Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Andrea Ball and PG Distributed Proofreaders. Produced
from images provided by the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.
[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note
[HW: ***] = Handwritten Note
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with Former Slaves
TYPEWRITTEN RECORDS PREPARED BY
THE FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PROJECT
WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
SPONSORED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Illustrated with Photographs
the Federal Writers' Project of
the Works Progress Administration
for the State of Ohio
Anderson, Charles H.
Burke, Sarah Woods
Dempsey, Mary Belle
Hall, David A.
Jemison, Rev. Perry Sid [TR: Name also appears as Jamison]
Matheus, John William
Charles H. Anderson
Ruth Thompson, Interviewing
CHARLES H. ANDERSON
3122 Fredonia St.,
[Illustration: Charles H. Anderson]
"Life experience excels all reading. Every place you go, you learn
something from every class of people. Books are just for a memory, to
keep history and the like, but I don't have to go huntin' in libraries,
I got one in my own head, for you can't forget what you learn from
The old man speaking is a living example of his theory, and, judging
from his bearing, his experience has given him a philosophical outlook
which comprehends love, gentleness and wisdom. Charles H. Anderson, 3122
Fredonia Street, was born December 23, 1845, in Richmond, Virginia, as a
slave belonging to J.L. Woodson, grocer, "an exceedingly good owner--not
cruel to anyone".
With his mother, father, and 15 brothers and sisters, he lived at the
Woodson home in the city, some of the time in a cabin in the rear, but
mostly in the "big house". Favored of all the slaves, he was trusted to
go to the cash drawer for spending money, and permitted to help himself
to candy and all he wanted to eat. With the help of the mistress, his
mother made all his clothes, and he was "about as well dressed as
"I always associated with high-class folks, but I never went to church
then, or to school a day in my life. My owner never sent me or my
brothers, and then when free schools came in, education wasn't on my
mind. I just didn't think about education. Now, I read a few words, and
I can write my name. But experience is what counts most."
Tapping the porch floor with his cane for emphasis, the old fellow's
softly slurred words fell rapidly but clearly. Sometimes his tongue got
twisted, and he had to repeat. Often he had to switch his pipe from one
side of his mouth to the other; for, as he explained, "there ain't many
tooth-es left in there". Mr. Anderson is rather slight of build, and his
features are fine, his bald head shiny, and his eyes bright and eager.
Though he says he "ain't much good anymore", he seems half a century old
instead of "92 next December, if I can make it".
"I have been having some sick spells lately, snapped three or four ribs
out of place several years ago, and was in bed for six weeks after my
wife died ten year ago. But my step-daughter here nursed me through it.
Doctor says he doesn't see how I keep on living. But they take good care
of me, my sons and step-daughter. They live here with me, and we're
And comfortable, neat, and clean they are in the trimmest little frame
house on the street, painted grey with green trim, having a square of
green lawn in front and another in back enclosed with a rail fence, gay
flowers in the corners, rubber plants in pots on the porch, and grape
arbor down one side of the back yard. Inside, rust-colored mohair
overstuffed chairs and davenport look prim with white, crocheted
doilies, a big clock with weights stands in one corner on an ornately
carved table, and several enlarged framed photographs hang on the wall.
The other two rooms are the combined kitchen and dining room, and a
bedroom with a heatrola in it "to warm an old man's bones". Additional
bedrooms are upstairs.
Pointing to one of the pictures, he remarked, "That was me at 37. Had it
taken for my boss where I worked. It was a post card, and then I had it
enlarged for myself. That was just before I married Helen".
Helen Comer, nee Cruitt, was a widow with four youngsters when he met
her 54 years ago. One year later they were married and had two boys,
Charles, now 47, employed as an auto repair man, and Samuel, 43, a
sorter in the Post Office, both bachelors.
"Yes sir, I sure was healthy-looking them days. Always was strong, never
took a dollars worth of medicine in fifty year or more till I had these
last sick spells. But we had good living in slave days. In one sense we
were better off then than after the war, 'cause we had plenty to eat.
Nowadays, everybody has to fen' for himself, and they'd kill a man for a
"Whip the slaves? Oh, my God! Don't mention it, don't mention it! Lots
of 'em in Old Dominion got beatings for punishment. They didn't have no
jail for slaves, but the owners used a whip and lash on 'em. I've seen
'am on a chain gang, too, up at the penitentiary. But I never got a
whipping in my life. Used to help around the grocery, and deliver
groceries. Used to go up to Jeff Davis' house every day. He was a fine
man. Always was good to me. But then I never quarreled with anybody,
always minded my own business. And I never was scared of nothing. Most
folks was superstitious, but I never believed in ghosts nor anything I
didn't see. Never wore a charm. Never took much stock in that kind of
business. The old people used to carry potatoes to keep off rheumatism.
Yes, sir. They had to steal an Irish potato, and carry it till it was
hard as a rock; then they'd say they never get rheumatism.
"Saturday was our busy day at the store; but after work, I used to go to
the drag downs. Some people say 'hoe down' or 'dig down', I guess 'cause
they'd dig right into it, and give it all they got. I was a great hand
at fiddlin'. Got one in there now that is 107-year old, but I haven't
played for years. Since I broke my shoulder bone, I can't handle the
bow. But I used to play at all the drag downs. Anything I heard played
once, I could play. Used to play two steps, one of 'em called 'Devil's
Dream', and three or four good German waltzes, and 'Turkey in the
Straw'--but we didn't call it that then. It was the same piece, but I
forget what we called it. They don't play the same nowadays. Playin' now
is just a time-consumer, that's all; they got it all tore to pieces, no
top or bottom to it.
"We used to play games, too. Ring games at play parties--'Ring Around
the Rosie', 'Chase the Squirrel', and 'Holly Golly'. Never hear of Holly
Golly? Well, they'd pass around the peanuts, and whoever'd get three
nuts in one shell had to give that one to the one who had started the
game. Then they'd pass 'em around again. Just a peanut-eating contest,
"Abraham Lincoln? Well, they's people born in this world for every
occupation and Lincoln was a natural born man for the job he completed.
Just check it back to Pharoah' time: There was Moses born to deliver the
children of Israel. And John Brown, he was born for a purpose. But they
said he was cruel all the way th'ough, and they hung him in February,
1859. That created a great sensation. And he said, 'Go ahead. Do your
work. I done mine'. Then they whipped around till they got the war
started. And that was the start of the Civil War.
"I enlisted April 10, 1865, and was sent to San Diego, Texas; but I
never was in a battle. And they was only one time when I felt anyways
skittish. That was when I was a new recruit on picket duty. And it was
pitch dark, and I heard something comin' th'ough the bushes, and I
thought, 'Let 'em come, whoever it is'. And I got my bayonet all ready,
and waited. I'se gittin' sorta nervous, and purty soon the bushes
opened, and what you think come out? A great big ole hog!
"In June '65, I got a cold one night, and contracted this throat trouble
I get--never did get rid of it. Still carry it from the war. Got my
first pension on that--$6 a month. Ain't many of us left to get pensions
now. They's only 11 veterans left in Cincinnati.
"They used to be the Ku Klux Klan organization. That was the
pat-rollers, then they called them the Night Riders, and at one time the
Regulators. The 'Ole Dragon', his name was Simons, he had control of it,
and that continued on for 50 year till after the war when Garfield was
president. Then it sprung up again, now the King Bee is in prison.
"Well, after the war I was free. But it didn't make much difference to
me; I just had to work for myself instead of somebody else. And I just
rambled around. Sort of a floater. But I always worked, and I always eat
regular, and had regular rest. Work never hurt nobody. I lived so many
places, Cleveland, and ever'place, but I made it here longer than
anyplace--53 year. I worked on the railroad, bossin'. Always had men
under me. When the Chesapeake and Ohio put th'ough that extension to
White Sulphur, we cut tracks th'ough a tunnel 7 mile long. And I handled
men in '83 when they put the C & O th'ough here. But since I was 71, I
been doin' handy work--just general handy man. Used to do a lot of
carving, too, till I broke my shoulder bone. Carved that ol' pipe of
mine 25 year ago out of an ol' umbrella handle, and carved this monkey
watch charm. But the last three year I ain't done much of anything.
"Go to church sometimes, over here to the Corinthian Baptis' Church of
Walnut Hills. But church don't do much good nowadays. They got too much
education for church. This new-fangled education is just a bunch of
ignoramacy. Everybody's just looking for a string to pull to get
something--not to help others. About one-third goes to see what everbody
else is wearing, and who's got the nicest clothes. And they sit back,
and they say, 'What she think she look like with that thing on her
haid?'. The other two-thirds? Why, they just go for nonsense, I guess.
Those who go for religion are scarce as chicken teeth. Yes sir, they go
more for sight-seein' than soul-savin'.
"They's so much gingerbread work goin' on now. Our most prominent people
come from the eastern part of the United States. All wise people come
from the East, just as the wise men did when the Star of Bethlehem
appeared when Christ was born. And the farther east you go, the more
common knowledge a person's got. That ain't no Dream Boat. Nowadays,
people are gettin' crazier everyday. We got too much liberty; it's all
'little you, and big me'. Everybody's got a right to his own opinion,
and the old fashioned way was good enough for my father, and it's good
enough for me.
"If your back trail is clean, you don't need to worry about the future.
Your future life is your past conduct. It's a trailer behind you. And I
ain't quite dead yet, efn I do smell bad!"
Story and Photo by Frank M. Smith
Mahoning County, District #5
The Story of MRS. MELISSA (LOWE) BARDEN, Youngstown, Ohio.
[Illustration: Melissa Barden]
Mrs. Melissa (Lowe) Barden of 1671 Jacobs Road, was "bred and born" on
the plantation of David Lowe, near Summersville, Georgia, Chattooga
County, and when asked how old she was said "I's way up yonder
somewheres maybe 80 or 90 years."
Melissa assumed her master's name Lowe, and says he was very good to her
and that she loved him. Only once did she feel ill towards him and that
was when he sold her mother. She and her sister were left alone. Later
he gave her sister and several other slaves to his newly married
daughter as a wedding present. This sister was sold and re-sold and when
the slaves were given their freedom her mother came to claim her
children, but Melissa was the only one of the four she could find. Her
mother took her to a plantation in Newton County, where they worked
until coming north. The mother died here and Melissa married a man named
Melissa says she was very happy on the plantation where they danced and
sang folk songs of the South, such as _"Sho' Fly Go 'Way From Me"_, and
others after their days work was done.
When asked if she objected to having her picture taken she said, "all
right, but don't you-all poke fun at me because I am just as God made
Melissa lives with her daughter, Nany Hardie, in a neat bungalow on the
Sharon Line, a Negro district. Melissa's health is good with the
exception of cataracts over her eyes which have caused her to be totally
Aug 15, 1937
462-12th St. S.E., Canton, Ohio.
"I was born on a plantation in Gilee County, near the town of Elkton, in
Tennessee, on August 15, 1845. My father's name was Shedrick Daley and
he was owned by Tom Daley and my mother's name was Rhedia Jenkins and
her master's name was Silas Jenkins. I was owned by my mother's master
but some of my brothers and sisters--I had six brothers and six
sisters--were owned by Tom Daley.
I always worked in the fields with the men except when I was called to
the house to do work there. 'Masse' Jenkins was good and kind to all us
slaves and we had good times in the evening after work. We got in groups
in front of the cabins and sang and danced to the music of banjoes until
the overseer would come along and make us go to bed. No, I don't
remember what the songs were, nothing in particular, I guess, just some
we made up and we would sing a line or two over and over again.
We were not allowed to work on Sunday but we could go to church if we
wanted to. There wasn't any colored church but we could go to the white
folks church if we went with our overseer. His name was Charlie Bull and
he was good to all of us.
Yes, they had to whip a slave sometimes, but only the bad ones, and they
deserved it. No, there wasn't any jail on the plantation.
We all had to get up at sunup and work till sundown and we always had
good food and plenty of it; you see they had to feed us well so we would
be strong. I got better food when I was a slave than I have ever had
Our beds were home made, they made them out of poplar wood and gave us
straw ticks to sleep on. I got two calico dresses a year and these were
my Sunday dresses and I was only allowed to wear them on week days after
they were almost worn out. Our shoes were made right on the plantation.
When any slaves got sick, Mr. Bull, the overseer, got a regular doctor
and when a slave died we kept right on working until it was time for the
funeral, then we were called in but had to go right back to work as soon
as it was over. Coffins were made by the slaves out of poplar lumber.
We didn't play many games, the only ones I can remember are 'ball' and
'marbles'. No, they would not let us play 'cards'.
One day I was sent out to clean the hen house and to burn the straw. I
cleaned the hen house, pushed the straw up on a pile and set fire to it
and burned the hen house down and I sure thought I was going to get
whipped, but I didn't, for I had a good 'masse'.
We always got along fine with the children of the slave owners but none
of the colored people would have anything to do with the 'poor white
trash' who were too poor to own slaves and had to do their own work.
There was never any uprisings on our plantations and I never heard about
any around where I lived. We were all happy and contented and had good
Yes, I can remember when we were set free. Mr. Bull told us and we cut
long poles and fastened balls of cotton on the ends and set fire to
them. Then, we run around with them burning, a-singin' and a-dancin'.
No, we did not try to run away and never left the plantation until Mr.
Bull said we could go.
After the war, I worked for Mr. Bull for about a year on the old
plantation and was treated like one of the family. After that I worked
for my brother on a little farm near the old home place. He was buying
his farm from his master, Mr. Tom Daley.
I was married on my brother's place to Wade Bledsoe in 1870. He has been
dead now about 15 years. His master had given him a small farm but I do
not remember his master's name. Yes, I lived in Tennessee until after my
husband died. I came to Canton in 1929 to live with my granddaughter,
Mrs. Algie Clark.
I had three children; they are all dead but I have 6 grandchildren, 8
great-grandchildren and 9 great-great-grandchildren, all living. No, I
don't think the children today are as good as they used to be, they are
just not raised like we were and do too much as they please.
I can't read or write as none of we slaves ever went to school but I
used to listen to the white folks talk and copied after them as much as
NOTE: The above is almost exactly as Mrs. Bledsoe talked to our
interviewer. Although she is a woman of no schooling she talks well and
uses the common negro dialect very little. She is 92 years of age but
her mind is clear and she is very entertaining. She receives an Old Age
Pension. (Interviewed by Chas. McCullough.)
Story and Photo by Frank Smith
Mahoning County, District #5
The Story of MRS. PHOEBE BOST, of Youngstown, Ohio.
[Illustration: Phoebe Bost]
Mrs. Phoebe Bost, was born on a plantation in Louisiana, near New
Orleans. She does not know her exact age but says she was told, when
given her freedom that she was about 15 years of age. Phoebe's first
master was a man named Simons, who took her to a slave auction in
Baltimore, where she was sold to Vaul Mooney (this name is spelled as
pronounced, the correct spelling not known.) When Phoebe was given her
freedom she assummed the name of Mooney, and went to Stanley County,
North Carolina, where she worked for wages until she came north and
married to Peter Bost. Phoebe claims both her masters were very mean and
would administer a whipping at the slightest provocation.
Phoebe's duties were that of a nurse maid. "I had to hol' the baby all
de time she slept" she said "and sometimes I got so sleepy myself I had
to prop ma' eyes open with pieces of whisks from a broom."
She claims there was not any recreation, such as singing and dancing
permitted at this plantation.
Phoebe, who is now widowed, lives with her daughter, in part of a double
house, at 3461 Wilson Avenue, Campbell, Ohio. Their home is fairly well
furnished and clean in appearance. Phoebe is of slender stature, and is
quite active in spite of the fact that she is nearing her nineties.
WPA in Ohio
By Albert I. Dugan [TR: also reported as Dugen]
Jun 9, 1937
Muskingum County, District #2
Ex-slave, 100 years
Keen St., Zanesville, Ohio
Yes suh I wuz a slave in Vaginyah, Alvamaul (Albermarle) county an' I
didn't have any good life, I'm tellin' you dat! It wuz a tough life. I
don't know how old I am, dey never told me down dere, but the folks here
say I'm a hunderd yeah old an' I spect dats about right. My fathah's
name wuz Jack Brown and' my mammy's Nellie Brown. Dey wuz six of us
chillun, one sistah Hannah an' three brothers, Jim, Harrison, an' Spot.
Jim wuz de oldes an' I wuz next. We wuz born on a very lauge plantation
an dey wuz lots an' lots of other slaves, I don't know how many. De log
cabins what we live in[HW:?] on both sides de path make it look like a
town. Mastah's house wuz a big, big one an' had big brick chimneys on de
outside. It wuz a frame house, brown, an' set way back from de road, an'
behind dat wuz de slaves' quarters. De mastah, he wuz Fleming Moon an'
dey say he wuz cap'n in de wah of 1812. De missy wuz Parley Moon and dey
had one son an fouh daughters.
All us chillun an mammy live in a log cabin dat wuz lauge enuf foh us an
we sleep in good beds, tall ones an' low ones dat went undaneath,
trundles dey call 'em, and de covahs wuz comfohtable. De mammies did de
cookin. We et cohn bread, beans, soup, cabbage an' some othah vegtubles,
an a little meat an fish, not much. Cohn cake wuz baked in de ashes,
ash-cake we call 'em an' dey wuz good and sweet. Sometimes we got wheat
bread, we call dat "seldom bread" an' cohn bread wuz called "common"
becos we had it ev'ry day. A boss mammy, she looked aftah de eatins' and
believe me nobuddy got too much.
De meat house wuz full of smoked po'k, but we only got a little piece
now an' den. At hog killin' time we built a big fiah an put on stones
an' when dey git hot we throw 'em in a hogshead dat has watah in it. Den
moah hot stones till de watah is jus right for takin' de hair off de
hogs, lots of 'em. Salt herrin' fish in barls cum to our place an we put
em in watah to soak an den string em on pointed sticks an' hang up to
dry so dey wont be so salty. A little wuz given us with de other food.
I worked about de place doin' chores an takin' care of de younger
chillun, when mammy wuz out in de fields at harvest time, an' I worked
in de fields too sometimes. De mastah sent me sometimes with young
recruits goin' to de army headquartahs at Charlottesville to take care
of de horses an show de way. We all worked hard an' when supper wuz ovah
I wuz too tired to do anything but go to bed. It wuz jus work, eat an
sleep foh most of us, dere wuz no time foh play. Some of em tried to
sing or tell stories or pray but dey soon went to bed. Sometimes I heard
some of de stories about hants and speerits an devils that skeered me so
I ran to bed an' covered mah head.
Mastah died an' den missie, she and a son-in-law took charge of de
place. Mah sistah Hannah wuz sold on de auction block at Richmon to
Mastah Frank Maxie (Massie?) an' taken to de plantation near
Charlottesville. I missed mah sistah terrible an ran away to see her,
ran away three times, but ev'ry time dey cum on horseback an git me jus
befoh I got to Maxies. The missie wuz with dem on a horse and she ax
where I goin an' I told her. Mah hands wuz tied crossways in front with
a big rope so hard it hurt. Den I wuz left on de groun foh a long time
while missie visited Missie Maxie. Dey start home on horses pulling de
rope tied to mah hands. I had to run or fall down an' be dragged on de
groun'. It wuz terrible. When we got home de missie whipped me with a
thick hickory switch an' she wasn't a bit lenient. I wuz whipped ev'ry
time I ran away to see mah sister.
When dere wuz talk of Yankies cumin' de missie told me to git a box an
she filled it with gold an' silver, lots of it, she wuz rich, an I dug a
hole near de hen house an put in de box an' covered it with dirt an'
smoothed it down an scattered some leaves an twigs ovah it. She told me
nevah, nevah to tell about it and I nevah did until now. She showed me a
big white card with writin' on it an' said it say "This is a Union
Plantation" an' put it on a tree so the Yankies wouldn't try to find de
gold and silvers. But I never saw any Yankie squads cum around. When de
wah wuz ovah, de missie nevah tell me dat I wuz free an' I kep' on
workin' same as befoh. I couldn't read or write an' to me all money
coins wuz a cent, big copper cents, dey wuz all alike to me. De slaves
wuz not allowed any learnin an' if any books, papers or pictures wuz
foun' among us we wuz whipped if we couldn't explain where dey cum from.
Mah sistah an' brother cum foh me an tell me I am free and take me with
them to Mastah Maxies' place where dey workin. Dey had a big dinnah
ready foh me, but I wuz too excited to eat. I worked foh Mastah Maxie
too, helpin' with de horses an' doin' chores. Mammy cum' an wuz de cook.
I got some clothes and a few cents an' travelers give me small coins foh
tending dere horses an' I done done odd jobs here an dere.
I wanted some learnin but dere wuz no way to git it until a white man
cleared a place in de woods an' put up branches to make shade. He read
books to us foh a while an' den gave it up. A lovly white woman, Missy
Holstottle, her husband's name wuz Dave, read a book to me an' I
remember de stories to dis day. It wuz called "White an' Black." Some of
de stories made me cry.
After wanderin about doin work where I could git it I got a job on de C
an O Railroad workin' on de tracks. In Middleport, dat's near Pomeroy,
Ohio, I wuz married to Gertie Nutter, a widow with two chillun, an dere
wuz no moah chilluns. After mah wife died I wandered about workin' on
railroads an' in coal mines an' I wuz hurt in a mine near Zanesville.
Felt like mah spine wuz pulled out an I couldn't work any moah an' I cum
to mah neice's home here in Zanesville. I got some compensation at
first, but not now. I get some old age pension, a little, not much, but
I'm thankful foh dat.
Mah life wuz hard an' sad, but now I'm comfortable here with kind
friens. I can't read or write, but I surely enjoy de radio. Some nights
I dream about de old slave times an' I hear dem cryin' an' prayin', "Oh,
Mastah, pray Oh, mastah, mercy!" when dey are bein' whipped, an' I wake
up cryin.' I set here in dis room and can remember mos' all of de old
life, can see it as plain as day, de hard work, de plantation, de
whippings, an' de misery. I'm sure glad it's all over.
James Immel, Reporter
Washington County, District Three
SARAH WOODS BURKE
"Yessir, I guess you all would call me an ex-slave cause I was born in
Grayson County, West Virginia and on a plantation I lived for quite a
spell, that is until when I was seven years old when we all moved up
here to Washington county."
"My Pappy's old Mammy was supposed to have been sold into slavery when
my Pappy was one month old and some poor white people took him ter
raise. We worked for them until he was a growed up man, also 'til they
give him his free papers and 'lowed him to leave the plantation and come
up here to the North."
"How did we live on the plantation? Well--you see it was like this we
lived in a log cabin with the ground for floors and the beds were built
against the walls jus' like bunks. I 'member that the slaves had a hard
time getting food, most times they got just what was left over or
whatever the slaveholder wanted to give them so at night they would slip
outa their cabins on to the plantation and kill a pig, a sheep or some
cattle which they would butcher in the woods and cut up. The wimmin
folks would carry the pieces back to the cabins in their aprons while
the men would stay behind and bury the head, skin and feet."
"Whenever they killed a pig they would have to skin it, because they
didn't dare to build a fire. The women folk after getting home would put
the meat in special dug trenches and the men would come erlong and cover
"The slave holders in the port of the country I came from was men and it
was quite offen that slaves were tied to a whipping stake and whipped
with a blacksnake until the blood ran down their bodies."
"I remembers quite clearly one scene that happened jus' afore I left
that there part of the country. At the slaveholders home on the
plantation I was at it was customary for the white folks to go to church
on Sunday morning and to leave the cook in charge. This cook had a habit
of making cookies and handing them out to the slaves before the folks
returned. Now it happened that on one Sunday for some reason or tother
the white folks returned before the regular time and the poor cook did
not have time to get the cookies to the slaves so she just hid then in a
drawer that was in a sewing chair."
"The white folks had a parrot that always sat on top of a door in this
room and when the mistress came in the room the mean old bird hollered
out at the top of his voice, 'Its in the rocker. It's in the rocker'.
Well the Missus found the cookies and told her husband where upon the
husband called his man that done the whipping and they tied the poor
cook to the stake and whipped her till she fainted. Next morning the
parrot was found dead and a slave was accused because he liked the woman
that had been whipped the day before. They whipped him than until the
blood ran down his legs."
"Spirits? Yessir I believe in them, but we warnt bothered so much by
them in them days but we was by the wild animals. Why after it got dark
we children would have to stay indoors for fear of them. The men folks
would build a big fire and I can remember my Pappy a settin on top of
the house at night with a old flint lock across his legs awaiting for
one of them critters to come close enough so he could shoot it. The
reason for him being trusted with a gun was because he had been raised
by the poor white man who worked for the slaveholder. My Pappy did not
work in the fields but drove a team of horses."
"I remembers that when we left the plantation and come to Washington
County, Ohio that we traveled in a covered wagon that had big white
horse hitched to it. The man that owned the horse was Blake Randolls. He
crossed the river 12 miles below Parkersberg. W. Va. on a ferry and went
to Stafford, Ohio, in Monroe County where we lived until I was married
at the age of 15 to Mr. Burke, by the Justice of the Peace, Edward
Oakley. A year later we moved to Curtis Ridge which is seven miles from
Stafford and we lived their for say 20 year or more. We moved to Rainbow
for a spell and then in 1918 my husband died. The old man hard luck came
around cause three years my home burned to the ground and then I came
here to live with my boy Joe and his family."
"Mr. Burke and myself raised a family of 16 chilluns and at that time my
husband worked at farming for other people at $2.00 a month and a few
things they would give him."
"My Pappy got his education from the boy of the white man he lived with
because he wasn't allowed to go to school and the white boy was very
smart and taught him just as he learned. My Pappy, fought in the Civil
War too. On which side? Well, sho nuff on the site of the North, boy."
Hallie Miller, Reporter
Audrey Meighen, Author-Editor
Gellia County, District 3
[Illustration: James Campbell]
"Well, I'se bo'n Monro' County, West Virginia, on January 15, 1852, jes'
few miles from Union, West Virginia."
"My mammy wuz Dinnah Alexander Campbell an' my pappy wuz Levi Campbell
an' dey bof cum frum Monro' County. Dat's 'bout only place I heerd dem
"Der wuz Levi, Floyd, Henry, Noah, an' Nancy, jes' my haf brudders an'
sistahs, but I neber knowed no diffrunce but whut dey wuz my sistahs an'
"Where we liv? On Marsa John Alexander's farm, he wuz a good Marsa too.
All Marsa John want wuz plenty wurk dun and we dun it too, so der wuz no
trubble on ouah plantashun. I neber reclec' anyone gittin' whipped or
bad treatment frum him. I does 'members, dat sum de neighbers say dey
wuz treated prutty mean, but I don't 'member much 'bout it 'caise I'se
"Wher'd I sleep? I neber fergit dat trun'l bed, dat I sleep in.
"Marsa John's place kinda stock farm an' I dun de milkin'. You all know
dat wuz easy like so I jes' keep busy milkin' an' gits out de hard work.
Nudder thing I lik to do wuz pick berries, dat wuz easy too, so I dun my
"Money? Lawsy chile, I neber dun seen eny money 'til aftah I dun cum to
Gallipolis aftah der war. An' how I lik' to heah it jingle, if I jes'
had two cents, I'd make it jingle."
"We all had plenty an' good things to eat, beans, corn, tatahs, melons
an' hot mush, corn bread; we jes' seen white flour wunce in a while."
"Yes mam, we had rabbit, wil' turkey, pheasunts, an' fish, say I'se
tellin' you-all dat riful pappy had shure cud kill de game."
"Nudder good ole time wuz maple sugar makin' time, mostly dun at night
by limestone burnin'. Yes, I heped with the 'lasses an' all de time I
wuz a thinkin' 'bout dem hot biscets, ham meat, corn bread an' 'lasses."
"We liv in a cabin on Marse John's place. Der wuzn't much in de cabin
but my mammy kept it mighty clean. Say, I kin see dat ole' fiah place
wid de big logs a burnin' right now; uh, an' smell dat good cookin', all
dun in iron pots an' skillets. An' all de cookin' an' heatin' wuz dun by
wood, why I nebber seed a lump o' coal all time I wuz der. We all had to
cut so much wood an' pile it up two weeks 'for Christmas, an' den when
ouah pile wuz cut, den ouah wurk wuz dun, so we'd jes' hav good time."
"We all woah jeans clos', jes pants an' jacket. In de summah we chilluns
all went barefoot, but in de wintah we all woah shoes."
"Ol' Marse John an' his family liv in a big fine brick hous'. Marse John
had des chilluns, Miss Betty an' Miss Ann an' der wuz Marse Mike an'
Marse John. Marse John, he wuz sorta spiled lik. He dun wen to de war
an' runs 'way frum Harpers Ferry an' cum home jes' sceered to death. He
get himsef a pah o' crutches an' neber goes back. Marse John dun used
dem crutches 'til aftah de war wuz ovah. Den der wuz ol' Missy
Kimberton--de gran'muthah. She wuz 'culiar but prutty good, so wuz
"Ol' Marse John had bout 20 slaves so de wurk wuzn't so bad on nun ob
us. I kin jes' see dem ol' bindahs and harrows now, dat dey used den. It
would shure look funny usin' 'em now."
"I all'us got up foah clock in de mornin' to git in de cows an' I didn't
hurry nun, 'caise dat tak in de time."
"Ouah mammy neber 'lowed de old folks to tell us chilluns sceery stories
o' hants an' sich lik' so der's nun foah me to 'member."
"Travelin' wuz rather slo' lik. De only way wuz in ox-carts or on hoss
back. We all didn't hay much time fer travelin'. Our Marse wuz too good
to think 'bout runnin' 'way."
"Nun my fam'ly cud read er write. I lurned to read an write aftah I cum
up Norf to Ohio. Dat wuz biggest thing I ebber tackled, but it made me
de happies' aftah I learn't."
"We all went to Sunday School an' meetin'. Yes mam, we had to wurk on
Sundays, too, if we did hav any spare time, we went visit in'. On
Saturday nights we had big time foah der wuz mos' all'us dancin' an'
we'd dance long as de can'les lasted. Can'les wuz all we had any time
"I 'member one de neighbah boys tried to run 'way an' de patrollahs got
'im an' fetched 'im back an' he shure dun got a wallopin' fer it. Dat
dun tuk any sich notion out my head. Dem patrollahs dun keep us skeered
to deaf all de time. One, Henry Jones, runned off and went cleah up Norf
sum place an' dey neber did git 'im. 'Course we all wuz shure powahful
glad 'bout his 'scapin'."
"We'se neber 'lowed out de cabin at night. But sum times de oldah 'uns
wud sneak out at night an'tak de hosses an' tak a leetle ride. An' man
it wud bin jes' too bad if ol' Marse John ketched 'em: dat wuz shure
heaps o' fun fer de kids. I 'member hearin' wunce de ol' folks talkin'
'bout de way one Marse dun sum black boys dat dun sumthin' wrong. He
jes' mak 'em bite off de heads o' baccer wurms; mysef I'd ruther tuk a
"On Christmus Day, we'd git fiah crackahs an' drink brandy, dat wuz all.
Dat day wuz only one we didn't wurk. On Saturday evenin's we'd mold
candles, dat wuzn't so bad."
"De happies' time o' my life wuz when Cap'n Tipton, a Yankee soljer
cumed an' tol' us de wah wuz ober an' we wuz free. Cap'n. Tipton sez,
"Youse de boys we dun dis foah". We shure didn't lose no time gittin'
'way; no man."
"We went to Lewisburg an' den up to Cha'leston by wagon an' den tuk de
guvment boat, _Genrul Crooks_, an' it brung us heah to Gallipolis in
1865. Dat Ohio shoah shure looked prutty."
"I'se shure thankful to Mr. Lincoln foah whut he dun foah us folks, but
dat Jeff Davis, well I ain't sayin' whut I'se thinkin'."
"De is jes' like de worl', der is lots o' good an' lots o' bad in it."
WPA in Ohio
Federal Writers' Project
Jefferson Co, District #2
Ex-Slave, 74+ in years
My father's name wuz Fleming Clark and my mother's name wuz Emmaline
Clark. Both of dem wuz in slavery. Der massa's name wuz David Bowers. I
don't know where dey cum from but dey moved to Bad Creek after slavery
Der wuz three of us chillun. Charles, de oldest, den Anthony next and
den me, de youngest. I wuz workin' for a white man and wuz old enough to
drive cows and work in de 'bacco fields, pickin' worms off de leaves. De
other brudders worked wid my father on another plantation. De house
where I lived wid de white Massa Lewis Northsinge and his Missus, wuz a
log house wid just two rooms. I had just a little straw tick and a cot
dat de massa made himself and I hed a common quilt dat de missus made to
I hear dat my grandmother died during slavery and dat my grandfather wuz
killed by his massa during slavery.
On Sunday I would go home and stay wid my father and mother and two
brothers. We would play around wid ball and marbles. We had no school or
church. We were too far away for church.
I earned no money. All I got wus just my food and clothes. I wuz leasted
out to my massa and missus. I ate corn bread, fat hog meat and drank
butter milk. Sometimes my father would catch possum and my mother would
cook them, and bring me over a piece. I used to eat rabbit and fish. Dey
used to go fishin' in de creek. I liked rabbit and groundhog. De food
wuz boiled and roasted in de oven. De slaves have a little patch for a
garden and day work it mostly at night when it wuz moonlight.
We wore geans and shirts of yellow cotton, we wore no shoes up til
Christmas. I wore just de same during de summer except a little coat. We
had no under shirt lik we have now. We wore de same on Sunday. Der wuz
no Sunday suit.
De mass and missus hed one boy. De boy wuz much older than I. Dey were
all kind to me. I remember plenty poor white chillun. I remember Will
and John Nathan. Dey were poor white people.
My massa had three plantations. He had five slaves on one and four on
another. I worked on one with four slaves. My father worked on one wid
my brother and mother. We would wake up at 4 and 5 o'clock and do chores
in de barn by lamp light. De overseer would ring a bell in de yeard, if
it wuz not too cold to go out. If it wuz too cold he would cum and knock
on de door. It wuz 8 or 9 o'clock fore we cum in at night. Den we have
to milk de cows to fore we have supper.
De slaves were punished fore cumin' in too soon and unhitching de
horses. Dey would bend dem accross a barrel and switch dem and den send
dem back to de fields.
I head dem say dey switch de blood out of dem and salt de wound den dey
could not work de next day.
I saw slaves sold. Dey would stand on a block and men would bid for dem.
De highest bidder bought de slaves. I saw dem travel in groups, not
chained, one white man in front and one in back. Dey looked like cattle.
De white folks never learned me to read or write.
Der were petrollers. Dey were mean if dey catch you out late at night.
If a slave wus out late at night he had to have a notice from his massa.
Der wuz trouble if de slaves were out late at night or if dey run off to
De slaves worked on Saturday afternoons. Dey stay in de cabins on
Saturday nights and Sundays. We worked on New Years day. De massa would
give us a little hard cider on Christmas day. Dey would give a big
supper at corn huskin' or cotton pickin' and give a little play or
somethin' lik dat.
I remember two weddings. Dey hed chicken, and mutton to eat and corn
bread. Dey all ganged round de table. Der wur milk and butter. I
remember one wedding of de white people. I made de ice cream for dem. I
remember playin' marbles and ball.
Sometimes a racer snake would run after us, wrap round us and whip us
with its tail. The first one I remember got after me in de orchard. He
wrapped right round me and whipped me with his tail.
My mother took care of de slaves when dey were sick. You had to be awful
sick if dey didn't make you go out. Dey made der own medicine in those
days. We used asafetida and put a piece in a bag and hung it round our
necks. It wuz supposed to keep us from ketchin' diseases from anyone
When freedom cum dey were all shoutin' and I run to my mother and asked
her what it wuz all bout. De white man said you are all free and can go.
I remember the Yankee soldier comin' through the wheat field.
My parents lived very light de first year after de war. We lived in a
log cabin. De white man helped dem a little. My father went to work
makin' charcoal. Der wuz no school for Negroes and no land that I
I married Alice Thompson. She wuz 16 and I wuz 26. We hed a little
weddin' down in Bushannon, Virginny. A Baptist preacher named Shirley
married us. Der were bout a dozen at de weddin'. We hed a little dancin'
and banjo play in'. I hed two chillun but dey died and my wife died a
long, long time ago.
I just heard a little bout Abraham Lincoln. I believe he wuz a good man.
I just hed a slight remembrance of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.
I have heard of Booker T. Washington, felt just de same bout him. A
pretty good man.
I think it wuz a great thing that slavery anded, I would not lik to see
I joined de Baptist church but I have been runnin' round from place to
place. We always prosper and get along with our fellowmen if we are
De overseer wuz poor white trash. His rules were you hed to be out on de
plantation before daylight. Sometimes we hed to sit around on de fence
to wait for daylight and we did not go in before dark. We go in bout one
K. Osthimer, Author
Aug 12, 1937
Folklore: Stories from Ex-Slaves
Lucas County, District Nine
The Story of MRS. HANNAH DAVIDSON.
Mrs. Hannah Davidson occupies two rooms in a home at 533 Woodland
Avenue, Toledo, Ohio. Born on a plantation in Ballard County, Kentucky,
in 1852, she is today a little, white-haired old lady. Dark, flashing
eyes peer through her spectacles. Always quick to learn, she has taught
herself to read. She says, "I could always spell almost everything." She
has eagerly sought education. Much of her ability to read has been
gained from attendance in recent years in WPA "opportunity classes" in
the city. Today, this warm-hearted, quiet little Negro woman ekes out a
bare existence on an old age pension of $23.00 a month. It is with
regret that she recalls the shadows and sufferings of the past. She
says, "It is best not to talk about them. The things that my sister May
and I suffered were so terrible that people would not believe them. It
is best not to have such things in our memory."
"My father and mother were Isaac and Nancy Meriwether," she stated. "All
the slaves went under the name of my master and mistress, Emmett and
Susan Meriwether. I had four sisters and two brothers. There was
Adeline, Dorah, Alice, and Lizzie. My brothers were Major and George
Meriwether. We lived in a log cabin made of sticks and dirt, you know,
logs and dirt stuck in the cracks. We slept on beds made of boards
"I don't remember anything about my grandparents. My folks were sold
around and I couldn't keep track of them.
"The first work I did out from home was with my mistress's brother, Dr.
Jim Taylor, in Kentucky, taking care of his children. I was an awful
tiny little somethin' about eight or nine years old. I used to turn the
reel for the old folks who was spinning. That's all I've ever
"I never got a penny. My master kept me and my sister Mary twenty-two
long years after we were supposed to be free. Work, work, work. I don't
think my sister and I ever went to bed before twelve o'clock at night.
We never got a penny. They could have spared it, too; they had enough.
"We ate corn bread and fat meat. Meat and bread, we kids called it. We
all had a pint tin cup of buttermilk. No slaves had their own gardens.
"The men just wore jeans. The slaves all made their own clothes. They
just wove all the time; the old women wove all the time. I wasn't old
enough to go in the field like the oldest children. The oldest
children--they _worked_. After slavery ended, my sister Mary and me
worked as ex-slaves, and we _worked_. Most of the slaves had shoes, but
us kids used to run around barefoot most of the time.
"My folks, my master and mistress, lived in a great, white, frame house,
just the same as a hotel. I grew up with the youngest child, Mayo. The
other white children grew up and worked as overseers. Mayo always wanted
me to call him 'Master Mayo'. I fought him all the time. I never would
call him 'Master Mayo'. My mistress wouldn't let anyone harm me and she
made Mayo behave.
"My master wouldn't let the poor white neighbors--no one--tell us we was
free. The plantation was many, many acres, hundreds and hundreds of
acres, honey. There were about twenty-five or thirty families of slaves.
They got up and stood until daylight, waiting to plow. Yes, child, they
was up _early_. Our folks don't know how we had to work. I don't like to
tell you how we were treated--how we had to _work_. It's best to brush
those things out of our memory.
"If you wanted to go to another plantation, you had to have a pass. If
my folks was going to somebody's house, they'd have to have a pass.
