Completing this assignment will enable you to assess the ways in which enslavement shaped nearly all aspects of southern life as well as

examine the manner in which African Americans resisted enslavement.

Keep these points in mind as you listen to the interviews: the formerly enslaved interviewees are most often being interviewed by white people and there is a fairly active historical debate about the degree to which the use of white interviewers skewed responses from the subjects, as this was a period in which white-on-black violence and economic reprisals were rarely met with legal consequences. In short, some subjects may have not been as forthcoming because they feared being harmed for speaking ill of whites.


Follow the instructions to complete this assignment:

  • Listen to interviews of formerly enslaved Americans. You must listen to at least two of interviews below (all the interviews under a particular name if there more than one of that subject):
    • Interview with Sarah Garner, Virginia, May 7, 1935
      • (part 1 of 4) – Transcript
      • (part 3 of 4) – Transcript
      • (part 4 of 4) – Transcript
    • Interview with Samuel Polite, St. Helena Island, South Carolina, June 27, 1932
      • (part 1 of 2) – Transcript
      • (part 2 of 2) – Transcript


  • The formerly enslaved Americans offer testimony on a variety of different topics related to enslavement. Write an essay using the readings from The Half Has Never Been Told and Unfinished Nation that exams the similarities and differences between what you learned about slavery from the secondary literature and what the subjects in the interviews said about the topic.
    • Possible topics:
      • Childhood enslavement
      • Abuse of enslaved women
      • Emancipation
      • Enslaved families
      • Migrations of enslaved peoples
      • Gullah culture
      • Pidgin languages
      • Abuse of enslaved peoples
      • Enslavers
      • Creole dialect
      • Religion among the enslaved
      • Whippings
      • Diet of enslaved peoples
      • Field work
      • Clothing
      • Plantation life for enslaved workers
      • Education
    • Your submission should include a brief summary (no more than two paragraphs) of your thoughts about why and how the institution of slavery became so firmly entrenched in southern life in the three decades prior to the Civil War.
      • Was this growth inevitable? Why or why not?
      • If you answer yes, be sure to explain why it was inevitable. If you answer no, explain why it wasn’t and what developments you believe could have changed the course of events.
      • Consider your readings/assignment from Module 8 – What role did the “racialization” of work in the North play in white America’s acceptance of slavery? What were similarities in the viewpoints of both northern and southern whites?


  • Format your assignment with 12-point, Times-New Roman font, double spaced, 1” margins.
  • Your submission should be at least 700 words long.

Edward E. Baptist,  “Chapter 4 – Left Hand: 1805-1861”  and  “Chapter 5 – Tongues: 1819-1824,”

in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014): 111-44.

Enslaved labor