History, and Economic and Social History
Year of study:
Refracting the Slave Narrative
Thousands of Slave narratives were collected during the Great depression: a period defined by a collective effort to seek and define America as a culture. Yet, the value of these narratives have been shrouded by questions of authenticity, authorship and memory. In recent years a reinterpretation of slavery, which has challenged the white narrative, has led to the re-appraisal of black agency, voices and sources. My research has aimed to look beyond the face value of transcribed narratives; instead giving precedence to the raw, unfiltered voices of former slaves. I have analysed a small collection of audio recorded interviews from 1935 to 1941, which were conducted by the famous Lomaxes. I have considered and analysed the relationship between the white interviewer and black interviewee; perceiving each interview as a distinct historical event. This approach has allowed me to consider the significance of pauses, stutters and distractions and their contribution to the greater narrative. My research method has focused on how and why the creation of black narratives has been shaped by a racial dynamic. What one reads and what one listens to creates two completely distinct experiences. Through appreciating black voices I aim to illustrate the value of this basic premise in my research. By appreciating the unique nature of ‘interviews’ as historical events; we gain an unparalleled history not available in a written source. I hope my research will contribute to the reappraisal of the value of black sources in understanding slavery, whilst challenging traditional historical research methods.
I am currently in my fourth year studying for a joint honours degree in History & Economic and Social History. Originally, I was brought up in Edinburgh and moved through to Glasgow for University. I have had a passion for history ever since I was a young boy, learning about the vast array of historical figures, cultures and events that forged the world we live in today. Being able to step into another time period through the many mediums available in history, is why I believe it is truly exciting and engaging! My research has challenged me to look beyond the written narrative, in an attempt to reconsider the value of the often overlooked voices of former slaves. By employing this approach, I have tried to address how the narratives are constructed; through memory, performance and the racial dynamic of the interview.