Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves
Work Projects Administration
Part 2 out of 3
When babies was born, dey had good midwives to wait on 'em. Dat was good
"When Miss July got mar'ied dey had two cooks in de kitchen makin'
pound cake fer more'n a week, an' pies, an' chicken pie, an' dey killed
a hog. Dey had ever'body in de country savin' butter an' eggs fer a long
time. I didn' see de weddin' but de yard was full and we had ever'thing
"My folks was rich. Marse Cassedy went to de War an' he was a big man
dere. He was gone a long time. Dey kep' tellin' us de Yankees was comin'
and Miss Fanny had her silver put in a bag and hid. Dey had de money put
in a wash pot and buried, an' dey ain't found dat money yet. Oh, dey had
_more_ money! Didn' I tell you dey was rich? No mam, dey wasn't po' when
war was over. Dey had ever'thing. When de Yankees come, dey carried off
all de meat in de smokehouse, an' de blanket an' quilts, an' every thing
dey wanted, dey he'ped deyse'ves. None of de slaves went wid' em.
"When Marse Cassedy come home he had de oberseer blow de horn 'bout ten
o'clock and tol' 'em all dey was freed. He said he'd work 'em fer wages,
an' nearly everyone of 'em stayed fer wages. I stayed wid Miss Mary
'bout ten years. Den I mar'ied. No, Jake an' me rid horse back an' went
to Magnolia an' got mar'ied. I doan know who mar'ied us--somebody in de
"Me an' Jake went to Summit ter live'. We had to work mighty hard.
Sometimes I plowed in de fiel' all day; sometimes I washed an' den I
cooked, an' afte' 'while, we moved down to de new town. I come here when
dis town fust started. I cooked fer Mrs. Badenhauser, while he was
mayor of de town. Dey worked me hard. Me'n Jake's had some hard ups an'
downs. I had fo' chullun, none of dem livin' dat I know of. I might have
some grandchulluns but if I do, dey live up North.
"I'm old an' can hardly git about. I'se got a cancer. De doctor done cut
my lef' brest clear offen me, but dat hurts me somtimes yit.
"I niver jined any church 'til 'bout 20 year ago, right here in
Berglundtown. My church is Flowery Mount Baptist Church, an' my Brudder
Washin'ton is my pastor, an' he is de best preacher what ever lived. No,
Marse Cassedy didn't have no church fer de slaves. Dey went to de white
"How do I live? Well I gits a pension of fo' dollars a month, an' I try
to wash a leetle fer de colored folks, an' den I beg. I can't stay here
long but God won't low me to starve. Bless God, he's comin' fer me some
Wayne Holliday, Ex-slave Monroe County
Mississippi Federal Writers
Mrs. Richard Kolb
"I was born an' raised in Aberdeen an' I'se been a railroad nigger fo'
mos' of my days. I'se retired now 'cause dey say I too old to work any
longer, but shucks, I ain't half dead yet. I was born in 1853 right here
close to whar I live now. My folks b'longed to de Hollidays--you know de
grand folks of Miss Maria Evans? An' we stayed right dere in de lot whar
de white folks lived.
"My pa an' my ma was named Frank an' Sarah Holliday an' de Cunel brung
dem wid him frum North Car'lina. Dey was lot niggers an' never worked in
de fiel' or lived in de Quarters. My pa was one of de best carpenters in
de country. I was too young to work much but sometime I he'ped him
'roun' de house but mos' of de time, I jes played wid my brudders an'
sisters an' de white chullun what lived aroun'. We played marbles,
ridin' de stick hoss, an' play house jes lak de chullun do now days, but
I think we had mo' fun. Dey was fo'teen of us in our family an' we allus
had somebody to play wid. An' den li'l Marse Ben, he wa'nt much older
"Our marster's name was Cunel John Holiday. He got dat title in a war
before de slav'ry war. He was too old to fight in dat one, or I spect
he'd got another title, lak Gen'ral or somethin'. He an' Miss Julia--dat
was his wife--was mighty good to us an' so was Marse Tom and Marse Ben,
an' Miss Maria an' all. When de Cunel fust come to Mississippi he bought
a plantation in de prairies an' lived dere for a while. But later he
'cided to build him a house in town so he got my pa to he'p him build it
an' it was one of de purtiest houses in Aberdeen. It look jes lak it
allus did to me now. Co'se dey is worked on it several times since den,
but dey ain't changed it at all.
"My mammy did de cookin' for de white folks dere. Dey all thought a lot
of her. I never knowed much what slav'ry was 'bout, to tell de truf. De
folks never treated us wrong an' chullun in dem days didn' get to run
aroun' lak dey do today an' we didn' get to hear no gossip 'bout de
other niggers. Since we didn' live in no quarters we didn' hear nothin.
Our folks never said nothin' 'cause dey was very well satisfied lak dey
was. We never hear of no whuppin's, or runaways either, 'til afte' de
War an' when we got older.
"I 'member de War tho'. Marse Tom, he went fust, wid de Van Dorns. He
was made a capt'in or somethin' 'cause he was so brave. He fought long
wid de fust an' was one of de fust to get hit. Dey brung his body all de
way from Richmond, or Virginny, I fergit which, and lawzy, if de Cunel
an' de Miss didn' take on somethin' awful. Dey sho' loved dat boy an'
so did all of de niggers. Afte' dey buried him dey took his sword an'
hung it on de wall of de parlor. I reckin it still dar.
"Marse Ben went afte' dat. He was jes old 'nough to go but he went an'
fought jes de same. He come back when de war was over an' dey was sho'
"Time wa'nt much diffrunt den dan it was 'fo de War. We stayed on wid
our folks for a long time. Den my pa started gettin' a li'l work here
an' dar an' purty soon he got all his chullun started out purty well. We
all went to de colored school what dey had down whar de railroad
crossin' is now, an' dat was whar I l'arned to read an' write. I didn'
marry for a good while an' den I went to work on de I.C. Railroad. I was
fust a coal heaver an' den a coach porter. I was faithful to my job an'
made good money an' soon built me a house of my own whar I raised my
family. I sent all my chullun to school an' dey is doin' well. My wife
worked right 'long wid me. She died 'bout two years ago.
"I'se thankful I ain't got no sad mem'ries 'bout slav'ry times an' dat I
an' my folks is done as well as dey have. T'is de work of de Lawd."
Wayne Holliday, who lived in slavery times, and whose father was a
slave, is 84 years old, a dried-up looking Negro of light tan color,
approximately 5 feet three inches high and weighing about 130 pounds, he
is most active and appears much younger than he really is. He is
slightly bent; his kinky hair is intermingled white and gray; and his
broad mouth boasts only one visible tooth, a particularly large one in
the extreme center of his lower gum.
Wayne has the manner of a Negro of the old South and depicts, in his
small way, the gallantry of an age gone by.
Prince Johnson, Ex-slave, Coahoma County
Mrs. Carrie Campbell
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes
"Yes mam, I sho' can tell you all 'bout it 'cause I was dere when it all
happened. My gran'pa, Peter, gran'ma, Millie, my pa, John, an' my ma,
Frances, all come from Alabama to Yazoo County to live in de Love
fam'ly. Dey names was Dennis when day come, but, after de custom o' dem
days, dey took de name of Love from dey new owner. Me an' all o' my
brothers an' sisters was born right dere. Dey was eleven head o' us. I
was de oldes'. Den come Harry, John, William, Henry, Phillis, Polly,
Nellie, Virginny, Millie, an' de baby, Ella.
"Us all lived in de quarters an' de beds was home made. Dey had wooden
legs wid canvas stretched 'crost 'em. I can't 'member so much 'bout de
quarters 'cause 'bout dat time de young miss married Colonel Johnson an'
moved to dis place in Carroll County. She carried wid her over one
hund'ed head o' darkies.
"Den us names was changed from Love to Johnson. My new marster was sure
a fine gent'man. He lived in a big two-story white house dat had big
white posts in front. De flowers all' roun' it jus' set it off.
"Marster took me for de house boy. Den I sho' carried my head high.
He'd say to me, 'Prince does you know who you is named for?' An' I'd say
to him, 'Yes sir. Prince Albert.' An' den he'd say to me, 'Well, always
carry yo'se'f lak he did.' To dis good day I holds myse'f lak Marster
"On certain days o' de week one o' de old men on de place took us house
servants to de fiel' to learn us to work. Us was brought up to know how
to do anything dat come to han'. Marster would let us work at odd times
for outsiders an' us could use de money for anything us pleased. My
gran'ma sol' 'nough corn to buy her two feather beds.
"Us always had plenty t'eat. De old folks done de cookin' for all de
fiel' han's, 'cept on Sund'y when ever' fam'ly cooked for dey ownse'fs.
Old Mis' 'ud come over ever' Sund'y mornin' wid sugar an' white flour.
Us 'ud mos' ingen'ally have fish, rabbits, 'possums, or coons. Lord,
chil'! Dem 'possums was good eatin'. I can tas' 'em now.
"Folks dese days don't know nothin' 'bout good eatin'. My marster had a
great big garden for ever'body an' I aint never seen such 'taters as
growed in dat garden. Dey was so sweet de sugar 'ud bus' right th'ough
de peelin' when you roasted 'em in de ashes.
"Old Aunt Emily cooked for all de chillun on de place. Ha'f a hour by de
sun, dey was all called in to supper. Dey had pot likker an' ash cake
an' such things as would make 'em grow.
"Chillun den didn' know nothin' 'bout all de fancy ailments what chillun
have now. Dey run an' played all day in dey shirt tails in de summer
time. When winter come dey had good warm clo'es[FN: clothes] same as us
"One day Marster's chillun an' de cullud chillun slipped off to de
orchard. Dey was jus' a-eatin' green apples fas' as dey could when 'long
come de master, hisse'f. He lined 'em all up, black an' white alike, an'
cut a keen switch. Twant a one in dat line dat didn' git a few licks.
Den he called de old doctor woman an' made 'er give 'em ever' one a dose
o' medicine. Dey didn' a one of' em git sick.
"Marster an' Old Mis' had five chillun. Dey is all dead an' gone now,
an' I's still here. One o' his sons was a Supreme Judge 'fore he died.
"My folks was sho' quality. Marster bought all de little places 'roun'
us so he wouldn' have no po' white trash neighbors. Yes sir! He owned
'bout thirty-five hund'ed acres an' at leas' a hund'ed an' fifty slaves.
"Ever' mornin' 'bout fo' 'clock us could hear dat horn blow for us to
git up an' go to de fiel'. Us always quit work 'fore de sun went down
an' never worked at night. De overseer was a white man. His name was
Josh Neighbors, but de driver was a cullud man, 'Old Man Henry.' He
wasn't 'lowed to mistreat noboby. If he got too uppity dey'd call his
han', right now. De rule was, if a Nigger wouldn' work he mus' be sol'.
'Nother rule on dat place was dat if a man got dissati'fied, he was to
go to de marster an' ask him to put 'im in his pocket.' Dat meant he
wanted to be sol' an' de money he brought put in de marster's pocket. I
aint never known o' but two askin' to be 'put in de pocket.' Both of
'em was sol'.
"Dey had jails in dem days, but dey was built for white folks. No cullud
person was ever put in one of 'em 'til after de war. Us didn' know
nothin' 'bout dem things.
"Course, Old Mis' knowed 'bout 'em, 'cause she knowed ever'thing. I
recollec' she tol' me one day dat she had learnin' in five diffe'ent
"None o' us didn' have no learnin' atall. Dat is us didn' have no book
learnin'. Twant no teachers or anything lak dat, but us sho' was taught
to be Christians. Ever'thing on dat place was a blue stockin'
Presbyterian. When Sund'y come us dressed all clean an' nice an' went to
church. Us went to de white folks' church an' set in de gal'ry.
"Us had a fine preacher. His name was Gober. He could sho' give out de
words o' wisdom. Us didn' have big baptisins lak was had on a heap o'
places, 'cause Presbyterians don't go down under de water lak de Baptis'
do. If one o' de slaves died he was sho' give a gran' Christian fun'al.
All o' us mourners was on han'. Services was conducted by de white
"Old Mis' wouldn' stan' for no such things as voodoo an' ha'nts. When
she 'spected[FN: inspected] us once a week, you better not have no charm
'roun' yo' neck, neither. She wouldn' even 'low[FN: allow] us wear a bag
o' asfittidy[FN: asafetida]. Mos' folks b'lieved dat would keep off
sickness. She called such as dat superstition. She say us was 'lightened
Christian Presbyterians, an' as such us mus' conduc' ourse'fs.
"Nobody worked after dinner on Satu'd'y. Us took dat time to scrub up
an' clean de houses so as to be ready for 'spection Sund'y mornin'. Some
Satu'd'y nights us had dances. De same old fiddler played for us dat
played for de white folks. An' he sho' could play. When he got dat old
fiddle out you couldn' keep yo' foots still.
"Christ'mus was de time o' all times on dat old plantation. Dey don't
have no such as dat now. Ever' chil' brought a stockin' up to de Big
House to be filled. Dey all wanted one o' de mistis' stockin's, 'cause
now she weighed nigh on to three hund'ed pounds. Candy an' presents was
put in piles for ever' one. When dey names was called dey walked up an'
got it. Us didn' work on New Year's Day. Us could go to town or anywhere
us wanted to.
"De mos' fun was de corn shuckin'. Dey was two captains an' each one
picked de ones he wanted on his side. Den de shuckin' started. You can't
make mention o' nothin good dat us didn' have t'eat after de shuckin'. I
still studies' bout dem days now.
"Dey was big parties at de white folks' house, me, all dressed up wid
taller[FN: tallow] on my face to make it shine, a-servin' de gues'es[FN:
"One time, jus' when ever'thing was a-goin' fine, a sad thing happened.
My young mistis, de one named for her ma, ups an' runs off wid de son o'
de Irish ditch digger an' marries 'im. She wouldn' a-done it if dey'd
a-let 'r marry de man she wanted. Dey didn' think he was good 'nough for
her. So jus' to spite' em, she married de ditch digger's son.
"Old Mis' wouldn' have nothin' more to do wid 'er, same as if she warnt
her own chil'. But I'd go over to see 'er an' carry milk an' things out
o' de garden.
"It was pitiful to see my little miss poor. When I couldn' stan' it no
longer I walks right up to Old Mis' an' I says, 'Old Mis', does you know
Miss Farrell aint got no cow.' She jus' act lak she aint hear'd me, an'
put her lips together dat tight. I couldn' do nothin' but walk off an'
leave her. Pretty soon she called, 'Prince!' I says, 'Yes mam.' She
says, 'Seein' you is so concerned 'bout Miss Farrell not havin' no cow,
you better take one to 'er.' I foun' de rope an' carried de bes' cow in
de lot to Miss Farrell.
"Shortly after dat I lef' wid Old Marster to go to North Carolina. Jus'
'fore de war come on, my marster called me to' im an' tol' me he was
a-goin' to take me to North Carolina to his brother for safe keepin'.
Right den I knowed somethin' was wrong. I was a-wishin' from de bottom
o' my heart dat de Yankees 'ud stay out o' us business an' not git us
all 'sturbed in de min'.
"Things went on at his brother's place 'bout lak dey done at home. I
stayed dere all four years o' de war. I couldn' leave 'cause de men
folks all went to de war an' I had to stay an' pertec' de women folks.
"De day peace was declared wagon loads o' people rode all th'ough de
place a-tellin' us 'bout bein' free. De old Colonel was killed in battle
an' his wife had died. De young marster called us in an' said it was all
true, dat us was free as he was, an' us could leave whenever us got
ready. He said his money warnt no good anymore an' he dida' have no
other to pay us wid.
"I can't recollec' if he got new money an' paid us or not, but I do
'member ever' las' one o' us stayed.
"I never lef' dat place' til my young marster, Mr. Jim Johnson, de one
dat was de Supreme Judge, come for me. He was a-livin' in South Carolina
den. He took us all home wid 'im. Us got dere in time to vote for
Gov'nor Wade Hamilton. Us put 'im in office, too. De firs' thing I done
was join de Democrat Club an' hoped[FN: helped] 'em run all o' de
scalawags away from de place. My young marster had always tol' me to
live for my country an' had seen 'nought of dat war to know jus' what
was a-goin' on.
"I'se seen many a patrol in my lifetime, but dey dassent come on us
place. Now de Kloo Kluxes[FN: Ku Kluxes] was diff'ent. I rid[FN: rode]
wid' em many a time. 'Twas de only way in dem days to keep order.
"When I was 'bout twenty-two year old, I married Clara Breaden. I had
two chilluns by her, Diana an' Davis. My secon' wife's name was Annie
Bet Woods. I had six chillun by her: Mary, Ella, John D., Claud William,
an' Prince, Jr. Three boys an' two gals is still livin'. I lives wid my
daughter, Claud, what is farmin' a place 'bout five miles from
Clarksdale. I has' bout fifteen head o' gran'chillun an' ever' las' one
of 'em's farmers.
"Things is all peaceful now, but de worl' was sho' stirred up when
Abraham Lincoln was 'lected. I 'member well when dey killed 'im. Us had
a song' bout 'im dat went lak dis:
'Jefferson Davis rode de milk white steed,
Lincoln rode de mule.
Jeff Davis was a mighty fine man,
An' Lincoln was a fool.'
"One o' de little gals was a-singin' dat song one day an' she mixed dem
names up. She had it dat Marse Davis was de fool. I'se laughed 'bout dat
many a time. When Mistis finished wid' er she had sho' broke her from
"I knows all 'bout what slave uprisin's is, but never in my life has I
seen anything lak dat. Never! Never! Where I was brought up de white man
knowed his place an' de Nigger knowed his'n[FN: his]. Both of' em stayed
in dey place. We aint never had no lynchin's, neither.
"I know all 'bout Booker T. Washington. He come to de state o'
Mississippi once an' hel' a meetin' in Jackson. He made a gran' talk. He
made mention 'bout puttin' money in de bank. Lots o' darkies made
'membrance o' dat an' done it. He tol' us de firs' thing us had to learn
was to work an' dat all de schoolin' in de worl' wouldn' mean nothin' if
us didn' have no mother wit[FN: energy & common sense]. It's a pity us
aint got more folks lak him to guide us now dat us aint got no marster
an' mistis to learn us.
"I's a Nigger what has been prosperous. I made a-plenty cotton an' I
teached my chillun to be good blue stockin' Presbyterians. All 'roun' de
country I was knowed an' ever'body b'lieved in me.
"Maybe things is better lak dey is today. Mos' folks says so anyway. But
if Old Marster were a-livin' I'd be better off. I know dat to be so.
"I can hear 'im say to me new, 'Prince Albert, who is you named for?
Well den hol' yo' head high so folks can see you is quality.'"
Mississippi Federal Writers
Uncle Hamp Kennedy, a farmer, 78 years old, weighs about 135 pounds, and
is about 5 feet 9 inches high. His head is bald with a little gray fuzz
over his ears and growing low toward the nape of his neck. He does not
wear spectacles nor smoke a pipe. His face is clean shaven.
Physically active, he does not use a crutch or cane and his hearing,
eyesight, and mind appear alert. The old Negro cannot read or write, but
he has a remarkable memory. He seems very happy in his little cabin
where he and his wife live alone, and his eyes beam with interest when
he remembers and discusses slavery times.
"I was jes a little nigger when de War broke out--'bout fo' years ol',
my white folks say. I had a sister an' three brudders. My mammy an'
pappy was Mary Kennedy an' Lon Kennedy. My mammy was Mary Denham befo'
she mar'ied. I was born an' raised at Mahned, Mississippi. Old Miss Bill
Griffin was my missus.
"De Yankees sho' come to our house--yes sir, dey did. De fust time dey
kotched our hogs an' cut off de hind part an' take hit wid' em. De front
part dey lef' in de fiel'. Dey carries corn in de saddle bags an'
throwed hit out to de chickens. Den when de chickens come up to eat dey
kotched 'em by de head an' wring hit off an' take all de chickens wid
"Our white folks buried all dey silver in de groun' an' hid dey hosses
in de deep gullies near de plantation. Even dey clo'es an' meat dey
hide, an' de soljers didn' find nothin' 'cepin' de hosses, an' dey lef'
dey tired ones an' tuk our fresh ones wid' em. Dey burned de fiel's an'
orchards so our white folks couldn' he'p feed our soljers none.
"One time I 'member when Aunt Charity an' Winnie McInnis, two niggers on
our plantation, tried to swim some of our hosses cross de riber to save
'em frum de soljers an' dey rode 'cross in a little boat. Well, when de
hosses got in de middle of de water, up comes a' gator[FN: alligator],
grabs one hoss by de ear, an' we ain't neber seed him no mo'.
"When niggers run 'way frum de plantation dey was whupped, but dey had
to go to da sheriff to be whupped. De sheriff, he would tie de nigger to
a tree an' whup him till de blood run out.
"'Bout de only recr'ation us niggers had in dem days was candy pullin's.
We all met at one house an' tol' ghost stories, sung plantation songs,
an' danced de clog while de candy was cookin'. Dem was de good old days.
Dey don't do dem things no mo'.
"When a nigger died, we had a wake an' dat was diffrunt too frum whut
'tis today. Dey neber lef' a dead nigger 'lone in de house, but all de
neighbors was dere an' hoped[FN: helped]. Dey turned de mirrors to de
wall 'cause dey say once a long time ago, a nigger died an' three days
afte'wards his people looked in a mirror an' dere dey see da dead nigger
plain as day in de mirror.
"At da wake we clapped our han's an' kep' time wid our feet--_Walking
Egypt_, dey calls hit--an' we chant an' hum all night 'till de nigger
"If we heerd a little old shiverin' owl[FN: screech owl] we'd th'ow salt
in de fire an' th'ow a broom 'cross de do' fer folks say dat 'twas a
sign of bad luck, an' a charm had to be worked fas' to keep sumpin'
terrible frum happenin', an' if a _big owl_ hollered, we wasn't 'lowed
to say one word.
"Fire was 'bout de hardes' thing fer us to keep. Dere wa'nt no matches
in dem days, an' we toted fire frum one plantation to 'nother when hit
burned out. We put live coals in pans or buckets an' toted it home.
"Sometimes we put heavy waddin' in a old gun an' shot hit out into a
brush heap an' then blowed the sparks' til de fire blazed. Ever'body had
flint rocks too, but few niggers could work 'em an' de ones dat could
allus had dat job to do.
"My gran'mammy come frum South Ca'lina an' libed fust at New Augusta,
Mississippi. She used to pick big Catawba leaves an' roll her dough in
'em an' bake hit in a log heap, pilin' ashes over hit. Some called hit
ash cakes an' hit sho' was good. Nothin' lak hit dese days--no sir.
"We had plen'y to eat--smoke sausage, beef, home made lard, an'--yes
sir, possum when we wanted hit.
"We didn' git any pay fer our work but we had plen'y to eat an' clo'es
to wear, our clo'es was coarse but good. Most of 'em was wove on de
looms an' our socks an' stockings was knitted by de wimmin. De white
folks though, dey wear linen an' fine silk clo'es fer de big times. We
made blankets--coverlets, too.
"We had 'bout 60 slaves on our place, an' if a nigger man on one
plantation fall in love wid a slave girl on 'nother place, dey jus' come
to her plantation an' jump ober de broom an' den dey is mar'ied. De
slabes never had preachers lak dey do at weddin's dese days. If de girl
didn't love de boy an' he jumped ober de broom an' she didn't, den dey
"Dere was no schools in dem days either, an' I can't read an' write
today. Some of de white folks taught de younger niggers an' den dey tuk
dey lessons an' studied at dey cabin of nights afte' dey had finished
"We had prayer meetin's in each others houses durin' de week. One
plantation owner built a little church on his place an' de niggers, dey
go in de back do' an' sit in de back, an' white folks dey come in de
front of de church an' sit. De Presbyterin chu'ch was de only one 'round
dere an' dey sprinkled ever'body--jes poured water ober dey heads frum a
glass an' den patted hit hit in (demonstrated).
"'Twas funny--one time Joe an' Green, two niggers on our place, et dey
supper an' run 'way at night an' afte' dey was kotched, dey tol' us dat
when dey was passin' through de woods dat night a great big old
gran'daddy owl flopped his wings an' Joe said 'we'd better turn back.' I
allus heard hit was bad luck fer to hear a owl floppin' lack dat, but
Green said 'twant nothin', jes a old owl floppin', but he jes naturally
flopped diffrunt dat night, an' Green walked on 'bout 15 steps an'
somebody shot him dead. Joe said he tu'ned back an' run home.
"All our niggers had to have passes to leave de plantation an' when de
pataroller kotched 'em wid out'n a pass, de nigger was whupped.
Sometimes de plantation owner did hit an' sometimes de sheriff. Dey
used a long leather strop cut at de ends.
"We used snake root, hohound weed, life everlastin' weed, horse mint,
an' sassafras as medicine.
"When de War was right on us, grub was scarce an' sometimes little
niggers only had clabber milk an' dey et it in de trough wid de pigs,
an' sometimes dey only had pie crusts an' bread crusts at night when dey
et on de cabin flo'. Dem was hard times afte' de War.
"'Nother time one nigger run 'way frum our plantation an' hid by day an'
traveled by night so de nigger dogs wouldn't git him an' he hid in a
hollow tree. Dere was three cubs down in dat tree an' hit was so slick
inside an' so high 'til he couldn't clim' out, an' afte' while de ole
bear came back an' throw in half a hog. Den she go 'way an' come ag'in
an' throw in de other half. 'Bout a hour later, she came back an' crawl
in back'ards herse'f. De nigger inside de tree kotched her by de tail
an' pulled hisself out. Hit scared de bear so 'til she run in one
direction an' de nigger in 'nother. But de nigger, he run in de
direction of his marster's place an' said he'd neber run off again as
long as he libed.
"I can't 'member de old songs but dese niggers today can't sing lak dat
neither 'cause dey ain't libed back dere, an' dey can't feel hit lak us
old folks. Dem was de good old days allright, an' dey was hard days
James Lucas, ex-slave of Jefferson Davis, lives at Natchez, Adams
County. Uncle Jim is small, wrinkled, and slightly stooped. His woolly
hair is white, and his eyes very bright. He wears a small grizzled
mustache. He is always clean and neatly dressed.
"Miss, you can count up for yo'se'f. I was born on October 11, 1833. My
young Marster give me my age when he heired de prope'ty of his uncle,
Marse W.B. Withers. He was a-goin' through de papers an' a-burnin' some
of 'em when he foun' de one 'bout me. Den he says, 'Jim, dissen's 'bout
you. It gives yo' birthday.'
"I recollec' a heap' bout slav'ry-times, but I's all by myse'f now. All
o' my frien's has lef' me. Even Marse Fleming has passed on. He was a
little boy when I was a grown man.
"I was born in a cotton fiel' in cotton pickin' time, an' de wimmins
fixed my mammy up so she didn' hardly lose no time at all. My mammy sho'
was healthy. Her name was Silvey an' her mammy come over to dis country
in a big ship. Somebody give her de name o' Betty, but twant her right
name. Folks couldn' un'erstan' a word she say. It was some sort o'
gibberish dey called gulluh-talk, an' it soun' _dat_ funny. My pappy was
"When I was a little chap I used to wear coarse lowell-cloth shirts on
de week-a-days. Dey was long an' had big collars. When de seams ripped
de hide would show through. When I got big enough to wait 'roun' at de
Big House an' go to town, I wore clean rough clo'es. De pants was white
linsey-woolsey an' de shirts was rough white cotton what was wove at de
plantation. In de winter de sewin' wimmins made us heavy clothes an'
knit wool socks for us. De wimmins wore linsey-woolsey dresses an' long
leggin's lak de sojers wear. Dis was a long narrow wool cloth an' it
wropt 'roun' an' 'roun' dey legs an' fas'n at de top wid a string.
"I never went to no church, but on Sund'ys a white man would preach an'
pray wid us an' when he'd git through us went on 'bout us own business.
"At Chris'mus de Marster give de slaves a heap o' fresh meat an' whiskey
for treats. But you better not git drunk. No-sir-ree! Den on Chris'mus
Eve dey was a big dance an' de white folks would come an' see de one
what dance de bes'. Marster an' Mistis laugh fit to kill at de capers us
cut. Den sometimes dey had big weddin's an' de young white ladies
dressed de brides up lak dey was white. Sometimes dey sont to N'awleans
for a big cake. De preacher married' em wid de same testimony[FN:
ceremony] dey use now. Den ever'body'd have a little drink an' some
cake. It sho' was larrupin'[FN: very good][HW:?]. Den ever'body'd git
right. Us could dance near 'bout all night. De old-time fiddlers played
fas' music an' us all clapped han's an' tromped an' sway'd in time to de
music. Us sho' made de rafters ring.
"Us slaves didn' pay no 'tention to who owned us, leastways de young
ones didn'. I was raised by a marster what owned a heap o' lan's. Lemme
see, dey is called Artonish, Lockdale, an' Lockleaven. Dey is
plantations 'long de river in Wilkinson County, where I was raised. Dey
is all 'long together.
"I's sho' my firs' marster was Marse Jim Stamps an' his wife was Miss
Lucindy. She was nice an' sof'-goin'. Us was glad when she stayed on de
"Nex' thing I knowed us all b'longed to Marse Withers. He was from de
nawth an' he didn' have no wife. (Marsters wid-out wives was de debbil.
I knows a-plenty what I oughtn' tell to ladies. Twant de marsters whut
was so mean. Twas dem po' white trash overseers an' agents. Dey was
mean; dey was meaner dan bulldogs. Yes'm, wives made a big diffe'nce.
Dey was kin' an' went 'bout mongst de slaves a-lookin' after 'em. Dey
give out food an' clo'es an' shoes. Dey doctered de little babies.) When
things went wrong de wimmins was all de time puttin' me up to tellin' de
Mistis. Marse D.D. Withers was my young marster. He was a little man,
but ever'body stepped when he come 'roun'.
"Don' rightly know how it come 'bout. Lemme see! De bes' I 'member my
nex' Marster was Pres'dent Jefferson Davis hisse'f. Only he warnt no
pres'dent den. He was jus' a tall quiet gent'man wid a pretty young wife
what he married in Natchez. Her name was Miss Varina Howell, an' he sho'
let her have her way. I spec I's de only one livin' whose eyes ever seed
'em bofe. I talked wid her when dey come in de big steamboat. 'Fore us
got to de big house, I tol' her all 'bout de goins'-on on de
plantations. She was a fine lady. When I was a boy 'bout thirteen years
old dey took me up de country toward Vicksburg to a place call
Briarsfield. It mus'-a been named for her old home in Natchez what was
called 'de Briars.' I didn' b'long to Marse Jeff no great while, but I
aint never fo'git de look of 'im. He was always calm lak an' savin' on
his words. His wife was jus' de other way. She talked more dan a-plenty.
"I b'lieves a bank sol' us nex' to Marse L.Q. Chambers. I 'members him
well. I was a house-servant an' de overseer dassent hit me a lick.
Marster done lay de law down. Mos' planters lived on dey plantations
jus' a part o' de year. Dey would go off to Saratogy an' places up
nawth. Sometimes Marse L.Q. would come down to de place wid a big wagon
filled wid a thousan' pair o' shoes at one time. He had a nice wife. One
day whilst I was a-waitin' on de table I see old Marse lay his knife
down jus' lak he tired. Den he lean back in his chair, kinda still lak.
Den I say, 'What de matter wid Marse L.Q.?' Den dey all jump an' scream
an', bless de Lawd, if he warnt plumb dead.
"Slaves didn' know what to 'spec from freedom, but a lot of 'em hoped
dey would be fed an' kep' by de gov'ment. Dey all had diffe'nt ways o'
thinkin' 'bout it. Mos'ly though dey was jus' lak me, dey didn' know
jus' zackly what it meant. It was jus' somp'n dat de white folks an'
slaves all de time talk 'bout. Dat's all. Folks dat ain' never been free
don' rightly know de _feel_ of bein' free. Dey don' know de meanin' of
it. Slaves like us, what was owned by quality-folks, was sati'fied an'
didn' sing none of dem freedom songs. I recollec' one song dat us could
sing. It went lak dis:
'Drinkin' o' de wine, drinkin' o' de wine,
Ought-a been in heaven three-thousan' yeahs
A-drinkin' o' dat wine, a-drinkin' o' dat wine.'
Us could shout dat one.
"I was a grown-up man wid a wife an' two chillun when de War broke out.
You see, I stayed wid de folks til 'long cum de Yanks. Dey took me off
an' put me in de War. Firs', dey shipped me on a gunboat an', nex', dey
made me he'p dig a canal at Vicksburg. I was on de gunboat when it
shelled de town. It was turrible, seein' folks a-tryin' to blow each
other up. Whilst us was bull-doggin' Vicksburg in front, a Yankee army
slipped in behin' de Rebels an' penned 'em up. I fit[FN: fought] at Fort
Pillow an' Harrisburg an' Pleasant Hill an' 'fore I was ha'f through wid
it I was in Ba'timore an' Virginny.
"I was on han' when Gin'l Lee handed his sword to Gin'l Grant. You see,
Miss, dey had him all hemmed in an' he jus' natchelly had to give up. I
seen him stick his sword up in de groun'.
"Law! It sho' was turrible times. Dese old eyes o' mine seen more people
crippled an' dead. I'se even seen 'em saw off legs wid hacksaws. I tell
you it aint right, Miss, what I seen. It aint right atall.
"Den I was put to buryin' Yankee sojers. When nobody was lookin' I
stript de dead of dey money. Sometimes dey had it in a belt a-roun' dey
bodies. Soon I got a big roll o' foldin' money. Den I come a-trampin'
back home. My folks didn' have no money but dat wuthless kin'. It was
all dey knowed 'bout. When I grabbed some if it an' throwed it in de
blazin' fiah, dey thought I was crazy, 'til I tol' 'em, 'dat aint money;
it's no 'count!' Den I give my daddy a greenback an' tol' him what it
"Aftah de War was over de slaves was worse off dan when dey had
marsters. Some of 'em was put in stockades at Angola, Loosanna[FN:
Louisiana], an' some in de turrible corral at Natchez. Dey warnt used to
de stuff de Yankees fed 'em. Dey fed' em wasp-nes' bread, 'stead o'
corn-pone an' hoe cake, an' all such lak. Dey caught diseases an' died
by de hund'eds, jus' lak flies. Dey had been fooled into thinkin' it
would be good times, but it was de wors' times dey ever seen. Twant no
place for 'em to go; no bed to sleep on; an' no roof over dey heads. Dem
what could git back home set out wid dey min's made up to stay on de
lan'. Mos' of dey mistis' took 'em back so dey wuked de lan' ag'in. I
means dem what lived to git back to dey folks was more'n glad to wuk!
Dey done had a sad lesson. Some of 'em was worse'n slaves after de War.
"Dem Ku Kluxes was de debbil. De Niggers sho' was scared of 'em, but dey
was more after dem carpet-baggers dan de Niggers. I lived right in
'mongst 'em, but I wouldn' tell. No Ma'm! I knowed 'em, but I dasn'
talk. Sometimes dey would go right in de fiel's an' take folks out an'
kill 'em. Aint none of 'em lef' now. Dey is all dead an' gone, but dey
sho' was rabid den. I never got in no trouble wid 'em, 'cause I tended
my business an' kep' out o' dey way. I'd-a been kilt if I'd-a run 'roun'
an' done any big talkin'.
"I never knowed Marse Linc'um, but I heard he was a pow'ful good man. I
'members plain as yesterd'y when he got kilt an' how all de flags hung
at ha'f mas'. De Nawth nearly went wil' wid worryin' an' blamed
ever'body else. Some of 'em even tried to blame de killin' on Marse
Davis. I fit wid de Yankees, but I thought a mighty heap o' Marse Davis.
He was quality.
"I guess slav'ry was wrong, but I 'members us had some mighty good
times. Some marsters was mean an' hard but I was treated good all time.
One thing I does know is dat a heap of slaves was worse off after de
War. Dey suffered 'cause dey was too triflin' to work widout a boss. Now
dey is got to work or die. In dem days you worked an' rested an' knowed
you'd be fed. In de middle of de day us rested an' waited for de horn to
blow to go back to de fiel'. Slaves didn' have nothin' turrible to worry
'bout if dey acted right. Dey was mean slaves de same as dey was mean
"Now-a-days folks don' live right. In slav'ry times when you got sick a
white docter was paid to git you well. Now all you gits is some no-count
paten' medicine. You is 'fraid to go to de horspital, 'cause de docters
might cut on yo' stummick. I think slav'ry was a lot easier dan de War.
Dat was de debbil's own business. Folks what hankers for war don' know
what dey is askin' for. Dey ain' never seen no bloodshed. In war-times a
man was no more dan a varmint.
"When my white folks tol' us us was free, I waited. When de sojers come
dey turnt us loose lak animals wid nothin'. Dey had no business to set
us free lak dat. Dey gimme 160 acres of lan', but twant no 'count. It
was in Mt. Bayou, Arkansas, an' was low an' swampy. Twant yo' lan' to
keep lessen you lived on it. You had to clear it, dreen it, an' put a
house on it.
"How I gwine-a dreen an' clear a lot o' lan' wid nothin' to do it wid?
Reckon somebody livin' on my lan' now.
"One of de rights of bein' free was dat us could move 'roun' and change
bosses. But I never cared nothin' 'bout dat.
"I hear somebody say us gwine-a vote. What I wanta vote for? I don' know
nothin' 'bout who is runnin'.
"I draws a Federal pension now. If I lives' til nex' year I'll git $125
a mont'. It sho' comes in handy. I paid $800 for my house an', if I'd-a
thought, I'd-a got one wid mo' lan'. I don' wan' to plant nothin'. I do
want to put a iron fence a-roun' it an' gild it wid silver paint. Den
when I's gone, dar it will be.
"Yes'm. I'se raised a big fambly. Dem what aint dead, some of' em looks
as old as I does. I got one gran-chil' I loves jus' lak my own chillun.
I don' rightly 'member dis minute how many chillun I had, but I aint had
but two wives. De firs' one died long 'bout seventeen years ago, an' I
done what de Good Book say. It say, 'when you goes to de graveyard to
bury yo' firs' wife, look over de crowd an' pick out de nex' one.'
"Dat's jus' what I done. I picked Janie McCoy, 'cause she aint never
been married b'fore. She's a good cook, even if she does smoke a pipe,
an' don' know much' bout nothin'.
"I sho' don' live by no rules. I jus' takes a little dram when ever I
wants it, an' I smokes a pipe 'ceptin when de Mistis give me a
seegar[FN: cigar]. I can't chew tobacco on 'count my teeth is gone. I
aint been sick in bed but once in seventy years.
"I is five feet, five inches tall. I used to weigh 150 pounds, but dis
old carcass o' mine done los' fifty pounds of meat.
"Now-a-days I has a heap of misery in my knee, so I can't ride 'roun' no
mo'. Durin' de War I got a muskit ball in my hip an' now dat my meat's
all gone, it jolts a-roun' an' hurts me worse. I's still right sprightly
though. I can jump dat drainage ditch in front of de house, an' I sho'
can walk. Mos' every day I walks to de little sto' on Union Street. Dar
I rests long enough to pass de time-o-day wid my neighbors. My eyes is
still good, but I wears glasses for show an' for seein' close.
"De longer I lives de plainer I see dat it ain' right to want mo' dan
you can use. De Lawd put a-plenty here for ever'body, but shucks! Us
don' pay no min' to his teachin'. Sometimes I gits lonesome for de
frien's I used to know, 'cause aint nobody lef' but me. I's sho' been
lef a fur piece[FN: long way] b'hin'. De white folks say, 'Old Jim is de
las' leaf on de tree,' an' I 'spec dey's 'bout right."
Sam McAllum, Ex-slave, Lauderdale County
Marjorie Woods Austin
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes
To those familiar with the history of "Bloody Kemper" as recorded, the
following narrative from the lips of an eye-witness will be heresy. But
the subject of this autobiography, carrying his ninety-five years more
trimly than many a man of sixty, is declared sound of mind as well as of
body by the Hector Currie family, prominent in Mississippi, for whom he
has worked in a position of great trust and responsibility for fifty
years or more.
While this old Negro may be mistaken at some points (the universal
failing of witnesses), his impressions are certainly not more involved
than the welter of local records. Mrs. Currie states that if Sam said he
saw a thing happen thus, it may be depended upon that he is telling
exactly what he really saw.
Sam McAllum, ex-slave, lives in Meridian, Lauderdale County. Sam is five
feet three inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.
"De firs' town I ever seen were DeKalb in Kemper County. De Stephenson
Plantation where I were born warnt but 'bout thirteen miles north o'
DeKalb. I were born de secon' o' September in 1842. My mammy b'longed to
de Stephensons an' my pappy b'longed to Marster Lewis Barnes. His
plantation wasn't so very far from Stephenson. De Stephensons an'
Barneses were kin' white people. My pappy were a old man when I were
born--I were de baby chil'. After he died, my mammy marry a McAllum
"Dey were 'bout thirty slaves at Stephenson. My mammy worked in de
fiel', an' her mammy, Lillie, were de yard-woman. She looked after de
little cullud chillun.
"I don't recollec' any playthings us had 'cept a ball my young marster
gimme. He were Sam Lewis Stephenson, 'bout my age. De little cullud
chillun' ud play 'Blin' Man', 'Hidin'', an' jus' whatever come to han'.
"My young marster learned me out o' his speller, but Mistis whupped me.
She say I didn' need to learn nothin' 'cept how to count so's I could
feed de mules widout colicin' 'em. You give' em ten years[FN: ears] o'
corn to de mule. If you give' em more, it 'ud colic' 'em an' dey'd die.
Dey cos' more'n a Nigger would. Dat were de firs' whuppin' I ever
got--when me an' my young marster were a-spellin'.
"I stayed wid him special, but I waited on all de white folk's chillun
at Stephenson. I carried de foot tub in at night an' washed dey foots,
an' I'd pull de trun'le bed out from under de other bed. All de boys
slep' in de same room.
"Den I were a yard boy an' waited on de young marster an' mistis. Hadn'
been to de fiel' den--hadn' worked yet.
"Mr. Stephenson were a surveyor an' he fell out wid Mr. McAllum an' had
a lawsuit. He had to pay it in darkies. Mr. McAllum had de privilege o'
takin' me an' my mammy, or another woman an' her two. He took us. So us
come to de McAllum plantation to live. It were in Kemper, too, 'bout
eight miles from Stephenson. Us come dere endurin' of de war. Dat were
when my mammy marry one of de McAllum Niggers. My new pappy went to de
war wid Mr. McAllum an' were wid 'im when he were wounded at Mamassas
Gab Battle. He brung 'im home to die--an' he done it.
"Den de Yankees come th'ough DeKalb huntin' up cannons an' guns an'
mules. Dey sho' did eat a heap. Us hid all de bes' things lak silver,
an' driv'[FN: drove] de stock to de swamp. Dey didn' burn nothin', but
us hear'd tell o' burnin's in Scooba an' Meridian. I were a-plowin' a
mule an' de Yankees made me take him out. De las' I seen o' dat mule, he
were headed for Scooba wid three Yankees a-straddle of 'im.
"Times were tight--not a grain o' coffee an' not much else. When us
clo'es[FN: clothes] were plumb wore out, de mistis an' de Nigger wimmins
made us some out o' de cotton us had raised. My granny stayed de
loom-room all de time. De other winmins done de spinnin' an' she done de
weavin'. She were a' good'n'.
"De M & O (Mobile & Ohio Railroad) were a-burnin' wood, den. Dey couldn'
git coal. Dey used taller[FN: tallow] pots 'stead o' oil. De engineer
had to climb out on de engine hisse'f an' 'tend to dam taller pots. Dey
do diffe'nt now.
"Dey were such a sca'city of men, dey were a-puttin' 'em in de war at
sixty-five. But de war end 'fore dey call dat list.
"Mistis didn' have nobody to he'p her endurin' de war. She had to do de
bes' she could.
"When she hear'd de Niggers talkin' 'bout bein' free, she wore 'em out
wid a cowhide. She warnt a pow'ful-built woman, neither. She had to do
it herse'f, 'cause twant nobody to do it for 'er. Dey warnt nothin' a
Nigger could do but stan' up an' take it.
"Some folks treated dey slaves mighty bad--put Nigger dogs on 'em. All
my white folks were good to dey slaves, 'cordin' to how good de Niggers
b'haved deyse'fs. Course, you couldn' leave no plantation widout a pass,
or de pateroller'd git you. I aint countin' dat, 'cause dat were
somthin' ever'body knowed 'forehan'.
"Dey were a heap o' talk 'bout de Yankees a-givin' ever' Nigger forty
acres an' a mule. I don't know how us come to hear 'bout it. It jus'
kinda got aroun'. I picked out my mule. All o' us did.
"Times were mighty tough. Us thought us knowed trouble endurin' de war.
Um-m-m! Us didn' know nothin' 'bout trouble.
"Dey were so many slaves at McAllum's, dey had to thin 'em out. Mistis
put us out[FN: hired us out]. She sent me to Mr. Scott close to Scooba.
I were mos' a grown boy by den an' could plow pretty good. Come de
surrender, Mr. Scott say, 'Sambo, I don't have to pay yo' mistis for you
no more. I have to pay you if you stay. Niggers is free. You is free.' I
didn' b'lieve it. I worked dat crop out, but I didn' ask for no pay. Dat
didn' seem right. I didn' un'erstan' 'bout freedom, so I went home to my
old mistis. She say, 'Sambo, you don't b'long to me now.'
"Dey bound us young Niggers out. Dey sent me an' my brother to a man dat
were goin' to give us some learnin' 'long wid farmin'. His name were
Overstreet. Us worked dat crop out, but us aint never seen no speller,
"Den us went back to Stephenson's, where us were born, to git us age.
Old mistis say, 'Sambo, you aint twenty-one yet.'
"She cried, 'cause I had to go back to Mr. Overstreet. But I didn'. My
mammy an' me went back to McAllum's an' stayed until a man give us a
patch in turn[FN: return] for us he'pin' him on his farm.
"I know 'bout de Kloo Kluxes[FN: Klu Kluxes]. I seen 'em. 'Bout de firs'
time I seen 'em were de las'. Aint nobody know zackly[FN: exactly] 'bout
dem Kloo Kluxes. Some say it were a sperrit dat hadn' had no water since
de war. One rider would drink fo' or five gallons at one time--kep' us
a-totin' buckets fas' as us could carry 'em. It were a sperrit, a evil
"But folks dat aint acted right liable to be found mos' anytime tied up
some'r's: De Niggers were a-havin' a party one Satu'd'y night on
Hampton's plantation. Come some men on horses wid some kin' o'
scare-face on 'em. Dey were all wropped[FN: wrapped] up, disguised. De
horses were kivered[FN: covered] up, too. Dey call for Miler Hampton. He
were one o' de Hampton Niggers. He been up to somethin'. I don't know
what he done, but dey say he done somethin' bad. Dey didn' have no
trouble gittin' him, 'cause us were all scared us'd git kilt, too. Dey
carried 'im off wid 'em an' kilt him dat very night.
"Us went to DeKalb nex' day in a drove an' ask de white folks to he'p
us. Us buy all de ammunition us could git to take de sperrit, 'cause us
were a-havin' 'nother party de nex' week. Dey didn' come to dat party.
"I don't know why dey don't have no Kloo Kluxes now. De sperrit still
have de same power.
"Den I go to work for Mr. Ed McAllum in DeKalb--when I aint workin' for
de Gullies. Mr. Ed were my young marster, you know, an' now he were de
jailor in DeKalb.
"I knowed de Chisolms, too. Dat's how come I seen all I seen an' know
what aint never been tol'. I couldn' tell you dat. Maybe I's de only one
still livin' dat were grown an' right dere an' seen it happen. I aint
scared now nothin' 'ud happen to me for tellin'--Mr. Currie'd see to
dat--I jus' aint never tol'. Dem dat b'longed to my race were scared to
tell. Maybe it were all for de bes'. Dat were a long time ago. Dey give
out things den de way dey wanted 'em to soun', an' dat's de way dey done
"'It started wid Mr. John Gully gittin' shot. Now Mr. Gully were a
leadin' man 'mong de white democratic people in Kemper, but dey aint had
much chance for 'bout seven years (I disremember jus' how long) on
'count o' white folks lak de Chisolms runnin' ever'thing. Ever'body were
sho' it were some' o' de Chisolm crowd, but some folks knowed it were
dat Nigger, Walter Riley, dat shot Mr. Gully. (But aint nobody ever tol'
de sho' 'nough reason why Walter shot Mr. John Gully.)
"'De Chisolms warnt Yankees, but dey warnt white democratic people. Dey
do say de Chisolms an' folks lak' em used to run 'roun' wid de Yankees.
Maybe dat's how come dey was diffe'nt. Even 'fore de Yankees come
a-tall, when Mr. Chisolm were on us side, he were loud moufed[FN:
mouthed] 'bout it.
"'Mr. John Gully he'p Mr. Chisolm git to be judge, but he turnt out to
be worse dan dem he had to judge. Mr. Gully an' de others made 'im
resign. I reckon maybe dat's why he quit bein' a Democratic an' started
ructions wid Mr. Gully.
"'Come de surrender, Mr. Chisolm, he got to be a big leader on de other
side. An' he seen to it dat a lot o' de white democratic men got he'p
from votin' an' a lot o' Niggers step up an' vote lak he tol' 'em (dey
were scared not to). So de Chisolms kep' gittin' all de big places.
"'A lot o' widders an' folks lak dat what couldn' he'p deyse'fs los' dey
homes an' ever'thing dey had. De papers de gran' jury make out 'bout it
were stored in de sheriff's office. De sheriff give out dat his office
done been broke open an' all dem papers stole.
"'Den Mr. Chisolm's brother got hisse'f p'inted[FN: appointed] sheriff
an' make Mr. Chisolm deputy. Dat's when he started runnin' things, sho'
'nough. Nex' thing you know, Mr. Chisolm is de sho' 'nough sheriff,
"'Den he gather all his kin' o' folks 'roun' 'im an' dey make out a
black lis'. De folkses names dat were on it were de ones de Chisolms
didn' need. It were talked 'roun' dat de firs' name on dat lis' were Mr.
John Gully's name. A heap o' Kloo Kluxes' names were on it, too. Mr.
Chisolm send de Kloo Kluxes' names to de Gov'nor an' spec' him to do
somethin' 'bout runnin' 'em out. But, course, he couldn' do nothin'
'bout dat, 'cause it were a sperrit. But ever' now an' den somebody
what's name were on dat lis' 'ud git shot in de back.
"'Afore de 'lection come in November (it mus' a-been in '75) de Niggers
had been a-votin' an' doin' ever'thing de Chisolms say. Dey were still
a-harpin' back to dat forty acres an' a mule dey were promised what dey
aint never got. It were turnin' out to be jus' de same wid ever'thing
else Mr. Chisolm had been a-promisin' to give 'em. Dey aint never got
none of it. De white democratic folks won dat 'lection.
"'Soon Mr. Chisolm run for somthin' or 'nother an' got beat bad. Den he
were mad sho' 'nough. He went to Jackson to see de Gov'nor 'bout it.
Soon a heap o' white democratic men in Kemper got arrested for somethin'
"'Den Mr. John Gully got shot an' ever'body were sho' de Chisolms done
it. Ever'body were dat mad. Chisolm an' dem had to go to court. But dey
were slippery as eels an' Walter Riley's name come out. (He were a
Nigger.) Dey give out at de trial dat Walter were hired to shoot 'im by
de Chisolm folks. Dat were not de reason, but dey was blood 'fore folks'
eyes by dat time.
"'It got worse dat Satu'd'y when Mr. Gully were buried. Folks all over
Kemper done hear'd 'bout it by now, an' by nine o'clock Sund'y mornin',
people were a-comin' in over ever' road dat led to DeKalb. Dey all had
loaded guns. It were on a Sund'y when all de killin' happened--I mean,
de windin'-up killin'. I were dere 'fore a gun were fired. I were dere
when de firs' man were wounded.
"'De cullud people had gathered in DeKalb at de Methodis' Church. Dey
hadn' a gun fired yet. Mr. Henry Gully goes to de cullud people's
church. He walked in at de front door an' took his hat off his head. Dey
were a-packed in de house for preachin'. He walked down de aisle 'til he
got in front o' de preacher an' he turn sideways an' speak: "I want to
ask you to dismiss yo' congregation. Dey is goin' to be some trouble
take place right here in DeKalb an' I don't want any cullud person to
git hurt." De preacher rise to his feet, ever' Nigger in de house were
up, an' he dismiss 'em. (Mr. Henry Gully were Mr. John Gully's brother
an' a leadin' man o' de right.)
"'De town were a-millin' wid folks from ever'where. Chisolm an' dem done
got in de jail for safety an' Miss Cornelia Chisolm went back'ards an'
for'ards to de jail. Dey thought she were a-carryin' ammunition in her
clo'es[FN: clothes] to her father. Mr. McClendon--he were one of'
em--were wid her twict. He were on de right-hand side. Some b'lieved he
were de one dat killed Mr. John Gully. Dey tol' 'im dey'd burn his house
down if he stay in it, but if he'd go on to jail, dey'd give 'im a fair
"'Well, Mr. McClendon were shot down 'side Miss Cornelia. I seen him
when he fell on his face. De man dat fired de gun turn him over an' say,
"Well, us got' im." Miss Cornelia run on to de jail where de bounce[FN:
balance] o' de fam'ly were.
"'Dem outside say, "Boys, it'll never do! Dey aint all in dere yet.
Let's sen' to Scooba an' git Charlie Rosenbaum an' John Gilmore to come
help dey frien's. Dey b'longs to dat Chisolm crowd an' we want dem,
"'So dey come. Somebody say, "Let's commence right here." I never seen a
battle b'fore, but I sho' seen one den. It were lak dis: Mr. Cal Hull
was de only democratic white frien' Mr. Rosenbaum had. He stood' twixt
his white democratic frien's an' Mr. Rosenbaum. He put his arms over Mr.
Rosenbaum an' say, "Boys, he's a frien' o' mine. If you kill him, you
kill me." Mr. Rosenbaum crawled over to de courthouse wall, an' squatted
down, an' stayed dere. Mr. Hull stood over 'im, pertectin' 'im. But Mr.
John Gilmore make for de jail an', when dey open de door for 'im, de
shootin' start. Right den were when Mr. Gilmore got his. Miss Cornelia
were struck in de wris'. It mortified an' after 'while she died from
"I know I aint tol' de sho' 'nough reason Mr. John Gully got killed.
Maybe de time done come for de truf to be tol'. Hope won't nobody think
hard o' me for tellin':
"Mr. John Gully had a bar-room an' a clerk. A white man by de name o'
Bob Dabbs walked[FN: clerked] b'hin' dat counter. Dis Nigger, Walter
Riley, I was a-tellin' you 'bout awhile ago, were a-courtin' a
yaller[FN: yellow] woman. (Dey warnt so many of 'em in dem days.) Mr.
Dabbs say, "Walter, if I ever kotch[FN: catch] you walkin wid (he called
dat yaller woman's name) I'll give you de worst beatin' ever was."
Walter were kotch wid 'er ag'in. Dat Frid'y night he come a-struttin'
into de bar-room. Mr. Dabbs say, "Come he'p move dese boxes here in de
nex' room." Walter walked in lak a Nigger will when you ask 'im to do
somethin', an' Mr. Dabbs turnt de key. "Git 'crost dat goods box," he
say. "I'll give you what I promised you." Mr. Dabbs got 'im a piece o'
plank an' burnt Walter up.
"All dis here were a-goin' on 'bout de time Niggers were a-votin' an'
doin' things 'roun' white folks. Dey thought dey were pertected by de
"De nex' Frid'y night Walter walked right into dat bar-room ag'in. Mr.
Dabbs say, "What you doin' here, Nigger?" Walter say, "You 'member what
you done to me tonight one week?" An' he say, "Well, what's to it?" Den
Walter say, "Well, I come to settle wid you." Mr. Dabbs say, "Let me see
if I can't hurry you up some," an' he retch[FN: reached] his han' back
his han' to his hip. But 'fore he could draw[FN: draw his gun] out,
Walter done run back to de door. Dey were a chinaberry tree close to de
door an' Walter got b'hin' it an' fired a pistol. Mr. Dabbs were hit wid
his arm a-layin' 'crost de counter wid his pistol in his han'.
"'Me an' Mr. Ed ('cause he were de jailor), we put him on a mattress in
de room back o' de bar. An' he died dat night. De word jus' kinda got'
roun' dat some of de Chisolm crowd done killed Mr. Gully's clerk.
"'Walter run off to Memphis. Mr. Gully were pursuin' after 'im to ketch
'im. Walter sho' got tired of him pursuin' after 'im. Dat were de
evidence Walter give out 'fore dey put de rope on his neck an' start him
on his way to de gallows, but twant nobody dere to put it down jus' lak
"'Mr. Sinclair were sheriff by dis time, an' my young marster an' me
went wid 'im to git Walter to take 'im to de gallows. Mr. Sinclair say,
"Ed, you goin' to de jail-house now? Here's a ha'f pint o' whiskey. Give
it to Walter, make 'im happy, den if he talk too much, nobody will
b'lieve it." Mr. Ed say, "Come on, Sambo, go wid me." He retched down
an' got a han'ful o' goobers an' put 'em in his pocket. We were eatin'
'em on de way down to de jail-house. He say, "Walter, Mr. Sinclair done
sent you a dram." Walter say, "Mr. McAllum, I see you an' Sam eatin'
peanuts comin' along. Jus' you give me a han'ful an' I'll eat dem on de
way to de gallows. I don't want no whiskey."
"'Den us got on de wagon. (I can see Walter now, standin' dere wid his
cap on de back o' his head ready to pull down over his eyes after he
git dere.) Dey were a pow'ful crowd 'roun' dat wagon.
"'Den come a rider from Scooba, pull a paper from his pocket, an' han'
it to Mr. Sinclair. He read it an' say," Let de people go on to de
gallows. De wagon turn 'roun' an' go back to de jail." De Gov'nor had
stopped de hangin' 'til de case were 'vestigated. (De people standin'
dere a-waitin' for Walter to be hung didn' know what were de matter.)
"'Dey placed Walter back in jail an' his coffin 'long wid' im. De
lawyers would visit 'im to git his testimony. Dey'd show 'im his coffin
all ready an' ask him did he do dis killin' or not. Dey want 'im to say
he were hired to do it. Dey fixed it all up. Twant nobody to tell jus'
how it were.'
"I were married by dis time to Laura. She were de nurse maid to Mr. J.H.
Currie. She's been dead twenty years, now. When de Curries come to
Meridian to live, dey give me charge o' dey plantation. I were de leader
an' stayed an' worked de plantation for' em. Dey been livin' in Meridian
twelve years. I's married now to dey cook.
"Mr. Hector tol' me if I'd come an' live wid' em here, he'd gimme dis
house here in de back yard an' paint it an' fix it all up lak you see
it. It's mighty pleasant in de shade. Folks used to always set dey
houses in a grove, but now dey cuts down more trees dan dey keeps. Us
don't cut no trees. Us porches is always nice an' shady.
"I'se got fo' boys livin'. One son were in de big strike in de
automobile plant in Detroit an' couldn' come to see me las' Chris'mus.
He'll come to see me nex' year if I's still here.
"Maybe folks goin' a-think hard o' me for tellin' what aint never been
tol' b'fore. I been asked to tell what I seen an' I done it.
"Dat's tellin' what I never thought to tell."
Charlie Moses, Ex-slave, Lincoln County
Esther de Sola
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes
Charlie Moses, 84 year old ex-slave, lives at Brookhaven. He possesses
the eloquence and the abundant vocabulary of all Negro preachers. He is
now confined to his bed because of the many ailments of old age. His
weight appears to be about 140 pounds, height 6 feet 1 inch high.
"When I gits to thinkin' back on them slavery days I feels like risin'
out o' this here bed an' tellin' ever'body 'bout the harsh treatment us
colored folks was given when we was owned by poor quality folks.
"My marster was mean an' cruel. I hates him, hates him! The God Almighty
has condemned him to eternal fiah. Of that I is certain. Even the cows
and horses on his plantation was scared out o' their minds when he come
near 'em. Oh Lordy! I can tell you plenty 'bout the things he done to us
poor Niggers. We was treated no better than one o' his houn' dogs.
Sometimes he didn' treat us as good as he did them. I prays to the Lord
not to let me see him when I die. He had the devil in his heart.
"His name was Jim Rankin an' he lived out on a plantation over in Marion
County. I was born an' raised on his place. I spec I was 'bout twelve
year old at the time o' the war.
"Old man Rankin worked us like animals. He had a right smart plantation
an' kep' all his Niggers, 'cept one house boy, out in the fiel'
a-workin'. He'd say, 'Niggers is meant to work. That's what I paid my
good money for 'em to do.'
