Thelma Jennings is Professor Emeritus of American History at Middle Tennessee State University and author of The Nashville Convention: Southern Movement for Unity, 1848-1850. She is currently working on a book-length study of the African-American bondwomen's perception of the slave experience.
1. George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! or Slaves Without Masters (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960, orig. pub. 1859), 18; C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chestnut's Civil War (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981), 168; Deborah Gray White, Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1985), 28-46. White discusses the Jezebel image of black women. For other analyses of the Jezebel complex see: Bell Hooks, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (Boston: South End Press, 1981), 52; Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race and Class (New York: Random House, 1981) 176-77; Gerda Lerner, ed., Black Women in While America: A Documentary History (New York: Random House, 1972), 163-64; Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 150-51; Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 292; Mary Frances Berry and John W. Blassingame, Long Memory: The Black Experience in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 115-16. Chancellor William Harper, "Harper's Memoir on Slavery," De Bow's Review of the Southern and Western States, 1850 (New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1967), 499; Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey in the Back Country, 1853-1854 (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970, orig. pub. 1860), 153. For a discussion of slave illegitimacy, see Herbert G. Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925 (New York: Random House, Inc., 1976), 73-75, 78-79.
2. Linda Brent, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. by L. Maria Child (New York: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1973, orig. pub. 1861), 79.
3. Anne Firor Scott, Making the Invisible Woman Visible (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 178.
4. George P. Rawick, ed. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, 41 vols., Series 1, Supplement Series 1 and 2 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972, 1977, 1979); Charles L. Perdue, Jr., Thomas E. Borden, and Robert K. Phillips, eds., Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976); John B. Cade, "Out of the Mouths of Ex-Slaves," Journal of Negro History 20 (July 1935): 294-337.
Restriction to female ex-slaves was based on the desire to let the women speak for themselves. To my knowledge, no one has done a study on slave women using primarily the female narratives as primary source material, although Deborah Gray White relied heavily on WPA interviews with female ex-slaves in her recent work. Ar'n't I a Woman?. On p. 24 White notes, "I found them the richest, indeed almost the only black female source dealing with female slavery."
The idea for age restriction originated with Norman Yetman, Life Under the "Peculiar Institution": Selections from the Slave Narrative Collection (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1970), 5. As Yetman points out, the quality of the narratives of older ex-slaves is generally better than those of younger ones. My primary reason for age restriction is that interviews of older ex-slaves are based to a much greater extent on first-hand experience. Sometimes an interviewee's age is not given; in such a case, content of the narrative had to provide a basis for judgement. In this category, a few narratives had to be eliminated because of poor quality—brevity, senility of interviewee, and so on. Likewise, two interviewees who were age eleven in 1865 were included because of the exceptional quality of the narratives.
For a discussion of how differences in sex and race of interviewer affected responses of the informants, see John W. Blassingame, ed., Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews and Autobiographies (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), lii.
5. The sample of twentieth-century...