Otherwise they'd be whipped. They'd take a big man and tie his hands
behind a tree, just like that big tree outside, and whip him with a
rawhide and draw blood every whip. I know I was scared every time I'd
hear the slave say, 'Pray, Master.'
"Once, when I was milking a cow, I asked Master Ousley, 'Master Ousley,
will you do me a favor?'
"He said in his drawl, 'Of course I will.'
"'Take me to McCracken County,' I said. I didn't even know where
McCracken County was, but my sister was there. I wanted to find my
sister. When I reached the house where my sister stayed, I went through
the gate. I asked if this was the house where Mary Meriwether lived. Her
mistress said, 'Yes, she's in the back. Are you the girl Mr.
Meriwether's looking for?" My heart was in my mouth. It just seemed I
couldn't go through the gate. I never even saw my sister that time. I
hid for a while and then went back.
"We didn't have any churches. My master would come down Sunday morning
with just enough flour to make bread. Coffee, too. Their coffee was
parts of meal, corn and so on. Work all week and that's what they had
"We used to sing, 'Swing low, sweet chariot'. When our folks sang that,
we could really see the chariot.
"Once, Jim Ferguson, a colored man, came to teach school. The white
folks beat and whipped him and drove him away in his underwear.
"I wanted so hard to learn to read, but I didn't even know I was free,
even when slavery was ended.
"I been so exhausted working, I was like an inch-worm crawling along a
roof. I worked till I thought another lick would kill me. If you had
something to do, you did it or got whipped. Once I was so tired I
couldn't work any more. I crawled in a hole under the house and stayed
there till I was rested. I didn't get whipped, either.
"I never will forget it--how my master always used to say, 'Keep a
nigger down' I never will forget it. I used to wait on table and I heard
"The only fun we had was on Sunday evening, after work. That was the
only chance we got. We used to go away off from the house and play in
"Our folks was so cruel, the slaves used to whisper 'round. Some of them
knew they was free, even if the white folks didn't want 'em to find out
they was free. They went off in the woods sometimes. But I was just a
little kid and I wasn't allowed to go around the big folks.
"I seen enough what the old folks went through. My sister and I went
through enough after slavery was over. For twenty-one long years we were
enslaved, even after we were supposed to be free. We didn't even know we
were free. We had to wash the white people's feet when they took their
shoes off at night--the men and women.
"Sundays the slaves would wash out their clothes. It was the only time
they had to themselves. Some of the old men worked in their tobacco
patches. We never observed Christmas. We never had no holidays, son,
_no, sir_! We didn't know what the word was.
"I never saw any slave funerals. Some slaves died, but I never saw any
of them buried. I didn't see any funerals at all.
"The white folks would come down to the cabins to marry the slaves. The
master or mistress would read a little out of a book. That's all there
was to it.
"We used to play a game called 'Hulgul'. We'd play it in the cabins and
sometimes with the white children. We'd hold hazelnuts in our hands. I'd
say 'Hulgul' How many? You'd guess. If you hit it right, you'd get them
all and it would be your turn to say 'Hulgul'. If you'd say 'Three!' and
I only had two, you'd have to give me another to make three.
"The kids nowadays can go right to the store and buy a ball to play
with. We'd have to make a ball out of yarn and put a sock around it for
a cover. Six of us would stay on one side of a house and six on the
other side. Then we'd throw the ball over the roof and say 'Catch!' If
you'd catch it you'd run around to the; other side and hit somebody,
then start over. We worked so hard we couldn't play long on Sunday
"School? We never seen the inside of a schoolhouse. Mistress used to
read the Bible to us every Sunday morning.
"We say two songs I still remember.
"I think when I read that sweet story of old,
When Jesus was here among men,
How he called little children like lambs to his fold,
I should like to have been with them then.
"I wish that his hands had been placed on my head,
That his arms had been thrown around me,
That I might have seen his kind face when he said
'Let the little ones come unto me.'
"Yet still to his footstool in prayer I nay go
And ask for a share of his love,
And that I might earnestly seek Him below
And see Him and hear Him above.
"Then there was another:
"I want to be an angel
And with the angels stand
With a crown upon my Forehead
And a harp within my hand.
"And there before my Saviour,
So glorious and so bright,
I'd make the sweetest music
And praise him day and night.
"And as soon as we got through singing those songs, we had to get right
out to work. I was always glad when they called us in the house to
Sunday school. It was the only chance we'd get to rest.
"When the slaves got sick, they'd take and look after themselves. My
master had a whole wall of his house for medicine, just like a store.
They made their own medicines and pills. My mistress's brother, Dr. Jim
Taylor, was a doctor. They done their own doctoring. I still have the
mark where I was vaccinated by my master.
"People was lousy in them days. I always had to pick louses from the
heads of the white children. You don't find children like that nowadays.
"My mistress had a little roan horse. She went all through the war on
that horse. Us little kids never went around the big folks. We didn't
watch folks faces to learn, like children do now. They wouldn't let us.
All I know about the Civil War was that it was goin' on. I heard talk
about killin' and so on, but I didn't know no thin' about it.
"My mother was the last slave to get off the plantation. She travelled
across the plantation all night with us children. It was pouring rain.
The white folks surrounded her and took away us children, and gave her
so many minutes to get off the plantation. We never saw her again. She
died away from us.
"My brother came to see us once when slavery was over. He was grown up.
My master wasn't going to let him see us and he took up his gun. My
mistress said he should let him see us. My brother gave me a little
coral ring. I thought it was the prettiest thing I ever saw.
"I made my sister leave. I took a rolling pin to make her go and she
finally left. They didn't have any more business with us than you have
"I remember when Yankee soldiers came riding through the yard. I was
scared and ran away crying. I can see them now. Their swords hung at
their sides and their horses walked proud, as if they walked on their
hind legs. The master was in the field trying to hide his money and guns
and things. The soldiers said, 'We won't hurt you, child.' It made me
"What I call the Ku Klux were those people who met at night and if they
heard anybody saying you was free, they would take you out at night and
whip you. They were the plantation owners. I never saw them ride, but I
heard about them and what they did. My master used to tell us he wished
he knew who the Ku Kluxers were. But he knew, all right, I used to wait
on table and I heard them talking. 'Gonna lynch another nigger tonight!'
"The slaves tried to get schools, but they didn't get any. Finally they
started a few schools in little log cabins. But we children, my sister
and I, never went to school.
"I married William L. Davison, when I was thirty-two years old. That was
after I left the plantation. I never had company there. I had to _work_.
I have only one grandchild still living, Willa May Reynolds. She taught
school in City Grove, Tennessee. She's married now.
"I thought Abe Lincoln was a great man. What little I know about him, I
always thought he was a great man. He did a lot of good.
"Us kids always used to sing a song, 'Gonna hang Jeff Davis to a sour
apple tree as we go marchin' home.' I didn't know what it meant at the
"I never knew much about Booker T. Washington, but I heard about him.
Frederick Douglass was a great man, too. He did lots of good, like Abe
"Well, slavery's over and I think that's a grand thing. A white lady
recently asked me, 'Don't you think you were better off under the white
people?' I said 'What you talkin' about? The birds of the air have their
freedom'. I don't know why she should ask me that anyway.
"I belong to the Third Baptist Church. I think all people should be
religious. Christ was a missionary. He went about doing good to people.
You should be clean, honest, and do everything good for people. I first
turn the searchlight on myself. To be a true Christian, you must do as
Christ said: 'Love one another'. You know, that's why I said I didn't
want to tell about my life and the terrible things that I and my sister
Mary suffered. I want to forgive those people. Some people tell me those
people are in hell now. But I don't think that. I believe we should all
do good to everybody."
Betty Lugabell, Reporter [TR: also reported as Lugabill]
Harold Pugh, Editor
R.S. Drum, Supervisor
Jun 9, 1937
Paulding Co., District 10
MARY BELLE DEMPSEY
Ex-Slave, 87 years
"I was only two years old when my family moved here, from _Wilford_
county, Kentucky. 'Course I don't remember anything of our slave days,
but my mother told me all about it."
"My mother and father were named Sidney Jane and William Booker. I had
one brother named George William Booker."
"The man who owned my father and mother was a good man." He was good to
them and never 'bused them. He had quite a large plantation and owned 26
slaves. Each slave family had a house of their own and the women of each
family prepared the meals, in their cabins. These cabins were warm and
in good shape."
"The master farmed his land and the men folks helped in the fields but
the women took care of their homes."
"We had our churches, too. Sometimes the white folks would try to cause
trouble when the negroes were holding their meetings, then a night the
men of the church would place chunks and matches on the white folks gate
post. In the morning the white folks would find them and know that it
was a warning if they din't quit causing trouble their buildings would
"There was a farm that joined my parents' master's place and the owner
was about ready to sell the mother slave with her five small children.
The children carried on so much because they were to be separated that
the mistress bought them back although she had very little money to
"I don't know any more slave stories, but now I am getting old, and I
know that I do not have long to live, but I'm not sorry, I am, ready to
go. I have lived as the Lord wants us to live and I know that when I die
I shall join many of my friends and relatives in the Lord's place.
Religion is the finest thing on earth. It is the one and only thing that
Former Slave Interview, Special
Aug 16, 1937
Butler County, District #2
MRS. NANCE EAST
809 Seventeenth Ave.,
"Mammy" East, 809 Seventeenth Ave., Middletown, Ohio, rules a four-room
bungalow in the negro district set aside by the American Rolling Mill
Corporation. She lives there with her sons, workers in the mill, and
keeps them an immaculate home in the manner which she was taught on a
Southern plantation. Her house is furnished with modern electrical
appliances and furniture, but she herself is an anachronism, a personage
with no faith in modern methods of living, one who belongs in that vague
period designated as "befo' de wah."
"I 'membahs all 'bout de slave time. I was powerful small but my mother
and daddy done tole me all 'bout it. Mother and daddy bofe come from
Vaginny; mother's mama did too. She was a weaver and made all our
clothes and de white folks clothes. Dat's all she ever did; just weave
and spin. Gran'mama and her chilluns was _sold_ to the Lett fambly, two
brothers from Monroe County, Alabama. _Sole_ jist like cows, honey,
right off the block, jist like cows. But they was good to they slaves.
