Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Summer II/Section 09/Sally Raines

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Sally Raines
ResidenceBlythewood, South Carolina
OccupationSlave, Housemaid

Overview[edit | edit source]

Sally Raines was a former African American slave living in the Great Depression. She was interviewed for the Federal Writers' Project on December 16, 1938, when she was about 85. The file was named "Aunt Sally Raines."

Background[edit | edit source]

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Sally Raines was born in Blythewood, South Carolina as a slave in a family of slaves serving John Wooten, with no mention of any siblings. Because of this, Raine never knew her exact birthdate, but she speculated that she was born in 1853. Raine served as a slave, mainly working in the house, as many female slaves did at the time, until the end of the Civil War. During her time as a slave, both her mother and father died. Her father died shortly after she was born and her mother died around the start of the Civil War. Raines also had her first child during her time as a slave, but he died from a flu during the war.

Later Life[edit | edit source]

After the Civil War, Raines was given a plot of land to live off of by John Wooten, which she lived on until she died. Raines had five children over her life, with multiple men, whose identities are unknown. She also married her husband, Jim Raines, a troublesome man who was in and out of jail. Jim Raines died before the interview took place. Throughout her life, she made her living off of housework, raising children, and doing household tasks, just as she had as a slave. Raines spent all of her life in poverty, often struggling to get by, especially during the Great Depression. Luckily for her, she was in a community that cared for her and would help her when she was in need. Raines was very well respected in her community, the main reason behind her nickname: Aunt Sally.

African American Life Post-Civil War[edit | edit source]

The Civil War was a war fought almost entirely over slavery, so when the Union won the war, bringing the U.S. back together, slavery was abolished across the country. African Americans, especially in the South, found themselves with freedoms they had never experienced, and an end to many of the common struggles of slave life, such as the beatings, sexual assaults, splitting of families, lack of education, and more. Although slavery had ended, the struggle of African Americans had not; racism was still very much at large in the Southern U.S. New ways to express it were formed, such as Black Codes (laws that restricted certain rights from Blacks), the KKK, lynchings, and segregation. On top of that, with little to no education and general unfamiliarity of the American economy, many former slaves, and African Americans in general, were stuck in poverty for many years after the Civil War ended. Over time, with the help of Reconstruction efforts and several constitutional amendments, African Americans gained many rights, such as the right to vote(13th Amendment) and American citizenship rights(14th Amendment). But even with those amendments in place, many places in the South still tried to restrict African American rights. One major example of this was the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, and the grandfather clause to deny African Americans from voting.

African American Women in the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression was an economic crisis that affected everyone in the U.S., but it was the worst for the people that belonged in two of the most discriminated groups: African American women. African Americans, when compared with the white population, contained two times the amount of people that relied on aid during the Great Depression. Women, who had traditionally stayed at home, doing housework and raising children, were now forced to get jobs, but the jobs women received were often very low paying and offered almost no chance at higher wages. During the Great Depression, many people flooded into urban centers to receive jobs and aid, but African American women received little aid and had trouble finding jobs. Many of the jobs that were traditionally held by African Americans and women were taken by white men who were desperate for work. The remaining jobs for women often favored white women, leading to the unemployment rates of African American women in urban centers to reach about three times those of white women. Life would only really start to get better for African American women at the start of World War I, where many men left to fight, opening up millions of jobs in the U.S.

References[edit | edit source]

War.” U.S. Department of the InteriorNational Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/shil/learn/historyculture/upload/slavery-brochure.pdf.