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Weren't No Good Times: Personal Accounts of Slavery in Alabama

Horace Randall Williams, editor

John F. Blair, Publisher
$15.95 paperback
5 x 7 ½  
191 pages
Published in 2004

From 1936 to 1938, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, hired writers, editors, and researchers to interview as many former slaves as they could find and document their lives during slavery. More than 2,000 former slaves in 17 states were interviewed. With Weren’t No Good Times, John F. Blair, Publisher, continues its Real Voices, Real History™ series with selections from 46 of the 125 interviews now archived in the Library of Congress that were earmarked as interviews with Alabama slaves. Also included is an excerpt from Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom, a memoir written by Louis Hughes. This selection reveals a different aspect of the Alabama slavery experience, because Hughes was hired out by his master to work at the Confederate salt works during the Civil War.

Alabama was a frontier state. From the beginning, its economy was built on cotton and slavery. That its laws were fashioned to accommodate both becomes obvious when related through the experiences of Alabama’s slaves. A year after it obtained statehood, Alabama had a slave population of 41,879, as compared to 85,451 whites and 571 free blacks. By 1860, the slave population had swelled to 435,080, while there were 536,271 whites and 2,690 free blacks. When emancipation came to the slaves, Alabama’s slave owners lost an estimated $200 million of capital.

These narratives will help readers understand slavery by hearing the voices of the people who lived it.


“Compiled and edited by Horace Randall Williams, Weren't No Good Times is an anthology of 46 of the 125 interviews of former Alabama slaves, conducted from 1936 to 1938, presented with the express purpose of thoroughly documenting and creating a record of life during slavery in the southern state of Alabama. A powerful primary source, presenting individual voices with a loud and clear message of what slavery itself was truly like, Weren't No Good Times has the absolute highest recommendation and is a must for school and community libraries and American History and Black History reference collections and reading lists.”
Midwest Book Review