A recent book by Shane White and Graham White, "The Sounds of
Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons,
and Speech", attempts to analyze the sounds of American slave
culture. The accompanying CD includes 18 cuts, mostly dating from the
1930s. The authors note that these selections are "about as close as
we are ever going to get" to sounds from slaves themselves. (p. xxii)
Given that recording technology had been around for decades by the
1930s, is this true? Are any lister's aware of earlier recordings
that might shed light on the "field calls, work songs, sermons, and
other sounds and utterances of slaves on American plantations"?
Many thanks for your thoughts.
>With no recordings of slave songs and narratives, the authors have
>undertaken the difficult task of bringing to contemporary readers
>(and listeners, via the CD that accompanies the book) the sounds of
>American slave culture. The impressive work songs, spirituals, and
>prayers were compiled from tracks recorded in the 1930s by the Works
>Progress Administration. Drawing on WPA interviews with former
>slaves, slave narratives, and other historical documents from the
>1700s through the 1850s, the authors provide the context for the
>field calls, work songs, sermons, and other sounds and utterances of
>slaves on American plantations. The authors also focus on
>recollections of the wails of slaves being whipped, the barking of
>hounds hunting down runaways, and the keening of women losing their
>children to the slave block.
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