Slavery and the Making of AmericaPhoto of a group slaves on a Beaufort, South Carolina plantation
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The Slave Experience: Responses to Enslavement
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Personal Narratives Responses to Enslavement
to the audio recording of this interview.
Personal Narratives

Interviewee: Laura Smalley
Interviewer: John Henry Faulk

JHF: Well, did the slaves ever try a slip away, they ever try to run off?

LS: No. Not none on, not, not none on the place where we was. I never heard them say they run off over there. Run off. Other places I heared them stay in the woods, and ah, so long until they wear the clothes off them, slip up. Now I heard mama say when she was a girl, when she was a girl, you know, she, she, she because she brought from Mississippi, when she was a girl, they'd ah, they'd one old woman run off. She did run off. She did run off. They beat her so she run off-and every night she slip home and somebody have her something to eat. Something to eat. And she'd get that vittles and go on back in the woods. Go on back in the woods. And they would-you know just a, they'd tell her, the other, you know, because you see, I don't know what they name, 'See so and so? Ever see them? Say, 'No.' Well, you tell them if they come home we ain't going whup them. We ain't going whup them if they come home. Well, that be all the way know they'd come. Said once that a man stayed in the woods so long, until his hair long on them like a dog.

JHF: [laugh]

LS: On them. You know, just growed up, you know, and stayed in the woods. Just stayed in the woods.

Unidentified woman interviewer: Hmm.

LS: And they couldn't get them out.

JHF: Well, did any of them run off and get plum free, where they, did you ever hear of-

LS: I heard talk of them.

JHF: -- your mother talking about them?

LS: Heard them talking about they going off, you know. Going off to places where they free.??? what I heard her say, I didn't know that. She said just like see, be some white people, you know, with some nigga come along, you know, and he'd just get them off, you know. She take them, carry them off where he wouldn't be, tell them he wouldn't be no slave, or wouldn't be beat up, you know. And carry them off that a way.

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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