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We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard: Personal Accounts of Slavery in Virginia

Belinda Hurmence, editor

John F. Blair, Publisher
$10.95 paperback
5 x 7 ½   
103 pages
Published in 1994

In the 1930s, the Federal Writers’ Project undertook a massive effort at gathering the oral testimony of former slaves. Those ex-slaves were in their declining years by the time of the Great Depression, but Elizabeth Sparks, Elige Davison, and others like them nonetheless provided a priceless record of life under the yoke: where slaves lived, how they were treated, what they ate, how they worked, how they adjusted to freedom.

Here, Belinda Hurmence presents the interviews of 21 former Virginia slaves. This is a companion volume to Hurmence’s popular collections of North Carolina and South Carolina slave narrativesMy Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk About Slaveryand Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember.


We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard is a quick read, but it gives ample food for thought. During the Great Depression, writers interviewed surviving ex-slaves and this book is a collection of their stories. Although the reason for the inclusion of the specific stories in the book is that all lived in Virginia at one point in their lives. The feelings shared pertaining to emancipation were quite interesting, and like many who are survivors of abuse, some of these tragic people seemed to feel some attachment to their abusers (slave owners.) Their indifference to the Civil War was unexpected, and their lack of direction after emancipation is something not often written about. The shame that we experience as a previously slave-owning culture is unearthed in the process of reading this little book, and I somehow felt as if I were doing something wrong by reading it. I don't think I'll ever forget it.”

“Wow! This book is eye-opening. If you think you understand slavery read this book. I thought I did—I didn't. Real interviews from former slaves. It's a short book. I'm glad I read it.”

—Amazon.com reviewers