Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember (1988) edited by James Mellon 460 pp.
In the mid-30s, with former slaves becoming a fast-diminishing group, the Federal Writers Project sent interviewers out to get their stories. Mellon took the transcripts and fashioned this profound and fascinating book from them. He chose 29 slave narratives to run full length, and assembled another nine sections, called Voices, in which he gives brief quotations from a number of speakers on a given theme.
These people speak for all of America's slaves, and their keen memories of plantation life will move any reader who knows even the bare basics of history. There is a lot of wisdom in their words. Mellon saved some of the best material he had for the last few pages, in a Voices section called The Younger Generation, Reflections and Conclusions. I'll quote two selections that made me stop and reread.
Delicia Patterson said:
I think the time will soon be when people won't be looked on as regards to whether you are black or white, but all on the same equality. I may not live to see it, but it is on the way. Many don't believe it, but I know it.
(Quite a conclusion from an elderly former slave, speaking during the Depression.)
Cornelius Holmes told his interviewer:
Though de slave question am settled, de race question will be wid us always, until Jesus comes de second time. It's in our politics, in our justice courts, on our highways, on our sidewalks, in our manners, in our 'ligion, and in our thoughts, all de day and every day.
De Good Marster pity both sides. In de end, will it be settled by hate or by de policy of love your neighbor as you do yourself? Who knows. Dere's not much promise, at de 'mediate moment, for de risin' generation of either side, and I means no disrespect to you.