No Man's Yoke on My Shoulders

No Man's Yoke on My Shoulders


Edited by Horace Randall Williams

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“One day, I went to the slave market and watched em barter off po’ niggers lak tey was hogs,” saud George Lycurgas, as recalled by his son, Edward. “Whole families sold together, and some was split—mother gone to one marster and father and children gone to others. They’d bring a slave out on the platform and open his mouth, pound his chest, make him harden his muscles so the buyer could see what he was gittin’.” The ex-slaves in No Man’s Yoke on My Shoulders speak of a Florida that no longer exists and can barely be imagined today. Now the fourth most populous state in the country, Florida has more than 100 times the people it did in 1860, just before the Civil War. And it was only 40 years removed from Spanish rule. In the 1930s, the Federal Writers’ Project dispatched interviewers to record the recollections of former slaves, many in their 80s or 90s. Only one percent of the 2,000-plus transcripts collected in the Library of Congress told the stories of people who had experienced bondage in Florida. That makes the narratives of former Florida slaves in this volume doubly precious. Readers will get a glimpse into the lives of these rare survivors as they told their stories at the height of the Great Depression, a time many found little better than the slave days.

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Horace Randall Williams describes himself as “among the last of Alabamians - black or white - who have memories of picking cotton by hand not for a few minutes to see how it felt but because I needed the few dollars I would get for a day’s hard labor under a hot sun.” He was the founder and for many years the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch Project. He also edited Weren’t No Good Times: Personal Accounts of Slavery in Alabama.