[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note [HW: ***] = Handwritten Note
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves
TYPEWRITTEN RECORDS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT 1936-1938 ASSEMBLED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PROJECT WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA SPONSORED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Illustrated with Photographs
Prepared by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Georgia
Kendricks, Jennie 1 Kilpatrick, Emmaline 8 Kimbrough, Frances 14 King, Charlie 16 Kinney, Nicey 21
Larken, Julia 34 Lewis, George 47
McCommons, Mirriam 51 McCree, Ed 56 McCullough, Lucy 66 McDaniel, Amanda 71 McGruder, Tom 76 McIntosh, Susan 78 McKinney, Matilda 88 McWhorter, William 91 Malone, Mollie 104 Mason, Charlie 108 [TR: In the interview, Aunt Carrie Mason] Matthews, Susan 115 Mays, Emily 118 Mention, Liza 121 Miller, Harriet 126 Mitchell, Mollie 133 Mobley, Bob 136
Nix, Fanny 139 Nix, Henry 143
Ogletree, Lewis 146 Orford, Richard 149
Parkes, Anna 153 Pattillio, G.W. 165 [TR: In the interview, G.W. Pattillo] Pope, Alec 171 Price, Annie 178 Pye, Charlie 185
Raines, Charlotte 189 Randolph, Fanny 194 Richards, Shade 200 Roberts, Dora 206 Rogers, Ferebe 209 Rogers, Henry 217 Rush, Julia 229
Settles, Nancy 232 Sheets, Will 236 Shepherd, Robert 245 Singleton, Tom 264 Smith, Charles 274 [TR: In the interview, Charlie Tye Smith] Smith, Georgia 278 Smith, Mary 285 Smith, Melvin 288 Smith, Nancy 295 Smith, Nellie 304 Smith, Paul 320 Stepney, Emeline 339 Styles, Amanda 343
[TR: The interview headers presented here contain all information included in the original, but may have been rearranged for readability. Also, some ages and addresses have been drawn from blocks of information on subsequent interview pages. Names in brackets were drawn from text of interviews.]
[TR: Some interviews were date-stamped; these dates have been added to interview headers in brackets. Where part of date could not be determined — has been substituted. These dates do not appear to represent actual interview dates, rather dates completed interviews were received or perhaps transcription dates.]
[HW: Dist 5 Ex-Slave #63]
Whitley, 1-22-36 Driskell
EX SLAVE JENNIE KENDRICKS [Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]
Jennie Kendricks, the oldest of 7 children, was born in Sheram, Georgia in 1855. Her parents were Martha and Henry Bell. She says that the first thing she remembers is being whipped by her mother.
Jennie Kendricks' grandmother and her ten children lived on this plantation. The grandmother had been brought to Georgia from Virginia: "She used to tell me how the slave dealers brought her and a group of other children along much the same as they would a herd of cattle," said the ex-slave, "when they reached a town all of them had to dance through the streets and act lively so that the chances for selling them would be greater".
When asked to tell about Mr. Moore, her owner, and his family Jennie Kendricks stated that although her master owned and operated a large plantation, he was not considered a wealthy man. He owned only two other slaves besides her immediate family and these were men.
"In Mr. Moores family were his mother, his wife, and six children (four boys and two girls). This family lived very comfortably in a two storied weatherboard house. With the exception of our grandmother who cooked for the owner's family and slaves, and assisted her mistress with housework all the slaves worked in the fields where they cultivated cotton and the corn, as well as the other produce grown there. Every morning at sunrise they had to get up and go to the fields where they worked until it was too dark to see. At noon each day they were permitted to come to the kitchen, located just a short distance in the rear of the master's house, where they were served dinner. During the course of the day's work the women shared all the men's work except plowing. All of them picked cotton when it was time to gather the crops. Some nights they were required to spin and to help Mrs. Moore, who did all of the weaving. They used to do their own personal work, at night also." Jennie Kendricks says she remembers how her mother and the older girls would go to the spring at night where they washed their clothes and then left them to dry on the surrounding bushes.
As a little girl Jennie Kendricks spent all of her time in the master's house where she played with the young white children. Sometimes she and Mrs. Moore's youngest child, a little boy, would fight because it appeared to one that the other was receiving more attention from Mrs. Moore than the other. As she grew older she was kept in the house as a playmate to the Moore children so she never had to work in the field a single day.
She stated that they all wore good clothing and that all of it was made on the plantation with one exception. The servants spun the thread and Mrs. Moore and her daughters did all of the weaving as well as the making of the dresses that were worn on this particular plantation. "The way they made this cloth", she continued, "was to wind a certain amount of thread known as a "cut" onto a reel. When a certain number of cuts were reached they were placed on the loom. This cloth was colored with a dye made from the bark of trees or with a dye that was made from the indigo berry cultivated on the plantation. The dresses that the women wore on working days were made of striped or checked materials while those worn on Sunday were usually white."
She does not know what the men wore on work days as she never came in contact with them. Stockings for all were knitted on the place. The shoes, which were the one exception mentioned above, were made by one Bill Jacobs, an elderly white man who made the shoes for all the plantations in the community. The grown people wore heavy shoes called "Brogans" while those worn by the children were not so heavy and were called "Pekers" because of their narrow appearance. For Sunday wear, all had shoes bought for this purpose. Mr. Moore's mother was a tailoress and at times, when the men were able to get the necessary material, she made their suits.
There was always enough feed for everybody on the Moore plantation. Mrs. Moore once told Jennie's mother to always see that her children had sufficient to eat so that they would not have to steal and would therefore grow up to be honorable. As the Grandmother did all of the cooking, none of the other servants ever had to cook, not even on Sundays or other holidays such as the Fourth of July. There was no stove in this plantation kitchen, all the cooking was done at the large fireplace where there were a number of hooks called potracks. The pots, in which the cooking was done, hung from these hooks directly over the fire.
The meals served during the week consisted of vegetables, salt bacon, corn bread, pot liquor, and milk. On Sunday they were served milk, biscuits, vegetables, and sometimes chicken. Jennie Kendricks ate all of her meals in the master's house and says that her food was even better. She was also permitted to go to the kitchen to get food at any time during the day. Sometimes when the boys went hunting everyone was given roast 'possum and other small game. The two male slaves were often permitted to accompany them but were not allowed to handle the guns. None of the slaves had individual gardens of their own as food sufficient for their needs was raised in the master's garden.
The houses that they lived in were one-roomed structures made of heavy plank instead of logs, with planer [HW: ?] floors. At one end of this one-roomed cabin there was a large chimney and fireplace made of rocks, mud, and dirt. In addition to the one door, there was a window at the back. Only one family could live in a cabin as the space was so limited. The furnishings of each cabin consisted of a bed and one or two chairs. The beds were well constructed, a great deal better than some of the beds the ex-slave saw during these days. Regarding mattresses she said, "We took some tick and stuffed it with cotton and corn husks, which had been torn into small pieces and when we got through sewing it looked like a mattress that was bought in a store."
Light was furnished by lightwood torches and sometimes by the homemade tallow candles. The hot tallow was poured into a candle mold, which was then dipped into a pan of cold water, when the tallow had hardened, the finished product was removed.
Whenever there was sickness, a doctor was always called. As a child Gussie was rather sickly, and a doctor was always called to attend to her. In addition to the doctor's prescriptions there was heart leaf tea and a warm remedy of garlic tea prepared by her grandmother.
If any of the slaves ever pretended sickness to avoid work, she knows nothing about it.
As a general rule, slaves were not permitted to learn to read or write, but the younger Moore children tried to teach her to spell, read, and write. When she used to stand around Mrs. Moore when she was sewing she appeared to be interested and so she was taught to sew.
Every Sunday afternoon they were all permitted to go to town where a colored pastor preached to them. This same minister performed all marriages after the candidates had secured the permission of the master.
There was only one time when Mr. Moore found it necessary to sell any of his slaves. On this occasion he had to sell two; he saw that they were sold to another kind master.
The whipping on most plantation were administered by the [HW: over]seers and in some cases punishment was rather severe. There was no overseer on this plantation. Only one of Mr. Moore's sons told the field hands what to do. When this son went to war it became necessary to hire an overseer. Once he attempted to whip one of the women but when she refused to allow him to whip her he never tried to whip any of the others. Jennie Kendricks' husband, who was also a slave, once told her his master was so mean that he often whipped his slaves until blood ran in their shoes.
There was a group of men, known as the "Patter-Rollers", whose duty it was to see that slaves were not allowed to leave their individual plantations without passes which [HW: they] were supposed to receive from their masters. "A heap of them got whippings for being caught off without these passes," she stated, adding that "sometimes a few of them were fortunate enough to escape from the Patter-Rollers". She knew of one boy who, after having outrun the "Patter-Rollers", proceeded to make fun of them after he was safe behind his master's fence. Another man whom the Patter-Rollers had pursued any number of times but who had always managed to escape, was finally caught one day and told to pray before he was given his whipping. As he obeyed he noticed that he was not being closely observed, whereupon he made a break that resulted in his escape from them again.
The treatment on some of the other plantations was so severe that slaves often ran away, Jennie Kendricks told of one man [HW: who was] [TR: "being" crossed out] lashed [HW: and who] ran away but was finally caught. When his master brought him back he was locked in a room until he could be punished. When the master finally came to administer the whipping, Lash had cut his own throat in a last effort to secure his freedom. He was not successful; his life was saved by quick action on the part of his master. Sometime later after rough handling Lash finally killed his master [HW: and] was burned at the stake for this crime.
Other slaves were more successful at escape, some being able to remain away for as long as three years at a time. At nights, they slipped to the plantation where they stole hogs and other food. Their shelters were usually caves, some times holes dug in the ground. Whenever they were caught, they were severely whipped.
A slave might secure his freedom without running away. This is true in the case of Jennie Kendricks' grandfather who, after hiring his time out for a number of years, was able to save enough money with which to purchase himself from his master.
Jennie Kendricks remembers very little of the talk between her master and mistress concerning the war. She does remember being taken to see the Confederate soldiers drill a short distance from the house. She says "I though it was very pretty, 'course I did'nt know what was causing this or what the results would be". Mr. Moore's oldest sons went to war [HW: but he] himself did not enlist until the war was nearly over. She was told that the Yankee soldiers burned all the gin houses and took all live stock that they saw while on the march, but no soldiers passed near their plantation.
After the war ended and all the slaves had been set free, some did not know it, [HW: as] they were not told by their masters. [HW: A number of them] were tricked into signing contracts which bound them to their masters for several years longer.
As for herself and her grandmother, they remained on the Moore property where her grandmother finally died. Her mother moved away when freedom was declared and started working for someone else. It was about this time that Mr. Moore began to prosper, he and his brother Marvin gone into business together.
According to Jennie Kendricks, she has lived to reach such a ripe old age because she has always been obedient and because she has always been a firm believer in God.
[HW: Dist 1 Ex-Slave #62]
EX-SLAVE INTERVIEW: EMMALINE KILPATRICK, Age 74 Born a slave on the plantation of Judge William Watson Moore, White Plains, (Greene County) Georgia
BY: SARAH H. HALL ATHENS, GA. [Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]
One morning in October, as I finished planting hyacinth bulbs on my cemetery lot, I saw an old negro woman approaching. She was Emmaline Kilpatrick, born in 1863, on my grandfather's plantation.
"Mawnin' Miss Sarah," she began, "Ah seed yer out hyar in de graveyard, en I cum right erlong fer ter git yer ter read yo' Aunt Willie's birthday, offen her toomstone, en put it in writin' fer me."
"I don't mind doing that for you, Emmaline," I replied, "but why do you want to know my aunt's birthday?"
"Well," answered the old ex-slave, "I can't rightly tell mah age no udder way. My mammy, she tole me, I wuz bawned de same night ez Miss Willie wuz, en mammy allus tole me effen I ever want ter know how ole I is, jes' ask my white folks how ole Miss Willie is."
When I had pencilled the birthdate on a scrap of paper torn from my note book and she had tucked it carefully away in a pocket in her clean blue checked gingham apron, Emmaline began to talk of the old days on my grandfather's farm.
"Miss Sarah, Ah sho did love yo' aunt Willie. We wuz chilluns growin' up tergedder on Marse Billie's place. You mought not know it, but black chilluns gits grown heap faster den white chilluns, en whilst us played 'round de yard, en orchards, en pastures out dar, I wuz sposed ter take care er Miss Willie en not let her git hurt, er nuthin' happen ter her."
"My mammy say dat whan Marse Billie cum hom' frum de War, he call all his niggers tergedder en tell 'am dey is free, en doan b'long ter nobody no mo'. He say dat eny uf 'um dat want to, kin go 'way and live whar dey laks, en do lak dey wanter. Howsome ebber, he do say effen enybody wants ter stay wid him, en live right on in de same cabins, dey kin do it, effen dey promise him ter be good niggers en mine him lak dey allus done."
"Most all de niggers stayed wid Marse Billie, 'ceppen two er thee brash, good fer nuthin's."
Standing there in the cemetery, as I listened to old Emmaline tell of the old days, I could see cotton being loaded on freight cars at the depot. I asked Emmaline to tell what she could remember of the days whan we had no railroad to haul the cotton to market.
"Well," she said, "Fore dis hyar railroad wuz made, dey hauled de cotton ter de Pint (She meant Union Point) en sold it dar. De Pint's jes' 'bout twelve miles fum hyar. Fo' day had er railroad thu de Pint, Marse Billie used ter haul his cotton clear down ter Jools ter sell it. My manny say dat long fo' de War he used ter wait twel all de cotton wuz picked in de fall, en den he would have it all loaded on his waggins. Not long fo' sundown he wud start de waggins off, wid yo' unker Anderson bossin' 'em, on de all night long ride towards Jools. 'Bout fo' in de mawnin' Marse Billie en yo' grammaw, Miss Margie, 'ud start off in de surrey, driving de bays, en fo' dem waggins git ter Jools Marse Billie done cotch up wid em. He drive er head en lead em on ter de cotton mill in Jools, whar he sell all his cotton. Den him en Miss Margie, dey go ter de mill sto' en buy white sugar en udder things dey doan raise on de plantation, en load 'em on de waggins en start back home."
"But Emmaline," I interrupted, "Sherman's army passed through Jewels and burned the houses and destroyed the property there. How did the people market their cotton then?"
Emmaline scratched her head. "Ah 'members somepin 'bout dat," she declared. "Yassum, I sho' does 'member my mammy sayin' dat folks sed when de Fed'rals wuz bunnin' up evvy thing 'bout Jools, dey wuz settin' fire ter de mill, when de boss uv dem sojers look up en see er sign up over er upstairs window. Hit wuz de Mason's sign up day, kaze dat wuz de Mason's lodge hall up over de mill. De sojer boss, he meks de udder sojers put out de fire. He say him er Mason hisself en he ain' gwine see nobuddy burn up er Masonic Hall. Dey kinder tears up some uv de fixin's er de Mill wuks, but dey dassent burn down de mill house kaze he ain't let 'em do nuthin' ter de Masonic Hall. Yar knows, Miss Sarah, Ah wuz jes' 'bout two years ole when dat happen, but I ain't heered nuffin' 'bout no time when dey didden' take cotton ter Jools ever year twel de railroad come hyar."
"Did yer ax me who mah'ed my maw an paw? Why, Marse Billie did, cose he did! He wuz Jedge Moore, Marse Billie wuz, en he wone gwine hev no foolis'mant 'mongst 'is niggers. Fo' de War en durin' de War, de niggers went ter de same church whar dare white folks went. Only de niggers, dey set en de gallery."
"Marse Billie made all his niggers wuk moughty hard, but he sho' tuk good keer uv 'em. Miss Margie allus made 'em send fer her when de chilluns wuz bawned in de slave cabins. My mammy, she say, Ise 'bout de onliest slave baby Miss Margie diden' look after de bawnin, on dat plantation. When any nigger on dat farm wuz sick, Marse Billie seed dat he had medicine an lookin' atter, en ef he wuz bad sick Marse Billie had da white folks doctor come see 'bout 'im."
"Did us hev shoes? Yas Ma'am us had shoes. Dat wuz all ole Pegleg wuz good fer, jes ter mek shoes, en fix shoes atter dey wuz 'bout ter give out. Pegleg made de evvy day shoes for Marse Billie's own chilluns, 'cept now en den Marse Billie fetched 'em home some sto' bought shoes fun Jools."
"Yassum, us sho' wuz skeered er ghosts. Dem days when de War won't long gone, niggers sho' wus skert er graveyards. Mos' evvy nigger kep' er rabbit foot, kaze ghosties wone gwine bodder nobuddy dat hed er lef' hind foot frum er graveyard rabbit. Dem days dar wuz mos' allus woods 'round de graveyards, en it uz easy ter ketch er rabbit az he loped outer er graveyard. Lawsy, Miss Sarah, dose days Ah sho' wouldn't er been standin' hyar in no graveyard talkin' ter ennybody, eben in wide open daytime."
"En you ax wuz dey enny thing else uz wuz skert uv? Yassum, us allus did git moughty oneasy ef er scritch owl hollered et night. Pappy ud hop right out er his bed en stick de fire shovel en de coals. Effen he did dat rat quick, an look over 'is lef' shoulder whilst de shovel gittin' hot, den maybe no no nigger gwine die dat week on dat plantation. En us nebber did lak ter fine er hawse tail hair en de hawse trough, kaze us wuz sho' ter meet er snake fo' long."
"Yassum, us had chawms fer heap er things. Us got 'em fum er ole Injun 'oman dat lived crost de crick. Her sold us chawms ter mek de mens lak us, en chawms dat would git er boy baby, er anudder kind er chawms effen yer want er gal baby. Miss Margie allus scold 'bout de chawns, en mek us shamed ter wear 'em, 'cept she doan mine ef us wear asserfitidy chawms ter keep off fevers, en she doan say nuffin when my mammy wear er nutmeg on a wool string 'round her neck ter keep off de rheumatiz.
"En is you got ter git on home now, Miss Sarah? Lemme tote dat hoe en trowel ter yer car fer yer. Yer gwine ter take me home in yer car wid yer, so ez I kin weed yer flower gyarden fo' night? Yassum, I sho' will be proud ter do it fer de black dress you wo' las' year. Ah gwine ter git evvy speck er grass outer yo' flowers, kaze ain' you jes' lak yo' grammaw—my Miss Margie."
[HW: Dist 6 Ex Slave #65]
FRANCES KIMBROUGH, EX-SLAVE Place of birth: On Kimbrough plantation, Harries County, near Cataula, Georgia Date of birth: About 1854 Present residence: 1639-5th Avenue, Columbus, Georgia Interviewed: August 7, 1936 [Date Stamp: MAY 8 —]
"Aunt Frances" story reveals that, her young "marster" was Dr. Jessie Kimbrough—a man who died when she was about eighteen years of age. But a few weeks later, while working in the field one day, she saw "Marse Jessie's" ghost leaning against a pine "watchin us free Niggers wuckin."
When she was about twenty-two years of age, "a jealous Nigger oman" "tricked" her. The "spell" cast by this "bad oman" affected the victim's left arm and hand. Both became numb and gave her great "misery". A peculiar feature of this visitation of the "conjurer's" spite was: if a friend or any one massaged or even touched the sufferer's afflicted arm or hand, that person was also similarly stricken the following day, always recovering, however, on the second day.
Finally, "Aunt" Frances got in touch with a "hoodoo" doctor, a man who lived in Muscogee County—about twenty-five miles distant from her. This man paid the patient one visit, then gave her absent treatment for several weeks, at the end of which time she recovered the full use of her arm and hand. Neither ever gave her any trouble again.
For her old-time "white fokes", "Aunt" Frances entertains an almost worshipful memory. Also, in her old age, she reflects the superstitious type of her race.
Being so young when freedom was declared, emancipation did not have as much significance for "Aunt" Frances as it did for the older colored people. In truth, she had no true conception of what it "wuz all about" until several years later. But she does know that she had better food and clothes before the slaves were freed than she had in the years immediately following.
She is deeply religious, as most ex-slaves are, but—as typical of the majority of aged Negroes—associates "hants" and superstition with her religion.
[HW: Dist 6 Ex-Slave #64]
Mary A. Crawford Re-Search Worker
CHARLIE KING—EX-SLAVE Interviewed 435 E. Taylor Street, Griffin, Georgia September 16, 1936
Charlie was born in Sandtown, (now Woodbury) Meriwether County, Georgia, eighty-five or six years ago. He does not know his exact age because his "age got burned up" when the house in which his parents lived was burned to the ground.
The old man's parents, Ned and Ann King, [TR: "were slaves of" crossed out] Mr. John King, who owned a big plantation near Sandtown [TR: "also about two hundred slaves" crossed out]. [TR: HW corrections are too faint to read.]
Charlie's parents were married by the "broom stick ceremony." The Master and Mistress were present at the wedding. The broom was laid down on the floor, the couple held each other's hands and stepped backward over it, then the Master told the crowd that the couple were man and wife.
This marriage lasted for over fifty years and they "allus treated each other right."
Charlie said that all the "Niggers" on "ole Master's place" had to work, "even chillun over seven or eight years of age."
The first work that Charlie remembered was "toting cawn" for his mother "to drap", and sweeping the yards up at the "big house". He also recalls that many times when he was in the yard at the "big house", "Ole Miss" would call him in and give him a buttered biscuit.
The Master and Mistress always named the Negro babies and usually gave them Bible names.
When the Negroes were sick, "Ole Master" and "Ole Miss" did the doctoring, sometimes giving them salts or oil, and if [HW: a Negro] refused it, they used the raw hide "whup."
When a member of a Negro family died, the master permitted all the Negroes to stop work and go to the funeral. The slave was buried in the slave grave yard. Sometimes a white minister read the Bible service, but usually a Negro preacher [HW: "officiated"].
The Negroes on this plantation had to work from sun up till sun down, except Saturday and Sunday; those were free.
The master blew on a big conch shell every morning at four o'clock, and when the first long blast was heard the lights "'gin to twinkle in every "Nigger" cabin." Charlie, chuckling, recalled that "ole Master" blowed that shell so it could-a-been heard for five miles." Some of the "Niggers" went to feed the mules and horses, some to milk the cows, some to cook the breakfast in the big house, some to chop the wood, while others were busy cleaning up the "big house."
When asked if he believed in signs, Charlie replied: "I sho does for dis reason. Once jest befo my baby brother died, ole screech owl, he done come and set up in the big oak tree right at the doah by de bed and fo' the next twelve hours passed, my brother was dead. Screech owls allus holler 'round the house before death."
The slaves always had plenty to eat and wear, and therefore did not know what it was to be hungry.
The Master planted many acres of cotton, corn, wheat, peas, and all kinds of garden things. Every "Nigger family was required to raise plenty of sweet potatoes, the Master giving them a patch." "My 'ole Master' trained his smartest 'Niggers' to do certain kinds of work. My mother was a good weaver, and [HW: she] wove all the cloth for her own family, and bossed the weaving of all the other weavers on the plantation."
Charlie and all of his ten brothers and sisters helped to card and spin the cotton for the looms. Sometimes they worked all night, Charlie often going to sleep while carding, when his mother would crack him on the head with the carder handle and wake him up. Each child had a night for carding and spinning, so they all would get a chance to sleep.
Every Saturday night, the Negroes had a "breakdown," often dancing all night long. About twelve o'clock they had a big supper, everybody bringing a box of all kinds of good things to eat, and putting it on a long table.
On Sunday, all the darkies had to go to church. Sometimes the Master had a house on his plantation for preaching, and sometimes the slaves had to go ten or twelve miles to preaching. When they went so far the slaves could use 'ole' Master's' mules and wagons.
Charlie recalls very well when the Yankees came through. The first thing they did when they reached 'ole Master's' place was to break open the smokehouse and throw the best hams and shoulders out to the darkies, but as soon as the Yankees passed, the white folks made the "Niggers" take "all dey had'nt et up" back to the smokehouse. "Yes, Miss, we had plenty of liquor. Ole Master always kept kegs of it in the cellar and big 'Jimmy-john's' full in the house, and every Saturday night he'd give us darkies a dram, but nobody nevah seed no drunk Nigger lak dey does now."
Charlie's mother used to give her "chillun" "burnt whiskey" every morning "to start the day off." This burnt whiskey gave them "long life".
Another thing that Charlie recalls about the Yankees coming through, was that they took the saddles off their "old sore back horses", turned them loose, and caught some of Master's fine "hosses", threw the saddles over them and rode away.
Charlie said though "ole Marster" "whupped" when it was necessary, but he was not "onmerciful" like some of the other "ole Marsters" were, but the "paterolers would sho lay it on if they caught a Nigger off his home plantation without a pass." The passes were written statements or permits signed by the darkies' owner, or the plantation overseer.
Charlie is very feeble and unable to work. The Griffin Relief Association [TR: "furnishes him his sustenance" crossed out, "sees to him" or possibly "supports him" written in.]
PLANTATION LIFE AS VIEWED BY EX-SLAVE
NICEY KINNEY, Age 86 R.F.D. #3 Athens, Ga.
Written by: Miss Grace McCune Athens
Edited by: Mrs. Sarah H. Hall Athens
and John N. Booth District Supervisor Federal Writers' Proj. Res. 6 & 7 Augusta, Ga.
Sept. 28, 1938
A narrow path under large water oaks led through a well-kept yard where a profusion of summer flowers surrounded Nicey Kinney's two-story frame house. The porch floor and a large portion of the roof had rotted down, and even the old stone chimney at one end of the structure seemed to sag. The middle-aged mulatto woman who answered the door shook her head when asked if she was Nicey Kinney. "No, mam," she protested, "but dat's my mother and she's sick in bed. She gits mighty lonesome lyin' dar in de bed and she sho does love to talk. Us would be mighty proud if you would come in and see her."
Nicey was propped up in bed and, although the heat of the September day was oppressive, the sick woman wore a black shoulder cape over her thick flannel nightgown; heavy quilts and blankets were piled close about her thin form, and the window at the side of her bed was tightly closed. Not a lock of her hair escaped the nightcap that enveloped her head. The daughter removed an empty food tray and announced, "Mammy, dis lady's come to see you and I 'spects you is gwine to lak her fine 'cause she wants to hear 'bout dem old days dat you loves so good to tell about." Nicey smiled. "I'se so glad you come to see me," she said, "'cause I gits so lonesome; jus' got to stay here in dis bed, day in and day out. I'se done wore out wid all de hard wuk I'se had to do, and now I'se a aged 'oman, done played out and sufferin' wid de high blood pressur'. But I kin talk and I does love to bring back dem good old days a-fore de war."
Newspapers had been pasted on the walls of Nicey's room. In one corner an enclosed staircase was cut off from the room by a door at the head of the third step; the space underneath the stair was in use as a closet. The marble topped bureau, two double beds, a couple of small tables, and some old chairs were all of a period prior to the current century. A pot of peas was perched on a pair of "firedogs" over the coals of a wood fire in the open fireplace. On a bed of red coals a thick iron pan held a large pone of cornbread, and the tantalizing aroma of coffee drew attention to a steaming coffeepot on a trivet in one corner of the hearth. Nicey's daughter turned the bread over and said, "Missy, I jus' bet you ain't never seed nobody cookin' dis way. Us is got a stove back in de kitchen, but our somepin t'eat seems to taste better fixed dis 'way; it brings back dem old days when us was chillun and all of us was at home wid mammy." Nicey grinned. "Missy," she said, "Annie—dat's dis gal of mine here—laughs at de way I laks dem old ways of livin', but she's jus' as bad 'bout 'em as I is, 'specially 'bout dat sort of cookin'; somepin t'eat cooked in dat old black pot is sho good.
"Marse Gerald Sharp and his wife, Miss Annie, owned us and, Child, dey was grand folks. Deir old home was 'way up in Jackson County 'twixt Athens and Jefferson. Dat big old plantation run plumb back down to de Oconee River. Yes, mam, all dem rich river bottoms was Marse Gerald's.
"Mammy's name was Ca'line and she b'longed to Marse Gerald, but Marse Hatton David owned my daddy—his name was Phineas. De David place warn't but 'bout a mile from our plantation and daddy was 'lowed to stay wid his fambly most evvy night; he was allus wid us on Sundays. Marse Gerald didn't have no slaves but my mammy and her chillun, and he was sho mighty good to us.
"Marse Gerald had a nice four-room house wid a hall all de way through it. It even had two big old fireplaces on one chimbly. No, mam, it warn't a rock chimbly; dat chimbly was made out of home-made bricks. Marster's fambly had deir cookin' done in a open fireplace lak evvybody else for a long time and den jus' 'fore de big war he bought a stove. Yes, mam, Marse Gerald bought a cook stove and us felt plumb rich 'cause dere warn't many folks dat had stoves back in dem days.
"Mammy lived in de old kitchen close by de big house 'til dere got to be too many of us; den Marse Gerald built us a house jus' a little piece off from de big house. It was jus' a log house, but Marster had all dem cracks chinked tight wid red mud, and he even had one of dem franklin-back chimblies built to keep our little cabin nice and warm. Why, Child, ain't you never seed none of dem old chimblies? Deir backs sloped out in de middle to throw out de heat into de room and keep too much of it from gwine straight up de flue. Our beds in our cabin was corded jus' lak dem up at de big house, but us slept on straw ticks and, let me tell you, dey sho slept good atter a hard days's wuk.
"De bestest water dat ever was come from a spring right nigh our cabin and us had long-handled gourds to drink it out of. Some of dem gourds hung by de spring all de time and dere was allus one or two of 'em hangin' by de side of our old cedar waterbucket. Sho', us had a cedar bucket and it had brass hoops on it; dat was some job to keep dem hoops scrubbed wid sand to make 'em bright and shiny, and dey had to be clean and pretty all de time or mammy would git right in behind us wid a switch. Marse Gerald raised all dem long-handled gourds dat us used 'stid of de tin dippers folks has now, but dem warn't de onliest kinds of gourds he growed on his place. Dere was gourds mos' as big as waterbuckets, and dey had short handles dat was bent whilst de gourds was green, so us could hang 'em on a limb of a tree in de shade to keep water cool for us when us was wukin' in de field durin' hot weather.
"I never done much field wuk 'til de war come on, 'cause Mistess was larnin' me to be a housemaid. Marse Gerald and Miss Annie never had no chillun 'cause she warn't no bearin' 'oman, but dey was both mighty fond of little folks. On Sunday mornin's mammy used to fix us all up nice and clean and take us up to de big house for Marse Gerald to play wid. Dey was good christian folks and tuk de mostest pains to larn us chillun how to live right. Marster used to 'low as how he had done paid $500 for Ca'line but he sho wouldn't sell her for no price.
"Evvything us needed was raised on dat plantation 'cept cotton. Nary a stalk of cotton was growed dar, but jus' de same our clothes was made out of cloth dat Mistess and my mammy wove out of thread us chillun spun, and Mistess tuk a heap of pains makin' up our dresses. Durin' de war evvybody had to wear homespun, but dere didn't nobody have no better or prettier dresses den ours, 'cause Mistess knowed more'n anybody 'bout dyein' cloth. When time come to make up a batch of clothes Mistess would say, 'Ca'line holp me git up my things for dyein',' and us would fetch dogwood bark, sumach, poison ivy, and sweetgum bark. That poison ivy made the best black of anything us ever tried, and Mistess could dye the prettiest sort of purple wid sweetgum bark. Cop'ras was used to keep de colors from fadin', and she knowed so well how to handle it dat you could wash cloth what she had dyed all day long and it wouldn't fade a speck.
"Marster was too old to go to de war, so he had to stay home and he sho seed dat us done our wuk raisin' somepin t'eat. He had us plant all our cleared ground, and I sho has done some hard wuk down in dem old bottom lands, plowin', hoein', pullin' corn and fodder, and I'se even cut cordwood and split rails. Dem was hard times and evvybody had to wuk.
"Sometimes Marse Gerald would be away a week at a time when he went to court at Jefferson, and de very last thing he said 'fore he driv off allus was, 'Ca'line, you and de chillun take good care of Mistess.' He most allus fetched us new shoes when he come back, 'cause he never kept no shoemaker man on our place, and all our shoes was store-bought. Dey was jus' brogans wid brass toes, but us felt powerful dressed up when us got 'em on, 'specially when dey was new and de brass was bright and shiny. Dere was nine of us chillun, four boys and five gals. Us gals had plain cotton dresses made wid long sleeves and us wore big sunbonnets. What would gals say now if dey had to wear dem sort of clothes and do wuk lak what us done? Little boys didn't wear nothin' but long shirts in summertime, but come winter evvybody had good warm clothes made out of wool off of Marse Gerald's own sheep, and boys, even little tiny boys, had britches in winter.
"Did you ever see folks shear sheep, Child? Well, it was a sight in dem days. Marster would tie a sheep on de scaffold, what he had done built for dat job, and den he would have me set on de sheep's head whilst he cut off de wool. He sont it to de factory to have it carded into bats and us chillun spun de thread at home and mammy and Mistess wove it into cloth for our winter clothes. Nobody warn't fixed up better on church days dan Marster's Niggers and he was sho proud of dat.
