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"A person's voice has always held more power over us than words alone."
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
John F. Blair, Publisher's "Real Voices, Real History™" series started with the WPA slave narratives. During the Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt employed jobless writers and researchers to capture thousands of voices of former slaves spread throughout the United States. The WPA eventually collected more than two thousand narratives from seventeen states, cataloging them in the Library of Congress as Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the U.S. from Interviews with Former Slaves. Though the WPA performed a major service by collecting these narratives, the stories languished in the Library of Congress for several decades until the 1970s when George Rawick put the narratives into a form that was more accessible to the public, entitled The American Slave: A Composite Biography.
Belinda Hurmence was among the first to realize that many readers were still intimidated by the multivolume sets of slave narratives made available by Rawick. Culling the narratives collected by the WPA and others, she edited her first concise volume of slave narratives, My Folks Don't Want Me To Talk About Slavery, providing insight into the lives of former slaves in North Carolina. Following the positive reaction she received from the public, she published two more volumes of slave narratives from South Carolina and Virginia. Her books have proved perennial bestsellers for John F. Blair, Publisher.
Finding that readers were hungry for that special voice the former slaves provided, John F. Blair, Publisher, started exploring the idea of expanding their line of slave narratives, and of expanding the idea of history told by the individuals who personally experienced it. Since then, John F. Blair, Publisher, has published 12 total volumes of slave narratives, three volumes from the Cherokees, and four other Real Voices, Real History collections. John F. Blair, Publisher, continues to expand the Real Voices, Real History series to this day. The newest volume Chained to the Land, edited by Lynette Ater Tanner, will be published in spring of 2014.