"He had two daughters an' two sons. Them an' his poor wife had all the
work in the house to do, 'cause he wouldn' waste no Nigger to help 'em
out. His family was as scared o' him as we was. They lived all their
lives under his whip. No Sir! No Sir! There warnt no meaner man in the
world than old man Jim Rankin.
"My pappy was Allen Rankin an' my mammy was Ca'line. There was twelve o'
us chillun, nine boys an' three girls. My pa was born in Mississippi an'
sol' to Marster Rankin when he was a young man. My mammy was married in
South Carolina an' sol' to Marster Rankin over at Columbia. She had to
leave her family. But she warnt long in gittin' her another man.
"Oh Lordy! The way us Niggers was treated was awful. Marster would beat,
knock, kick, kill. He done ever'thing he could 'cept eat us. We was
worked to death. We worked all Sunday, all day, all night. He whipped us
'til some jus' lay down to die. It was a poor life. I knows it aint
right to have hate in the heart, but, God Almighty! It's hard to be
forgivin' when I think of old man Rankin.
"If one o' his Niggers done something to displease him, which was mos'
ever' day, he'd whip him' til he'd mos' die an' then he'd kick him 'roun
in the dust. He'd even take his gun an', before the Nigger had time to
open his mouth, he'd jus' stan' there an' shoot him down.
"We'd git up at dawn to go to the fiel's. We'd take our pails o' grub
with us an' hang' em up in a row by the fence. We had meal an' pork an'
beef an' greens to eat. That was mos'ly what we had. Many a time when
noontime come an' we'd go to eat our vittals the marster would come
a-walkin' through the fiel with ten or twelve o' his houn' dogs. If he
looked in the pails an' was displeased with what he seen in 'em, he took
'em an' dumped 'em out before our very eyes an' let the dogs grab it up.
We didn' git nothin' to eat then 'til we come home late in the evenin'.
After he left we'd pick up pieces of the grub that the dogs left an' eat
'em. Hongry--hongry--we was so hongry.
"We had our separate cabins an' at sunset all of us would go in an' shut
the door an' pray the Lord Marster Jim didn' call us out.
"We never had much clothes 'ceptin' what was give us by the marster or
the mistis. Winter time we never had 'nough to wear nor 'nough to eat.
We wore homespun all the time. The marster didn' think we needed
anything, but jus' a little.
"We didn' go to church, but Sundays we'd gather 'roun' an' listen to the
mistis read a little out o' the Bible. The marster said we didn' need no
religion an' he finally stopped her from readin' to us.
"When the war come Marster was a captain of a regiment. He went away an'
stayed a year. When he come back he was even meaner than before.
"When he come home from the war he stayed for two weeks. The night
'fore he was a-fixin' to leave to go back he come out on his front porch
to smoke his pipe. He was a-standin' leanin' up ag'in' a railin' when
somebody sneaked up in the darkness an' shot him three times. Oh my
Lord! He died the nex' mornin'. He never knowed who done it. I was glad
they shot him down.
"Sometimes the cavalry would come an' stay at the house an' the mistis
would have to 'tend to 'em an' see that they got plenty to eat an' fresh
"I never seen no fightin'. I stayed on the plantation 'til the war was
over. I didn' see none o' the fightin'.
"I don't 'member nothin' 'bout Jefferson Davis. Lincoln was the man that
set us free. He was a big general in the war.
"I 'member a song we sung, then. It went kinda like this:
'Free at las',
Free at las',
Thank God Almighty
I's free at las'.
Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm.'
"I only seen the Klu Klux Klan onct. They was a-paradin' the streets
here in Brookhaven. They had a Nigger that they was a-goin' to tar an'
"When the mistis tol' us we was free (my pappy was already dead, then)
my mammy packed us chillun up to move. We travelled on a cotton wagon to
Covington, Louisiana. We all worked on a farm there 'bout a year. Then
all 'cept me moved to Mandeville, Louisiana an' worked on a farm there.
I hired out to Mr. Charlie Duson, a baker. Then we moved to a farm above
Baton Rouge, Louisiana an' worked for Mr. Abe Manning. We jus'
travelled all over from one place to another.
"Then I got a letter from a frien' o' mine in Gainesville, Mississippi.
He had a job for me on a boat, haulin' lumber up the coast to Bay St.
Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, an' all them coast towns. I
worked out o' Gainesville on this boat for 'bout two year. I lost track
o' my family then an' never seen 'em no more.
"In the year 1870 I got the call from the Lord to go out an' preach. I
left Gainesville an' travelled to Summit, Mississippi where another
frien' o' mine lived. I preached the words of the Lord an' travelled
from one place to another.
"In 1873 I got married an' decided to settle in Brookhaven. I preached
an' all my flock believed in me. I bought up this house an' the two on
each side of it. Here I raised seven chillun in the way o' the Lord.
They is all in different parts of the country now, but I sees one of 'em
ever' now an' then. Las' April the Lord seen fit to put me a-bed an' I
been ailin' with misery ever since.
"The young folks now-a-days are happy an' don't know' bout war an'
slavery times, but I does. They don't know nothin' an' don't make the
mark in the worl' that the old folks did. Old people made the first
roads in Mississippi. The Niggers today wouldn' know how to act on a
plantation. But they are happy. We was miserable.
"Slavery days was bitter an' I can't forgit the sufferin'. Oh, God! I
hates 'em, hates 'em. God Almighty never meant for human beings to be
like animals. Us Niggers has a soul an' a heart an' a _min'_. We aint
like a dog or a horse. If all marsters had been good like some, the
slaves would all a-been happy. But marstars like mine ought never been
allowed to own Niggers.
"I didn' spec nothin' out of freedom 'ceptin' peace an' happiness an'
the right to go my way as I pleased. I prays to the Lord for us to be
"That's the way God Almighty wants it."
Henri Necaise, Ex-Slave, Pearl River County
Mrs. C.E. Wells
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes
Henri Necaise, ex-slave, 105 years old, lives a half-mile south of
Nicholson on US 11. Uncle Henri lives in a small plank cabin enclosed by
a fence. He owns his cabin and a small piece of land. He is about five
feet ten inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. His sight and hearing are
"I was born in Harrison County, 19 miles from Pass Christian, 'long de
ridge road from de swamp near Wolf River. My Marster was Ursan Ladnier.
De Mistis' name was Popone. Us was all French. My father was a white
man, Anatole Necaise. I knowed he was my father, 'cause he used to call
me to him an' tell me I was his oldes' son.
"I never knowed my mother. I was a slave an' my mother was sol' from me
an' her other chilluns. Dey tol' me when dey sol' 'er my sister was
a-holdin' me in her arms. She was standin' behin' da Big House peekin'
'roun' de corner an' seen de las' of her mother. I seen her go, too. Dey
tell me I used to go to de gate a-huntin' for my mammy. I used to sleep
wid my sister after dat.
"Jus' lemme study a little, an' I'll tell you 'bout de Big House. It
was 'bout 60 feet long, built o' hewed logs, in two parts. De floors was
made o' clay dey didn' have lumber for floors den. Us lived right close
to de Big House in a cabin. To tell de truf, de fac' o' de business is,
my Marster took care o' me better'n I can take care o' myse'f now.
"When us was slaves Marster tell us what to do. He say, 'Henri, do dis,
do dat.' An' us done it. Den us didn' have to think whar de nex' meal
comin' from, or de nex' pair o' shoes or pants. De grub an' clo'es give
us was better'n I ever gits now.
"Lemme think an' counts. My Marster didn' have a lot o' slaves. Dere was
one, two, three, fo', yes'm, jus' fo' o' us slaves. I was de
stockholder. I tended de sheep an' cows an' such lak. My Marster didn'
raise no big crops, jus' corn an' garden stuff. He had a heap o' cattle.
Dey could run out in de big woods den, an' so could de sheeps. He sol'
cattle to N'awlins[FN: New Orleans] an' Mobile, where he could git de
bes' price. Dat's de way folks does now, aint it? Dey sells wherever dey
can git de mos' money.
"Dey didn' give me money, but, you see, I was a slave. Dey sho' give me
ever'thing else I need, clo'es an' shoes. I always had a-plenty t'eat,
better'n I can git now. I was better off when I was a slave dan I is
now, 'cause I had ever'thing furnished me den. Now I got to do it all
"My Marster was a Catholic. One thing I can thank dem godly white folks
for, dey raise' me right. Dey taught me out o' God's word, 'Our Father
which art in Heaven.' Ever'body ought-a know dat prayer."
(Note. In this Wolf River territory in Harrison County, where Uncle
Henri was born and raised, all the settlers were French Catholics, and
it was the scene of early Catholic missions.)
"I was rais' a Catholic, but when I come here twant no church an' I
joined de Baptis' an' was baptised. Now de white folks lemme go to dey
church. Dey aint no cullud church near 'nough so's I can go. I spec' its
all right. I figgers dat God is ever'where.
"My Mistis knowed how to read an' write. I don' know 'bout de Marster.
He could keep sto' anyway. Us all spoke French in dem days. I near 'bout
forgit all de songs us used to sing. Dey was all in French anyway, an'
when you don' speak no French for 'bout 60 years, you jus' forgit it.
"I'se knowed slaves to run away, an' I'se seen 'em whupped. I seen good
marsters an' mean ones. Dey was good slaves an' mean ones. But to tell
de truf, if dey tol' a slave to do anything, den he jus' better do it.
"I was big' nough in de Civil War to drive five yoke o' steers to Mobile
an' git grub to feed de wimmins an' chilluns. Some o' de mens was
a-fightin' an' some was a-runnin' an' hidin'. I was a slave an' I had to
do what dey tol' me. I carried grub into de swamp to men, but I never
knowed what dey was a-hidin' from."
(This may be explained by the fact that Uncle Henri was owned by and
lived in a settlement of French People, many of whom probably had no
convictions or feeling of loyalty, one way or the other, during the War
Between the States.)
"My old Marster had fo' sons, an' de younges' one went to de war an' was
"De Yankees come to Pass Christian, I was dere, an' seen 'em. Dey come
up de river an' tore up things as dey went along.
"I was 31 years old when I was set free. My Marster didn' tell us' bout
bein' free. De way I foun' it out, he started to whup me once an' de
young Marster up an' says, 'You aint got no right to whup him now, he's
free.' Den Marster turnt me loose.
"It was dem Carpetbaggers dat 'stroyed de country. Dey went an' turned
us loose, jus' lak a passel o' cattle, an' didn' show us nothin' or giv'
us nothin'. Dey was acres an' acres o' lan' not in use, an' lots o'
timber in dis country. Dey should-a give each one o' us a little farm
an' let us git out timber an' build houses. Dey ought to put a white
Marster over us, to show us an' make us work, only let us be free 'stead
o' slaves. I think dat would-a been better 'n turnin' us loose lak dey
"I lef' my Marster an' went over to de Jordon River, an' dere I stayed
an' worked. I saved my money an' dat giv' me a start. I never touched
it' til de year was winded up. To tell da truf, de fac's o' de matter
is, it was my Marstars kinfolks I was workin' for.
"I bought me a schooner wid dat money an' carried charcoal to N'awlins.
I done dis for 'bout two years an' den I los' my schooner in a storm off
o' Bay St. Louis.
"After I los' my schooner, I come here an' got married. Dis was in 1875
an' I was 43 years old. Dat was my firs' time to marry. I'se got dat
same wife today. She was born a slave, too. I didn' have no chillun, but
my wife did. She had one gal-chil'. She lives at Westonia an' is de
mammy o' ten chillun. She done better'n us done. I'se got a lot o'
gran'-chillun. What does you call de nex' den? Lemme see, great
gran'-chillun, dat's it.
"I never did b'lieve in no ghos' an' hoodoos an' charms.
"I never did look for to git nothin' after I was free. I had dat in my
head to git me 80 acres o' lan' an' homestead it. As for de gov'ment
making me a present o' anything, I never thought 'bout it. But jus' now
I needs it.
"I did git me dis little farm, 40 acres, but I bought it an' paid for it
myse'f. I got de money by workin' for it. When I come to dis country I
dug wells an' built chimneys on' houses. (Once I dug a well 27 feet an'
come to a coal bed. I went through de coal an' foun' water. Dat was on
de Jordon River.) Dat clay chimney an' dis here house has been built 52
years. I's still livin' in' em. Dey's mine. One acre, I giv' to de Lawd
for a graveyard an' a churchhouse. I wants to be buried dere myse'f.
