Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Texas Slave Families by Ruthe Winegarten

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the New Deal Works Projects Administration (WPA) employed writers and researchers from theFederal Writers' Project to interview and document the stories of African Americans who were former slaves. Most had been children when theThirteenth Amendment was passed. Produced between 1936 and 1938, the narratives recount the experiences of more than 2,300 former slaves. Some interviews were recorded; 23 of 26 known audio recordings are held by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.[2][8] The last interview of a former slave was with Fountain Hughes, then 101, in Baltimore, Maryland in 1949.[2] He was a grandson of a slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.

A.M. Moore, 91
I read  " Texas Slave Families" by Ruthe Winegarten  nine years ago and some of the narratives I read ran chill down my spine after reading them. I would like to share a few of those narratives that educated me on what many enslaved Africans and African American families went through.

"One boy was traded off from his mother when he was young an' after he was grown he was sold back to the de same master and married to his own mother. How she found out this was her son, she had struck him in de head accidental an' after dey was married, she looked in his head an' saw de scar an' asked him why it was dere. He began to teller, an' she fainted 'cause it was her son."

---Wesley Burell

". . . I never know no mamma or no papa neither one."
---Adline Marshall

"I cheated Maser. I never did have any slaves... I kept cotton roots and chewed them all the time but I was careful to to let Maser know or catch me. So I never did have any children while I was a slave... Yes, after freedom we had five children.

--Dave L. Byrd

Abe Livington, 83
Notes: There are 11 volumes of The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, and two series. Series 1 (vol. 4-5) and Series 2 (vol. 2-10) are Texas narratives.  Ruthe Winegarten is a historian and writer for the Texas Foundation of Women's Resources and the editor of I am Annie Mae: An Extraordinary Woman in Her Own Words.