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Source Information

Ancestry.com. U.S., Interviews with Former Slaves, 1936-1938 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.
Original data:

A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, 1936–1938. Vol. 1-17. Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration microfilm publication SCM 000 320, SCM 000 321, SCM 000 322, SCM 000 323, SCM 000 325, 5 rolls. Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

About U.S., Interviews with Former Slaves, 1936-1938

As noted in the title this database contains slave narratives as collected by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. The work contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black and white photographs of the former slaves (be aware that some of the images are blurry). The volumes are organized by state and the beginning of each volume has an alphabetized list of the people interviewed in that state.

The wealth of information in the database is overwhelming. Cowboys, field hands, and domestic workers offer everything from folk superstitions to songs and recipes to religion. Documentation was begun by Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in 1929; Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934 until the task was included in the Public Works Administration Project in 1936 (as created by the New Deal). This collection is presented with the support of two societies, the Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago, Inc. and the Black Genealogy Search Group (Denver, CO).

If you are searching for your African American ancestors, The Learning Center on Ancestry.com’s website contains several helpful articles. Among them is the article Help for African American Research by Curt B. Witcher, which details a list of books specifically about sources for African American records. In 2007 Ancestry introduced a specific filter tool for African American records. For details about this see New Census Filter Tool and Records Make Searching for Your African American Ancestors Easier by Jana Lloyd.

Information in this index:

  • Surnames of interviewees
  • Birthplace
  • Age, approximate
  • Interview Location

    Information this index MAY contain:

  • Photograph of interviewee
  • Personal History

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