Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Rebecca Phillips Warren County
The actual war part of the thing, I don't know nothing about. When it was going on, I was such a little chap that I didn't have sense enough to know that it concerned me. The Ku Klux and the Patrollers I heared about, but all that went out of my head just like the ghost stories they told me when I was a child. I was born on a great big beautiful plantation about nine miles from Vicksburg. The place belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Whitticer (Mr. Rob and Miss Fannie). Their mother, Miss Celia, lived with them, and she was my old Miss. I couldn't have been more than five years old when my mother gave me to her. None of my folks was common field hands. We was all house servants. My mother was the maid. My brother drove the carriage, and my father was a slave driver, so it was nothing but right that I should be brought up for a house servant too. Miss Fannie thought I was too little to serve old Miss, and she would often say to her, "How come, you want that Rebecca around here?" Old Miss would low that I could rub her arms and wash her foots and wait on her, besides she would say, "Rebecca is plenty big enough to gather up the eggs, and help care for the children."
One day while the big battle was going on in Vicksburg, Miss Fannie called "Rebecca, ain't I done told you to bring them children in the house so those balls won't hit them." Some of them children was bigger than me, but I was taught to care for them. When we all came in the house, I went in to see bout Old Miss. She was setting in her chair crying. I ain't never seed Old Miss cry before. Them tears was worse to me than all that battle what was going on. My throat just started choking up. I didn't say nothing to her, but I went over and put my hand on her. She look at me with her eyes still full of tears, and says, "Child, you run now and play." There warn't no play left in my heart, and there warn't no power could make me leave her, so I says, "Yes, mam!", but I didn't go nowhere. I just stayed real quiet like for a long time till she forgot I was in the room, and then I crawled under the bed. Being so quiet made me fall to sleep. The next thing I knowed Old Miss was saying, "Lord, Child, what is you doing on the floor. You ain't got no pillow under your head, and you ain't got no quilt to lay on." She fixed me all comfortable like, and let me stay in her room all night. That to me was just like being in Heaven.
When the war was over, I still stayed on. All of my family stayed right there. I would say to Old Miss when I finished my work, "Can I go and play?" She would say, "Now has you bathed yourself, 'cause if you ain't you get me a big switch, and I ain't never got that switch till yet. When time would come for Miss to hear my lesson, I would tear the page out and tell her the baby had done it. She would say, "I ought to wear you out 'bout those lessons. Some day you is going to regret it. You ain't got no learning." She sure was right about that. I been regretting it all my life. Old Miss always did give me good council, 'bout everything. She took as much time teaching me manners as if I had been a white child. When I sees the way these present day children is brought up, not to have no respect for nobody, it makes me feel full of shame. They has schools for them now and they say they is all getting learning. Maybe they is and maybe they ain't, but there is one thing certain, they ain't getting no learning 'bout manners. I never is quite been able to figure out why I should have run off and left Old Miss. I stayed with her and cared for her till I was about grown. All that time the folks around me were talking and trying to persuade me how much better off I would be if I would leave, so at last I decided to run off. I didn't leave nobody in my place to care for old Miss, or nothing. I just runned off same as if I had been mistreated. I studies about that now, and wonders how I ever came to do it. I was fooled into it, thats all, listening to all that big talk, and what did I find when I left? It sure warn't no bed of roses. I married and me and my husband separated; about that time a man came along and said he was looking for hands to take to Coahoma County to clear some land for Mr. Carson, so I decided to come on up here with the others. I didn't know nothing bout no field work, but I ain't telling that. I went right to work with the others same as if I had done it always. I hadn't been working long when the overseer came along and asked if there was a good cook among the crew.
Mrs. Carson's cook had quit, and she wanted some one to fill the place. I spoke right up and said cooking was my profession. Right there and then I went to work in Mrs. Carson's kitchen and there I stayed till the good Lord called Mrs. Carson home. Then I came over to the Stovall place which was close by and here I is now. I married again and had six children. All of them is dead except one daughter. She is farming near Cleveland. I stays with her part of the time, but when cotton picking opens up I comes back here where my grand children is still living to help them get out the crop. This place is really like home. I cooked for Mrs. Stovall and helped her raise her family till I got too old to do steady work. She sure is always been good to me. She gives me milk and I gets vegetables out of her garden. She ain't never failed to invite me back to her kitchen to get whatever I want to eat. Next to old Miss, she is the best friend I have. It looks like in these fifty or sixty years, I wouldn't study so much about Old Miss, but I think of her heaps more than I did when I was young. Maybe I is getting punished for the way I left her, or maybe I just has so much more time to set and ponder. She was the best friend I ever had, and if I live on till Gabriel blows his horn, I ain't never going to find nobody what can take Old Miss' place.
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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