Anna Toll Smith

Anna Smith was married and had a young daughter when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This excerpt is the beginning of the interview.  Here, the interviewer Geo. H. Conn offers his own personal assessment of Anna Smith.  This excerpt offers teachers a chance to explore with students the context in which the WPA interviews occurred and how the interviewer influences the interview and its resulting narrative. 

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].  See more information.
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…In a little old rocking chair, sits an old [redacted] known to her friends as “Grandma” Smith, spending the remaining days with her grandchildren. Small of stature, tipping the scales at about 100 lbs. but alert to the wishes and cares of her children, this old lady keeps posted on current events from those around her. With no stoop or bent back and with a firm step she helps with the housework and preparing of meals, waiting, when permitted, on others. In odd moments, she like to work at her favorite task of “hooking” rag rugs. Never having worn glasses, her eyesight is the envy of the younger generation. She spends most of the time at home, preferring her rocker and pipe (she has been smoking for more than eighty year) to a back seat in an automobile.  

When referring to Civil War days, her eyes flash and words flow from her with a fluency equal to that of any youngster. Much of her speech is hard to understand as she reverts to the early idiom and pronunciation of her race. Her head, tongue, arms and hands all move at the same time as she talks.  A note of hesitancy about speaking of her past shows at times when she realizes she is talking to one not of her own race, but after eight years in the north, where she has been treated courteously by her white neighbors, that old feeling of inferiority under which she lived during slave days and later on a plantation in Kentucky has about disappeared.  

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Anna Toll Smith1835 (101 or 102)Geo. H. ConnJudge Toll
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Summit County, OHOHHenderson, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
InterviewerThird Person, Veteran or Widow, Slave Patrollers, Henderson County