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In-Depth Interview: New Photo Book Sheds Light on Evils of Slavery

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Rich Cahan, former photo editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, returns to talk about River of Blood: American Slavery from the People Who Lived It.Some 70 years after emancipation, a team of unemployed writers and journalists located over 300 formerly enslaved African Americans, captured their unvarnished stories about life under slavery, and took photo portraits of many of their subjects.

Sarah Frances Shaw Graves, John W Fields

Sarah Frances Shaw Graves and John W. Field. Photo credit: River of Blood

Their work is the subject of a new book whose publication coincides with the start of Black History Month. River of Blood brings the reader candid and searing comments that were captured verbatim in the original dialects of the Deep South. Laying bare the pain and humiliation of their treatment, their voices describe the relentless degradation they were subjected to every day: whippings, being fed like hogs, and brutal separations from their loved ones when they were sold as “chattel property” at auctions or transferred to new owners as wedding gifts.

Wes Brady, James Martin

Wes Brady (left), James Martin (right). Photo credit: River of Blood

Richard Cahan, retired photo editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, co-edited this powerful volume with Michael Williams, and shares these important stories from River of Blood in this podcast.

*River of Blood: American Slavery From the People Who Lived It: Interviews & Photographs of Formerly Enslaved African Americans (CityFiles Press, January 2020), edited by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, features photos by Dorothy Lange and a foreword by Adam Green.

This podcast was first released at WhoWhatWhy