The Library of Congress’ free Slave Narratives collection encompass more than 2,300 first-person accounts from former slaves, 500 photos of the interviewees, as well as administrative files. The narratives were recorded in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writer’s Project, and they reveal important ancestry and family history clues such as ages, places of residence and family members’ and slaveowners’ names.
Even if your ancestor wasn’t interviewed or named in the interviews, you’ll get important insight into his or her experiences. If you know where an enslaved ancestor lived, look for narratives from people who lived in or near the same area. The interviews also capture African-American culture and folklore in the interviewees’ own words.
Use the links on the collection home page to browse the interviews by the interviewee’s state and last name. You also can scroll to the top of the page and use the Search box to keyword-search for names, places or other terms in the catalog descriptions of the interviews.
Ancestry.com has the same records in its database U.S., Interviews with Former Slaves, 1936-1938. Thanks to volunteer indexers, this database offers a flexible search, with options such as interviewee’s name, birth date and place, places lived, family members’ names, interview location, parents’ places lived or a keyword (such as the slaveowner’s name). You also can browse by state and surname, similar to the options on the Library of Congress site.