Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves
Work Projects Administration
Part 3 out of 3
"I didn' used to be scared o' cunjers. I's scared now, 'cause I had it
done to me. I want to bed well an' healthy an' de nex' nornin' I couldn'
git up atall. I's tellin de truf. A cullud man done it. He was a
crippled man, an' mean as he could be. I was good to him, too. He tol'
me' bout it, hisse'f:
"'He went to de graveyard an' got some o' de meanes' dirt he could fin'
(I don't know how he knowed which was de meanes' grave) an' put it under
my doorsill.' He sho' fix' me. I ask him how come he done it to me an' I
been so good to him. He smile kinda tickle-lak an' say, 'It's a good
thing you was good to me, 'cause, if you hadn' a-been you'd a-been dead
an' in yo' grave by now.'
"I aint got nary soul what's kin to me dat I knows of. I don't want none
of 'em comin' to me now an' a-sayin', 'Don't you 'member yo' own
cousin?' My white folks he'p me when I needs it.
"Dese young folks. Shucks! Chile, dey's worse'n what I was, only dey's
more slyer. Dat's all.
"I's glad I'se got 'ligion, 'cause when I dies I's gwine to de 'Good
Isaac Stier, Ex-slave, Lauderdale County
Edith Wyatt Moore
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes
"Miss, my name is Isaac Stier, but folks calls me 'Ike.' I was named by
my pappy's young Marster an' I aint never tol' nobody all o' dat name.
It's got twenty-two letters in it. It's wrote but in de fam'ly Bible.
Dat's how I knows I'll be one hund'ed years old if I lives 'til de turn
o' de year. I was born in Jefferson County 'tween Hamburg an' Union
Church. De plantation joined de Whitney place an' de Montgomery place,
too. I b'longed to Marse Jeems Stowers. I don't rightly 'member how many
acres my Marster owned, but 'twas a big plantation wid eighty or ninety
head o' grown folks workin' it. No tellin' how many little black folks
"My mammy was Ellen Stier an' my pappy was Jordon Stier. He was bought
to dis country by a slave dealer from Nashville, Tennessee. Dey traveled
all de way through de Injun Country on afoot. Dey come on dat Trace
road. Twant nothin' but a Injun Trail.
"When dey got to Natchez de slaves was put in de pen 'tached to de slave
markets. It stood at de forks o' St. Catherine Street an' de Liberty
road. Here dey was fed an' washed an' rubbed down lak race hosses. Den
dey was dressed up an' put through de paces dat would show off dey
muscles. My pappy was sol' as a twelve year old, but he always said he
was nigher twenty.
"De firs' man what bought him was a preacher, but he only kep' 'im a
little while. Den he was sol' to Mr. Preacher Robinson. He was a
"De slaves was well treated when dey got sick. My Marster had a standin'
doctor what he paid by de year. Dey was a horspital building near de
quarters an' a good old granny woman to nuss de sick. Dey was five or
six beds in a room. One room was for mens an' one for wimmins. Us doctor
was name Richardson an' he tended us long after de war. He sho' was a
gent'man an' a powerful good doctor.
"Us had a overseer on de place, but he warnt mean lak I'se heard o'
other folks havin'. He was Mr. William Robinson. He was good to
ever'body, both white an' cullud. Folks didn' min' workin' for him,
'cause, he spoke kin'. But dey dassen' sass 'im. He was poor. My pappy
b'longed to his pa, Mr. John Robinson. Dat was a nice fam'ly wid sho'
'nough 'ligion. Whilst dey warnt rich, dey had learnin'.
"As a little tike I wore long slip-lak shirts. When dey sont me to town
I put on britches an' stuffed de tail o' my slip in 'em so's it pass'
for a shirt. I always lived in de Big House an' played wid de white
chillun. I sorta looked after' em. I carried 'em to school. Den whilst
dey was in school I roamed de woods a-huntin'. Sometimes I'd git a big
bag o' game, mos'ly used to feed de slaves.
"My mistis was Miss Sarah Stowers an' she teached me how to read. She
teached me how to be mannerly, too. On church days I driv'[FN: drove] de
carriage. I was proud to take my folks to meetin'. I always set in de
back pew an' heard de preachin' de same as dey did.
"De bes' times I can 'member always come 'roun' de Fourth o' July. Dat
was always de beginnin' o' camp-meetin'. Aint nothin' lak dat in dese
"Ever'body what had any standin' went. Dey cooked up whole trunks full
o' good things t'eat an' driv' over to de camp groun's. De preacher had
a big pavilion covered wid sweet-gum branches an' carpeted wid sawdust.
Folks had wagons wid hay an' quilts whar de men-folks slep'. De ladies
slep' in little log houses an' dey took dey feather beds wid' em. I
always driv' de carriage for my white folks. Whilst dey was a-worshipin'
I'd slip 'roun' an' tas' out o' dey basket. Ever' day I'd eat 'til I was
ready to bus'. One day I got so sick I thought I'd pop wide open. I
crawled down to de spring an' washed my face in col' water, but I kep'
gittin' worse an' worse. Den somebody called out: 'Captain Stier, yo'
Nigger's a-dyin'!' My marster called de doctor. He sho' was shamed in
public, 'cause, he knowed pos'tive I'd been a-pilferin' in dem baskets.
Dem sho' was good old days. I'd love to live' em over ag'in.
