Author: Robert Ellett


“Interview with Robert Ellett” (December 25, 1937)

Robert Ellett, a man born into slavery, tells an interviewer from the Virginia Writers Project about his life. Some of his major memories include hearing rumors of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, his arrival in Hampton with his mother as refugees during the American Civil War (1861–1865), and Abraham Lincoln’s death. Ellett’s interviewer, Claude W. Anderson, included comments in this transcription. His 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.