African-American History Month: WPA Oklahoma Slave Narrative, Katie Rowe

This month, at various locations in the Tulsa City-County Library system, you'll find some great programs celebrating African-American history.  In the Tulsa and Oklahoma collection, you'll find several great resources on African-American history in our state. One resource, The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives, compiles slave narratives that were found at both the Oklahoma Historical Society and at the Library of Congress. The narratives were collected from 1936-1938 under the New Deal's Works Progress Administration (WPA). Several former slaves were living in the Tulsa area when the interviews were conducted. One of the interviewees, Katie Rowe, describes her experience as a slave on a Arkansas plantation, close to the Bois d'Arc Creek. Her narrative begins:

"I can set on de gallery, whar de sunlight shine bright, and sew a powerful fine seam when my grandchillun wants a special purty dress for de school doings, but I ain't worth much for nothing else I reckon. 

These same old eyes seen powerful lot of tribulations in my time, and when I shets 'em now I can see lots of li'l chillun jest lak my grandchillun, toting hoes bigger dan dey is, and dey poor little black hands and legs bleeding whar dey scratched by de brambledy weeds and whar dey got whuppings 'cause dey didn't git out all de work de overseer set out for 'em."

Katie Rowe was interviewed in 1937 at 1004 N. Lansing. You can read her entire interview in the book above or access online at the Library of Congress website. 


Katie Rowe is a relative of mine. And I have to ask myself if I have what she had to been have lived back then. I am proud to have her as a family member. I know if she can be so strong then I know I can.

That was great. Thank you. I listened to two of them and had to read the transcripts at the same time to follow along. It would be nice if the WPA audio was released on the internet -for the "local" interest.

The LOC does have some slave narratives available in audio format, but I"m not aware of existing audio for the WPA OK slave narratives. It would be great, though.

Although it's probably not possible, it would be great to listen to the actual audio tapes. Sorta of like going through a time machine. I love the vernacular. I recently picked up some audiotapes for the project I'm working on from UTula. It was fascinating to hear the voices of the people I was researching.

Jason: Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

This is a great find. To discover, from former slaves, what they thought, what they saw, what they felt and what they saw- anyone who is interested in history would be interested in digging into this.

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