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Slave Narratives

Interviewer: Unknown
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
For the MSGenWeb Hinds County

Mississippi Narratives
Prepared by
The Federal Writer’s Project ofThe Works Progress Administration

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From the WPA Slave Narratives:

Temple Wilson

Temple Wilson, ex-slave lives near Jackson Mississippi in Hinds County with her children. She was born about 1857, was owned during slavery time by Jim Percow in Madison County. She weighs about one hundred and fifty five pounds and is about five feet and two or three inches in height. Her general coloring is a dusky brown, with hair white from age. Her health is very good and she is active considering her years. She tells this story of her life.

"My pa was brought from South Carolina years ago. He was bought from a slave trader an' brung down here to Mississippi in a civered wagon over long rough roads. He said it sho' did take a long time to make de trip, an' he laked to tell how dey would camp out in de woods under de stars. Some times dey would git tired an' find a good camping spot an' stay deir fer a day or mo an' res' up. While dey would be deir dey would hunt to have some game meat to take 'long de way.

"Pa hadn't been down here long fo he met ma an' got to courting her. He said dey wont much to courtships in dem days as it was wuk mos' all de time. Dey jes kinda knowed when dey laked each other an de fust chance de boy would tell de gal, den dey would git married in de usual way ob de darkies. Dis was by gitting de consent of deir Masters an'

dat was bout all deir was to it. Dey didn't buy license an' marry lak dey do now. Sometimes dey would cook up a heap o' good grub an' dance an' frolic a bit, but if it was during de hard wuking parts ob de year, an' dat was mos' all de time, den dey jes went on wid out de frolicing part.

"De colored folks mos' alwas' went to meeting at de white folks' meeting house. Dey sat in de back part an' some ob 'em had to keep a waiting on de white folks, sich as toting 'em water an a tending to de chilluns. De darkies laked to git off to deir selves an worship. Dey would go to a vacant house or off in de woods an' have services. Dey would seperate de folks by putting de men an boys on one side an' de women an' gals on de other. Den dey would preach an' sing. De songs was ole ones lak "Ole Time Religeon an' De Ole Ship O' Zion an' some dat dey made up de words an' de tunes. One ob dese dat I can recollect my pappy an' mamy a singing went lak dis

What is dat a coming?

Who is dat a coming?

Who is dat a coming?

It looks lak Jesus,

It looks lak Jesus,

It looks lak Jesus,

Oh, Oh, Oh,

Another one went lak dis

God is my shepherd I cannot want

He lives in my house my brethern

He lives in my house my brethern

He lives in my house my brethern

We are in Beaulah land.

Dey sung de Ole Ship O' Zion, lak dis.

Ole Ship O' Zion come here

Ole ship o' Zion come here

Ole ship o' Zion come here

Halleluiah she has landed

And will land ever more.

De colored folks was taught in de white folks church to obey deir ole Marse an' deir Ole Missus, an' when dey jined de Church dey had to promise de preacher dat dey would obey deir Marse's.

"My pappy an' mamy died when I was a real little chap an' I was raised up by de white folks. My master owned a plantation ob bout a hundred an' fifty acres, an had bout thirty slaves. He owned mo' land den dat but he had bout dat much under cultivation. He had a heap in pasture an' timber land. De pastures was full o' horses cows an' hogs; an de barn yards was full o' chickens geese an' turkeys. De fiels was full o' cotton, corn, peas an' taters an' all kinds ob food stuff a growing. De barns an' hay stacks was piled high.

"Marse Jim lived in a big white house which was kept shining an' spotless by slave girls fer servents an' nurses. De cooking was all done in de big kitchen, sot off from de main part ob de house. Slave womens done de cooking an' de serving fer Marse's folks an' all de slaves. De cabins fer de darkies was built back of Marse's. Dey had one room wid a straw an' mud chimney. De chilluns mos'ly slept on de flo'.

"De darkies was sont to wuk by de break o' day an' wuked till nite. Marse Jim wanted plenty o' wuk done, but he was kind an' fed an' clo'sed well. Now mos' everything was made rite deir on de plantation an' caused a heap o' wuk dat folks dont know nuthing 'bout dese days. Deir was spinning an' weaving to be done, an fust de seed had to picked from de cotton by hand. Dey had to make de dye to dye de cloth wid. Soap, candles, cheese an' all kinds o' things had to be made by hand.

"De slaves wont educated, dey was jes' taught how to wuk an' how to treat white folks. A darkie back in dem days sho' knowed his manners an' how to be polite. Dey was taught how to wait on de sick an' sich lak.

"Now everything was stirred up fer a long spell fo' de war to free us come on. It was talked an' threatened an' all kinds o' bad signs pinted to war, till at las' dey jes' knowed it was bound to come on. De slaves wont allowed to read a thing rit on a piece o' paper. Of course dey wont much danger o' dat as sich a few could read no how. Dey wont allowed to talk to strangers for fear dey would be tole things by de Yankees. De white folks was up sot over de fear o' loosing all deir slaves. In spite o' everything it got floated 'round dat de slaves was to be freed an' sometimes hear dat dey would git home or land or mules an' de lak, but as things always go during war times nobody knows jes' what to expect. De niggers was afraid o' de yankees an' after de war broke but would run when us seed a troop ob 'em a marchin' thro.

Some ob de owners kept deir slaves on de plantation all thro' de war a wukin' em, den some ob de Masters had to go to war an' deir places would go down. Some ob 'em would git scart an' refuge 'em to Alabama or Lusiana.

During de war de cavalery would go thro' a lookin' fer deserters an' again dey would go thro' to rob 'em an' destroy everything. De whole country was mos' ruint by 'em, it took years after it was all over wid to git things kinda fixed back. When de white folks would see 'em a comin' dey would try to hide things from 'em. Dey would send de good horses off to de woods an' hide de clo'se an' food.

De winter times was powerful cole in dem war time days. De folks jes' nearly froze to death. De lakes all froze up an' de snow would fall so deep till everything would be civered fer days. Dem deseases broke out an caused a heap o' dyin' an' sufferin' an' food got scarce an' folks all had to go hungry. Everybody knowed dat was de way de war was won, de South was jes starved out.

"After de war come to de close an' us was freed, it seemed lak freedom was de worse thing dat could happen to us, 'specially to some. De colored folks didn't know how to take care o' dem selves, jes snatched from savages into slavery an' den freed, wid no book learnin' nor money nor nothin' an' sot down in de South land whar everything was ruint fer any body. Well, deir was years o' hard times fer us a tryin' to git settled an' a place to stay an' wuk. Den de Ku Klux Klan a flyin' thro de country in dem long white scary lookin' robes a whippin' an' takin' a hand in every way de darkies turnt.

"Some ob de Masters turnt deir slaves a loose while others had to be made to. Some wuked 'em fer wages. It jes' depended on who owned 'em. Its jes' lak dis, some folks will treat yo' right an' some won't. I liked my ole Marse an' stayed wid him till I was nineteen years ole, den he died.

I married purty soon afterwards. Me an' my ole man home steaded a little farm an' built a little log cabin on it. It didn't cos' nothing to build it as de logs was cut off de lan' an' put together wid pegs. De windows was wooden shutters hung wid cowhide hinges, an' de chimney was made outen dirt an' straw. We made our tables, chairs an' cupboards an' us swept de flo' wid straw brooms. In other way, when we needed anything we jes' up an' made it.

"We sont our chillun to school a little. Dey can all read an' write, an' dey was allus sont to Church. Dey made purty good farmers an' is doin' fairly well.

"Now I thinks wid de advantages an' learnin de folks ob now a days has dey ought to could do better. I'se glad I lived to see de day ob paved roads an' automobiles an' airplanes an' electricity. I lakes to see my race wid education an' progress an' hopes dey keeps gwine on.


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