Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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Henrietta Murray, ex-slave
Foreword: Age 84 years, height 5' 3", weight 135 lbs., color black. Physical condition fair except for slight nervousness and occasional attacks of rheumatism. Financial condition very limited. Supported by odd jobs her husband finds. (He is also an ex-slave.) The State Relief Aid gives them commodities occasionally.
"I was born here in Choctaw county not more 'n a mile from dis place where I's livin' now. In all my life I aint never lived more 'n three miles from where I's born."
"My mama was Jane Roberson from South Carolina an' my papa was Daniel Roberson from South Carolina too. My full brothers was Eddie an' Wesley. After my papas death mama married a Gladney fellow an' their chillun was Pamelia, Sammie, Sallie, Lucendy, Lucretia an' Laura. I's de only one o' de first set livin' now an' Wesley is de only one 'o de second. He lives over here on Biwy river an' still tries to farm fo' a livin'."
"My grandma come here from old Virginia an' I never knowed my grandpa. She come here wid her young mistress.
She has told me her mistress was good to her. I was her request fo' her never to be slaved."
"I nursed in de negro quarters durin' slavery days. All de colord women had to go to de field an' one old negro woman stayed at de house to take care o' all de little negro babies. De biggest o' us chillun had to help nurse de little ones."
"We always had plenty to eat an' clothes to wear includin' shoes. They was a colord man on de plantation what made us brogans or heel skinners to wear. We had little log houses to live in an' slept on homemade wheet or oat straw beds."
"Alex Roberson was our master an' Missus Pamelia was his wife. Dats who Mama named one my sisters for. Marsa's an' Missus chillun was: Sarah, Martha, Necie, Sammie."
"Marsa always had a overseer on his place but he wouldn't 'low 'em to hurt his negroes. When one started mistreatin' slaves he turned him off an' got another one. I don't know how many slaves he had but they was Uncle Lit, Jim, Anderson, Aunt Kissie, an' her chillun', Betsy an' her brother, Aunt Patsy an' Aunt Nellie. That twasn't all but I jus' forgot de rest."
"Our white folks didn't teach us to read an' 'rite befo de surrender but my first teacher after de war ended was a white man. My grandma taught a Sunday School class on Sunday afternoons durin' slavery days an' taught us all we knowed. We didn't have any church but had prayer meetin' an' preachin' at our homes ever Sunday evenin'."
"De negro women had to cook befo' daylight an' after dark 'cause long as they could see they stayed in dat field. Aunt Cendie cooked fo' de chillun."
"De nurse women on de place handled most de sick cases. De mid-wife waited on de women when de chillen was born unless twas somethin special she couldn't handle then a doctor was called. My papa come home from de Brest Work with de measles an' died. De other two chillen took 'em an' died too but I never did take 'em."
"After de war was over our marsa come told us we was free by Military Laws. He didn't want us to leave tho'. Most o' de negroes left tho' but befo' five years they was all back."
"When de Yankees come through old Marsa had had us take Missus saddle horse an' his two carriage horses to de woods. They went an' got a barrel o' sugar an' flour, killed a cow, got heep o' chickens an' hams. They eat what they wanted an' left de other in de woods. Us chillun went to where camp was after they was gone an' saw all de stuff they had left. We told our white folks an' they gathered it up an' saved most o' it."
"De Ku-Klux come to our house one night. We was livin' in half de house an' Uncle Jim in de other. They knocked on Uncle Jim's door an' say: "Let me in." He say: "Who are you?" They say: "I'm Ku-Klux." "Well, jus' stay out there then," he say. They all fell 'gainst de doo' an' busted it open. Uncle Jim reached fo' his gun an' they struck him 'cross de hand. Out de doo' he went an' Auntie right behind him. Grandma followed 'em but they saw her an' grabbed her 'round de throat an' led her back in de house. By dat time I done got scared an' crawled under de bed. They left then but took Uncle Jim's gun wid 'em."
"I think we had a better time when I growed up than young folks has now. We enjoyed bein' together. De young people now are more disagreeable than we was. When people fell out back then they'd go together fist an' skull. T'wasn' no such thing as killin'."
"We stayed on wid our white Marsa two years after de surrender. Then went 'bout three miles south to a Mr. Taylor's an' stayed 'bout two years. We went back to our white folks then an' stayed on 'till he died. I married pretty soon after dat an' lived 'round fo' three or four years an' has been right here where I is fo' fifty some odd years. I's always lived on a farm an' ain't never knowed nothin but hard work."
"When we left our white Marsa de first time he didn't give us nothin' but a little corn. Then after we come back there to live we got half we made."
"My Mama an' grandma, an' as far back as we knowed bout our folks belonged to this family o' white folks all their lives an' they says they was always treated right."
"My husband is Henry Murray. We has had fifteen chillun. Sarah lives wid us an' they is Mary, Liza, Ruby, Lovett, Nelson, Joe, an' Jeff in Chicago. Some is unemployed. Nelson he is a brick mason an' Joe works in de post-office."
Transcribed by Debbie Leftwich
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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