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South Yard Dwellings: Research

Prints, illustrations and ads are great assets when researching. They provide visual examples of how people lived, what they bought and how it was used. Oral histories and interviews with the people who experienced past events are invaluable and can help to make something from the past feel much closer to home. Below you can see some of the images and read portions of the interviews conducted with the Works Progress Administration that helped to influence the construction of the South Yard dwellings at Montpelier. 

The formerly enslaved individuals interviewed by the WPA resided in either Maryland or Virginia. You will notice that their experiences of slavery range on a spectrum- from food and clothing insecurities to ample time off and gifts. It should be remembered that although some may have experienced less severe enslavement, that these humans were still the property of another.

Explore excerpts of WPA interviews by topic, below.


Photos of formerly enslaved persons courtesy of The Library of Congress.

Furniture & Housing

Food & Cooking

Clothing

Work

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    4 “Richard Macks, Ex-slave,” Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 8, Maryland, Brooks-Williams. 1936. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mesn080/. (Accessed March 17, 2017.)
“I slept in the mistress’ room in a bed that we pushed under the mistress’ in the day or after I arose.”14 “Annie Young Henson, Ex-slave,” Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 8, Maryland, Brooks-Williams. 1936. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mesn080/. (Accessed March 17, 2017.)
“[Master gave] us huts to live in. [The] beds [were] made of long boards [that were] nailed to [the] wall. [The] mattress [was] stuffed [with] straw and pine tags. [The] only light we had [was] from [the] fire-place. We didn’t use [any] matches, [instead] we’d [strike] a rock on a piece of steel. We’d let the sparks fall on some cotton.”21 “Interview of Mrs. Georgina Giwbs, Ex-slave,” Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 17, Virginia, Berry-Wilson. 1936. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mesn170/. (Accessed March 20, 2017.)
“[Master gave] us huts to live in. [The] beds [were] made of long boards [that were] nailed to [the] wall. [The] mattress [was] stuffed [with] straw and pine tags. [The] only light we had [was] from [the] fire-place. We didn’t use [any] matches, [instead] we’d [strike] a rock on a piece of steel. We’d let the sparks fall on some cotton.”31 “Interview of Mrs. Georgina Giwbs, Ex-slave,” Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 17, Virginia, Berry-Wilson. 1936. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mesn170/. (Accessed March 20, 2017.)
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