County: Simpson and Lawrence
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.
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Foster Weathersby, Born 1855
Foster Weathersby, ex-slave, lives near D'Lo, Mississippi, on a farm. He was born February 7, 1855, was owned during slavery time by John Newsom, at Old Hebron, Miss. He is square built and heavy set, enjoying good health, and is active for his age. He owns his own home and farm. He and his wife live alone and are fairly prosperous. He is the father of Dr. Weathersby, Veternarian of D'Lo, who does a large practice in that capacity, for the white and colored people for miles around D'Lo, Mendenhall, Braxton, and on into Rankin County.
This old ex-slave is a devout Christian, and when asked his opinion of the modern times, gave this answer: "I believe in the highest civilization, and wants to see progress and people push on, but I's prayin' for this age, and to see the time when we can all do better."
"Mr. John Newsom of Old Hebron owned my father and mother, but when I was just a small baby, my mother was sold to Era Hartzog. Mr. Newsom owned about one hundred and fifty slaves, but his estate was divided. Mr. Hartzog had a large plantation and ruled with a iron hand. But he fed well, ispecially at times. We had comfortable clo'se an' livin' qua'ters. De cottages was small, and built side by side in a long row by de side of de road. We liked livin' together lak dat ruther dan bein' scattered as many of 'em was. You see, we could collect up at times in de evenin', even effen we was tired, and have some enjoyment layin' around under de big trees, hummin' and singin' to de tune of some old guitar, and tellin' tales and talkin' of de hopes and fears of de comin' war to free us.
"Some Masters was kind to deir slaves and some was cruel, jes' lak some folks treat deir horses and mules - some like 'em and is good to 'em, and some ain't. I'se seed 'em laid down on de groun' and whipped 'til dey would bleed - de slaves was made to do de whippin'. Now dis is de way my Master did, others had diffu'nt ways of punishin' 'em.
"At times, hearts was made sad from separations caused from sellin' slaves. I can see de tragic sight, yet, of my people, chained together by deir han's in pairs, lined up in a long row, wid men leadin' 'em, and men at de end of de line takin' 'em to de auction-block. Large sums would be paid for some of 'em. Husbands was sol' and took from deir wives, wives sol' and took from deir chillun, de sons and daughters sol' away from home. My mother was sol' and took from my father when I was jes a few months old. I never seed him tw'ell I was six. I had to be tol' who he was. He saw my mother, for the first time in six years, in de fiel's where we was a-working; dey didn't know how to ack or what to say; dey seemed kinda let down lak. You see, he had married ag'in an' my mother had, too. My father's wife died an' he married ag'in.
"My first wuk as a slave-child was when I was a little chap. Dey made me churn out in de back yard under de big trees. De churn was big an' tall, an' hel' gallons of milk. I had to churn, and churn, and den churn some mo'; dey just never would, look lack, let me stop; dey made me walk 'roun' and 'roun' dat churn. I jes natu'ally growed to lak dat job.
"My pas'-time when I was small, was spent in de woods swingin' on grape vine swings, playin' in de brooks, wadin' and ketchin' crawfish, shootin' birds wid my sling-shot and climbin' hickory-nut trees was a special, favored sport of mine.
"My first wuk in de fiel's was carryin' water, droppin' corn, and pickin' cotton. De slaves was kep' busy all through de farm season, which lasted 'bout nine months out of de year. Through de winter dey did all de repair wuk on de houses, fences and farm implements. At dis time new land was cleared and de log rollin' was done. De womens was kep' busy spinnin' and knittin'.
"Us slaves didn' have no chu'ches in dem days, so big crowds would collect-up, 'way off in de woods, to worship. Dey would pick out deep shady hollahs where dey was a stream or spring, where it was shady an' cool. All day and sometimes into de nite, we would sing, pray and shout. At times, we would make so much noise de white folks would mek us quiet down or stop de worship.
"De slaves was freed when I was 'bout ten years old. Many of de slaves, i'cludin' my folks, lef' deir masters de very day we got our freedom. We knock about, not knowin' what to do, for two years, den my stepfather bought a farm, and den wuk did set in. We was made to work from befo' day-light 'til after da'k, and all day on Sundays to pay for it.
"When I growed up to be a young man, I met a gal from Law'ence County. I sorter fell in love wid her from de firs'. You all know, I had to court dat gal two years befo' she ever would have me. We married fifty six years ago. We had 'leven chillun; nine of 'em is livin'. She died an' I is livin' wid my secon' wife now.
"Slave days was hard times fo' us, but from what we went through wid, ouah race is having a chance of ejucation and civ'lization. De white folks is my friends, dey do a heap fo' us, and I'se satisfied.
Transcribed by Linda Durr Rudd
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi