Listen To The Voices of American Slaves

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Before the technology boom of sound and film that arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it’s pretty hard to have an accurate and vivid depiction of what life was like without moving sound and image to fully capture the essence of the time period.  American slavery is a time period of history that falls victim to the lack of technology at the time.  Although, photographs may exists of slaves in the barns and on the fields, we have no youtube video to fully capture what a day in the life of a slave was like for us to watch and comment.  The closest we arrive to that are from interviews; we have available some rare recorded interviews from the early 1900s, about six or more decades after slavery’s abolishment. Many slave narratives can also be found available in the form of pamphlets and books, accessible to all in the library of congress HERE.  But hearing the auditory form of ex-slaves sharing their horrific experience of the plantation conjures up a startling emotion.  It’s momentous because these individuals haunt us with their chilling voice about being born into a time period that America would love to go back in time and delete.

Fountain Hughes, a former slave who was 101 years old at the time of the interview, from the 1930s through 1940s is one of the handful of recorded interviews from the time period.  In this recording, Fountain Hughes reveals to us that his grandfather belonged to Thomas Jefferson and recalls how slaves slept on floors.  Another interviewee, Laura Smalley, recalls being a child amongst a household of children, all being fed from the same spoon at the same time, as if they were hogs being fed in the pen.