Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Foreword: Born in 1860; 4 feet 11 inches tall; weight 95 pounds; ginger bread color. Owns her home and has a small income.
I was born in 1860 at the old Polk Place here in Holly Springs. I never lived in the country and have never done any farm work, though I don't pretend that I never saw cotton growing, as some of the foolish ones do. I was owned by General Thomas Polk, a cousin of President Polk. General and Mrs Polk had a daughter, Miss Emily, and several other children. My mother was Louisa Polk. She was Miss Emily's maid and the family seamstress. She sewed with her fingers. My father was Rayfield Johnson, a free man and a barber. All barbers were colored in those days. I was raised by Miss Emily, who made a great pet of me and called me 'her Lizzie'. As long as she lived, she was always ready to protect me.
When I was a child I played Roses Red, How Green the Grass Grows, Round the Mulberry Tree, and Post Office, with the next-door children, using the dividing fence as the Post Office. I went to Gill's School. This was a school carried on by northern white people. For twenty-two years, I was a teacher in the Marshall County colored schools. I am a member of the Baptist Church. I own my own home and rent out part of it. I also own a little farm in Oklahoma left me by my brother.
I can't remember anything about the war, but I remember seeing U.S. soldiers who were in barracks here. And I remember hearing terrible tales about the Ku Klux.
I remember when coal-oil for light was just coming in. I heard tales of something with great big eyes that would run over you. I guess that was a prediction of the automobile.
During the Yellow Fever in 1878, we refugeed and camped about four miles south of town in a blacksmith shop. We carried our cows and chickens and expected to be gone maybe two weeks. We had to stay there three months before the fever was over.
I never married because I was working too hard to have time to flirt. Anyway, if I had to work, I would rather work for myself than for a man.
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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