Interviewed by Ed Cune
December 13, 1938
The small home of Maria, found after a long walk up hills and down a long red clay hill, that was rather slick from a shower of rain the night before. Every time information was asked the answer was just 'round the next corner to your right, but they never said, how many corners there were. The house was a small four-room frame house, badly in need of a new coat of paint, but otherwise, it seemed to be in a fair condition. A narrow porch run across the front, and came almost to the edge of the sidewalk. The small front yard was clean, at one side of the house was a large grassy yard, where a few late flowers are bravely trying to hold their heads up. As the visitor stepped on the porch she found two doors, a knock on the first door was answered by a tall very black young man, who said, "Maria, she lives in the next door." Just as the visitor reached out to knock at the other door, it was opened by a very small boy, black and shiny, in clean overalls and a red swerater [sic], who said Maria, she's right here if youse wants to see her." As he finished talking a small dark mulatto woman came to the door and said, "I'se Maria, won't youse come in," and she led the way into a bedroom. [At this point, there are a little more than three and a half pages of wandering comments about cooking etc. which have been
[end p. 267]
"I was borned 'way down in Alabamy, and dat was 79 years ago last March, at dat place named Noda-Suga (Notasulga). My daddy was borned and raised right hyar in Georgy, down in Oglethorpe County at the old Dr. Hutchin's place. Chile dey named a little town in Oglethorpe for Mr. Hutchins and dey sho was good whitefolks. His wife was named Miss Mary Jane Hutchins, and dat sho was one good 'omen in dis world.
"My daddy was named Jim Neely, and he comed all the way to Alabamy to marry my mammy. Her name was Rose Neely, and he stayed on in Alabamy 'til long atter the War was over. Mammy belonged to old Miss Chess Marr. She was sold off one time, but I don't 'member 'bout dat. Thar was one chile dat was younger than me durin' the war, and it was a long time atter it was over 'fore dem whitefolks would tell us, we was free. But mammy and daddy got back togedder atter the war and it was a long time 'fore us come to Georgy.
"My granddaddy sent fer us then, yes that he did. He sent a one horse waggin plum to Alabamy to brung us back. The man he sont was sick with a swelling when he got there, just swelled all over. I never seed the lak, and it sho was a long time 'til he was able to ride back in that waggin.
"I don't 'member how long it tuk 'em to git back in that waggin but I does member dat Daddy siad [sic] it sho' a long hard trip 'cause it warn 't lak times is now, and folks lived a long ways
[end p. 268]
"Yes, mam, dey had schools back then, it warn't on our place, but hit won't so fer 'way 'cause schools was in what they call "Nelly Town." Yes, chile dar was so many of them Nelly folks 'round thar dat it was just called Neely [sic] Town. Many sont some of the young chillun to the school, but I ain't never went to no schoolhouse a day in all my borned days. I don't know nothin' about dese ABC's but you sho' can't fool me when it comes to countin
[end p. 269]
"Yes, mam, when I got married to Tom Jackson, I sho did have smart weddin'. My Daddy seed to dat. Hit was just one of dem old country time weddin's. Daddy didn't 'vite so powerful many folks, hit was a nice weddin' right on. I don't 'member just what color my dress was, but it was a light-dotted one and was thin cloth. I just can't 'member what dey called it.
"Us sho' had a big supper, mostest good things teat, had a whole hog cooked, but no dancin'. Why chile, I ain't never danced one of dem sets in all my life, and sho' don't 'spects to now at my age 'cause I'se too stiff an' no 'count. I never had no time fer dancin'. I wuked hard and tried to tuck care of what us made.
"We farmed for whitefolks fer years and I wuked right long with Tom, 'cause chile, I'se tellin' you I had one good man and us lived togedder for fifty years. He has been gone and left me just eight days ago pre'zackley, at half after five o'clock last Friday evenin'.
"I don't 'member why I done it, but I got started in as a granny 'oman not long 'fore us moved to town, and that was thirty years ago. Since dat time I has done that kind'er wuk all 'long 'til I just got to old, and quit 'bout three years ago. Course
[end p. 270]
I had to admit that I wasn't married, but that I would like the story anyway, Maria continued with her story.
