Abner Jordan, interviewed by You may wish to consider the extent to which you think the interviewer influenced this narrative. Based on what Mr. Jordan said, what kinds of questions do you think the interviewer asked? What biases might Ms. Whaley have brought to the interview? How might her questions have shaped the resulting story? Does the impact of the interviewer on the narrative cause you to have any doubts about the usefulness of the source? at his home in Durham County, North Carolina, Do you think that the Federal Writers’ Project (through the questions it distributed, its choice of interviewers, its choices when planning and implementing the project) influenced this source in any way? If so, do you think those influences were serious enough to cause you to doubt the usefulness of the source?, United States Work Projects Administration (USWPA); Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Accessed via Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936–1938, American Memory, Library of Congress.
Abner Jordan, Ex-slave, 95 years.
"We already know from our explorations into the factual content of this source that Mr. Jordan was probably born in the early 1850s, not 1832, making him about 82 years old at the time of the interview, not 95 or 105. So we can’t believe the information provided in the narrative about his age. Does this piece of incorrect information cast doubt on any other parts of the source? Because Mr. Jordan and the interviewer gave information about his age that appears to be incorrect, should we assume that the interview probably contains other information that is faulty or unreliable? Not necessarily. Whenever historians encounter factual inaccuracies in sources, they have to carefully consider the importance of those inaccuracies. For example, they might ask why the narrator was incorrect — did he or she not have access to the information they would have needed to provide an accurate account? Was this information not important to that person, or not a significant enough part of their life to warrant careful, specific memories? What might have caused the inaccuracy? Never really knowing the information in the first place? Failed memories of events that happened long ago? Purposeful distortion of the facts? Bias? Mr. Jordan’s uncertain reporting of his birth date suggests that he may have not been told accurate information about his birth, or that the information wasn’t particularly important to him. It doesn’t, however, suggest that he was being intentionally deceptive or that his recollections of other events are also inaccurate. Knowing that he was probably inaccurate about this one detail, what kinds of details do you think Mr. Jordan might also be mistaken about? What kinds of things do you think he probably remembered and reported accurately? an' I wus bawn at Staggsville, Marse paul Cameron's place. I belonged to Marse Paul. My pappy's name wus Obed an' my mammy wus Ella Jordan an' dey wus thirteen chillun on our family.
I wus de same age of Young Marse Benehan, Mr. Jordan doesn’t convey any information about his feelings about Paul Cameron, who owned his family, or Bennehan Cameron, whom he waited on as a servant. Since he doesn’t say anything negative about them and just “tells it like it was,” can we assume that Mr. Jordan was happy in his role as a slave? Not at all — it is quite possible that Mr. Jordan didn’t share his feelings about the Cameron family because, consciously or unconsciously, he was concerned that speaking frankly about the white family that owned him with a white interviewer in the 1930s South could lead to serious negative repercussions for him or for his family. If you believe that this was the case, how would knowing that Mr. Jordan was watching what he said color your interpretation of the interview? What do you think went unsaid? Are there parts of the interview that you think would have been very different if he had spoken more freely? Does his choice not to share his personal feelings necessarily make any part of the source less credible, or or is it simply less rich than it might otherwise have been?. Young Mrse Benny run away an' 'listed in de war, but Marse Paul done went an' brung him back kaze he wus too young to go and fight de Yankees.
Marse Paul had heap if niggahs; he had five thousan'. When he meet dem in de road he wouldn' know dem an' when he ased dem who dey wus an' who dey belonged to, dey' tell him dey belonged to Marse Paul Cameron an' den he would say dat wus all right for dem to go right on.
My pappy wus de blacksmith an' foreman for Marse Paul, an' he blew de horn for de other niggahs to come in from de fiel' at night. Dey couldn' leave de plantation without Marse say dey could.
Do you think Mr. Jordan’s mother knew where the valuables were? Do you think that this confrontation happened exactly as he says it did? What alternative scenarios can you imagine?.
De sojers stole seven or eight of de ho'ses an' foun' de meat an' stole dat, but dey didn' burn none off de buildin's nor hurt any of us slaves.
My pappy an' his family stayed wid Marse Paul five years after de surrender den we moved to Hillsboro an' I's always lived 'roun' dese parts. I ain' never been out of North Carolina eighteen months in my life. North Carolina is good enough for me."