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.
"No, my mercy God, I don' know not one thought to speak to you bout. Seems like, I does know your face, but I been so sick all de year dat I can' hardly remember nothin. Yes, sweetheart, I sho caught on to what you want. Oh, I wishes I did know somethin bout dat old time war cause I tell you, if I been know anything, I would sho pour it out to you. I got burn out here de other day en I ain' got near a thing left me, but a pair of stockings en dat old coat dere on de bed. Dat how-come I stayin here wid Miss Celia. My husband, he dead en she took me in over here for de present. No'um, I haven't never had a nine months child. Reckon dat what ailin me now. Bein dat I never had no mother to care for me en give me a good attention like, I caught so much of cold dat I ain' never been safe in de family way. Yes, mam, I had my leg broke plenty times, but I ain' never been able to jump de time. Lord, I got a misery in my back dere. I hope it ain' de pneumonias."
"Well, you see, I couldn' tell you nothin bout my mother cause I never
didn' know nothin bout my mother. My Jesus, my brother tell bout when dey
had my mother layin out on de coolin board, I went in de room whe' she was
en axed her for somethin to eat en pushed her head dat way. You know, I
wouldn' touch my hand to do nothin like dat, but I never know. Dat it, de
coolin board, dat what dey used to have to lay all de dead people on, but
dis day en time, de undertaker takes dem en fixes dem up
"Just like as I been hear talk, some of de people fare good in slavery
time en some of dem fare rough. Dat been accordin to de kind of task boss
dey come up under. Now de poor colored people in slavery time, dey give
dem very little rest en would whip some of dem most to death. Wouldn' none
of dem daresen to go from one plantation to another widout dey had a
furlough from dey boss. Yes, mam, if dey been catch you comin back widout
dat walkin paper de boss had give you, great Jeruseleum, you would sho
catch de devil next mornin. My blessed a mercy, hear talk dey spill de
poor nigger's blood awful much in slavery time. Hear heap of dem was free
long time fore dey been know it cause de white folks, dey wanted to keep
dem in bondage. Oh, my Lord, dey would cut dem so hard till dey just slash
de flesh right off dem. Yes, mam, dey call dat thing dey been whip dem wid
de cat o' nine tail. No, darlin, I hear talk it been made out of pretty
leather plaited most all de way en den all dat part
"Yankees! Oh, I hear folks speak bout de Yankees plunderin through de country plenty times. Hear bout de Yankees gwine all bout stealin white people silver. Say, everywhe' dey went en found white folks wid silver, dey would just clean de place up. Dat de blessed truth, too, cause dat exactly what I hear bout dem."
"Lord, pray Jesus, de white people sho been mighty proud to see dey niggers spreadin out in dem days, so dey tell me. Yes, mam, dey was glad to have a heap of colored people bout dem cause white folks couldn' work den no more den dey can work dese days like de colored people can. Reckon dey love to have dey niggers back yonder just like dey loves to have dem dese days to do what dey ain' been cut out to do. You see, dey would have two or three women on de plantation dat was good breeders en dey would have chillun pretty regular fore freedom come here. You know, some people does be right fast in catchin chillun. Yes'um, dey must been bless wid a pile of dem, I say, en every colored person used to follow up de same name as dey white folks been hear to."
"No'um, I never didn' go to none of dem cornshuckin en fodder pullin en all dem kind of thing. Reckon while dey was at de cornshuckin, I must been somewhe' huntin somethin to eat. Den dem kind of task was left to de men folks de most of de time cause it been so hot, dey was force to strip to do dat sort of a job."
"Lord, I sho remembers dat earth shake good as anything. When it come on me, I was settin down wid my foots in a tub of water. Yes, my Lord, I been had a age on me in de shake. I remember, dere been such a shakin dat evenin, it made all de people feel mighty queer like. It just come in a tremble en first thing I know, I felt de difference in de crack of de house. I run to my sister Jessie cause she had been live in New York en she was well acquainted wid dat kind of gwine on. She say, 'Josie, dis ain' nothin but dem shake I been tellin you bout, but dis de first time it come here en you better be a prayin.' En, honey, everything white en colored was emptied out of doors dat night. Lord, dey was scared. Great Jeruseleum! De people was scared everywhe'. Didn' nobody know what to make of it. I tellin you, I betcha I was 30 years old in de shake."
"Now, I guess time you get done gettin up all dem memorandums, you
gwine have a pile. I tell you, if you keep on, you sho gwine have a bale
cause dere a lot of slavery people is spring up till now. I ought to could
fetch back more to speak to you bout, but just like I been tell you, I
wasn' never cared for by a mother en I is caught on to a
"Oh, de people never didn' put much faith to de doctors in dem days. Mostly, dey would use de herbs in de fields for dey medicine. Dere two herbs, I hear talk of. Dey was black snake root en Sampson snake root. Say, if a person never had a good appetite, dey would boil some of dat stuff en mix it wid a little whiskey en rock candy en dat would sho give dem a sharp appetite. See, it natural cause if you take a tablespoon of dat bitter medicine three times a day like a person tell you, it bound to swell your appetite. Yes, mam, I know dat a mighty good mixture."
"Oh, my Lord, child, de people was sho wiser in olden times den what dey be now. Dey been have all kind of signs to forecast de times wid en dey been mighty true to de word, too. Say, when you hear a cow low en cry so mournful like, it ain' gwine be long fore you hear tell of a death."
"Den dere one bout de rain. Say, sometimes de old rain crow stays in de air en hollers en if you don' look right sharp, it gwine rain soon. Call him de rain crow. He hollers mostly like dis, 'Goo-oop, goo-oop.' Like dat."
"De people used to have a bird for cold weather, too. Folks say, 'Don' you hear dat cold bird? Look out, it gwine be cold tomorrow.' De cold bird, he a brown bird. If you can see him, he a fine lookin bird, too. Yes'um, right large en strong lookin, but don' nobody hardly ever see him dese days."
"En I reckon you hear talk bout dis one. Say, not to wash on de first day of de New Year cause if you do, you will wash some of your family out de pot. Say, somebody will sho die. Dat right, too. Den if possible, must boil some old peas on de first day of de New Year en must cook some hog jowl in de pot wid dem. Must eat some of it, but don' be obliged to eat it all. En ought to have everything clean up nicely so as to keep clean all de year. Say, must always put de wash out on de line to be sure de day fore New Years en have all your garments clean."
"What my ideas bout de young folks dese days? Well, dey young folks en dey ain' young folks, I say. Cose I don' bother up wid dem none, but I think wid my own weak judgment, dey quite different from when I come along. Folks is awful funny dis day en time to my notion. Don' care what people see dem do no time. I sho think dey worser den what dey used to be. De way I say dey worser, I used to have to be back at such en such a time, if I went off, but now dey go anytime dey want to en dey comes back anytime dey want to. I sho think dey worser. De fact of it, I know dey worser."
Source: Josephine Bacchus, colored, age 75-80, Marion, S. C., Personal interview by Annie Ruth Davis, Dec., 1937.
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S. C.
Date, June 21, 1937
"Honey, I don' know wha' to tell yuh 'bout dem times back dere. Yuh see I wus jes uh young child when de free war close en I ain' know much to tell yuh. I born o'er de river dere to Massa Jim Wilkerson plantation. Don' know wha' 'come uv my ole Massa chillun a'ter dey head been gone. Yuh see, honey, Massa Jim Wilkerson hab uh heap uv slave en he hire my mudder out to Colonel Durant place right down de road dere whey Miss Durant lib now. Coase I been back o'er de river to visit 'mongest de peoples dere a'ter freedom wuz 'clare, but I ain' ne'er lib dere no more."
"Gawd been good to me, honey. I been heah uh long ole time en I can' see mucha dese days, but I gettin' 'long sorta so-so. I wuz train up to be uh nu'se 'oman en I betcha I got chillun more den any 60 year ole 'bout heah now dat I nu'se when dey wuz fust come heah. No, honey, ain' got no chillun uv me own. Aw my chillun white lak yuh."
"No, no'mam, dey wear long ole frock den en uh girl comin' on dere when
dey ge' to be any kind uv uh girl, dey put dat frock down. Oh, my child,
dey can' ge' em short 'nough dese days. Ain' hab nuthin but uh string on
dese day en time. Dey use'er wear dem big ole hoop skirt dat sit out broad
lak from de ankle en den dey wear little panty dat show down twixt dey
skirt en dey ankle. Jes tie em 'round dey knees wid some sorta string en
le' em show dat way 'bout dey ankle. I 'member we black
"Dey weave aw de cloth dey use den right dere on de plantation. Wear cotton en woolens aw de time den. Coase de Madam, she could go en ge' de finest kind uv silk cause mos' uv her t'ing come from 'broad. Child, I c'n see my ole mammy how she look workin' dat spinning wheel jes us good uz ef dat day wuz dis day right heah. She set dere at dat ole spinning wheel en take one shettle en t'row it one way en den annuder de udder way en pull dat t'ing en make it tighter en tighter. Sumptin say zum, zum, zum, en den yuh hadder work yuh feet dere too. Dat wuz de way dey make dey cloth dat day en time."
"Honey, peoples hadder work dey hand fa eve'yt'ing dey hab mos' den.
Dey grew dey own rice right dere on de plantation in dem days. Hadder
plant it on some uv de land wha' wuz weter den de udder land wuz. Dey
hadder le' de rice ge' good en ripe en den dey'ud cut it en hab one uv dem
big rice whipping days. Heap uv people come from plantation aw 'bout en
help whip dat rice. Dey jes take de rice en beat it 'cross some hoes dat
dey hab fix up somewhey dere on de plantation. Honey, dey hab
"Dem dey hab rice mortars right dere on de plantation wha' dey fix de rice in jes uz nice. Now dey hab to take it to de mill. Yuh see dey hab uh big block outer in de yard wid uh big hole in it dat dey put de rice in en take dese t'ing call pestles en beat down on it en dat wha' knock de shaft offen it. Coase dey ne'er hab no nice pretty rice lak yuh see dese days cause it wusn't uz white uz de rice dat dey hab 'boat heah dis day en time, but it wuz mighty sweet rice, honey, mighty sweet rice."
"No'mam, didn't hab no schools tall den. Ne'er gi'e de colored peoples
no l'arnin' no whey 'fore freedom 'clare. Wha' little l'arnin' come my way
wuz wha' I ge' when I stay wid Miss Martha Leggett down dere to Leggett's
Mill Pond. A'ter freedom 'clare, uh lady from de north come dere en Miss
Leggett send we chillun to school to dat lady up on de hill dere in de
woods. No, honey, yah ain' ne'er see no bresh tent 'bout heah dis day en
time. Dis jes de way it waz make. Dey dig four big holes en put
"My white folks al'ays waz good to me, honey. Ne'er didn't nab to do no field work in aw me life. When I stay dere wid Miss Leggett, I hadder pick up little chip 'bout de yard when I fust come home from school en den I hadder go 'way up in de big field en drib de turkeys up. We didn't find dat no hard t'ing to do lak de peoples talk lak it sumptin hard to do dese days. We wuz l'arnt to work en didn't mind it neither. Al'ays minded to us own business."
"Oh, gourds waz de t'ing in dem days. Dey waz wha' de peoples hab to drink outer en wash dey hominy en rice in aw de time. Dey was de bestest kind uv bowl fa we chillun to eat corn bread en clabber outer. Peoples dis day en time don' hab no sech crockery lak de people use'er hab. Honey, day hab de prettiest little clay bowls den."
"Annuder t'ing de peoples do den dat yuh ain' ne'er hear 'bout nobody doing dese days, dey al'ays boil sumptin fa dey cows to eat lak peas en corn in uh big ole black pot somewhey dere in de back lot. Coase it wuz jes half cooked, but day sho' done dat. Nobody ne'er t'ought 'bout not cookin' fa dey cow den."
"Dat was sho' uh different day from dis, honey. De little chillun wus jes uz foolish den cause de peoples ne'er tell dem 'bout nuthin tall in dat day en time. Aw dese little chillun 'bout heah dese days don' hab no shame 'bout em no whey. Dey hab head full uv eve'yt'ing, honey, aw sorta grown people knowings."
Source: Maggie Black, ex-slave, age 79, Marion, S. C.
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S. C.
Date, January 27, 1938
No. Words ——
Reduced from —— words
Rewritten by ——
"Remembers de Confederate War, Miss. Yes, mam, I'm supposed to be, if I can live to see February, bout 73 year old. What age Hester say she was? Dat what I had thought from me en her conversation. Miss, I don' remember a thing more bout de war den de soldiers comin through old Massa's plantation en we chillun was 'fraid of dem en ran. Knew dey was dressed in a different direction from us white folks. All was in blue, you know, wid dem curious lookin hats en dem brass buttons on dey bodies. No, mam, dey didn' stop nowhe' bout us. Dey was ridin on horses en it seem like dey was in a hurry gwine somewhe'. En dey didn' stop to old Massa's house neither. No, mam, not to my knowin, dey didn'. Well, we was livin out to de plantation, we calls it, en Massa en Missus was livin up here to Marion. Mr. Ferdinand Gibson, dat who been us Massa in slavery time en Miss Connie, dat what we used to call her, was us Missus. To my knowin, dey didn' have no chillun dey own, but dey sho had plenty colored people. Yes, mam, seems like to my remembrance, my Massa ran bout 30 plantations en 'sides dat, he had a lot of servants right up here to de big house, men en women."
"I was real small in dem days en far as I can remember, we lived on de
quarter dere to old Massa's plantation in de country. Us little tots would
go every mornin to a
"De people used to spin en weave, my Lord! Like today, it cloudy en rainy, dey couldn' work in de field en would have to spin dat day. Man, you would hear dat thing windin en I remember, I would stand dere en want to spin so bad, I never know what to do. Won' long fore I got to whe' I could use de shuttle en weave, too. I bad a grandmother en when she would get to dat wheel, she sho know what she been doin. White folks used to give de colored people task to spin en I mean she could do dat spinnin. Yes'um, I here to tell you, dey would make de prettiest cloth in dat day en time. Old time people used to have a kind of dye dey called indigo en dey would color de cloth just as pretty as you ever did see."
"Den I recollects dat dey would have to shuck corn some of de days en wouldn' nobody work in de field dat day. Oh, my Lord, dey would have de big eats on dem days. Would have a big pot right out to de barn whe' dey was shuckin corn en would boil it full as it could hold wid such as peas en rice en collards. Would cook big bread, too, en would save a hog's head for dat purpose often times."
"Colored people didn' have no schools nowhe' in dat day en time. No'um, us didn' go to no church neither cause we was way off dere on de plantation en wasn' any church nowhe' bout dere, Miss. I likes to be truthful en I tellin you, when we was comin up, we never didn' know nothin 'cept what we catch from de old folks."
"Old Massa, he used to come to de plantation drivin his rockaway en my Lord a mercy, we chillun did love to run en meet him. Dey used to have a great big gate to de lane of de plantation en when we been hear him comin, we would go a runnin en holler, 'Massa comin! Massa comin!' En he would come ridin through de big gate en say, 'Yonder my little niggers! How my little niggers? Come here en tell me how you all.' Den we would go a runnin to him en try to tell him what he ax us. Yes'um, we was sho pleased to see old Massa cause we had to stay right dere on dat plantation all de time round bout dat old woman what tended to us. Used to hear my mother en my father speak bout dey had to get a ticket from dey boss to go anywhe' dey wanted to go off de place. Pataroller catch dem off de plantation somewhe' widout dat walkin ticket, dey would whip dem most to death. Never didn' hear bout old Massa whippin none of dem, but he was very tight on dem, my father say. Cose he give dem abundance of rations en somethin to eat all de time, but colored people sho been work for what dey would get in dem days. Didn' get nothin dey never pay for. It been like dis, what rations us parents would get, dat would be to dey house en what we chillun been get would be to de old woman's house what took care of us."
"Well, Miss, some people stays here wid me, but dey works out en I
tries to help dem out somehow. No, mam, we all stays right here together
en while dey on de job, I tries to look out for de chillun. I just thinkin
bout when we come to a certain age, honey, it tough. Chillun is a heap of
trouble, I say. Well, I was de mother of five, but
"Lord, I think what a blessin it would be if chillun dese days was
raise like dey used to be, Miss. Yes, mam, we had what you call strict
fathers en mothers den, but chillun ain' got dem dese days. Oh, dey would
whip you en put de lash to you in dat day en time. Yes'um, Miss, if we
never do right, my father would put it to us. Sho meant what he say.
Wouldn' never whip you on Sunday though. Say dat he would get you
tomorrow. Den when Monday come, he would knock all bout like he had
"Miss, I think folks is livin too fast in de world today. Seems to me like all de young people is worser, I say. Well, I tell you, dey be ridin out all times of night en girls meetin up wid Miss Fortune. At least, our colored girls does. En don' care what dey do neither. Don' seem to care what dey do nor how dey do. De girls nowadays, dey gets dey livin. Girls settin higher den what dey makes demselves dese days."
Source: Josephine Bristow, colored, 73 years, Marion, S. C.
Code No. ——
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S. C.
Date, July 8, 1937
No. Words ——
Reduced From —— words
Rewritten by ——
MOM SARA BROWN
"Oh, my God, de doctors have me in slavery time. Been here de startin of de first war. I belong to de Cusaac dat live 15 miles low Florence on de road what take you on to Georgetown. I recollects de Yankees come dere in de month of June en free de colored peoples."
"My white folks give me to de doctors in dem days to try en learn me
for a nurse. Don' know exactly how old I was in dat day en time, but I can
tell you what I done. My Lord, child, can' tell dat. Couldn' never tell
how many baby I bring in dis world, dey come so fast. I betcha I got more
den dat big square down dere to de courthouse full of em. I nurse 13 head
of chillun in one family right here in dis town. You see dat all I ever
did have to do. Was learnt to do dat. De doctor tell me, say, when you
call to a 'oman, don' you never hesitate to go en help her en you save dat
baby en dat mother both. Dat what I is always try to do. Heap of de time
just go en let em pay me by de chance. Oh, my Lord, a 'oman birth one of
dem babies here bout two weeks ago wid one of dem veil over it face. De
Lord know what make dat, I don', but dem kind of baby sho wiser den de
other kind of baby. Dat thing look just like a thin skin dat stretch over
da baby face en come down low it's chin. Have to take en pull it back over
it's forehead en den de baby can see en holler all it ever want to. My
blessed, honey, wish I had many a dollar as I see veil over baby face. Sho
know all bout dem kind
"Oh, honey, I tell you de people bless dis day en time. Don' know
nothin bout how to be thankful enough for what dey have dese days. I tell
de truth de peoples sho had to scratch bout en make what dey had in
slavery time. Baby, dey plant patches of okra en parch dat en make what
coffee dey have. Den dey couldn' get no shoes like dey hab dese days
neither. Just make em out of de hide of dey own cows dat dey butcher right
dere on de plantation. Coase de peoples had plenty sometin to eat like
meat en turkey en chicken en thing like dat. Oh, my God, couldn' see de
top of de smoke house for all de heap of meat dey have in dem times. En
milk en butter, honey, dey didn' never be widout plenty of dat. De peoples
bout here dese days axes ten cents a quart for sweet milk en five cents a
quart for old sour clabber. What you think bout dat? Dat how-come people
have to hunt jobs so mucha dese days. Have to do some sorta work cause you
know dey got to put sometin in dey mouth somewhe' or another. Oh, my
child, slavery days was troublesome times. Sugar en salt never run free
wid de peoples den neither. I know de day been here when salt was so
scarce dat dey had to go to de seashore en get what salt dey had. I gwine
to tell you all bout dat. Dey hitch up two horses to a wagon en den dey
make another horse go in front of de wagon to
"Oh, my god, de colored peoples worship to de white folks church in slavery time. You know dat Hopewell Church over de river dere, dat a slavery church. Dat whe' I go to church den wid my white folks. I had a lil chair wid a cowhide bottom dat I always take everywhe' I go wid me. If I went to church, dat chair go in de carriage wid me en den I take it in de church en set right by de side of my Miss. Dat how it was in slavery time. Oh, my Lord, dere a big slavery people graveyard dere to dat Hopewell Church."
"Honey, you mind if I smoke my pipe a lil whilst I settin here talkin
wid you. I worry so much wid dis high blood dese days en a ringin in my
ears dat my pipe de only
"No, Lord, I never believe nothin bout dat but what God put here. I hear some people say dey was conjure, but I don' pay no attention to dey talk. Dey say somebody poison em for sometin dey do, but dere ain' nobody do dat. God gwine to put you down when he get ready. Ain' nobody else do dat."
"Oh, my Lord, I been here a time. I sho been here a time en I thank de Lord I here dis day en time. I can thread my needle good as ever I could en I ain' have no speck neither. Sew night en day. De chillun have dey lamp dere studyin en I hab my lamp dere sewin. My old Miss learnt me to sew when I stay right in de house wid her all de time. I stay bout white folks all my life en dat how-come I so satisfy when I wid em."
Source: Mom Sara Brown, age 85, ex-slave, Marion, S. C. Personal
interview, June 1937.
MOM SARA BROWN
"I stay in house over dere cross Catfish Swamp on Miss Addie McIntyre place. Lives wid dis grand-daughter dat been sick in bed for four weeks, but she mendin some now. She been mighty low, child. It start right in here (chest) en run down twixt her shoulder. She had a tear up cold too, but Dr. Dibble treat her en de cough better now. She got three chillun dere dat come just like steps. One bout like dat en another like dat en de other bout like dis."
"De house we stay in a two room house wid one of dese end chimney. All sleep in de same room en cook en eat in de other room. My bed on one side en Sue bed on de other side. Put chillun on quilts down on de floor in de other end of de room. Baby, whe' dem curtains you say you gwine give me? I gwine hang dese up in Sue room. Dey help me fix up de room nice en decent like."
"It all on me to feed en clothe both dem chillun en de baby too. It just too much on me old as I is. Can' do nothin worth to speak bout hardly dese days. Can' hold my head down cause dis high blood worries me so much. It get too hot, can' iron. If ain' too hot, I makes out to press my things somehow en sweep my yard bout. Sometimes I helps little bit wid doctor case, but not often. Can wash de baby en de mother, but can' do no stayin up at night. No, baby, can' do no settin up at night."
"I tries to catch all what little I can to help along cause dat how I was raise up. Government truck brings me little somethin once a month pack up in packages like dry milk en oatmeal en potatoes. Give dat to all dem dat can' work en ain' got nobody to help dem. Dat dry milk a good thing to mix up de bread wid en den it a help to fix little milk en bread for dem two little ones. De potatoes, I stews dem for de chillun too. Dey mighty fond of dem. Now de oatmeal, de chillun don' eat dat so I fixes it for Sue en every now en den I takes a little bit wid my breakfast."
"I don' know much what to tell you bout Abraham Lincoln. I think he was a mighty great man, a mighty great man, what I hear of him."
"I remembers de Yankees come dere to my white folks plantation one day
en, child, dere was a time on dat place. All dem niggers was just a kickin
up dey heels en shoutin. I was standin dere on de piazza lookin at dem en
I say, 'I don' see why dey want to carry on like dat for. I been free all
de time.' When dey get through de Yankees tell dem dey was free as dey
Massa was en give dem so many bushels of corn en so much meat for dey own.
Some take dey pile en go on off en some choose to stay on dere wid dey
Missus. She was good to all her colored people en dey stay on dere for
part de crop. Give dem so much of de crop accordin to de chillun dey had
"O Lord, baby, I don' know a thing bout none of dat thing call conjurin. Don' know nothin bout it. Dat de devil work en I ain' bother wid it. Dey say some people can kill you, but dey ain' bother me. Some put dey trust in it, but not me. I put my trust in de Lord cause I know it just a talk de people have. No, Lord, I can' remember dat neither. I hear dem say Raw Head en Bloody Bones would catch you if you be bad, but how it started, I don' know. I know I don' know nothin bout how dey look en I don' want to see dem neither. No, child, people say dey sho to be, but I ain' see none. How dey look, I don' know."
"I don' know what to think bout de times dese days. De times worse den dey used to be, child. You know dey worse. Dis here a fast time de people livin on cause everybody know de people die out heap faster den dey used to. Don' care how dey kill you up. No, child, dey sho worser. My people en yunnah people. Don' it seem so to you dat dey worser?"
"Baby, I got to get up from here en leave now cause I huntin medicine
dis mornin. I ain' got time to tell you nothin else dis time, but I gwine
get my mind fix up on it en
Source: Mom Sara Brown, ex-slave, age 85, Marion, S. C., Second Report. Personal interview, September, 1937 by Annie Ruth Davis, Marion, S. C.
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S. C.
Date, May 27, 1937
No. Words ——
Reduced from —— words
Rewritten by ——
"I born en raise up dere in Colonel Durant yard en I in my 78th year now. Dat seem lak I ole, don' it? Coase Colonel Durant hab plenty udder colored peoples 'sides us, but dey ne'er lib dere in de yard lak we. Dey lib up in de quarters on de plantation. My pappy name Ben Thompson en he hadder stay dere close to de big house cause he wus de Colonel driver. De Colonel hab uh big ole carriage wha' to ride in den. It hab uh little seat in de front fa my pappy to set in en den it hab two seat 'hind de driver whey de Colonel en he family is ride. I kin see dat carriage jes uz good right now dat my white folks hab to carry em whey dey is wanna go."
"Den my mammy come from de udder side uv Pee Dee en she name, Lidia Bass. She was de servant 'round de yard dere en dat count fa we to ne'er stay in de quarters wid de udder colored peoples 'fore freedom declare. I ne'er hadder do no work long uz I lib dere in de yard cause I ain' been but five year ole when freedom declare. My grandmammy lib right dere close us en Colonel Durant hab she jes to look a'ter aw de plantation chillun when dey parents wuz workin'. Aw uv de plantation peoples 'ud take dey chillun dere fa my grandmammy to nu'se."
"I 'member one day dere come uh crowd uv peoples dere dat dey tell us chillun wuz de Yankees. Dey come right dere t'rough de Colonel yard en when I see em, I wuz 'fraid uv em. I run en hide under my grandmammy bed. Don' know wha' dey say cause I ain' ge' close 'nough to hear nuthin wha' dey talk 'bout. De white folks hadder herry (hurry) en put t'ings in pots en bury em or hide em somewhey when dey hear dat de Yankees wus comin' cause dey scare dem Yankees might take dey t'ings lak dey is carry 'way udder folks t'ings. I hear em say dey ne'er take nuthin from de Colonel but some uv he wood."
"My white folks was well-off peoples en dey ain' ne'er use no harsh treatment on dey plantation peoples. De Colonel own aw dis land 'bout here den en he see dat he overseer on de plantation provide plenty uv eve't'ing us need aw de time. I hear tell 'bout some uv de white folks 'ud beat dey colored peoples mos' to death, but I ain' ne'er see none uv dat no whey. I is 'member when dey'ud sell some uv de colored peoples way offen to annuder plantation somewhey. Jes been bid em offen jes lak dey wuz cattle. Some uv de time dey'ud sell uh man wife 'way en den he hadder ge' annuder wife."
"A'ter freedom declare, we ne'er lib dere at de big house no more. Move
in de colored settlement en den we ain' eat at de big house no more
neither. Dey le' us hab uh garden uv we own den en raise us own chicken en
aw dat. I 'member de Colonel gi'e us so mucha t'ing eve'y week en it
"Peoples wha' lib on Colonel Durant plantation ain' know nuthin but to lib on de fat uv de land. Dey hab plenty cows den en dey gi'e us plenty uv milk eve'y day. I 'member we chillun use'er take we tin cup en go up to de big house en ge' us milk to drink en den some uv de cows 'ud be so gentle lak dat we chillun is follow em right down side de path. Den when dere ne'er wuz nobody lak de Colonel overseer 'bout to see us, we is ketch de cow en ge' some more milk. I al'ays'ud lub to drink me milk dat way. We is eat plenty green peas en 'tatoes en fish in dem days too en dey is use 'tatoe pie right smart den."
"Aw de colored peoples on Colonel Durant plantation hab good bed wha'
to sleep on en good clothes to put on dey back. Coase we ne'er hab no
bought fu'niture in dem days, but we hab bedstead wha' dey make right dere
en benches en some uv de time dey is make wha' dey call 'way back chair.
Den we is make us own bed outer hay cause de white folks ne'er spare de
colored peoples no cotton den. Hadder cut de hay in de fall uv de
"Peoples use'er ge' aw kinder useful t'ing outer de woods in dem days
'way back dere. Ne'er hadder buy no me'icine tall den. Ain' ne'er been no
better cough cure no whey den de one my ole mammy use'er make fa we
chillun. She larnt 'bout how it made when she stay 'round de Missus en
"Yas'um, I 'members when dey hab plenty uv dem cornshucking to one annuder barn. De peoples'ud come from aw de plantation 'bout dere. Dem corn-shuckings wuz big times, dat dey wuz. Gi'e eve'body aw de "hopping-john" dey kin eat. Jes cook it aw in uh big pot dere in de yard to de big house. Ain' nuthin ne'er eat no better den dat "hopping-john" is eat."
"Den de peoples use'er come from aw de plantation 'bout en hab big dancing dere. Dat when I lub to be 'bout. Dey hab uh big fire build up outer in de yard en dat wha' dey dance 'round 'bout. Call dat uh torch fire. Dey'ud hab fiddle en dey dance wha' dey call de reel dance den. I 'member I use'er lub to watch dey feet when dat fiddle 'ud ge' to playing. I jes crawl right down on me knees dere whey I'ud see dey feet jes uh going."
"I ne'er hab mucha schooling 'fore freedom declare cause I been raise up on de plantation. Dis child (her daughter) pappy wuz de house boy to de big house en he ge' more schooling den I is. De Missus larnt he how to read en write she self. A'ter freedom declare, I go to school to uh white man up dere to de ole Academy en den I is go to annuder school down dere to uh blacksmith shop. I go to uh white man dere too. Ne'er hab no colored teacher den cause dey ain' hab 'nough schooling den. Dese chillun don' know nuthin 'bout dem times. I tell dese chillun I don' know wha' dey wanna run 'bout so mucha cause dere plenty t'ing to see dat pass right dere by us house eve'y day. I t'ink dis uh better day en time to lib en cause dis uh brighter day now dat we hab."
Source: Mom Louisa Collier, age 78, colored, Marion, S. C
"I couldn' tell how old I is only as I ask my old Massa son en he tell me dat I was born ahead of him cause he had de day put down in he family book. I had one of dem slavery bible, but I have a burnin out so many times dat it done been burn up. I belong to Mr. George Crawford people. Mr. George de one what die up here one of dem other year not far back. Dey who been my white folks."
"I can tell you a good deal bout what de people do in slavery time en how dey live den, but I can' tell you nothin bout no jump about things. My Massa didn' 'low us to study bout none of dem kind of frolickings in dat day en time."
"I gwine tell you it just like I experience it in dem days. We chillun
lived well en had plenty good ration to eat all de time cause my mammy
cook for she Missus dere to de big house. All she chillun lived in a one
room house right dere in de white folks yard en eat in de Missus big
kitchen every day. Dey give my mammy en she chillun just such things as de
white folks had to eat like biscuit en cake en ham en coffee en hominy en
butter en all dat kind of eatin. Didn' have no need to worry bout nothin
'tall. My Massa had a heap of other colored peoples dere besides we, but
dey never live dat way. Dere been bout 80 of dem dat live up in de quarter
just like you see
"My Massa wasn' never noways scraggeble to he colored peoples. Didn' cut em for every kind of thing, but I is see him beat my stepfather one time cause he run away en stay in de woods long time. Oh, he beat him wid a switch or a stick or anything like dat he could get hold of."
"Didn' never know nothin bout doing no hard work in us chillun days. When I was a boy, I mind de crows out de field. Oh, crows was terrible bout pickin up peoples corn in times back dere. You see if dey let de crows eat de corn up, dey had to go to de trouble of planting it all over again en dat how-come dey send we chillun in de field to mind de crows off it. We just holler after em en scare em dat way. Crows was mighty worser in dem days den dey is dis day en time."
"I sho remembers when freedom was declare cause I was bout 16 year old
den. When dem Yankees talk bout comin round, my Massa take all we colored
boys en all he fast horses en put em back in de woods to de canebrake to
hide em from de Yankees. It been many a year since den, but I recollects
dat we was settin dere lookin for de Yankees to get as any minute. Wasn'
obliged to make no noise neither. Oh, we had big chunk of lightwood en
cook meat en hoecake en collards right dere in de woods. Den my Massa take
one of dem oldest plantation boys to de war wid him en ain' nobody never
hear tell of him no more. He name Willie. O my Lord, when dey hear talk
"My Massa ask my mother was she gwine live with him any longer after freedom was declare en she say she never have no mind to leave dere. We live on dere for one year en den we studied to get another place. I believes heap of dem white folks died just on account of us get freed. Dey never didn' want us to be free."
"I heard a 'oman say somebody had conjured her, but I don' believe in none of dat. I knows I got to die some of dese days en dat might come before me. I don' bother wid none of dat kind of thing, but I'll tell you bout what I has experience. I had two dogs dere en somebody poison em cause dey tell me somebody do dat. Oh, I know dey was poison. De police say de dog was poison. A 'oman do it dat had chillun what was afraid of my dog en dat how-come she poison it. I sho think she done it cause it just like dis, anything peoples tell me, I believes it."
"I have seen dem things peoples say is a ghost when I was stayin here to Lake View. I plant a garden side de road en one night I hear somethin en I look out en dere was a great big black thing in me garden dat was makin right for de house. I call me wife en tell her to look yonder. De thing was comin right to de house en my wife hurry en light up de lamp. I hear de peoples say if you didn' light up de lamp when you see a spirit, dat it would sho come in en run you out. I had done paid some money on de place but after I see dat thing, I didn' have no mind to want it. Had de best garden en chickens dere I ever had, but I never bother no worry bout dat. Just pick right up en leave dere to come here en I been here ever since. I knows dat been somethin come dere to scare me out dat house. Dat ain' been nothin else but a spirit. Ain' been nothin else."
Source: Charlie Davis, age 88, colored, Marion, S. C.
Lizzie Davis sends word for Heddie Davis to come over to her little shack to join in the conversation about old times and Heddie enters the room with these words: "Sis, I gwine hug your neck. Sis, I did somethin last night dat I oughtn't done en I can' hardly walk dis mornin. Pulled off my long drawers last night en never had none to change wid. I can' bear to get down en pray or nothin like dat, my knee does ache me so bad. I gwine up town yonder en get some oil of wintergreen en put on it. Yes'um, dat sho a good thing to strike de pain cause I heard bout dat long years ago. Sis, ain' you got no coffee nowhe' dis mornin? God knows, de Lord sho gwine bless you, Sis."
"What honey? No'um, I won' here in slavery time. I was just tereckly
after it. Well, I come here a Lewis, but I inherited de Davis name when I
married. Old man Peter Lewis was my daddy, en my mother—she was a North
Carolina woman. Oh, I heard dat man talk bout de old time war so much dat
I been know what was gwine fly out his mouth time he been have a mind to
spit it out. My daddy, he belonged to de old man Evans Lewis en he been de
one his boss pick to carry to de war wid him. Yes'um, he stayed up dere to
Fort Sumter four years a fightin en hoped shoot dem old Yankee robbers. My
old man, he had one of dem old guns en I give it to his brother
"Oh, I was born dere to Mullins in January on de old man Evans Lewis'
plantation. Den we moved dere to de Mark Smith place after freedom settle
here. Dat long high man, dat who been us boss. His wife was name Sallie en
de place was chock full of hands. No, mam, my white folks didn' care bout
no quarter on dey plantation. Colored people just throwed 'bout all over
de place. Oh, I tell you, it was a time cause de niggers was dere, plenty
of dem. Some of dey house was settin side de road, some over in dat
corner, some next de big house en so on like dat all over de place. Oh,
dey lived all right, I reckon. Never didn' hear dem say dey got back none.
"Lord, child, I sho hope I gwine to Heaven some of dese days cause old Satan been ridin me so tough in dis here world, I ain' see no rest since I been know bout I had two feet. My husband, he treat me so mean, if he ain' in Heaven, he in de other place, I say. Den all dem chillun, Lord a mercy, dey will kill you. I raised all mine by myself en I tell you, dey took de grease out of me.
"My daddy, he was a prayin man. Lord knows, he was a prayin man. Seems like de old people could beat de young folks a prayin up a stump any day. I remember, my daddy come here to de white people church to Tabernacle one night en time dem people see him, dey say, 'Uncle Peter, de Lord sho send you cause ain' nobody but you can pray dese sinners out of hell here tonight.' God knows dat man could sing en pray. Lord, he could pray. Oh, darlin child, dat man prayed bout all de time. Prayed every mornin en every night en when us would come out de field at 12 o'clock, us had to hear him pray fore he ever did allow us to eat near a morsel. Sis, I remember one day, when dey first started we chillun a workin in de field, I come to de house 12 o'clock en I was so hungry, I was just a poppin. God knows, people don' serve de Lord like dey used to."
"Sis, you wants dat one patch, too. Lord Jesus, dere ain' no limit to
dis one. Sis, I must be come here on Saturday cause everywhe' I goes, I
has to work. Hear talk, if you born on a Saturday, you gwine have to work
hard for what you get all your days. I been doin somethin ever since I
been big enough to know I somebody. Remember de first thing I ever do for
a white woman. Ma come home en say, 'Heddie, get up in de mornin en wash
your face en hands en go up to Miss Rogers en do everything just like she
say do.' I been know I had to do dat, too, cause if I never do it, I know
I would been whip from cane to cane. When I got dere, I open de gate en
look up en dere
"Yes'um, de Yankees, I hear my daddy talk bout when dey come through
old Massa's plantation en everything what dey do. Say, dere was a old
woman dat was de cook to de big house en when dem Yankees come dere dat
mornin, white folks had her down side de cider press just a whippin her.
Say, de Yankees took de old woman en dressed her up en hitched up a buggy
en made her set up in dere. Wouldn' let de white folks touch her no more
neither. Oh, de place was just took wid dem, he say. What
The first scene of "Lizzie's 'Sponsibility" is that of the small, one room dwelling place of Lizzie Davis, aged colored woman of Marion, S. C. A disorderly, ill-lighted, crudely furnished room, saturated with the odor of food. Behind the front door stands a gayly colored iron bed, over which is thrown a piece of oilcloth to keep the rain from leaking on it. In the center of the room are several little quaint home-made stools and two broken rockers, while in one corner sits a roughly finished kitchen table, the dumping place of all small articles. Still in another corner, almost hidden from sight in the darkness, is the dim outline of an old trunk gaping open with worn out clothing, possibly the gift of some white person. A big fireplace in one side of the wall not only furnishes heat for the little room, but also serves as a cooking place for Lizzie to prepare her meals. On its hearth sits a large iron kettle, spider, and griddle, relics of an earlier day. The room is dimly lighted by the fire and from two small doors, together with a few tiny streaks that peep through at various cracks in the walls and top of house.
It is about 9 o'clock on a cold, drizzly morning in January, 1938. The
little two room house, in which Lizzie rents one room for herself,
displays an appearance of extreme coldness and dilapidation, as a visitor
approaches the doorway on this particular morning. It is with somewhat of
an effort that the visitor finally reaches the
A rap on the door brings Lizzie, crippled up since she was twelve years of age, hobbling to the door. Taking her walking stick, she lifts the latch gently and the door opens slightly. A gray head appears through the crack of the door and Lizzie, peeping out from above her tiny rim spectacles, immediately recognizes her visitor. She offers her usual cheerful greeting and begins hastily to push the large wooden tubs from the door to make room for her visitor to enter, though it is with unusual hesitancy that she invites her guest to come in on this occasion.
Lizzie—Come in, Miss Davis. I feelin right smart dis mornin. How you been keepin yourself? Miss Davis, I regrets you have to find things so nasty up in here dis mornin, but all dis rainy weather got me obliged to keep dese old tubs settin all bout de floor here to try en catch up de water what drips through dem holes up dere. See, you twist your head up dat way en you can tell daylight through all dem cracks. Dat how I know when it bright enough to start to stir myself on a mornin.
Yes'um, I tell Miss Heddie here de other day dat I had promise you I was gwine study up some of dem old time songs to give you de next time you come back. Miss Heddie, she lookin to a right sharp age, I say. Yes'um, she been here a time, honey. I tell her to be gettin her dogs together cause I was sho gwine point her out to you de next time I see you.
I tell you, Miss Davis, I got a 'sponsibility put on me here to look after all dese chillun. Yes'um, it sho a 'sponsibility cause I think dere five of dem dere, en it de truth in de Lord sight, dey has me settin up so straight to keep a eye on dem dat I can' never settle my mind on nothin. Dey won' let me keep nothin clean. Ain' no use to scrub none, I say. You see, cripple up like I is, I ain' able to get no work off nowhe' en I keeps dem while dey parents work out. Dey mammas have a job to cook out en dey brings dem here bout 6 o'clock in de mornin for me to see after till dey get home in de afternoon. Cose dey helps me along, but it takes what little dey give me to keep dem chillun warm cause I has to try en keep a fire gwine, dey be so little. Dere Bertha Lee en Joseph, dey start gwine to school dis year en I has to see dey gets fix decent en march dem off to school every mornin. Dem other three dere, dey name: Possum en June en Alfred. Ain' but just one girl en dat—
(Lizzie's attention turns to June, who comes in crying from the back yard, where all the children went to play during Lizzie's conversation with her visitor).
Lizzie—What de matter wid you, June?
June—Aun' Izzie, Possum knock me wid de ax.
Lizzie—Great King! What a peculiar thing to hit you wid. How-come he to do dat?
June—He was bustin up dem stick out dere side de wood pile.
Lizzie—Oh, well, you just go en butt up on de ax. Dat ain' no fault of he own den. Clean up dat face en gwine on way from here.
(June, crying to himself, remains seated on the little stool).
Lizzie—Let me see now, Miss Davis, I tryin to get some of dem old time songs together to turn for you what you been axin me bout de other time you come here. Yes'um, I tryin to blow my dogs—
(Possum enters the room).
Possum—Aun' Izzie, I was bustin up dem splinters dat my daddy brung for you to cook wid en June come en set right under de ax.
Lizzie—Um-huh, ain' I tell you so? Whe' de ax, Possum? Fetch it here en put it in de corner. Ain' none of you had no business wid dat ax nohow. Ain' I tell you to mind your way round dat ax?
(Possum runs back out in the yard).
Lizzie—Like I tellin you, Miss Davis, if de people had a song in de old days, dey would put it down on a long strip called a ballad, but honey, I been through de hackles en I can' think of nothin like I used to could. Is anybody sing dis one for you, Miss Davis? It a old one, too, cause I used to hear—
(Alfred comes in to tell his tale).
Alfred—Aun' Izzie, June set on Possum's pile of splinters dat he was makin en Possum let de ax fall right on June's head.
Lizzie—Dey is cases, Miss Davis. I tellin you, dese chillun just gets everything off my mind. Most makes me forget to eat sometimes. Dere Miss Julia Woodberry, poor creature, she been down mighty sick en I ain' been able to go en see bout her no time. Don' know what ailin her cause I don' gets bout nowhe' much. No, mam, dese chillun don' have no manners to go visitin en I can' left dem here widout nobody to mind bout dat dey don' run—
Joseph—Aun' Izzie, I ain' gwine wear no coat to school dis mornin.
Lizzie—Boy, is you crazy? What de matter wid you, ain' you know de
ground been white wid Jack Frost dis mornin? En you clean up dat nose fore
you get dere to school, too. You ain' say your ma send you here widout no
pocket rag to wipe your nose wid? You ma, she know better den to 'spect me
to hunt rags for you. Come here en let me fasten up dat coat round de
neck. You look like a turkey buzzard wid it gapin open dat way. Whe'
Bertha Lee? It time both you been in dat road gwine to school
(Bertha Lee and Joseph go out the door to leave for school).
Lizzie—Lord a mercy, Miss Davis, my mind just a windin. How dat song turn what I had for you?
One for Paul,
Lizzie—Joseph, how-come you ain' tell dese chillun good-bye?
Joseph—Good-bye Possum, good-bye June, good-bye Alfred.
Possum, June, Alfred—Good-bye Joseph.
Lizzie—Is you got dat one now, Miss Davis? What de next? Great Jeruselum! Dem chillun done carry dat tune way wid dem. I can' turn dat one to save my neck. Just can' come to de turn table as de old man would say. (12 o'clock mill whistle blows, time teller for many colored people of the community). Lord a mercy, what dat whistle say? It done come 12 o'clock en dat pot ain' thought bout to kick up none yet. I tell you, honey, it sho a 'sponsibility I got put on me here to cook for all dese chillun en see dey ration is cook mighty done, too, so as dey won' be gwine round gruntin wid dey belly hurtin all de evenin.
(Lizzie begins to stir up the fire to make the pot boil and her visitor decides to return later to hear the songs).
Date, February 7, 1938
It is a damp, chilly mornin about three weeks later, when Lizzie's visitor returns to hear her sing old time songs. June, Bertha Lee, and Alfred are playing in the street before the little house.
Visitor—Is Aun' Lizzie at home?
June, Alfred, Bertha Lee—Yes'um, she in dere. She in de house.
Visitor—You children better mind how you run about in all this damp weather, it might make you sick.
June—Possum's got de chicken pox.
Alfred—Possum's got de chicken pox.
June—Me sick, too.
Bertha Lee—I got a cold.
Alfred—I sick, too.
Visitor—Poor little Possum. Is he sick much?
Alfred—Yes'um, he stay right in dat room dere. (Room next to Lizzie's room with a separate front door).
Bertha Lee—He mamma had de chicken pox first en den Possum, he took down wid it.
June—Dere he now! Dere Possum! (Possum appears from around the corner of the house with both hands full of cold fish).
(Alfred goes to Lizzie's door to tell her that she has a visitor)
Alfred—Aun' Izzie, somebody out dere wanna see you.
Lizzie—Holy Moses! Who dat out dere? Boy, you ain' tellin me no story, is you? Mind you now, you tell me a story en I'll whip de grease out you.
Bertha Lee—Aun' Izzie, ain' nobody but Miss Davis out dere.
(Lizzie hobbles to the door on her stick).
Lizzie—How you is, Miss Davis? I ain' much to speak bout dis mornin. I tell you de truth, Miss Davis, dese chillun keeps me so worried up dat I don' know whe' half my knowin gone, I say. Great Lord a mercy, dere Possum out dere in de air now en he been puny, too.
Visitor—The children tell me Possum has the chicken pox.
Lizzie—No'um, he ain' got no chicken pox, Miss Davis. Dey thought he had it cause he mamma been ailin dat way, but I don' see nothin de matter wid him 'cept what wrong wid he mouth. Possum, stand back dere way from Miss Davis, I say. Yes'um, he been sorta puny like dis here last week. He mamma must been feed him too much en broke he mouth out dat—
June—Miss Davis, I know how to spell my name.
Bertha Lee—I know how to spell my name, too. Me likes to go to school.
Visitor—Oh, I think it is nice to like to go to school. What do you do at school?
June—Pull off your hat.
Bertha Lee—Us writes.
Visitor—Lizzie, how about those old time songs you promised to study up for me? You ought to have a mind running over with them by this time.
Lizzie—Lord, Lord, honey, I had study up a heap of dem old tunes here de other day, but I tellin you de truth, Miss Davis, dese chillun got me so crazy till nothin won stick—
(Willie, age 10, comes over to play with the children and begins to whistle.).
Lizzie—Willie, ain' you know it ill manners to whistle in anybody house? Dere now, it impolite to walk by anybody house whistlin, too. You is too big a boy for dat. Ain' gwine stand for you learnin dese chillun no such manners for me to beat it out dem. No, boy, mind yourself way from here now, I got to hunt up dat tune for Miss Davis. Yes'um, I got one of dem old tune poppin now. Let me see—Great Happy! Dat pot done gwine out all my sparks. (Lizzie rushes in the house to look after a pot that she hears boilin over on the fire).
June—Bertha Lee, de lady don' know whe' us sleeps, do she?
Bertha Lee—Dere us house over dere.
(Bertha Lee gets up to point the house out and June immediately slides into her seat on the bench next to the visitor).
Bertha Lee—Move way, June.
June—No, dis place whe' I been.
Bertha Lee—June, go further, I say.
June—No, Bertha Lee, dis whe' I been.
Bertha Lee—No, go further. (June holds his place) I go tell Aun' Izzie den.
Visitor—Tell Lizzie I'm waitin to hear that tune she promised to sing.
Bertha Lee—Aun' Izzie, June settin in my place.
Lizzie—Fetch yourself on back out dere now, Bertha Lee, en settle your own scrap. Ain' you shame of yourself en you bigger den June, too? Go way from here, I say. I ain' got no time to monkey up wid you. I got to get dese collards boilin hard, else dey ain' gwine get done time you chillun start puffin for your dinner. Go way, I tell you. Miss Davis, I comin toreckly.
(Bertha Lee returns to the porch quietly and takes her place on the opposite side of the visitor, while June clings to his place).
June—Miss Davis, does you know Mr. Rembert?
Visitor—Is he your father?
Bertha Lee and June—No, he ain' us daddy.
June—Mr. Rembert, he bought me everything I got. He shoe horses. Don' you know him now?
Bertha Lee—He bought June's sweater, but dem my overalls he got on.
June—Dem dere pretty buttons you got on you, Miss Davis.
Bertha Lee—Sho is, en dem little chain dere.
June—Me got a sweater just like her coat.
Bertha Lee—Ain' just like it.
June—It most like it.
Bertha Lee—No, it ain' cause dis here wool.
(Lizzie returns to the porch and sits on a little stool near her door).
Lizzie—Lord, Miss Davis, dat tune done left me. Now, de next time dat I get a tune in my mind. I gwine sho get somebody to place it for me. It de Lord truth, my mind gwine just so wid so much of chillun worryations till—
June—Me can sing.
Possum—Aun' Izzie, I ain' got nothin to eat.
(Lizzie returns to her room again to stir up the fire and get Possum some bread).
Bertha Lee—Sing den, June.
June—Un-uh, I can'. Aun' Izzie might hear me.
Bertha Lee—I gwine sing den.
"I sees de lighthouse—amen,
(Lizzie and Possum return to porch. Possum has three muffins).
Lizzie—Clean up your nose dere, Alfred. Miss Davis, I ready. Sho got a mind to turn dat tune dis——
Alfred—Possum wouldn' fetch me no bread, Aun' Izzie.
Lizzie—Dere dey go again, Miss Davis. No, you can' have none of Possum's bread. Gwine on in dere en catch you a piece out your own pan. You eat up Possum's bread en den he'll be de one howlin bout he ain' got none.
(Alfred goes in the room and comes back with a biscuit).
Lizzie—I pretty certain I ready now, Miss Davis. Let dem all get dey belly full en den dey head won' be turnin so sharp. Dat how-come I tries—
Possum—Aun' Izzie, Alfred eatin June's bread.
Lizzie—Alfred, look here, boy, you know dat ain' none of your bread. You sho gwine get a lickin for dat. (Lizzie slaps him). Your ma, she ain' never left nothin but corn hoecake in your pan since you been born en you know dat, too. Dem chillun carries me in de clock sometimes, Miss Davis. Dis one en dat one callin me en de Lord help me, I forgets what I doin—Clean up dat nose dere, boy.
June—My nose clean.
Lizzie—Possum know I talkin to him. Get on in dere en tell Miss Mammie to give you a pocket rag, Possum. (Miss Mammie is Possum's aunt who came to spend the day with them).
"Peter Rabbit, Ha! Ha! Ha!
Lizzie—I has to ax you to bear wid me, Miss Davis. I sorry you come here on a dead shot en ain' gettin no birds. Lord knows, I tryin to get my mind—
June—Oo, Aun' Izzie, Joseph been cuttin out Willie's book.
(Lizzie's attention is attracted to Willie, who looks worried about his torn book.)
Lizzie—Great mercy, boy, you ought to have a pain in de chest. Look,
you settin dere wid your bosom wide open. Fasten up your neck dere, I
say.—Possum, come here,
Lizzie—Look out now, I'll whip you for tellin a story. Whe' de rag? No, you ain' ax her neither. Gwine on en clean up dat nose fore I wear you out.
(Possum goes around corner of house).
Lizzie—Help me Lord not to forget it dis time. I sho got dat tune——
June—Aun' Izzie, Aun' Izzie, Possum fall in de tub of water what settin under de pump.
(Possum appears from around the corner of the house just at that moment drenched and almost frozen).
Lizzie—Great Lord a mercy! Possum, you looks like a drowned possum sho enough. Why ain' you do like I tell you to do? You know I don' never allow you chillun ramblin round dat pump tub no time. Ain' nobody want to drink out no tub you wash your snotty nose in. Fetch yourself in dere to de fire en dry yourself fore you is catch a death of cold. Gwine on, boy. Don' stand dere en watch me like a frizzle chicken. Dere Mr. John Fortune comin now. I gwine tell him to catch Possum en cook him up.
Possum—I gwine run.
Lizzie—You say you gwine run?
Possum—No'um, I ain' say I gwine run.
Lizzie—Mind you now, Possum, you know what I tell you bout a story-teller.
Mammie—Miss Lizzie, I just don' believe he know right from wrong.
Lizzie—Well, I gwine learn him den. Ain' nothin I despises worser den a story-teller. (Lizzie slaps Possum on the shoulder several times and sends him in the house to dry, shivering from both cold and fear.).
Lizzie—Miss Davis, Mr. John Fortune helps me out wonderfully wid dese chillun. Say, when dey bad, he gwine cook dem up en eat dem. Yes, mam, I tellin de truth, honey, dese chillun keeps me settin here listenin wid all my ears en lookin wid all my eyes, but dey is right sorta entertainin like. Yes'um, dey got so much of sense till dey done took what little I is had.
(Alfred comes running in and leans up on Lizzie).
Lizzie—Clean up dat snotty nose, Alfred. You ought to been name Snotty wid your mouth all de time lookin like you ain' hear tell of no pocket rag. Move way from dere, June. Don' blow your nose settin side Miss Davis.
Date, February 10, 1938
Lizzie—Lord, Miss Davis, look like everything a hustlin dis mornin. Yes'um, dis here Monday mornin en everybody is a bustlin gwine to see bout dey business. Seems like everything just gwine on, just gwine on. I tell you de truth, Miss Davis, I studied so hard bout dem songs de other night, I beg de Massa to show me de light en he hop me to recollect dis one for you. See, when you gets to de age I is, you is foolish—
(Joseph runs across the street to tell Lizzie something).
Joseph—Aun' Izzie, Possum teachin June to hit Jerry.
Lizzie—Uh-huh, I gwine sho beat him, too. (Lizzie turns to her visitor) Possum, he teachin June to knock dat little one wid de speckle coat on.
Visitor—Is he another child that you are taking care of?
Lizzie—No'um, he grandma raise him en de poor little creature, he don' have nobody to play wid. Look like nobody don' care when he come or whe' he go. I say, I tries to collect mine up en take care of dem cause it dis way, if you don' take time en learn chillun, dey old en dey ain' old; dey fool en dey ain' fool. Yes'um, I tryin to drill dem, Miss Davis, but it does take time en a little whip, too. Has to punish dem right smart sometimes. I tellin you, dem chillun sho a 'sponsibility. Dem what put all dem gray hair up dere on my topknot. I tell dis one en dat one to set to a certain place till I say to get up en den I'll get my studyin on somethin else en de child, he'll be out yonder—
(Heddie Davis, age 72, a neighbor of Lizzies, comes over to join in the conversation).
Lizzie—Here come de hoss (horse). Come in, Miss Heddie. Miss Davis wants us to sing one of dem old back tunes dis mornin.
Heddie—Well, I is studied up one tune what I been hear de old people sing when I wasn' nothin much more den a puppy—Lord a mercy, Miss Lizzie, dere dem people comin from de trial. Look, dere dey fetchin dat girl to Dr. Graham now. En my Lord, got de poor child's head all wrapped up dat way. Dat man, he ought to have he head plucked. He know better den to cut dat child so close de senses. Don' know what de matter wid de people nohow.
Lizzie—Ain' nothin but de devil, Miss—
(Boy, about 8 years old, comes across the street and hands Lizzie a bundle).
Pickle—Miss Lizzie, ma say dere your sewin.
Lizzie—Thank you, son, thank you a thousand times again. Tell your mamma de old hen a scratchin bout out dere in de yard now huntin de nest en ain' gwine be no long time fore I can be catchin her a chicken to put in de pot. Yes, Lord, I got to start savin dem egg dis very day for de settin. (Lizzie turns to her visitor on the porch and continues her conversation). Miss Rosa, she does do all my sewin for me en I generally gives her eggs for her kindness. I sorry dere so much of huntin egg de same day.
(Little boy, Pickle, looks disappointed and continues to hang around).
Bertha Lee—Aun' Izzie, sing somethin.
Lizzie—You want me to sing so bad, sugar, en I ain' know nothin neither. Heddie, turn me one.
Heddie—Gwine on en spill dat one yourself what you been tell me bout de other mornin en quit your pickin on me.
Lizzie—Well, I tryin to get myself together, but dere so much of travelin en so much of chillun, I can' collect—
Alfred—Aun' Izzie, can I go to whe' Jerry gone?
Lizzie—No, boy, you know I ain' got no mind to let you go runnin off dat way. (Lizzie calls to Mammie in the room). Mammie, look dere to de clock. I gettin in a fidget to get some of dese chillun way from here.
(Pickle still hangs around).
Lizzie—Joseph, come here.
Lizzie—Boy, don' you grunt at me dat way. Come here, I say. Go dere in de chicken house en hunt dat one egg en give it to Pickle to carry to he mamma.—Got to scatter dese chillun way from here—
Joseph—Here de egg, Aun' Izzie.
Lizzie—Fetch it dere to Pickle den. Boy, tell your mamma I sorry I ain' had no egg to send her 'cept just dat one nest egg. Tell her, when she buss dat egg, she better look right sharp en see is de hen ain' got it noways addle like cause—
Bertha Lee—Aun' Izzie, how my nose is?
Lizzie—Look bad. Gwine on in dere en clean your face up. I know you ain' gwine to school wid all dem crumbs stuck bout on your mouth. Joseph, gwine on in de house dere en put you on some more clothes. Gwine on in dere, I say. Don' stand dere on de street en strip.
Heddie—No, boy, don' pull off in no public.
Bertha Lee—Aun' Izzie, I gwine carry my bread to school wid me.
Lizzie—Hunt you a paper den. You can' go dere to school wid no handful of bread makin all dem chillun start mouthin round you. Joseph, get me a paper to put dis here child's bread in.
Joseph—Here, Bertha Lee. Here de paper.
Lizzie—Lord, Miss Davis, it a time. I tell you de truth, honey, dis here 'sponsibility got me tied both hand en foot. Ain' no rest nowhe'. I hates it you come here en ain' gettin nothin what you been aimin to catch. I gwine be ready toreckly though. Let me get dese chillun in de road en dem songs gwine start travelin out my head faster den lightnin—
Bertha Lee—Aun' Izzie, make Joseph come on.
Lizzie—Joseph, get in dat road dere side Bertha Lee. Now, you chillun make your tracks dere to school straight as you can go en if you stop dere to dat lady house en get a pecan, I gwine whip you hard as I can.
Joseph and Bertha Lee—Good-bye Possum, good-bye June, good-bye Alfred.
Possum, June, Alfred—Good-bye Joseph, good-bye Bertha Lee.
Lizzie—Here dat tune come buzzin now, Miss Davis. Is you got dis one?
"Oh, my sister,
Oh, what band,
Heddie—Sis, you is done took de one I been how. I been expectin you was comin out wid one of dem old time reels you used to be a singin en a jiggin bout all de time.
Lizzie—Oh, I been know a heap of dem reels. Hoped sing dem behind de old folks back many a day cause us chillun wasn' never allowed to sing reels in dem days. See, old back people was more religious den dey is now. Yes, mam, dey been know what spell somethin in dat day en time. When dey would speak den, dey meant somethin, I tell you. People does just go through de motion dese days en don' have no mind to mean what dey talk. No, child, us didn' dar'sen to let us parents hear us sing no reels den. What dem old people didn' quarrel out us, dey whip out us. My father never wouldn' let we chillun go to no frolics, but us would listen from de house en catch what us could. I used to could turn a heap of dem reels, too, but he was so tight on us till everything bout left me. Lord, Heddie, give me a thought. You is de jiggin hoss. Hope me out, Heddie, hope me out.
(Heddie begins song and Lizzie joins in and finishes it).
"The blackest nigger I ever did see,
En his shirt tail flew.
Lizzie—Great Lord a mercy, Miss Davis, dem kind of tune, dem sinful en wicked songs, dey what I used to turn fore I been big enough to know what been in dem. No, honey, I thank de good Lord to point me way from all dat foolishness en wickedness en I ain' gwine back to it neither.
"Lord, I know dat my time ain' long,
Lizzie—Lord, I sho know my time ain' long. De Lord say de way of de righteous prevaileth to eternal life en I know I right, people. Lord, I know I right. 'Sponsibility or no 'sponsibility, Lord, I seekin de Kingdom.
Source: Lizzie Davis, colored, 70-80 years, Marion, S. C.
"No, mam, I couldn' exactly tell you how old I is cause my father, he been dead over 20 years en when us had a burnin out dere to Georgetown, Pa's Bible was destroyed den. Cose I don' remember myself, say, slavery time, but I can tell dat what I is hear de olden people talk bout been gwine on in dat day en time. No, mam, I want to suggest to you de best I can cause I might have to go back up yonder en tell it to be justified some of dese days."
"Oh, I been know your father en your grandfather en all of dem. Bless mercy, child, I don' want to tell you nothin, but what to please you. Lord, I glad to see your face. It look so lovin en pleasin, just so as I is always know you. Look like dere not a wave of trouble is ever roll 'cross your peaceful bosom."
"Now, like I speak to you, I don' know rightly bout my age, but I can
tell you when dat shake come here, I been a missie girl. Oh, my Lord, I
been just as proud en crazy in dem days. Wasn' thinkin nothin bout dat
dese dark days was headin here. Yes, mam, I is always been afflicted ever
since I been twelve years old, so dey tell me. You see, dat muscle right
back dere in my foot, it grow crooked just like a hook. De doctor, he say
dat if dey had kept me movin bout, it wouldn' been grow dat way. But my
poor old mammy, she die while us was livin down dere to old man Foster
Brown's plantation en dere won' no other hand gwine trouble dey way no
time to lift me up.
"Yes, honey, wid God harness on me, I come here to dis town a grown woman to live en I been livin right here by myself in dis same house near bout 20 years. Cose dere a little 12-year-old country girl dat stays here wid me while de school be gwine on so as to get some learnin. Yes'um, I pays $2.00 every month for dis here room en it ain' worth nothin to speak bout. Pap Scott's daughter stay in dat other room over dere. No, mam, dere ain' but just dese two rooms to de house. You, see, my buildin does leak en I has a big time some of dese days. See here, child, I has dis piece of oilcloth cross my bed en when it rains on a night, I sleeps in dat chair over dere en lets it drop on de oilcloth. Den when it comes a storm, my Lord, dere such a racket! I be settin here lookin for dat top up dere to be tumblin down on me de next crack en seems like it does give me such a misery in my head. Yes, mam, dat misery does strike me every time I hear tell bout dere a darkness in de cloud."
"Well, drawed up as I is, I ain' able to get no work worth much to speak bout dese days. It dis way, child, don' nobody like to see no old ugly crooked up creature like me round bout whe' dey be no time. Cose I sets here en does a washin now en den whe' de people gets push up, but don' get no regular work. Now, dem people over dere, I does dey washin mostly, but dey don' never be noways particular en stylish like en I don' have nothin much to worry wid. See, de lady, she don' go bout nowhe' much."
"Oh, Lord, dere my stove right dere, I say. Yes, mam, I cooks right
here in de fireplace all de time. I got dat pot on dere wid some turnips a
boilin now en it gettin on bout time I be mixin up dat bread, too, fore
dat child be comin home from school hungry as a louse. I say, I got dis
here old black iron spider en dis here iron griddle, too, what I does my
bakin on cause you see, I come from way back yonder. Dem what de olden
people used to cook on fore stoves ever been come here. Yes, mam, de
spider got three legs dat it sets on en de griddle, dat what I makes dese
little thin kind of hoecake on. See, when I wants to bake in de spider, I
heaps my coals up in a pile dat way so as to set de spider on dem en pours
de batter in de spider en puts de lid on. Den I rakes me up another batch
of coals en covers de lid over wid dem. Do dat to make it get done on de
top. Yes, mam, dat de kind of a spider dat de people used to cook dey cake
in. Now, when I has a mind to cook some turnips or some
"Yes, child, de people what been raise de slavery way, dey been have a heap of curious notions en some of dem was good, I say. Yes, mam, dere one sign dat I remembers bout en I follows dat up right sharp dese days. I sho watches dat closely. Say, somebody have a mouthful of rations en sneeze, it a sign of death. I finds dat to be very true to speak bout. Yes'um, I notices dat a good one, Miss Davis."
"Den I got another one comin. Always say, when you see bout a dozen buzzards moesin (flying) round a house en den dey break off en make a straight shoot for a graveyard, dere somebody out dat house gwine be bury dere soon. Cose dat what I hear talk bout, but I ain' watched dat so much."
"No, mam, dat ain' half de signs what de olden people used to have cause dat all what dey know to tell dem what to do en what was gwine happen. Dem what was wise, dey followed dem signs closely, too. Yes, you come back another time, child, en I'll see can I scratch up a heap of dem other sign to tell you. When I gets to talkin to you bout old times, my mind, it just gets to wanderin over dem old fields whe' I run bout as a little small child en I can' half remember nothin to speak to you bout."
Source: Lizzie Davis, colored, Marion, S. C.—Age 70 to 80.
"My parents, dey was sho raise in de South. Been come up on de old man Foster Brown's plantation. Ain' you know whe' Mr. Foster Brown used to live? Yes, mam, down dere in dat grove of pecans dat you see settin side de road, when you be gwine down next to Centenary. I remember, I hear my father tell bout dat his mammy was sold right here to dis courthouse, on dat big public square up dere, en say dat de man set her up in de wagon en took her to Georgetown wid him. Sold her right dere on de block. Oh, I hear dem talkin bout de sellin block plenty times. Pa say, when he see dem carry his mammy off from dere, it make he heart swell in his breast.
"Yes'um, I hear my father talk bout how dey would shoot de great big bomb guns in slavery time. Seems like, he say dat de shootin fuss been come from Fort Sumter. Oh, my Lord, I hear talk dat de people could hear dem guns roarin all bout dis here country. I know dat word been true cause I hear my parents en de olden people speak bout dat right dere fore we chillun. Say, when dey would feel dat rumblin noise, de people would be so scared. Didn' know what was gwine happen. Cose I speak bout what I catch cause de olden people never didn' allow dey chillun to set en hear dem talk no time. No, mam, de olden people was mighty careful of de words dey let slip dey lips.
"Oh, we chillun would have de most fun dere ever was romancin (roaming)
dem woods in dat day en time. I used to think it was de nicest thing dat I
been know bout to go down in de woods side one of dem shady branch en get
a cup of right cool water to drink out de stream. I tell you, I thought
dat was de sweetest water I is ever swallowed. Den we chillun used to go
out in de woods wid de crowd en get dese big oak leaves en hickory leaves
en make hats. Would use dese here long pine needles en thorns for de pins
dat we would pick up somewhe' dere in de woods. En we would dress de hats
wid all kind of wild flowers en moss dat we been find scatter bout in de
woods, too. Oh, yes'um, we thought dey was de prettiest kind of bonnets.
Den we would get some of dese green saplin out de woods often times to
make us a ridin horse wid en would cut down a good size pine another time
en make a flyin mare to ride on. Yes, mam, dat what we would call it.
Well, when we would have a mind to make one of dem flyin mare, we chillun
would slip a ax to de woods wid us en chop down a nice little pine tree,
so as dere would be a good big stump left in de ground. Den we would
chisel de top of de stump down all round de edges till we had us a right
sharp peg settin up in de middle of de stump. After dat was fixed, we
would cut us another pole a little bit smaller den dat one en bore a hole
in de middle of it to make it set down on dat peg. Oh, my Lord, one of us
chillun would get on dis end en dere another one would get on de other end
en us chillun would give dem a shove dat would send dem flyin round fast
as I could say mighty-me-a-life. My blessed a
"Well, Mr. Brown, he was mighty good to his colored people, so I hear my parents say. Would allow all his niggers to go to de white people church to preachin every Sunday, Cose my father, he was de carriage driver en he would have task to drive de white folks to church on a Sunday. Yes'um, dem what been belong to Mr. Brown, dey had dey own benches to set on right up dere in de gallery to de white people church, but I hear talk dat some of dem other white people round bout dere never wouldn' let dey colored people see inside dey church no time. Lord, I talk bout how de people bless wid privilege to go to church like dey want to in dis day en time en don' have de mind to serve de Lord like dey ought to no time. Cose dere a man comes here every Sunday mornin in a car en takes me out to church. Ain' no kin to me neither. He late sometimes en de preacher be bout out wid de sermon, but I goes anyhow en gets all I can. Look like de Lord bless me somehow, cripple up as I is, I say."
"De shake! Oh, I remember it well cause I been a grown girl den. Everybody thought it was de Jedgment en all de people was runnin out en a hollerin. I thought it was de last myself en I livin here to tell de people, I was sho scared. I been out to de well bout 12 o'clock de next day en I could see de water in de well just a quiverin. Lord, Lord, dat water tremble bout four weeks after dat. Such a hollerin en a prayin as de people had bout dat shake. No'um I was livin down dere to Tabernacle den en dere wasn' none of de houses round us destroyed. No, child, won' no harm done nowhe' dat I knows of only as a heap of de people been so scared, dey never didn' grow no more."
"Yes'um, I think bout here de other night dat I had make you a promise to fetch you up some of dem signs de olden people used to put faith in. Dere one sign bout if you hear a dog howl or a cow low round your house on a night, it a pretty good sign you gwine lose somebody out dat house. I finds dat to be a mighty true sign cause I notices it very closely."
"Den dey used to say, too, if you get up in de mornin feelin in a good humor, de devil sho gwine get you fore night fall dat same day. Cose I don' pay so much attention to dat. If I get up feelin like singin, I has to sing cause it my time to sing, I say."
"Let me see, dere another one of dem omen dat I had shake up in my mind to tell you. Say, if you see a ground mole rootin round your house, it won' be long fore you gwine move from dat place. But I don' never see no ground moles hardly dese days. Don' think dey worries nobody much."
"I recollects, too, way back yonder de people used to say, if you see de smoke comin out de chimney en turn down en flatten out on de ground, it a sign of rain in a few days."
"Yes, mam, I think bout dis one more. If you dream bout you be travelin en come to a old rotten down buildin, it a sign of a old person death. Don' say whe' it a man or a woman, but it a sho sign dat a old person gwine die."
"Den people what lives in de country believes, if a fox comes round a house barkin en a scratchin, it a sign dey gwine lose somebody out dey family. Yes'um, de fox just comes right out de woods up to de yard en barks. You see, a dog won' never run a fox dat comes bout dem barkin. No, mam, when de dog hear dat, he just stands right under de house en growls at de fox. I know dat be a true sign cause us tried dat one."
"Now, I got another one of dem thought comin. Yes, my Lord, I hear talk dat if you get de broom en sweep your house out fore sunrise, you would sweep your friends out right wid de trash. Dat used to be a big sign wid de people, too. En it bad luck to take up ashes after de sun go down, dey say. Yes, I know bout plenty people won' do dat today."
"Well, honey, seems like when I calls back, de people in a worser fix
den when I used to get 25 cents a day. Used to could take dat en go to a
country store en get a decent dress to wear to church. Sell peck of us
corn en get it in trade. Didn' never pay more den 50 cents for a load of
wood in dem days en I remembers just as good
"Dis heah sho' Washington Dozier. Dat is wha' de hard time left uv him. I born en raise dere in Florence County de 18th uv December, 1847. Don' know 'xactly wha' my father name, but my mudder tell me he wuz name Dozier. My mudder wuz Becky en she b'long to ole man Wiles Gregg dere on de Charleston road. I hab two sisters en one brother, but not uv one father. I s'ppose brother Henry wuz me whole brother en Fannie en Ca'oline wuz jes me half sister."
"Well, dey ne'er hab so mucha sumptin, but I recollect dey make dey own produce den. Oh, dey lib very well. We call it good libin' at dat time. Coase de bedding de colored peoples hab wasn't much cause dey jes hab some kind uv home-made stuff den. We raise in a t'ree room house wha' hab floor on two uv de room. Hab house right dere on de Gregg plantation. Family went from age to age in dat day en time wid dey own Massa name. I 'member my gra'mudder was name Fannie Gregg. Now, I tell yuh how I 'count fa me hab de name Dozier, I jes s'ppose dat come from me father."
"Hadder do some sorta work in dem days lak hoe corn en replant en so on
lak dat, but ne'er didn't do no man work. Wuz jes uh half hand, dat is
'bout so. Dey gi'e us plenty sumptin to eat den, but ne'er pay us no
money. Coase dey didn't 'low us no choice uv wha' we eat at dat time. Hab
plenty meat en corn bread en molasses mos' aw
"Dey gi'e us good clothes to put on us back wha' dey hab make on de plantation en in de winter, dey gi'e us good warm clothes. Jes wear wha'e'er de white folks gi'e us. Didn't take no 'ffect tall 'bout Sunday clothes."
"Fust time I marry I hab uh very good wedding. Marry ole man Gurley daughter o'er in Florence County. Don' know 'xactly how ole I was den, but I c'n tell yah dis much, I wasn't in no herry to marry. Aw colored peoples hadder do to marry den wuz to go to dey Massa en ge' uh permit en consider demselves man en wife. I recollect dat we hab a very good wedding supper dere. I marry Georgeanna de second time en I hab four head uv chillun by me fust wife en four head uv chillun by me second wife. Ne'er couldn't tell how many gran'chillun I got."
My Massa en Missus wuz mighty pious good people. Dey go to preachin' dere to Hopewell Presbyterian Chu'ch aw de time. De man wha' wuz de preacher dere den wuz name Frierson. De colored peoples go dere to dat same chu'ch en sot en de gallery. Yuh know dere spirituals hymns en dere reels. I c'n sing one uv dem dat I use'er sing in my slumberin' hours. It go lak dis:
Chillun, wha' yuh gwinna do in de jedgment mornin'?
He gwinna place one foot in de sea
Chillun, wha' yah gwinna do in de jedgment mornin'?
He gwinna place one foot in de sea
"Now de angels sing dat to me in my slumberin' hour en dey sing it dat I might gi'e it to de libin' heah on dis earth. Well, I know right smart uv dem song cause accordin' to my 'sperience, de hymn book wha' to fence de human family in. I got ah good set uv lungs en I wuz de one wha' lead de flock den. Dere jes one grand reason why I can' sing right well dis a'ternoon, yuh is take me on de surprise lak."
"I was jes uh chap in slavery time en I hadder stay dere home aw de time whey dere didn't no harm come 'bout me. Dey le' we chillun play marbles en ball aw we wanna den. Jes chunk de ball to one annuder o'er de house. Dat how we play ball in dem times. My white folks didn't do nuthin but stay home en go to chu'ch meetin's. Dey ne'er didn't punish none uv dey colored peoples en didn' 'low no udder people to do it neither. I couldn't tell yah how many slave dey own but dey hab more slave by de increase uv dey families. Dey hab so many dat some uv de time dey'ud hire some uv dem out to annuder plantation. Ne'er didn't see em sell none uv dey colored peoples. I know dis much, dat wuz uh right good place to lib."
"I heared tell uv trouble 'tween de whites en de colored peoples, but dere wuzn't none uv dat 'round whey I stay. Dey say some uv de slave run 'way fa bad treatment en stay in de woods. Didn't hab no jails den en when dey'd ketch em, dey'ud buff em en gag em en hoss whip em. Now, I ne'er see none uv dat but I heared tell uv it."
"My Massa ne'er didn't work us hard lak. Coase uz de day' ud come, de
hands hadder go up to de big house en go 'bout dey business, but dey
al'ays knock offen early on uh Saturday evenin' en le' everbody do jes
wha' dey wanna dere on de plantation. Ne'er didn't use no horn to wake dey
colored peoples up en didn't wake em work en de big Christmus day en New
Years' neither. Ne'er hab no udder holidays but dem two. My Massa gi'e aw
his colored peoples uh big Christmus dinner to de white folks
"Dey hab funeral fa de colored peoples den jes lak dey hab dese days 'cept dey ne'er hab no preacher 'bout. Aw de slaves stop workin' fa de funeral en dey'ud jes carry de body en permit it to de ground uz wuz de usual t'ing dey do. Coase dey hab plenty singin' dere."
"Dem t'ing wha' people call ghostes, dey is evil walks. I know dis much, de sperit uv de body travels en dat de truth sho' uz I libin' heah. Coase I ain' ne'er see none uv dem t'ing en I ain' scared uv nuthin neither. Don' ne'er pay no 'ttention to no black cat en t'ing lak dat. Ain' bother wid none uv dem charm neither. De peoples use'er hab dey own doc'or book en dey search dat en use wha' it say do. Dey ne'er use no me'icine tall den but calomel en castor oil en turpentine."
"I sho' 'member when de fust gun shoot dere to Fort Sumter. Us fer uz I
c'n recollect, it wuz in June. De Yankees come t'rough dere en to my
knowin', dey 'haved very well. Jes ax my Massa fa sumptin to eat en dat
wuz aw dey done. Dere sho' wuz uh rejoicing 'mongest some uv de colored
peoples when dey tell em dey wuz free uz de white folks wuz. Some uv dem
leab dey Massa plantation jes uz soon uz dey know'd dey wuz free, but we
ne'er do dat. Jes stayed right on dere wid Mr. Gregg en work
"Dey ain' ne'er hab no schools fa de colored peoples no whey 'bout whey I stay 'fore freedom come heah. Won' long a'ter de war dat free schools wuz open up dere. It jes lak dis, I ain' bother wid dem schools mucha den, but I c'n read right smart. Jes ketch it uz I come 'long en wha' I kotch, I put dat to work. I is went to one uv dese night schools dey hab 'bout heah not long gone."
"Mr. Abraham Lincoln, I ain' ne'er see him, but I know he wuz de President uv de United States. Ain' ne'er see Mr. Jefferson Davis neither. Dey wus oppositionalist den, I sho' know dat."
"It jes lak dis, I t'ink dis uh better day we lib in dese times. When we b'long to de white folks, we lib, en a'ter we wuz free we lib right on. I t'ink being free de best time to lib. Better to be loose den tied cause don' care how good yo' owner, yuh hadder be under dey jurisdiction. Ain' dat right?"
AUNT SILVA DURANT
"I don' know 'xactly when I wuz born but I hear my white folks say dat I wuz born de fust (first) year uv freedom. I I c'n tell yuh dis much dat I wuz uh grown 'oman when de shake wuz. Aw de older peoples wuz at de chu'ch en ha' left us home to take care uv aw dem little chillun. Fust t'ing we is know de house 'gin to quiver lak. We ne'er know wha' been to matter en den de house 'gin to rock en rock en rock. We wuz so scare we run outer in de yard en eve't'ing outer dere wuz jes uh shaking jes lak de house wuz. We ne'er know wha' to do. Den we heared de peoples comin' from de chu'ch jes uh runnin' en uh hollerin'. Didn't nobody know wha' make dat. I tellin yuh jes lak dat wuz, de jedgment ain' ne'er been no closer come heah den when dat shake was."
"My mudder wuz name Clorrie en she b'long to Miss Millie Gasque up de
road dere. I born in Miss Millie yard en I stay dere till I wuz six year
old. My pa say I wuz six year old. He been ole man Vidger Hanes en b'long
to Mr. Wesley White o'er dere 'bout laughin 'fore freedom 'clare. A'ter
dat we move on de hill en my pa hire me dere to Colonel Durant to wash
dishes en help 'bout de kitchen. Den dey put me to do de washin' en I been
uh washin' en uh washin' mos' e'er since. Dats de way I done till I ge' so
I ne'er couldn't make it en den I hadder quit offen. Dat how come I hab aw
dese pretty flowers. Miss Durant gi'e me aw dem dahlia wha' yuh see in dat
"Dey tell me some uv de peoples ge' 'long good en den some uv dem ge'
'long bad back dere in slavery day. Don' care how good peoples is dere
sho' be uh odd'un de crowd some uv de time. Dey say some uv de colored
peoples'ud run 'way from dey Massa en hide in de woods. Den dey slip back
to de plantation in de night en ge' green corn outer de white folks field
en carry em back in de woods en cook em dere. I hear Tom Bostick tell
'bout when he run 'way one time. Say he use'er run 'way en hide in de
woods aw de time. Den de o'erseer ketch him one time when he been come
back en wuz grabblin' 'bout de tatoe patch. Say he gwinna make Tom Bostick
stay outer de woods ur kill him 'fore sun up dat day. Tom say dey take him
down 'side de woods en strip he clothes offen him. (I hear em say dere
plenty people bury down 'side dem woods dat dere ain' nobody know 'bout).
Den he say dey tie him to uh tree en take uh fat light'ud torch en le' de
juice drap outer it right on he naked body. He say he holler en he beg en
he ax em hab mercy but dat ne'er didn't do no good. He mock how de tar
make uh racket when it drap on he skin. Yuh know it gwinna make uh
"Den dey'ud hab sale en sell some uv de colored peoples offen to annuder plantation hundred mile 'way some uv de time. 'Vide man en he wife. Dey sho' done it. I hear pa tell 'bout dat. Make em stand up on uh stump en bid em offen dere jes lak dey wuz hoss. Pa say dey sell he brother Elic wife 'way wid de onlyest child dey hab. Ne'er didn't see dat wife en child no more."
"Coase de le' de colored peoples visit 'round from one plantation to annuder but dey hadder hab uh ticke' wid em. Effen dey meet em in de road en dey ne'er hab dat ticke' somewhey 'bout on em, dey hadder take wha' follow. Ne'er 'low em to hab no udder paper 'bout em no whey. Effen dey see em wid uh paper, dey ax em 'bout it en effen it ne'er been uh ticke', dey mighty apt to gi'e em uh good t'rashin'."
"Dey tell me some uv de colored peoples use'er take t'ing from dey
Massa, but I ain' ne'er see em do none uv dat on my white folks
plantation. Ne'er hadder take nuthin dere. Ge' 'nough meal en meat dere to
de big house eve'y Friday to las' em aw t'rough de week. Reckon de ration
wuz more wholesome den in dat day en time cause dey
"Annuder t'ing dat eat right smart in dem days wuz dat t'ing call big hominy. Dey jes ge' some whole grain corn en put it in de pot en boil it long time. Den dey take it offen de fire en pour lye water aw o'er it. Dey do dat to ge' de husk offen it. Soak ash outer de fire en ge' dat lye water. Den dey hadder take it to de well outer in de yard en wash it uh heap uv time to ge' dat lye outer it. A'ter dat dey season it wid salt en pepper en cook it annuder time. No 'mam, dey ne'er eat it wid no butter. Jes drap it in de grease wha' left in de pan a'ter dey fry de meat en make it right brown lak. Dat de way dey cook dey big hominy."
"Folks don' hab time to do t'ings in de right way lak dey use'er cause de world gwine too fas' dese day en time. Dese people comin' up 'bout heah dese days ain' gwinna ne'er quit habin' so mucha belly ache long uz dey ain' stop eatin' aw dem half done ration dey is eat. Coase de peoples wiser now but dey weaker. De peoples wuz more humble in dem days. When dey didn't hab no rain, dey ge' togedder en pray fa rain en dey ge' it too. I tellin' yuh peoples gotta work effen dey gwinna ge' to de right place when dey leab heah. Effen de peoples ne'er didn't go to chu'ch in dem days, dey stay home. Ne'er see chillun in de road on Sunday eve'y which uh way lak yunnah see em dese days. My pa say yuh mus' train up uh child in de way he oughta go en den effen dey stray 'way, dey sho' come back a'ter while. I tellin' yuh de peoples ain' lak dey use'er wuz. Dey sho' wickeder en worser in dis day en time den when I raise up. Dey wuz more friendly den en do more favor fa peoples. It jes lak dis, I ain' gwinna do nobody no harm. Effen I can' do em no good, ain' gwinna do no harm en ain' gwinna 'buse em neither."
Source: Aunt Silva Durant, colored, Marion, S. C.
"Well, I tell you just like it been. Dat was an unexpectin trip when you come here dat day en I wasn' thinkin bout much dat I had know to tell you. It been kind o' put me on a wonder."
"You see, child, I never didn' see my grandfather cause when I was born, dey had done sold him away. I hear tell dat sometimes dey would take de wife from dey husband en another time dey would take de husband from dey wife en sell dem off yonder somewhe' en never didn' see dem no more neither. Yes, I sho know dat cause I hear my father speak bout dat plenty times. Yes, mam, dey sold my uncle's wife away en he never didn' see her no more till after freedom come en he done been married again den. Speculators carried my mother's first husband off en den she married again. Cose I was born of de second husband en dat ain' been yesterday."
"I hear talk bout dat didn' none of de colored people have nothin in
slavery time en heap of dem wasn' allowed to pick up a paper or nothin no
time. Often hear dem talk dat some of de niggers was freed long time fore
dey know bout it. Hear dem say some white folks hold dem long time till
dey could make out to get somethin for demselves. Don' think so. Don'
think so. No, mam, don' think so. Dey might been intended for dem to get
somethin when dey was freed, but I never learn of nobody gettin nothin.
Cose I often heard my father say some white folks thought more bout dey
colored people den others en hope dem out more. Hear tell dat didn' none
of dem have
"Well, you see, some of de white folks would spare dey colored people
so much ration when dey knock off work on a Saturday to last dem till de
next Saturday come. Hear tell dey give dem a peck of meal en a little
molasses en a hog jowl en dat had to last dem all de week. Dem what use a
little tobacco, give dem a plug of dat en give dem a little flour for
Sunday. Didn' nobody have to work on Sunday en den dey would allow dem two
days off for Christmas too. I tellin you bout how my white folks would do,
but dem what had a rough Massa, dey just got one day. I hear dem say dey
always had a little flour on Christmas. Don' know what else dey give dem,
"I hear say two intelligent people didn' live so far apart en one never treat dey colored people right en being as dey wasn' allowed to go from one place to another widout dey had a ticket wid dem, dey would steal somethin en run away. Say de just man tell dat other man dat if he would feed his niggers right, dey wouldn' have no need to be stealin so much things. No'um, I does hate to tell dat. Cose dey say dey done it. Say de overseer would beat dem up dat never do what he tell dem to do mighty bad en wouldn' be particular bout whe' dey was buried neither. Hear talk dat dey bury heap of dem in a big hole down side de woods somewhe'. Cose I don' know whe' dat word true or not, but dat what dey tell me."
"Oo—oo—yes, mam, dey sho whip de colored women in dem days. Yes, mam, de overseer done it cause I hear dem say dat myself. Tell dat dey take de wives en whip de blood out dem en de husband never didn' dare to say nothin. Hear dey whip some so bad dey had to grease dem. If de colored people didn' do to suit de white folks, dey sho whip dem. No, mam, if dey put you out to work, ain' nobody think dey gwine lay down under de bresh (brush) en stay dere widout doin dey portion of work. Yes, child, hear bout dat more times, den I got fingers en toes."
"Oh, de times be worser in a way dese days. Yes, mam, dey sho worser in a way. De people be wiser now den what dey used to be, but dere so much gwine on, dey ain' thinkin bout dey welfare no time en dat'll shorten anybody days. Oh, honey, we livin in a fast world dese days. Peoples used to help one another out more en didn' somebody be tryin to pull you down all de time. When you is found a wicked one in dat day en time, it been a wicked one. Cose de people be more intelligent in learnin dese days, but I'm tellin you dere a lot of other things got to build you up 'sides learnin. Dere one can get up to make a speech what ain' got no learnin en dey can just preach de finest kind of speech. Say dey ain' know one thing dey gwine say fore dey get up dere. Folks claim dem kind of people been bless wid plenty good mother wit. Den another time one dat have de learnin widout de mother wit can get up en seem like dey just don' know whe' to place de next word. Yes, mam, I hear dat often."
"What I meant by what I say bout de wicked one? I meant when you found a wild one, it been a wild one for true. I mean you better not meddle wid one like dat cause dey don' never care what dey do. People look like dey used to care more for dey lives den dey do dese days. Dat what I meant, but you can weigh dat like you want to. You see, dere be different ways for people to hurt demselves."
"Oh, my soul, hear talk bout dere be ghosts en hants, but I never didn' experience nothin like dat. Yes, mam, I hear too much of dat. Been hearin bout dat ever since I been in a manner grown, you may say. I hear people say dey see dem, but I ain' take up no time wid nothin like dat. I have a mind like dis, if such a thing be true, it ain' intended for everybody to see dem. I gwine tell you far as I know bout it. I hear dese old people say when anybody child born wid a caul over dey face, dey can always see dem things en dem what ain' born dat way, dey don' see dem. Cose I don' know nothin bout what dat is en I is hate to tell it, but I hear lot of people say dey can see hants en ghosts all time of a night. Yes'um, I hear de older people say dat, but I don' know whe' it true or no. I know I don' see nothin myself, but de wind. Don' see dat, but I feels it."
"Oh, my God, some people believe in dat thing call conjurin, but I didn' never believe in nothin like dat. Never didn' understand nothin like dat. Hear say people could make you leave home en all dat, but I never couldn' see into it. Never didn' believe in it."
"Yes, mam, I see plenty people wear dem dimes round dey ankle en all
kind of things on dey body, but never didn' see my mother do nothin like
dat. I gwine tell you it just like I got it. Hear talk dat some would wear
dem for luck en some tote dem to keep people from hurtin dem. I got a
silver dime in de house dere in my trunk right to dis same day dat I used
to wear on a string of beads, but I took it off. No, mam, couldn' stand
nothin like dat. Den some peoples keeps a bag of asafetida tied round dey
"Honey, pa always say dat you couldn' expect no more from a child den
you puts in dey raisin. Pa say, 'Sylvia, raise up your chillun in de right
way en dey'll smile on you in your old age.' Honey, I don' see what dese
people gwine expect dey chillun to turn out to be nohow dese days cause
dey ain' got no raisin en dey ain' got no manners. I say, I got a feelin
for de chillun cause dey parents ain' stay home enough of time to learn
dem nothin en dey ain' been know no better. Remember when my parents went
off en tell us to stay home, we never didn' darsen to go off de place. Den
when dey would send us off, we know we had to be back in de yard fore
sunup in de evenin. Yes, child, we all had to be obedient to our parents
in dat day en time. I always was sub-obedient myself en I never had no
trouble nowhe'. Yes, mam, when we went off anywhe', we ax to go en we been
back de hour dey expect to see us. Yes, mam, chillun was more obedient
den. None of us didn' sass us parents. Won' raise
"No, mam, I didn' have no weddin when I was married, but everything was pleasant en turned out all right. Yes, mam, everybody don' feel so good leavin home, but I felt all right, I was married over dere in Bethel M. E. Church en served a little cake en wine dere home afterwards en dat ain' no weddin. Didn' have nothin but pound cake en wine. Had three plain cakes. Two was cut up dere home en I remember I carried one wid me over Catfish dere to de Reaves place."
Source: Sylvia Durant, ex-slave, age about 72, Marion, S.
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