Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery, Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collections

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery, Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collections

Article excerpt

Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery, Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collections. Edited by George E. Lankford. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003. Pp. xxvi, 428. Introduction, maps, appendix, indexes. $34.95, paper.)

Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery, Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collections is an oral history compilation that focuses on the experiences of individuals who lived some part of their lives as slaves in Arkansas. Like other such collections, Bearing Witness has the obvious appeal of giving the reader a glimpse of slavery from the perspectives of the slaves themselves. Readers are greatly enriched by having Sweetie Ivory Wagoner describe how his Creek Indian father worked as a slave of Cherokee Indians before being sold to Wagoner's white master. They see how the master and father of Augustus Robinson saved him from the abusive clutches of the master's angry wife and placed him on a farm where he received treatment similar to that given white children.

Besides benefiting from the obvious strengths of slave narratives-the voices of the slaves-Bearing Witness also assists readers with a strong introduction that lays out the Works Progress Administration's motivation and strategy for interviewing former slaves and the problems related to the project. Recognizing that the four WPA volumes of "Arkansas" narratives'consisted of interviews with people residing in the state in the 1930s rather than those of people who had actually lived as slaves in Arkansas, George Eankford combed the entire WPA collection to gather Arkansas slave voices. …

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