The Language of Enslaved People as Culture, Humanity, and Resistance

My grandfather went to the folks who had owned our family and asked,'Do you have any documentation about our history during the slave days?'... The man at the door, who I have to assume was from the slaveholding side, said, 'Sure, we'll give it to you.' The man went into his house and came back with some papers in his hands.. He stood at the door, in front of my grandfather, and lit a match to the papers. ‘You want your history?' be said. 'Here it is... Take the ashes and get off my land.’ --- as recounted by Delores McQuinn, Virginia state delegate, to Smithsonian Magazine (2015).

Lecture Description

African-American history is critical to understanding the broader dynamic of American history and it is more important now than ever to understand the dynamic of slavery through the words and song of enslaved people. This lecture presents what used to be called “slave narratives” in the context of community and resistance to the South’s “peculiar institution.” The lecture includes excerpts from the narratives of enslaved and free people of color as well as spirituals and songs of resistance.


Race Slavery

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