"Us went to church wid our white folks 'cause dere warn't no colored churches dem days. None of de churches 'round our part of de country had meetin' evvy Sunday, so us went to three diffunt meetin' houses. On de fust Sunday us went to Captain Crick Baptist church, to Sandy Crick Presbyterian church on second Sundays, and on third Sundays meetin' was at Antioch Methodist church whar Marster and Mistess was members. Dey put me under de watchkeer of deir church when I was a mighty little gal, 'cause my white folks sho b'lieved in de church and in livin' for God; de larnin' dat dem two good old folks gimme is done stayed right wid me all through life, so far, and I aims to live by it to de end. I didn't sho 'nough jine up wid no church 'til I was done growed up and had left Marse Gerald; den I jined de Cedar Grove Baptist church and was baptized dar, and dar's whar I b'longs yit.
"Marster was too old to wuk when dey sot us free, so for a long time us jus' stayed dar and run his place for him. I never seed none of dem Yankee sojers but one time. Marster was off in Jefferson and while I was down at de washplace I seed 'bout 12 men come ridin' over de hill. I was sho skeered and when I run and told Mistess she made us all come inside her house and lock all de doors. Dem Yankee mens jus' rode on through our yard down to de river and stayed dar a little while; den dey turned around and rid back through our yard and on down de big road, and us never seed 'em no more.
"Soon atter dey was sot free Niggers started up churches of dey own and it was some sight to see and hear 'em on meetin' days. Dey would go in big crowds and sometimes dey would go to meetin's a fur piece off. Dey was all fixed up in deir Sunday clothes and dey walked barfoots wid deir shoes acrost deir shoulders to keep 'em from gittin' dirty. Jus' 'fore dey got to de church dey stopped and put on deir shoes and den dey was ready to git together to hear de preacher.
"Folks don't know nothin' 'bout hard times now, 'specially young folks; dey is on de gravy train and don't know it, but dey is headed straight for 'struction and perdition; dey's gwine to land in dat burnin' fire if dey don't mind what dey's about. Jus' trust in de Lord, Honey, and cast your troubles on Him and He'll stay wid you, but if you turns your back on Him, den you is lost, plumb gone, jus' as sho as shelled corn.
"When us left Marse Gerald and moved nigh Athens he got a old Nigger named Egypt, what had a big fambly, to live on his place and do all de wuk. Old Marster didn't last long atter us was gone. One night he had done let his farm hands have a big cornshuckin' and had seed dat dey had plenty of supper and liquor to go wid it and, as was de custom dem days, some of dem Niggers got Old Marster up on deir shoulders and toted him up to de big house, singin' as dey went along. He was jus' as gay as dey was, and joked de boys. When dey put him down on de big house porch he told Old Mistess he didn't want no supper 'cept a little coffee and bread, and he strangled on de fust bite. Mistess sont for de doctor but he was too nigh gone, and it warn't long 'fore he had done gone into de glory of de next world. He was 'bout 95 years old when he died and he had sho been a good man. One of my nieces and her husband went dar atter Marse Gerald died and tuk keer of Mistess 'til she went home to glory too.
"Mammy followed Old Mistess to glory in 'bout 3 years. Us was livin' on de Johnson place den, and it warn't long 'fore me and George Kinney got married. A white preacher married us, but us didn't have no weddin' celebration. Us moved to de Joe Langford place in Oconee County, but didn't stay dar but one year; den us moved 'crost de crick into Clarke County and atter us farmed dar 9 years, us moved on to dis here place whar us has been ever since. Plain old farmin' is de most us is ever done, but George used to make some mighty nice cheers to sell to de white folks. He made 'em out of hick'ry what he seasoned jus' right and put rye split bottoms in 'em. Dem cheers lasted a lifetime; when dey got dirty you jus' washed 'em good and sot 'em in de sun to dry and dey was good as new. George made and sold a lot of rugs and mats dat he made out of plaited shucks. Most evvybody kep' a shuck footmat 'fore deir front doors. Dem sunhats made out of shucks and bulrushes was mighty fine to wear in de field when de sun was hot. Not long atter all ten of our chillun was borned, George died out and left me wid dem five boys and five gals.
"Some old witch-man conjured me into marryin' Jordan Jackson. Dat's de blessed truth, Honey; a fortune-teller is done told me how it was done. I didn't want to have nothin' to do wid Jordan 'cause I knowed he was jus' a no 'count old drinkin' man dat jus' wanted my land and stuff. When he couldn't git me to pay him no heed hisself, he went to a old conjure man and got him to put a spell on me. Honey, didn't you know dey could do dat back in dem days? I knows dey could, 'cause I never woulda run round wid no Nigger and married him if I hadn't been witched by dat conjure business. De good Lord sho punishes folks for deir sins on dis earth and dat old man what put dat spell on me died and went down to burnin' hell, and it warn't long den 'fore de spell left me.
"Right den I showed dat no 'count Jordan Jackson dat I was a good 'oman, a powerful sight above him, and dat he warn't gwine to git none of dis land what my chillun's daddy had done left 'em. When I jus' stood right up to him and showed him he warn't gwine to out whack me, he up and left me and I don't even use his name no more 'cause I don't want it in my business no way a t'all. Jordan's done paid his debt now since he died and went down in dat big old burnin' hell 'long wid de old witch man dat conjured me for him.
"Yes, Honey, de Lord done put it on record dat dere is sho a burnin' place for torment, and didn't my Marster and Mistess larn me de same thing? I sho does thank 'em to dis day for de pains dey tuk wid de little Nigger gal dat growed up to be me, tryin' to show her de right road to travel. Oh! If I could jus' see 'em one more time, but dey can look down from de glory land and see dat I'se still tryin' to follow de road dat leads to whar dey is, and when I gits to dat good and better world I jus' knows de Good Lord will let dis aged 'oman be wid her dear Marster and Mistess all through de time to come.
"Trust God, Honey, and He will lead you home to glory. I'se sho enjoyed talkin' to you, and I thanks you for comin'. I'se gwine to ax Him to take good keer of you and let you come back to cheer up old Nicey again."
PLANTATION LIFE AS VIEWED BY AN EX-SLAVE
JULIA LARKEN, Age 76 693 Meigs Street Athens, Georgia
Written by: Miss Grace McCune Athens
Edited by: Mrs. Sarah H. Hall Athens
and John N. Booth District Supervisor Federal Writers' Project Residencies 6 & 7 Augusta, Georgia
Julia's small three-room cottage is a servant house at the rear of a white family's residence. A gate through an old-fashioned picket fence led into a spacious yard where dense shade from tall pecan trees was particularly inviting after a long walk in the sweltering heat.
An aged mulatto woman was seated on the narrow porch. Her straight white hair was arranged in braids, and her faded print dress and enormous checked apron were clean and carefully patched. A pair of dark colored tennis shoes completed her costume. She arose, tall and erect, to greet her visitor. "Yessum, dis here's Julia Larken," she said with a friendly smile. "Come right in, Chile, and set here and rest on my nice cool porch. I knows you's tired plumb out. You shouldn't be out walkin' 'round in dis hot sun—It ain't good for you. It'll make you have brain fever 'fore you knows it."
When asked for the story of her life, Julia replied: "Lordy, Chile, did you do all dis walkin', hot as it is today, jus' to hear dis old Nigger talk? Well, jus' let me tell you, dem days back yonder 'fore de war was de happiest time of my whole life.
"I don't know much 'bout slavery, 'cause I was jus' a little gal when de war ended. I was borned in war times on Marse Payton Sails' plantation, way off down in Lincoln County. My Ma was borned and bred right dar on dat same place. Marster bought my Daddy and his Mammy from Captain LeMars, and dey tuk de name of Sails atter dey come to live on his place. Mammy's name was Betsy Sails and Daddy was named Sam'l. Dey was married soon atter Marster fetched Daddy dar.
"Dere ain't no tellin' how big Marster's old plantation was. His house set right on top of a high hill. His plantation road circled 'round dat hill two or three times gittin' from de big road to de top of de hill. Dere was a great deep well in de yard whar dey got de water for de big house. Marster's room was upstairs and had steps on de outside dat come down into de yard. On one side of his house was a fine apple orchard, so big dat it went all de way down de hill to de big road.
"On de other side of de house was a large gyarden whar us raised evvything in de way of good veg'tables; dere was beans, corn, peas, turnips, collards, 'taters, and onions. Why dey had a big patch of nothin' but onions. Us did love onions. Dere was allus plenty of good meat in Marster's big old smokehouse dat stood close by de well. Marster, he believed in raisin' heaps of meat. He had cows, hogs, goats, and sheep, not to mention his chickens and turkeys.
"All de cloth for slaves' clothes was made at home. Mammy was one of de cooks up at de big house, and she made cloth too. Daddy was de shoe man. He made de shoes for all de folks on de plantation.
"De log cabins what de slaves lived in was off a piece from de big house. Dem cabins had rock chimblies, put together wid red mud. Dere warn't no glass in de windows and doors of dem cabins—jus' plain old home-made wooden shutters and doors." Julia laughed as she told of their beds. "Us called 'em four posters, and dat's what dey was, but dey was jus' plain old pine posties what one of de men on de plantation made up. Two posties at de head and two at de foot wid pine rails betwixt 'em was de way dey made dem beds. Dere warn't no sto'-bought steel springs dem days, not even for de white folks, but dem old cord springs went a long ways towards makin' de beds comfortable and dey holped to hold de bed together. De four poster beds de white folks slept on was corded too, but deir posties warn't made out of pine. Dey used oak and walnut and sometimes real mahogany, and dey carved 'em up pretty. Some of dem big old posties to de white folkses beds was six inches thick.
"Slaves all et up at de big house in dat long old kitchen. I kin jus' see dat kitchen now. It warn't built on to de big house, 'cept it was at de end of a big porch dat went from it to de big house. A great big fireplace was 'most all de way 'cross one end of dat kitchen, and it had racks and cranes for de pots and pans and ovens but, jus' let me tell you, our Marster had a cookstove too. Yessum, it was a real sho' 'nough iron cookstove. No'm, it warn't 'zactly lak de stoves us uses now. It was jus' a long, low stove, widout much laigs, jus' flat on top wid eyes to cook on. De oven was at de bottom. Mammy and Grandma Mary was mighty proud of dat stove, 'cause dere warn't nobody else 'round dar what had a cookstove so us was jus' plumb rich folks.
"Slaves didn't come to de house for dinner when dey was wukin' a fur piece off in de fields. It was sont to 'em, and dat was what kilt one of my brothers. Whilst it was hot, de cooks would set de bucket of dinner on his haid and tell him to run to de field wid it fore it got cold. He died wid brain fever, and de doctor said it was from totin' all dem hot victuals on his haid. Pore Brudder John, he sho' died out, and ever since den I been skeered of gittin' too hot on top of de haid.
