Slave Culture
A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project [3 volumes]
by Spencer Crew, Lonnie Bunch, and Clement Price, Editors
May 2014, 1124pp, 7x10
3 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-0086-3
$309, £238, 269€, A424
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-0087-0
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Enslaved families made a concerted effort to pass along their history.

For the first time, the WPA Slave Narratives are organized by theme, making it easier to examine—and understand—specific aspects of slave life and culture.

There is no better way to appreciate history than to experience it through the eyes of those who lived it. Slave Culture: A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project brings together the memories of the last generation of enslaved African Americans gathered through interviews conducted between 1936 and 1938. This three-volume work stands apart from previous Slave Narrative collections in that it organizes the narratives thematically, bringing the rich tapestry of slave culture to life in a fresh way. Within each thematic area, multiple excerpts span time, gender, and geography. An introductory essay for each theme and a contextual explanation for each narrative help readers draw lessons from this vast collection, while an introduction to the work explains the Works Progress Administration’s Slave Narrative project—illuminating still another era in American history.


  • Provides topically arranged access to views expressed in the slave narratives, something never done before
  • Offers students both contextual analysis and primary source material so they can draw their own conclusions about various aspects of slavery
  • Creates a personalized understanding of the challenges that accompanied enslavement
  • Allows various populations, such as previously enslaved women, to speak bluntly about the particular difficulties they faced under slavery
Spencer Crew, PhD, is Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University. His published works include Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration 1915–1940 and Black Life in Secondary Cities: A Comparative Analysis of the Black Communities of Camden and Elizabeth, N.J., 1860–1920. He is also coauthor of The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden and Unchained Memories: Readings From The Slave Narratives. Crew holds a doctorate in history from Rutgers University.

Lonnie Bunch is the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution. His published works include Call the Lost Dream Back: Essays on History, Race and Museums and Picturing the Promise: The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington. He is coauthor of The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden and The Smithsonian's America: An Exhibition on American History and Culture. Bunch holds a master's degree from American University.

Clement Price, PhD, is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History and director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers University. His publications include "History and Memory: Why it Matters That We Remember" in Baltimore ‘68: Riots and Rebirth in an American City; "Break Every Yoke, Let the Oppressed Go Free! African Americans and the Civil War," in The Positive Community; and "The Foundations of Contemporary African American Life and History," in Mixing Metaphors: The Aesthetic, the Social and the Political in African American Art, Works from the Bank of America Collection, Howard University Gallery of Art Brochure. Price holds a doctorate in history from Rutgers University.


"The editors have created a solid resource for students by organizing the narratives into categories, using selections that focus on particular reflections of the enslaved life. . . . This is a valuable contribution to United States history. Slave Culture is well-written and organized; it is ideal for the high school and undergraduate student. Upper-level college students and researchers will find some use for this book as well."—ARBA, August 1, 2014

"Although some aspects of slavery remained consistent across history, readers should keep in mind that this set represents only a snapshot in time, namely the last days of slavery as related seven decades after the Civil War, mostly by people who were children in the 1860s. Nonetheless, the power of their stories is not diminished. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers."—Choice, November 6, 2014

"What the editors do in Slave Culture that is so valuable is to sort the material in a way that makes it easy to locate testimonials about the varied aspects of life under slavery. . . . The result is an easily searchable reference work that puts primary source information at the researcher’s fingertips. While many incarnations of the Federal Slave Narratives exist, few are as intuitively easy to use as the three volumes of Slave Culture. Slavery in America has spawned a whole school of historical inquiry, and countless books on the topic. Few of those secondary sources speak with the power of the words spoken by those who lived as slaves, chronicled by the federal government in the depths of a deep national tragedy. Slave Culture does an outstanding job of presenting their testimony in a way that is poignant, easy to use, and a stark reminder of what the Lost Cause was really all about."—Carolina Chronicles Magazine, July 10, 2015
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