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Gelatin-silver photographic print and narrative of Zek Brown, Ft. Worth, Texas, June 14, 1937

Eighty-year-old Zek Brown of Fort Worth, Texas, recalled his childhood on a Tennessee farm where his family was enslaved. He vividly remembered the day his former master announced emancipation. Brown came to Texas as an accidental stowaway on a covered wagon. In his interview he described the difficulties emancipated African Americans faced after the Civil War.

Prints and Photographs Division; Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

I don’t ‘member when de war start but I ‘member when it stop and massa call all us together and tell us we’s no more slaves. Him talk lots ‘bout what It mean and how it am diff’rent….He say if us stay dere’ll be wages or we can share crop and everybody stay.

Gelatin-silver photographic print of Zek Brown Narrative of Zek Brown I don’t ‘member when de war start but I ‘member when it stop and massa call all us together and tell us we’s no more slaves. Him talk lots ‘bout what It mean and how it am diff’rent….He say if us stay dere’ll be wages or we can share crop and everybody stay.

Voices of Slavery - 1

More than 2,000 African Americans who were enslaved before the Civil War shared their memories with interviewers from the Slave Narratives Project, a New Deal-era initiative that employed journalists and scholars during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The interviewers for this oral history project were largely white Southerners, and their biases and perspectives—as well as the speakers’ own caution—influenced the edited transcripts. Despite these limiting factors, the narratives preserve vivid memories of enslavement and emancipation.

Learn more about the Slave Narratives Project on the Library of Congress’s website by clicking here.