Index of Narratives
Anderson, 101 years old, lived near Mobile, Alabama at the time she
was interviewed. She was born at Belle's Landing, in Monroe County, Alabama.
Her master operated a wood yard that supplied fuel to river boats. Anderson
was a house slave. She recalls that her master treated all his slaves well,
but she also remembered seeing slaves torn up by dogs and whipped unmercifully.
Calloway was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1848. Calloway and his
mother and brother were purchased by John Calloway, who owned a plantation
ten miles south of Montgomery, Alabama. By the time he was ten years old,
Walter Calloway was doing a grown man's work. The white overseer used a
black hand to administer the whippings; Calloway recalls seeing one thirteen-year-old
girl whipped almost to death. Calloway also tells of worshipping in a brush
arbor, the outbreak of the Civil War, and federal troops ransacking the
plantation at war's end. He is pictured sitting on the front steps of his
home in Birmingham, Alabama, where he worked for the city street department
for twenty-five years.
Crockett, about 79 or 80 years old, is seen here sitting on the porch
of her home near Livingston, Alabama, not far from the plantation where
she grew up. She was the daughter of Cassie Hawkins and Alfred Jolly, and
the slave of Bill and Betty Hawkins. After emancipation, she learned to
read a bit of printing, but never learned how to read handwriting. She
was a member of the New Prophet Church; despite her headache the day she
was interviewed, she sang her favorite hymn for the interviewer.
Davis, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, did not know where she was born, but she
did manage to reunite with her parents after the end of the Civil War.
She was the slave of a Creek Indian named Tuskaya-hiniha and his white
wife, Nancy Lott. She was one of about ten slaves on a farm near Honey
Springs, about twenty-five miles south of Fort Gibson. Creek was spoken
in their home, and Davis recalls Creek funerals, dances, and recipes. In
the confusion of the Civil War, one slave after another left her master
until only she, too young to leave on her own, remained.
Herndon Durham, 103 years old, grew up on a large plantation in Chatham
County, North Carolina, west of Raleigh. The plantation where she lived,
owned by George and Betsy Herndon, raised corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco.
Durham describes in detail how female slaves (and their white mistress)
spun, wove, and dyed cloth on the plantation. She married Exter Durham
on the front porch of her master's home; her master threw a big party for
their wedding, but the following day Exter had to return to his own master's
plantation. After the war, the couple settled on Herndon's place, where
they rented until they saved enough money to buy their own farm.
Holbert, 86 years old, was born and raised in Linn County, Tennessee.
His master, Pleasant Holbert, owned about 100 slaves, who raised corn,
barley, and cotton. The plantation was self-sufficient; slaves on Holbert's
farm wove their own clothes, butchered their own meat, and made their own
maple sugar. Clayton Holbert's mother and grandmother were both deeded
their freedom, but were captured by slave dealers and sold back into slavery.
Holbert's father, brother, and uncle joined the Union Army during the Civil
Holmes, whose first name is not known, was interviewed in the 1920s
as part of an oral history project at Fisk University. She was born in
Morgantown, West Virginia, around the time of the Civil War, and lived
with the family of her father's master. Her father was sent to the Confederate
Army in his master's place, but left to join the Union Army. Ms. Holmes'
husband abandoned her for a light-skinned woman, and a later mate left
her after her religious conversion. She was a member of the Santified Church
of God on Harding Street in Nashville, Tennessee; the congregation there
supported her in her old age.
Holmes, 81 years old, was born in Henry County, Virginia, near Danville.
He was the son of Eliza Rowlets and Joseph Holmes. He left Virginia for
Georgia, and eventually made his way to Mobile, Alabama, where he lived
at the time of his interview. He recalled that his mistress did not allow
her slaves to be mistreated--because she was raising slaves for the market,
and she considered it poor business to mistreat them. Holmes told his interviewer
that it took ten or twelve years before he fully understood what his mistress
meant when she told him he was free.
Horry, 89 years old, lived at Murrells Inlet, on the South Carolina
coast about ten miles south of Myrtle Beach. In the characteristic patois
of the low country, Horry described his work as a boatman, the federal
occupation during the Civil War, the punishment his father received for
intemperate drinking, and the diet of the low country.
Hughes was 101 years old at the time of his interview. Born a slave
in 1848 near Charlottesville, Virginia, Fountain Hughes was the grandson
of a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson--probably Wormely Hughes, Jefferson's
gardener. Fountain Hughes says he and his family were left with nothing
after slavery's end; he and his brother found themselves homeless, sneaking
into a white family's livery at night in order to escape the cold. He speaks
of having to carry a pass as a slave, of slaves being sold at auction at
the courthouse, and of Union soldiers coming through his community during
the Civil War. This narrative includes sound files, so that readers can
listen to Hughes's voice as they read his story.
Jackson, 79 years old, was born in Notasulga, Alabama, the daughter
of Jim and Rose Neely. Separated by slavery, the Neely family reunited
after the war and settled in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Maria Jackson
worked in the fields with her father until she was married. She became
a midwife, first in rural Georgia and later in Athens, where she lived
at the time of her interview. She was the mother of fourteen children herself,
eight of whom were alive at the time she was interviewed.
Reynolds, blind and over one hundred years old at the time of her interview,
was born into slavery in Black River, Louisiana. Her master, a physician
and planter, was a shrewd speculator who frequently traded his older slaves
for younger, more fit hands. Reynolds witnessed brutal beatings, and tells
of working in weather so cold that her hands bled. Her master had a number
of children with a mulatto slave, and his wife threatened to leave him.
After the war, Mary Reynolds moved to Texas, where she remained for the
rest of her life.
Toler was born near Lynchburg in Campbell County, Virginia. He was
the son of George Washington Toler and Lucy Toler, and the slave of Henry
Toler. As a youngster, Richard Toler tended to the cows and calves on his
master's 500-acre farm; later, he hoed in the fields. He learned blacksmithing
as a slave, and after emancipation he earned his living as a smith for
36 years. After the Civil War he bought a fiddle, and became an accomplished
musician, playing for white dances and at hoe downs. He recalls medical
treatment under slavery, as well as details of diet and clothing. He also
recalls the brutal whipping of young girls by his master's sons.
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Last revised: November 1, 1998
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