Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Jerry Eubanks age 91 years
"I was borned in Atlanta, but raised in the State of Mississippi."
"My mammy was named Alice Hamilton, and Pa's name was Jerry Hamilton. I was named after him."
"I think dey was bred and borned in Atlanta. Yes'im I had brothers and sisters, six, but I can't remember bout none of dem but Warren."
"I was brought away over night, when I was 12 years old by a speculator, named Jack Hart. Dr. Sam Hamilton of Rome, Ga. bought me. He lived in a fine house but couldn't meet the debt, and then's when I fell into the speculator's hands and was brought to Columbus, Mississippi where I was sold to Joe Eubanks for $1100. I was jes a small kid about
12 years old. A house was built just like cow's stalls where we stayed until sold on a high block."
"De Boss den carried me to de plantation 10 miles of Columbus, north. Dere was old folks what owned de place and dey was good to me. I never slep out doors until after de srender. I was Ole Miss's regular carriage driver. I weared special drivers' clothes. I weared one of des high beaver hats and sot on de outside of de carriage."
"I slept on a trundle bed in her room. I'd pull it out from under her bed when I wanted to go to sleep."
"My only work in dem days was drive de carriage and wait in de dining room."
"I don't know nuffin about my grandparents. When I knowed myself der was jist mamy and pa, three girls and one brother, but I can't bring up to my mind anything about de girls."
"What I want wid money den? Dey was feedin and clothin me."
"You know I was dining room servant, and when de boss and Misses got up from de table den it was mine. Dey had so much, dat even what was left in de plate was nuff to feed me. Times wasn't like de is now. Other slaves eat out of de big garden."
"It was jes like dis. De had a big brown skin woman who set at de loom. She weaved for de whole plantation. Den what so and ever kind of garment was wanted, it was cut out and sent to the seamstress."
"You know we'd change stripes and it wouldn't be as thick in summer as winter. Dem times de raised sheep and de wool was sent to de factory and made into yarn, den it was put into cloth by de weaver."
"De shoe-maker had a shop. You could buy leather from a tan shop owned by Major Eggleston - until de war come and den we couldn't even hardly live."
"I didn't marry, you know - Dere was a boss over dere and a boss over here. If one had a woman I wanted, my boss would send a note and tell him - Den I'd visit dat plantation on sich and sich a nights."
"Well, Eubanks was allright man long as you do what he tell you. He nor Miss Melia never struck me a lick in der lives."
"De big house was a fine two story house. I think it was six rooms upstairs and six down stairs."
"Dey had two house servants, scusin me and de cook."
"Yes, mam dey had six chillern, three boys and three girls. Miss Melia died at Waverly, I think she was little connected to de Col. Young."
"Ole Miss was gone so much from home, either in Columbus or in Artesia among dem rich Randles."
"Dere was a world of land, and dere was 18 slaves who kept it up. He gin em 30 acres to de hand, and dey worked thru and thru. People don't work now, de worked den from morning till night. Dere was old man dat rung de bell at fo oclock dey was makin to de field."
"Dere was plenty of po white neighbors. Dey rented land from rich land owners. We called dem home-raised folks."
"Not on Joe Eubanks place was any nigger whipped, cause he was boss. Our folks fared well to what some did."
"You know Mrs. Joiner, you can have a child and you have to tend to it. Well, dat was jist de way when a slave was whipped, he forced it on himself by not minding."
"I was fooled out of my mammy's house by dem speculators wid an apple. When I went out two or three white men grabbed me, Ole Marster, Dr. Hamilton, couldn't save us case he was in debt hisself."
"It's been so long, I can't keep up wid de stories other black mammas tole me. I'm so old. You members my mamy was left in Atlanta."
"Dere was no jail. De jes come in session since srender."
"I seed lots of slaves sold, jes like horses or mules. De would be moved in wagons, and jes befo de war de could be carried on M. & O."
"Dis is de first train I ever saw. We was brought by boat from Atlanta to Mobile, we switched rivers at Mobile and was brought right up tombigbee to Major Eggleston house. De water was rise so, we jes stepped in his room."
"No niggers wasn't chained. If de did wrong de boss would settle it hisself wid de court. Pay for it."
"Many a night I've set down by Miss Melia's side on a stool and she would show me different letters. When she didn't de chillern would do it. I could a learned, but I was jis wild and I didn't take it in my head. She was a good white oman to me, she done her duty."
