The historical account given firsthand by former enslaved peoples has been called into question on many occasions. It has been suggested that because the narratives of these former slaves are so inconsistent with one another, the resulting history was flawed. The allegations are not without a solid base. Indeed, of the thirty-six individual interviews included in Sutcliffe's book, most of them directly contradict another interview. They are marked with half-truths and exaggerations, as C. Vann Woodward suggests. He goes on to state that many first-hand accounts are prone to the same factual discrepancies that these slave narratives are. Indeed, as personal biases have the tendency to clutter any personal recollection, the slave narrative is no exception.
[...] On the subject of dances, one slave colorfully stated, “When we wanted to have a dance, we had to ask Marster. They would have a fiddler, and we would tromp around mighty” (pg. 4). Remarks another slave, used to be a great fiddler. I first learned how to play on a long gourd with horsehair strings on it . after so long a time I bought me a fiddle sure enough” (pg. 78). As men would shuck corn, women would have quiltings. [...]
[...] Even in this essay, which is a condensation of the slave narratives in Sutcliffe's book, which itself consists of only thirty-six interviews out of the many more that were originally collected, the experiences of slaves are varied. Many of the incidents retold here are taken from the overwhelming minority. Stories of kindness from masters, stories of slaves openly defying their masters to no consequence, these do not represent the norm of slavery. However, to ignore them would be to give an incomplete picture. [...]
[...] used to have overseers riding up and down the field to see that you would keep working. If they caught you loafing, they would tie your hands with a chain or anything like that and whip (pg. 114). As if this were not enough, not only would slaves have to work fast and hard, but they would have to be accurate as well. Recalls one slave, would get a nice little whipping sometimes when trying to plow, ‘cause I wouldn't do it right” (pg. [...]
[...] Another slave recalls, white folks would not give us no butter and things like that, and I would go over to the springhouse to get it, and I would sometimes bring as much as two pounds of butter in my bosom” (pg. 53). Robert Falls, another slave, remembers (ironically, in a WPA interview), “They didn't half feed us either. They fed the animals better Learned us to steal, that's what they done. Then we would take anything we could lay our hands on, when we was hungry” (pg. [...]
[...] Chapman seemed to show no remorse for his actions, while at the same time conveying that his master was kind (as far as he perceived slave masters could get). It goes to show that he meant no harm by his actions; a slave simply had to eat to survive. In very rare cases, a master would react to this thievery with positive consequences for the slave. Liza Reynolds states, “Marster told Mistress, ‘Give them children enough molasses to eat. There's plenty of it here. [...]
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