Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Born in Slavery

My own Mammy, Mary, was the master's own daughter. Master told all the slave drivers to leave her alone and not whip her. This made the overseers jealous of her and caused trouble. John Sanders was one of the white overseers who treated her bad, and after I was born and got strong enough (I was a weakling for three-four years after birth), to do light chores he would whip me just for the fun of it. It was fun for him but not for me. I hoped to whip him when I grew up. That is the one thing I won't ever forget. He died about the end of the War so that's one thing I won't ever get to do. --Salomon Oliver

The master of the house was better to us than the mistress. We didn't have to work very hard, because we was so young, I guess. We cut weeds along the fences, pulled weeds in the garden and helped the mistress with the hoeing. We had to feed the stock, sheep, hogs, and calves, because the young masters wouldn't do the work. In the evening we were made to knit a finger width and if we missed a stitch we would have to pull all the yarn out and do it over. The master's girls taught us to read and write. We didn't have hardly any clothes and most of the time they was just rags. We went barefoot until it got real cold. Our feet would crack open from the cold and bleed. We would sit down bawl and cry because it hurt so. Mother made moccasins for our feet from old pants. Late in the fall master would go to Hannibal or Palmyra and bring us shoes and clothes. We got those things only once a year. I had to wear the young master's overalls for underwear and linseys for a dress. --Emma Knight

I was owned by Charles Mitchell until I was 15 years old. They were fairly nice to all of their slaves and they had several of us. I only got whipped once in the whole 15 years there. (That was because I was working in the garden with one of the owner's daughters and I pulled up something that she did not want pulled up, so she up and slapped me for it. I got so mad at her, I [chased her into the house] and of course I got whipped for that.) I did not even have to sleep in the cabins. I slept on a pallet in the bedrooms with old marse's children. I was a pet anywhere I worked, because I was always very neat and clean, and a good worker. When I was 15 years old, I was brought to the courthouse, put up on the auction block to be sold....for $1500. That broke my father's heart.... --Delicia Patterson

I's hear tell of dem good slave days but I ain't nev'r seen no good times den.... I recollects once when I was tryin' to clean de house like old miss tell me, I finds a biscuit and I's so hungry I et it, 'cause we nev'r see sich a thing as a biscuit only some times on Sunday mornin'. We jes have corn braid and syrup and some times fat bacon, but when I et dat biscuit and she comes in and say, "Whar dat biscuit?" I say, "Miss, I et it 'cause I's so hungry." Den she grab dat broom and start to beatin' me over de head wid it... and I guess I jet' clean lost my head 'cause I know'd better dan to fight her if I knowed anything 'tall, but I start to fight her and de driver, he comes in and he grabs me and starts beatin' me wid dat cat-o'-nine-tails, and he beats me 'til I fall to the floor nearly dead. He cut my back all to pieces, den dey rubs salt in de cuts for mo' punishment. Lawd, Lawd, honey! Dem was awful days. When de ole marster come to de house he say, "What you beat dat nigger like dat for?" And the driver tells him why, and he say, "She can't work now for a week...." He sho' was mad and he tell ole miss she start de whole mess. I still got dem scars on my ole back right now, jes' like my grandmother have when she die and I's a-carryin' mine right on to do grave jes' like she did. --Jenny Proctor

Husbands allays went to de woods when dey know de wives was due fo' a whippin', but in de fiel' dey dare not leave. Had to stay dere, not darin' even to look like dey didn't like it. Charlie Jones was one slave dat had his wife workin' in de same fiel' wid him [planting tobacco in Virginia].... Annie was big wid chile an' gittin' near her time, so one day she made a slip an' chopped a young shoot down. Old man Diggs, de overseer, come runnin' up screamin' at her an' it made her mo' nervous, an' she chopped off 'nother one. Ole overseer lif' up dat rawhide an' beat Annie 'cross de back an shoulders 'till she fell to de groun'. An' Charlie he jus' stood dere hearin' his wife scream an' astarin' at de sky, not darin' to look at her or even say a word. --Jordan Johnson

Grandma said slaves had to pick so many pounds of cotton a day, and they were given an awful whippin' if they didn't get this amount. My grandma said she was small and just couldn't get her proper amount, but was jolly and always ran to get water for the other slaves when they wanted it. At the end of the day one of the men would tell another, "Give that little gal five pounds of cotton, She's all right." When they evened her up, she wouldn't get a beatin', but lots of time she would come up short and would have to take the whippin'. All the slaves who had fallen short had to stand in line with their backs bare for their whippin'. Grandma said that often she was whipped until she could barely grunt. --W.P. Jacobs


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