"Dere was twelve of Mammy's chillun in all, countin' Little Peter who died out when he was a baby. De other boys was John, Tramer, Sam'l, George, and Scott. De only one of my brothers left now is George, leastwise I reckon he's livin' yet. De last 'count I had of him he was in Chicago, and he must be 'bout a hundred years old now. De gals was me and Mary, 'Merica, Hannah, Betsy, and Emma.
"'Fore Grandma Mary got too old to do all de cookin', Mammy wuked in de field. Mammy said she allus woke up early, and she could hear Marster when he started gittin' up. She would hurry and git out 'fore he had time to call 'em. Sometimes she cotch her hoss and rid to the field ahead of de others, 'cause Marster never laked for nobody to be late in de mornin'. One time he got atter one of his young slaves out in de field and told him he was a good mind to have him whupped. Dat night de young Nigger was tellin' a old slave 'bout it, and de old man jus' laughed and said: 'When Marster pesters me dat way I jus' rise up and cuss him out.' Dat young fellow 'cided he would try it out and de next time Marster got atter him dey had a rukus what I ain't never gwine to forgit. Us was all out in de yard at de big house, skeered to git a good breath when us heared Marster tell him to do somepin, 'cause us knowed what he was meanin' to do. He didn't go right ahead and mind Marster lak he had allus been used to doin'. Marster called to him again, and den dat fool Nigger cut loose and he evermore did cuss Marster out. Lordy, Chile, Marster jus' fairly tuk de hide off dat Nigger's back. When he tried to talk to dat old slave 'bout it de old man laughed and said: 'Shucks, I allus waits 'til I gits to de field to cuss Marster so he won't hear me.'
"Marster didn't have but two boys and one of 'em got kilt in de war. Dat sho'ly did hurt our good old Marster, but dat was de onliest diffunce de war made on our place. When it was over and dey said us was free, all de slaves stayed right on wid de Marster; dat was all dey knowed to do. Marster told 'em dey could stay on jus' as long as dey wanted to, and dey was right dar on dat hill 'til Marster had done died out and gone to Glory.
"Us chillun thought hog killin' time wes de best time of all de year. Us would hang 'round de pots whar dey was rendin' up de lard and all day us et dem good old browned skin cracklin's and ash roasted 'taters. Marster allus kilt from 50 to 60 hogs at a time. It tuk dat much meat to feed all de folks dat had to eat from his kitchen. Little chillun never had nothin' much to do 'cept eat and sleep and play, but now, jus' let me tell you for sho', dere warn't no runnin' 'round nights lak dey does now. Not long 'fore sundown dey give evvy slave chile a wooden bowl of buttermilk and cornpone and a wooden spoon to eat it wid. Us knowed us had to finish eatin' in time to be in bed by de time it got dark.
"Our homespun dresses had plain waisties wid long skirts gathered on to 'em. In hot weather chillun wore jus' one piece; dat was a plain slip, but in cold weather us had plenty of good warm clothes. Dey wove cotton and wool together to make warm cloth for our winter clothes and made shoes for us to wear in winter too. Marster evermore did believe in takin' good keer of his Niggers.
"I kin ricollect dat 'fore dere was any churches right in our neighborhood, slaves would walk 8 and 10 miles to church. Dey would git up 'way 'fore dawn on meetin' day, so as to git dar on time. Us wouldn't wear our shoes on dem long walks, but jus' went barfoots 'til us got nearly to de meetin' house. I jus' kin 'member dat, for chillun warn't 'lowed to try to walk dat fur a piece, but us could git up early in de mornin' and see de grown folks start off. Dey was dressed in deir best Sunday go-to-meetin' clothes and deir shoes, all shined up, was tied together and hung over deir shoulders to keep 'em from gittin' dust on 'em. [HW in margin: Sunday clothing] Men folks had on plain homespun shirts and jeans pants. De jeans what deir pants was made out of was homespun too. Some of de 'omans wore homespun dresses, but most of 'em had a calico dress what was saved special for Sunday meetin' wear. 'Omans wore two or three petticoats all ruffled and starched 'til one or dem underskirts would stand by itself. Dey went barfoots wid deir shoes hung over deir shoulders, jus' lak de mens, and evvy 'oman pinned up her dress and evvy one of her petticoats but one to keep 'em from gittin' muddy. Dresses and underskirts was made long enough to touch de ground dem days. Dey allus went off singin', and us chillun would be wishin' for de time when us would be old enough to wear long dresses wid starched petticoats and go to meetin'. Us chillun tried our best to stay 'wake 'til dey got home so us could hear 'em talk 'bout de preachin' and singin' and testifyin' for de Lord, and us allus axed how many had done jined de church dat day.
"Long 'fore I was old enough to make dat trip on foot, dey built a Baptist church nearby. It was de white folkses church, but dey let deir own Niggers join dar too, and how us chillun did love to play 'round it. No'm, us never broke out no windows or hurt nothin' playin' dar. Us warn't never 'lowed to throw no rocks when us was on de church grounds. De church was up on top of a high hill and at de bottom of dat hill was de creek whar de white folks had a fine pool for baptizin'. Dey had wooden steps to go down into it and a long wooden trough leadin' from de creek to fill up de pool whenever dere was baptizin' to be done. Dey had real sermons in dat church and folks come from miles around to see dem baptizin's. White folks was baptized fust and den de Niggers. When de time come for to baptize dem Niggers you could hear 'em singin' and shoutin' a long ways off.
"It jus' don't seem lak folks has de same sort of 'ligion now dey had dem days, 'specially when somebody dies. Den de neighbors all went to de house whar de corpse was and sung and prayed wid de fambly. De coffins had to be made atter folks was done dead. Dey measured de corpse and made de coffin 'cordin'ly. Most of 'em was made out of plain pine wood, lined wid black calico, and sometimes dey painted 'em black on de outside. Dey didn't have no 'balmers on de plantations so dey couldn't keep dead folks out long; dey had to bury 'em de very next day atter dey died. Dey put de corpse in one wagon and de fambly rode in another, but all de other folks walked to de graveyard. When dey put de coffin in de grave dey didn't have no sep'rate box to place it in, but dey did lay planks 'cross de top of it 'fore de dirt was put in. De preacher said a prayer and de folks sung Harps from de Tomb. Maybe several months later dey would have de funeral preached some Sunday.
"Us had all sorts of big doin's at harvest time. Dere was cornshuckin's, logrollin's, syrup makin's, and cotton pickin's. Dey tuk time about from one big plantation to another. Evvy place whar dey was a-goin' to celebrate tuk time off to cook up a lot of tasty eatments, 'specially to barbecue plenty of good meat. De Marsters at dem diffunt places allus seed dat dere was plenty of liquor passed 'round and when de wuk was done and de Niggers et all dey wanted, dey danced and played 'most all night. What us chillun laked most 'bout it was de eatin'. What I 'member best of all is de good old corn risin' lightbread. Did you ever see any of it, Chile? Why, my Mammy and Grandma Mary could bake dat bread so good it would jus' melt in your mouth.
"Mammy died whilst I was still little and Daddy married again. I guess his second wife had a time wid all of us chillun. She tried to be good to us, but I was skeered of her for a long time atter she come to our cabin. She larnt me how to make my dresses, and de fust one I made all by myself was a long sight too big for me. I tried it on and was plumb sick 'bout it bein' so big, den she said; 'Never mind, you'll grow to it.' Let me tell you, I got dat dress off in a hurry 'cause I was 'most skeered to death for fear dat if I kept it on it would grow to my skin lak I thought she meant. [HW in margin: Humor] I never put dat dress on no more for a long time and dat was atter I found out dat she jus' meant dat my dress would fit me atter I had growed a little more.
"All us chillun used to pick cotton for Marster, and he bought all our clothes and shoes. One day he told me and Mary dat us could go to de store and git us a pair of shoes apiece. 'Course us knowed what kind of shoes he meant for us to git, but Mary wanted a fine pair of Sunday shoes and dat's what she picked out and tuk home. Me, I got brass-toed brogans lak Marster meant for us to git. 'Bout half way home Mary put on her shoes and walked to de big house in 'em. When Marster seed 'em he was sho' mad as a hornet, but it was too late to take 'em back to de store atter de shoes had done been wore and was all scratched up. Marster fussed: 'Blast your hide, I'm a good mind to thrash you to death.' Mary stood dar shakin' and tremblin', but dat's all Marster ever said to her 'bout it. Us heared him tell Mist'ess dat dat gal Mary was a right smart Nigger.
"Marster had a great big old bull dat was mighty mean. He had real long horns, and he could lift de fence railin's down one by one and turn all de cows out. Evvy time he got out he would fight us chillun, so Marster had to keep him fastened up in de stable. One day when us wanted to play in de stable, us turned Old Camel (dat was de bull) out in de pasture. He tuk down rails enough wid his horns to let de cows in Marster's fine gyarden and dey et it all up. Marster was wuss dan mad dat time, but us hid in de barn under some hay 'til he went to bed. Next mornin' he called us all up to git our whuppin', but us cried and said us wouldn't never do it no more so our good old Marster let us off dat time.
"Lak I done said before, I stayed on dar 'til Marster died, den I married Matthew Hartsfield. Lordy, Chile, us didn't have no weddin'. I had on a new calico dress and Matthew wore some new blue jeans breeches. De Reverend Hargrove, de white folks preacher, married us and nobody didn't know nothin' 'bout it 'til it was all over. Us went to Oglethorpe County and lived dar 19 years 'fore Matthew died. I wuked wid white folks dar 'til I married up wid Ben Larken and us come on here to Athens to live. I have done some wuk for 'most all de white folks 'round here. Ben's grandpappy was a miller on Potts Creek, nigh Stephens, and sometimes Ben used to have to go help him out wid de wuk, atter he got old and feeble.
"Dey's all gone now and 'cept for some nieces, I'm left all alone. I kin still mind de chillun and even do a little wuk. For dat I do give thanks to de Good Lord—dat he keeps me able to do some wuk.
"Goodbye Chile," said Julia, when her visitor arose to leave. "You must be more keerful 'bout walkin' 'round when de sun is too hot. It'll make you sick sho'. Folks jus' don't know how to take de right sort of keer of deyselves dese days."
[HW: Dist. 5 Ex-Slave #67 E.F. Driskell 12/31/36]
[HW: GEORGE LEWIS] [Date Stamp: MAY 2- —]
Mr. George Lewis was born in Pensacola, Florida December 17, 1849. In addition to himself and his parents, Sophie and Charles Lewis, there were thirteen other children; two of whom were girls. Mr. Lewis (Geo.) was the third eldest child.
Although married Mr. Lewis' parents belonged to different owners. However, Dr. Brosenhan often allowed his servant to visit his wife on the plantation of her owner, Mrs. Caroline Bright.
In regard to work all of the members of the Lewis clan fared very well. The father, who belonged to Dr. Brosenhan, was a skilled shipbuilder and he was permitted to hire himself out to those needing his services. He was also allowed to hire [HW: out] those children belonging to him who were old enough to work. He was only required to pay his master and the mistress of his children a certain percent of his earnings. On the Bright plantation Mrs. Lewis served as maid and as part of her duties she had to help with the cooking. Mr. Lewis and his brothers and sisters were never required to do very much work. Most of their time was spent in playing around in the yard of the big house.
In answer to a query concerning the work requirements of the other slaves on this particular plantation Mr. Lewis replied "De sun would never ketch dem at de house. By de time it wus up dey had done got to de fiel'—not jes gwine. I've known men to have to wait till it wus bright enough to see how to plow without "kivering" the plants up. Dey lef' so early in de mornings dat breakfus' had to be sent to dem in de fiel'. De chillun was de ones who carried de meals dere. Dis was de first job dat I had. All de pails wus put on a long stick an' somebody hold to each end of de stick. If de fiel' hands was too far away fum de house at dinner time it was sent to dem de same as de breakfus'".
All of the slaves on the plantation were awakened each morning by a bugle or a horn which was blown by the overseer. The same overseer gave the signal for dinner hour by blowing on the same horn. All were usually given one hour for dinner. None had to do any work after leaving the fields unless it happened to be personal work. No work other than the caring for the stock was required on Sundays.
A few years before the Civil War Mrs. Bright married a Dr. Bennett Ferrel and moved to his home in Georgia (Troupe County).
Mr. Lewis states that he and his fellow slaves always had "pretty fair" food. Before they moved to Georgia the rations were issued daily and for the most part an issue consisted of vegetables, rice, beans, meat (pork), all kinds of fish and grits, etc.
"We got good clothes too says Mr. Lewis. All of 'em was bought. All de chillun wore a long shirt until dey wus too big an' den dey was given pants an' dresses. De shoes wus made out of red leather an' wus called brogans. After we moved to Georgia our new marster bought de cloth an' had all de clothes made on de plantation. De food wus "pretty fair" here too. We got corn bread an' biscuit sometimes—an' it was sometimes too—bacon, milk, all kinds of vegetables an' sicha stuff like dat. De flour dat we made de biscuits out of was de third grade shorts."
The food on Sunday was almost identical with that eaten during the week. However, those who desired to were allowed to hunt as much as they pleased to at night. They were not permitted to carry guns and so when the game was treed the tree had to be cut down in order to get it. It was in this way that the family larder was increased.
"All in all", says Mr. Lewis, "we got everything we wanted excep' dere wus no money comin' for our work an' we couldn't go off de place unless we asked. If you wus caught off your plantation without a permit fum marster de Paddy-Rollers whupped you an' sent you home."
The slaves living quarters were located in the rear of the "big house" (this was true of the plantation located in Pensacola as well as the one in Georgia). All were made of logs and, according to Mr. Lewis, all were substantially built. Wooden pegs were used in the place of nails and the cracks left in the walls were sealed with mud and sticks. These cabins were very comfortable and only one family was allowed to a cabin. All floors were of wood. The only furnishings were the beds and one or two benches or bales which served as chairs. In some respects these beds resembled a scaffold nailed to the side of a house. Others were made of heavy wood and had four legs to stand upon. For the most part, however, one end of the bed was nailed to the wall. The mattresses were made out of any kind of material that a slave could secure, burlap sacks, ausenberg, etc. After a large bag had been made with this material it was stuffed with straw. Heavy cord running from side to side was used for the bed springs. The end of the cord was tied to a handle at the end of the bed. This pemitted the occupant to tighten the cord when it became loosened. A few cooking utensils completed the furnishings. All illumination was secured by means of the door and the open fire place.
All of the slaves on the plantation were permitted to "frolic" whenever they wanted to and for as long a time as they wanted to. The master gave them all of the whiskey that they desired. One of the main times for a frolic was during a corn shucking. At each frolic there was dancing, fiddling, and eating. The next morning, however all had to be prepared to report as usual to the fields.
All were required to attend church each Sunday. The same church was used by the slave owners and their slaves. The owners attended church in the morning at eleven o'clock and the slaves attended at three o'clock. A white minister did all of the preaching. "De bigges' sermon he preached", says Mr. Lewis, "was to read de Bible an' den tell us to be smart an' not to steal chickens, eggs, an' butter, fum our marsters." All baptising was done by this selfsame minister.
When a couple wished to marry the man secured the permission of his intended wife's owner and if he consented, a broom was placed on the floor and the couple jumped over it and were then pronounced man and wife.
There was not a great deal of whipping on the plantation of Dr. Ferrel but at such times all whippings were administered by one of the overseers employed on the plantation. Mr. Lewis himself was only whipped once and then by the Doctor. This was just a few days before the slaves were freed. Mr. Lewis says that the doctor came to the field one morning and called him. He told him that they were going to be freed but that before he did free him he was going to let him see what it was like to be whipped by a white man, and he proceeded to paddle him with a white oak paddle.
When there was serious illness the slaves had the attention of Dr. Ferrel. On other occasions the old remedy of castor oil and turpentine was administered. There was very little sickness then according to Mr. Lewis. Most every family kept a large pot of "Bitters" (a mixture of whiskey and tree barks) and each morning every member of the family took a drink from this bucket. This supposedly prevented illness.
When the war broke out Mr. Lewis says that he often heard the old folks whispering among themselves at night. Several times he saw the Northern troops as well as the Southern troops but he dos'nt know whether they were going or coming from the scene of the fighting. Doctor Ferrel joined the army but on three different occasions he deserted. Before going to war Dr. Ferrel called Mr. Lewis to him and after giving him his favorite horse gave him the following "charge" "Don't let the Yankees get him". Every morning Mr. Lewis would take the horse to the woods where he hid with him all day. On several occasions Dr. Ferrel slipped back to his home to see if the horse was being properly cared for. All of the other valuables belongings to the Ferrels were hidden also.
All of the slaves on the plantation were glad when they were told that they were free but there was no big demonstration as they were somewhat afraid of what the Master might do. Some of them remained on the plantation while others of them left as soon as they were told that they were free.
Several months after freedom was declared Mr. Lewis' father was able to join his family which he had not seen since they had moved to Georgia.
When asked his opinion of slavery and of freedom Mr. Lewis said that he would rather be free because to a certain degree he is able to do as he pleases, on the other hand he did not have to worry about food and shelter as a slave as he has to do now at times.
INTERVIEW WITH: MIRRIAM McCOMMONS, Age 76 164 Augusta Avenue Athens, Georgia
Written by: Miss Grace McCune Research Worker Athens, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Sarah H. Hall Athens
John N. Booth District Supervisor Augusta, Georgia [Date Stamp: APR 29 1938]
It was a bright sunny day when the interviewer stopped at the home of Aunt Merry, as she is called, and found her tending her old-fashioned flower garden. The old Negress was tired and while resting she talked of days long passed and of how things have changed since she was "a little gal."
"My pa wuz William Young, and he belonged to old Marse Wylie Young and later to young Marse Mack Young, a son of old marster. Pa wuz born in 1841, and he died in 1918.
"Ma wuz Lula Lumpkin, and she belonged to Marse Jack Lumpkin. I forgits de year, but she wuz jus' 38 years old when she died. Ma's young mistis wuz Miss Mirriam Lumpkin, and she wuz sho' good ter my ma. I 'members, 'cause I seed her lots of times. She married Marse William Nichols, and she ain't been dead many years.
"I wuz born at Steebens (Stephens), Georgia, in 1862 at seben 'clock in de mornin' on de 27th day of April. Yassum, I got here in time for breakfast. Dey named me Mirriam Young. When I wuz 'bout eight years old, us moved on de Bowling Green road dat runs to Lexin'ton, Georgia. Us stayed dar 'til I wuz 'bout 10 years old, den us moved to de old Hutchins place. I wukked in de field wid my pa 'til I wuz 'bout 'leben years old. Den ma put me out to wuk. I wukked for 25 dollars a year and my schoolin'. Den I nussed for Marse George Rice in Hutchins, Georgia. I think Marse George and his twin sister stays in Lexin'ton now. When I wuz twelve, I went to wuk for Marse John I. Callaway. Ma hired me for de same pay, 25 dollars a year and my schoolin'.
"Missus Callaway sho' wuz good to me. Sha larnt me my books—readin' and writin'—and sewin', knittin', and crochetin'. I still got some of de wuk dat she larnt me to do." At this point Aunt Merry proudly displayed a number of articles that she had crocheted and knitted. All were fashioned after old patterns and showed fine workmanship. "Mistis larnt me to be neat and clean in evvything I done, and I would walk 'long de road a-knittin' and nebber miss a stitch. I just bet none of dese young folkses now days could do dat. Dey sho' don't do no wuk, just run 'round all de time, day and night. I don't know what'll 'come of 'em, lessen dey change deir ways.
"Whilst I wuz still nussin' Missis' little gal and baby boy dey went down to Buffalo Crick to stay, and dey give me a pretty gray mare. She wuz all mine and her name wuz Lucy.
"I tuk de chillun to ride evvy day and down at de crick, I pulled off dey clo'es and baptized 'em, in de water. I would wade out in de crick wid 'em, and say: 'I baptizes you in de name of de Fadder and de Son and de Holy Ghost.' Den I would souse 'em under de water. I didn't know nobody wuz seein' me, but one mornin' Missis axed me 'bout it and I thought she mought be mad but she just laughed and said dat hit mought be good for 'em, 'cause she 'spect dey needed baptizin', but to be keerful, for just on t'other side of de rock wuz a hole dat didn't have no bottom.
"Dere wuz just two things on de place dat I wuz 'fraid of, and one wuz de big registered bull dat Marster had paid so much money for. He sho' wuz bad, and when he got out, us all stayed in de house 'til dey cotched 'im. Marster had a big black stallion dat cost lots of money. He wuz bad too, but Marster kept 'im shut up most of de time. De wust I ever wuz skeert wuz de time I wuz takin' de baby to ride horseback. When one of de Nigger boys on de place started off on Marster's horse, my mare started runnin' and I couldn't stop 'er. She runned plumb away wid me, and when de boy cotched us, I wuz holdin' de baby wid one hand and de saddle wid t'other.
"I sho' did have a big time once when us went to Atlanta. De place whar us stayed wuz 'bout four miles out, whar Kirkwood is now, and it belonged to Mrs. Robert A. Austin. She wuz a widder 'oman. She had a gal name' Mary and us chillun used to play together. It wuz a pretty place wid great big yards, and de mostes' flowers. Us used to go into Atlanta on de six 'clock 'commodation, and come home on de two 'clock 'commodation, but evvythings changed now.
"At de Callaway place us colored folks had big suppers and all day dinners, wid plenty to eat—chicken, turkey, and 'possum, and all de hogs us wanted. But dere warnt no dancin' or fightin', 'cause old Missis sho' didn't 'low dat.
"I married when I wuz sebenteen. I didn't have no weddin'. I wuz just married by de preacher to Albert McCommons, at Hutchins. Us stayed at Steebens 'bout one year after us married and den come to Athens, whar I stays now. I ain't never had but two chillun; dey wuz twins, one died, but my boy is wid me now.
"I used to nuss Miss Calline Davis, and she done got married and left here, but I still hears from 'er. She done married one of dem northern mens, Mr. Hope. I 'members one time whilst dey wuz visitin' I stayed wid 'em to nuss deir baby. One of Mr. Hope's friends from New York wuz wid 'em. When dey got to de train to go home, Miss Calline kissed me good-bye and de yankee didn't know what to say. Miss Calline say de yankees 'low dat southern folks air mean to us Niggers and just beat us all de time. Dey just don't know 'cause my white folkses wuz all good to me, and I loves 'em all."
As the interviewer left, Aunt Merry followed her into the yard asking for a return visit and promising to tell more, "bout my good white folkses."
As viewed by ED McCREE, Age 76 543 Reese Street Athens, Georgia
Written by: Sadie B. Hornsby [HW: (White)] Athens
Edited by: Sarah H. Hall Athens
Leila Harris Augusta
and John N. Booth District Supervisor Federal Writers' Project Residencies 6 & 7
Ed McCree's home was pointed out by a little albino Negro girl about 10 years old. The small front yard was gay with snapdragons, tiger lilies, dahlias, and other colorful flowers, and the two-story frame house, painted gray with white trimmings seemed to be in far better repair than the average Negro residence.
Chewing on a cud of tobacco, Ed answered the knock on his front door. "Good evenin' Lady," he said. "Have a cheer on de porch whar it's cool." Ed is about five feet, six inches in height, and on this afternoon he was wearing a blue striped shirt, black vest, gray pants and black shoes. His gray hair was topped by a soiled gray hat.
Nett, his wife, came hobbling out on the porch and sat down to listen to the conversation. At first the old man was reluctant to talk of his childhood experiences, but his interest was aroused by questioning and soon he began to eagerly volunteer his memories. He had just had his noon meal and now and then would doze a little, but was easily aroused when questions called him back to the subject.
"I was borned in Oconee County," he said, "jus' below Watkinsville. My Ma and Pa was Louisa and Henry McCree, but Old Marster called Pa 'Sherm' for short. Far as I ever heared, my Ma and Pa was borned and brung up right dar in Oconee County. Dere was six of us chillun: Silas, Lumpkin, Bennie, Lucy, Babe, and me. Babe, she was borned a long time atter de war.
"Little Niggers, what was too young to wuk in de fields, toted water to de field hands and waited on de old 'omans what was too old to wuk in de craps. Dem old 'omans looked atter de babies and piddled 'round de yards.
"Slave quarters was lots of log cabins wid chimlies of criss-crossed sticks and mud. Pore white folks lived in houses lak dat too. Our bed was made wid high posties and had cords, what run evvy which a-way, for springs. 'Course dey had to be wound tight to keep dem beds from fallin' down when you tried to git in 'em. For mattresses, de 'omans put wheat straw in ticks made out of coarse cloth wove right dar on de plantation, and de pillows was made de same way. Ole Miss, she let her special favorite Niggers, what wuked up at de big house, have feather mattresses and pillows. Dem other Niggers shined dey eyes over dat, but dere warn't nothin' dey could do 'bout it 'cept slip 'round and cut dem feather beds and pillows open jus' to see de feathers fly. Kivver was 'lowanced out evvy year to de ones what needed it most. In dat way dere was allus good kivver for evvybody.
"Grandma Liza b'longed to Marse Calvin Johnson long 'fore Marse John McCree buyed her. She was cook at de big house. Grandpa Charlie, he b'longed to Marse Charlie Hardin, but atter him and Grandma married, she still went by de name of McCree.
"Lawdy Miss! Who ever heared of folks payin' slaves to wuk? Leastwise, I never knowed 'bout none of 'em on our place gittin' money for what dey done. 'Course dey give us plenty of somepin' t'eat and clothes to wear, and den dey made us keep a-humpin' it. I does 'member seein' dem paper nickels, dimes, and quarters what us chillun played wid atter de war. Us used to pretend us was rich wid all dat old money what warn't no good den.
"'Bout dem eatments, Miss, it was lek dis, dere warn't no fancy victuals lak us thinks us got to have now, but what dere was, dere was plenty of. Most times dere was poke sallet, turnip greens, old blue head collards, cabbages, peas, and 'taters by de wholesale for de slaves to eat and, onct a week, dey rationed us out wheat bread, syrup, brown sugar, and ginger cakes. What dey give chillun de most of was potlicker poured over cornbread crumbs in a long trough. For fresh meat, outside of killin' a shoat, a lamb, or a kid now and den, slaves was 'lowed to go huntin' a right smart and dey fotch in a good many turkles (turtles), 'possums, rabbits, and fish. Folks didn't know what iron cookstoves was dem days. Leastwise, our white folks didn't have none of 'em. All our cookin' was done in open fireplaces in big old pots and pans. Dey had thick iron skillets wid heavy lids on 'em, and dey could bake and fry too in dem skillets. De meats, cornbread, biscuits, and cakes what was cooked in dem old skillets was sho' mighty good.
"De cotton, flax, and wool what our clothes was made out of was growed, spun, wove, and sewed right dar on our plantation. Marse John had a reg'lar seamster what didn't do nothin' else but sew. Summertime us chillun wore shirts what looked lak nightgowns. You jus' pulled one of dem slips over your haid and went on 'cause you was done dressed for de whole week, day and night. Wintertime our clothes was a heap better. Dey give us thick jeans pants, heavy shirts, and brogan shoes wid brass toes. Summertime us all went bar'foots.
"Old Marster John McCree was sho' a good white man, I jus' tells you de truf, 'cause I ain't in for tellin' nothin' else. I done jus' plum forgot Ole Miss' fust name, and I can't git up de chilluns' names no way. I didn't play 'round wid 'em much nohow. Dey was jus' little young chillun den anyhow. Dey lived in a big old plank house—nothin' fine 'bout it. I 'members de heavy timbers was mortised together and de other lumber was put on wid pegs; dere warn't no nails 'bout it. Dat's all I ricollects 'bout dat dere house right now. It was jus' a common house, I'd say.
"Dere was a thousand or more acres in dat old plantation. It sho' was a big piece of land, and it was plumb full of Niggers—I couldn't say how many, 'cause I done forgot. You could hear dat bugle de overseer blowed to wake up de slaves for miles and miles. He got 'em up long 'fore sunup and wuked 'em in de fields long as dey could see how to wuk. Don't talk 'bout dat overseer whuppin' Niggers. He beat on 'em for most anything. What would dey need no jail for wid dat old overseer a-comin' down on 'em wid dat rawhide bull-whup?
"If dey got any larnin', it was at night. Dere warn't no school 'ouse or no church on dat plantation for Niggers. Slaves had to git a pass when dey wanted to go to church. Sometimes de white preacher preached to de Niggers, but most of de time a Nigger wid a good wit done de preachin'. Dat Nigger, he sho' couldn't read nary a word out of de Bible. At de baptizin's was when de Nigger boys shined up to de gals. Dey dammed up de crick to make de water deep enough to duck 'em under good and, durin' de service, dey sung: It's de Good Old Time Religion.
"When folks died den, Niggers for miles and miles around went to de funeral. Now days dey got to know you mighty well if dey bothers to go a t'all. Dem days folks was buried in homemade coffins. Some of dem coffins was painted and lined wid cloth and some warn't. De onliest song I ricollects 'em singin' at buryin's was: Am I Born to Lay Dis Body Down? Dey didn't dig graves lak dey does now. Dey jus' dug straight down to 'bout five feet, den dey cut a vault to fit de coffin in de side of de grave. Dey didn't put no boards or nothin' over de coffins to keep de dirt off.
"'Bout dem patterollers! Well, you knowed if dey cotched you out widout no pass, dey was gwine to beat your back most off and send you on home. One night my Pa 'lowed he would go to see his gal. All right, he went. When he got back, his cabin door was fastened hard and fast. He was a-climbin' in de window when de patterollers got to him. Dey 'lowed: 'Nigger, is you got a pass?' Pa said: 'No Sir.' Den dey said: 'Us can't beat you 'cause you done got home on your marster's place, but us is sho' gwine to tell your Marster to whup your hide off. But Old Marster never tetched him for dat.
"Atter dey come in from de fields, dem Niggers et deir supper, went to deir cabins, sot down and rested a little while, and den dey drapped down on de beds to sleep. Dey didn't wuk none Sadday atter dinner in de fields. Dat was wash day for slave 'omans. De mens done fust one thing and den another. Dey cleant up de yards, chopped wood, mended de harness, sharpened plow points, and things lak dat. Sadday nights, Old Marster give de young folks passes so dey could go from one place to another a-dancin' and a-frolickin' and havin' a big time gen'ally. Dey done most anything dey wanted to on Sundays, so long as dey behaved deyselfs and had deir passes handy to show if de patterollers bothered 'em.
"Yessum, slaves sho' looked forward to Christmas times. Dere was such extra good eatin's dat week and so much of 'em. Old Marster had 'em kill a plenty of shoats, lambs, kids, cows, and turkeys for fresh meat. De 'omans up at de big house was busy for a week ahead cookin' peach puffs, 'tater custards, and plenty of cakes sweetened wid brown sugar and syrup. Dere was plenty of home-made candy for de chilluns' Santa Claus and late apples and peaches had done been saved and banked in wheat straw to keep 'em good 'til Christmas. Watermelons was packed away in cottonseed and when dey cut 'em open on Christmas Dey, dey et lak fresh melons in July. Us had a high old time for a week, and den on New Year's Day dey started back to wuk.
"Come winter, de mens had big cornshuckin's and dere was quiltin's for de 'omans. Dere was a row of corn to be shucked as long as from here to Milledge Avenue. Old Marster put a gang of Niggers at each end of de row and it was a hot race 'tween dem gangs to see which could git to de middle fust. Dere was allus a big feast waitin' for 'em when de last ear of corn was shucked. 'Bout dem quiltin's!" Now Lady, what would a old Nigger man know 'bout somepin' dat didn't nothin' but 'omans have nothin' to do wid?
"Dem cotton pickin's was grand times. Dey picked cotton in de moonlight and den had a big feast of barbecued beef, mutton, and pork washed down wid plenty of good whiskey. Atter de feast was over, some of dem Niggers played fiddles and picked banjoes for de others to dance down 'til dey was wore out.
"When slaves got sick, our white folks was mighty good 'bout havin' 'em keered for. Dey dosed 'em up wid oil and turpentine and give 'em teas made out of hoarhound for some mis'ries and bone-set for other troubles. Most all the slaves wore a sack of assfiddy (asafetida) 'round deir necks all de time to keep 'em from gittin' sick.
"It was a happy day for us slaves when news come dat de war was over and de white folks had to turn us 'loose. Marster called his Niggers to come up to de big house yard, but I never stayed 'round to see what he had to say. I runned 'round dat place a-shoutin' to de top of my voice. My folks stayed on wid Old Marster for 'bout a year or more. If us had left, it would have been jus' lak swappin' places from de fryin' pan to de fire, 'cause Niggers didn't have no money to buy no land wid for a long time atter de war. Schools was soon scattered 'bout by dem Yankees what had done sot us free. I warn't big enough den to do nothin' much 'cept tote water to de field and chop a little cotton.
"Me and Nettie Freeman married a long time atter de war. At our weddin' I wore a pair of brown jeans pants, white shirt, white vest, and a cutaway coat. Nettie wore a black silk dress what she had done bought from Miss Blanche Rutherford. Pears lak to me it had a overskirt of blue what was scalloped 'round de bottom."
