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The Blue Bellies are in Austin: Readings from the Travis County Slave Narratives imbue life into the words found on the pages of the 1930s era oral history manuscripts. Words tinged with pain and suffering, the fear and yearning, the pride in tradition and family, and the resonating sorrow of those who had been enslaved. Blue Bellies highlights just 7 of the 65 individuals interviewed in Austin and Travis County during the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers Project. Historic black and white film and photographs from the archives of the Austin History Center and other repositories illustrate the words of this last generation of enslaved individuals. And these words have been given voice by talented local actors: Carla Nickerson Adams, Jennifer Cumberbatch, Miss Marlah, Curtis Polk, Noel Kent Smith, and Boyd Vance. A DVD 306.3620922 BL

2004

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves created by the W.P.A. As part of the New Deal National Writers Project in 1937, journalist Alfred Menn interviewed former slaves and transcribed their narratives, which produced a volume of over 300 pages. The narratives recount the lives of people, some very old at the time of their interviews, many of whom had toiled in the fields and worked as craftsmen or domestic servants. These copies were transcribed from original transcripts in the Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

1937

Portrait of Clara Anderson, sitting in a wooden chair on a porch. Anderson was previously enslaved.

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Portrait of Ellen (Kinnard) Alexander seated in a rocking chair on a porch. Alexander was previously enslaved.

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Portrait of Irella (Battle) Walker. She stands on the porch of a house. Copied from Slave Interviews, p. 347, A 301.4493 SL

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Portrait of Julia (Grimes) Jones Ocklbary. She wears a white apron over a dark dress. She stands outdoors in front of a wooden shack or barn. Copied from Slave Interviews, p. 236, A 301.4493 SL

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Portrait of an African American man, Winfield Scott Johnson, standing on a wooden porch. Johnson was formerly enslaved.

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Portrait of Reverend Handy Williamson. He wears a light-colored suit and stands outdoors next to a small tree. Copied from Slave Interviews, page 377, A301.4493 SL.

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Portrait of formerly enslaved person, George Mackey. Deacon George Mackey was a founder of Mackiesville and the co-founder of the St. John Colony near Lockhart, Texas. This community began in the early 1870s, when a group of freedmen and their families, let by the Rev. John Henry Winn, relocated here from Webberville (approx. 20 mi. N). The original fourteen families purchased about 2,000 acres of land to establish a town and family farms. Originally named Winn's Colony in honor of John H. Winn, the community name was changed to Saint John Colony after Winn organized Saint John Missionary Baptist Church in 1873. The community grew steadily and at its peak included homes of about 100 families, farms, stores, a school, cotton gin, and grist mill. A post office, under the name Mackiesville, opened in 1890 with Lewis Mackey as Postmaster. Churches, in addition to Saint John Missionary Baptist, included Zion Union Missionary Baptist and Landmark Missionary Baptist. The boundaries of the colony extended into Bastrop County. The post office was closed in the 1920s, and the school was consolidated with Lockhart schools in 1966. The churches remain active, and the community graveyard, known as Saint John Cemetery, or Zion Cemetery, contains the graves of many of the area's pioneers. Descendants of some of the founding families still reside in Saint John Colony.

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