Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
Notice: This file may be downloaded for Personal Use Only, and may not otherwise be printed or copied without prior written consent of the submitter.
MSGenWeb Index Page
USGenWeb African-American Griot Project
From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Manus Robinson age 76
Manus Robinson, ex-slave, age about seventy six years, lives three miles north of D'Lo on the Braxton road. He was owned during slavery time by Bill Toom in North Carolina. This old ex-slave is not very tall, and stoops while leaning on his heavy cane. His features are typical of his race, a large flat nose, thick lips, and is a dark dusky brown. His large head is ball from his forehead past the center, where a bushy, heavy growth of half grey wooly hair falls low over his neck and ears. He usually carries something in a large sack on his back. He claims to be a preacher and likes to speak of his faith and doctrines; yet has a keen sence of humor and often chuckles while talking and enjoys a joke. He lives on a small farm with his wife.
"Bill Tooms of North Carolina was my Master when I was a slave. He owned my pa and ma along wid 'bout fifty uder slaves and had a big plantation. He's home was a big two story buildin, wid a purty stairway an' big airy purty rooms. De fire places was big an' when hit was cole, bright fires was kept a gwine all ober de house. Yo' all could hear dem a poppin' an' a crackin' as dey sent out a bright blazes plumb out in de halls, a makin' shadows on dem high walls. Hit was a heap purtier sight den yo' gwine ter see dese days wid dese new fangled heaters an gas stuff. In dem days folks had plenty, dey made hit an' used hit in 'bundance, enjiyin' de fat o' de lan'. Dese days eber thing somehow alwas' manages ter git in de big folks' hands an' gits stored 'way in dese pack-a-way places an' folks cant git 'nuf ter thrive on; even the rich seem lak hates ter reach down in his pocket ter buy a little dis, dat, an' tother. Dey tells us deir is a over supply ob eber thing yo' tries ter wuk hard to make ter sell. Dis ole nigger can't figger hit all out.
"Ole Mars had his slave cabins scattered all 'round over his plantation, he lacked 'em dat way, he wanted 'em convenient to der different parts. Some ob 'em was clos' ter de barn an' stables, den dey was two or three close ter de big house fer de servents an' maids ter live, uders was near de fields an' pastures. Now dem pastures was purty sights, one fer de hogs an' one fer de cattle an' horses. A stream o' water run through 'em wid trees a growin 'bout an' horses an' cows a feedin' all 'round over de deep grassy places. While some lay under de big trees. In de winter dey had ter have shelter when dey would come a freeze. Us had ter build 'em big fires of long logs ter keep 'em warm. Dese fires would burn fer days, wid a little stirrin' 'bout.
"Us was fed well an' clos'ed wid comfort an' had good cabins ter live in. Us didn't have no schools 'er churches.
Us had ter go ter meetin' in de white folks church an' sit in de back. De church was three miles away. Us walked or rode in wagons or horse back.
"I was fou' er five years ole when us was freed. Us had a mighty hard time 'fore us homestead us a farm an' got settled. Us didnt know how ter go 'bout lookin' out fer us' selves.
"Back in de days when I growed up, us had ter wuk long hours an' hard an' I neber did lak ter wuk, somehow hit alwas' seemed ter be to much truble fer me. My pa use to whip me wid de plow lines ter make me wuk. I sho' did hate ter wuk.
"I tells 'em how I never was beat in a fight in my life. I knows yo' all thinks I'se a boastin', but I ain't. I won't no champion; I jis neber did fight none. Yo' see, hit was lak dis, hit was lack wuk, too much truble fer dis nigger. I did lak ter take in de good times us had. De ole log rollin's was good times. Totin' dem logs on sticks an' a stackin' 'em high while us was a hollerin' an' a singin'. Us would throw dem logs ober to de time ob a tune, all de time us was a thinkin' ob de big dinner a waitin' fer us. Hit was spread on long tables in de shades o' de trees.
"Us had dances dat would las' all nite long. How dey would swing deir pardners. I tried so hard to learn ter dance, but somehow I'se jis' one nigger dat couldn't neber git de kick. I lacked ter watch de res' an' enjied de music ob, "Turkey In De Straw," played on de ole fiddles an' guitars. Den us had 'lasses candy pullin's dat was gran'. De 'lasses a boilin', an' den, de pullin' o' dat candy wid yo' gal. Dem was de good ole days.
"I neber was put in jail in my life, while in North Carolina or Mississippi. I recon 'bout de worse thing I eber done, was when I run away. I started south ter Georgia wid a bunch ob turpentine folks, dey was a blazin' pine trees fer turpentine. Us wuked in squads. Us was a gwine ter ketch a train an' go on ter Georgia. I was in fer all dat, but my pa kotched me an' brung me home. I was twenty years old, but he didnt keer.
"I stayed single till I was thirty, an' den de fust thing I knowed I found out I loved Jane, a purty gal from Alabama. I knowed her fer a long time, but when I seed I loved her I went ter gwine wid her. I had to go wid her a whole month 'afore she'd hab me. Some folks say, "Uncle Manus, dat was a mighty short courtship," den I say, "What," dat was thirty long days, er maybe hit was thirty one. I'se fer-got what month hit was. If yo' loves 'em, dats a long time.
"When I married I made a preacher. I will never fer-git hit. De way us made preachers, dey let us preach a trial sermon, an' if us does alright an' satisfies de people, den us keep on a preachin'. My text was, "His word is true an' all is true." I believe in livin' fer de Lord.
I ain't got no chillun, but I'se a livin' happy wid Jane. Ise crippled up wid rheumatism an' not able ter git 'bout an' preach or wuk much but de Government is a takin' care ob us.
Slave days was hard times fer us, but I believes us ole niggers was a heap better off.
Transcribed by: Ann Allen Geoghegan
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi