Memories of Arkansas Slavery
Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collections
by George E. Lankford
new edition of this glimpse of slavery from the perspectives
of the slaves themselves
first edition of Bearing Witness brought together
for the first time 176 slave narratives from the state of
Arkansas. Now, this new edition adds ten previously undiscovered
one knew the truths of slavery better than the slaves themselves,
but no one consulted them until the 1930s. Then, recognizing
that this generation of unique witnesses would soon be lost
to history, the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers'
Project acted to interview as many former slaves as possible.
In a continuation of the project's interest in the life histories
of ordinary people, writers interviewed over two thousand
former slaves, more than a third of them in Arkansas. These
oral histories were first published in the 1970s in a thirty-nine-volume
series organized by state, and they transformed America's
understanding of slavery. They have offered crucial evidence
on a variety of other topics as well: the Civil War, Reconstruction,
agricultural practices, everyday life, and oral history itself.
But some former Arkansas slaves were interviewed in Texas,
Oklahoma, and other states, so their narratives were published
in those other collections. And more than half of the testimonies
in the Arkansas volume were interviews with people who had
moved to Arkansas after freedom. Folklorist George Lankford
combed all of the state collections for the testimonies properly
belonging to Arkansas and deleted from this state's collection
the testimony of later migrants.
on the first edition of Bearing Witness:
Witness provides scholars and general readers with a
concise, one-volume entry into these fascinating and complex
documents and will be a useful tool for further studies.”
E. Wise, Journal of Southern History
worthwhile and useful project. . . . These interviews have
not been used as much as they could or should be and Lankford's
success in isolating and reorganizing those of Arkansas ex-slaves
will accelerate their use.”
C. Littlefield, author of Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and
the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina
has done what no researcher before has accomplished. He has
brought together for the first time in one volume all of the
known WPA interviews with Arkansas ex-slaves.”
Lindsay Baker, editor of The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives
and Till Freedom Cried Out: Memories of Texas Slave
is an emeritus professor of folklore at Lyon College. He is
the author of numerous articles on southern folklore.
6" x 9"
$34.95 (s) Paper