"Atter I came right hyar to town I wuked with Miss Shepherd and Miss Bird. Course, I had 'er take dem blood tests den, and wear white gowns, us had white caps to dat-kivered up all our hair. And does you know dey had'er see some of my wuk 'fore I could git one of dem 'stificates (certificate), but I 'spects dat I was cotchin' babies 'fore dey got hyar. Miss Shepherd is good, but I sho' did lak to wuk with Miss Bird, and she still comes to see me 'bout one time a week. Yes, Lord, I has cotched plenny babies in dis world. Dat I has, and Miss Bird, she always said she didn't never worry 'bout none of Maria's cases, 'cause if thar was anythin' wrong Maria would sho say so.
"Chile, plenny folks right in dis very town still owes me fer waitin' on them. Yes, Lord, plenny dat I don't never 'spects to git it. Some folks just hadn't got it to pay, but some folks could pay if day would. I has never seed nothin' dat would make me wanter on none my cases, 'cause day was always sufferin' too much fer dat, but I has heard some folks laugh 'bout how dey done, but tain't lak dat wid me. I always did lak to visit my cases 'fore dey was ready to need me. Just so dat I would have everythin' fixed up right. But yes, Lord, I has fussed at 'em
[end p. 271]
"My job was to cotch the babies, and see dat everything was alright fore I left the place, and I'se had 'er go back every day fer seven days to see dat dey was doin' alright, and then if dey was alright I was finished wid my wuk fer dem. But I got too old and nervous, cause you know Chile, dat is hard, 'cause hit can't wait. You'se had to go, rain or shine, sleet or snow. You seed dat chile dat opened the door when you come, dat is my great, great grandchile, and he is 'bout the last baby dat I cotched. Course I went out last week in his neighborhood, but it was just to help Miss Bird out, cause she is so nice to me. "I has had fourteen chillun myself, eight boys and six girls, and yes, Lord, I still has eight chillun left wid me, most of dem live right 'round close by 'ceptin' I has one gal dat lives in Cincinnati. I has wuked hard to raise 'em up and has sent 'em all to school, some of the older ones went to the schools in the country 'fore us moved to town.
"Tom wuked and I wuked, and my white folks has sho' been good to me. I just don't know what I would do if it warn't fer dem. I sho did have a good husband. He went to wuk at the Holman building, and he made fifteen dollars a week, and every Sadday
[end p. 272]
"I wuked fer my white folks in the houses and washing to. I tuck care of what us made and tried to have somethin'. Dese others say, Miss Jackson, how do you do so well, how come you have so much, 'cause us always had plenny teat, good clothes to wear, and good home. But Chile, dey didn't wuk lak us did, didn't took care of what dey made. My chilluns wuked to, and white folks said us was all good to wuk, and day has been good to me since I can't wuk no mo', some of dem is always sendin' me somethin'.
"Us lived in one place fer nigh on to thirty years. No, chile it warn't hyar. I has just lived hyar 'bout a year. My gal what lives in Cincinnati sent fer me one year to come and live wid her. I just got rid of most all my things and went. Chile seven months was all I could stay. I was too homesick, and she sent me back. Callie got dis place, and us has two rooms, one of my gals lives in the other aide. She wuks and I take care of her chillun fer her.
"All my chillun is good to me, but Callie she never would leave me and git married. Yes, Lord, dat Chile, has sho stayed wid her old mammy. Dey was good to me in Cincinnati, but chile, I was skeered I might die way off lak dat, and I sho wants to be
[end p. 273]
"Childe, I ain't had no doctor sent here, and I ain't sent fer no doctor, and I don't take medicine nuther, 'cause I knows a man, dat kind just fix up somethin' when I feels lak I needs it. Dat he kin. The last time I had a bad hurtin', I just went to see him. He asked whar I hurt and I told him my side right under my shoulder. He walked 'round a time or two, and then rubbed my side, and said it is alright now. And it was, it haint hurt me no mo.
"I ain't sick now, I'se just no 'count 'cause I is gittin' old. I feel [sic] last week and hurt myself, couldn't git up, and if it hand't been fer dat little boy, I'spects I would have stayed right down in the floor 'til Callie come home, but he called some lady to help me git up. My laig has been hurtin' right smart since den.
[At this point a few more pages of rambling discussion of cooking having no relationship to slavery were also deleted. Editor's note.]
[end p. 274]
Source: The American Slave, Supp. Series 2, Vol. 1: 267-274.
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