Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Albert Cox age 90
Albert Cox, ex-slave lives around with his children, mostly near Pinola Mississippi, in Simpson County. He was born about the year 1851, was owned during slavery time by Charlie Cox. He weighs about one hundred and fourty five pounds, and is about five feet and five inches in height. His general coloring is a dark redish brown with snowy white hair from age. He is in very good health and as active as could be expected for his years. This is what he tells of his life.
"Marse Charlie Cox owned me in slavery time, dats why I goes by de name ob Cox now. You all knows us didn't hab no other name, sos us was jes' knowed by our masters name. Now I jes' some how don't recollect whar Marse bought my pa and ma from. We didnt have no schooling an' had no way a setting things down to recollect an' I jes' never did keep much in my head.
"Marse Charlie owned a heap o' other slaves 'sides me an' my folks, 'pears ter me lak deir was 'bout two hundred a counting de little uns long side ob em. I know one thing deir was a powerful heap ob 'em. Dey lived in little one room log cabins wid dirt an straw chimneys. All de chillun slept on de flo' on pallets. Now in de day time dey was fed an' looked after by de slave cooks while de grown folks was a wuking in de fiels.
Us sho' didnt dress much. We wore long, loose, home spun shirts an' no mo'. No, us didnt git cole in de winter time, if us did us jes' put on another shirt. We went lak dat till us was 'bout fifteen years ole den us went to wearing pants dat was made deir at home too.
"De winters was colder back in dem days den dey is now. We had one hard freeze rite after de other. De ponds would freeze so thick till we could skate an' run clean across 'em. Snow would fall an' civer up de whole creation an' stay on fer days at de time. We would play in it, make snow mans an' roll big snow balls. At times de trees would git so heavy wid ice till dey would go to breaking. Dat would sound lak a army of guns a shooting. Den in de change ob seasons birds would fly over lak big dark clouds a rising.
"We growed up 'bout lak a bunch of birds or calves, but we was as healthy as we could be, wont hardly ever sick none. Our ole black mamys' done mos' ob de doctoring if we did git sick a little. I can tas' de pinetop tea an' stuff dey would make from roots an' herbs. Dey knowed how to make all kinds ob poltices to ease pains an' ter make swelling an' fever go down. Dese was made from peach tree leaves an' clay an' vinegar an' a heap o' other things. Now if we got plumb sho' nuf sick marse he would send fer de Doctor lak he done fer his own chillun. De black mamys help to doctor hisn too. Us dreaded de Doctor fer he gib pills an' tonics.
"The things we laked to play bes' was marbles, swinging an' hoss. Us would run an' play hoss till us would be nigh mos' tired down. We sho' did look funny a running in dem shirts wid 'em jes a flying.
"Us et at Marse Charlie's house at de big kitchen dat was a setting way off ter one side. Us et mostly peas, taters, poke, turnip greens, corn bread made in pones an' egg bread, an' pot liquor. Fer breakfas' us mos' an' generally had hot biscuits an' lasses.
"Sometimes de slaves was whipped when dey was a bit on ruly. Den some times one would run off an' hide in de woods. Dey would go hunt 'em up an' ifn dey didnt find 'em purty soon, he'd mosly alwas come back.
"I done general wuk round de place an' I wuked in de fiels some, doing sich as hoeing, picking cotton an' de lak. Marse Charlie, he raised a heap o' cotton, corn, some wheat an' tobacco an' all kinds ob small food stuff to feed de slaves on. Deir was alwas plenty found ter keep de slaves busy as deir was so many to be feed an' kept up wid clo'se an' mos' every thing had to be made by hand at home.
"Us or our pa's an' ma's couldnt read or write, so us had to jes' learn from tales dat was tole an' things us would see an' hear. Mos' all de darkies believed in signs an' haints an' hoodoo. Every crook an' turn meant some 'un, de way de roosters crowed or how de wind blowed an all kinds of curious things. We made up our own tales an' songs. Some ob 'em was purty too sung out in de fiel' or in de moon lit 'round de cabins. Dis is one I recollects "Hark from de shepherds voice I hear Out in de desert we air gwine astray. We tried to have religion. We sung an' prayed an' shouted all us could an' sung songs in de fiels' about loving de Lord. Ole Time Religion was a favorite amongist us.
"Folks den come 'long an' stirred up de war. As us slaves couldnt read nuthing, we didn't know only what us heard an' was tole to believe. We was tole we would git land an' homes an sich lak, but we never did. We never did know all through de war 'zactly what to believe. I do know we was alwas' scared ob de Yankees an' would run when we seed 'em a marching through. We was scared ob all de Cavalarymen, an' later ob de Klu Klux Klan. It peared lak deir was all kind ob turrible things to keep de niggers scared an up sot.
"After de war ended I stayed on wid Marse Charlie fer 'bout fifteen years. I was a wuking fer him an' he was a paying me wages. I lak never lef' him. I sho' did lak to stay wid Marse, but I finally lef' an' faced de world fer myself.
"I got married when I was bout twenty years ole. I didnt hab no special romance or courting I jes' knowed I loved dat gal an' she knowed she loved me an' we uped one day an' married. We lived happy together fer several years an' she died an' I married again.
"My chillun has had a lot easier time den I had an dey has had some book learning. I is glad to see de younger generation of colored people a getting advantages an' chances fer education.
"I has alwas' farmed an' wuked hard an' done de bes' I could. I liked to hunt an' fish an' ride bout to big meetings an' singings. I lakes de big dinners dey alwas' spread. An' I hopes to be ready to go when de las call come.
Alex Cox was hired by his owner to S. A. Rodgers fifteen years prior to the War Between the States. During that war he was foreman of the Rodgers slaves, was loyal to the family stayed on after the surrender, raised a large family and has been dead about fifteen years (1937). He was 90 years of age when he died. (1)
Interviewer: S. S. Rodgers, Noxapater, MS
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi