Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Alice Wright

Alice Wright was approximately 74 when she was interviewed for ‘Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938’.

‘I was born way yonder in slavery time. I don't know what part of Alabama nor exactly when.’

‘My grandmother was a full-blood Indian. I don’t know from what tribe.’

These statements highlights how many slaves would not know their family history or even their date and place of birth. This is due to many families regularly being split up and sold on to other plantations and households, therefore oral history may not be passed on between generations. Alice did not know how old she was, but indicates her age through her oldest son, who would be ‘fifty-six years old if he were living.’

‘If his old master had a good breeding woman he wouldn't sell her. He would keep her for himself.’

Alice describes how Masters would keep female slaves in order for them to bear more children, which in turn would be enslaved. This is due to the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade by the British in 1807. This led to a demand for African slaves that could only be reached by manipulating the growth of the African population already in the United States. In many cases this would be achieved through rape committed by the masters and owners of slaves. 

‘They'd put a trough on the floor with wooden spoons and as many children as could get around that trough got there and eat, they would.’

Alice’s description of how slave children were fed was similar to how farm animals are fed. She describes how as many as possible would fit around the trough at once, which implies that it was a free for all, potentially caused by a lack or food. Another possibility would be that the children were underfed, rushing to the food as a response to severe hunger.

‘He remembered the soldiers coming through Alabama. Didn’t bother with any coloured people, but they killed a lot of white people, tore up the town and took some white babies out and busted their brains out.’ 

Alice describing her Fathers experience of the Civil War. It was during this period that her father ran away into Georgia with her, implying she was a child during the conflict. Despite being a subjective account, it is particularly interesting how little the black population of the U.S was affected by the soldiers in the Civil war. This could be partly due to the Norths attempt to make them free men, so in effect trying to save them. Furthermore, the Souths view of them as property, which needed to be protected. 

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