The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976

Book Reviews

in Texas from the perspective of the slave. Tyler's introduction of just over
thirty pages is a helpful, balanced essay on the establishment, development,
and nature of slavery in the Lone Star State. The body of the book consists
of excerpts from the FWP slave interviews conducted in the state of Texas
in the late 1930s. (A preface presents a thoughtful analysis of the reliability
of the accounts together with a description of the project.)
The Federal Writers' Project staff members collected 325 of these inter-
views. One hundred ninety-seven segments selected from i 19 accounts are
included here, organized into nine topical groupings. The topics are gen-
erally well chosen to explore the migration to Texas, the life of the slave,
the slave's view of the Civil War, and the response to freedom. The only
exception is a section on ghosts, spells, and charms, which seems to me to
be of slight value. The editors tell us that they have corrected spellings and
added a few words in the interest of readability. Actually, they have made
wholesale changes in grammatical structure and the aural texture is radically
different from the original interview transcripts. It is important to point out
that I know of no case where the meaning has been twisted, but the reader
should be aware that the modifications are substantial. Purists (of whom I
am one) will also be offended that omissions within individual selections
are not indicated. Even more regrettable is the indiscriminate intermixture
of two separate accounts by interviewees with similar names and a few
minor errors in the biographical statements about the respondents. These
sketches, incidentally, are helpful, but less valuable than the FWP notes
which they paraphrase.
As Tyler and Murphy observe, nothing is conclusively established by
the comments of these surviving ex-slaves, made long after the events in
question and in response to white interviewers. But if not definitive, they
are, taken as a whole, suggestive. What we have here is slavery viewed from
a different vantage point and the resulting perspective enriches our
knowledge of the institution and should heighten our sensitivity to the
complexities of the relationships involved.
University of Louisville LEONARD P. CURRY
Comanches: The Destruction of a People. By T. R. Fehrenbach. (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, i974. Pp. vii+557. Illustrations, index, bibli-
ography. $12.50.)
At a time when there are far too many books about the American Indian
which portray a "history" that exists only in the fantasies of their authors,

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/. Accessed November 23, 2014.