Author: Cornelius Garner


“Interview with Cornelius Garner” (Unknown, May 18, 1937)

Cornelius Garner, a man born into slavery, tells two interviewers from the Virginia Writers Project about his life. A proud veteran who fought for the Union during the American Civil War (1861–1865), he discusses the role of Black people in the military on both sides of the conflict. Other topics of discussion include his work caring for horses and the Underground Railroad. The editors of Weevils in the Wheat inserted comments in this transcription. Their bracketed comments have been included below. This interview, along with other Virginia Writers Project interviews, offer a composite portrait of interviewees’ self-styled personal stories. Interviewers’ interests, lived experiences, and editing choices, as well as their social relations and expectations shaped their relationship and conversation with the interviewees. Although the interviews aren’t unmediated autobiographies, they are no less authentic and are just as fruitful a source for reconstructing historical experience.