At this point, Nettie, who had been an interested listener, was delighted. She broke into the conversation with: "Ed, you sho' did take in dat dress and you ain't forgot it yit."
"You is right 'bout dat, Honey," he smilingly replied, "I sho' ain't and I never will forgit how you looked dat day."
"Miss Blanche give me a pair of white silk gloves to wear wid dat dress," mused Nettie.
"Us didn't have no sho' 'nough weddin'," continued Ed. "Us jus' went off to de preacher man's house and got married up together. I sho' is glad my Nett is still a-livin', even if she is down wid de rheumatiz."
"I'm glad I'm livin' too," Nettie said with a chuckle.
Ed ignored the question as to the number of their children and Nettie made no attempt to take further part in the conversation. There is a deep seated idea prevalent among old people of this type that if the "giver'ment folks" learn that they have able-bodied children, their pensions and relief allowances will be discontinued.
Soon Ed was willing to talk again. "Yessum," he said. "I sho' had ruther be free. I don't never want to be a slave no more. Now if me and Nett wants to, us can set around and not fix and eat but one meal all day long. If us don't want to do dat, us can do jus' whatsomever us pleases. Den, us had to wuk whether us laked it or not.
"Lordy Miss, I ain't never jined up wid no church. I ain't got no reason why, only I jus' ain't never had no urge from inside of me to jine. 'Course, you know, evvybody ought to lissen to de services in de church and live right and den dey wouldn't be so skeered to die. Miss, ain't you through axin' me questions yit? I is so sleepy, and I don't know no more to tell you. Goodbye."
[HW: Dist. 1 Ex Slave #68]
EX-SLAVE INTERVIEW: LUCY McCULLOUGH, Age 79
BY: SARAH H. HALL ATHENS, GA. [Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]
[TR: This first half of this interview was edited by hand to change many 'er' sounds to 'uh', for example, 'der' to 'duh', 'ter' to 'tuh'; as a single word, 'er' was also changed to 'a'.]
"Does Ah 'member 'bout war time, en dem days fo' de war? Yassum, Ah sho' does. Ah blong ter Marse Ned Carter in Walton county."
"Whut Ah 'members mos' is duh onliest beatin' Ah ebber got fum de overseer on Marse Ned's place. De hawgs wuz dyin' moughty bad wid cholry, en Marse Ned hed 'is mens drag evvy dead hawg off in de woods 'en bun 'em up ter keep de cholry fum spreadin' mongst de udder hawgs. De mens wuz keerless 'bout de fire, en fo' long de woods wuz on fire, en de way dat fire spread in dem dry grape vines in de woods mek it 'peer lak jedgment day tuh us chilluns. Us run 'bout de woods lookin' at de mens fight de fire, en evvy time we see uh new place a-blaze we run dis way en dat way, twel fus' thing us knows, we is plum off Marse Ned's plantation, en us doan rightly know whar us is. Us play 'roun' in de woods en arter while Marse Ned's overseer cum fine us, en he druv us back tuh de big house yahd en give evvy one uv us uh good beaten'. Ah sho' wuz black en blue, en Ah nebber did fuhgit en run offen Marse Ned's lan' no mo' lessen I hed uh pass."
"Mah mammy, she wuz cook at duh big house, en Ah wuz raised dah in de kitchen en de back yahd at de big house. Ah wuz tuh be uh maid fer de ladies in de big house. De house servants hold that dey is uh step better den de field niggers. House servants wuz niggah quality folks."
Ah mus' not a been mo' en thee uh fo' yeahs ole when Miss Millie cum out in de kitchen one day, en 'gin tuh scold my mammy 'bout de sorry way mammy done clean de chitlins. Ah ain' nebber heard nobuddy fuss et my mammy befo'. Little ez Ah wuz, Ah swell up en rar' back, en I sez tuh Miss Millie, "Doan you no' Mammy is boss uh dis hyar kitchen. You cyan' cum a fussin' in hyar." "Miss Millie, she jus laff, but Mammy grab a switch en 'gin ticklin' my laigs, but Miss Millie mek her quit it." "Who wuz Miss Millie? Why, she wuz Marse Ned's wife."
"Whilst Marse Ned wuz 'way at de war, bad sojer mens cum thoo de country. Miss Millie done hyar tell dey wuz on de way, an she had de mens haul all Marse Ned's cotton off in de woods en hide it. De waggins wuz piled up high wid cotton, en de groun' wuz soft atter de rain. De waggins leff deep ruts in de groun', but none us folks on de plantation pay no heed ter dem ruts. When de sojer mens cum, dey see dem ruts en trail 'em right out dar in de woods ter de cotton. Den dey sot fire ter de cotton en bun it all up. Dey cum back ter de big house en take all de sweet milk in de dairy house, en help 'emselfs ter evvy thing in de smoke houses. Den dey pick out de stronges' er Marse Ned's slave mens en take 'em 'way wid 'em. Dey take evvy good horse Marse Ned had on de plantation. No Ma'am, dey diden' bun nuffin ceppen' de cotton."
"Us wuz mo' skeered er patter-rollers den any thing else. Patter-rollers diden' bodder folks much, lessen dey caught 'em offen dar marsters plantations en dey diden' hab no pass. One night en durin' de war, de patter-rollers cum ter our cabin, en I scrooge down under de kiver in de bed. De patter-roller man tho' de kiver offen mah face, en he see me blong dar, en he let me be, but Ah wuz skeered plumb ter death. Courtin' folks got ketched en beat up by de patter-rollers mo' den enny buddy else, kazen dey wuz allus slippen' out fer ter meet one er nudder at night."
"When folks dat lived on diffunt plantations, en blonged ter diffunt marsters wanted ter git married, dey hed ter ax both dar marsters fus'. Den effen dar marsters 'gree on it, dey let 'em marry. De mans marster 'ud give de man er pass so he cud go see his wife et night, but he sho' better be back on his own marsters farm when de bell ring evvy morning. De chilluns 'ud blong ter de marster dat own de 'oman."
"Black folks wuz heap smarter den dey is now. Dem days de 'omans knowed how ter cyard, en spin, en weave de cloff, en dey made de close. De mens know how ter mek shoes ter wear den. Black folks diden' hev ter go cole er hongry den, kaze dey marsters made 'em wuk en grow good crops, en den der marsters fed 'em plenty en tuk keer uv 'em."
"Black folks wuz better folks den dey is now. Dey knowed dey hed ter be good er dey got beat. De gals dey diden't sho' dare laigs lak dey do now. Cloff hed ter be made den, en hit wuz er heap mo' trouble ter mek er yahd er cloff, den it is ter buy it now, but 'omans en gals, dey stayed kivvered up better den. Why, Ah 'member one time my mammy seed me cummin' crost de yahd en she say mah dress too short. She tuk it offen me, en rip out de hem, en ravel at de aig' er little, en den fus' thing I knows, she got dat dress tail on ter de loom, en weave more cloff on hit, twel it long enuf, lak she want it."
"Long 'bout dat time dey wuz killin' hawgs on de plantation, en it wuz er moughty cole day. Miss Millie, she tell me fer ter tote dis quart er brandy out dar fer ter warm up de mens dat wuz er wukkin in de cole win'. 'Long de way, Ah keep er sippin' dat brandy, en time Ah got ter de hawg killin' place Ah wuz crazy drunk en tryin' ter sing. Dat time 'twon't no overseer beat me. Dem slave mens beat me den fo' drinkin' dat likker."
"Mah folks stayed on en wukked fo' Marse Ned long atter de war. When Ah wuz mos' grown mah fam'ly moved ter Logansville. No, Ma'am, I ain't nebber been so free en happy es when I diden' hev ter worry 'bout whar de vittles en close gwine cum fum, en all Ah had ter do wuz wuk evvy day lak mah whitefolks tole me."
[HW: Dist. 5 (Driskell) Ex Slave #69]
AMANDA MCDANIEL, 80 yrs old Ex-slave [Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]
Among these few remaining persons who have lived long enough to tell of some of their experiences during the reign of "King Slavery" in the United States is one Mrs. Amanda McDaniel.
As she sat on the porch in the glare of the warm October sun she presented a perfect picture of the old Negro Mammy commonly seen during the days of slavery. She smiled as she expectorated a large amount of the snuff she was chewing and began her story in the following manner: "I was born in Watsonville, Georgia in 1850. My mother's name was Matilda Hale and my father was Gilbert Whitlew. My mother and father belonged to different master's, but the plantations that they lived on were near each other and so my father was allowed to visit us often. My mother had two other girls who were my half-sisters. You see—my mother was sold to the speculator in Virginia and brought to Georgia where she was sold to Mr. Hale, who was our master until freedom was declared. When she was sold to the speculator the two girls who were my half-sisters had to be sold with her because they were too young to be separated from their mother. My father, Gilbert Whitlew, was my mother's second husband.
"Mr. Hale, our master, was not rich like some of the other planters in the community. His plantation was a small one and he only had eight servants who were all women. He wasn't able to hire an overseer and all of the heavy work such as the plowing was done by his sons. Mrs. Hale did all of her own cooking and that of the slaves too. In all Mr. Hale had eleven children. I had to nurse three of them before I was old enough to go to the field to work."
When asked to tell about the kind of work the slaves had to do Mrs. McDaniel said: "Our folks had to get up at four o'clock every morning and feed the stock first. By the time it was light enough to see they had to be in the fields where they hoed the cotton and the corn as well as the other crops. Between ten and eleven o'clock everybody left the field and went to the house where they worked until it was too dark to see. My first job was to take breakfast to those working in the fields. I used buckets for this. Besides this I had to drive the cows to and from the pasture. The rest of the day was spent in taking care of Mrs. Hale's young children. After a few years of this I was sent to the fields where I planted peas, corn, etc. I also had to pick cotton when that time came, but I never had to hoe and do the heavy work like my mother and sisters did." According to Mrs. McDaniel they were seldom required to work at night after they had left the fields but when such occasions did arise they were usually in the form of spinning thread and weaving cloth. During the winter months this was the only type of work that they did. On days when the weather was too bad for work out of doors they shelled the corn and peas and did other minor types of work not requiring too much exposure. Nobody had to work on Saturday afternoons or on Sundays. It was on Saturdays or at night that the slaves had the chance to do their own work such as the repairing of clothing, etc.
On the Hale plantation clothing was issued two times each year, once at the beginning of summer and again at the beginning of the winter season. On this first issue all were given striped dresses made of cotton material. These dresses were for wear during the week while dresses made of white muslin were given for Sunday wear. The dye which was necessary in order to color those clothes worn during the week was made by boiling red dirt or the bark of trees in water. Sometimes the indigo berry was also used. The winter issue consisted of dresses made of woolen material. The socks and stockings were all knitted. All of this wearing apparel was made by Mrs. Hale. The shoes that these women slaves wore were made in the nearby town at a place known as the tan yards. These shoes were called "Brogans" and they were very crude in construction having been made of very stiff leather. None of the clothing that was worn on this plantation was bought as everything necessary for the manufacture of clothing was available on the premises.