Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Duncan McCastile, ex-slave, lives about nine miles from Panola, Mississippi. He was born in 1860, and was owned during slavery time by German Walker. He is six feet, three inches tall and weighs about one hundred and eighty pounds. His general coloring is a dark redish brown. His health is excellent.
"I can't tell much ob my life as a slave as I was born just before de war started an' was jes' five years old when hit ended an us was freed. I'se a puson dat don't recollect much 'way back. I'se kinda slow and easy gwine an' naturally don't keep up wid things much.
"Mars Duncan owned my Ma but didn't own my pa. He was a slave on another plantation. I never seen much o' him 'till after us was free. Now Mars was kind to his slaves, believed in feeding well an' keepin' us comfo'table. He was a kinda po' man wid a small plantation, an' jist a few slaves. De house he lived in was small, an' de few log slave cabins was scattered over de plantation.
"All de time I was a slave I was to small to wuk in de fields an' I spent de mos' ob my time a playin' 'round de cabin doo'. I was dressed in long shirts. I never had on a pair ob pants 'till I was 'bout fifteen years ole. I sho had a time tryin' to git use to my fust 'uns. I was tickled to death over 'em, but dey was so on-comfo'table. I'd wear 'em a little while an' den take 'em off an' git back in my ole shirt. Hit was lak breakin' in a ho'se.
"My ma was a field wuker an' was gone from daylight 'till dark. Us chillun was cared fer by de slave cook an' fed at Mars' kitchen. De wukers was fed early an' den us went later. We knew when to go by de blow o' de horn.
"I can recollect how dey had to spin, weave an' knit in dem days. I can see dem a cookin' on de big fire place an' a makin' soap, candles, cheese, an' molasses. I'se played under long scaffoles ob fruit a dryin fer winter use. I'se played around de fires whar dey was makin' lard and killin' hogs. De whole place was kept alive wid wuk, slave gwine dis way an' dat, each one wid his duties to carry out.
"De slaves wont taught no schoolin', jest to read and write a little, but us was taught how to be polite an how to act 'round white folks. Us went to meetin' in de white folks church, but de slaves done mos' ob deir worshipin' in de fields.
"Ole Mars had to go to de war. Us sho' did hate to see him have to leave us. We was scart o' de war an' all de things us had heard. We could see de soldiers a marchin' at times when dey would be camped close by. I could hear de shootin when dey was takin' Jackson.
"We stayed wid Mars six months after de war ended, den us started life fer ourselves. Ma an' pa was free to live to gether an' dat was a joyous day when we could all be together.
"I'se lak mos' ob my race, I believe in haints. I have saw all kinds. De scaredest I ever was at one was one dark night I was gwine down de public rood, when I saw a headless woman wid a overcoat on. I tore up dat rood a runnin'. Yo' can always look out fer 'em on dark rainy nights.
I'se fished an' hunted a heap in my days. I liked to go to frolics too but was to slow to skip 'round lively 'nough. I jes' kinda always drug 'round 'bout whut I was a doin'. I aint never in no hurry.
"I married when I was twenty seven. I had to court dat gal six months. When she say yes, us married at her house. We have 10 chillun. Us is all gettin' along fairly well, an' I'se glad to see things gwine on peaceful lak dey is.
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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