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Unchained Memories; Readings from the Slave Narratives (2003)Unchained Memories; Readings from the Slave Narratives (2003)

The end of the Civil War in 1865 freed about 4 million slaves in America, a significant number of whom lived into the 1940s. During the Depression, the Federal Writers Project hired people to interview and record first person narratives from these former slaves, the last first-hand resource that could document their experiences. Today the Library of Congress houses 2,000 such interviews, in their original "dialect" and broken English, in the simply-titled Slave Narratives. This film uses original still photographs, contemporary re-enactments, slave music, a running commentary by Whoopi Goldberg, and, most notably and thus the film's title, dramatic readings of those original slave narratives by contemporary African-American actors and actresses like Oprah Winfrey. In just over an hour you learn about the daily horrors of slave life from those who lived to tell of it—relentless work, horrendous housing and diet, the denial of education, sexual violence, and how the "masters" used Christianity to keep their slaves passive. This is a deeply moving film about our nation's very recent past. I recommend watching it in conjunction with the seven-part PBS documentary on the civil rights movement called Eyes on the Prize.

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