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How a slave narrative has helped as a tool for the ongoing movement of equality for the people of colour?


I am a pursuing my masters in international relations. I have to write a term paper for international history and I have chosen the topic slave narrative. As to how slave narrative has helped as a tool for the ongoing movement of equality for the people of colour. My question is, from where can I start my research? and How can I link the narratives with the ongoing movement of equality?


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There are a number of fantastic slave narratives that really describe the experiences of people in slavery.  However, there is a problem with most of these narratives.  Written by former slaves, these narratives are going to represent a rarity among slaves because their authors could read and write, while teaching a slave to read or write was punishable under many slave codes.  Therefore, we strongly suggest looking at a more comprehensive collection of slave narratives.  Fortunately, the Works Progress Administration compiled slave narratives under a few different programs, most notably the Federal Writer’s Project.  These narratives did not require the former slaves to be literate, because they were compiled by writers who interviewed the former slaves.  However, they still offer first-person accounts of slavery.  In total, the project has more than 2,300 personal accounts of slavery, as well as numerous pictures of former slaves and artifacts of slavery like bills of sale for slaves and slave torture devices.  It is a great starting point for any person looking into slave narratives in the United States.

To connect those slave narratives to the modern day movement for equality, it would be easy to focus on modern day slavery and human trafficking.  You could select testimony or narratives from modern victims of human trafficking and highlight similarities between modern practices and practices during the height of legal slavery.  However, the fight for equality is about more than just freedom.  You could also choose something today that you think reveals a lack of equality in modern society, such as the fact that African Americans are subjected to “stop and frisk” type searches at a much higher rate than white people, and trace it back to the treatment of blacks under the slave codes, using evidence from slave narratives to support your claim.  Given the prevalence of sexual violence during slavery, showing how white men continue to pay very few consequences for sexual assault would be another way to link the modern-day struggle for equality back to slave narratives.

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