Voices from the Past

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This very fine New York Times article on the New York Historical Society’s exhibit on slavery in New York begins by talking about visitors recording their reactions to the exhibit. We should also think about listening to the voices of people who had lived as slaves.

Some of the great treasures of American history are the slave narratives collected by the WPA. And through the magic of the internet, you can listen to the Library of Congress’s audio collections of the voices of people who were born into slavery.

I’ve enjoyed listening to them, because I love hearing the songs (like Keep your Lamp a’ Trimmed and Kingdom Coming), the accents, and the recollections of the folks.

Of course, the WPA and other New Deal agencies recorded a lot of other folks, too. I highly recommend the audio downloads that are available on the LOC’s website. And the LOC has some other great audio collections, like these fiddle tunes recorded in the 1960s.

The picture is from the Library of Congress’ collection of black and white photographs from Great Depression to World War II, LC-USF34- 044206-D.

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