Haunting Photos Of American Slaves 70 Years After Abolition

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In the 1920s and 1930s, domestic interest in US slavery was rekindled, and as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Progress Administration, more than 2,000 first-person accounts of slavery were collected, as well as 500 black and white photographs. The collection was compiled in 17 states between 1936 and 1938. Many of the former slaves interviewed were well into their 80s and 90s – some were even past 100.

While there are many reasons as to why these testimonials were collected, one reason was simply the passing of time- by the 1930s, surviving former slaves were old men and women. The time in which to capture their testimonies was running out, thus putting a sense of urgency to the project. Many of the accounts are deeply troubling, and are powerful reminders of America’s seedy past.

h/t: madefrom

Jennie Bowen, Age 90, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Slavery in America began when the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, to aid in the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco. Slavery was practiced throughout the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, and African-American slaves helped build the economic foundations of the new nation. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 solidified the central importance of slavery to the South’s economy.

George Eatman, Age 93, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

By the mid-19th century, America’s westward expansion, along with a growing abolition movement in the North, would provoke a great debate over slavery that would tear the nation apart in the bloody American Civil War (1861-65). Though the Union victory freed the nation’s 4 million slaves, the legacy of slavery continued to influence American history, from the tumultuous years of Reconstruction (1865-77) to the civil rights movement that emerged in the 1960s, a century after emancipation.

James D. Johnson, Age 77, Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Lizzie Hill, Age 94, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Allen Thomas, Age 97, Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Anderson and Minerva Edwards, Age 93 and 87, Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Betty Powers, Age 80, Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Bill Homer, Age 87, Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Daniel Taylor, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Ellen Payne, Age 88, Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Gabe Hines, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

George Dillard, Age 85, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Georgia Flournoy, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Mary Thompson, Age 87, Austin,Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Preely Coleman, Age 85, Texas
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Simon Walker
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

William Henry Towns, Age 83, Alabama
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Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

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