Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember: Personal Accounts of Slavery in South Carolina
During the 1930s, the Federal Writersâ Project undertook the task of locating former slaves and recording their oral histories. The more than ten thousand pages of interviews with over two thousand former slaves were filed in the Library of Congress, where they were known to scholars and historians but few others. From this storehouse of information, Belinda Hurmence has chosen twenty-seven narratives from the twelve hundred typewritten pages of interviews with 284 former South Carolina slaves. The result is a moving, eloquent, and often surprising firsthand account of the last years of slavery and first years of freedom. The former slaves describe the clothes they wore, the food they ate, the houses they lived in, the work they did, and the treatment they received. They give their impressions of Yankee soldiers, the Klan, their masters, and their newfound freedom.