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The Roundtable

"River Of Blood: American Slavery From The People Who Lived It" By Richard Cahan

Book Cover for "River of Blood"

In the late 1930s, the federal government embarked on an unusual project. As a part of the Works Progress Administration's efforts to give jobs to unemployed Americans, government workers tracked down 3,000 men and women who had been enslaved before and during the Civil War. The workers asked them probing questions about slave life. What did they think about their slaveholders? What songs did they sing? What games did they play? Did they always think about escaping?

The result was a remarkable compilation of interviews known as the Slave Narratives.

The new book, "River of Blood: American Slavery from the People Who Lived It," highlights those narratives; condensing tens of thousands of pages into short excerpts from about 100 former slaves and pairs their accounts with their photographs, taken by the workers sent to record their stories. Richard Cahan is a noted photo historian. He has teamed up to produce more than twelve books. Most are based on long-lost archives or photographic collections.

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