Monday, December 21, 2009

'Sounds of Slavery' - downloads and excerpts

The Sounds of Slavery
by Shane White and Graham White
Beacon Press
© 2005 by Shane White and Graham White

Downloads are on the Beacon Press website at ... tracks as follows:
1 "Arwhoolie" holler Thomas J. Marshall
2 Levee holler Enoch Brown
3 Field holler Roosevelt "Giant" Hudson
4 "Oh If Your House Catches Fire" levee camp holler Willie Henry Washington
5 "Roxie" Convicts, Mississippi
6 "New Buryin' Ground" John Brown and African American convicts
7 "Long Hot Summer Day" Clyde Hill and African American convicts
8 "Go Preach My Gospel" Deacon Harvey Williams and the New Zion Baptist Church congregation
9 "Jesus, My God, I Know His Name" Willie Henry Washington, Arthur Bell, Robert Lee Robertson, and Abraham Powell
10 "Go to Sleep" Florida Hampton
11 "The Buzzard and the Cooter" Demus Green
12 "Prayer" Rev. Henry Ward
13 "Run, Old Jeremiah" Joe Washington Brown and Austin Coleman
14 "Job, Job" Mandy Tartt, Sims Tartt, and Betty Atmore
15 "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" Clifford Reed, Johnny Mae Medlock, and Julia Griffin
16 "Have Mercy, Lord" Mary Tollman and the Rev. Henry Ward
17 "The Unusual Task of the Gospel Preacher" Rev. Harry Singleton
18 "The Man of Calvary" Sin-Killer Griffin
WNYC Radio has an excerpt from the introduction by Shane White and Graham White. The beginning:
At day’s end the slaves trudged home from their owners’ fields. Since sunup they had worked and sweated for the man. Now, for a few hours of darkness, the time was theirs, to the extent that slaves ever owned anything, and they could be something other than brute physical labor. Small groups gathered outside the slave cabins, listening to stories, talking out of earshot of the overseer.Maybe later, particularly if it happened to be a Saturday, there would be singing, and someone might accompany them on a banjo or a fiddle. At a distance, the quarters gave off an industrious hum, reassuring proof to those up in the Big House of the rightness of the plantation order, but from within what the slaves could hear were the invigorating sounds of the reclamation of their humanity. As she often did, Zora Neale Hurston put it best: this was the time of day when blacks “became lords of sounds.”1 There is something timeless about such a scene. It could be a Virginia tobacco plantation in the 1750s, a South Carolina rice plantation in the 1810s, or a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta in the 1850s. Indeed, replace the overseer with the boss man, allow that the blacks did legally own their own time, and this vignette could just as easily be set in the Florida of the 1910s or 1920s that Hurston knew so well. For nearly three centuries of African American history, much of what was distinctive about black culture was to be found in the realm of sound, a characteristic that was particularly clear in the hours in which slaves were not toiling for their owners.

Above all else, slave culture was made to be heard. That was apparent from the moment newly enslaved Africans first arrived in the New World. It is difficult to get at the experiences of the fresh arrivals as they struggled to comprehend their status as slaves in a new and bewildering land. Hardly surprisingly, they left scant records of those experiences; practically all we have are a few descriptions by uncomprehending whites, mostly couched in terms of the impenetrability of the behavior of their newly imported property.2 But occasionally the incidents whites describe are so striking, the behavior of blacks so apparently strange, that we are afforded some insight into the slaves’ reactions to what must have seemed a terrifying and almost impossibly alien world.

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