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:
Foreword: Edwin Walker, ex-slave, lives five miles from Panola, Mississippi. He was born about 1849, was owned during slavery time by Richmond Walker. He is about six feet and two inches in height, and weighs about one hundred and seventy five pounds. This old ex-slave although eighty eight years of age carries himself straight and is enjoying good health. He tells this story.
"I was a slave till I was sixteen years ole. Hit seems a powfull long time since dem days when I didn't hab no worries 'bout making a good living an' making ends meet. Us had to wuk. Dat sho' am so, but us knowed dat plenty ob some'en eat was a comming, clo'se to wear an' a place to stay, fer Marse Richmond was a kind master an' looked after us well. He wont a very wealthy man and didn't own as many slaves as some uv 'em, he had 'round three or four hundred acres o' land down in Lawerence County wid 'bout twenty or thirty slaves. He raised wheat, cotton, and corn an' alwa's raised a bunch o' cattle an' goats. His house was o' logs, but was sorter big an' ramblin' lak. A big kitchen an' dinning room was built 'way out to one side to do de cookin' in an' to feed de slaves in. De food was cooked by slave women on a big fire place. A born was blowed afore day fer de slaves to git up an' feed de stock an' harnes 'em ready fer de fiel's. When de horn blowed again hit meant te go to Mars' to eat breakfas'. By de break o' day de slaves was in de fiel's ready to wuk. De chillun was lef' an' took care of by slave women. We mostly run 'bout an' played, barefooted an' in long shirts. Dat's all us wore. No we didn't git cold in de winter time. Our hats was made out o' shucks and pine straw. Us was chillun o' nature, jest took everthing as hit come; played in de streams an' in de trees, hunted birds nest, jumped grape vines an' swung on 'em. In de fall o' de year we went to de woods fer chestnuts an' chinkapens. We never had no bought play things a tall but we had a time wid everything we founds.
"When I got bigger I was put to wuk at light things like totin' wood, drawin' water, cleanin' up 'round de place an' pickin' fruit an' berries. I was put in de fields when I was ten years ole. Yo' all might think that was young, but us was husky over big an' strong an' de fields wuk at fust was hoein', pickin' cotton an' dropin' seed. We liked bein' out wid de grown slaves, whar dey was a singin' an' a tellin' tales. Some was ghos' tales an' some ob de coming war. De nigger spirituals sho was purty.
"Mars Richmond had a platform built on de plantation fer us to dance on an' have our frolics. We would have kegs o' apple cider an' ginger cakes mos' a half a foot square Dat was times fer yo'. Den us would go huntin' on Silver Creek an' chase fox an' coons all night long.
"Another sad time was when de war come on. Marse he had to go an us was scared to death he would never come back. We carried on de farming. Us had a hard time a keepin' things a goin'. A heap o' things giv' out dat us couldn't replace an' had to make-shift 'round.
"I went to Vicksburg after dat awful battle an' dat was de worse sight I'se eber seed afore or since, every thing tore up an' dead folks all over creation an' hit was de worse smell I is ever heard of, so much blood had been shed an' so many soldiers an' horses killed.
"We was care free 'til one day Sis Julia was sole away from us. Her new Mars' took her plump off to South Carolina away from us an' her husband. We mourned an' grieved fer her. After us was freed us tried to find her but till dis day we don't know what become ob her.
"Mars was captured an' held prisoner fer two years an' when de war ended he came home in 'bout two weeks. We sho' was glad. Dat was a day o' rejicing. He had writ an' tell us we was freed. My people stayed wid him eight years after de war, wukin' fer wages, den us homesteaded us a farm an' lef' him.
"I'se married three times. I'se livin' wid my las' wife on a farm of our own. I thinks back over de ole slaves days wid regrets an' wid happiness an is living hopin' to pass on to better lan'."
Transcriber note: Edwin is the brother of Dave 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
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.
Copyright © 2005-2008 by MSGenWeb Project. All rights reserved.