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
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Personal Narratives Legal Rights & Gov't
'I ain't never knowed but the one man, one man that tried to hold office ...' - Laura Smalley
Listen to the audio recording of this interview.
Personal Narratives

Interviewee: Laura Smalley
Interviewer: Unidentified Woman

INT: Well, ah, right after the Civil War, well, they used to, the Negroes used to hold office in this town, didn't they?

LS: That's what they say.

INT: That's what they, that's what is written in the history books. [hush sound] That the Negroes used to hold office until they had this big, had a big fight about something, I don't know just what. Then after that they get along [and that they never could (?)]--

LS: No. That was here in Hempstead. No, that wasn't over, over our side. Well, you knowed I ain't never knowed but the one man, one man that tried to hold office and that is, Handy Smith.

INT: Ahha.

LS: Big old black man, he tried to hold office, you know, over there--
INT: Ahha.

LS: --and ah, but he slept too much. And they take him and had him on the [grass (?)], you know, and he sleep. Just slept. And let him go.

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.

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