Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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I has just a misty recollection of my first Mistress, Miss Sally White. I was born on her place near Macon, Georgia. She was a widow lady and lived in a great big beautiful house. My mother, Louise, cooked for her and when I was born, she named me Sally after her. That was many years before the Civil War. Old Miss was old and not very strong. One morning we got the news she done died. I never will forget that funeral, cause I aint never seed one like it. Instead of burying her in the ground like all folks is buried, they buried her in something what looked like a big brick wall. Miss had two sons Mr. Frank and Mr. Crawfort. They was living on their farms near Como, Miss. We, my family, was left to Mr. Crawfort. Old Miss had done put it in her will that he was to have us. He carried us to his place in Mississippi in big covered wagons. Besides my father, Frank, mother, Louise, there was four boys and six girls. The boys was named Larkin, Floyd, Doc, and Ed. The girls was Dosia, Lucy, Tokie, Tooly, Rebecca, and me. I never will forget that trip. There was so many children in the wagons when us comed to the poll gates they would make us all lay real still in the bottom of the wagon so they wouldn't have to pay toll for us all. Mr. Crawfort wasn't married. He lived most of the time with his brother, Frank, and had an overseer to look after his place. He was clearing his place up. It was on the Bogue. We went to work at daylight and worked 'till dark. The nights the big logs was burning some one would have to sit up to watch the fire. We stayed there on that place for seven years when the big overflow came they had to take us all back to the hills. I don't know nothing bout what year it was children wasn't taught about years and months like they is now. That how come I don't know how old I is. Mistress didn't tell my ma what the date was she had put down in the book. I speck if she hader told her, she could have kept all them children's dates in her head. My grandpa, old Uncle Essex White, knowed a lot about figures, but he stayed down in Georgia, and we never seed him again after we left there. The houses we lived in was made of logs and chinked with clay. The chimneys was made of the same clay. They was good and warm. The women on the place wove the cloth our clothes was made of. Every night my ma had to spin six cuts of cotton before she went to bed. Some of the cloth was dyed in colored stripes.
It sure was beautiful, but most of it was left white. We wore the same clothes in the winter that we wore in the summer sept more of them in winter. Every family cooked for theirself. We didn't have no central kitchen like they had on the old home place in Georgia sept for the children. My ma cooked for them. There was always plenty to eat; meat, molasses, peas, bread, taters, and greens. The big old smokehouse was always filled with meat. We raised the hogs and cured the meat. My pa brought home all the game we wanted for hisself and children. Bout the only thing Master had to buy for us was shoes, and he sure did get us good ones. The overseer was poor white trash, but Master didn't allow him to whip none of us. When any of us done wrong Old Master would tend to us with a light brushing. He never is whipped anybody hard. That was the only form of punishment. There wasn't no jails or county farms in them days. Nobody ever came near that place with slaves to sell. It was too far in the back woods. I is seed them slave dealers with a many a one for sale down in Georgia. Once they had a big camp, filled with them just across the road from us. They was handcuffed together so they couldn't run away. I never is heared of no trouble between the colored and the whites. We had us little fiddling and dancing on Saturday night. Just so we didn't kill one another Master didn't care how much fun we had. That was the only form of amusement us had. There wasn't no church sept white folks church and that was way off. We didn't know nothing bout the Bible, and if we had a Bible none of us knowed how to read it. We didn't even know when Christmas came. There wasn't no celebration of any kind. Nobody ever studied about running off to the North or to anywhere else for that matter. We knowed well and good them patrollers would catch us if we even started. We would hear about such as that going on once in a while from some of the folks what would come into our dances. That was the only way there was to catch the news. There wasn't no Hoodoo doctors on the place and if there was ever a hant, seed the one what seed it sure kept it to hisself. It might have been cause nobody ever died out there. I don't believe in the like of such nohow. I don't know how long the war had been going on when we went back to Mister Frank's place to get away from the overflow. We hadn't been there so very long when the Yankee soldiers came marching by, put us all in wagons, and carried us up to Memphis. They had a place for us to stay and we was fed out of the commissary. Memphis had already been taken by the Yankees. They made my father a soldier, and he stayed in the army in Memphis till the war was over. The day peace was declared, a big music boat came up the Mississippi river. The band was playing, and everybody on it was singing we done hung Jef. Davis to a sour apple tree. Jef Davis was the rebel man who was trying to keep us slaves, and Abraham Lincoln was the one what freed us. We was told when we got freed we was going to get forty acres of land and a mule. Stead of that we didn't get nothing. I couldn't tell much difference we was doing pretty good anyhow. The K.K.K. started up about that time, but they never once came my way. I think they just got after the folks they didn't like. When my pa got let out of the army, we all came back to Mississippi and went to farming on Mrs. Bullock's place near Senatobia. I was living there when I married Dock Dixon. From there we moved to Summer. From there we moved to Mr. Studervands place. My husband got in trouble there and was sent to the County farm for two years. After that we separated. He went back to the hills, and we never went back together. We had seven children, six boys and one girl. They is all dead excusing John and Tom. I don't know where John is. He is always moving about. Tom is farming on the Lee place near Clarksdale. We came here together. I had saved my money that I made cooking and farming so I decided to buy this little house. I is been living in it twenty or thirty years. It was in the middle of a cotton patch, but now I has neighbors on all sides. These children around me just raises themselves. I is always talking bout their mas just putting them in the street, and they gone. Heaps of the white folks aint raising their no better. Just yesterday one of them poor white children called me "old nigger." I can't do much work now. I don't hear and see so good. I has me a little garden sometimes I sells greens and sweet potatoes out of it. The government helps me along. It don't take so much for me to live on as I lives here all alone. When I is well enough I goes to the Baptist church that I has joined and when I aint able to go I just stays home where I can be quiet and peaceful.
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration