Oral Histories of Formerly Enslaved Kentuckians

Oral Histories of Formerly Enslaved Kentuckians

John W. Fields in 1937

One of the goals of this project is to collect as many source documents as possible that pertain to slavery in Kentucky, the initial focus of our series. Perhaps the most powerful of these are the first-person testimonials of the enslaved themselves.  

Unfortunately, there are no known audio or video recordings of formerly enslaved Kentuckians, but there were numerous print interviews that were done in the 1930s, some by African American scholars affiliated with Fisk University, most by writers and folklorists associated with the WPA Writers’ Project. 

In the search tool below, you can access excerpts from these oral histories, with links available on each page to the complete transcript of that interview.

Interview Context and Dialect

Most of the oral histories featured on the Reckoning website come from the WPA Slave Narratives collection.  Between 1936 and 1938, the Federal Writers’ Project, a part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), collected over 2,300 first-person accounts of enslavement.

Please note that most of the interviewers were white (only about 17% were African American). As a result some interviewees may have depicted slavery in a positive light so as to not offend their white interviewer and/or challenge the racial hierarchy. Additionally, many of the interviewers chose to use Black dialect when transcribing the words of the formerly enslaved (including some African American WPA interviewers). Other interviewers chose to use standard English, rather than dialect, when transcribing the interviews they conducted.

Because of the different ways the interviewers chose to transcribe their interviews, we decided to standardize the transcriptions using standard English (e.g., master instead of massathem instead of dem). We made this choice as many uses of dialect lead to the speaker being perceived as ignorant. We wanted to emphasize the content of these oral histories, rather than have the interviewers’ transcription choices distract readers.

To learn more about the WPA Slave Narratives project, please visit the Library of Congress website.

Featured Source Excerpts

Episode 4: The Civil War

The Civil War was a confusing time for enslaved people in Kentucky. Because the state remained loyal to the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation did not ... Read More

Thomas McIntire

Thomas McIntire’s father was “taken by slave traders from Africa,” brought to the United States, sold, and enslaved. Jim Lane enslaved around 550 people, including ... Read More

Thomas McIntire

Thomas McIntire’s father was “taken by slave traders from Africa,” brought to the United States, sold, and enslaved. Jim Lane enslaved around 550 people, including ... Read More

Thomas McIntire

Thomas McIntire’s father was “taken by slave traders from Africa,” brought to the United States, sold, and enslaved. Jim Lane enslaved around 550 people, including ... Read More

Thomas Lewis

In this interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person formerly enslaved person Thomas Lewis’s explanation of why enslaved people resisted and the consequence of ... Read More

M.S. Fayman

M.S. Fayman was born free to wealthy free parents in Louisiana. Her family was Creole - her grandmother was Haitian (Black) and her grandfather was ... Read More

Mary Crane

In this excerpt, which the interviewer records in the first person, Mary Crane describes how enslaved people were traded and sold like cattle. She recounts ... Read More

Susan Dale Sanders

In this interview, recorded in the first person, the interviewer recounts Susan Dale Sanders’s emancipation ... Read More

Matthew Hume

The interviewer documents this interview in the third person. In the excerpt below, the interviewer shared a story from Matthew Hume about an enslaved person ... Read More

Eli Coleman

Eli Coleman was born in 1846 and has a long memory of enslavement. In this excerpt he describes what it was like to serve alongside ... Read More

Eli Coleman

Eli Coleman was born in 1846 and has a long memory of enslavement. He also lived a long life after Emancipation. In this excerpt, he ... Read More

John Rudd

John Rudd lived with his mother and brothers on a plantation in Kentucky. John’s enslaver sold one of his brothers, byt John, his mother and ... Read More

John W. Fields

John W. Fields lived in enslavement and gained freedom shortly before the Civil War ended. In this excerpt, he describes an example of extreme cruelty, ... Read More

Patsy Jane Bland

Almost 107 at the time she was interviewed, the interviewer notes that Patsy Jane Bland remembered a great deal about life as an enslaved person ... Read More

John Eubanks

The excerpts below provide teachers a unique opportunity to consider perspective and decisions made by an interviewer. The interviewer Archie Koritz submitted two separate documents ... Read More

Kate Dudley Baumont

Kate Baumont was very young when slavery ended, but she has specific memories from her childhood, which she shares. This excerpt describes how the enslaved ... Read More

Samuel Watson

Samuel Watson was very young when the Civil War ended and Emancipation was granted to those enslaved. However, he clearly remembers the struggles his family ... Read More

John Eubanks

Tony and Becky Eubanks enslaved John Eubanks during the period described in this excerpt. The Eubanks family supported the Union during the Civil War and ... Read More

John Eubanks

The excerpts below provide teachers a unique opportunity to consider perspective and decisions made by an interviewer. The interviewer Archie Koritz submitted two separate documents ... Read More

George Fordman

... It was customary to conduct a funeral differently than it is conducted now, he said. I remember I was only six years old when ... Read More

George Fordman

Enslaved from birth, George Fordman was not Black, but part indigenous and part white. George Fordman explains to his interviewer how he came to be ... Read More

Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed. He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil ... Read More

Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed. He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil ... Read More

Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed. He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil ... Read More

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviews in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the ... Read More

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviews in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the ... Read More

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviewers in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the ... Read More

Full Collection

Adah Isabelle Suggs

In this third person narrative, the interviewer describes two escape attempts by Harriet and her young daughter Adah. The excerpt begins with the interviewer explaining Harriet’s motivations for escaping, describes a failed escape attempt, and then recounts Harriet and Adah successfully escaping to Ohio. Teachers might note the interviewer’s word choice of “mildly punished” to describe Harriet’s imprisonment in an upstairs room. *The term “negroes” was replaced, but not removed, from the excerpt below. The ...
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Albert Todd

In this first person narrative, Albert Todd describes the cruelty he witnessed and experienced as an enslaved person, including how his enslaver fed him only once a day and punished him for stealing food. Albert Todd also recounts how he remained a slave for years after he was technically free ...
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Alex Woodson

In this third person narrative, the interviewer first describes how Alex Woodson (who is referred to as “Uncle Alex”) was sold. The interviewer then documents several stories of enslaved people during the Civil War, before briefly referencing emancipation. *Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted] ...
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Amanda Elizabeth Samuels

In this third person narrative, the interviewer describes how the “old master” and “young master” treated Amanda Elizabeth Samuels (called “Lizzie”). While the interviewer concludes that Lizzie’s life was relatively better with the “old master,” the interviewer explains that the first enslaver was motivated by profit, not kindness. The teacher may need to point out to students that the enslaver did not treat enslaved people “just like his own children,” because he enslaved and sold ...
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Amelia Jones

In this excerpt, Amelia Jones recollects her time enslaved in Manchester, KY on the plantation of Maw White, and his treatment of her and other enslaved persons on the plantation. She describes the process White used to separate mothers from their children on the day the children were to be sold to another enslaver. The interviewer then proceeds to describe how Jones’ father and sister were sold and separated from her in a similar manner ...
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Ann Gudgel

Ann Gudgel lived in enslavement during the Civil War. In this excerpt, she describes her life as an enslaved person, including the troublesome fact that she and her family chose to remain with their enslavers after Emancipation ...
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Ann Gudgel

Ann Gudgel lived in enslavement during the Civil War. In this excerpt, she describes how enslaved persons were vaccinated against smallpox (the process involved infecting a patient with the pus of a smallpox victim) ...
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Anna Toll Smith

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts the life of Anna Smith in the third person. Anna Smith was married and had a young daughter when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In this excerpt, the interviewer describes Anna Smith’s memories of life as an enslaved person before and during the Civil War. The excerpt ends with Anna Smith describing her emancipation ...
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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 ...
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Annie B Boyd

... My mother and I were put on the block in front of the Courthouse in Hopkinsville and sold to Mr. Newt. Catlett and we brought $500.00…[My enslavers] weren’t good to me. My master was a good man but my missus was no good woman. She used to box my ears, stick pins in me and tie me to the cedar chest and whoop me as long as she wanted. Oh, how I did hate ...
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Annie Morgan

The interviewer chose to record this interview in question and answer format, allowing the reader to consider the role of the interviewer in the process. Both of Annie Morgan’s parents were enslaved, and in this excerpt, she describes childhood memories from after the Civil War. Then, Annie Morgan describes her marriage, which also happened after the Civil War ...
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Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviewers in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the Federal Writers’ Project that employed Black workers. Interviewer Martin Richardson’s introduction notes that he is recording a, “Verbatim Interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year-old ex-slave whose early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River, while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he puts it, he guesses he ...
Read More

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviews in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the Federal Writers’ Project that employed Black workers. Interviewer Martin Richardson’s introduction notes that he is recording, “Verbatim Interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year-old ex-slave whose early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River, while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he puts it, he guesses he could ...
Read More

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviews in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the Federal Writers’ Project that employed Black workers. Interviewer Martin Richardson’s introduction notes that he is recording, “Verbatim Interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year-old ex-slave whose early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River, while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he puts it, he guesses he could ...
Read More

Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed. He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Barney Stone was a self-taught teacher at a Black school and then became a preacher. Earlier in the interview, Barney Stone explains how he witnessed his enslaver sell his sister, mother and brother. He also recounts how his enslaver brutally whipped him, and other examples ...
Read More

Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed. He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Barney Stone was a self-taught teacher at a Black school and then became a preacher. The interviewer notes that Barney Stone had a “remarkable memory,” which is evident in the excerpt below where Barney Stone explains the practice of buying and selling enslaved people ...
Read More

Belle Robinson

The interviewer chose to recount Belle Robinson’s story in the first person after a brief introduction. In this excerpt, Mrs. Robinson describes the little she remembers about life as an enslaved person, which she refers to as “the slave days.” Teachers may need to help students interpret this account which presents a rather benign view of slavery by noting the Belle Robinson’s age when she was enslaved, how much time had passed since then, and ...
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Bert Mayfield

The interviewer chose to record this interview with Bert Mayfield in the first person. In the excerpt, Bert Mayfield tells the story of an enslaved person who escaped, but was later enslaved again. The excerpt concludes with Bert Mayfield’s thought on emancipation and Lincoln ...
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Bert Mayfield

The interviewer recorded this excerpt as a first person narrative by Bert Mayfield. In the excerpt, Bert Mayfield describes “stirring offs” - the social gatherings that accompanied work needed to make food from maple syrup. Bert Mayfield also describes the role religion played in his life. This excerpt contains two songs that were recorded by the interviewer ...
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Bert Mayfield

The interviewer recorded the interview as a first person narrative by Bert Mayfield. In the excerpt, Bert Mayfield describes his living conditions as an enslaved person: clothing, living conditions, food, and his work tapping trees for syrup ...
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Betty Guwn

Betty Guwn was an enslaved person on a tobacco plantation in Kentucky. The interviewer begins by narrating background information provided by Betty Guwn about how enslavers negotiated the marriage of enslaved people. In the second half of the excerpt, the interviewer uses italics to show that Betty Guwn’s own words are being recorded. In this portion of the excerpt, Betty Guwn recounts how her husband fought for the Union during the Civil War and her ...
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Betty Guwn

Betty Guwn was an enslaved person on a tobacco plantation in Kentucky. When her enslaver traveled to Mississippi to do business, he hid his money on Betty Guwn so he would not be robbed. The interviewer begins by narrating background information provided by Betty Guwn. In the second half of the excerpt, the interviewer uses italics to show that Betty Guwn’s own words are being recorded ...
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Betty Jones

In this excerpt, the interviewer records in their own words the background information provided by Betty Jones and also directly quotes her. This short excerpt provides teachers the opportunity to help students navigate seeming contradictions within a primary source. The interviewer states that Betty Jones “recalls no unkind treatment” but then Betty Jones herself describes the sorrow of her enslaved friends being sold. Students may need background information on the WPA interviews and help considering ...
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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 ...
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Carl Boone

Carl Boone’s parents were both enslaved people who gained their freedom in 1829, and Carl Boone was born a free man in 1850. In this excerpt, the interviewer records an example of an enslaver named Daniel Thompson brutally killing an enslaved person. In what Carl Boone describes as Daniel Thompson’s “punishment for this terrible deed,” the excerpt goes on to describe the death of Daniel Thomspon’s son. These stories are told to the interviewer by ...
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Celia Henderson

Celia Henderson moved from Louisville, Kentucky to Natchez, Mississippi when her enslaved mother was sold to pay off the enslaver’s debt. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Celia Henderson’s memories about the Civil War in the first person. Teachers may need to help students navigate the comparison at the end of the excerpt as a critique of how poorly Blacks were treated at the time of the interview rather than wishing she were still enslaved ...
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Celia Henderson

Celia Henderson moved from Louisville, Kentucky to Natchez, Mississippi when her enslaved mother was sold to pay off the enslaver’s debt. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Celia Henderson’s memories about religion in the first person ...
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Charles Anderson

Charles Anderson lived in enslavement Kentucky before and during the Civil War. In this excerpt, he describes witnessing a woman being auctioned off to enslavers who wanted females who could conceive and raise children to be enslaved in the future ...
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Charles Anderson

Charles Anderson lived in enslavement in Kentucky before and during the Civil War. In this excerpt, he describes becoming a free man, his hesitancy to leave the plantation, the act of voting, and his realization that racial problems continued to exist in our country long after Reconstruction ...
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Charles Green

Charles Green lived in enslavement in Kentucky before and during the Civil War. In this excerpt, he describes the fear the enslavers put into the enslaved about the raiding Union (Yankee) soldiers, and how Confederate Soldiers (led by John Morgan) were not to be feared. However, he also mentions how his half brother and father joined the Union cause ...
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Charlie Richmond

This Third Person recollection of an interview with the formerly enslaved Charlie Richmond describes how the dialect of the formerly enslaved populations remained prominent in the South among both Black and White families due to the fact that so many of them lived together during times of enslavement ...
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Dan Bogie

Dan Bogie was enslaved on a small plantation with few slaves. In this excerpt, he describes the living conditions he and his family experienced ...
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Dan Bogie

Dan Bogie lived in enslavement on a small plantation with few enslaved persons. In this excerpt, he describes the relationship he developed with the enslavers’ children, as well as his first experiences with education and religion ...
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Easter Sudie Campbell

Easter Sudie Campbell was born near the end of the Civil War. She describes her many experiences as a free midwife in Kentucky. Here, she describes several experiences she has had supporting women during pregnancy and while giving birth ...
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Easter Sudie Campbell

Easter Sudie Campbell was born near the end of the Civil War. She describes her many experiences as a free midwife in Kentucky. Here, she discusses her belief in ghosts and specific experiences she has had ...
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George Conrad, Jr.

George Conrad was an enslaved person on a 900 acre farm in Kentucky. In this excerpt he begins by describing “patrollers” whose job was to be monitor the movement of enslaved peoples, to be sure if they were off their property they had the proper paperwork. He goes on to describe tales he’d heard of John Brown and the Underground Railroad ...
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George Conrad, Jr.

George Conrad was an enslaved person on a 900 acre farm in Kentucky. His father enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. In this excerpt, Mr. Conrad describes his father enlisting with the other males who were enslaved on the plantation. He also tells a tale of the enslaved hiding and protecting their enslaver when Union troops raided the plantation ...
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George Conrad, Jr.

George Conrad was an enslaved person on a 900 acre farm in Kentucky. Mr. Conrad enlisted in the army in 1883 and took part in the fighting with American Indians during that time. In this excerpt, he describes an example attempts by the US Army to force assimilation on Indians in Oklahoma ...
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George Dorsey

George Dorsey was an enslaved child during the Civil War. In this excerpt, he describes the fear he always had when he saw soldiers approaching the plantation where he was enslaved. He tells of hiding from them, and also of witnessing them stealing food and supplies from the plantation. He ends by describing a tale of a horse that belonged to the enslaver’s son being stolen by soldiers, but returned by the soldiers when the ...
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George Fordman

Enslaved from birth, George Fordman was not Black, but part indigenous and part white. George Fordman explains to his interviewer how he came to be enslaved in a tragic history that begins with White people forcibly driving his indigenous ancestors from their home in Indiana in 1838. After his ancestors walked all the way to Alabama, the George family “automatically” enslaved them, even though they were not Black. In this excerpt the interviewer recounts the ...
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George Fordman

In this first person excerpt, the interviewer records how George Fordman was emancipated and how he came to be called George Fordman. Enslaved from birth, George Fordman was not Black, but part indigenous and part white. George Fordman explains to his interviewer how he came to be enslaved in a tragic history that begins with White people forcibly driving his indigenous ancestors from their home in Indiana in 1838. After his ancestors walked all the ...
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George Fordman

... It was customary to conduct a funeral differently than it is conducted now, he said. I remember I was only six years old when old Mistress Hester Lam passed on to her eternal rest. She was kept out of her grave several days in order to allow time for the relatives, friends and ex-slaves to be notified of her death. The house and yard were full of grieving friends. Finally the lengthy procession started ...
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George Henderson

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts formerly enslaved person George Henderson’s memories of Christmas in the first person ...
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George Henderson

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts formerly enslaved person George Henderson’s memories of education, religion and emancipation in the first person ...
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George Morrison

...“I [George Morrison] was born in Union County, Kentucky, near Morganfield. My master was Mr. Ray, he made me call him Mr. Ray, wouldn't let me call him Master. He said I was his little free [redacted]." When asked if there were many slaves on Mr. Ray's farm, he [George Morrison] said, "Yes ma'am, there were seven cabins of us. I was the oldest child in our family. Mr. Ray said he didn't want me ...
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George Morrison

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person George Morrison’s memories of the Civil War ...
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George Scruggs

...I was a slave before the war. My boss, the man that I belonged to, was Ole Man Vol Scruggs. He was a racehorse man. He had a [redacted] boy for every horse those days and a white man for every horse, too. I was born right here in Murray. My boss carried me away from here. I thought a heap of him and he though a heap of me. I'd rub the legs of ...
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George Thompson

...I [George Thompson] was quite a small boy when our family, which included an older sister, was sold to Ed. Thompson in Metcalfe Co. Kentucky, who owned about 50 other slaves, and as was the custom then we were given the name of our new master, "Thompson". I was hardly twelve years old when slavery was abolished, yet I can remember at this late date most of the happenings as they existed at that time ...
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George Washington Buckner

...The parents [of Dr. George Washington Buckner] were slaves and served a master not wealthy enough to provide adequately for their comforts. The mother had become invalid through the task of bearing children each year and being deprived of medical and surgical attention. The master, Mr. Buckner, along with several of his relatives had purchased a large tract of land in Green County, Kentucky and by a custom or tradition as Dr. Buckner remembers; landowners ...
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George Washington Buckner

...A story told by Dr. Buckner relates an evening at the beginning of the Civil War. "I had heard my parents talk of the war but it did not seem real to me until one night when mother came to the pallet where we slept and called to us to 'Get up and tell our uncles good-bye.' Then four startled little children arose. Mother was standing in the room with a candle or a sort ...
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Hannah Davidson

In the full version of the interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person the cruelty enslavers inflicted on Hannah Davidson and the other enslaved people. Hanna Davidson describes a life of continuous work and repeated whippings. Enslavers Emmette and Susan Meriwether kept Hannah Davidson, her sister, and others enslaved for over twenty one years after they were legally free. In this excerpt, recorded in the first person, Hannah Davidson describes the memories of the ...
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Hannah Davidson

In the full version of the interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person the cruelty enslavers inflicted on Hannah Davidson and the other enslaved people. Hanna Davidson describes a life of continuous work and repeated whippings. Enslavers Emmette and Susan Meriwether kept Hannah Davidson, her sister, and others enslaved for over twenty one years after they were legally free. In this excerpt, recorded in the first person, Hannah Davidson describes religion and songs she ...
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Hannah Davidson

In the full version of the interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person the cruelty enslavers inflicted on Hannah Davidson and the other enslaved people. Hanna Davidson describes a life of continuous work and repeated whippings. Enslavers Emmette and Susan Meriwether kept Hannah Davidson, her sister, and others enslaved for over twenty one years after they were legally free. In this excerpt, recorded in the first person, Hannah Davidson describes the violence of her ...
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Harriet Mason

In this excerpt that the interviewer records in the first person, Harriet Mason describes her life as an enslaved person in Texas. Teachers may need to help students navigate Harriet Mason’s complementary description of her enslavers with the fact that they enslaved people ...
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Henry Long

The majority of the original interview focuses on Henry Long’s work history as an adult after the Civil War. In the excerpt below, the interviewer recounts in the first person Henry Long’s view of slavery in Kentucky and how he does not know his birthdate ...
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Jane Simpson

In this excerpt, which the interviewer records in the first person, Jane Simpson describes how her enslaver whipped her, how her enslaver responded to Union troops during the Civil War, and how enslaved people were treated upon emancipation. The excerpt ends with Jane Simpson telling of a metaphor enslaved people used to describe the end of enslavement ...
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Jenny McKee

In this interview, the interviewer recounts the life of Jenny McKee in the third person, referring to her as “Aunt Jenny.” In this excerpt, the interviewer documents how Jenny McKee was either sold or given away by her step-father to a Black woman, whose husband fought for the Union in the Civil War ...
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Joana Owens

In this short excerpt, Joana Owens describes her life as an enslaved person and the brutality of enslaver Nolan Barr. The interviewer recounts the words of Joana Owens in the first person. The excerpt ends with a brief memory of the Civil War ...
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Joe Robinson

The interviewer records the life of Joe Robinson in the third person. In the excerpt below, the interviewer recounts Joe Robinson’s comparison of how two different enslavers treated those they enslaved. The teacher may need to help students critically consider what it means for an enslaver to be “very kind” to the people he is enslaving ...
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John Eubanks

The excerpts below provide teachers a unique opportunity to consider perspective and decisions made by an interviewer. The interviewer Archie Koritz submitted two separate documents for his interview with John Eubanks. The first, featured in “Part 1” below is written in the third person. In the excerpt, Archie Koritz describes John Eubanks life during slavery, calling him “one of hte more fortunate slaves in that his mistress and master were kind.” The second interview is ...
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John Eubanks

Tony and Becky Eubanks enslaved John Eubanks during the period described in this excerpt. The Eubanks family supported the Union during the Civil War and allowed the men they enslaved to join the Union army, which John Eubanks chose to do, joining Company K of the 108th Kentucky Infantry Regiment - a unit of Black soldiers who volunteered to fight. At the time of the interview, John Eubanks was the only surviving Civil War veteran ...
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John Eubanks

The excerpts below provide teachers a unique opportunity to consider perspective and decisions made by an interviewer. The interviewer Archie Koritz submitted two separate documents for his interview with John Eubanks. The first, featured in “Part 1” below is written in the third person. In the excerpt, Archie Koritz shares the story of how the enslavers of John Eubanks allowed him to join the Union army during the Civil War, how John Eubanks enlisted, and ...
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John Patterson

John Patterson was an enslaved person who moved to Arkansas during the Civil War because his enslaver wanted to keep John and other enslaved people from being taken by Union Soldiers. In this excerpt he briefly shares this experience, as well as telling of some of the songs they used to sing while being enslaved ...
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John Rudd

John Rudd lived with his mother and brothers on a plantation in Kentucky. John’s enslaver sold one of his brothers, byt John, his mother and other siblings stayed together after the enslaver sold them all when he was a child. In this excerpt, he describes the barrel used to tie the enslaved to in order to whip them, and a grisly example of several enslaved persons getting badly whipped. One of them was a good ...
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John Rudd

John Rudd lived with his mother and brothers on a plantation in Kentucky. John’s enslaver sold one of his brothers, byt John, his mother and other siblings stayed together after the enslaver sold them all when he was a child. In his excerpt, he relates a story of his mother’s reaction to being whipped for no reason by her enslaver, and the resulting sale of his mother to an enslaver in Louisville ...
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John W. Fields

John W. Fields lived in enslavement and gained freedom shortly before the Civil War ended. In this excerpt, he describes the situation that arose when his first enslaver died, and the 12 children had to pick the name of their new enslaver out of a hat. This led to every child being separated from their mother ...
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John W. Fields

John W. Fields lived in enslavement and gained freedom shortly before the Civil War ended. In this excerpt, he describes an example of extreme cruelty, in which an enslaved person was whipped severely, and the other enslaved people were forced to pour salt water on her wounds ...
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John W. Fields

John W. Fields lived in enslavement and gained freedom shortly before the Civil War ended. In this excerpt, he describes the process of Emancipation and his failed attempts to join the Union Army. He finishes by describing the first paid work he was able to get ...
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Joseph Allen

Joseph Allen was an enslaved person who lived on the same plantation until the end of the Civil War. Here, he recalls instances of being whipped by his enslaver’s wife, and his attempts to retaliate ...
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Joseph Mosley

Joseph Mosley lived in enslavement from 1853 until Emancipation. In this excerpt, he describes his enslaver, who was a slave trader who made those he enslaved march from Virginia to Kentucky, or Mississippi to Virginia, chained together ...
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Joseph Mosley

Joseph Mosley lived in enslavement from 1853 until Emancipation. In this excerpt, he describes the conditions of working with no shoes, few clothes, and very little food. He then describes his experience with Emancipation, which included being given his first pair of shoes ...
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Julia Bowman

This excerpt gives a brief overview of Ms. Bowman’s life with enslavers that she considered kind. Notably, they were fed well and the enslaver asked to be surrounded by his “Kinfolks” (how he referred to those he enslaved) when he died. Worth noting is the comment at the end that she “didn’t know want” when she was enslaved but at the time of the interview, during the Great Depression, she did ...
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Julia King

Julia King lived with her entire family on the same plantation. When she was very young, her father, mother and sister all ran away and escaped via the Underground railroad. Here, she tells the tale, as she knows it, of her mother’s escape ...
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Julia King

Julia King lived with her entire family on the same plantation. When she was very young, her father, mother and sister all ran away and escaped via the Underground railroad. Here, she describes her memory of a song her mother sang before she escaped ...
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Kate Billingsby

The same family enslaved Kate Billingsby from her birth in 1828 until Emancipation. Ms. Billingsby still keeps in touch with the family. This excerpt describes what she learned from that family, and how they (and their children) still looked after her even after her emancipation ...
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Kate Dudley Baumont

Kate Baumont was very young when slavery ended, but she has specific memories from her childhood, which she shares. This excerpt describes a story of an enslaver who married and ran away with one of the enslaved males on the plantation. She goes on to describe the reactions and impact this had on the enslaver’s family ...
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Kate Dudley Baumont

Kate Baumont was very young when slavery ended, but she has specific memories from her childhood, which she shares. This excerpt describes how the enslaved on the plantation she worked were all given their own land to work while they were enslaved. They were also given similar plots of land when they were freed, which many continued to live on and work for years after emancipation ...
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Kisey McKimm

Kisey McKimm spent her entire enslavement (and some time after) on the same plantation. In this excerpt, McKimm describes how her enslaver treated her and her family better than most enslavers, but how his son was cruel. It describes an instance of the son whipping one of the enslaved. The excerpt goes on to describe how McKimm’s family was given land after Emancipation, but when the enslaver father died, the son took over the land ...
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Lucy Ann Warfield

Lucy Warfield spent her childhood and young adult life enslaved. She doesn’t know her age, but she was an adult and married when the Civil War broke out. In this excerpt, she describes why she doesn’t know when she was born, as well as the difficulty of the work she was given as an enslaved person. She finishes by describing how one of her mother’s sisters was able to escape to Canada ...
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Lucy Davis

In this excerpt, Ms. Davis describes her experiences during the Civil War and her Emancipation. Of note is the fear that her enslavers had of the Union soldiers, and how she was put on lookout outside the property when they would come, allowing her enslavers to hide while the soldiers took what they wanted from the property. She finished by retelling the reaction of her and her family when they were told they were free ...
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Lula Chambers

Dave Lillard enslaved over one hundred people, including Lula Chambers. She did not know her father and her mother was sold shortly after Lula Chambers was born. The interviewer records in the first person Lula Chambers’s memories of the Ku Klux Klan and why some enslavers did not abuse enslaved people for economic reasons ...
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M.S. Fayman

M.S. Fayman was born free to wealthy free parents in Louisiana. Her family was Creole - her grandmother was Haitian (Black) and her grandfather was French. Her parents sent her to a private boarding school when she was five years old. When she was ten, she was kidnapped at school and forcibly enslaved in Kentucky by Buckram Haynes, who forced M.S. Fayman to teach his children French until she escaped. After her escape, she returned ...
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Madison Bruin

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Madison Bruin’s memories of the Civil War in the first person. After the Civil War was over, Madison Bruin continued to provide free labor on his enslaver’s plantation although he was technically free. In 1872, he finally left the plantation, joined the army and served in a cavalry unit used to fight Native Americans. After his discharge from the army, he worked building a railroad before settling in Texas ...
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Mary Crane

In this excerpt, which the interviewer records in the first person, Mary Crane describes how enslaved people were traded and sold like cattle. She recounts the story of her enslaved father, and how he was almost “sold down the river” to pay for his enslaver’s debts. The excerpt ends with Mary Crane by explaining what “freedom” meant to her when she was emancipated. The full transcript of the interview includes a photograph of Mary Crane ...
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Mary Jane Mooreman

The interviewer records this interview in the first person, writing down the words of Mary Jane Mooreman using heavy dialect. The reader should note that these are not necessarily the exact words of Mary Jane Mooreman - they are the interviewer’s version of Mary Jane Mooreman’s speech. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts how Mary Jane Mooreman learned how to read and write before documenting her memories of the Civil War. Miss Maud is Mary ...
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Mary Wooldridge

Mary Wooldridge was sold multiple times while enslaved, including at around fourteen years old when she was separated from her twin sister. Thomas McElroy enslaved over three hundred people on his two plantations, among them was Mary Wooldridge. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Mary Wooldridge’s thoughts on Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, emancipation and voting. The interviewer records this interview in the first person, writing down the words of Mary Wooldridge using heavy dialect ...
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Mary Wright

Mary Wright was born the year the Civil War ended. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Mary Wright’s retelling of her mother’s story of the Ku Klux Klan using violence to intimidate Black people after the Civil War in Kentucky ...
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Matthew Hume

The interviewer documents this interview in the third person. In the excerpt below, the interviewer shared a story from Matthew Hume about an enslaved person who issued fake freedom papers to free other enslaved people before describing Matthew Hume’s emancipation ...
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Matthew Hume

In this excerpt, the interviewer describes Matthew Hume’s experience with religion when he was enslaved in the third person ...
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Mrs. Preston

The interviewer records in this interview in the third person and does not record Mrs. Preston’s first name. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts how the KKK drove Mrs. Preston and her family from their home after the Civil War ...
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Mrs. Preston

The interviewer records this interview in the third person and does not record Mrs. Preston’s first name. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Mrs. Preston’s memories of the Civil War ...
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Mrs. Sam Duncan

The interviewer recorded this interview in the first person and most of the original document in a discussion of superstitions. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts a time after the Civil War when Mrs. Sam Duncan had to flee with her family, ending up at what appears to be her former enslaver’s home ...
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Nannie Eaves

The interviewer records this interview with Nannie Eaves in the first person. Both Nannie Eaves and her husband Ben Eaves fathers were their enslavers. Their father’s were brothers, making Nannie and her husband first cousins. In this excerpt, Nannie Eaves explains this relationship and how it impacted her life while enslaved. Nannie Eaves also references her husband’s service during the Civil War and slave traders ...
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Parthena Rollins

In this interview, which the interviewer records in the third person, Parthena Rollins recounts numerous stories of enslavers brutally murdering enslaved people. Teachers should note this excerpt contains imagery of brutal violence, and may not be suitable for some students ...
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Patsy Jane Bland

Almost 107 at the time she was interviewed, the interviewer notes that Patsy Jane Bland remembered a great deal about life as an enslaved person. Patsy Jane Bland was sold twice as an enslaved person and had four children when the Civil War began. In this excerpt, recorded in the third person, the interviewer recounts Patsy Jane Blands education, memories of a white wedding, and emancipation ...
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Peter Bruner

The interviewer recounts her interview with Peter Bruner in the third person. Enslaver John Bell Bruner was “very cruel” to Peter Bruner. John Bell Bruner and his wife frequently whipped Peter Bruner and never gave him enough to eat. In the excerpt below, the interviewer describes Peter Bruner frequent attempts to escape, including his successful escape after which he enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War ...
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Rachel Gaines

Rachel Gaines lived enslaved until her early 20’s. After Emancipation her enslaver hired her to continue to work on his plantation. This excerpt describes her Emancipation and experiences still living and working in the plantation in the years after ...
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Rev. John R. Cox

Rev. John R. Cox was born to two enslaved parents in Kentucky. In this excerpt, he tells a story of his mother’s escape from enslavement and how she lived in the wilderness for 2 years before being recaptured and sold. He then relates how this led her to his father, how they were married and had children together while enslaved, including Rev. Cox. He finishes up by telling about his education, and the punishment enslaved ...
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Richard Miller

Richard Miller was the son of an Indian mother and an enslaved father. In this excerpt he describes his family’s experiences after Emancipation and how his family was separated even after becoming free ...
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Richard Miller

He remembers a slave by the name of Brown, in Texas, who was chained hand and feet to a woodpile, oil thrown over him, and the wood, then fire set to the wood, and he was burned to death. After the fire smoldered down, the white women and children took his ashes for souvenirs. . . . George Band was a very powerful slave, always ready to fight, never losing a fight, always able to ...
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Robert Glenn

Robert Glenn’s enslaver sold him away from his family at a young age. In this excerpt he describes being put on the auction block three times in one day, while his father and mother attempted to win the auction and purchase him ...
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Robert Glenn

Robert Glenn’s enslaver sold him away from his family at a young age. In this excerpt he describes how the son of his enslaver took it upon himself to teach him how to read and write, which was uncommon and often illegal ...
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Robert Glenn

Robert Glenn’s enslaver sold him away from his family at a young age. In this excerpt he describes his Emancipation and how his enslaver agreed to pay him for a year of his services. It then goes on to talk about Glenn’s difficult decision to leave this place, which he called home, to work elsewhere ...
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Robert Howard

Robert Howard was enslaved in Kentucky beginning in 1852. This third person description gives a very brief overview of his life while enslaved ...
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Samuel Lyons

Samuel Lyons was an enslaved person during his childhood and teenage years. In the excerpt below, he gives a brief overview of life on the plantation ...
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Samuel Sutton

Samuel Sutton was very young when the Civil War was fought, however he has some recollection. Here, he tells of his experiences interacting with soldiers from both sides. He goes on to tell about the celebrations that occurred among the formerly enslaved person on July 4 after the Civil War ended ...
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Samuel Sutton

Samuel Sutton was very young when the Civil War was fought, however he has some recollection and remembers life directly after. Here he describes his right to vote and why he votes the way he does ...
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Samuel Watson

Samuel Watson was very young when the Civil War ended and Emancipation was granted to those enslaved. However, he clearly remembers the struggles his family had after Emancipation. In this excerpt, he describes the struggle his mother had supporting the family, how his siblings became indentured servants, and his life as an indentured servant to an unkind employer ...
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Sarah Frances Shaw Graves

Sarah Frances Shaw Graves’ enslaver moved her from Kentucky to Missouri at a young age. In this excerpt, she describes the term “allotment” and the process of hiring out an enslaved person. She goes on to describe how her father was allotted to another enslaver when they were moved to Missouri, and how the enslavers would not tell her Mother where her Father was in order to encourage her to remarry and have children ...
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Sarah Frances Shaw Graves

Sarah Frances Shaw Graves’ enslaver moved her from Kentucky to Missouri at a young age. In this excerpt, she gives details about what it’s like to be whipped by an enslaver. She then tells a story of how she was blamed for something one of the enslaver’s children did, and was nearly whipped twice for this ...
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Sarah Waggoner

Sarah Waggoner was a 93 year old formerly enslaved person. She remembers a great deal about her life of enslavement. In this excerpt she first describes how her enslaver worked her much harder late in the Civil War because she knew the enslaved were likely to be freed. She then goes on to describe the work and the life she lived inside her enslavers’ house ...
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Scott Mitchell

Scott Mitchell lived through the Civil War, though he does not know his age. Here, he briefly describes his recollection of the war and stories of lynchings and hangings that took place during that time ...
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Sebert Douglas

Sebert Douglas lived in Kentucky before and during the Civil War. In this excerpt, he gives several brief recollections: of Morgan’s raid, enslaved persons who joined the Union Army, examples of KKK violence, and what he did after emancipation ...
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Sophia Word

Sophia word spent the first nearly 20 years of her life enslaved. In this excerpt, she tells several stories of extreme cruelty and their results. The first is an example of her being whipped for trying to take food from the kitchen of her enslaver. The next set of stories describes the cruelty of a neighboring enslaver and the suicides of the enslaved that resulted from this treatment ...
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Susan Dale Sanders

In this interview, recorded in the first person, the interviewer recounts Susan Dale Sanders’s emancipation ...
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Susan Dale Sanders

In this interview, recorded in the first person, the interviewer recounts how Susan Dale Sanders’s parents were enslaved people who lived on separate plantations ...
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Thomas Ash

In this excerpt, the interviewer records Thomas Ash’s memories of the Civil War and emancipation in the first person ...
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Thomas Lewis

In this interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person formerly enslaved person Thomas Lewis’s explanation of why enslaved people resisted and the consequence of that resistance ...
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Thomas Lewis

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas Lewis’s memory of how White people forced Black people to work for free even after the Civil War and how Thomas Lewis’s mother resisted this practice ...
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Thomas Lewis

In this interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas Lewis’s memories of the Civil War and his mother’s interactions with Union soldiers ...
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Thomas McIntire

Thomas McIntire’s father was “taken by slave traders from Africa,” brought to the United States, sold, and enslaved. Jim Lane enslaved around 550 people, including Thomas McIntire. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas McIntire’s recollection of the slave trade and how his enslaver treated enslaved people ...
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Thomas McIntire

Thomas McIntire’s father was “taken by slave traders from Africa,” brought to the United States, sold, and enslaved. Jim Lane enslaved around 550 people, including Thomas McIntire. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas McIntire’s description of religious practice on enslaver Jim Lane’s plantation ...
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Thomas McIntire

Thomas McIntire’s father was “taken by slave traders from Africa,” brought to the United States, sold, and enslaved. Jim Lane enslaved around 550 people, including Thomas McIntire. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas McIntire’s thoughts on topics connected to freedom. Thomas McIntire describes how enslaved people sought a better life and discussed freedom in code. Thomas McIntire also shares memories of learning about the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, emancipation ...
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Watt Jordan

Watt Jordan grew up in a large family of enslaved persons. He and his family lived in fear of being separated after his grandmother was sold and never seen again. In this excerpt, he describes that event, as well as his and his family’s fate after Emancipation, in which he was bound out but left that home early due to cruel treatment ...
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Wes Woods

Wes Woods grew up near the end of enslavement in our country, but shares the memories he has or has been told of life as an enslaved person. He describes the living conditions first, and then how his father hired him out to earn extra money after Emancipation ...
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Will Oats

Will Oats grew up enslaved to a wealthy plantation owner. This excerpt describes the plantation, including how holidays and spare time were spent. The excerpt finishes by describing how his family made a living after emancipation ...
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William Ball Williams, III

William Ball Williams, III fought for the Union army in the Civil War. In this excerpt, he describes the experience of being a formerly enslaved person in the Union army and the fear he always lived in ...
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William Emmons

William Emmons spent much of his early life enslaved. Here, he describes the process of traders who bought and sold enslaved people, and they bought and sold these people for various reasons, including breeding and to take advantage of struggling plantation owners who needed extra money ...
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William Emmons

William Emmons spent much of his early life enslaved. He also fought in the Civil War, which he describes below, including being threatened while on the way to enlist, getting injured in battle, and the celebrations that followed the announcement of victory. He finishes by describing briefly the work he did after emancipation ...
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William Quinn

William Quinn was born into enslavement in a rare family that paid a small sum of money to their enslaved people. Here, he describes this practice and how rare it was ...
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