Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Abe Kelley - Choctaw
My birthday was July 4th, 1836. I've heared my parents say that many a time. They come from South Carolina, but whether I was birthed there or not, I don't rightly know. My mother's name was Odie and my father's name was According-to-Hoyle.
They moved around right considerable with Old Marster to different places in Mississippi, but I can't exactly remember the names of the places now.
Ole Marster's name was Jim Kelley and he had a big plantation. Seems to me I members hearing that he had eighty-odd niggers.
We lived in the quarters. They was just little log houses. We didn't have no gardens; we got out vegetables out of Ole Miss' garden. Ever' Sadderday we was give out three pounds of meat and a peck of meal. We cooked it in our own houses and all ate out of one big pot. They milked ten or fifteen cows on the place, so us had plenty of milk to drink. Our beds was made into the wall with two posts holding up the foot. You might call 'em 'bunks', - we called 'em 'jinnies'.
When I was a boy I played marbles and played with Injun rubber balls. Mostly I waited on Ole Miss and swept the yard and drove the cows up and kept off the calves. She whipped me too pretty warm when I didn't do right.
I was seventeen years old before I ever had on a pair of shoes. And I was a big boy before I wore pants. The nigger boys just wore a long shirt.
When the War come, four Kelley boys went and fought. The Yankees come to the plantation and done a little of ever'thing, tearing up and taking off. I remember when they carried off two horses and one of 'em was Ole Marster's riding horse. Then they carried off two mules and a cart. And they took all of Ole Miss' meat.
After freedom, I worked on the I.C. Railroad for eight years and got good money most of the time, but wages rise and fall. I was a big strong man and could do a heap of work. Then I farmed as long as I was able. I been living Southeast of town on Mr Emmet Brown's place for the past thirty-six years. I'se come in to live with my daughter now.
I remembers hearing my mother say she was the mother of twelve children, but I don't exactly remember how many I had. They is two girls living now. I was married three times.
I always been tolerably well till late years and I wants to live as long as I kin.
Abe Kelley -- Additional Interview
Yes'm, I aint feeling so good today. No'm, I aint sick, ------just painful............
Old Master lived in a brick house with a big hall in the middle. The kitchen was in the back yard. They cooked on a fireplace for white and black.
They didn't have no screens then and there was plenty of flies. I fanned the flies off the table with a peafowl feather fan. Come along a lady about every month with two or three bundles of them. She made her living that way, selling them. Her little son toted them for her. Old Miss called the lady Mrs Highsniff. She lived two or three miles away, I reckon, ------not in no talking distance.
They raised cotton on the place, then Old Miss had it spun and weaved. She hired a lady to come weave it and she was on the place sometimes two weeks.
We had to git up at 3 A.M. in the morning, then we carried our breakfast to the field. It was a all right breakfast though ------fried meat and bread. When we was working far from the house, we carried our dinner too, but if we was close by, they blowed the horn.
We didn't raise no chickens. What use did niggers have for chickens? Old Miss raised them; she had about fifteen head o' turkeys and twenty head o' geese.
Overseers was pretty tight, - so tight that Old Master would tell them to stop, that they was being too tight. Some of the niggers would run away off in the woods. Old Master had a woman, Nancy, that stayed in the woods three years.
I don't know why they didn't catch her because there was certain men that raised 'nigger dogs', --- they could follow a nigger's tracks. But they used them on white folks too.
When a nigger and a girl wanted to get married, he would go to Old Master and say, 'Master I wants this gal for my wife,' and Master would say, 'All right, I'll fix you a house when you marry.' Then when the day come around, people would hold each end of a broom, and the man and gal stepped over it -----and then we was man and wife.
Interviewer's Notes: Height, 6 feet; weight, 150 pounds; color, dark brown; African features; lives with his daughter; receives Government pension of $4.00 a month; Memory not clear.
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 Allen Geoghegan
Assistant State Coordinators and
Transcriptionists: Ann Allen Geoghegan, Debbie Leftwich, and
Rose Diamond and Linda Durr Rudd
Banner designed by: Melissa McCoy-Bell
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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