Slavery and the Making of AmericaDramatic re-enactment of a slave in uniform
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Legal Rights & Gov't
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight You be the Judge Personal Narratives Original Docs
Personal Narratives Legal Rights & Gov't
Photo of Wallace Quarterman
Photo of Wallace Quarterman
Credit: Library of Congress
'I wouldn't want an office' - Wallace Quarterman
to the original interview with Wallace Quarterman.
Personal Narratives

Interviewee: Wallace Quarterman
Interviewer: Zora Neale Hurston [with Alan Lomax]

WQ: So we had a big breaking up right there, you know, after it. That's right.

AL: [says something inaudible] What about afterwards? You know when the, when the colored people had the jailer and everything? Tell us about that.

WQ: Yes, we, everything been in we hand. But they couldn't control the colored people. [thumbs washtub] They do so much mischief until we have to go on back and to the white people we had education. You know when a man ain't got no education he ain't got nothing. All we tried to show them they wouldn't they just kill one another and going on. So we had to nominate democrat over they head. They didn't like it the many got killed by nominate the democrat but we couldn't help it, to stop them so much killing. You understand?

ZNH: Yes.

WQ: The law come in protecting them, you know they wouldn't [yell (?)] at the colored people.

ZNH: Yeah.

WQ: At all ma'am, at all.

ZNH: Mhmm.

WQ: Yes. And that's the way they come in protect them. But we had we own lawyers, judge and everything, well they just would, run everything in the dust,

ZNH: Well, did you ever have a office? Did you, would you ever, did you ever hold a office?

WQ: I wouldn't want an office.

ZNH: Oh, yeah.

WQ: No ma'am. I'm a man. I wouldn't want an office. An office ??? kind of thing.

ZNH: Uhmm.

WQ: You understand. You got to go and please the, the fellow you know.

ZNH: Yes.

WQ: You got to stop do what God said. You don't go please that fellow.

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) sponsored a federal project dedicated to chronicling the experience of slavery as remembered by former slaves and their descendants. Their stories were recorded and transcribed, and this site presents dozens of select sound recordings and hundreds of transcriptions from the interviews. Beyond the content of the interviews, little to no biographical information is available on the individuals whose interviews appear here.

printer-friendly formatemail this page to a friend
About the Series K-12 Learning Feedback [an error occurred while processing this directive]Support PBS