Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Emily Dixon age 108
Emily Dixon, ex-slave is about one hundred and eight years old and belonged to Ras Dixon of Westville Mississippi. She now lives three and one half miles west of D'Lo, on the old highway 49.
Aunt Emily Dixon was born about 1829. She does not know her exact age, some believe her age to be one hundred and ten, others claim she is a hundred and five. She believes her age to be one hundred and eight, because of a record of her brother's who was two years her senior, he has been dead for years. She was very fond of this brother and speaks of him frequently in her conservation.
Aunt Emily's head is snowy white, and tied up with a larg white cloth, with tiny white kinks peeping from beneath the "head rag", as the negroes call them which gives her an icy, frosty appearence. She is medium size and stooped but very little, her face is broad and remarkably full for her age. It is astonishing to note that she is active and her face scarcely rinkled, has almost perfect hearing, as she cannot read her sparkling black eyes serves her unaided by glasses; she chews her tobaco with toothless gums. Her large caloused hands show unmistakable signs of years of hard work. She greets every one with a smile and a hearty hand shake. While seated under the shade of huge oak trees, surrounded by her flowers she loves, makes a picture that is fast fading away. When conversing with her, you have the feeling that you have suddenly stepped into another age. Her quaint appearence and talk, conveys the idea that she is a relic of days gone by.
This is her experience in her own words. "If yo' wants my story, I'se gwine ter tell hit jes' lack hit is. No use tellin' no lies, or polishin' up nothin'. My mudder was raised by her mistress and nursed by one ob de slave women, her mudder was sold away from her when she was a little baby. My mudder loved us' mistress an' when she died, I can recollect yit how ma whooped and hollered. Ole Missus was kinder ter me den ma was. She ust make her quit whipping me fer ma beat me to hard. De onliest time Misus eber whipped me was wid a straw.
We lived in a small cottage in Mar's yard. He was some kind of a officer I guess as he kept de jail and fed de prisoners. Dat was one ob my fust duties, was takin' food to dem. De jail house wont good lack dey is now, somebody was alwas breaking out, dat stirred up a heap ob excitement, de men would git out de horses an' run 'em, hunt 'em an' shoot 'em all over de woods.
My fust play dat I can recollect was 'round de ole hickory-nut trees. Dey gibs a child a heap o' pleasure. Did yo' eber take time ter think jist what a hickory-nut tree is to chillun? Deir's de shade ter play under, de tree ter climb, de big limbs ter hang swings from, de leaves ter pin tergether wid pine straw ter make dresses an' hats, de nuts ter eat an' throw at each uder, if yo' all wants ter fight, I'se hit a many a little nigger on de head wid 'em. Den yo' can hide 'hind de trunks in playin' hide an' seek, or hab hit fer de base. I hab had my fun under de ole hickory-nut tree.
Mars had a heap o' horses an' mules dat made up my next wuk as a slave gal. When I growed up a bit, me an' my brudder had ter drive de mules ter water an' to an' from de pastures. We crossed de streams what eber de mules did. If deir won't no foot-log we waded, if hit was to deep us would swim. On one ob dese trips, I was jist a strip ob a gal. Me an' my brudder an' de mules was gwine through a dark swamp 'bout dusk, de clouds was a hangin' low an' heavy. Deir didnt seem ter be no air. Us could hear de rollin' thunder comin' nearer, de lightenin was a flashing fast, lighting up de woods, den leavin' 'em darker an' darker. Us was a gitting scared. De mules had sinced a comin' storm an' had trotted on an lef' us. Me an' brudder got ter lookin' back an' wonderin' what was eber where. A owl hooted, a big black bird flew low ober us' heads (which was a bad sign) de bird flew 'shriekin' on deeper in de woods, den hit thundered loud and rumbly, a drop or or two ob rain fell on us. Right den an' deir us heard a ghost, yes, us did hear it." I knowed us did. Hit was a walkin' quick an' loud. Us looked back as us hasened up, but neber could see hit, but de fust thing us knowed hit seemed ter be a walkin' all 'round us, us sho' did run so fast no ghos' could cotch us. Us run a mile afore us dared ter stop. Now den, dats de onliest ghos' I eber did see an' I jis heard it.
I was a spirited chap, me an' my brudder would fight when de oder chillun meddled up wid us. One thing I was a bit curious and quar 'bout, was my clo'se, I neber did want any ob de res' to wear my dresses, or wanted 'em ter make me wear any body elses' dress. If any ob de chillun wore my dress, I ketch 'em off an' me an' brudder would fight 'em, if dey tole on us, us fight 'em again.
During de slave time us had ter wuk long hard hours in de cotton and corn fields. When de war come on, us had ter walk miles ter spin an knit. On Sundays us would git tergether in de woods an' have worship. Us could go to de white folks' church but us wanted ter go whar we could sing all de way through an' hum 'long an' shout, yo' all know, jist turn loose lak.
When I growed up ter be a young slave gal, I wuked hard but I had a good time gwine wid de boys. I walked 'bout wid 'em, went ter dances an' danced wid 'em. I thought a heap o'
times I was in love but was fraid ter git married, 'cause I feared on or tother ob us might be sold. Den I neber wanted no man a beatin' me up, so I raised my six chillun wid out de fears and worries ob bein' married. I'd seed heart broken wives stan' by wid babies in deir arms while deir husbands was led up to de cross roads wid uders, where hundreds ob speculators would be a waitin' ter buy 'em. Long lines ob men, women, boys and gals would be drove up and sole.
My Master raised sheep. When de dogs kilt one us had to pull de wool off de dead sheep. Sometimes dey had been dead fer days an' would be so sickenin' till I went ter smokin' a pipe. De smoke kept us from gittin' so sick. I has been using tobacco an' snuff since long afore de war. I gets a heap o' pleasure an' company from usin' 'em. I likes my pipe bes'.
After de war was ober an' us was freed, I home stead dis place hear near D'Lo. I has been farming eber since an wukin' among de white folks. My chillun is all married an' away, whats not dead. I lives right here by myself.
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi