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.