A former slave recounts his time in Wisconsin
Hale and Hearty at 119: Missouri, St. Louis. Ex-slave stories, Charles Gabriel Anderson.
Between 1936 and 1938, the WPA Federal Writers' Project (FWP) sent unemployed writers in 17 states to interview ordinary people for a collection of life histories. Initially, only four states (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia) were involved in collecting the stories of former slaves, but John Lomax, the National Advisor on Folklore and Folkways for the FWP, soon directed writers in the remaining states to carry out interviews with ex-slaves as well. Federal writers were given instructions on what kinds of questions to ask and how to capture their dialects, though white representations of black speech had a long and ugly history of entrenched stereotyping. This narrative, from Charles Gabriel Anderson of St. Louis, Missouri, recounts his time in Wisconsin, where he came after being wounded in the war. Anderson then became a barber, first in Madison and then in Dodgeville, before moving on to Iowa and eventually Missouri. His narrative runs from page 20 through 24 in this collection.