Title: Mississippi Slave Narratives from the WPA Records
Submitter: MSGenWeb Slave Narrative Project
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From the WPA Slave Narratives:
Robert Weathersby, Born 1847
Robert Weathersby, ex-slave, lives a few miles from Braxton Mississippi in Rankin County. He was born about the year 1847, was owned during slavery time by a Mr. Weathersby of Rankin County. He is about six feet and one or two inches in height, and weighs around one hundred and sixty five pounds. His hair is grey and neatly cut and his general coloring is what the colored people call a ginger cake brown. He is in very poor health but yet able to be up and to go around his place. This is what he tells of his life.
"I was 'round eighteen years ole when I was freed. Dat seems lak a mighty long time to be a slave, but slave days had deir good pints as well as de bad 'uns. I recons deir is some good and some bad in mos' everything a gwine. Sometimes I figure a heap o' darkies would be a sight better off dese days wid a Master so's dey could have somebody to take care ob 'em, but I'se glad to see freedom so's dey can have mo' freedom an' chances.
"Now I will tell what I can o' what I knows ob slave life an' doings. I was owned by Marse Weathersby who owned a big plantation wid a heap o' slaves. He owned my pa an' ma long fo' I was born' de sho't ob it is, he raised my pa. My ma was raised by her ole Marse Norwood what lived close to Marse Weathersby, an' when pa an' ma fell in love wid one another an' was a wanting to git married. Den pa's master bought or traded an' got ma an' dey married an' lived deir till de surrender in '65. Back in slave days de darkies didnt git married lak dey do now, by de law. When deir masters say dey could marry, well dey was married. Den when de surrender dey had to git married right. Now all ob 'em didnt git married again, but a heap ob 'em did.
"Marse Weathersby was a purty fair Master, he fed an' clos'ed well an' had comfortable cabins fer us to live in. Dey was built ob logs an' had little wooden shutters to de windows. One big fireplace was what us had fer warmth an' light. Dese cabins was built in rows back o' Marse's big purty house. De lot an' barns was built back deir too. Now dat was a busy place back deir. Wuk went on back deir a plenty was kept a gwine on. De big kitchen whar all de cooking was done fer de white folks an' de slaves. De little chilluns was fed in wooden trays out in de yard in de shade o de big oak trees. Yo' ought to seed dat bunch o' little niggers a sopping lasses, or eating pot liquor, an' pone bread an' milk. Now between meals if we all got real hungry we was give baked taters an' hunks o' raw cured meat. We'd stomp 'round dat smokehouse lak little pigs a waiting fer our meat to eat wid our taters.
"Us slave boys all dressed in long shirts an' went barefooted less it was real cole, den us wore heavy brogan shoes. When us got 'bout fourteen years ole us was give a pair o' pants to wear on Sundays. We'd put 'em on an' wear 'em to Church, an' when we got home we had to take 'em off an' put 'em up till de next Sunday. We went to meeting at de white folks meeting house an' sat in de back part, an' us had to wait on de white folks too. Had to see 'bout de horses an' buggies an' take 'em water an' keep de fires a gwine if it was cole weather. When we wanted to have our own services we collected up an' went to de woods an' built big brush arbors an' at nite we'd build great big fires an' had sho' nuf services. We could sing an' shout, an' dats what we wanted to do. Dey would hum an' morn all through de services. De preachers didn't hab no book learning but when a darkie wanted to preacher, he was give a try out, by gitting up an' trying to preach a time or two an' if he suited de folks an' they thought he could preach, dey would say fer him to preach an' if he didnt suit 'em dey would say fer him not too.
"Now us had our frolics long wid church gwine. When a frolic was on we would have to git a pass from our masters to go lak us had to git to go any whar off de plantation. We had merry times at dese gatherings. We danced by fiddle music an' guitars. De dancing was de ole square dance, whar dey swung deir pardners an' called de sets. Den different ones would cut fancy steps by deir selves, an' de ones could cut de mos' steps was counted de bes' dancer. We'd have play games lak cross question an' crooked answers, handkerchief, an' thimble an' de lak o' dese. If we had 'freshments it would mos' alwas' be ginger cakes, parched peanuts an' lasses candy. Now we had regular candy pullings too an' dey was a heap o' fun. Den we had regular buck dances too. We went to de woods fer dese. We'd take planks to dance on an' dancing would take place. Yo' sho' has missed some 'un if yo' aint never seed a nigger buck dance. We hunted an' fished some too. In slave days deir was more big game an' a sight mo' birds den deir is now.
"De fiel' wuk was done from sun to sun. De fiel' hands went out early in de mornings after de horn had blowed an' dey had all et breakfas' at Marse's house. When dey reached de fiels dey went to plowing, strowing fertlize, planting an' hoeing. At twelve o'clock a cowhorn was blowed an' dey would go in to dinner, den dey would go back an' wuk till nite. In gethering time fiels full ob 'em would cut rake, bind an' stack. Wagons would be coming an' gwine stacked high wid grain an' stuff dey had growed. Acres an' acres o' snowy white cotton would be dotted here an' deir wid bunches o' slaves a picking cotton wid deir long sacks dragging from deir sholdiers. De darkies had a big time a singing, shouting, an' hollering Scary ghos' tales would be tole an' tales o hoo-doo an' all kinds o' superstion dat de darkies believed in. Dey believed in all kinds o' signs an' stuff lak dat. De Overseers was alwas' close by to see dat de wuk was kept a gwine. When nite come on dey took out, et supper an' den hit de hay (to bed, a negro saying as their beds were of hay) dead tired.
"Some o' de slaves was whipped now an' den. Some ob 'em had to be tied down. Dey had different ways o' whipping 'em.
"De war come on in '61 to free us. Dese was hard times, fer us all. Food stuff got scarce an' everything got up-sot. I'se seed soldiers a marching. Dey use to march close to Ole Marse's an' we'd watch 'em. Dey would march from a ole oak tree an' on down de road an' back. Dey would keep dat up fer a long spell at de time. I'se heard guns a shooting an' de cavalerymen a riding 'bout.
"After de war de Ku Klux Klan got rite in behind after de colored folks. Dey made 'em walk a chalk line. Dats what dey formed up fer, was to make de colored folks do what dey wanted 'em to do.
"When we was freed we stayed wid ole Marse fer a spell an' wuked fer wages. Den us went on farms of our own. De colored folks had a hard time gitting to a living as we didn't know how to look out fer our selves. De white folks was broke up too. We was turnt out into de world lak cattle, wid everything ruint.
"I married in 1888 an' jes' raised one chile an' he had a heap mo' vantages dey I had. I sont him to school some. Yo' know us slaves wont sont to school none. I'se a living wid my second wife now as my fust one died long time ago.
"I has alwas farmed an' laked to go to meeting. I trys to live right an' believes de young generation o' colored people is a doing purty well. I'se glad to see 'em gwine on.
Transcribed by Linda Durr Rudd
The Federal Writer’s Project of
The Works Progress Administration
For the State of Mississippi