"MASSA JEFF CALL US ALL TOGEDDER BY DE VERANDA, AN' TELL US HE'S GLAD TER GET BACK, AND' WE'S FREE. IF WE'LL STAY AN' WU'L RIGHT ON, HE'LL PAY US": FIRST EDITION OF OLD MASSA'S PEOPLE: THE OLD SLAVES TELL THEIR STORY, 1931
ARMSTRONG, Orland Kay. Old Massa's People. The Old Slaves Tell Their Story. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, (1931). Octavo, original mustard cloth, uncut, original dust jacket. $450.
First edition of this collection of slave stories, in scarce original dust jacket.
Journalist (and later Republican congressman) Orland Kay Armstrong embarked on a project during the 1920s to interview former slaves from different parts of the South. He ultimately completed 206 interviews. Old Massa's People served as the capstone of his work. Here, Armstrong offers his own interpretation of slavery with embedded interview excerpts (rendered in dialect). The result is an early—but now largely rejected—attempt to tell the story of slavery in the South. "Books in which old uncles and aunties speak interminably and nostalgically of the good old days have been a drug on the market… The pattern was challenged only by clear-eyed observers like Mark Twain… [T]he pattern seemed to have crystallized in Orland Kay Armstrong's Old Massa's People, in which the reminiscences of ex-slaves reinforced the plantation tradition of slavery as a kindly guardianship, as gay in some aspects as Mardi Gras" (Sterling A. Brown, The Journal of Negro Education). Nevertheless, beyond the selective quoting and the dialect, Armstrong provides a window into life as a slave, as told by the first generation of African-Americans to experience freedom. Blockson 9809.
Book near-fine, with slight soiling to rear board and toning mainly to spine. Scarce, price-clipped dust jacket extremely good, with only faintest dampstaining and a bit of wear and toning to extremities. A desirable copy.