County: Webster and Calhoun
Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Phillis Fox age 101
"I was born on de Jessie Hughes place in Webster county near Gasville (Embry). My papa was Mallie Parks an my mamma was Easter. In our family they was Lucy, Ann, Mary, Catherene, Limuel, Ben an' me. I's de only one livin now."
"My Marsa was Jessie Hughes an Ole Missus' name was Darkie. Sarah, Betsy, Gracie, William, an Joel was de chillun."
"Durin' slavery days I worked 'round de house mostly. I'd go to de field some durin' cotton pickin' time. Marsa an' missus treated me very well. Dey gave me plenty to eat an plenty clothes to wear. De workin hands would get new shoes but we wore second hand ones. My sister Lucy was their house girl. I'd go up there an' play with her some. I was allus such a white child when strangers come dey would ask Ole missus if I was her little girl."
"Marsa Hughes had one big garden fo' all. De vegetables was gathered an' prepared at one place fo' all de slaves."
"In time o' de war soldiers would come by our house an get somethin' to eat. Sometimes they would come as many as a hundred at a time."
"Marsa owned eight or ten families o' slaves an a heap o' land. He never did have no overseer. His son Joel was de most manager."
"I 'member de field hands went to de field before day. Lots o' times dey would have to leave before dey had et breakfast an' us lads would have to carry de breakfast to de field to em. Lots o' nights dey stayed in de field an' picked cotton 'till after dark an weighed it up by candle light."
"De only times I went to church was when I'd go in de wagon with de white folks just for their waitin gal."
"My white folks wouldn't keep us from readin' but they didn't try to teach us nothin'. I 'member once ole Missus callin' us in to hear her girl read what had been off to school. When Marsa's chillun would come in from school in de evenin' us little niggers would race to get their dinner buckets an get what was left."
"I's seen lots o' slaves what had run away. Dey would leave their ole marsas an come by marsa Hughes to get somethin' to eat. I 'member one night I was goin' to de spring an was singin couse I was scared. A negro walked out an said: "Can you get yo mammy to send me somethin' to eat?" They gave him eats but de white men caught him dat night an carried him to Pittsboro to jail."
"I's never toated but one pass in my life an' dat was to a to-do at Slate Springs. De white folks told me if I didn't carry it de patrollers would shore get me. I seen de patrollers but didn't see em bother nobody. Back in dem days I never did want to go no where 'cept where de white folks went an' I didn't need a pass then."
"Marsa give my papa a truck patch that he was 'lowed to work on Saturday afternoons or any night after de regular days work was finished. Ole Marsa an de girls was good to us but ole Missus an one O' de boys got bad sometimes."
"After de surrender Marsa come to de door an said to us niggers: "Did you know you was free? What you goin' a do now? You aint got no meat, no corn or nothin." He told us if we'd stay on with him we could have half of everythin' we made. He said we could go to de field an gather corn from one row an leave one."
"When de Yankees come throu' they camped several days close to our house an watered at our spring. They took all our horses an mules. They was caryin' guns an we shore never said nothin but just let em take em."
"My husband was Riley Fox an our chillun was Emily, Riley, Cora, Laney, Nellie, Eryless, Cuge, Grammar an Jones. They' just two girls an two boys livin now. I lives here with Eryliss an' the rest o' em lives in de Mississippi bottom. Dey all farms. My oldest girl was born de year before de war ended. De white folks an' everybody would call her their baby but I shore wouldn't part with her."
"I lived at Hallie Fox' de first year after de War an' lived round in dat same community 'till 'bout fifteen years ago when I moved over here in Calhoun county. I has always lived on a farm an' made a field hand long as I was able to work."
Hallie Fox was sorter of a diseased man--had a throat trouble an' didn't go to de war but his son Jesse went an' was killed there."
"When dem Yankees come through they got one Marsa Fox's best horses an' took my brother Limuel with em too an' I ain't never seed or hearn tell o' him no more."
"My Mama died 'bout two years after de surrender. Then I married pretty soon after dat. Like I says befo' my oldest child (a girl) was born' de year befo' de war ended an' de rest of em wasn't born 'till after me an' Riley married."
"I's heard my Mama say Grandma Lucy, Mama's mama was raised in Alabama but got in possession o' de Hughes' somehow an' dats how come us all here. Granny, she lived to be 100 years old but I never knowed much 'bout her."
"I think de young folks now days is gettin' worse N' worse. Dey's heep worse n' we was when I growed up. Course dey has more advantages now but dats against 'em. In my day we didn't know nothin' bout dressin up an' goin' places an' didn't care nothin' bout it. I think I got 'long good 'nuff. Missus Sarah, she'd read de Bible to us a heep---an whip us a heep too. Now I sees it was just what we needed.
"I gets $3.00 a month from the State Relief Aid an' has to depend on my chillun for de balance. Three dollars is what de doctor charges for one visit from town out here---not sayin' nothin' 'bout de medecine. For de past three weeks I's been confined to my bed an' for a week o' dat time I sho' thought de Lord was gona take me home dis time. I's feelin' a little better now but I tells you all Aunt Phyllis been here bout long 'nuff an' when my Jesus do say Come! I's ready."
Interviewer's note: Age 101 years, height 5 feet 6 inches, weight 140 lbs., color light yellow (almost white), present physical condition far better than might be suspected of a person this age; eyes are bad.
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi
"If you teach them where they come from, they won't need as much help finding where they are going!"
Cordelia Carothers " Aunt Dee" Geoghegan (1894-1987)
Project Manager: Ann
Assistant State Coordinators and
Transcriptionists: Ann Allen Geoghegan, Debbie Leftwich, and
Rose Diamond and Linda Durr Rudd
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Unknown worker photograph provided by L. Stephen Bell Photography, and family photo albums of Karen Schweikle, Lucy Gray and Jens Burkhart.
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