A Professionally Written Slaves Essay Example
TOPIC: The contradiction between various standpoints on slavery revealed in interviews.
- What makes slavery as such unnatural?
- What do Federal Writers have to say about the phenomenon of slavery?
- Under what perspectives do the WPA interviews shed light on slavery?
THESIS STATEMENT: We all know that slavery was put to an end as the result of the Civil War when the Southern states were subsided and forced to drop the ill practice of slavery and to start gradually getting rid of the skin color bias. However, there is still a lot to discuss and investigate regarding slavery before we can come to any unanimous conclusions.
- Overview of the Federal Writers Project
- WPA interviews dedicated to slavery
- William Ballard interview
- Walter Calloway interview
- Mary Reynolds interview
Throughout world history, various phenomena seem practical and natural at a particular point in time and find wide application only to appall the later generations. Slavery is arguably the most graphic example of such tendency that one can think of. Today, we have developed our sense of morality to the point where we see how unnatural slavery is, and there is no person who could unconditionally condone slavery or stay neutral about this topic. A great many people find former slaves among their great-grandparents. Others encounter instances of slavery even in our enlightened age of today. Most, however, agree that the very notion of slavery is wrong and that one person cannot be forcefully put into servicing other person's needs. Dictionaries unanimously define slavery as the original form of exploitation of one human being by another, where the exploited person becomes the property of the exploiter and yet another tool for producing material goods and services. One may continue this thought by stating that the adoption of slavery forces the exploited person or group of people to degrade from the status of an individual to the status of a thing or a commodity. Historically, the practice of slavery has done exactly that to millions upon millions of people: It not only prevented them from living happy lives and downright ruined these lives, but it literally killed them. So, what do we – the people of today – know about slavery? It is true that we learn about it in history classes at schools and a lot of serious works have been written to investigate all aspects of this phenomenon. We all know that slavery was put to an end as the result of the Civil War, when the Southern states were subsided and forced to drop the ill practice of slavery and to start gradually getting rid of the skin color bias. However, there is still a lot to discuss and investigate regarding slavery before we can come to any unanimous conclusions. One of the most significant institutions aimed at facilitating the resolution of this historical issue is the Works Project Administration (WPA), started by the Federal Government.
Overview of the Federal Writers Project
Before we start to analyze the information we have concerning the phenomenon of slavery, we must ensure that the sources from which get this information are indeed credible. In other words, before analyzing the information, we must analyze its sources. The aforementioned Works Project Administration was started by the Federal Government for the purpose of stimulating the national economy by providing jobs to the unemployed people. WPA had a number of branches and subdivisions, among which was the Federal Writers Project (FWP). FWP’s main sphere of interest was to investigate various issues concerning both national and regional history of the United States of America with heavy focus on the evidence collected directly from eyewitnesses of various particular events and tendencies. To conduct all this work, WPA has employed a numerous team of unemployed scholars, writers, and other artists whose job would be to travel across the country, find the eyewitnesses of particular events, and interview them. The interviewers have found out that one of the most engaging topics for the respondents to discuss turned out to be slavery. It is worth mentioning that the time period in question is the second half of the 1930s – the time when a considerable number of eyewitnesses of slavery and the Civil War were still alive but already quite senile – so, naturally, their recollections of the long-gone events could be somewhat clouded. This is the reason why every interview should be viewed as a subjective piece. Among other information that the interviewers inquire about, there are always the respondent’s education level, skills and needs (both professional and personal), political standpoint, religious and other beliefs, and, of course, their recollection of the historical events that they got the chance to witness. Today, this whole bunk of work is collectively known as the WPA interviews. They represent a critically significant source of information to those who wish to investigate various aspects of the everyday life of slaves before and during the Civil War. Obviously, when it comes to the Civil war and slavery, most of the relevant interviews are those taken from people who lived or had lived in the Southern states and had been slaves. They talk about their owners, their relationships with their owners, their experiences as slaves, and the outcomes of these experiences. The importance of the WPA interviews as a source of information on this topic is determined by the variety of presented information and by how the perspective may change from one interview to another.
WPA interviews dedicated to slavery
The former slaves share a lot of “unexpected details, unspoken feelings, and hidden meanings” in the stories they tell. They, however, all agree that they all had to experience brutality while they were slaves. This brutality did not only come from their owners, but from the society as a whole, since slaves were from the earliest age trained to think of themselves as second-rate people whose sole purpose was to serve for the happiness of the supreme white race. The WPA interviews encompass the amount of as many as 2,300 respondents whose stories differ in details but also share a lot of similarities. These former slaves talk about all aspects of their former slave lives, including their relations with their masters and among themselves (including gender relations), religious practices, material life, etc. It all comes down to what being black in the South was like at the time and how black people had to survive it and to defend their natural and human rights.
William Ballard interview
This interview is particularly interesting because it explores all the broad variety of forms that a master-slave relationship could take under different circumstances and in different reasons. It was taken from William Ballard, the resident of Winnsboro, Fairfield County, South Carolina, on the 10th of June 1937. He was one of the several siblings in a family that belonged to the famous Winnsboro landowner Jim Aiken. The latter was one of the most powerful people in the area, because the very land on which the town of Winnsboro was built belonged to him, along with seven large plantations, all employing slave labor. Given all his might, Aiken did not have the reputation of a cruel man, according to Ballard: “He was good to us and give us plenty to eat, and good quarters to live in.” He also organized a “sick-house” to treat the slaves’ wounds and sicknesses. Ballard also recalls Mrs. Aiken as a very kind and generous woman who not only never mistreated slaves bit often attended to their needs. He could not, nonetheless, say the same about Jim Aiken's son, Dr. Aiken.