"My mother's last name was Lett, after the white folks, and my daddy's
name was Harris Mosley, after his master. After mother and daddy
married, the Mosleys done bought her from the Letts so they could be
together. They was brother-in-laws. Den I was named after Miss Nancy.
Dey was Miss Nancy and Miss Hattie and two boys in the Mosleys. Land,
honey, they had a big (waving her hands in the air) plantation; a whole
section; and de biggest home you done ever see. We darkies had cabins.
Jist as clean and nice. Them Mosleys, they had a grist mill and a gin.
They like my daddy and he worked in de mill for them. Dey sure was good
to us. My mother worked on de place for Miss Nancy."
Mammy East, in a neat, voile dress and little pig-tails all over her
head, is a tall, light-skinned Negro, who admits that she would much
rather care for children than attend to the other duties of the little
house she owns; but the white spreads on the beds and the spotless
kitchen is no indication of this fact. She has a passion for the good
old times when the Negroes had security with no responsibility. Her
tall, statuesque appearance is in direct contrast to the present-day
conception of old southern "mammmies."
"De wah, honey? Why, when dem Yankees come through our county mother and
Miss Nancy and de rest hid de hosses in de swamps and hid other things
in the house, but dey got all the cattle and hogs. Killed 'em, but only
took the hams. Killed all de chickens and things, too. But dey didn't
hurt the house.
"After de wah, everybody jist went on working same as ever. Then one day
a white mans come riding through the county and tole us we was free.
_Free!_ Honey, did yo' hear _that_? Why we always had been free. He
didn't know what he was talking 'bout. He kept telling us we was free
and dat we oughtn't to work for no white folks 'less'n we got paid for
it. Well Miss Nancy took care of us then. We got our cabin and a piece
of ground for a garden and a share of de crops. Daddy worked in de mill.
Miss Nancy saw to it that we always had nice clothes too.
"Ku Klux, honey? Why, we nevah did hear tell of no sich thing where we
was. Nevah heered nothin' 'bout dat atall until we come up here, and dey
had em here. Law, honey, folks don't know when dey's well off. My daddy
worked in de mill and save his money, and twelve yeahs aftah de wah he
bought two hundred and twenty acres of land, 'bout ten miles away. Den
latah on daddy bought de mill from de Mosleys too. Yas'm, my daddy was
"My, you had to be somebody to votes. I sure do 'membahs all 'bout dat.
You had to be edicated and have money to votes. But I don' 'membahs no
trouble 'bout de votin'. Not where we come from, no how.
"I was married down dere. Mah husband's fust name was Monroe after the
county we lived in. My chilluns was named aftah some of the Mosleys. I
got a Ed and Hattie. Aftah my daddy died we each got forty acahs. I sold
mine and come up here to live with my boys.
"But honey dis ain't no way to raise chilluns. Not lak dey raised now.
All dis dishonesty and stealin' and laziness. _No mam!_ Look here at my
gran'sons. Eatin' offen dey daddy. No place for 'em. Got edication, and
caint git no jobs outside cuttin' grass and de like. Down on de
plantation ev'body worked. No laziness er 'oneriness, er nothin! I tells
yo' honey, I sure do wish these chilluns had de chances we had. Not much
learnin', but we had up-bringin'! Look at dem chilluns across de street.
Jist had a big fight ovah dere, and dey mothah's too lazy to do any
thing 'bout it. No'm, nevah did see none o' dat when we was young.
Gittin' in de folkeses hen houses and stealing, and de carryins on at
night. _No mam!_ I sure do wish de old times was here.
"I went back two-three yeahs ago, to de old home place, and dere it was,
jist same as when I was livin' with Miss Nancy. Co'se, theys all dead
and gone now, but some of the gran'chilluns was around. Yas'm, I membahs
heap bout dem times."
Miriam Logan, Reporter
Warren County, District 21
Story of WADE GLENN from Winston-Salem North Carolina:
(doesn't know his age)
"Yes Madam, I were a slave--I'm old enough to have been born into
slavery, but I was only a baby slave, for I do not remember about
slavery, I've just heard them tell about it. My Mammy were Lydia Glenn,
and father were Caesar Glenn, for they belonged to old Glenn. I've heard
tell he were a mean man too. My birthday is October 30th--but what
year--I don't know. There were eight brothers and two sisters. We lived
on John Beck's farm--a big farm, and the first work for me to do was
picking up chips o' wood, and lookin' after hogs.
"In those days they'd all kinds of work by hand on the farm. No Madam,
no cotton to speak of, or tobacco _then_. Just farmin' corn, hogs, wheat
fruit,--like here. Yes Madam, that was all on John Beck's farm except
the flax and the big wooley sheep. Plenty of nice clean flax-cloth suits
we all had.
"Beck wasn't so good--but we had enough to eat, wear, and could have our
Saturday afternoon to go to town, and Sunday for church. We sho did have
church, large meetin'--camp meetin'--with lot of singin' an shoutin' and
it was fine! Nevah was no singer, but I was a good dancer in my day,
yes--yes Madam I were a good dancer. I went to dances and to church with
my folks. My father played a violin. He played well, so did my brother,
but I never did play or sing. Mammy sang a lot when she was spinning and
weaving. She sing an' that big wheel a turnin.'
"When I can read my title clear,
Up Yonder, Up Yonder, Up Yonder!
and another of her spinnin' songs was a humin:--
"The Promise of God Salvation free to give..."
"Besides helpin' on the farm, father was ferryman on the Yadkin River
for Beck. He had a boat for hire. Sometimes passengers would want to go
a mile, sometimes 30. Father died at thirty-five. He played the violin
fine. My brother played for dances, and he used to sing lots of songs:--
"Ol' Aunt Katy, fine ol' soul,
She's beatin' her batter,
In a brand new bowl...
--that was a fetchin' tune, but you see I can't even carry it. Maybe I
could think up the words of a lot of those ol' tunes but they ought to
pay well for them, for they make money out of them. I liked to go to
church and to dances both. For a big church to sing I like 'Nearer My
God to Thee'--there isn't anything so good for a big crowd to sing out
"Father died when he was thirty-five of typhoid. We all had to work
hard. I came up here in 1892--and I don't know why I should have, for
Winston-Salem was a big place. I've worked on farm and roads. My wife
died ten years ago. We adopted a girl in Tennennesee years ago, and she
takes a care of me now. She was always good to us--a good girl. Yes,
Wade Glenn proved to be not nearly so interesting as his appearance
promised. He is short; wears gold rimmed glasses; a Southern Colonel's
Mustache and Goatee--and capitals are need to describe the style! He had
his comical-serious little countenance topped off with a soft felt hat
worn at the most rakish angle. He can't carry a tune, and really is not
musical. His adopted daughter with whom he lives is rated the town's
best colored cook.
Ohio Guide, Special
August 16, 1937
DAVID A. HALL
"I was born at Goldsboro, N.C., July 25, 1847. I never knew who owned my
father, but my mother's master's name was Lifich Pamer. My mother did
not live on the plantation but had a little cabin in town. You see, she
worked as a cook in the hotel and her master wanted her to live close to
her work. I was born in the cabin in town.
"No, I never went to school, but I was taught a little by my master's
daughter, and can read and write a little. As a slave boy I had to work
in the military school in Goldsboro. I waited on tables and washed
dishes, but my wages went to my master the sane as my mother's.
"I was about fourteen when the war broke out, and remember when the
Yankees came through our town. There was a Yankee soldier by the name of
Kuhns who took charge of a Government Store. He would sell tobacco and
such like to the soldiers. He was the man who told me I was free and
then give me a job working in the store.
"I had some brothers and sisters but I do not remember them--can't tell
you anything about them.
"Our beds were homemade out of poplar lumber and we slept on straw
ticks. We had good things to eat and a lot of corn cakes and sweet
potatoes. I had pretty good clothes, shoes, pants and a shirt, the same
winter and summer.
"I don't know anything about the plantation as I had to work in town and
did not go out there very much. No, I don't know how big it was or how
many slaves there was. I never heard of any uprisings either.
"Our overseer was 'poor white-trash', hired by the master. I remember
the master lived in a big white house and he was always kind to his
slaves, so was his wife and children, but we didn't like the overseer. I
heard of some slaves being whipped, but I never was and I did not see
any of the others get punished. Yes, there was a jail on the plantation
where slaves had to go if they wouldn't behave. I never saw a slave in
chains but I have seen colored men in the chain gang since the war.
"We had a negro church in town and slaves that could be trusted could go
to church. It was a Methodist Church and we sang negro spirituals.
"We could go to the funeral of a relative and quit work until it was
over and then went back to work. There was a graveyard on the
"A lot of slaves ran away and if they were caught they were brought back
and put in the stocks until they were sold. The master would never keep
a runaway slave. We used to have fights with the 'white trash' sometimes
and once I was hit by a rock throwed by a white boy and that's what this
lump on my head is.
"Yes, we had to work every day but Sunday. The slaves did not have any
holidays. I did not have time to play games but used to watch the slaves
sing and dance after dark. I don't remember any stories.
"When the slaves heard they had been set free, I remember a lot of them
were sorry and did not want to leave the plantation. No, I never heard
of any in our section getting any mules or land.
"I do remember the 'night riders' that come through our country after
the war. They put the horse shoes on the horses backwards and wrapped
the horses feet in burlap so we couldn't hear them coming. The colored
folks were deathly afraid of these men and would all run and hide when
they heard they were coming. These 'night riders' used to steal
everything the colored people had--even their beds and straw ticks.
"Right after the war I was brought north by Mr. Kuhns I spoke of, and
for a short while I worked at the milling trade in Tiffin and came to
Canton in 1866. Mr. Kuhns owned a part in the old flour mill here (now
the Ohio Builders and Milling Co.) and he give me a job as a miller. I
worked there until the end of last year, 70 years, and I am sure this is
a record in Canton. No, I never worked any other place.
"I was married July 4, 1871 to Jennie Scott in Massillon. We had four
children but they are all dead except one boy. Our first baby--a girl
named Mary Jane, born February 21, 1872, was the first colored child
born in Canton. My wife died in 1926. No, I do not know when she was
born, but I do know she was not a slave.
"I started to vote after I came north but did not ever vote in the
south. I do not like the way the young people of today live; they are
too fast and drink too much. Yes, I think this is true of the white
children the same as the colored.
