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Voices of the EnslavedLove, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana$
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Sophie White

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469654041

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654041.001.0001

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“Said, Without Being Asked”

“Said, Without Being Asked”

An Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) “Said, Without Being Asked”
Source:
Voices of the Enslaved
Author(s):

Sophie White

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654041.003.0001

Drawing on 18th century testimony by enslaved Africans in French colonial Louisiana, and the 1764 interrogatory of Marguerite in particular, the introduction lays out why such court records can be seen as a form of autobiographical narrative. Their words, meticulously recorded according to French court procedure, show that deponents constantly redirected the court’s focus away from the crimes being investigated, veering off subject and offering details that seem extraneous at first glance, but are in fact deeply revealing and very often riveting. Less concerned with whether testimony can tell us whether the events described actually took place, this analysis focuses instead on the medium of testimony as an opportunity for the enslaved to construct a narrative, one that reflected the spontaneity of oral speech, that was anchored in their own experiences, and that brimmed with character, personality, wit, emotions and ways of knowing, one that was autobiographical because it expressed how they looked at their world, how they evaluated it, and made sense of it at that moment in time.

Keywords:   Microhistory, Slave narratives, Court records, Colonial America, French Louisiana, New Orleans, Catholicism, Violence, Congo, archives

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