"Well, you know I never got a chance to go to church much for dem horses couldn't be turned a loose. Dem reins had to be held. I'se been in dat big ole Methodist Church gallery many a time. We set up stairs. Den dere was Camp meetings. Des big elders and all. We'd work till three, den knock off and come to de camp ground."
"De nigger preachers was invited to de Columbus Church, by preacher Stainback, good preacher too, but I never knowed one to preach in dat pulpit. But I heard plenty of niggers preach down on de Wolf road dat was given over to de niggers. You know niggers will shout and sing if dey is living. White folks would come to our church jis to see us have a good time."
I do members I liked "De Old Time Religion Good Enough for Me", "When Shall I see My Fathers Face and in His Bosom Rest." I can't bring nary nother song right to my mind jes now. I can give you part of de verses of a song. One is dis.
(1) "Jesus My all to heaven is gone, Whom I place my hopes upon Den will I tell de sinner around
What a dear Savior I'm found.
(2) He whom I place my hopes upon"
"My mind aint on it - Jes have to cut it out."
"Dem's de ole times -"
"De sho did sing spirituals -"
One was -
"I'm goin Home to Die no more."
"I don't think I can get hold of narry noder one now."
"Why Lord, Yessum, I been to white folks weddin! I went to Dr. Brothers weddin in Artesia after de war. Den I drove Joe Eubanks to many others befo de war. Too many white folks, de niggers couldn't get no furer dan de do."
"A funeral den was conducted like it is now. It wouldn't do to have dat changed."
"We had Baptizins do, and dere would be as many white folks on de bank as niggers."
"You know, Mrs. Joiner, de Methodist and Baptist bof got to put em under de water. Yes mam, de would shout. Some time we would have to go in de water after em."
"What little I can read de Bible Say "Straight way in and straight way out."
"I found lots of slaves run away to de Delta. De had run away, years befo de war, but I never knowed any to go north."
"Yes mam, I knows about de patarollers! Now if you had a pass, and dey run upon you, you is allright - but it de catch you wid out one, den you had to out run em to de boss, and den dere was nothin to it."
"You know like I was workin for you I had to have the script, which meant I was not runin off. Dey used to sing "Better run nigger, de patarollers get you."
"We wasn't to carry news from one plantation to anoder. Kill you shore. What was done on one plantation had to stay right dar."
"No mam, de warn't no trouble between de whites and black befo dat war. Let me tell you de truf I been thru it. You know de war las fo years, and along about de last year, when it looked like de south was gwin a loose, de bosses all around us got 300 young niggers together and tuk em up to Sand Mt. and hid us out betwin dis Mt. and Johns Mt. De didn't want de Yankees to get us. Oh! Me! Every man had as much to eat as one wagon would pull. De niggers was in loose fore horse wagons and white folks horse-back. No sooner den peace was declared we come home."
"No mam, we didn't leave ole Marster - but stayed and made another crop."
"We couldn't get no salt. We dug up our smoke house and put dirt in big hoppers and pored water through it to save the salt. It dripped through, den dat water was boiled down, till dere was jist old brown salt. Den we couldn't get no coffee. We just had lots of Okra we dried and parched the seed. I've drunk it a many a day. Den we'd burn sweet potatoes for coffee. Pour boiling water on it and dere's your coffee."
"Befo, and during de war, de women had so many cuts of thread to wrap in hands for de loom at night. Dems de clothes we wore. Den de men had so many bushels of corn to shell at night. Dis was de task every night."
"No one worked on Saturday afternoon. Women washed and cleaned up. De men cut dere own wood."
"On Sunday it was jes like it is now. Some wanted to go to church and some didn't. De Boss would go through de quarter and tell em to get out and hear de word of God. How you know Jerry? Case I was dar. Yes Mam, we had corn-shucking. Sich and sich a man would have 500 bushels of corn to shuck and invite de slaves from neighbor plantations to come. Didn't need no pass den. We'd all go shuck and holler and whoppin-den dere would be a big supper. Dere would be gallons of whiskey. De boss would go around wid de jug, so we could holler clear. Cut the phlegm."
"Some times dere would be cotton pickin at night too. Dis would be when dere was a moon shinin bright. I went to a many one. Dis would be a big to do and plenty of whiskey and eats after ten or eleven oclock."
Dancing is goin on too. Dere was a big house to dance in. I was a terrible dancer but not much of a whiskey man."
"Some would be a waltzing. We don't have any thing less we could dance or play. I could keep up with a jig or any kin of music. I couldn't play no music myself, but I was terrible on de floor.