"A white lady paid my taxes dis year. I raises a garden an' gits de Old
Age 'Sistance. It aint 'nough to buy grub an' clo'es for me an' de old
woman an' pay taxes, so us jus' has to git 'long de bes' us can wid de
white folks he'p.
"It aint none o' my business' bout whether de Niggers is better off free
dan slaves. I dont know 'cept 'bout me, I was better off den. I did earn
money after I was free, but after all, you know _money is de root o' all
evil_. Dat what de Good Book say. When I was a slave I only had to obey
my Marster an' he furnish me ever'thing. Once in a while he would whup
me, but what was dat? You can't raise nary chile, white or black, widout
chastisin'. De law didn' low dem to dominize over us, an' dey didn' try.
"I's gittin' mighty old now, but I used to be pretty spry. I used to go
60 miles out on de Gulf o' Mexico, as 'terpreter on dem big ships dat
come from France. Dat was 'fore I done forgot my French talk what I was
raised to speak.
"De white folks is mighty good to me. De riches' man in Picayune, he
recognizes me an' gives me two bits or fo' bits. I sho' has plenty o'
good frien's. If I gits out o' grub, I catches me a ride to town, an' I
comes back wid de grub.
"De good Lawd, he don't forgit me."
Mississippi Federal Writers
[REV. JAMES SINGLETON
"My name's James Singleton. I'se a Baptist preacher. I was born in 1856,
but I doan know zactly what date. My mammy was Harr'et Thompson. Her
marster was Marse Daniel Thompson over in Simpson County on Strong River
at a place called Westville. My pappy, he come from South
Ca'lina--Charleston--an' was give to do old folks' darter. His name was
John Black an' he was owned by Mr. Frank Smith over in Simpson. He was
brought down frum South Ca'lina in a wagon 'long wid lots mo'.
"Me, I was sol' to Marse Harrison Hogg over in Simpson when I was 'bout
six years old, and Marse Hogg, he turn right 'roun', and sol' me an'
sister Harr'et an' brother John nex' day for fo' thousan'. Two thousan'
fo' John, 'cause he's older an' bigger, an' a thousan' fo' Harr'et an'
me. Miss Annie an' Marse Elbert Bell bought us.
"Marse Elbert had three mo' sides us--makin' six. Us slep' on pallets on
de flo', an' all lived in one long room made out of logs, an' had a dirt
flo' an' dirt chimbly. There was a big old iron pot hangin' over de
hearth, an' us had 'possum, greens, taters, and de lak cooked in it. Had
coon sometimes, too.
"Marse Elbert, he lived in jes a plain wood house made Califo'nia style,
wid a front room an' a shed room where de boys slep'. Dey had two boys,
Jettie an' William.
"I reckin dere was 'bout a hun'erd an' sixty acres planted in taters an'
corn, an' dey made whiskey too. Yessum, dey had a 'stillery[FN:
distillery] hid down in de woods where dey made it.
"My mammy an' pappy was fiel' han's, an' I was mighty little to do so
much. I jes minded de cow pen, made fires in de Big House, an' swep' de
house. When I made de fires, iffen dere wa'nt any live coale lef', we
had to use a flint rock to git it sta'ted.
"Dere was a bell ringin' every mornin' 'bout fo' 'clock, fer to call de
slaves tar git up an' go to de fiel's. Day wuked 'til sundown. Dey was
fed in de white folks' kitchen, and Cook cooked fer us jes lak she done
fer de whites. De kitchen was built off a piece frum de hous', y'know.
"Marse never did whup any of us li'l chullun. Miss Annie, she tried once
to whup me 'cause I chunked rocks at her li'l chickens, but mighty
little whuppin' she done. Dere wa'nt no overseer.
"Chris'mas time, we had two or three days to play, an' had extry food.
"I seen 'pattyrollers' ridin' 'bout to keep de darkies from runnin'
'roun' widout passes. I never seen 'em whup none but dey tol' us we'd
git twen'y-nine licks iffen we got caught by 'em. I seen darkies git
whuppin's on other plantations--whup 'em half a day sometimes, gen'ly
when dey tried to run away.
"We didn' have no dancin' dat I 'member, but had plen'y log rollin's.
Had fiddlin', an' all would jine in singin' songs, lak, "Run nigger run,
pattyrollers ketch you, run nigger run, it's breakin' days." I still
fiddle dat chune[FN: tune]. Well, you see, dey jes rolled up all de old
dead logs an' trees in a big pile, and burned it at night.
"I seen de Yankee sojers when dey passed our house but dey didn' bother
us none. None didn' even stop in. Dey was wearin' blue jackets an' had
gold buttons on caps an' jackets. But when de Confed'rate sojers come
along, dey stopped an' killed a fat cow er two, an' taken de fat hoss
an' lef' a lean one, an' taken ever'thing else dey seen dey wanted.
"No'm, didn' none of de slaves run off wid dem dat I knows of, an' de
Yankees didn' try to bother us none. Well, afte' de War, Marse Elbert
tol' us dat we was free now, an' pappy come an' got us an' taken us to
live wid de cook on Mr. Elisha Bishop's place, an' he paid Mr. Barren
Bishop to teach us. He taught us out of Webster's Blue Back Spellin'
"My pappy, he had a stolen ejucation--'at was cause his mistress back in
South Ca'Line hoped him to learn to read an' write 'fo he lef' there.
You see, in dem days, it was ag'inst de law fer slaves to read.
"I was glad to be free 'cause I don't b'lieve sellin' an' whuppin'
peoples is right. I certainly does think religion is a good thing,
'cause I'se a Baptist preacher right now, and I live 'bout six miles
from Crystal Springs. I farm too."
Berry Smith, Ex-slave, Scott County
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes
"Uncle Berry" Smith is five feet two or three inches tall. He is
scrupulously neat. He is very independent for his age, which is
calculated at one hundred and sixteen years. He believes the figure to
be correct. His mind is amazingly clear.
"I was born an' bred in Sumpter County, Alabama, in de prairie lan', six
miles from Gainesville. Dat's where I hauled cotton. It was close to
Livingston, Alabama, where we lived.
"I was twelve years old when de stars fell. Dey fell late in de night
an' dey lighted up de whole earth. All de chaps was a-runnin' 'roun'
grabbin' for 'em, but none of us ever kotched[FN: caught] one. It's a
wonder some of' em didn' hit us, but dey didn'. Dey never hit de groun'
"When dey runned de Injuns out de country, me an' another chap kotched
one o' dem Injun's ponies an hung him up[FN: tied him up] in de grape
vines. He said it was his pony an' I said it was mine.
"Marse Bob's boy tol' us his daddy was gwine a-whup us for stealin' dat
pony, so we hid out in de cane for two nights. Marse Bob an' his brother
whupped us' til we didn' want to see no more Injuns or dey ponies,
"I was born a slave to Old Marse Jim Harper an' I fell to Marse Bob.
Marse Jim bought my pa an' ma from a man by de name o' Smith, an' Pa
kep' de name. Dat's how come I is Berry Smith.
"Dey didn' have no schools for us an' didn' teach us nothin' but work.
De bull-whip an' de paddle was all de teachin' we got. De white
preachers used to preach to de Niggers sometimes in de white folks'
church, but I didn' go much.
"We had fun in dem days in spite o' ever'thing. De pranks we used to
play on dem paterollers! Sometimes we tied ropes 'crost de bridge an' de
paterollers'd hit it an' go in de creek. Maybe we'd be fiddlin' an'
dancin' on de bridge (dat was de grown folks, but de chaps 'ud come,
too) an' dey'd say, 'Here come de paterollers!' Den we'd put out. If we
could git to de marster's house, we was all right. Marse Bob wouldn' let
no pateroller come on his place. Marse Alf wouldn', neither. Dey said it
was all right if we could git home widout bein' kotched, but we have to
take dat chance.
"At de Big House dey had spinnin' wheels an' a loom. Dey made all de
clo'es[FN: clothes] on de place. Homespun was what dey called de goods.
My ma used to spin an' weave in de loom room at de Big House.
"Dey was two plantations in de marster's lan' an' dey worked a heap o'
Niggers. I was a house boy an' didn' go to de fiel' much.
"We had overseers on de place, but dey was jus' hired men. Dey was po'
white folks an' only got paid 'bout three or fo' hund'ed dollars a year.
"When we lef' Alabama we come to Mississippi. We went to de Denham
place near Garlandsville. We brought eighteen Niggers. We walked a
hund'ed miles an' it took five days an' nights. De women an' little
chaps rid[FN: rode] on de wagons (dey had five mules to de wagon) an' de
men an' de big chaps walked. My pa an' ma come along.
"We stayed on de Denham place 'bout three years. Den we moved to
Homewood an' stayed five years. I hung de boards for Marse Bob's house
"Den we come to Forest. Dey brought all de fam'ly over here--all my
brothers an' sisters. Dey was five of' em--Wash an' East is de two I
'members. All o' us b'longed to de Harper fam'ly. Marse Bob owned us. My
ma an' pa both died here in Forest.
"I he'ped to build dis house for Marse Bob. I cleaned de lan' an' lef de
trees where he tol' me. He lived in a little old shack whilst we built
de Big House.
"Mr. M.D. Graham put up de firs' store here an' de secon' was put up by
"I worked in de fiel' some, but mos'ly I was a house servant. I used to
go all over de country a-huntin' eggs an' chickens for de fam'ly on'
count dey was so much comp'ny at de house.
"A heap o' white folks was good to dey Niggers, jus' as good as dey
could be, but a heap of' em was mean, too. My mistis was good to us an'
so was Marse Jim Harper. He wouldn' let de boys 'buse us while he lived,
but when he died dey was wild an' cruel. Dey was hard taskmasters. We
was fed good three times a day, but we was whupped too much. Dat got
me. I couldn' stan' it. De old marster give us good dinners at
Chris'mus, but de young ones stopped all dat.
"De firs' train I ever seen was in Brandon. I went dere to carry some
horses for my marster. It sho' was a fine lookin' engine. I was lookin'
at it out of a upstairs window an' when it whistled I'd a-jumped out dat
window if Captain Harper hadn' a-grabbed me.
"I didn' see no fightin' in de war. When Gen'l Sherman come th'ough
here, he come by Hillsboro. Marse Bob didn' go to de war. He 'listed[FN:
enlisted], but he come right back an' went to gittin' out cross ties for
de railroad. He warnt no sojer. Colonel Harper, dat was Marse Alf, _he_
was de sojer. He warnt scared o' nothin' or nobody.
"De Yankees ask me to go to de war, but I tol' 'em, 'I aint no rabbit to
live in de woods. My marster gives me three good meals a day an' a good
house an' I aint a-goin'.' Marse Bob used to feed us fine an' he was
good to us. He wouldn' let no overseer touch his Niggers, but he whupped
"Den de Yankees tol' me I was free, same as dey was. I come an' tol'
Marse Bob I was a-goin'. He say, 'If you don't go to work, Nigger, you
gwine a-git whupped.' So I run away an' hid out in de woods. De nex' day
I went to Meridian. I cooked for de sojers two months, den I come back
to Forest an' worked spikin' ties for de railroad.
"I hear'd a heap of talk 'bout Jeff Davis an' Abe Lincoln, but didn'
know nothin' 'bout 'em. We hear'd 'bout de Yankees fightin' to free us,
but we didn' b'lieve it 'til we hear'd 'bout de fightin' at Vicksburg.
"I voted de 'publican ticket after de surrender, but I didn' bother wid
no politics. I didn' want none of 'em.
"De Kloo Kluxers[FN: Ku Klux's] was bad up above here, but I never seen
any. I hear'd tell of 'em whuppin' folks, but I don't know nothin' 'bout
"Mos' all de Niggers dat had good owners stayed wid 'em, but de others
lef'. Some of 'em come back an' some didn'.
"I hear'd a heap o' talk 'bout ever' Nigger gittin forty acres an' a
mule. Dey had us fooled up 'bout it, but I never seen nobody git
"I hope dey won't be no more war in my time. Dat one was turrible. Dey
can all go dat wants to, but I aint a-goin'.
"I seen Gen'l Grant at Vicksburg after de war. (He was a little short
man.) All de Niggers went dere for somethin'--me 'mongst 'em. I don't
know what we went for.
"I took to steamboatin' at Vicksburg 'cause I could cut[FN: place for
storage or shipment] cotton so good. (I could cut cotton now wid a
cotton hook if I warnt so old.)
