives exactly as they were, complete with penciled- and inked-in corrections and alterations. Now we are publishing a supplementary series of narratives that were collected by the same Federal Writers' Project but have been scattered among many different libraries throughout the nation.

At the time the original volumes were published, I believed they were all the narratives that had been written, unless the original manuscripts for Virginia and Louisiana existed somewhere. There are only fifteen interviews for Virginia and none for Louisiana in the Rare Book Room. However, individual volumes based on the interviews for these states, with quotations from narratives not in the Library of Congress Rare . . .

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