Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Dave Walker Panola County
Foreword: Dave Walker, ex-slave, lives nine miles south of Panola, Mississippi, he was born in 1850, and was owned during slavery time by Richmond Walker. He is six feet and two inches in height and weighs one hundred and fifty pounds. His large head is almost ball, and his general coloring is dark brown. He is in very good health.
"Mars Richmond owned my pa and ma long 'fo I was born. He owned a three or four hundred acre plantation wid 'bout thirty grown up slaves 'long wid a heap o' little uns. Mar's house what he lived in wont big, fine and purty like mos' plantation owners had. His was of logs and jest one story. Hits a standin' deir yit, jest lack hit use ter be. De slave cabins was o' logs too, built back o' Mars house. Dey was one big room wid a mud an' straw chimney. One o' de fust things I can recollect is a playin' an' a rollin' 'bout afore de fire on de cabin floo', an ob how us lived. De grown up folks slept on beds an' us chillun slept under de beds. When us would git sleepy us would crawl under de beds and sleep lak little pigs. Sometimes when hit would be real cold we'd take a little civer and sleep in de shuck house on de shucks. Den through de day while our mas was at wuk we was all sont to one house and looked after by a slave woman.
We was trained to live by signals of a ole cow horn. Us knowed whut each blow meant. All through de day de ole horn was blowed, to git up in de mo'nings, to go to de big kitchen out in Mars' back yard ter eat, to go to de fields, an' to come in an' on lak dat all day.
"Mars Richmond was a kind master an' cared fer his slaves well. He wanted good wuk done an plenty ob it but he give us a chance to have pleasures an' merriment. Us chillun had de run o' de plantation. I guess we done 'bout everything a chile ever thought ob. What one ob us didn't think ob de res' did. I can sho tell you, all us got in plenty ob devilment. Mos' ob de time we got on purty peaceful together but some times we would lie up an fight. We played marbles and ball mor'n anything else. I jest wish yo' all could a seed us a running wid all on us dressed in long shirts. Dat was a sight.
"When de horn blowed fer us to eat we was alway ready, hungry as little bears. We had too much to eat, de food stuf was raised deir on de farm in abundance an' de cooks sho didn't mind a fixing hit. I can still taste dat good ole egg bread wid rich creamy milk, plenty o' sweet 'taters, eggs, an' all kinds o' meats, pok', deer, mutton an' beef. We had ginger an' lasses cookies by de pecks. Dem was de good ole days. All dat stuf tas' so good outen big squash shells. Each one o' us set down on de floo' in de kitchen an' our food was brung to us in deep bowls made from dried squash cut half open an' scrapped out. We drunk our milk from little shells lak dat and hit was gran'.
"My fust wuk was 'round de place at odd jobs lak pickin' up apples, a totin' in wood an' cleanin' yards; and later in de fields ob cotton, corn an' wheat. Hit took 'bout two or three weeks to thrust out de wheet.
"I wont ole 'nough to take part in de frolics an' good times de slaves had, but I can recollect how dey done. Mars had a big platform built under de shade trees. Dis was fur dancin' an' a general good time. Sometimes dey would be deir all night dancin' de ole square dance by de music ob de fiddles an' guitars or buck dancin' wid a bunch ob dem a clappin' an' a pattin' deir feet. De hes' part ob hit all was apple cider an ginger cakes. Each cake was bigger dan yo' hand.
"De war broke out an' up-sot everything. I never can fer-git de day dat Mars had to go. When he tole us good by every slave on de place collected 'round him an' cried, afraid he would never git back. We loved him an' de slaves stuck by him while he was away, de farming was carried on de bes' hit could be wid de cavalrymen a taking an' a destroyin'. Hard times sot in fer us all. We couldn't git no salt. I have seed 'em dig de dirt out ob de smoke houses an' boil hit in wash pots to git salt. We couldn't git no soda, and hit was made by burnin' corn cobbs. Dey got short ob cookin' vessels in de kitchen an' couldn't buy none. In dem days all de cookin was done on de fire place. Dey keep a wonderin' how dey was gwine ter make out, finally dey went ter usin' big oak leaves an' paper to bake in. De food to be baked was wrapped in de leaves or paper an' de hot coals was raked back and de food was placed on de hot brick ob de fire place an' civered wid hot aches and coals. Hit would come out jist as purty and sweet as yo' please. Dey aint no food as good as de ole Mamy's cooked on de fire place.
"When de war ended ole Mars was still away in it, but he writ a letter one day tellin' us dat we was as free as he was. Den he come home an' hit was a big day ob great rejoicin'. We was so glad he come back safe to us. We stayed wid him eight years longer an' wuked fer wages. We den homesteaded us a tract o' lan' an' started out fer our selves.
"I growed up to be a little rough, never done no real meaner but jest had a flowery time. I'se ashamed to tell o' hit now. In my courtin' days I was a man among women, but don't recon I ever would hab got married if I hadn't done got arrested one day. I thought sho hit was fer stealing my gal up de way a bit, so I got scart an' managed to git up three dollars fer de license an' married her right off. Den when dey tried me in court hit was about a ole pistol, an deir I had done got married fer nothin'. Well now I has thirteen chillun, forty or fifty grand chillun an' 'bout thirty great grand chillun.
I wish I could recollect mo' to tell but some how I have fer got so much an' never thought I'd be called on to tell ob my humble life, but strange things will happen lak seein' haints. I sees dem all de time. I sees white haints wid-out no heads an' some dat look lak dogs. I can look 'round an' one will be walkin' between me an' who I happen to be walkin' wid. Hit scares me mos' to death. I'd run plump off but I'se to scart. White folks shake deir heads at tales lak dat, but deir sho' is haints, fer I'se seed to many ob 'em.
Transcriber note: Dave is the brother of Edwin Walker whose narrative also appears in this collection.
Transcribed by Linda Durr Rudd
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
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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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