Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
Notice: This file may be downloaded for Personal Use Only, and may not otherwise be printed or copied without prior written consent of the submitter.
MSGenWeb Index Page
USGenWeb African-American Griot Project
From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Hattie Jefferson age 81
"I is jes' turned eighty-one years old. I was born in slavery near old Holmesville, on Mr. Hillery Quin's place.
"My Hillery Quin was my Marster. He wus de meanest man dat eber drew breath. He cudnt sleep if he didnt whup a nigger fore de sun went down.
"He owned a whole raft uf slaves an' some uf dem wud run way frum him an' he wud look 'em up an' when he did find dem he wud fairly eat dem up wid de whup. He jes' tore dem up.
"My mammy wus named Rhody an' she wurk in de fiel' an' at de big house an' she washed an' ironed an' she he'p do ebery thing dat wus to be done an' I seed him whup her so many time it wud make me skeer'd to death. He neber whupped me but his wife did.
"We black chilluns had to play round de kitchen an' in de back yard while our mammies wus in de fiel' an' if it rained an' our mammies wus called to de loom room, we had to stay wid a old time black woman named Peggy.
"Peggy wus old and cripple; she walked wid one crutch, and she smoked a pipe an' tied up her head wid a red rag. She wud knock us round wid her crutch an' make us mind. She sed we wus all bad an' wud neber low de babies to sleep long as we made too much fuss.
"Marse Hillery had a big apple an' peach orchard an' we uster steal all we cud tote off frum dat orchard an' some-times we got whuppins fur dat. I neber seed a orange till I wus grown.
"My grandpappy run way frum Marse Hillery and dey put de patterollers dogs after him an' he jes' run an' jumped in de river an' most drown; when dey fotched him out dey had to put him on a barrel an' roll him an' roll him to git de water out uf him. No, he wus not whupped fur dat but he wus tied up ebery night fur a long time, so as to keep him frum runnin' way ergin.
"My grandpappy wus mighty good at playin' de fiddle an' pattin' his feet. Yo' cud hear dem feet hittin' de floor fur a mile off. He cud play "Black Eye Susan" an' Polly put de Kettle on, an' we'll all have a drink" and "De Arkansaw Traveler" an' mo' dan I can thin uf right now.
"De white folks had big times up at de house but we black chilluns neber got dar to see whut wus gwine on.
"All de white folks dat come dar rid' hosses an' one time some fine kin folks frum Kaintucky come to stay while wid Marse Hillery an' his folks an' dey come in a big fine kerrage wid a driver dat sot out in front an' he driv two fine hosses. Dem ladies had on hoop skirts an' when one uf 'em got out uf de keerage she got her hoop kotched in de step an' fell an' Marse Hillery picked her up. Dat wus de fust keerage I eber seed an' we young ones run up to de fence an' peeped through de fence rail to see whut de fuss was about, an' I though dem wus de prettiest ladies I eber seed in my life.
"My mammy always wore dresses made uf lowels, made plain frum de neck all de way down, wid a band at de waist an' a pocket in de side; dat pocket wus long an' she kept her 'backer an' pipe in dat pocket, an' one time her dress was sot on fire frum de pipe, an' my grandpappy had to wrap mammy up in a quilt to put out de fire. It made a bad sore on her leg.
"Marse Hillery had a gin down close to de river an' pappy wurk at de gin when dey wus ginnin' cotton. Dey wud gin two bales a day an' pack dat cotton wid deir feet. It wus always winter time when dat gin wus runnin' an' people git through wid deir ginnin' while it is hot. I picked cotton many er day in December.
"Marse Hillery used to love to go to Holmesville an' git whut news dar wus. He loved to go to court an' he loved to beat his niggers. He loved his drink too, an' when Christmas wud come he wud give all his slaves a big drink fo' breakfast.
"My pappy wus named Ben; he wurked in de fiel' an' driv de wagon an' sharpened plows an' fed hosses an' split rails an' made rail fences, an' he had to go round de place ebery Spring an' he'p patch up all de broken down places in de fence. All de fences wus made uf rail an' dey wus ten rails high.
"Ebery cow an' hog an' hoss wus branded on de right hip. Dey took a hot iron an' stuck it to de side uf de cow an' day made a sore an' left a scar dat dey called a brand, so as to tell deir cows frum de rest uf de folks' in de woods. Yo' kno' de cows an' hogs run in de swamp some time uf de year.
"I know'd dar wus big war gwine on but I didnt kno' whut it bout. De big guns wud shoot at Vicksburg an' dey sed dat wus in de fight an' it sounded to me like thunder way off yonder.
"I neber seed any soldiers but heard em talkin' bout dem. An' one day Marse Hillery run dat big bell an' had all de slaves come to de house; he tole us all we wus free an' sed we cud stay dar an' finish de crop an' he wud pay dem all. Some uf dem stayed an' some uf dem left. Dem dat stayed neber got any pay. He sed dey et it all up.
"Dem dat left had nuffin. Ebery body wus sot free an' no body had nuffin. We went over de next year to Mr. Elzey's house an' all we took wid us wus our clothes tied uf in a bag. When dey sot us free dey oughter habe gibe us what we had made. All uf us had mi'ty hard times to git some thing to eat.
"De furst money I eber made wus pickin' cotton. I picked cotton two weeks in de cold an' got two dollars fur it. I cud not pick fast. I bought myself a new dress wid part uf dat money. I picked dat cotton fur Missus Mulligan who libed close to Holmesville.
"I is bin mar'ed two time; furst time to Gabe Norris an' had five chilluns an' he died wid small pox - den I mar'ied Lewis Jefferson. He is done pritty well.
"I is been sick a long time but iffen I dont git off dis bed any more I will say it is de good Lord's will. I is suffered a mi'ty heap in my life an' some times I aint had nuff to eat but de Lord sed I had to stay here an' I aint in a hurry to go but I wud love to git off dis bed er gin.
"I wus a Methodist. I jined de church when I wus jes' a big gal, but I haint been to church I reckin dey is done forgit me. I hope de Lord wont forgit me too.
"Bless de Lord, O, my soul, Bless His Holy name.
Hattie lives in Tylertown; she is the wife of Lewis Jefferson. The first time I was there to interview her she was too sick to talk, and when I went the second time she talked freely but was weak, so I did not press her very hard. I was slow and patient with her. Lying on the bed she appeared to weigh about 100 pounds. She was black, with a thin, long face and a scar on her upper lip. Had her head tied up in a white cloth and judging from surroundings the entire family were very poor.
Transcribed by Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi