Lizzie Hill

During the 1930s in Alabama, in the shadows of lynched black men and white patriarchy, a white writer asked 94-year-old Lizzie Hill to recall her enslavement for a government publication. To say the story she told was magnanimous would be an understatement. After all, she lived but a stone’s throw from the farm where she was enslaved some 70 years earlier near Eufaula, Ala.

“My Master and my Misses was good to all their n------, and they raised me right,’’ she told the WPA interviewer.

Stories like Ms. Hill’s call into question the WPA’s methodology in collecting oral histories from former slaves. Fear and the social dynamics between white writers and former slaves may distort the picture some interviewees drew of their enslavement, historians say. Those distortions are sometimes used by revisionist to mitigate the legacy of slavery.

Oil on hardboard, 16X20.

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