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History according to the Slave narratives

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  1. Introduction.
    1. The historical account given firsthand by former enslaved peoples.
    2. Validating the voice of the 'normally voiceless'.
  2. Preface to the digest of slave narratives.
    1. Tennessee - a system identical to that of South Carolina.
    2. Slaves - working for their own freedom.
    3. The typical family unit during slavery.
  3. Undernourishment and starvation.
    1. Slaves resorting to other measures for food.
  4. Education - hard thing to come by during the era of slavery.
  5. 'Work' for a slave and its corresponding punishments.
    1. The work demanded of them.
    2. Gatherings - sanctioned by slave masters.
    3. Secret meetings of a religious nature.
  6. Conclusion.

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. [...]

[...] It seems worthwhile to preface this digest of slave narratives with a quotation from one of the interviewees. One source, whose name remains unknown, stated, a heap of colored people say that all white folks were just alike. That ain't so, ?cause there is some white folks will treat you right, and some will take everything away from you. They ain't all just alike.? Every slave narrative included in Sutcliffe's work goes to illustrate this point. The lack of a single universal trait embodied within all slaveholders accounts for some of the factual inconsistencies between the stories of enslaved peoples. [...]

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