Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Sarah Thomas Age 80
Foreword: Sarah is five [feet] seven inches tall and weighs 118 pounds. She is 70 years old but remembers many things that her mother told her about the days of slavery. She is ginger-colored. She has long hair, soft and silky waves, with no sign of kinks. She owns her own little home in North Gulfport and three grandsons live with her. She is a widow. Lost her last child nine years ago. Says she is too old to work and just feels tired and no-count all the time. Her story follows:
I was bawn in Rapides Parish, La. My mother's name was Mary. She was brought from Richmond, Va. to Alexandria, La. by Larry Roberts. During of de war, he tuk all his slaves and went to Texas. After dey returned back, Old Masta died, but his son, Lawrence, wanted to stay in Texas. He come back to de old plantation in Louisiana, and atter de war, he tole all de slaves whut wanted to stay on de plantation dey could, and all dat wanted to go back to Texas wid him could go, so my mother went back to Texas wid young Mr. Lawrence and tuk us three chillun wid her --- my brother Albert, Henry and me, and we was principally raised in Texas, near Dallas. We moved in mule and ox-wagons to Texas.
My mother said she belong to a trader named, Boley, in Virginia. He sold her to Mr. Larry Roberts. She say she remember when dey put her on de block and sold her fer $500.00. She was 16 year old. She was a light-brown skin woman. I don't know where I gets my white blood unless it was frum my father who I don't remember. All my brothers and sisters was about the same color as me. But my mother was part white.
My mother say her Old Masta and her young Masta, too, was both good to der slaves or else dey wouldn't a stayed wid dem after de war. Alexander was not any town den when we left and went to Texas. We lived in Texas ontil all of us chillun was grown. Old Mistess was named Mis' Martha and she learned me 'bout everythin' I know. She learn me how to wash, scrub, cook, houseclean and dust.
Old Aunt Mimey was de cook and her husband, Al Roberts, was de yard man. I 'members de good muffins she used to cook, and de biscuits and all kinds of good things. One thing I 'members specially is de pepper grass with drap-dumplin's. Dat pepper grass grows wild in Louisiana, and it looks a little like lettice. Old Massa and Old Mis' jest had three chillun; Mr. Lawrence, Miss Alice and Miss Sophronia. De girls lived to be old maids.
Our white folks was good to us and we was good to dem, so we didn't git many whuppings. I was raised up wid dem and always call dem my folks.
I lives in a little ole hut with my three grandsons. It belongs to me. I am thankful for it but I sho' would like to have somethin' to go wid it. De last storm tore it mos' to pieces, but mine is not as bad as some of de others.
Interviewer's note: In a second interview with Sarah, she thinks she made a mistake in her age and that she is nearer 80 years than 70 as she gave the writer before. Asked about her grandmother whom she remembers well she said:
My grandma was named Ann Boley. She belonged to a Mr. Boley who lived near Richmond, Va. My ma said when she lived in Virginia she was a smart gal and that was why she brought such a good price, $500.00 at the age of 16. She had five children.
My grandma was the loomer on de plantation and made cloth for de nigger's clothes. My grandpa was named Uncle Al and he fed and tended to the little children Mr. Boley raised and bought. He used to cook their food with corn cobs. He hung his big pots on iron bars which were put across the fireplace and cooked in dem. Old Aunt Jane was de one dat dished up for him, and whut dem chillun et out of was big wooden trays. They fed dem turnip greens seasoned wid barrel-pickled pork, corn bread, sweet potatoes, butter beans and old-fashioned 'cow peas,' and dem chillun was jest as fat as dey could be.
You ax me fer a song dey usta sing in dem days. The song my ma said was sung in her native home was:
You're selling me to Georgy,
But you can not sell my soul,
Thank God Almighty, God will fix it for us some day!
I hope my ole gran'mother
Will meet poor John some day,
I knows I won' know him, when I meets him,
Cause he was so young when dey sold him away.
About churches and preaching: My ma says in dem days de culled people want 'lowed to have a church, but Mr. Boley's brother was a preacher, and dey had church every Sunday evenin' and this brother preached to the niggers. The human he used to sing to dem--- I remembers it well:
Look to de poles, you noble souls, There is banks to own fer Master.
My ma says his text was always: 'To Mind yo' Master And don't run away; And you won't git no Whuppin'.'
Dar was a boy on de place dey said was Mr. Boley's own son. He was a yaller boy, although he was a nigger. He was very fond of boots, and when de slaves had dere little secret meetin's day had him out as a watchman to see who was comin' up on dem. Day would meet together to sing and pray.
When day would say somethin' in dere prayers dat suited him, he would jump and begin to shout. Den dey ax him: John what will make you do dat?' 'I jes' kaint hep it'---he would say, 'Marster promised me a pair 'o boots, but, now, boots or no boots, Glory Halle-lu-yah!' Then John runned away. Every time dey would whup him, he would take out fer de woods. Mr. Boley wouldn't whup him much, because he liked him. He finally sot him free.
I used to hear my mother say how dey baked bread in dem times. I don' know wether any one else has ever tole you 'bout it, specially dis kin' of bread--Ash Cake. Dey would make a big fire wid oak wood, let it burn down to coals and ashes, and when dey made up dere bread wid meal and salt and water dey rake de ashes back and pour in de stiff batter, and kivver it up wid ashes and coals while dey was hot. Dat baked it quick and when it was done dey tek it out of de ashes, and wash it off wid clean water, and I tells you It was good eatin.'
Another thing dey made dat was good was 'Lye Hominy'--It was made by putting oak ashes in a barrel wid holes in de bottom and pouring water over dem ashes and whut dripped through made a strong lye. Den dey husked de corn and put it in dat lye to boil till it swell up and was tender and the husks come off and lef' the corn purty and white. Den dey washed it through sevral waters till it was clean.
Now, Mis'--you know we's gittin' ole. We ole wimmin had a little church meetin' de udder night, and we was sayin' as whut we wish de white folks would do fer us. I said, 'I jes' wish de white folks would give me a little money to live off of. We wouldn't do nothin' wid a mule ef dey'd give us one. It would starve to death, cause we can't hardly feed oursel's, and neither no lan'---We's to old to wuk now. It's as much as we can do to git down to Mistess to write us up. Dere is one thing I pussonly wish dey'd do, and dat is to stop us pore ole wimmin from payin' taxes on our little ole broke-down homes. I has to pay $7.00 a year on mine and de way I do dat is to pay it by 50 cents and two bits (25 cents) as I can git it. Dats all I wants dem to do fer me, and I hears dem all say dat. 'Jes' give me a little money to live on each month and stop dem taxes.
Sarah owns her own little home, makes a small garden, raises a few chickens from which she gets enough eggs for her use, and she does some canning and preserving in season. She says if she did not she would go hungry and that she tries to help herself.
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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