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Slave narratives available on SU John B. Cade Library’s website

The Southern University John B. Cade Library invites the community to check out a collection of original slave literature entitled, Opinions Regarding Slavery: Slave Narratives. 1822-1865. The collection is an original manuscript created by former professor and dean John B. Cade Sr., who the Southern University Library is named after.

"We are really excited and pleased to share the slave narratives with the scholarly community and look forward to working with those conducting research on this subject," said Emma Bradford Perry, dean of Libraries.

The first study of collecting slave's narratives at Southern University was directed and compiled by John B. Cade during the years of 1929-1930 whose interest in the utilization of the accounts of ex-slaves was initially aroused by the controversy over the nature of the slave regime and, in particular, by remarks reportedly made by U.B. Phillip; who reportedly stated that "Negroes for the most part did not mind slavery."

The 1929 set of narratives, which were compiled at Southern University, were destroyed. The preliminary study conducted at Southern was expanded during the early years of the depression under Cade's direction, and the results of those interviews were later summarized in Cade's article "Out of the Mouths of Ex-Slaves."  The Journal of Negro History. Volume 20, Number 3 (July, 1935), pp. 294-337. There were 36 interviewers in this project.

Cade taught one course in history and he also travelled every Saturday during the school year to various Louisiana communities including St. Joseph, Monroe, Bastrop, Minden, and Ruston, to conduct interviews. The success of this project stimulated a similar attempt by Cade in 1935-1938 to conduct a similar study at Prairie View A&M University.

The 1935 Prairie View Slave narrative collection contains 17 states including the Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, the Indian Territory, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma Territory, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Canada.

In order to have a complete picture of the conditions during slavery and civil war times Cade assigned each student in an extension class the task of asking questions to each former slave. The narratives are of historical value for they contain firsthand accounts of social conditions of slave life from those who had firsthand knowledge. The following information was provided:


Name of state and county in which they were slaves

Name or names of owners

The type of slaves which they were, that is, house or field slave

The home and family life of the slaves, especially marriage, etc.

The food of the slaves

Punishment of the slaves

The working conditions of the slaves

Amusements of the slaves

Religious life of the slaves

Superstitions and customs of slaves

How they liked slavery

Plus any other pertinent information which they could give.

There were approximately 125 persons interviewed.


To access the slave narratives log onto the Southern University Library website ( ) Click on the right ad featuring the Slave Narrative ( ) then click on "Opinions Regarding Slavery: Slave Narratives" under browse by collection.

Angela Proctor, University archivist/digital librarian, says that the collection is one of a kind, and hopes that not only students but people all over use the links mentioned above to access and take advantage of the slave narratives.

For more information visit the archives department on the third floor in the John B. Cade library or visit the website at .

Written by Don Batiste, a senior mass communications major and an intern in the SU Office of Communications.