"If any of Marsters folks got married all de hands had orders in de evenin to "trim up" and be dar. De white folks danced at de big house, and we would dance at our house, den de eats would be shared with de slaves."
"We was thought lots of."
"If any of white folks died, not a lick was struck on plantation till next day. We went to funeral and if we couldn't get in de church we stood around and listened."
"Yes mam, I knowed about de charms what was wore. Most of em wore dimes with a whole in it to keep off evil spirits, and red flannel bands around the wrist to keep from loosin de nerve.
The voodoo's? Aint nothing to it. Its jes somein to make money off of."
"When de niggers would work dey would all sing de same song. Sometime all hands was singin at de same time. Each plantation had a different hollin. I jes can't get ours, now, do, I'm hoarse."
"Well no, I ain't seed no ghosts, but I come so near, I thought I seed em."
"Here's a story what's true.
It used to be so we had to watch the gin to keep people from stealing cotton, and we was watching about a hundred. I was dar. Dem ghosts was dar too, and dey run us home. Dey was little bity low things - Let me get you sorter straight so you can see yourself - You know dis was in de Delta at Silver City. Some niggers had drowned in de river. A whole lot of em had fell out of dis gin house, and dey come back. About eleven oclock de whistle blowed jes like fire, and dar wasn't a bit of fire. but we run and de agent went hisself next night, and he was run off too."
"Den I know anoder time where a ghost come to Mr. Cox's over de oder side of Waverly. He was settin readin his paper and his light went out. Somein said "Phew" - He lighted it four times. Mr. Charlie Cox and something said "phew" everytime. Mr. Cox left dat house and went to his Sister. Mrs. Jiner, dere is lots of evil around Columbus. Dey puts horse shoes over de door but dat don't turn de evil spirits."
"We went to a dance out at Dr. Brothers, brothers home. We was up stairs and fo God we was a sittin there, preachers, too, and a door was pitched down on us. Oh, I done some running. Dat house is dere now, but Somin brings em out. Looks like de house goin be tore down every night. Dey jes runs around all over de house."
"Yes, when de slaves got sick de was well cared for. Dr. Sam was a good Dr. too. He give us mostly blu mass and all sich. Dr. from Atlanta showed us how calomel would explode and we quit using it."
"I'll tell you what ole Marster did when he heard of srender. He give a big dinner. He killed many carcasses. Den he made a speech to about 300 negroes from different plantations. He says, "I'll give you 3rd and 4th and feed you to close this crop. All who are willing raise your right hands." All hands went up. Dere was cottin to pick - corn to geder wheat to thrash and oats and rye. After de crops was closed, he said "Get your cotton and go to Columbus and I'll go with you because you don't know nothing." He sold our cotton to Billups and Banks. I don't know where my 250 bushels of corn went. But wid my $183.00 I went to Mobile, den to New Orleans, 160 miles by water. After two years. I met a white man from Columbus, who carried me back to Columbus, where I worked for Tom Franklin seven or eight years. Den I got in with B. L. Smith of West Point den with Dr. O. C. Brothers until he died. Den I've worked about and now I live in a house what Dr's daughter, Mrs. Lula Kimbrough give me."
"De K. Ks was pretty tough, but de didn't bother me cause I was in Mobile and New Orleans.
"I've got three children living in St. Louis. Couldn't tell how many grand children."
"Well, I tell you I used to when I was visiting around among white folks and listenin."
"I think Abraham Lincoln got killed and McKinley did too. Abraham Lincoln started heap of things he didn't finish. Nobody ever went back where he left off. He wanted to brings all nations together. Just like Bilbo, he started a heap things he aint finished."
"I seed Jeff Davis' picture. I really can't bring him up. I couldn't really come down in a pinion about des two men. Jeff Davis tried to do something he couldn't finish. I look at it dis way - "What God says had got to come, comes." Dis is written in de Bible."
"Dey says "De Yankees done it" - but colored people looks cross years at every thing. God did it all."
"Well, now I'll give you de reason I joined de church. I believed if I jined I'd be saved. De scripture says, "Ye that believeth and are baptized shall be saved."
"I do believe every body ought to live the life so he can die that life. When he does God will take care of you."
"When I nussed old Dr. Brothers, he would get in a rage, and I'd say "Dr, remember your Mother. She lived a Christian and you must. So he would quiet down."
This interview was really the most interesting one I've had. The old negro is very intelligent, though absolutely uneducated. He lives in comfortable surroundings having fallen heir to a home from the Dr. A.C. Brothers estate.
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi