Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Riley Moore - Age 85
Foreword: Height 5 feet 6 inches, weight 145 pounds, color black, and general physical condition bad: financial condition also bad. Dependent on small grant from the State Board of Public Welfare.
I was born in Webster county near Cadaretta. My papa was Wes Spencer from Virginia and my Mammy was Susie Moore from North Carolina. My brothers and sisters was Ameline, Catherene, and John but they all dead now.
I sho' does 'member Marsa Bennett Moore an' Missus Maliza. Their chillun's was both boys: Penn an' Monroe was their names.
Marsa had five or six grown slave men to my knowing besides de women an' chillun. He had a big plantation but I was so small an' ignorant I just don't know how many acres they was.
De white folks had nice roomy log houses to live in an' corded beds to sleep on but niggers lived in little shoddy log cabins an' slept on whatever he could get. He had to come out O' dat bed at 4:00 O'clock no matter what he was sleepin' on. Went to de field by daylight an' stayed 'till after dark. A nigger had just started picking cotton good at sun down. If he picked 400 pounds today he better pick 400 tomorrow.
We had home made shoes called Red Rippers, half 'nuff lowells clothes to wear an' half 'nuff to eat. Didn't know what Christmas day was. Niggers been run to death ever since they been in de world. It's a pity to. They the best laboring class in de world an' gets less out of it.
I's seen a lot O' slaves run away. Ole Marsa had nigger dogs. He run one nigger from Cadaretta slap into Memphis, swam de river an' believe me he got him. I was a boy like den but dey waked me up lots o' mornins' with de overseer whippin' 'em an' them hollerin': Oh! pray sir.
Once ole Marsa held up de fence for me to put my head between de rails so he could whip me but 'stead o' just puttin my head through, I shot through just like a mink. He yelled: You little son-of-a-bitch. I run a quarter of a mile to where my mammy was washin' an' he never did bother me no more.
Back in slavery days if de white folks catch you with a book dey beat de skin off you. They didn't want you to know nothin'.
Talkin' 'bout war. I's heard de old cannons shootin' lots o' times. This ole world stayed smoky from guns shootin'. They was bad times back in them days.
I's seen de patrollers lots o' times. De floors was covered with foot plank an' de patrollers would slip to de door an' listen. If they was a man in there the door had to be opened up. Most times de niggers be to sharp fo' em---dey jerk up a plank of 'de floo' an get away.
When Sunday come they would preach fo' de white folks at 11:00 o'clock an to de niggers in de evenin'. They would take a text tellin' us niggers --- Don't steal, be good to Marsa an' Missus an' don't don't run away. Dey ought to have been hung fo' preachin' false doctorin'. They was no such thing in the Bible. Now if somebody started preachin' false doctorin' they would sho take him up.
My mammy found out somehow that de war was over an' we sho' left dat place. My! dat was Hell-on-earth. Marsa didn't give us nothin when we left. We was glad to get off free. My mammy come down near Alva an' hired to a Mr. Sam Parker to cook fo' him. He sho' was a good man an' we stayed with him for four years. By then I was old 'nuff to begin workin out fo' my self. Since this time I's been livin' round farming in de community first one place an' den de other.
My first wife was Letha Oliver an our chillun was William, Wesley, Fannie an' Lynn. My second wife was Henrietta Dunn an our chillun was Susie, Hannah, an' Lillie. One lives in Oklahoma, one in Inverness an the others close 'round here. All farm. I lives in de house with Charlie Brown, a distant relative, who lives near Sweatman.
De Government furnishes me with a little to live on now. Haven't been able to work in the last five years. Had pneumonia that got my health.
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
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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