60 Amazing Portraits of African-American Ex-Slaves in the Late 1930s

These portraits of African American men and women from locations in Texas were taken in the late 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) of the Work Progress Administration (WPA). They are part of a group of 500, together with more than 2,000 first-person accounts of the experience of being a slave. People from Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island are also represented.

Most of the photos show individuals standing or sitting outside; a few are posed with or next to personal possessions; several group portraits are included. Some photographs also depict houses in the background or foreground. Additional images depict objects relating to slavery in Alabama, these include, among others, a “bell rack” restraint from the Federal Museum of Mobile and photographs of sales receipts issued to slave owners.

Federal Writers’ Project interviews with former slaves began as early as 1936 with initial efforts concentrated primarily in Florida. In 1937 an official project was organized and placed under the direction of folklorist John A. Lomax who coordinated and expanded data collecting activities throughout the South. The program continued up through the Spring of 1939. Photographs of former slaves were often taken at the time of the interviews.

Will Adams
Mary Armstrong, Houston
John Barker, Abilene
Charlotte Beverly
William Green, San Antonio
Francis Black, Texarkana
Betty Bormer, Ft. Worth
James Singleton Black, 83 years old
Jas. Boyd, Waco
Monroe Brackins, Hondo
Wes Brady, Marshall
Donaville Broussard, Beaumont
Josie Brown, Woodville (Beaumont)
Zek Brown, Ft. Worth
Ellen Butler, Beaumont
Martha Bunton, Austin
Annie Caborne, Marshall
James Cape, Ft. Worth
Lucy Chambers, Karnack
Mother Anne Clark, El Paso
Valmar Cormier, Beaumont
Elijah Cox
Adeline Cunningham
Julia Daniels, Dallas
Katie Darling, Marshall
Campbell Davis, Karnack
Ann Edwards, Ft. Worth
Lorenza Ezzell, Beaumont
Betty Farrow, Ft. Worth
Rose Fay, Bracketville
Lewis Fowler, Ft. Worth
Orelia Alexia Franks, Beaumont
Hattie Gates, Waco
Priscilla Gibson, Jasper
Andrew Goodman, Dallas
James Green, San Antonio
Rev. Bill Green, San Antonio
Pauline Grice, Ft. Worth
William Hamilton, Ft. Worth
Felix Haywood, San Antonio
Albert Hill, Ft. Worth
William Homer, Ft. Worth
Scott Hooper, Ft. Worth
Mose Hursey, Dallas
Charles Hurt, Ft. Worth
C.J. Jackson, Marshall
James Jackson, Ft. Worth
Martin Jackson, San Antonio
John James, Ft. Worth
James Johnson, Dallas
Mary Ellen Johnson, Dallas
Lewis Jones, Ft. Worth
Ben Kinchelow, Hondo
Mary Kincheon, Austin
Mary Kindred, Beaumont
Johanna Lesley, Bracketville
Louise Mathews, Ft. Worth
James Martin
Bill McRay, Beaumont
C.B. McRay, Beaumont

(Photos: Library of Congress)

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