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Unchained Memories

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Title: Unchained Memories  
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Subject: Slave narrative, Wallace Turnage, To a Southern Slaveholder, Whoopi Goldberg, Roustam Raza
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Unchained Memories

Unchained Memories
Directed by Ed Bell and Thomas Lennon
Written by Mark Jonathan Harris
Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg
Distributed by HBO
Release dates 2003
Running time 75 Min
Country United States
Language English[1]

Unchained Memories is a 2003 documentary film about the stories of former slaves interviewed during the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project and preserved in the WPA Slave Narrative Collection. This HBO film interpretation directed by Ed Bell and Thomas Lennon [2] is a compilation of slave narratives, narrated by actors, emulating the original conversation with the interviewer. The slave narratives may be the most accurate in terms of the everyday activities of the enslaved, serving as personal memoirs of more than two thousand former slaves. The documentary depicts the emotions of the slaves and what they endured. The "Master" had the opportunity to sell, trade, or kill the enslaved, for retribution should one slave not obey.


The largest collection of slave narratives emerged from the Federal Writers Project. Created by the Federal Government under the WPA to reduce unemployment during the 1930s, one component of the Federal Writers' Project involved interviews with thousands of former slaves in 17 states. The oral history interview project yielded an extraordinary set of 2,300 autobiographical documents known as the Slave Narrative Collection. What emerges from these documents are pictures of living standards, the daily chores, and long days, were brought to light along with the stories of the good and bad "Master." The brutality, torture, and abuse under slavery are themes in the interviews.

Scholars debate the accuracy of the accounts, and their value for historical work. After the Civil War ended in 1865, more than four million slaves were set free. The main objectives were to inform the public, and describe the history and life of the former slaves. More than 2,000 slave narratives, along with 500 photos are available online at the Library of Congress as part of the "Born in Slavery" project.

Slaves and readers


All that follow beneath are from the credits in Unchained Memories

Music and sound

All that follow beneath are from the Internet Movie Database

  • Music Engineer: Corey Folta
  • Music Composer: William "Spaceman" Patterson
  • Sound Editors: Ira Spiegel, Marlena Grzaslewicz
  • Assistant Sound Editor: Mariusz Glabinski
  • Music Editor: John M. Davis
  • Sound Mixers: Peter Waggoner, Sound One
  • Sound: Doug Donald, Charles Hunt, Jim Mansen, Bruce Perlman, Michael Riley, Sasumo Tokunaw, Anna Delanzo
  • People in total who were in charge of the sound of Unchained Memories were Doug Donald, Charles Hunt, Jim Mansen, Bruce Perlman, Michael Riley, Sasumo Tokunaw, Anna Delanzo
  • Harpo Productions Audio Director- JR Chappell, Audio Assistant- Stacey Hempel
  • Choral Performers- Sound- Jim Hawkins, Steve Smith, Dennis Towns

Musical selections used in Unchained Memories

All that follow beneath are from the credits in Unchained Memories

  • "No More" - Performed by The Blind Boys of Alabama. Real World Records
  • "O Day" - Performed by Bessie Jones and Alan Lomax. Rounder Records
  • "Early in The Mornin"- Arranged by "22" and Alan Lomax. Performed by Prisoners 22, Little Red, Tangle Eye, and Hard Hair, Rounder Records
  • "Im Goin' Up North" Traditional, Performed by the Children of East York School Folkways Recordings
  • "Hard Times in Ol' Virginia" Arranged by John Davis and Alan Lomax, Performed by John Davis. Rounder Records
  • "Enter Mozelle's House", "Another Dead Snake", "Mozelle", "In The Mirror", "Mozelle's Theme", "Carriage House", Original musical score from "Eve's Bayou" Composed and Performed by Terence Blanchard, Courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment Group
  • "Adam & Eve", "Wade The Water To My Knee", "Move Daniel", "Blow Gabriel"
  • Traditional African-American ring shouts, Performed and Arranged by The McIntosh County Shouters


All that follow beneath are from the credits in Unchained Memories

  • Photo Animation: Cort Tramontin
  • Design/Art Direction: Clive Helfet
  • Camera: Wes Dorman, Chris Hall, Richard Mort, Joe Pausabeck

See also


  1. ^ "Samuel Jackson Figures He Owes His Success to Morgan Freeman" (Fee required).  
  2. ^ Internet Movie Database website - Unchained Memories, accessed May 5, 2010.

Further reading

  • A sketch of the laws relating to slavery in the several states of the United States of America. Stroud, George M. (George McDowell), 1795-187
  • An Introduction to the WPA Slave Narratives. Yetman, Norman R.
  • When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection. Yetman, Norman R.

External links

  • Unchained Memories at the Internet Movie Database
  • Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives, inTime, 2002.
  • Unchained Memories at HBO
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