Author: I. M. Warren


“Interview with Baily Cunningham” (1938)

Baily Cunningham, a man born into slavery, tells an interviewer from the Virginia Writers Project about his life. His narrative includes detailed descriptions of the clothing enslaved people wore at different ages, the homes the enslaved community in which he lived resided in, and a meteor shower he witnessed as a young boy. The interview begins with a narrative description of Cunningham written by the Virginia Writers Project interviewer I. M. Warren. Warren’s questions are included. 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; and social relations and hierarchies shaping their relationship and conversation. Although the interviews aren’t unmediated autobiographies, they are no less authentic and are just as fruitful a source for reconstructing historical experience.