Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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Henry Murray, ex-slave
Foreword: Age 97 years, height 5' 4", weight 120 lbs., color black, health unusually good considering age and financial condition is very limited. Depends on income from his own labor. Occupation is making baskets, chair bottoms and building chimneys. Apparently his mind dwells on nothing but the Bible.
"My name's Henry but dey's allus called me Harry fo' my old grandpappy. I was born in Dallas County, Alabama September 17, 1840. My pappy was Joe Murray an' mammy was Malinda Murray. They was both born in old Georgia. My brothers an' sisters was Nelson, Joe, Jeff, Liza, Ada an' Martha. They's all dead now but me an' brother Nelson. He livin' in Little Rock, Arkansas. He been wantin' me to come live wid him but my wife was raised here an' won't talk 'bout goin'. She ain't never lived more'n three miles from de place she's born. It would most nigh kill her to have to leave."
"Charlie Murray was our old marsa durin' slavery days an' old Missus' name was Martha. Their chillen was Joel, Eli, Charlie, James, Mary, an' Lucy. I jus' don't have no idea how much land old Boss had but 'twas sho' a heep o' it. They was a 1000 acres on de place where we lived an' he owned 1000's o' acres besides. I jus' don't know how many slaves he had but I's knowed him to kill a hundred hogs in one day."
"Durin' slavery days we good as had no beds--jus' old slats tacked together an' covered wid dis old stuff what you wrap 'round bales o' cotton. We lived in little log houses dobbed wid mud an' didn't have no floors. Marsa give us plenty to eat or saw dat de old lady what waited on us did. He had a trough fifty feet long fo' us chillen to eat out o'. Boys on one side an' girls on de other. We sho' knowed better 'n to grumble 'bout anythin'. Our nurse woman kept a long stick an' would wear us out if we did. We jus' wore little cloth shoes. Our few clothes an' shoes was made at home."
"A Mr. Bouie was de overseer on our plantation. Marsa see to him treatin' de hands right. He tell him have 'em plenty to eat or I turn you off an' get 'nother one."
"We had 100's o' acres o' rice, rye, an' wheat. My job (me an' one more nigger) had to blow de horn an' ring de bell to keep de birds away."
"Lots o' slaves run way from Marsa's plantation. When he'd catch 'em they'd get de strap on their back. That thing called stealin'--he'd sho' handle 'em fo' doin' dat. He give us 'tater patches, soreghum patches an' gardens. We'd work his first den if they was any time left we could work ours--if not, work it at night."
"On Marsa's plantation they was a big buildin'--'bout four stories high an' when anybody got sick they carried there to be waited on. After de war was over they burned dis buildin' down. One thin' sho' his slaves allus got proper 'tention when they was sick."
"My Boss man--he fo' peace. He'd wave a white flag showin' he fo' peace. His boys had to go to de war tho'. Joel, he was killed there. When de war was ended Marsa's porter come told us we was free an' could leave if we wanted to but we stayed on an' he give us half what we made."
"When de Yankees come throu' they was jus' as thick as you ever saw black birds on de ground from 6:00 o'clock in de mornin' 'till 5:00 o'clock at night. De sun was in eclipse all day. Lot o' people thought de world was comin' to de end, an they run in de river an' drounded their selves. Dese Yankees was a ridin two deep (two on each horse). They took over 800 bales o' cotton from my boss man. Jus' went in de pasture an' got twelve or thirteen yearlings an' a fatenin' hog from him."
"I stayed on wid my old Boss 'till I come to Mississippi in 1873. I married in 1874. Wife was Henrietta Roberson. I's jus' been married one time an' I don't want no more. If I go over dat I'm breakin' de scripture. De Bible say one wife an' no more. My old lady been de mother o' fifteen chillen an' we raised eighteen in all. One daughter, Sarah, livin' wid us; de others is Mary Estes, Liza, Ruby, Lovett Roberson, Nelson (de brick mason) Joe an' Jeff. Joe, he works in de postoffice an' Jeff, he a clerk in Chicago. My chillen nearly all livin in Chicago."
"Freedom made colored folks to lazy to work fo' a livin'. They was a heep better off in slavery days. People gettin' worse all de time. Some dese days they's gon-a have to answer fo' their sins tho'. I's tellin 'em now but don't do no good. As fo' me I allus tries to live right; does what de Bible say do an' I's gon-a get rewarded fo it sho. I belongs to de Baptist church. Am de oldest member in our church."
"Durin' slavery days de only house o' worship us niggers had was a bush arbor. We'd go out there an' worship but we'd sho' have to have a pass."
"Since I come to Mississippi I's been right here at dis place fifty-one years de 12th day November, 1937. I's allus farmed fo' a livin' an' has also bottomed chairs, made baskets an' built dirt chimneys. They ain't many folks my age what'll get far 'nuff off de ground to build a chimney. De Lord takes care o' me tho'. Heep o' folks I's worked fo' ain't never paid me but dats up to dem an' de Lord. They de one what'll have to give account fo dat. Christ say when ever we do de thin' right no evil shall rest upon you."
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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