Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Lucy Donald, ex-slave, lives near Puckett Mississippi. She was born about the year 1857, was owned during slavery time by her old 'Marse Donald' of Rankin County. She is about five feet and three or four inches in height and weighs about one hundred and thirty five pounds. Her general coloring is a dark reddish brown. She wears her grey hair in small light twist with the favorite head rag tied firmly around her head. She is in very good health. This is what she tells of her life.
"My pa, he was sole an' traded 'bout in Alabama an' at las' was brung here in Mississippi an' sole wid a bunch o' other slaves. I don't know nuthing 'bout my folks way back fer dey was sole here an' yonder an' switched about till I jis knows I'se got a pa an' a ma an' dats 'bout all. I knows Marse Donald lived in Rankin County on a purty good size plantation an' owned several families o' slaves when he bought my pa when he was jes' a young man an' pa hadn't been wid him long fo pa married a strange woman named Lucy. She turnt out to be my ma, an' she, po' thing died when I was jes' a week ole. I was named Lucy fo' her. I wasn't took in an' raised by de white folks lak de mos' ob 'em was when dey was lef' lak dat. I was looked after by fust one ob de slaves den another. I recon I was kinda jerked up in de little log cabins 'round Marse's place. It seems lak colored folks didnt know de love an care ob deir chillun 'way back deir, 'cause yo' see it was lak dis. Dey was fust savages back in Africa an' didn't know nuthin 'bout sticking together, an' when de white folks brung 'em over hear, dey snatched 'em up an' sole an' traded 'em away from one another. De chilluns was took away from deir pa's an' ma's, husbands an' wives was separated an' sole. Den another thing they was made to tell tales dat wasn't no truth in fer deir Masters an' all des ain't got out ob de colored folks yet.
"Our cabins was little one room huts built ob logs wid a mud an' straw chimneys. De chillun mos'ly slept on de flo' on pallets in de winter time an' in de summer dey slept mos' any whar dey drapped off to sleep sometimes it was on de piazza or on de grass, under de big trees or in de shuck house.
"Now Marse's house was big an' purty it was a two story building. Dey had plenty ob slave gals fer servants an' nurses. Dat place was kept spick an' span an a stir wid all kinds ob work a gwine on. Slave men kept de grounds an' gardens. Deir was alwa's plenty fruit, vegetables an' de lak a growing. It sho' did take a heap to keep plenty fer his big family an' de slaves too, an' mos' every thing was growed an' made an' right deir on de plantation.
"A big was blowed fer signals. We all knowed whut each blow meant. We knowed by de blows ob de horn when to go to
Marse's big kitchen to eat, slave women cooked de food fer everybody. It was set on long tables. De horn blowed fer em' to go to wuk an' to come in; an' if a fire broke out, or anything onusual. And we knowed what it meant by signals. De wuk was carried on from fo' day 'till after dark. Deir sho was a heap o' wuk done in one day.
"Everything mos' an' generally went on purty peaceful lak, but once in a while de over seers mostly would git riled up wid some ob de slaves an' whip 'em or ifen dey got real stirred up dey would tie 'em to a tree an' whip 'em. Dey sho' did dread dem beatin's an' knowed to mind what was said.
"Now while our Ma's was a wukin' in de fiel's we little uns was sorta turnt loose 'bout de place. De slave women dat wuked 'round Marse's house looked after us a bit. We was fed after de grown folks had got through eatin'. It warn't much to give us our food as mos' ob de time us was fed like little pigs, all in de same pan or big bowl. We et mostly bread, lasses, meat, sweet'taters, pot liquor an' milk. Den we run 'round in de fresh air an' sunshine an' played as hard as we could at marbles, hop scotch an' run an' kitch games, climbin' trees, getherin' nuts an' playin' in de branch. Now we could find plenty to do. Den when we got a little bigger we was put to little jobs 'bout de place an' den on to heaver wuk.
"Back in dem days de darkies was supersticious an' easy scared up an' deir de war was bout to fume up. Dey paid a heap attention to signs an' things dey seed. Mos' everything pinted to some 'em. I'se gone wid 'em to de woods to preach an' pray an' sing. Dey didn't want de white folks to hear 'em. Now de pleasures was de same way, dey was carried on wid a fear an' superstition, alwa's expectin' some 'em to happen. I recollect one night, I was little but its almos' lak it happen yesterday, de darkies was havin' a frolic in a old vacant house. Dis frolic was lak all de res' ob 'em, wid dancin' by fiddle music, a playin' "Turkey In de Straw" an' "Molly Put De Kettle on." Dey would skip an' play games. It got 'round close to mid-night when things was likely to happened. Well everything was gwine purty when all at once a terrible lookin' man wid fiery eyes run fas' as he could plumb through de crowd an' he was a shoutin' "dance up hogs, you ain't half a dancin'. He run on out through de back door an' on into de woods. Part ob de crowd nearly broke deir necks a jumpin' out ob de windows a gittin away from deir; while others believed dey had to mind dat ghos' an' went to dancin' fo' all dey was wuth. And when dey did de house caved in. I has wondered since den which was de bes' off, de ones dat run scart to death out in de nite or de ones dat stayed.
"Durin' de war was tryin' an' troublesome times fer us. De colored folks didn't know whut was comin' nex'. De cavalery men ridin' through lookin' fer deserters an' a takin' whut dey could away from de folks in de way ob food an' good ho'ses. Sometimes we would see soldiers marchin' an' hear guns a shootin'.
"When de surrender come on an' us was freed de colored folks was a drift fer a few years. Dey didn't know what to do an' as dey didn't know nothin' but to farm dey hired out to de white farmers or home steaded 'em some lan'. My folks wuked on wid Marse fer a year or so an' den home steaded a tract o' land an' got to our selves.
"When I married it was lak dis, Elbert Jones was a good lookin' nigger an' went wid any gal he wanted to. He was de popularist feller I ever seed. I was 'round nineteen years ole an' he hadn't never paid no 'tention to me, he was so busy courtin de res' ob de gals. One day he come up to my house an' say "Lucy why can't me an' you git married." I thought he was a jokin' an' I say back to him "We is old 'nuf." You' see I hadn't counted on him so I jes' talked lak dat to be mannerly. He say, "I mean it." I say "Yo know whar yo' gal is at," an' he say "I sho do." From den on we courted 'till we got use to each other which took about three or four months. Den us married. Fo' den I had courted boys fer five or six years but dey wont like Elbert. We raised two chillun an' gib 'em some education. Dey lives on farms. Elbert has been dead a long time now.
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi