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April 21, 2018

Portraits of African American Ex-Slaves in the Late 1930s

These portraits of African American men and women from locations in Texas were taken in the late 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) of the Work Progress Administration (WPA). They are part of a group of 500, together with more than 2,000 first-person accounts of the experience of being a slave. People from Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island are also represented.

Most of the photos show individuals standing or sitting outside; a few are posed with or next to personal possessions; several group portraits are included. Some photographs also depict houses in the background or foreground. Additional images depict objects relating to slavery in Alabama, these include, among others, a “bell rack” restraint from the Federal Museum of Mobile and photographs of sales receipts issued to slave owners.

Federal Writers’ Project interviews with former slaves began as early as 1936 with initial efforts concentrated primarily in Florida. In 1937 an official project was organized and placed under the direction of folklorist John A. Lomax who coordinated and expanded data collecting activities throughout the South. The program continued up through the Spring of 1939. Photographs of former slaves were often taken at the time of the interviews.

Will Adams

Mary Armstrong, Houston

John Barker, Abilene

Charlotte Beverly

William Green, San Antonio

Francis Black, Texarkana

Betty Bormer, Ft. Worth

James Singleton Black, 83 years old

Jas. Boyd, Waco

Monroe Brackins, Hondo

Wes Brady, Marshall

Donaville Broussard, Beaumont

Josie Brown, Woodville (Beaumont)

Zek Brown, Ft. Worth

Ellen Butler, Beaumont

Martha Bunton, Austin

Annie Caborne, Marshall

James Cape, Ft. Worth

Lucy Chambers, Karnack

Mother Anne Clark, El Paso

Valmar Cormier, Beaumont

Elijah Cox

Adeline Cunningham

Julia Daniels, Dallas

Katie Darling, Marshall

Campbell Davis, Karnack

Ann Edwards, Ft. Worth

Lorenza Ezzell, Beaumont

Betty Farrow, Ft. Worth

Rose Fay, Bracketville

Lewis Fowler, Ft. Worth

Orelia Alexia Franks, Beaumont

Hattie Gates, Waco

Priscilla Gibson, Jasper

Andrew Goodman, Dallas

James Green, San Antonio

Rev. Bill Green, San Antonio

Pauline Grice, Ft. Worth

William Hamilton, Ft. Worth

Felix Haywood, San Antonio

Albert Hill, Ft. Worth

William Homer, Ft. Worth

Scott Hooper, Ft. Worth

Mose Hursey, Dallas

Charles Hurt, Ft. Worth

C.J. Jackson, Marshall

James Jackson, Ft. Worth

Martin Jackson, San Antonio

John James, Ft. Worth

James Johnson, Dallas

Mary Ellen Johnson, Dallas

Lewis Jones, Ft. Worth

Ben Kinchelow, Hondo

Mary Kincheon, Austin

Mary Kindred, Beaumont

Johanna Lesley, Bracketville

Louise Mathews, Ft. Worth

James Martin

Bill McRay, Beaumont

C.B. McRay, Beaumont

(Photos: Library of Congress; see more of the photographs at here)


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