"Us slaves mos'ly sung hymns an' sa'ms.[TR: footnote indicated but none
found] But I' member one song' bout a frog pond an' one 'bout 'Jump, Mr.
Toad.' I's too wordless to sing 'em now, but dey was funny. Us danced
plenty, too. Some o' de men clogged an' pidgeoned, but when us had
dances dey was real cotillions, lak de white folks had. Dey was always
a fiddler an', on Chris'mus an' other holidays, de slaves was' lowed to'
vite dey sweethearts from other plantations. I use to call out de
figgers: 'Ladies, sasshay, Gents to de lef, now all swing.' Ever'body
lak my calls an' de dancers sho' moved smooth an' pretty. Long after de
war was over de white folks would 'gage me to come' roun' wid de band
an' call de figgers at all de big dances. Dey always paid me well.
"Old Mis' 'ud let us cook a gran' supper an' Marse 'ud slip us some
likker. Dem suppers was de bes' I ever et. Sometimes dey'd be wil'
turkey, fried fish, hot corn pone, fresh pork ham, baked yams, chitlins,
pop corn, apple pie, pound cake, raisins, an' coffee. Law, Miss! de
folks now-a-days don't know nothin' 'bout good eatin', nowhow.
"When de big war broke out I sho' stuck by my marster. I fit[FN: fought]
de Yankees same as he did. I went in de battles 'long side o' him an'
both fit under Marse Robert E. Lee. I reckon ever'body has heard 'bout
him. I seen more folks dan anybody could count. Heaps of 'em was all
tore to pieces an' cryin' to God to let 'em die. I toted water to dem in
blue de same as dem in gray. Folks wouldn' b'lieve de truf if I was to
tell all I knows 'bout dem ungodly times.
"Fore de war I never knowed what it was to go empty. My marster sho' set
a fine table an' fed his people de highes'. De hongriest I ever been was
at de Siege o' Vicksburg. Dat was a time I'd lak to forgit. De folks et
up all de cats an' dogs an' den went to devourin' de mules an' hosses.
Even de wimmin an' little chillun was a-starvin'. Dey stummicks was
stickin' to dey backbones. Us Niggers was sufferin' so us took de
sweaty hoss blankets an' soaked 'em in mudholes where de hosses tromped.
Den us wrung' em out in buckets an' drunk dat dirty water for
pot-likker. It tasted kinda salty an' was strength'nin', lak weak soup.
"I tell you, dem Yankees took us by starvation. Twant a fair fight. Dey
called it a vict'ry an' bragged 'bout Vicksburg a-fallin', but hongry
folks aint got no fight lef' in 'em. Us folks was starved into
"De slaves spected a heap from freedon dey didn' git. Dey was led to
b'lieve dey would have a easy time--go places widout passes--an have
plenty o' spendin' money. But dey sho' got fooled. Mos' of 'em didn'
fin' deyse'ves no better off. Pussonally, I had a harder time after de
war dan I did endurin' slav'ry.
"De Yankees passed as us frien's. Dey made big promises, but dey was
poor reliance. Some of' em meant well towards us, but dey was mistol'
'bout a heap o' things. Dey promised us a mule an' forty acres o' lan'.
Us aint seen no mule yet. Us got de lan' all right, but twant no
service. Fac' is, 'twas way over in a territory where nothin' 'ud grow.
I didn' know nothin' 'bout farmin', nowhow, I'd always been a coachman
an' play companion to de white chillun.
"De war was over in May 1865, but I was captured at Vicksburg an' hel'
in jail 'til I 'greed to take up arms wid de Nawth. I figgered dat was
'bout all I could do, 'cause dey warnt but one war at Vicksburg an' dat
was over. I was all de time hopin' I could slip off an' work my way
back home, but de Yankees didn' turn me loose 'til 1866.
"Den I worked in a saloon in St. Louis. Dat was 'bout all I knowed to
do. All de time I was a-cravin' to come back to Mississippi. It sho'
suits my tas' better'n anywhere I'se ever been.
"When I landed back home my white folks welcome me. After awhile I
married a gal what was real smart 'bout farmin' an' chicken raisin'. So
us share-cropped an' raised a fam'ly. Somehow us always scrapped along.
Sometimes it was by de hardes', but us always had plenty t'eat.
"All de cullud folks what lived to git back home took to de lan' ag'in.
If dey marster was dead dey went to his frien's an' offered to
share-crop. Dey was all plumb sick o' war. Is sho' is ongodly business.
I never will forgit de fearsome sight o' seein' men die 'fore dey time.
War sho' is de debbil's own work.
"De Klu Klux Klan didn' bother me none. Course, I was feared of' em at
firs', but I soon learnt dat long as I b'haved myse'f an' tended my
business dey warnt after me. Dey sho' disastered dem what meddled wid de
white folks. Nobody but a smart Alec would a-done dat. Only Niggers
huntin' trouble mixed into white folks bus'ness. Onct or twict I seen
Klu Klux's ridin' by, but dey always traveled fas' an' I kep' my
mouf[FN: mouth] shut.
"After de war my marster come back home. De fences was gone, de cattle
was gone, de money an' de Niggers was gone, too. On top o' all dat de
whole country was over-run an' plumb took over by white trash. It was
"After awhile, robbers an' low down trash got to wearin' robes an'
pretendin' dey was Klu Klux's. Folks called dem de 'white caps.' Dey was
vicious, an' us was more scared of 'em dan us'd ever been o' de Klan.
