Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Women on the North American Canadian Frontier in 19C - by Dutch-born Cornelius Krieghoff 1815-1872

Cornelius Krieghoff (Dutch-born Canadian painter, 1815-1872) Crossing the Saint Lawrence from Levis to Quebec on a Sleigh

Cornelius Krieghoff 1815-1872 was born in Amsterdam, spent his formative years in Bavaria, & studied in Rotterdam & Dusseldorf. He traveled to the United States in the 1830s, where he served in the Army for a few years. He married a young woman from Quebec & moved to the Montreal area, where he painted genre paintings of the people & countryside of Canada. According to Charles C. Hill, Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery, "Krieghoff was the first Canadian artist to interpret in oils... the splendour of our waterfalls, & the hardships & daily life of people living on the edge of new frontiers" Krieghoff moved to Quebec from 1854-1863, before he came to Chicago to live with his daughter.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ex-slave Mariah Snyder, about 89, Remembers 19C America

Mariah related, "Master Sam had a colored man on the place that give us our A B C's. I'se still got mine, but warn't ever able to get any farther. There was a big pine arbor on the place where we 'tended preaching. A white preacher, Rollin, preached to us and the white fo'ks too...There was no funeral services for the Negroes when they died."

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves.
Photo from 20th century.

Monday, November 28, 2016

19C Southern Emancipated Slave Woman by William Aiken Walker 1839-1921

Freed Female Slave by William Aiken Walker (American genre artist, 1839-1921 best known for depicting poor black emancipated slaves in the post-Reconstruction American South.) 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Slave Narratives: Process & Problems

Twenty-Eight Fugitives Escaping from the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  From Still, William, The Underground Rail Road... (Philadelphia, 1883).

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives. This collection contains over 20,000 pages of typewritten interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, both Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in Louisiana began to document the life stories of former American slaves. Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934. In the midst of the Depression between 1936 and 1939, these narratives continued to be collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They were assembled and microfilmed in 1941, as the 17-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. The collection includes photos of the interviewees taken in the 1930s as well as their full interviews. Those whose voices are included in the collection ranged in age from one to fifty at the time of emancipation in 1865; more than two-thirds were over eighty when they were interviewed.

The problem that I have with these interviews is the language as reported by the interviewers, but I do not retranscribe it into "correct" English, no matter how much it tempts me.The Library of Congress explains on their website, "The narratives usually involve some attempt by the interviewers to reproduce in writing the spoken language of those interviewed...The interviewers were writers, not professionals trained in the phonetic transcription of the 1930s, when the interviews took place, white representations of black speech already had an ugly history of entrenched stereotype dating back at least to the early nineteenth century." What most white interviewers assumed to be "the usual" patterns of their informants' speech was unavoidably influenced by the 1930s preconceptions and stereotypes of the interviewers themselves. The result, as the historian Lawrence W. Levine has written, "is a mélange of accuracy and fantasy, of sensitivity and stereotype, of empathy and racism" that may sometimes be offensive to today's readers. Yet whatever else they may be, the representations of speech in the narratives are a pervasive and forceful reminder that these documents are not only a record of a time that was already history when they were created: they are themselves irreducibly historical, the products of a particular time and particular places..."