Slave Narratives on Greenwood Electronic Media

There is a large collection of American slave narratives in Greenwood Electronic Media database called American Slavery: A Composite Autobiography.

First go to the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Database Page. If you are outside the library, you will need to enter your library card number. On the list of databases to the left (My Library’s Databases), under Greenwood Electronic Media, choose American Slavery: A Composite Autobiography.

There are several ways to search the narratives. You can search by the name of the narrators, the narrator’s “master”, or the county or parish where the narrator lived. You can also search by subject, because the topics discussed in each narrative are indexed. Finally, the narratives are also indexed by the name of the person conducting the interview, and the original Library of Congress publication title.

Most of the interviews are taken after the turn of the century, in the 1930s and 1940s, when most of those interviewed are older and being asked to recall the times before the Civil War.

As an example, lets find some narratives from our East Baton Rouge Parish. First select one of the County links. Choose E from the alphabetical list. Then choose East Baton Rouge, LA.

Here you can find a handful of narratives, including a 1937 interview of John James, who was born a slave to John Chapman in East Baton Rouge Parish before the Civil War:

“Well, I don’t have much mind fo’ slavery days, ’cause I’s too young den. I’s can ‘membahs w’en surrendah comes, an’ some time befo’ dat….Yous see, ’twas a big plantation dat Master John Chapman have. Dere was ’bout 50 cullud fam’lies on de place, so ’twas over 100 slave dat him owned. De place am in Weziana, neah Bat’n Rouge, in East Bat’n Rouge Parish.”

There are also a handful of digital audio recordings available for download, so you can hear the narratives just as they come from the narrator’s mouth. To hear these, go to Additional Resources and then Archive of Folk Culture Sound Recordings.

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