Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Rosa Thomas Age 76
Rosa is 76 years old. She says she was four years old when "de surrender come." She is 5 feet tall; weighs 130 pounds. Her coloring is brown. She is short and fat and very lame. Walks with a cane. She owns her little shack in North Gulfport and lives near Mitchell's store, which is owned by a white man who is very good to the old colored folk living in that section. He is kind hearted and advances them credit when they have no money for which to buy food. Rosa tells her story as follows:
"I was bawn in Alabama and was jest four years old when de war was over. Fathers name was Alfred Warren and my mama's name was Fanny Warren. My grandmother's name was Rosetta Garrett, and they all lived in Alabama. Old Masta's name was Sparkman. My mother was de nurse in de family and dey trusted her wid dere money. She wore it in a belt strapped aroun' her waist. De Yankees never suspected dat she had it, but dey searched de white folks and axed dem whar dey hid dere money. Dey thought all de time it was burried, but my mother jes' lows effen dey has any money buried she don't know nothing 'bout it.
"I was too small to remember anything dat happened during slavery times but I do remember some of de songs my mother used to sing. I can sing 'em to you, but I fergits de words when I tries to say 'em over to you. One of dem was: (singing in a low mellow voice)
"No moah, no moah, My Lawd, I'll nevah turn back no moah!"
"No moah, No moah, My Lawd! I'll nevah turn back no moah.
Sometime, I'm up, Sometime I'm down, I'll nevah turn back no moah."
Another one of de songs she usta sing dat I remembers was:
"BY DE HANDLE OF MY SOUL."
"By de handle of me soul, come a'bolting along, through by me------.
Mother whar have ye been, all so long------Dis long time ye jest come in?"
Mother, whar have ye been--dis long time--I called ye, An' ye jes' now c-o-m-e in?
By de handle of me soul, Come bolting along--through b-y m-e.
I'll fight it through danger, all danger and deaths 'against pore me.
Sister, preacher, w-h-a-r have ye been s-o l-o-n-g!
Dis long time I called ye, and ye jes' now c-o-m-i-n' i---n!
By de handle of my soul, come bolting along, through by through,
I'll fight through all danger till death is against po'------me!"
Dem old song jes' come to me sometimes. I can't say 'em off. I jes' has to sing 'em to mysef.
"One thing I 'members about slav'ry times is when one of Old Masta's young sons died, and dey buried him wid a dimond ring on his finger. Dat night atter he was buried, a black man on de place what belonged to Old Massa went to de graveyard and digged de body up and cut off de finger what had de ring on it. My mama saw a dim light in de grave yard away in de night. It wuzn't fur from de house --- so she wakes up my grandmother, and dey slip out and watch to see who is dar. Next mawning dey tells Old Massa whut dey saw dat night. Den he goes out dere and finds his son done dug up and de dirt throwed light over his body. De ring is missing and his finger wid it. He soon found out who on de place did it. So he tuk him and whupped his feet till he tole him whut he did wid de ring. When he couldn't stan' it no longer, he pointed up over de doah and said: "Its up dar." And dere it was, finger and all. He couldn't git it off, and he got skeered and hid it ovah de door. Den Old Masta takes de ring and keeps it and buries de finger in de grave wid his son agin. Dat made an impression on my min' dat I never fergits, and I ain't never tuk nothing from nobody. I always asks fer what I wants, and don't take nothing that don't blong to me."
"Does I 'member seein' de Yankees when dey come? Does I? I sho' does remember how scairt us niggers was. We run under de house and hid. We was all runnin' and dodgin' and hidin'. Old Mis' she got in de closet and all her chillun went atter her. De want nothin' to eat atter dey go way. Old Massa was off to de war and dere want nobody home but Old Mis' and us, den.
"Dese times is mighty nigh as bad as slav'ry times. Our Old Massa was good to some of us, but some of dem was so mean dat he had to be hard on dem. De black folks was den jest like dey is today------some good and some mean."
"I owns my little home, but it leaks mighty bad when it rains, but mine ain't as bad as some of de odders round heah. I'se thankful fer a shelter ovah my haid these days.
"Mistah Mitchell is a good white man and he won't let any of us suffer fer somethin' to eat. I works aroun' and does all I kin to help out. I can't do much, I am so crippled up wid rheumatism."
Rosa has adopted a little black girl named Roberta --- who is eight years old and lots of help to her.
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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