Chapter II.

The tapes/broadcasts portion of Remembering Slavery features actual recorded interviews with former slaves collected by researchers and scholars in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as dramatic reenactments of interview transcripts. The first part focuses on the many experiences the interview subjects remember from their lives in slavery. The second part focuses on the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on their lives, and their experiencing of freedom. (Each part is about one hour long).

Hearing the words and voices of former slaves, especially for the first time, is an exciting and emotional experience. However, given that most of the sources we currently use for documenting the past are written ones, found in historical documents, letters, and books, listening to the recordings presents its own challenges. To get the most out of the recorded interviews, you should take the time to prepare yourself for the unique experience of listening to the tapes/broadcasts.

Both reading and listening of course require a great deal of concentration; however, when listening to the tapes/broadcasts, we do not have the luxury of a written page that we can return to, pore over, and repeatedly ponder, nor can we look at the speaker to get additional clues from body language and facial expressions. (However, an appendix to the book portion of Remembering Slavery includes a verbatim transcript of the entire tape-recorded broadcasts, enabling you to read over sections at your own pace, making it easier to follow along and remain focused on the narratives.)

Both the book and the tapes/broadcasts also present interesting issues regarding language. Language changes over time (think about how different Shakespearean English is from modern English), and also according to place (think about the differences between the way language is spoken and the words that are used in different regions in the country, such as "pop" and "soda," or "hero" and "hoagie"). These interviews contain the words of people who lived in a different time, place, and culture than ours today. Many of the terms they use are commonplace and understandable to them, but might be unknown to us. The ways some of the former slaves speak also indicate particular regional pronunciations that might seem strange. Fortunately, modern technology has enabled many of these decades-old recordings to be greatly clarified, making them much sharper and easier to follow, although they do require careful attention.

The following strategies will help you focus on - and think more deeply about - the recordings, enabling you to get the most out of this unique listening experience.

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