"I steamboated twixt New Orleans an' St. Louis on de 'Commonwealth,' a
freight packet, way up yonder in St. Louis. I don't know what country
dat was in. But de rousters had a big fight one night in New Orleans,
shootin' an' cuttin', so I lef'. When I got back to Vicksburg, I quit.
"I picked cotton in de Delta awhile, but de folks, white an' black, is
too hard. Dey don't care 'bout nothin! I was in Greenville when de
water come. I hear'd a noise like de wind an' I asked dem Niggers, 'Is
dat a storm?' Dey said, 'No, dat's de river comin' th'ough an' you
better come back 'fore de water ketch[FN: catch] you.' I say, 'If it
ketch me it gwine a-ketch me on my way home.' I aint been back since.
"Den I come back here an' went to farmin' an' I been here ever since. I
bought forty-seven acres an' a nice little house. De house burnt down,
but de white folks built me a better one. Dey's good an' kin' to me. Dey
say I's a good man.
"My wife was six year old at de surrender. She b'longed to Marse Alf,
but we was free when we married. We had sixteen chillun. Mos' of 'em
lives 'roun 'here. Some in Newton, some in Scott, an' some in Texas. My
wife died two years ago las' March.
"Marse Bob died right here in dis here house. He died a po' man. If my
old mistis had a-been here she wouldn' a-let' em treat him like dey
done. If I'd a-been here I wouldn' a-let' em done like dat, neither.
"I been a-livin' by myse'f since my wife died. My son, Oscar, lives on
de lan' an' rents it from me.
"I don't know what's gwine a-happen to de young folks now-a-days. Dey
know better, but dey's wild an' don't care 'bout nothin'. I aint got no
time to fool wid 'em. Looks like dey don't care 'bout workin' at
"I been a-workin' all my life, an' I'se seen good times an' bad times. I
loves to work yet. I's gwine out now soon's I git my dinner an' he'p
finish pickin' dat patch o' cotton. I can pick two hund'ed pounds a day
an' I's one hund'ed an' sixteen year old. I picks wid both han's an'
don't have to stoop much. My back don't never ache me atall. My mammy
teached me to pick cotton. She took a pole to me if I didn' do it right.
I been a-pickin ever since. I'd ruther pick cotton dan eat, any day.
"But I'se seen enough. I's jus' a-waitin' for de call to meet all my
folks in Heaven. Dey's a better place dan dis an' I's a-tryin' to treat
ever'body right so's I can git to go to it.
"I's listenin' hard for dat call an' I know it won't be long a-comin'."
Susan Snow, Ex-slave, Lauderdale County
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes
"Aunt Sue" Snow, a rather small and profusely wrinkled 87-year-old
ex-slave, lives in the Negro quarters of the South Side in Meridian.
In spite of her wild escapades, her reputation for honesty and
reliability is high and she carries and exhibits with pride numerous
letters attesting that fact.
She often finds it necessary to stand and act the story she is telling.
Her memory is amazing and she turns with equal readiness to copious
quotations from the Scripture and other pious observations to amusing
but wholly unprintable anecdotes of her somewhat lurid past.
"I was born in Wilcox County, Alabama, in 1850. W.J. Snow was my old
marster. He bought my ma from a man named Jerry Casey. Venus was her
name, but dey mos'ly called her 'Venie.'
"I's workin' now for one o' my old folks. I can't work much--jus'
carries things to 'er an' such. She's my old mistis' own daughter an'
she's got gran'chillun grown an' married. All de chillun dat's livin' is
"When her pa bought my mammy, I was a baby. Her pa owned a heap o'
Niggers. I's de only one still hangin' aroun'.
"My ma was a black African an' she sho' was wild an' mean. She was so
mean to me I couldn' b'lieve she was my mammy. Dey couldn' whup her
widout tyin' her up firs'. Sometimes my marster would wait 'til de nex'
day to git somebody to he'p tie her up, den he'd forgit to whup 'er. Dey
used to say she was a cunger an' dey was all scared of 'er. But my ma
was scared o' cungers, too.
"All de Niggers on de place was born in de fam'ly an' was kin, 'cept my
ma. She tol' me how dey brought her from Africa. You know, like we say
'President' in dis country, well dey call him 'Chief' in Africa. Seem
like de Chief made 'rangements wid some men an' dey had a big goober
grabbin' for de young folks. Dey stole my ma an' some more an' brung 'em
to dis country.
"I don't 'member nothin' 'bout havin' no pa. You know, honey, in dem
days husbands an' wives didn' b'long to de same folks. My ma say her
husband was so mean dat after us lef' Alabama she didn' want to marry no
"A man didn' git to see his wife 'cept twict a week. Dat was Wednesday
an' Satu'd'y night.
"De women had to walk a chalk line. I never hear'd tell o' wives runnin'
'roun' wid other men in dem days.
"I was raised in Jasper County. Marster bought lan' from ever'body
'roun' 'til he had a big plantation. He had Niggers, horses, mules,
cows, hogs, an' chickens. He was a rich man, den.
"Ever' Nigger had a house o' his own. My ma never would have no board
floor like de res' of' em, on' count she was a African--only dirt. (Dey
say she was 108 year old when she died.)
"Us went to church wid de white folks if us wanted to. Dey didn' make
us. I didn' go much, 'cause I didn' have 'ligion, den. Us didn' have no
schoolin'. Us could go to school wid de white chillun if us wanted to,
but didn' nobody teach us. I's educated, but I aint educated in de
books. I's educated by de licks an' bumps I got.
"My white folks was good people an' didn' whup nobody, 'less dey needed
it. Some o' de Niggers was sho' 'nough bad. Dey used to take de
marster's horses out at night an' ride 'em down. One Nigger, Sam, got
dat mad at a mule for grabbin' at cotton he cut his tongue out. Course,
Marster whupped him, but when he went to look for 'im 'bout a hour
after, he foun' 'im soun' asleep. Said he ought to kill 'im, but he
"When we was sick dey had a doctor for us jus' like dey done for
deyse'ves. Dey called 'im in to 'scribe for us. I was snake-bit when I
was eight year old. Dey used to be a medicine named 'lobelia.' De doctor
give me dat an' whiskey. My ma carried me up to de Big House ever'
mornin' an' lef' me, an' carried me home at night. Old Mis' 'ud watch
over me in de day time.
"My young marster tol' me dat when I got to be ten year old, I'd have a
snake coiled up on my liver. Dat scared me mos' to death 'til I was past
ten year old.
"Dey made all de Niggers' clo'es[FN: clothes] on de place. Homespun, dey
called it. Dey had spinnin' wheels an' cards an' looms at de Big House.
All de women spinned in de winter time.
"I never knowed what it was to wear more dan one garment, 'til I was
mos' grown. I never had a pair o' shoes o' my own. Old Mis' let me wear
her'n sometimes. Dey had shoes for de old folks, but not for de chillun.
"I got more whuppin's dan any other Nigger on de place, 'cause I was
mean like my mammy. Always a-fightin' an' scratchin' wid white an'
black. I was so bad Marster made me go look at de Niggers dey hung to
see what dey done to a Nigger dat harm a white man.
"I's gwine tell dis story on myse'f. De white chillun was a-singin' dis
'Jeff Davis, long an' slim,
Whupped old Abe wid a hick'ry limb.
Jeff Davis is a wise man, Lincoln is a fool,
Jeff Davis rides a gray, an' Lincoln rides a mule.'
I was mad anyway, so I hopped up an' sung dis one:
'Old Gen'l Pope had a shot gun,
Filled it full o' gum,
Killed 'em as dey come.
Called a Union band,
Make de Rebels un'erstan'
To leave de lan',
Submit to Abraham.'
"Old Mis' was a-standin' right b'hin' me. She grabbed up de broom an'
laid it on me. She made _me_ submit. I caught de feathers, don't you
"I didn' know it was wrong. I'd hear'd de Niggers sing it an' I didn'
know dey was a-singin' in dey sleeves. I didn' know nothin' 'bout Abe
Lincoln, but I hear'd he was a-tryin' to free de Niggers an' my mammy
say she want to be free.
"De young folks used to make up a heap o' songs, den. Dey'd
decompose[FN: compose] dey own songs an' sing' em. I never will forgit
one song dey sung when dey buried anybody. It made Old Marster, Mistis,
an' all of' em cry. Us chillun cried, too. It went like dis:
'My mother prayed in de wilderness,
In de wilderness,
In de wilderness.
My mother prayed in de wilderness.
An' den I'm a-goin' home.
Den I'm a-goin' home,
Den I'm a-goin' home.
We'll all make ready, Lawd,
An' den I'm a-goin' home.
She plead her cause in de wilderness,
In de wilderness,
In de wilderness.
She plead her cause in de wilderness.
An' den I'm a-goin' home.'
"Old Aunt Hannah fell to my marster from his daddy. She had twelve
chillun a-workin' on de place. De oldes' was named Adam an' de littlest
was named Eve. She had two twins what was named Rachel an' Leah. Dey
nussed my mistis' two twins. Dey kep' one a-nussin' mos' all de time.
"My ma was de cause o' my marster a-firin' all de overseers. (Dey blamed
ever'thing on her 'cause she was de only bought Nigger.) Marster say she
was a valuable Nigger, but she was so mean he was afraid dey'd kill her.
He say, 'She'll work widout no watchin' an' overseers aint nothin',
"Dey was a white man--I aint lyin'--I know him an' I seen him. He had
Nigger houn's an' he made money a-huntin' runaway Niggers. His own
Niggers kilt 'im. Dey hung 'em for it. Two was his Niggers an' one
b'long to somebody else.
"My young marster used to work in de fiel' wid us. He'd boss de Niggers.
Dey called 'im Bud, but us all called 'im 'Babe.' Honey, I sho' did love
"When de war come dey used to tease him an' say, 'Bud, why don't you go
to de war?' Dey laughed an' teased 'im when he went. But twant no
laughin' when he come home on a furlough an' went back. Dey was cryin'
den. An' well dey mought[FN: might] cry, 'cause he never come back no
more'. He was kilt in de war.
"Endurin' de war, de white folks made dey clo'es same as de Niggers. Old
Mis' made dye an' dyed de thread. She made pretty cloth.
"My ma was de firs' to leave de plantation after de surrender. All de
other Niggers had a contrac' to stay, but she didn'. She went to Newton
County an' hired out. She never wanted to stay in one place, nohow. If
she had a crop ha'f made an' somebody made her mad, she'd up an' leave
it an' go some'r's else.
"You know, dey was mighty strict, 'bout den, wid cullud folks, an' white
people, too. De Kloo Kluxes was out nights. I hear'd tell 'bout 'em
whuppin' people. But dey never bothered me.
"Dey was speakers gwine aroun', tellin' de Niggers what dey was gwine
a-git. Dey never got nothin' to my knowledge, 'cept de gov'ment let 'em
homestead lan'. My ma homesteaded a place close to Enterprise, Scott
County, but she got mad an' lef' it like she always done.
"She was a-gittin' long in years afore she got 'ligion. (She was good to
me after dat.) She couldn' learn de Lawd's Prayer, but she used to pray,
'Our Father, which are in Heaven; Hallowed be Thy name. Thy mercy, Lawd,
You've showed to others; That mercy show to me. Amen.' She went to res'
in it, too.
"I went to Enterprise, den to Meridian, nussin' (wet-nussin' when I
could) an' workin' out. I never worked in de fiel', if I could he'p it.
(Old Mis' hired me out as a nuss firs' when I was eight year old.)
"When I come to Meridian, I cut loose. I's tellin' de truf! I's a woman,
but I's a prodigal. I used to be a old drunkard. My white folks kep'
tellin' me if I got locked up one more time dey wouldn' pay my fine. But
dey done it ag'in an' ag'in.
"De Niggers called me 'Devil.' I was a devil 'til I got 'ligion. I warnt
baptized 'til 1887. Den I foun' peace. I had a vision. I tol' it to a
white lady an' she say, 'Susie, dat's 'ligion a-callin' you.' (But you
know, honey, white folks' 'ligion aint like Niggers' 'ligion. I know a
woman dat couldn' 'member de Lawd's Prayer, an' she got 'ligion out o'
prayin', 'January, February, March'.) I didn' join de church 'til 1891,
after I had a secon' vision. I's a member in good standin' now. I done
put all my badness b'hin' me, 'cept my temper. I even got dat under more
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