Alvin Henry

Spring 2011
  • Graduate
Alvin Henry
Literature and Social Thought
Oral Histories from the Descendants of Former Slaves

This study collects the Oral Histories from the descendants of former
slaves. This is the first study that directly engages with the
children and grandchildren of former slaves. The Oral Histories
qualitatively capture how both the experience and the memory of
slavery have permeated into the lives of African Americans whose
parents and grandparents were former slaves. Their unique perspective
of slavery, through first-hand accounts or family stories, allow
scholars for the first time to (1) parse how gender shaped experiences
of slavery and how gender shaped the transmission and uptake of
stories about slavery, (2) to understand how the trauma of slavery was
passed on to future generation and what role slavery plays in the
lives of the descendants of former slaves, and (3) to compare the Oral
Histories of the descendants of former slaves to the WPA Slave
Narratives to discover what the slave narratives failed to capture and
how memories and attitudes towards slavery shifted over time by former
slaves. The project aims to deposit these Oral Histories in the
Bancroft Library’s Regional Oral History Office (or another suitable
library) for archival purposes and to post the Oral Histories online
for public viewing and enrichment.