Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
"Mars Powell, he owned my pappy an' mamy long fo' I was born. He bought 'em from a man in Virginia an' brung 'em down hea' ter wuk on his big plantation. He owned 'bout seventy five uder slaves."
"Mars lived in a 'normous two story house, wid de big kitchen an' dinnin' room set a few yards back from de main house. Dey built 'em lak dat on account ob fire, an' sos ter be out ob de way ter feed de slaves in. Dey sho' did feed us slaves plenty. I was jist a little gal, but all I knowed was ter eat. I can still tas' dem good ole sof' yams wid po'k an' po'k graby, wid eber thing else good ter go 'long wid 'em sich as all kinds ob vegetables an' milk an' sich lak.
"De slave cabins was all in rows under tall shady oak trees in de front ob Mar's house. Mos' all de slave owners had 'em livin' at de back. I neber did know how come he didn't hab his lak dat.
"Befo' I was big 'nough ter wuk, I played 'round de cabins in de shade ob de trees. Us would dig holes in de sand an' make frog houses and grave yards. Us would make long rows ob graves an' dicorate 'em wid bitter weeds an' wild flowers. Den us would pick big oak leaves an' pin 'em together wid pine needles an' make hats an' dresses. Us put wild flowers on 'em fer trimmin'.
When I growed up a bit, I was made ter nurse de little slave chillun while deir mudders would in de fields a wukin'. I had ter nurse Mar's chillun too, an' he sho did hab a heap ob 'em.
"I was put in de fields when I was big 'nough to hoe. I'se hoed wid de field plumb full ob slaves. Hit was wuk but us got some enjiment outen hit too. De slaves would tell tales an' ghos' stories an' all 'bout cungerin' an' hoo-doo-in'. Den dey would git to singin', prayin' an' a shoutin'. When de overseers hear 'em, he alwas' go make 'em be quiet lak. Dat was de onliest time de slaves could worship lak dey wanted to, 'caus us didnt hab no church. Us went to de white folks' church, an' sit on back seats, but didn't jine in de worship. You see, de white folks dont git in de spirit, dey don't shout, pray, hun, and sing all through de services lak us do. Dey dont believe in a heap o' things us niggers knows 'bout. Dey tells us dey aint no ghos', but us knows bettern dat. I'se seed ghos' and haints all my life. I'se seed 'em right here on dis gallery where I'se a setting. De fust one I eber seed, I was a little slave gal. One nite, dey won't no moon but hit was a dim star lite nite. I was restless, I tumbled an' tossed on de bed where I was a sleepin' wid two or three uder chilluns. All at once I thought I heard my kitten on de front. I never had seed a haint den an wuzen't 'fraid. I slipped outen bed an opened de front doo' an peeped out. I rolled my eyes dis way an' dat, trying ter see de cat, when I seed the wursest ghos' I had eber heard ob. Hit was in de shape ob a man an' he was a skinnin' a cat from de railing at de end ob de gallery. He jis' keep on, I knowed hit was a ghos' an' I didn't stan' dair no mo'. Time after time since dat nite I'se looked up an' seed one a comin' at me an' I'se a tellin' yo' all, I ain't neber done nuthin' but run.
"I was 'bout eight years old when de war ended. Us had a hard time for a few years. Us didnt know what ter do at fust. Us finally hired out ter a Mr. May an' done purty well.
I was thirty five before I eber married. De reason I waited so long was 'cause I loved a nigger an' he wanted me to marry him but I was plumb foolish an' thought I wasn't ready to be married. I put him off from year ter year, den he got tired a waitin' an married another gal.
My ole man has been dead fer fifteen or sixteen years. I has four chillun dat takes care ob me. I'se a seein' de ole slaves a passin' away fas' an' I'se jist a waitin' fer my time ter go.
Minerva Grubbs, ex-slave, born about 1857 and owned in slave days by Louis Howell, now lives at D'Lo.
This old ex-slave is of medium height and stout, her head is tied closely with a white head rag, in the customary black mamy fashion. She wears a plesant smile on her broad black face. Her loose hanging dress is held in place by a large square cut snowy white apron with ample pokets in which she carries her long stem pipe and tobacco.
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi