Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Julia Cox, ex-slave, born about 1850 and owned in slave days by Joel Williams, now lives five miles east of Braxton on the old Janesville road.
Julia Cox is the wife of Tony Cox, who is also an old ex-slave. She is tall and slinder. Her black face is emphasised by large white teeth, white hair and big eyes. She dresses plain and comfortable and likes to talk of slave days.
"My father and mudder was owned by Mr. Joel Williams who owned a big plantation wid a bunch of slaves. Mars was kind to his slaves. He was one ob de bes' men I ebber knowd. Us was treated kind had plenty o' grub and good cabins to live in. They was small and built in a row back ob mar's big house. All our clo'es was spun, wove and made by hand by de slaves on de plantation. Us' shoes was made deir too. Us was gib two pairs a year and dey had to las' us, which they mos' and generally alwas' did 'cause yo' couldn't hardly wear dat kind out, and us went barefooted de biggest portion ob de time.
In de winter when hit was cold us little niggers was fed 'round de big fire place in de kitchen. I can see dat sight yet, ob dat big kitchen wid a big log fire a burning in de fire place. When we come in we all set down, mos' ob de time in a big half circle before de fire as hungry as little wolves. Den de slave cook would bring big bowls of food an' set down afore us. Us would dive into 'em wid spoons and eat till de las' crumb was gone. In de summer us was fed in Mars' back yard under de trees. Late in de evenin' afore time fer de field slaves to be fed us was called in an' fed sos we'd be out ob de way afore time fer dem. We mos' ob de time was gib large bowls ob creamy sweet milk wid bread broke up in hit. Dey had what dey called dairies in de back yard to keep de milk in. Dey was little booths lack built on long legs. De milk was kept in dem out under de shade ob big trees to keep de milk cool. Our bread was brung from de kitchen in big pones, de milk took from de dairies an' mixed in de bowls an' fed to us in de back yard.
My master had a big family ob gals, an' he gib each one ob dem a maid. I was maid to Miss Vicky. I sho' did like her. She was purty and easy to please. I ust to love to iron and lay out her purty dresses, dey was all full ob laces, ruffles, and ribbons, and den her curls and big blue eyes would set dem off. One morning when I go up to her room she didn't git up lack she always did, tole me her head was a aching and that she won't a feeling well. I stayed wid her, toted her cool water and dainties and tried to git her to eat. Den de Doctor he come. De fust thing I knowed he would go down from her room and shake his head. I'd go off to our cabin and cry. One nite she died and I was a lonely little nigger after dey took her to de grave yard on de hill. I us to go up deir an' put red an' white roses, that she loved, in vases on her grave. After her died I was afraid I would be sont to de fields, but her sister she liked me and took me fer her maid.
As I said, our master was kind to he's slaves an' wouldn't allow de overseers to whip 'em if he knowed 'bout hit. A big level field would be filled wid de slaves an' when de overseer wont out deir wid 'em dey would sing and pray. Dats when de niggers done deir shoutin' and worshipping an' when lef' alone would sing, shout and pray to deir hearts content. Sometimes mighty purty songs would be sung. Dey mos' always made 'em up as dey go an' singing 'em lack niggers do.
One ob de wust things I had to bear as a slave was when my brudder Charlie was sole'. He was a strong an' valuable slave. One day at a auction mars was offered a big sum ob money fer him, so he was sole an' us ain't never from dat day eber seen brudder Charlie or knowed what become ob him. Us has wondered all dese years if he is alive or what was his fate, but till de jidgement day us will never know.
Den de war come on an' us had a mighty hard time. De Yankees would come through an' take eber thing us had to eat an' burn an' destroy what dey couldn't take off wid 'em. I have helped drive de cows off an' hide 'em when we'd hear 'em coming. Us would herd 'em up an' chase an' run wid 'em fer hours tryin' to keep 'em hid.
Anuder worry us had was when mar's son had to go to de war. We loved him, he was kind to us, we had played wid him all our lives. After he lef' an' jined de Army, eber time a troop ob soldiers would happen to march near Mar's plantation wid deir canteens on deir backs an' a toteing deir long guns, if dey was grey boys we would climb up on de fence to watch an' see if we could see John. When he would have a furlow and come home fer a few day, Mars would go to de back ob de house, coop he's hands over he's mouth and yell, "All my little niggers come see my little boy." We went a running, swarmin' in lack bees and climb all over him. He would play wid us an' swing us 'round till us would be a staggering all ober de yard. After us git over de excitement ob a seeing him den he would tell us tales ob de war, ob how dey would fight, camp and march. Now us set 'round an' took in eber word.
When de war ended an' us was freed we hated to leave our master, but had to make life for ourselves. When I growed up I got married. My husband died several years later den I married Joel about twenty years ago. Us is living out our lives together and often think 'bout how us wish us was a belonging to ole mars now to take care o' us.
Interviewed by: Unknown
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi