Source: Slave Narratives Vol. XIV. South Carolina, Part
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From
Interviews with Former Slaves. Contributed to South Carolina, Genealogy Trails by Kim Paterson.
Stories from Ex-slaves
Henry Brown, negro caretaker of the Gibbes House, at the foot of Grove street, once a part of Rose Farm, is a splendid example of a type once frequently met with in the South. Of a rich brown complexion, aquiline of feature, there is none of the "Gullah" about Henry. He is courteous and kindly in his manner, and speaks more correctly than the average negro.
"My father was Abram Brown, and my mother's name was Lucy Brown," he said. "They were slaves of Dr. Arthur Gordon Rose. My grandfather and grandmother were grown when they came from Africa, and were man and wife in Africa. I was born just about two years before the war so I don't remember anything about slavery days, and very little about war times, except that we were taken to Deer Pond, about half mile from Columbia. Dr. Rose leased the place from Dr. Ray, and took his family there for safety. My mother died while he was at Deer Pond, and was buried there, but all the rest of my people is buried right here at Rose Farm. My two brothers were a lot older than me, and were in the war. After the war my brother Tom was on the police force, he was a sergeant, and they called him Black Sergeant. My brother Middleton drove the police wagon: they used to call it Black Maria.
"My father, Abram Brown, was the driver or head man at Rose plantation.
Dr. Rose thought a heap of him, and during the war he put some of his fine
furniture and other things he brought from England in my father's house
and told him if the Yankees came to say the things belonged to him. Soon
after that the soldiers came. They asked my
"Work used to start on the plantation at four o'clock in the morning, when the people went in the garden. At eight or nine o'clock they went into the big fields. Everybody was given a task of work. When you finished your task you could quit. If you didn't do your work right you got a whipping.
"The babies were taken to the Negro house and the old women and young colored girls who were big enough to lift them took care of them. At one o'clock the babies were taken to the field to be nursed, then they were brought back to the Negro house until the mothers finished their work, then they would come for them.
"Dr. Rose gave me to his son, Dr. Arthur Barnwell Rose, for a Christmas present. After the war Dr. Rose went back to England. He said he couldn't stay in a country with so many free Negroes. Then his son Dr. Arthur Barnwell Rose had the plantation. Those was good white people, good white people.
"The colored people were given their rations once a week, on Monday,
they got corn, and a quart of molasses, and three pounds of bacon, and
sometimes meat and peas. They had all the vegetables they wanted; they
grew them in the gardens. When the boats first came in from Africa with
the slaves, a big pot of peas was cooked and the people ate it with their
hands right from the pot. The slaves on the plantation went to meeting two
nights a week and on Sunday they went to Church, where they had a
"After the war when we came back to Charleston I went to work as a chimney-sweep. I was seven years old then. They paid me ten cents a story. If a house had two stories I got twenty cents; if it had three stories I got thirty cents. When I got too big to go up the chimneys I went back to Rose plantation. My father was still overseer or driver. I drove a cart and plowed. Afterwards I worked in the phosphate mines, then came back here to take care of the garden and be caretaker. I planted all these Cherokee roses you see round here, and I had a big lawn of Charleston grass. I aint able to keep it like I used to."
Henry is intensely religious. He says "the people don't notice God now because they're free." "Some people say there aint no hell," he continued, "but I think there must be some kind of place like that, because you got to go some place when you leave this earth, and you got to go to the master that you served when you were here. If you serve God and obey His commandments then you go to Him, but if you don't pay any attention to what he tells you in His Book, just do as you choose and serve the devil, then you got to go to him. And it don't make any difference if you're poor or rich, it don't matter what the milliner (millionaire) man says."
He seemed so proud of his garden, with its broad view across the Ashley
River, showing his black walnut, pear and persimmon trees, grape vines and
roses, that the writer said, "Henry, you know a poet has said that we are
nearer God in the garden than anywhere else on earth." "Well ma'am, you
see," he replied, with a winning
Charleston, S. C.
EX-SLAVE BORN 1857
I was nickname' durin' the days of slavery. My name was Henry but they call' me Toby. My sister, Josephine, too was nickname' an' call' Jessee. Our mistress had a cousin by that name. My oldes' bredder was a Sergeant on the Charleston Police Force around 1868. I had two other sister', Louise an' Rebecca.
My firs' owner was Arthur Barnwell Rose. Then Colonel A. G. Rhodes bought the plantation who sol' it to Capen Frederick W. Wagener. James Sottile then got in possession who sol' it to the DeCostas, an' a few weeks ago Mrs. Albert Callitin Simms, who I'm tol' is a former member of Congress, bought it. Now I'm wonderin' if she is goin' to le' me stay. I hope so 'cus I'm ol' now en can't work.
My pa was name' Abraham Brown; he was bo'n on Coals Islan' in Beaufort County. Colonel Rhodes bought him for his driver, then he move here. I didn't know much 'bout him; he didn't live so long afta slavery 'cus he was ol.
Colonel Rhodes had a son an' a daughter. The son went back to England afta his death an' the daughter went to Germany with her husban'. They ain't never come back so the place was sol' for tax.
Durin' the war we was carry to Deer Pond, twelve miles on dis side of
Columbia. W'en the war was end' pa brought my sister, Louise, Rebecca, who
was too small to work, Josephine an' me, home. All my people is
long-lifted. My grand pa an' grand ma on pa side come right from Africa.
They was stolen an' brought here. They use to tell us of how white men had
pretty cloth on boats which they was to exchange for some of their
o'nament'. W'en they take the o'nament' to the boat they was carry way
down to the bottom an' was lock' in. They was anchored on or near
Sullivan's Islan' w'ere they been feed like dogs. A big pot was use' for
cookin'. In that pot peas was
I was bo'n two years before the war an' was seven w'en it end. That was in 1857. I never went to school but five months in my life, but could learn easy. Very seldom I had to be tol' to do the same thing twice.
The slaves had a plenty o' vegetables all the time. Master planted t'ree acres jus' for the slaves which was attended to in the mornin's before tas' time. All provision was made as to the distribution on Monday evenin's afta tas'.
My master had two place: one on Big Islan' an' on Coals Islan' in Beaufort County. He didn't have any overseer. My pa was his driver.
Pa say this place was given to Mr. Rhodes with a thousand acres of lan' by England. But it dwindled to thirty-five w'en the other was taken back by England.
There wasn't but ten slaves on this plantation. The driver call' the slaves at four so they could git their breakfas'. They always work the garden firs' an' at seven go in the co'n an' cotton fiel'. Some finish their tas' by twelve an' others work' 'til seven but had the tas' to finish. No one was whip' 'less he needed it; no one else could whip master' slaves. He wouldn't stan' for it. We had it better then than now 'cause white men lynch an' burn now an' do other things they couldn't do then. They shoot you down like dogs now, an' nothin' said or done.
No slave was suppose' to be whip' in Charleston except at the Sugar House. There was a jail for whites, but if a slave ran away an' got there he could disown his master an' the state wouldn't le' him take you.
All collud people has to have a pass w'en they went travelin'; free as well as slaves. If one didn't the patrollers, who was hired by rich white men would give you a good whippin' an' sen' you back home. My pa didn't need any one to write his pass 'cause he could write as well as master. How he got his education, I didn't know.
Sat'day was a workin' day but the tas' was much shorter then other days. Men didn't have time to frolic 'cause they had to fin' food for the fambly; master never give 'nough to las' the whole week. A peck o' co'n, t'ree pound o' beacon, quart o' molasses, a quart o' salt, an' a pack o' tobacco was given the men. The wife got the same thing but chillun accordin' to age. Only one holiday slaves had an' that was Christmas.
Co'nshuckin' parties was conducted by a group of fa'mers who take their slaves or sen' them to the neighborin' ones 'til all the co'n was shuck'. Each one would furnish food 'nough for all slaves at his party. Some use to have nothin' but bake potatas an' some kind of vegetable.
An unmarried young man was call' a half-han'. W'en he want to marry he jus' went to master an' say there's a gal he would like to have for wife. Master would say yes an' that night more chicken would be fry an' everything eatable would be prepare at master' expense. The couple went home afta the supper, without any readin' of matrimony, man an' wife.
A man once married his ma en' didn't know it. He was sell from her w'en
'bout eight years old. When he grow to a young men, slavery then was over,
he met this woman who he like' an' so they were married. They was married
a month w'en one night they started to tell of their experiences an' how
many times they was sol'. The husban'
Slaves didn't have to use their own remedy for sickness for good doctors been hired to look at them. There was, as is, though, some weed use for fever an' headache as: blacksnake root, furrywork, jimpsin weed, one that tie' on the head which bring sweat from you like hail, an' hickory leaf. If the hickory is keep on the head too long it will blister it.
W'en the war was fightin' the white men burn the bridge at the foot of Spring Street so the Yankees couldn't git over but they buil' pontoos while some make the horses swim 'cross. One night while at Deer Pond, I hear something like thunder until 'bout eleven the next day. W'en the thing I t'ought was thunder stop', master tell us that evenin' we was free. I wasn't surprise to know for as little as I was I know the Yankees was goin' to free us with the help of God.
I was married twice, an' had two gals an' a boy with firs' wife. I have t'ree boys with the second; the younges' is jus' eight.
Lincoln did jus' what God inten' him to do, but I think nothin' 'bout Calhoun on 'account of what he say in one of his speech 'bout collud people. He said: "keep the niggers down."
To see collud boys goin' 'round now with paper an' pencil in their han's don't look real to me. Durin' slavery he would be whip' 'til not a skin was lef' on his body.
My pa was a preacher why I become a Christian so early; he preach' on the plantation to the slaves. On Sunday the slaves went to the white church. He use to tell us of hell an' how hot it is. I was so 'fraid of hell 'til I was always tryin' to do the right thing so I couldn't go to that terrible place.
I don't care 'bout this worl' an' its vanities 'cause the Great Day is comin' w'en I shall lay down an' my stammerin' tongue goin' to lie silent in my head. I want a house not made with han's but eternal in the Heavens. That Man up there, is all I need; I'm goin' to still trus' Him. Before the comin' of Chris' men was kill' for His name sake; today they curse Him. It's nearly time for the world to come to en' for He said "bout two thousand years I shall come again" an' that time is fas' approachin'.
Source: Interview with Henry Brown, 637 Grove Street. He is much concerned with the Scottsboro Case and discusses the invasion of Italy into defenseless Ethiopia intelligently.
Martha S. Pinckney
Charleston, S. C.
Approx. 660 words
INTERVIEW WITH EX-SLAVE
Mary Frances Brown is a typical product of the old school of trained house servants, an unusual delicate type, somewhat of the Indian cast, to which race she is related. She is always clean and neat, a refined old soul, as individuals of that class often are. Her memory, sight and hearing are good for her advanced age.
"Our home Marlboro. Mas Luke Turnage was my master—Marlboro-Factory-Plantation name 'Beauty Spot'. My missis was right particular about neat and clean. She raise me for a house girl. My missis was good to me, teach me ebbery ting, and take the Bible and learn me Christianified manners, charity, and behaviour and good respect, and it with me still.
"We didn't have any hard times, our owners were good to us—no over share (overseer) and no whippin'—he couldn't stan' that. I live there 'til two year after freedom; how I come to leave, my mother sister been sick, and she ask mother to send one of us, an she send me. My mother been Miss Nancy cook. Miss Nancy was Mas Luke's mother—it take me two years learning to eat the grub they cook down here in Charleston. I had to learn to eat these little piece of meat—we had a dish full of meat; the big smoke house was lined from the top down. (Describing how the meat hung) I nebber accustom to dese little piece of meat, so—what dey got here. Missis, if you know smoke house, didn't you find it hard? My master had 'til he didn't know what to do with. My white people were Gentile." (Her tone implied that she considered them the acme of gentle folks). "I don't know what the other people were name that didn't have as much as we had—but I know my people were Gentile!"
Just here her daughter and son appeared, very unlike their mother in type. The daughter is quite as old looking as her mother; the son, a rough stevedore. When the writer suggested that the son must be a comfort, she looked down sadly and said in a low tone, as if soliloquizing, "He way is he way." Going back to her former thought, she said, "All our people were good. Mas Luke was the worse one." (This she said with an indulgent smile) "Cause he was all the time at the race ground or the fair ground.
"Religion rules Heaven and Earth, an there is no religion now—harricanes an washin-aways is all about. Ebberything is change. Dis new name what they call grip is pleurisy-cold—putrid sore-throat is called somethin'—yes, diptheria. Cuttin (surgery) come out in 1911! They kill an they cure, an they save an they loss.
"My Gran'ma trained with Indians—she bin a Indian, an Daniel C. McCall bought her. She nebber loss a baby." (the first Indian relationship that the writer can prove). "You know Dr. Jennings? Ebberybody mus' know him. After he examine de chile an de mother, an 'ee alright, he hold de nurse responsible for any affection (infection) that took place.
"Oh! I know de spiritual—but Missis, my voice too weak to sing—dey aint in books; if I hear de name I can sing—'The Promise Land', Oh, how Mas Joel Easterling (born 1796) use to love to sing dat!"
"I am bound for de Promise Land!
Source: Mary Frances Brown, Age 88-90, East Bay Street, Charleston, S. C.
Cassels R. Tiedeman
Charleston, S. C.
INTERVIEW WITH AN EX-SLAVE
Mary Frances Brown, about ninety years of age, born in slavery, on the plantation of Luke Turnage, in Marlboro County, was raised as a house-servant and shows today evidence of most careful training. Her bearing is rather a gentle refined type, seemingly untouched by the squalor in which she lives. She willingly gives freely of her small store of strength to those around her.
Her happiest days seem to have been those of her early youth, for when she was questioned about the present times, and even about those closely associated with her today she bowed her head and said: "Deir way is deir way. O! let me tell you now, de world is in a haad (hard) time, wust (worse) den it eber (ever) been, but religion! It eberywhere in Hebben an' in de ert (earth) too, if you want em. De trouble is you ain't want em; 'e right dere jes de same but de time done pass when dis generation hold wid anyt'ing but de debbul. When I a gal, grown up, I had a tight missus dat raise me, you hab to keep clean round her, she good an' kind an' I lub her yet, but don't you forgit to mind what she say.
"My massa, he 'low no whipping on de plantation, he talk heap an' he
scold plenty, but den he hab to. Dere was haad time for two year after de
war was ober (over) but after dat it better den it is now. Dis is de wust
time eber. I ain't eber git use to de wittle (victual) you hab down here.
I lib ober Mount Pleasant twenty five year after I
"Dey were happy time back dere. My massa, he run round ebery way, spend plenty money on horse race, he gib good time to eberybody an' tell us we mus' tek good care of de missus when he ain't dere. An de wittles we hab I ain't nebber see de lak no time. Dem were de times to lib. I old now but I ain't forgit what my missus larn (learn) me. It right here in me."
Mary Frances was asked if she could sing spirituals. The following is one that she sang in a very high pitched wavering voice and then she complained of shortness of breath on account of her heart.
"We got a home ober dere,
"Mother is gone ober dere,
Source: Interview with Mary Frances Brown, 83 East Bay St., Charleston, S. C. (age—90)
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