When dey got likkered up de debbil sho' was turnt loose.
"Mr. Jefferson Davis was pretty good' bout some things. But if he hadn'
a-been mulish he could-a 'cepted de proposition Mr. Abe Lincum made 'im.
Den slav'ry would-a lasted always. But he flew into a huff an' swore dat
he'd whip de Yankees wid corn stalks. Dat made Mr. Lincum mad, so he sot
about to free de slaves.
"Mr. Lincum was a good man, but dey tells me he was poor an' never cut
much figger in his clothes. Dat's why he never did un'erstan' how us
felt' bout us white folks. It takes de quality to un'erstan' such
"Right now, I loves my marster an' his wife in de grave. Dey raised me
an' showed me kindness all dey lives. I was proud of 'em. At de present
time I's under treatment o' young Dr. Stowers, my marster's gran'chil'.
I trusts him an' he is sho' good to me.
"I rents a place on Providence Plantation 'bout three miles south o'
Natchez. De trip to Natchez in a rickety old wagon is mos' too much in
de hot weather. My heart's mos' wore out. I can't las' long, 'cause I's
had a heap sposure[FN: exposure].
"I's jus' a bag o' bones now, but onct I stood nearly six feet in my
stockings an' weighed 'bout one hundred an' eighty pounds. I was well
muscled, too. Now I's gittin' kinda gray an' gittin' bald at de same
time. Black folks lak me don't hardly ever git bald.
"I's gittin' real feeble. De doctor say I got a bad heart. Sometimes I
jus' has to set on de curb an' res' myse'f a spell. I gits kinda
windless when I thinks 'bout all I been through.
"My wife is been dead 'bout seventeen years an' my chillun is so
scattered dat I don't know where dey is. De folks I stays wid is
powerful good to me an' sees after me same as dey was my own. I reckon I
don't need nothin else.
"Dis generation aint got much sense. Dey's tryin' to git somewheres too
fas'. None of 'em is sat'fied wid plain livin'. Dey wants too much.
"Nobody needs more dan dey can use, nohow."
Jane Sutton, ex-slave, is 84 years old. She is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and
weighs 130 pounds. She is what the Negroes themselves call a
"I was born in Simpson County, near old Westville, on a big farm what
b'long to Marse Jack Berry. I was 12 years old when de surrender come,
so my ole Mis' say. Her name was 'Mis Ailsey an' all us cullud folks
call her 'Ole Mi's. She an' Old Marster had twelve chillun: Marthy,
'Lizabeth, Flavilia, Mary, Jack, Bill, Denson, Pink, Tally, Thomas,
Albert, and Frank.
"My pappy's name was Steve Hutchins. He b'long to de Hutchins what live
down near Silver Creek. He jus' come on Satu'd'y night an' us don' see
much of 'im. Us call him 'dat man.' Mammy tol' us to be more 'spectful
to 'im 'cause he was us daddy, but us aint care nothin' 'bout 'im. He
aint never brung us no candy or nothin'.
"My mammy was name Lucy Berry. She always go by de white folks name what
she live wid. She aint never marry. She had fo' boys an' three girls.
Dey was name Delia, Sarah, Ella, Nathan, Isom, Anderson, an' Pleas. She
work in de fiel' an Old Marster say she's de only woman on de place what
could plow lak a man.
"I 'members my gran'ma, too. Us always call her 'Granny.' She say dey
stole her back in Virginny an' brung 'er to Mississippi an' sol' her to
Marse Berry. Her name was Hannah. She was my mammy's Mammy. I don'
'member nothin' 'bout my pappy's folks 'cause I never seen none of' em.
"Old Marster was a rich man for dat day. He had a sawmill, a cotton gin,
an' a gris' mill. Us always had plenty t'eat an' wear. Dey spun an'
weaved dey own cloth an' made us clo'es out-a it.
"I can jus' see de white folk's house now. It was a big house, nice an'
clean, but twant painted. It had a row o' rooms 'cross dis way an'
a-nother row dat way wid a hall between. Dey had plenty o' rooms for all
dem boys an' gals. Some of 'em was 'bout grown. De quarters[FN: slave
quarters] was in de back o' de house. De cook's house was closes' to de
Big House, den nex' was Granny's house where us stayed. Den come a long
row way down to de back fence.
"Dey didn' have no overseer or driver. Dey was 'nough o' dem boys to
look after de work an' Old Marster say he don' need no overseer to look
after his slaves.
"My white folks was all Baptis' an' dey made us go to church, too. De
church was called de Strong River Church. Dey had big baptisin's. I
'members when I joined de church. De white folks preacher baptised us in
de creek what run from Marse Berry's mill pond. I was dressed up in a
white lowell slip. When us dress' up in Sund'y clo'es us had caliker[FN:
calico] dresses. Dey sho' was pretty. I 'members a dress now dat Old
Marster bought for my granny. It was white an' yaller, an' it was de
prettiest thing I ever seen.
"Us white folks was good to us. Dey warnt always a-beatin' an'
a-knockin' us 'roun'. De truf is you couldn' fin' a scar on nary one o'
us. 'Course, some times dey whup us, but dey didn' gash us lak some o'
de old marsters did dey Niggers.
