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Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember: Personal Accounts of Slavery in South Carolina

Belinda Hurmence

John F. Blair, Publisher
5 x 7 1/2  
135 pages
Published in 1989

During the 1930s, the Federal Writers’ Project undertook the task of locating former slaves and recording their oral histories. The more than ten thousand pages of interviews with over two thousand former slaves were filed in the Library of Congress, where they were known to scholars and historians but few others.

From this storehouse of information, Belinda Hurmence has chosen twenty-seven narratives from the twelve hundred typewritten pages of interviews with 284 former South Carolina slaves. The result is a moving, eloquent, and often surprising firsthand account of the last years of slavery and first years of freedom. The former slaves describe the clothes they wore, the food they ate, the houses they lived in, the work they did, and the treatment they received. They give their impressions of Yankee soldiers, the Klan, their masters, and their newfound freedom.

In Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember, Hurmence makes accessible to the casual reader what many scholars and historians have long known to be a great source of our nation’s history.


“A fantastic book that reveals the details of slave life through personal interviews of former slaves. Throw away the history books, forget what you learned in social studies, this is real. The book is printed using the dialects of the interviewees, so you almost feel as if you can hear the person speaking. A great read. Difficult to put it down once you pick it up.” 
—Amazon.com reviewer