The Max Reddick Experience

The last faces of American slavery: Stunning pictures of men and women who were born into slavery and photographed more than 70 years after being freed

by Beth Stebner 

In the 1920s and 1930s, an interest in slave narratives was rekindled, and as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Progress Administration, more than 2,000 first-person accounts of slavery were collected, as well as 500 black and white photographs. 

The collection was compiled in 17 states between 1936 and 1938. Many of the former slaves interviewed were well into their 80s and 90s – some were even past 100. 

One former slave, Sarah Gudger, claimed she was 121. She told the federal writer: ‘Yo’ know de sta’s don’ shine as bgright as dey did back den. I wonah wy dey don’. Dey jes’ don’ shine as bright.’ Many of the collected accounts are written phonetically, giving further insight to their linguistics, mannerisms, and characters.  [Continue reading and view more photographs.]

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