Billy Slaughter

The interviewer’s perspective and opinions are evident throughout this interview, including the interviewers use of a variety of derogatory terms to refer to Billy Slaughter.  Students should be reminded of the context of the WPA interviews, and consider the impact of the interviewer on the written interview.  In this excerpt, the interviewer records Billy Slaughter’s opinions about President Lincoln and the Civil War.  

*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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…[Billy Slaughter’s] real hero was Abraham Lincoln. He plans another pilgrimage to the Lincoln Farm to look again at the cabin in which his Emancipator was born. He asked me if I read history very much. I assured him that I read it to some extent… In the beginning of the War, the Negroes who enlisted in the Union Army were given freedom, also the wives, and the children who were not married.

… Not all [redacted] who wanted to join the Union forces were able to do so because of the strict watchfulness of their masters. The slaves were made to fight in the southern [Confederate] army whether they wanted to or not. This lessened the number of free [redacted] in the Northern army. As a result, Lincoln decided to free all [redacted]… This was the [redacted] story of the conditions that brought about the Emancipation Proclamation. Freeing the [redacted] was brought about during the Civil War but it was not the reason that the war was fought, was the unusual opinion of this [redacted]… [Billy Slaughter’s father joined the Union Army.] Uncle Billy’s father and mother and their children who were not married were given freedom. The old slave has kept the papers that were drawn up for this act.

The [redacted] explained that the [redacted]soldiers never fought in any decisive battles. There must always be someone to clean and polish the harness, care for the horses, dig ditches, and construct parapets…

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Billy Slaughter1858 (Unknown)Beulah Van MeterLincoln
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Jeffersonville, ININHodgenville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Lincoln, EmancipationThird Person, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow,