Index of Narratives

Charity 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.

Walter 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.

Emma 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.

Lucinda 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.

Tempe 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.

Clayton 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 War.

Ms. 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.

Joseph 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.

Ben 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.

Fountain 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.

Maria 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.

Mary 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.

Richard 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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