"I saved my money when I worked and when I quit I had three properties.
I sold one of these, gave one to my son, and I am living in the other.
No, I have never had to ask for charity. I also get a pension check
from, the mill where I worked so long.
"I joined church simply because I thought it would make me a better man
and I think every one should belong. I have been a member of St. Paul's
A.M.E. church here in Canton for 54 years. Yesterday (Sunday, August 15,
1937) our church celebrated by burning the mortgage. As I was the oldest
member I was one of the three who lit it, the other two are the only
living charter members. My church friends made me a present yesterday of
$100.00 which was a birthday gift. I was 90 years old the 25th of last
Hall resides at 1225 High Ave., S.W., Canton, Ohio.
MRS. CELIA HENDERSON, aged 88.
Born Hardin County, Kentucky in 1849
(drawing of Celia Henderson) [TR: no drawing found]
"Mah mammy were Julia Dittoe, an pappy, he were name Willis Dittoe. Dey
live at Louieville till mammy were sold fo' her marster's debt. She were
a powerful good cook, mammy were--an she were sol' fo to pay dat debt."
"She tuk us four chillen 'long wid her, an pappy an th' others staid
back in Louieville. Dey tuk us all on a boat de Big Ribber--evah heah ob
de big ribber? Mississippi its name--but we calls it de big ribber."
"_Natchez on de hill_--dats whaah de tuk us to. Nactchez-on-de-hill dis
side of N' Or'leans. Mammy she have eleven chillen. No 'em, don't
'member all dem names no mo'. No 'em, nevah see pappy no moah. Im
'member mammy cryin' goin' down on de boat, and us chillen a cryin' too,
but de place we got us was a nice place, nicer den what we left. Family
'o name of GROHAGEN it was dat got us. Yas'em dey was nice to mammy fo'
she was a fine cook, mammy wus. A fine cook!"
"Me? Go'Long! I ain't no sech cook as my mammy was. But mah boy, he were
a fine cook. I ain't nothin' of a cook. Yas'em, I cook fo Mis Gallagher,
an fo 4 o' de sheriffs here, up at de jail. But de fancy cookin' I ain't
much on, no'em I ain't. But mah boy an mammy now, dey was fine! Mah boy
cook at hotels and wealthy homes in Louieville 'til he died."
"Dey was cotton down dere in Natchez, but no tobacco like up here. No
'em, I nevah wuk in cotton fields. I he'p mammy tote water, hunt chips,
hunt pigs, get things outa de col' house. Dat way, I guess I went to wuk
when I wuz about 7 or 8 yeahs ol'. Chillen is sma't now, an dey hafto be
taught to wuk, but dem days us culled chillen wuk; an we had a good time
wukin' fo dey wernt no shows, no playthings lak dey have now to takey up
day time, no'em."
"Nevah no church fo' culled people does I 'member in Natchez. One time
dey was a drouth, an de water we hauls from way ovah to de rivah. Now
dat wuz down right wuk, a haulin dat water. Dey wuz an ol' man, he were
powerful in prayer, an gather de darkies unda a big tree, an we all
kneels down whilse he pray fo de po' beastes what needs good clean water
fo to drink. Dat wuz a putty sight, dat church meetin' under de big
tree. I alus member dat, an how, dat day he foun a spring wid he ol'
cane, jes' like a miracle after prayer. It were a putty sight to see mah
cows an all de cattle a trottin' fo dat water. De mens dey dug out a
round pond fo' de water to run up into outa de spring, an it wuz good
watah dat wudn't make de beastes sick, an we-all was sho' happy.'"
"Yes'em, I'se de only one of mammy's chillen livin'. She had 11 chillen.
Mah gran'na on pappy's side, she live to be one hundred an ten yeah's
ol' powerful ol' ev'y body say, an she were part Indian, gran'ma were,
an dat made her live to be ol'.
"Me? I had two husband an three chillen. Mah firs' husban die an lef' me
wid three little chillens, an mah secon' husban', he die 'bout six yeahs
ago. Ah cum heah to Lebanon about forty yeahs ago, because mah mammy
were heah, an she wanted me to come. When ah wuz little, we live nine
yeahs in Natchez on de hill. Den when de wah were ovah Mammy she want to
go back to Louieville fo her folks wuz all theah. Ah live in Louieville
til ah cum to Lebanon. All ah 'members bout de close o'de wah, wuz dat
white folks wuz broke up an po' down dere at Natchez; and de fus time ah
hears de EMANICAPTION read out dey was a lot o' prancin 'roun, an a big
"Ah seen soldiers in blue down there in Natchez on de hill, oncet ah
seen dem cumin down de road when ah were drivin mah cows up de road. Ah
wuz scared sho, an' ah hid in de bushes side o' de road til dey went by,
don' member dat mah cows was much scared though." Mammy say 'bettah hide
when you sees sojers a-marchin by, so dat time a whole line o dem cum
along and I hide."
"Down dere mammy done her cookin' outa doors, wid a big oven. Yo gits yo
fiah goin' jes so under de oven, den you shovels some fiah up on top de
oven fo to get you bakin jes right. Dey wuz big black kettles wid hooks
an dey run up an down like on pulleys ovah de oven stove. Den dere wuz
de col'house. No 'lectric ice box lak now, but a house under groun'
wheah things wuz kept jest as col' as a ice box. No'em don't 'member jes
how it were fix inside."
"Yas'em we comes back to Louieville. Yes'em mah chillen goes to school,
lak ah nevah did. Culled teachers in de culled school. Yes'em mah
chillen went far as dey could take 'em."
"Medicin? My ol' mammy were great fo herb doctorin' an I holds by dat
too a good deal, yas'em. Now-a-days you gets a rusty nail in yo foot an
has lockjaw. But ah member mammy--she put soot mix wid bacon fryin's on
mah foot when ah run a big nail inter it, an mah foot get well as nice!"
"Long time ago ah cum heah to see mammy, Ah got a terrible misery. Ah
wuz asleep a dreamin bout it, an a sayin, "Mammy yo reckon axel grease
goin' to he'p it?" Den ah wake up an go to her wheahs she's sleepin an
"What fo axel grease gointo hep?--an I tol her, an she say:--
"Axel grease put on hot, wid red flannel goin'to tak it away chile."
Ah were an ol' woman mahse'f den--bout fifty, but mammy she climb outa
bed an go out in de yard where deys an ol' wagon, an she scrapes dat
axel off, an heat it up an put it on wid red flannel. Den ah got easy!
Ah sho was thankful when dat grease an flannel got to wukin on me!
"You try it sometime when you gets one o' dem col' miseries in de winter
time. But go 'long! Folks is too sma't nowadays to use dem good ol'
medicines. Dey jes' calls de Doctor an he come an cut 'em wide open fo
de 'pendycitus--he sho do! Yas'em ah has de doctor, ef ah needs him. Ah
has de rheumatism, no pain--ah jes gets stiffer, an' stiffer right
Mah sight sho am poor now. Ah cain't wuk no mo. Ah done ironin aftah ah
quit cookin--washin an ironin, ah likes a nice wash an iron the bes fo
wuk. But lasyear mah eyes done give out on me, an dey tell me not to
worry dey gointo give me a pension. De man goes to a heap o' wuk to get
dem papers fix jes right."
"Yes 'em, I'se de on'y one o' mammy's chillen livin. Mah, gran'ma on
pappy's side, she live to be one hundred and ten yeah's ol--powerful ol
eve'ybody say. She were part Indian, gran' ma were, an dat made her to
"Yes'em, mos' I evah earn were five dollars a week. Ah gets twenty
dollars now, an pays eight dollars fo rent. We is got no mo'--ah
figgers--a wukin fo ourself den what we'd have wuz we slaves, fo dey
gives you a log house, an clothes, an yo eats all yo want to, an when
you _buys_ things, maybe you doesn't make enough to git you what you
needs, wukin sun-up to sun down. No' em 'course ah isn't wukin _now_
when you gits be de hour--wukin people does now; but ah don't know
nothin 'but that way o'doin."
"We weahs cotton cloths when ah were young, jes plain weave it were; no
collar nor cuffs, n' belt like store clothes. Den men's jes have a kinda
clothes like ... well, like a chemise, den some pantaloons wid a string
run through at de knees. Bare feet--yes'em, no shoes. Nevah need no coat
down to Natchez, no'em."
"When we comes back to Louieville on de boat, we sleeps in de straw on
de flo' o' de boat. It gits colder 'n colder! Come big chunks ol ice
down de river. De sky am dark, an hit col' an spit snow. Ah wish ah were
back dere in Natchez dat time after de war were ovah! Yes'em, ah members
"Ah wuk along wid mammy til ah were married, den ah gits on by mahsef.
Manny she come heah to Lebanon wid de Suttons--she married Sam. Sutton's
pappy. Yes 'em dey wuz about 12 o'de fambly cum heah, an ah come to see
mammy,... den ah gits me wuk, an ah stays.
"Cookin'? Yes'em, way meat is so high now, ah likes groundhog. Ground
hog is good eatin. A peddler was by wid groun' hog fo ten cents apiece.
Ground hog is good as fried chicken any day. You cleans de hog, an boils
it in salt water til its tender. Den you makes flour gravy, puts it on
after de water am drain off; you puts it in de oven wif de lid on an
bakes hit a nice brown. No 'em, don' like fish so well, nor coon, nor
possum, dey is too greasy. Likes chicken, groundhog an pork." Wid de
wild meat you wants plain boiled potatoes, yes'em Irish potatoes, sho
enough, ah heard o' eatin skunk, and muskrat, but ah ain't cookin em.
But ah tells you dat groun' hog is _good eatin_.
"Ah were Baptized by a white minister in Louieville, an' ah been a
Baptist fo' sixty yeahs now. Yes'em dey is plenty o' colored churches in
Louisville now, but when I were young, de white folks has to see to it
dat we is Baptised an knows Bible verses an' hymns. Dere want no smart
culled preachers like Reverend Williams ... an dey ain't so many now."
"Up to Xenia is de culled school, an dey is mo's smart culled folks, ol'
ones too--dat could give you-all a real story if you finds dem. But me,
ah cain't read, nor write, and don't member's nuthin fo de War no good."
Celia is very black as to complexion; tall spare; has small grey eyes.
In three long interviews she has tried very hard to remember for us from
her youth and back through the years; it seems to trouble her that she
cannot remember more. Samuel Sutton's father married her mother. Neither
she or Samuel had the kind of a story to tell that I was expecting to
hear from what little I know about colored people. I may have tried to
get them on the songs and amusements of their youth too often, but it
seems that most that they knew was work; did not sing or have a very
good time. Of course I thought they would say that slavery was terrible,
but was surprised there too. Colored people here are used to having
white people come for them to work as they have no telephones, and most
white people only hire colored help by the day or as needed. Celia and
Samuel, old age pensioners, were very apoligetic because they are no
longer able to work.
WPA in Ohio
Federal Writers' Project
Bishop & Isleman
Jefferson County, District #5
July 6, 1937
Ex-Slave, 79 years
I was born in Loudon County, Virginny, Feb. 6, 1858. My mother's name
was Betsy Jackson. My father's name was Henry Jackson. Dey were slaves
and was born right der in Loudon County. I had 16 brothers and sisters.
All of dem is dead. My brothers were Henry, Richard, Wesley, John and
me; Sisters were Annie, Marion, Sarah Jane, Elizabeth, Alice, Cecila and
Meryl. Der were three other chillun dat died when babies.
I can remember Henry pullin' me out of de fire. I've got scars on my leg
yet. He was sold out of de family to a man dat was Wesley McGuest.
Afterwards my brother was taken sick with small-pox and died.
We lived on a big plantation right close to Bloomfield, Virginny. I was
born in de storeroom close to massa's home. It was called de weavin'
room--place where dey weaved cotton and yarn. My bed was like a little
cradle bed and dey push it under de big bed at day time.
My grandfather died so my mother told me, when he was very old. My
grandmother died when se bout 96. She went blind fore she died. Dey were
My father was owned by John Butler and my grandmother was owned by Tommy
Humphries. Dey were both farmers. My massa joined de war. He was killed
right der where he lived.
When my father wanted to cum home he had to get a permit from his massa.
He would only cum home on Saturday. He worked on de next plantation
joinin' us. All us chillun and my mother belonged to Massa Humphries.
I worked in de garden, hoein' weeds and den I washed dishes in de
kitchen. I never got any money.
I eat fat pork, corn bread, black molasses and bad milk. The meat was
mostly boiled. I lived on fat meat and corn bread. I don't remember
eatin' rabbit, possum or fish.
De slaves on our plantation did not own der own garden. Dey ate
vegetables out of de big garden.
In hot weather I wore gean pants and shirt. De pants were red color and
shirt white. I wore heavy woolen clothes in de winter. I wore little
britches wid jacket fastened on. I went barefooted in de summer.
De mistress scold and beat me when I was pullin' weeds. Sometimes I
pulled a cabbage stead of weed. She would jump me and beat me. I can
remember cryin'. She told me she had to learn me to be careful. I
remember the massa when he went to war. He was a picket in an apple
tree. A Yankee soldier spied and shot him out of de tree.
I remember Miss Ledig Humphries. She was a pretty girl and she had a
sister Susie. She married a Mr. Chamlain who was overseer. Der were
Robert and Herbert Humphries. Dey were older dan me. Robert wuz about 15
years old when de war surrender.
De one that married Susie was de overseer. He was pretty rough. I don't
remember any white neighbors round at dat time.
Der were 450 acres of de plantation. I can't remember all de slaves. I
know der were 80, odd slaves.
Lots of mornings I would go out hours fore daylight and when it was cold
my feet would 'most freeze. They all knew dey had to get up in de
mornin'. De slaves all worked hard and late at night.
I heerd some say that the overseer would take dem to de barn. I remember
Tom Lewis. Then his massa sold him to our massa he told him not to let
the overseer whip him. The overseer said he would whip him. One day Tom
did something wrong. The overseer ordered him to de barn. Tom took his
shirt off to get ready for de whippin' and when de overseer raised de
whip Tom gave him one lick wid his fist and broke de overseer's neck.
Den de massa sold Tom to a man by de name of Joseph Fletcher. He stayed
with old man Fletcher til he died.
Fore de slaves were sold dey were put in a cell place til next day when
dey would be sold. Uncle Marshall and Douglas were sold and I remember
dem handcuffed but I never saw dem on de auction block.
I never knew nothin' bout de Bible til after I was free. I went to
school bout three months. I was 19 or 20 years old den.
My uncle Bill heard dey were goin' to sell him and he run away. He went
north and cum back after de surrender. He died in Bluemont, Virginny,
bout four years ago.
After de days work dey would have banjo pickin', singin' and dancin'.
Dey work all day Saturday and Saturday night those dat had wives to see
would go to see dem. On Sunday de would sit around.
When Massa was shot my mother and dem was cryin'.
When Slaves were sick one of the mammies would look after dem and dey
would call de doctor if she couldn't fix de sick.
I remember de big battle dey fought for four days on de plantation. That
was de battle of Bull Run. I heard shootin' and saw soldiers shot down.
It was one of de worst fights of de war. It was right between Blue Ridge
and Bull Run mountain. De smoke from de shootin' was just like a fog. I
saw horses and men runnin' to de fight and men shot off de horses. I
heard de cannon roar and saw de locust tree cut off in de yard. Some of
de bullets smashed de house. De apple tree where my massa was shot from
was in de orchard not far from de house.
De Union Soldiers won de battle and dey camped right by de house. Dey
helped demselves to de chickens and cut their heads off wid their
swords. Dey broke into de cellar and took wine and preserves.
After de war I worked in de cornfield. Dey pay my mother for me in food
and clothes. But dey paid my mother money for workin' in de kitchen.
De slaves were awful glad bout de surrender.
De Klu Klux Klan, we called dem de paroles, dey would run de colored
people, who were out late, back home. I know no school or church or land
for negroes. I married in Farguar [HW: Farquhar] Co., state of Virginny,
in de county seat. Dat was in 1883. I was married by a Methodist
preacher in Leesburg. I did not get drunk, but had plenty to drink. We
had singin' and music. My sister was a religious woman and would not
I have fourteen chillun. Four boys are livin' and two girls. All are
married. George, my oldest boy graduated from grade school and de next
boy. I have 24 grandchillun and one great grandson. John, my son is
sickly and not able to work and my daughter, Mamie has nine chillun to
support. Her husband doesn't have steady work.
The grandchillun are doin' pretty well.
I think Abraham Lincoln was a fine man. It was put in his mind to free
de colored people. Booker T. Washington was alright.
Henry Logan, a colored man that lives near Bridgeport, Ohio is a great
man. He is a deacon in de Mt. Zion Baptist church. He is a plasterer and
liked by de colored and white people.
I think it wuz a fine thing that slavery was finished. I don't have a
thing more than my chillun and dey are all poor. (A grandchild nearby
said, "We are as poor as church mice".) My chillun are my best friends
and dey love me.
I first joined church at Upperville, Virginny. I was buried under de
water. I feel dat everybody should have religion. Dey get on better in
dis life, and not only in dis life but in de life to cum.
My overseer wuz just a plain man. He wasn't hard. I worked for him since
the surrender and since I been a man. I was down home bout six yares ago
and met de overseer's son and he took me and my wife around in his
My wife died de ninth of last October (1936). I buried her in Week's
cemetery, near Bridgeport, Ohio. We have a family burial lot there. Dat
where I want to be buried, if I die around here.
Description of GEORGE JACKSON [TR: original "Word Picture" struck out]
George Jackson is about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 145 lbs. He has
not done any manual labor for the past two years. He attends church
regularly at the Mt. Zion Baptist church. As he only attended school
about four months his reading is limited. His vision and hearing is fair
and he takes a walk everyday. He does not smoke, chew or drink
His wife, Malina died October 9, 1936 and was buried at Bridgeport,
Ohio. He lives with his daughter-in-law whose husband forks for a junk
dealer. The four room house that they rent for $20 per month is in a bad
state of repairs and is in the midst of one of the poorest sections of
WPA in Ohio
Federal Writers' Project
Written by Bishop & Isleman
Edited by Albert I. Dugen [TR: also reported as Dugan]
Jefferson County, District #2
PERRY SID JEMISON [TR: also reported as Jamison]
Ex-Slave, 79 years
(Perry Sid Jemison lives with his married daughter and some of his
grand-children at 422 South Sixth Street, Steubenville, O.)
"I wuz borned in Perry County, Alabama! De way I remember my age is, I
was 37 years when I wuz married and dat wuz 42 years ago the 12th day of
last May. I hed all dis down on papers, but I hab been stayin' in
different places de last six years and lost my papers and some heavy
insurance in jumpin' round from place to place.
"My mudders name wuz Jane Perry. Father's name wuz Sid Jemison. Father
died and William Perry was mudders second husband.
"My mudder wuz a Virginian and my father was a South Carolinian. My
oldest brodder was named Sebron and oldest sister wuz Maggie. Den de
next brudder wuz William, de next sister wuz named Artie, next Susie.
Dats all of dem.
"De hol entire family lived together on the Cakhoba river, Perry County,
Alabama. After dat we wuz scattered about, some God knows where.
"We chillun played 'chicken me craner crow'. We go out in de sand and
build sand houses and put out little tools and one thing and another in
"When we wuz all together we lived in a log hut. Der wuz a porch in
between and two rooms on each side. De porch wuz covered over--all of it
wuz under one roof.
"Our bed wuz a wooden frame wid slats nailed on it. We jus had a common
hay mattress to sleep on. We had very respectable quilts, because my
mudder made them. I believe we had better bed covers dem days den we hab
"My grandmother wuz named Snooky and my grandfather Anthony. I thought
der wasn't a better friend in all de world den my grandmother. She would
do all she could for her grandchildren. Der wuz no food allowance for
chillun that could not work and my grandmother fed us out of her and my
mudders allowance. I member my grandmudder giving us pot-licker, bread
and red syrup.
"De furst work I done to get my food wuz to carry water in de field to
de hands dat wuz workin'. De next work after dat, wuz when I wuz large
enough to plow. Den I done eberything else that come to mind on de farm.
I neber earned money in dem slave days.