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Bonus: Listening Hard for Their Voices

Henry Louis Gates discusses slave narratives—what they’ve taught us and why scholars used to ignore them.


Episode Notes

In this bonus edition of the History of American Slavery, special guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. joins hosts Jamelle Bouie and Rebecca Onion to discuss slave narratives. Dr.
Gates recounts his own experience as a graduate student in the 1970s, when many historians were only beginning to accept the veracity and legitimacy of firsthand accounts of slavery. He also talks about how slave narratives influenced contemporary black literature and about whether using the accounts of exceptional individuals might distort our understanding of what an average enslaved person experienced.

Our guest this episode:

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an Alphonse Fletcher university professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

About the Show

With the help of acclaimed historians and writers, Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore the history of American slavery and examine how the institution came to shape our country’s politics, economy, and culture.

Don’t miss Rebecca and Jamelle’s follow-up podcast, Reconstruction.

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