Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Liza Strickland, ex-slave, lives two miles north west of D'Lo, Mississippi on a farm. She was born about 1847, was owned during slavery time by Mike Strikland in Simpson County. She is about five feet, three inches in height and weighs about one hundred and forty pounds. Her hair is snowy white and kept pinned tight to her head in small twists. Her general coloring is a rich dark brown. She enjoys very good health and is active. She wears loosly fitting garments and a large square cut apron, while her head is almost always tied with a large "head rag".
"I'se had a mighty hard time in my life. In de fust place my mars, when I was a slave wont as kind as some ob 'em. He was what yo' might call a rough mars, stern and strick an easy riled up. He livd in a big two story house wid mos' ob de slaves cabins built close' 'round. Some ob 'em was at de back whar de barn and stables was at, den some was at de side; a while a few was down by de pasteurs, so de slaves a livin' in 'em could look ater de stock dat was a runnin' loose in em. Mars Strickland wuked his slaves long hours and hard on his two or three hundred acre plantation. De slaves was called out ob de cabins early in de mornings and fed at Mars house an' sont to de fields to wuk. De over seers kept em busy 'til de ring ob de big dinner bell at twelve o'clock when dey went back to Mars' and et dey dinner. Den dey watered de horses at a long waterin' trough - den hit was back to wuk 'til night. De slaves was to tired to do any galavatin' 'round; hit was ter eat an ter bed, 'specially in de hardest wukin' part ob de year. Deir was a heap o' wuk 'sides de field wuk, dependin' on de time an' season. Deir was hog killin's. Dey would kill 'em by de dozens and der meat ter be dried by hickory smokes in de smoke house, sausage ter be made an' lard. Eber thing us used had ter be made at home; de soap, candles, cloth had ter be spun an' wove an' made inter clo'se fer Mar's family and all de slaves, den quiltin' fer civer fer us all, wood had ter be cut, hauled and stacked an' cannin' was to be done while other things had ter be banked fer winter sich as sweet 'taters ter eat an' cane fer seed, water had to be drawed an toted to de house an' cabins. Lasses makin' time would las' a week or mo'. I could jest keep on namin' things mos' all day sich as de big wash days an' all de ironin' an scrubbin' an' cleanin' up all 'round. De place was kept alive wid slaves gwine in and out busy wid deir duties wid big fires a burnin' an chickens a cacklin' and cows a lowin' an pots an' pots ob good food a cookin'. Hit was wuk, but good ole days too.
"I was waitin' maid in Mars' house. I jest done eber thing about a house in general, jest whut eber I was sont ter do. I help keep up de house an' wait on ole missus and and tended ter de chillun and waited on de table an' things lak dat. Deir was a heap o' us ter do de wuk but deir was a heap o' wuk ter be done.
"De fust thing us knowed dey started ter talkin' war ter free us. Us was told all kinds ob things; hit kept a stirrin' an' de winter before it broke out, de slaves begun ter predick dat war was a comin'. Den things begun to show 'nough happen dat made us know hit was gwine ter be. One ob dese signs was de coldest winter dat us had eber had. Hit went ter snowin' one day an' snowed an' freezed fer a whole week wid out stoppin'. Icicles hung from de eves ob de house slap to de ground. De limbs ob de trees got so heavy wid ice 'till dey broke off, hit sounded lak guns a firin'. Hit was so cold 'till de pigeons flew north. One day sich a bunch ob 'em flew over hit looked lak a big black cloud a passin' over. Us knowed right den an deir dat was a bad sign an' a war was sho' a comin', an' when hit did break out us won't surprised a tall an us had ter stay scart ter death fer fo' long years. All over de whole country yo could hear de guns a shootin' an' see soldiers a marchin'. But de mos' turrible thing fer us was de cavalery men. Dey would come thro' and tear up an' burn down eber thing an'
take off de res'. Hit was hard to keep soul and body together Hit was patchin' up de destruction ob 'em an' tryin' ter keep 'nuf a growin' 'an ter gether ter live on. But hit come to an end and us was freed in June. Mars' slaves had a big crop a growin' in spite of all de draw back. He said he wouldn't turn us out ter starve, dat de slaves had made de crop and ef'n dey would stay on 'till fall he would divide hit among'st us, which he done. After dat year de slaves scattered an' wuked fer wages wid different ones an' others settled on little farms, some home steaded tracts o' land an' got 'long kinda hard but lived.
"My ma and pa settled wid Gil Gardner an' when I was eighteen or twenty years old I got married an' raised a big family o' chillun an' when dey was about grown my ole man died. I'se now livin' wid my son an' eber thing is well wid me. I'se happy an a Christian an jist a waitin' to go."
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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