Strategies for Survival: Recollections of Bondage in Antebellum Virginia
Strategies for Survival conveys the experience of bondage through the words of former slaves themselves. The interviews--conducted in Virginia in 1937 by WPA interviewers--are considered among the most valuable of the WPA interviews because in Virginia the interviewers were almost all African Americans; thus the interviewees almost certainly spoke more frankly than they would otherwise have done. Dusinberre uses the interviews to assess the strategies by which slaves sought to survive, despite the severe constrictions bondage imposed upon their lives. Religion and escape were common means of coping with the indignity of family disruption, contempt, and the harsh realities of slavery. However, while Dusinberre recognizes the creativity and variety of slaves' responses to oppression, he acknowledges the dispiriting realities of the limits of slave resistance and agency.