Sarah Gudger of Asheville, North Carolina was born Sept 15, 1816. She was a remarkable 121-years-old when interviewed by the Works Progress Administration in their collection of interviews with former slaves. (Library of Congress archive photo)

Sarah Gudger of Asheville, North Carolina was born Sept 15, 1816. She was a remarkable 121-years-old when interviewed by the Works Progress Administration in their collection of interviews with former slaves. (Library of Congress archive photo)

Between 1936 and 1937, the Works Progress Administration conducted a series of interviews with men and women who were born in slavery. The unique collection of narratives recorded give us an unpolished look into the lives of former slaves, as well as their masters.

Their stories paint a very complex and nuanced historical picture, that the slavery experience was vastly different from one person to another, largely depending on the slave’s “masters.” While some masters were brutal taskmasters who inspired fear in their enslaved laborers, whipping them mercilessly for any reason, or selling off mothers from their children, other slaves reminisced about happy times with kind and loving “masters” who were remembered more affectionately.

Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster as you read through these narratives from North Carolina slaves. Perhaps you’ll find one of your ancestors in this collection, either as the slave, or the master. (To save a document, right-click the link and then choose “Save link as…” to download.)

North Carolina Slave Narratives – Part 1

North Carolina Slave Narratives – Part 2