"When Old Marster died I didn' know nothin' bout him bein' sick. He took
a cramp colic in de night an' was dead 'fore mornin'. I hear somebody
a-cryin' at de Big House an' Granny tol' us dat Old Marster done die in
de night. Dey had a big fun'al an' all de folks come. De men carried him
to de graveyard by de church. Dey didn' have no hearses dem days. Twant
far to de graveyard so dey jus' toted de coffin to whar dey buried 'im.
Dey put flowers in cups an' vases on de grave, so's dey wouldn' wilt.
"Us was all sorry when Old Marster died, I cried 'cause I said, 'Now us
won' git no more candy.' He used to bring us candy whan he went to town.
Us'd be lookin' for 'im when he come home. He'd say, 'Whars all my
little Niggers?' Den us'd come a-runnin' an' he'd han' it to us out-a
his saddle bags. It was mos'ly good stick candy.
"I 'members de paterollers. Whenever de cullud folks would slip off an'
have dey frolics dout gittin' a pass from Old Marster de paterollers
would come. Lots-a time dey'd come while us was a-dancin' an' a-havin' a
big time. Dem paterollers would swarm in de room lak a lot o' bees. Fore
anybody knowed it, dey'd begin grabbing at de mens. If dey didn' have
dey pass wid 'em dey took 'em down in de woods an' whup 'em for runnin'
off wid out asking dey white folks. Dey didn' bother de wimnins much.
De wimmins mos' always got away while dey was catchin' de mens.
"Onct I slipped off wid another gal an' went to a party dout asking Old
Mis'. When dem Night Riders come dat night, de Niggers was a-runnin' an'
a-dodgin' an' a-jumpin' out-a winders lak dey was scairt to death. I
runs too, me an' dat other gal. I fell down an' tore my dress, but I
warnt studyin' dat dress. I knows dat dem white folks had dat strap an'
I's gittin' 'way fas' as I could.
"When Miss 'Lizabeth got married to Mr. Ras Laird, dey had a big weddin'
an' all dey folks come to see 'em married. Den dey went to live in
Rankin County an' took me wid 'em. Old Marster had give me to Miss
"I 'members when de Yankees come to de house. Us heard dey was comin',
so us hid all de hams an' shoulders up in de lof' o' de Big House. Dey
didn' git much. Dey was so mad dey jus' tore up some of Old Mis' clo'es
what was in de wardrobe. Us was sho' scairt of 'em.
"I 'members dey promise to give de cullud folks all kin' o' things. Dey
never give 'em nothin' dat I know's about. Us was jus' turnt loose to
scratch for us ownse'ves. Us was glad to stay on wid de white folks,
'cause dey was de bes' frien's us had. I don' know nobody what got a
thing 'cept what Old Marster an' Old Mis' give 'em.
"After freedom I went back to 'Old Mis'. I walked all de way back from
Rankin County. It was a long way, but I wanted to see Old Mis' an' my
Mammy an' my brothers an' sisters.
"When de surrender come by pappy come to git me. I didn' wan'-a go. I
tol' 'im I's gwine stay wid Old Mis'. So he goes an' gits de sheriff an'
takes me anyway. I runned away twict an' come back to Old Mis'. He
whupped me de firs' time, but de nex' time I hid from him an' he couldn'
catch me. He went back home an' 'lemme 'lone. Den I went wid my mammy to
live wid Marse Tally Berry. He was one of Old Marster's sons. Dey used
to come an' tell me dat dat old Nigger was gwine kill me if I didn' come
wid him. But I jus' stayed hid out till he went away.
"I spec' all my white folks is dead now. I wish I could go back to 'em
now. Dey help me. Dey was good to us after de War was over. Dis one
would want me to live wid dem, den de other one would want me to live
wid dem. Sometimes I quit one an' go live wid de other one. All of 'em
sho' did treat me good. I's havin' a heap harder time now dan I ever had
in slav'ry times. I sho' is.
"Dey raised de young folks better dem days. Dey learnt 'em to work. Dey
didn' min' work. Today dey don' care 'bout nothin' but havin' a good
time. Dey ain' studyin' 'bout no hereafter, neither.
"De Relief give me a little somethin' t'eat an' wear one time, but dey
aint never give me no money. I's old an' needy, but I's trustin' de Lord
an' de good white folks to he'p me now. All de white folks I used to
work for has moved away from town now. I don' have nobody to look to but
my daughter. She looks after me de bes' she can. Dey is some neighbor
wimmins dat comes an' sets wid me sometimes.
"I's gittin' deaf an' I aint got a tooth lef' in my head. I's too feeble
to he'p make a livin', but maybe I'll git dat Old Age Pension 'fore I
Mississippi Federal Writers
[Illustration: Mollie Williams]
Mollie Williams, who lives two miles west of Terry, Miss., tells her
"Iffen I lives' til nex' September 15, I'll be eighty fo'! I was born
'bout three miles frum Utica on de Newsome place. Me an' brudder Hamp
b'longed to Marse George Newsome. Marse George was named afte' George
Washington up in Virginny whar he come frum. Miss Margurite was our
mistiss. My mammy? Well, I'll have to tell you now 'bout her.
"You see, Marse George come off down here frum Virginny lak young folks
venturin' 'bout, an' mar'ied Mis' Margurite an' wanted to start up
livin' right over thar near Utica whar I was born. But Marse George was
po', an' he sho' foun' out ye can't make no crop wid'out'n a start of
darkies, so he writ home to Virginny fer to git some darkies. All dey
sont him was fo' mens an' old Aunt Harriet fer to cook.
"One day Marse George an' his Uncle, Mr. John Davenport--now thar was a
rich man fer ye, why, he had two carri'ge drivers--dey rid over to Grand
Gulf whar dey was a sellin' slabes offen de block an' Mr. John tol'
Marse George to pick hisself out a pair of darkies to mate so's he could
git hisself a start of darkies fer to chop his cotton an' like. So Marse
George pick out my pappy fust. My pappy come frum North Ca'lina. Den he
seen my mammy an' she was big an' strengthy an' he wanted her pow'ful
bad. But lak I tol' you, he didn' have 'nough money to buy 'em both, so
his Uncle John say he'd buy mammy an' den he would loan her over to
Marse George fer pappy. An' de fust chile would be Mr. John's, an' de
secon' Marse George's, an' likewise. Mammy was a Missourian name Marylin
Napier Davenpo't. An' pappy was name Martin Newsome.
"Darkies libed in li'l old log houses wid dirt chimbleys. Dat is, de
rest of de darkies did. Dey kep' me up in de Big House, bein' mammyless
lak. Mos'ly I slep' in de trun'le bed wid Miss Mary Jane till I got so
bad dey had to mek a pallet on de flo' fer me. Dey was Mr. Bryant, Mr.
A.D., Miss Martha, Miss Ann, Miss Helen, Miss Mary Jane, an' Mr. George,
all b'longin' to Marse George an' Miss Margurite.
"Mammy was a fiel' han'. She could plow an' wuk in de fiel's jes' lak a
man, an' my pappy, he done de same. Mammy, she hated house wuk--lak me.
I jes natu'lly loves to be out runnin' roun' in de fiel's an' 'bout. I
neber lak'd to do wuk roun' de house none t'all.
"We wo' lowell clo'es an' brass toed brogans. Miss Margurite made our
dresses an' lak, an' afte' Aunt Harriet died, she done de cookin' too
fer all de slabes an' de fambly. She fix up dinner fer de fiel' han's,
an' I taken it to 'em. Marse George had old powder horn he blowed
mornin's far to git de darkies up 'fo day good, an' dey come in 'bout
"We growed corn an' taters an' cotton plentiful, an' we had gran'
orchids[FN: orchids] an' penders[FN: peanuts]. Den, sheeps an' hogs an'
cows an' lak.
"Miss Margurite had a piany, a 'cordian, a flutena, an' a fiddle. She
could play a fiddle good as a man. Law, I heerd many as three fiddles
goin' in dat house many a time, an' I kin jes see her li'l old fair
han's now, playin' jes as fast as lightnin' a chune[FN: tune] 'bout
'My father he cried, my mother she cried,
I wasn' cut out fer de army.
O, Capt'in Gink, my hoss me think,
But feed his hoss on co'n an' beans
An s'port de gals by any means!
'Cause I'm a Capt'in in de army.'
"All us chullun begged ter play dat an' we all sing an' dance--_great
"One song I 'member mammy singin':
'Let me nigh, by my cry,
Give me Jesus.
You may have all dis world,
But give me Jesus.'
"Singin' an' shoutin', she had 'ligion all right. She b'longed to Old
Farrett back in Missouri.
"We didn' git sick much, but mammy made yeller top tea[FN: dog fennel]
fer chills an' fever an' give us. Den iffen it didn' do no good, Miss
Margurite called fer Dr. Hunt lak she done when her own chullun got
"None of de darkies on dat place could read an' write. Guess Miss Helen
an' Miss Ann would'a learned me, but I was jes so bad an' didn' lak to
set still no longer'n I had to.
"I seen plenty of darkies whupped. Marse George buckled my mammy down
an' whupped her 'cause she run off. Once when Marse George seen pappy
stealin' a bucket of 'lasses an' totin' it to a gal on 'nother place, he
whupped him but didn' stake him down. Pappy tol' him to whup him but not
to stake him--he'd stan' fer it wid'out de stakin'--so I 'member he
looked jes lak he was jumpin' a rope an' hollering', '_Pray Marser_',
ever time de strop hit 'im.
"I heered 'bout some people whut nailed de darkies years[FN: ears] to a
tree an' beat' em but I neber seen none whupped dat way.
"I neber got no whuppins frum Marse George 'cause he didn' whup de
chulluns none. Li'l darky chullun played 'long wid white chullun. Iffen
de old house is still thar I 'spec you kin fin' mud cakes up under de
house whut we made out'n eggs we stole frum de hen nests. Den we milked
jes anybody's cows we could ketch, an' churned it. We's all time in ter
"Thar was plenty dancin' 'mong'st darkies on Marse George's place an' on
ones nearby. Dey danced reels an' lak in de moonlight:
'Mamma's got de whoopin' cough,
Daddy's got de measles,
Dat's whar de money goes,
Pop goes de weasel.'
'Buffalo gals, can't you come out tonight,
Come out tonight, an' dance by de light of de moon?'
'Gennie, put de kettle on,
Sallie, boil de water strong,
Gennie, put de kittle on
An' le's have tea!'
'Run tell Coleman,
Run tell everbody
Dat de niggers is arisin'!'
'Run nigger run, de patterrollers ketch you--
Run nigger run, fer hits almos' day,
De nigger run; de nigger flew; de nigger los'
His big old shoe.'
"When de War come, Marse George went to fight back in Virginny. Us all
thought de Yankees was some kin' of debils an' we was skeered to death
"One day Miss Mary Jane, Helen, an' me was playin' an' we seen mens all
dressed in blue coats wid brass buttons on dey bosoms ridin' on big fine
hosses, drive right up to our po'ch an' say to Aunt Dalia whar she was
"'Good morning, Madam, no men's about?'
"When she tol' 'em wa'nt no mens 'bout, day ax fer de keys to de
smokehouse an' went out an' hap'ed deyse'ves an' loaded dey wagons. Den
dey went out in de pasture 'mongst de sheeps an' killed off some of dem.
Nex' dey went in de buggy house an' all together shuck down de carri'ge
so we neber could use hit no mo'. Yessum, dey done right smart of
mischief 'roun' thar.
"Some of de darkies went off wid de Yankees. My brudder Howard did, an'
we ain't heerd tell of him since. I'll tell you 'bout it. You see, Mr.
Davenpo't owned him an' when he heard 'bout da Yankees comin' dis way,
he sont his white driver an' Howard in de carri'ge wid all his valuables
to de swamp to hide, an' while dey was thar de white driver, he went
off to sleep an' Howard was prowlin' 'roun' an' we all jes reckin he
went on off wid de Yankees.
"You mean hoo doo? Dat's whut ma pappy done to my mammy. You see, dey
was allus fussin' 'bout fust one thing, den 'nother, an' mammy got mad
'caus'n pappy slipped her clo'es out'n her ches' an' taken over to de
other gals fer to dance in, an' when he brung' em back mammy would see
finger prints on' em whar he been turnin' 'em 'roun' an' she sho' be mad
an' fight him. She could lick him too caus'n she was bigger. One day
pappy come in an' say to mammy:
"'Does you want to be bigger an' stronger dan whut you already is?' An'
mammy say she did. So nex' day he brung her a li'l bottle of somethin'
blood red wid somethin' looked like a gourd seed in de middle of it, an'
he tol' her to drink hit iffen she want to be real strong. Frum de fust
drink she fell off. Place of walkin' off, she jes stumbled an' got
wo'ser an' wo'ser till she plum los' her min'. Fer a long time, dey had
to tie her to a tree. Den afte' de War, she lef Mr. Davenpo't's an' jes
traveled 'bout over de country. I stayed on wid Miss Margurite he'pin'
her jes lak I'd been doin'. One day mammy come afte' me an' I run an'
hid under a pile of quilts an' laked to smothered to death waitin' fer
her to go on off.
"Nex' time she come, she brung a written letter to Miss Margurite frum
de Free Man's Board an' taken me wid her. We jes went frum place to
place 'til I got mar'ied an' settled down fer myself. I had three
chullun, but ain't none livin' now."
Mississippi Federal Writers
near New Zion Church, Mississippi]
[Illustration: Tom Wilson]
"My name is Tom Wilson an' I'se eighty fo' years old. My mammy was name
Ca'line an' my pappy was Jeff Wilson. Us lived right out on de old Jim
Wilson place, right by New Zion Chu'ch. I lives thar now--owns me a plot
of groun' an' farms.
"Well, us b'longed to Marse Jim an' Miss Nancy Wilson. I was born right
out thar, but my mammy was brung down frum Ten'see. She come by heir to
Marse Jim but 'fo that her was sol' for ten hun'erd dollars. My mammy
was a big sportly woman an' brung a lot er money an' my pappy, he brung
nine hun'erd. Marse Jim bought him offen de block, but I don't know jes
whar frum. I jes 'members 'bout hearin' him tell 'bout bein' sol'.
"Bofe of dem was fiel' han's. Law, mammy could plow jes lak a man all
day long; den milk twen'y head er cows afte' she quit de fiel' at night.
"De Big House was made out'n logs an' reckin hit had 'bout seben er
eight rooms in hit, an' de kitchen sot a piece frum de mainest house.
Thar was one brick chimbly an' one dirt one to hit, an' a great big wide
po'ch 'cross de front of de house. I 'member Mis Nancy an' white folks
'ud set out thar of an evenin' an' mek us li'l cullud chullun dance an'
sing an' cut capers fer to 'muse 'em. Den dey had a trough, built 'bout
lak a pig trough, an' dey would mek de cook bake a gre't big slab er
co'n bread an' put hit in de trough an' po' milk or lasses over hit,
an' tu'n us li'l cullud chullun loose on hit. An' I'se tell'n y' as much
of hit went in our hair an' eyes an' years[FN: ears] as went in our
"I reckin thar was' bout two er three hun'erd acres in Marse Jim's
place. Us raised cotton, taters, an' hogs. No'm, slaves didn' have no
plots er dey own. Marse Jim give us our rashins' every week. Well, mos'
er de cullud people 'ud cook dey victuals over de fire place in dey own
houses. Us sho' did have 'possum an' taters.
"My mammy wuked in de loom room at night by light of a pine knot. In de
Big House dey had taller[FN: tallow] can'les 'cause I 'member my mammy
moulded 'em. No'm, de spinnin' wheels was kep' in de kitchen of de Big
House. Hit had a dirt flo'. Us jes wo' li'l old suits made out'n lowell
cloth whut mammy wove on de loom. I doan 'member wearin' no shoes.
"I jes played roun' 'bout de place an' he'ped wid de cleanin' up an'
dish washin'. Kinder house boy, I was.
"When us got sick, mammy made us pills out'n herbs. She taken May apple
roots an' boiled hit down to a syrup; den she let dat, dry out an'
rolled hit inter pills. Day sho' was fin' fo' mos' anything we might
"Chris'mus was a mighty glad time fo' us. Yessum, us got extra rashins'
an' had time off ter play an' kick our heels. Gen'ly[FN: generally] had
'bout a week off. Tell you what Marse Jim 'ud do when Chris'mus come
'roun'. He'd sen' one of da cullud mans out to git a log an' say, 'Now
long as dis log burn, y'all kin have off'n wuk'. Co'se us'd hunt de
bigges' gum log an' den soak hit in de stream so hit wud burn on a long
time. Dey'd put hit on back er de fire an' hit wud las' mos' a week.
"Couldn' none of us read or write, an' us wa'nt neber learned 'til afte'
us was set free. Den some went to li'l schools fer da cullud people.
"I sho' has seen m' mammy an' lots mo' git whuppins. Marse Jim, he had a
strop er leather stuck in de slit end of a staff, an' he sho' did whup
'em layed 'cross a barrel. Once' m' pappy run away an' Marse Jim got de
blood houn's afte' him, an' catched him up 'fo he could git fur, an' dat
day he lay him 'cross de barrel, an' whupped him frum sun up til sun
down. When he quit off, m' pappy couldn' talk no more'n a whisper
"Pattyrollers, I heard of 'em allright 'cause dey sho' would git you
iffen y' went abroad widout a pass frum Marse Jim.
"One day us li'l cullud chullun was frollicin' out in de front yard an'
Mis' Nancy an' some mo' was settin' on de po'ch an' all of a sudden I
see somebuddy comin' down de road an' I says 'Look, whut's dat?'
"An' white folks run to de woods an' hid out caze dey seen hit was
Calv'ry 'bout a mile long comin' down de road. Sojer rid right up to me
an' stuck his bay'net at me an' says, 'Boy, whar de tater house?' An' I
sho' did show him whar 'twas. Dem sojers sho' was starved. Dey take
thirty tater punks, fifteen er twenty chickens, and five hams. Den dey
went in de smoke house an' grabbed off five er ten poun's er sausage,
middlln's, and sides. Dey take 'nough grub to load three wagons an' take
hit over to New Zion Church 'bout er mile frum us. An' right thar dey
camped that night.
"That was afte' de Siege er Vicksburg. Marse Jim didn' keer, but he sent
us ober nex' mo'nin' to git de leavin's, an' thar was a wagon load er
jes de leavin's.
"I 'members when us was sot free allright. 'Twas in de middle of da
winter y' know, an' Marse Jim was so mad 'bout hit he went off down to a
li'l stream or water an' broke de ice an' jumped in, an' he died 'bout
two weeks afte' of de pewmonia[FN: pneumonia].
"I was glad to git m' freedom 'cause I got out'n frum under dem
"Afte' dat us bought lan' frum de Wilsons whut was lef' an' I been a
fa'min' thar ever since."
Mississippi Federal Writers
CLARA C. YOUNG
Monroe County, Mississippi
Clara G. Young, ex-slave, Monroe County, is approximately 95 years old,
about five feet two inches tall, and weighs 105 pounds. She is a frail,
dark skinned Negro, with the typical broad nose and the large mouth of
the southern Negro. Her physical condition is especially good for a
woman of her age. She is very talkative at times, but her memory appears
to come and go, so that she has to be prompted at intervals in her
story-telling by her daughter or granddaughter, with whom she lives.
Familiarly known as "Aunt Classie," she is very proud of her age and
more especially of her long line of descendants.
"Law, Miss, I doan know when I was born, but I do know dat I'se
sebenteen years old when I was fust sol'. Dey put me an' my brudder up
on de auction block at de same time. He brung $1400 but I dis'members
zactly what dey paid far me. Wa'nt dat much, tho', fer big strong mans
brung mo' dan wimmens an' gals."
Long pauses accentuated the quavery voice of the old Negro, whose head
resembled a nappy patch of cotton, and who was so enthusiastic over
reminiscing about the days when she was young and carefree.
"I was born in Huntsville, Alabamy, an' my mammy an' pappy was name
Silby an' Sharper Conley. Dey tuk de las' name frum de old marster dat
owned 'em. I lived dar wid 'em 'til de chullun drew dey parts an' us was
'vided out. While I was wid old marster, he let Miss Rachel--dat was
his wife--have me fer de house. She larned me how to cook an' wait on de
table, an' I declar', she call me her ver' smartest gal! Sometimes,
tho', I wouldn' come right quick lak when she ring de bell fer me, an'
she'd start ringin' it harder an' harder. I knowed den she was mad. When
I'd get dar, she'd fuss at me an' tu'n my dress up an' whup me--not hard
'cause she wa'nt so strong--_but I'd holler some_!
"Dey had a nigger woman to teach all de house darkies how to read an'
write an' I larned how to sign my name an' got as fur as b-a-k-e-r in de
Blue Back Speller.
"Marse Conley an' Miss Rachel had fo' chullun, Miss Mary, Miss Alice,
Miss Willie, an' Marse Andrew, an' when de time come, dey give me to
Marse Andrew. He car'ied me an' de rest out to Texas whar he thought he
would go an' git rich. We neber stayed long, tho', fer lots of de
niggers runned 'way to de Free State an' Marse Andrew didn' lak dat.
[HW: Pre-War Days]
"It was when he brought us back to Huntsville dat I was sol'. All de
white folks was a gittin' scared dey was gwineter lose dey slaves an'
dere was a pow'ful lot er nigger sellin' goin' on den. Marse Ewing
bought me frum him an' car'ied me to his plantation near Aberdeen,
Mississippi. Den I started to workin' in de fiel' wid de rest of de
hands. De oberseer dat we had was right mean to us when we didn' work
our rows as fas' as de others, an' sometime he whup us, wimmen an' all.
When he did dat some of us most nigh allus tell de marster an' he would
jump on de oberseer an' tell him to lay off de wimmen an' chullun. Dey
was allus sort of thoughtful of us an' we loved old marster.
"I heerd tell one time, tho', of de hired man (he was a nigger) an' de
oberseer whuppin' one of my cousins 'til she bled; she was jes'
sebenteen years old an' was in de fambly way fer de fust time, an'
couldn' work as hard as de rest. Nex' mawnin' afte' dat she died. De
hired man tol' de rest if dey said anything 'bout it to de marster, he'd
beat dem to death, too, so ever'body kep' quiet an' de marster neber
"We worked hard in de fiel' all day, but when dark come we would all go
to de Quarters an' afte' supper we would set 'roun' an' sing an' talk.
Mos' of de time we had good food to eat 'cause mos' of us had our
gardens, an' de Quarters cook would fix what we wanted if we brung it to
her. Durin' de last years 'fo de surrender, we didn' have much to eat
tho'; an' made out de best we could.
"De mos' fun we had was at our meetin's. We had dem mos' ever' Sunday
an' dey lasted way into de night. De preacher I laked de bes' was name
Mathew Ewing. He was a comely nigger, black as night, an' he sho' could
read out of his han'. He neber larned no real readin' an' writin' but
he sho' knowed his Bible an' would hol' his han' out an' mek lak he was
readin' an' preach de purtiest preachin' you ever heered. De meetin's
last frum early in de mawnin' 'til late at night. When dark come, de men
folks would hang up a wash pot, bottom up'ards, in de little brush
church-house us had, so's it would catch de noise an' de oberseer
wouldn' hear us singin' an' shoutin'. Dey didn' min' us meetin' in de
day time, but dey thought iffen we stayed up ha'f de night we wouldn'
work so hard de nex' day--an' dat was de truf.
"You should'a seen some of de niggers get 'ligion. De best way was to
carry 'em to de cemetery an' let 'em stand ober a grave. Dey would start
singin' an' shoutin' 'bout sein' fire an' brimstone; den dey would sing
some mo' an' look plum sanctified.
"When us had our big meetin's, dere would allus be some darkies frum de
plantations aroun' to come. Dey would have to slip off 'cause dey
marsters was afraid dey would git hitched up wid some other black boy er
gal on de other plantation an' den dey would either have to buy er sell
a nigger 'fo you could git any work out of him.
"We neber knowed much bout de War, 'cept dat we didn' have as much to
eat er wear, an' de white men folks was all gone. Den, too, Old Miss
cried a lot of de time.
"De Yankees come 'roun' afte' de War an' tol' us we's frea an' we
shouted an' sang, an' had a big celebration fer a few days. Den we got
to wonderin' 'bout what good it did us. It didn' feel no diffrunt; we
all loved our marster an' missus an' stayed on wid 'em jes' lak nothin'
had happened. De Yankees tried to git some of de men to vote, too, but
not many did 'cause dey was scared of de Ku Kluxers. Dey would come at
night all dressed up lak ghosts an' scare us all. We didn' lak de
Yankees anyway. Dey wa'nt good to us; when dey lef' we would allus sing
dat leetle song what go lak dis:
'Old Mister Yankee, think he is so grand,
Wid his blue coat tail a draggin' on de ground!'
"I stayed on wid Old Marster afte' de surrender, wid de res', 'til I met
Joshua. Joshua Young was his name an' he b'longed to de Youngs whut
lived out at Waverly. I moved out dar wid him afte' we mar'ied. We didn'
have no big weddin' 'cause dere wa'nt much money den. We had a preacher
tho', an' den went along jes' lak we had allus been mar'ied.
"Josh, he's been daid fer a long time now but we had a good life out at
Waverly an' many a night stood outside de parlor do' an' watch de white
folks at dey big dances an' parties. De folks was pow'ful nice to us an'
we raised a passel er chullun out dar. All of 'em 'ceptin' three be daid
now. George is de oldes' of those lef'. He's a bricklayer, carpenter,
preacher, an' mos anything else he 'cides to call hisse'f. He's got 19
or 20 chullun, I dis'members which. Edith ain't got so many. She live up
North. I lives wid my other darter an' her gal. I named her afte' my
sisters. Her name is Anna Luvenia Hulda Larissa Jane Bell Young
McMillan. Dere may be more'n dat now, but anyways dere is five
"What I think 'bout slav'ry? Well, leetle Miss, I tell you, I wish it
was back. Us was a lot better off in dem days dan we is now. If dem
Yankees had lef us 'lone we'd been a lot happier. We wouldn' been on
'lief an' old age pension fer de las' three years. An' Janie May, here,
I b'lieve, sure as goodness, would'a been de Missus' very smartes' gal,
an' would'a stayed wid her in de Big House lak I did."
Note: This autobiography is exactly as related by the Negro to the field
worker with exception of a few changes in spelling. Phraseology is the
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