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Alex Woods

From: North Carolina

N.C. District: No. 2
Worker: T. Pat Matthews
No. Words: 1108
Story teller: Alex Woods
Editor: Daisy Bailey Waitt

Ex-Slave Story

8 Ford Alley--end of Martin Street, Raleigh, N.C.

"My name is Alex Woods. I wus born May 15, 1858. In slavery time, I
belonged to Jim Woods o' Orange County. De plantation wus between
Durham and Hillsboro near de edge o' Granville County. My missus name
wus Polly Woods. Dey treated us tolerable fair, tolerable fair to a
fellow. Our food wus well cooked. We were fed from de kitchen o' the
great house.

"We called marster's house de 'great house' in dem times. We called de
porch de piazza. We were fed from de kitchen o' his house during de
week. We cooked and et at our homes Saturday nights and Sundays. We
wove our clothes; children had only one piece, a long shirt. We went
barefooted, an' in our shirt tails; we youngins' did.

"We did not have any shoes winter nor summer, but mother and father had
shoes with wooden bottoms an' leather tops. Dr. Tupper, de man who was
principal of de Shaw School, de man who started de school and de church
on Blount St., gave me my first pair o' shoes. Dis wus the second year
after de surrender. I wus nine years ole den. Dey were boots wid brass
on de toes, solid leather shoes, made in Raleigh on Fayetteville
Street in de basement o' Tucker's Dry Goods Store, 'bove de Masonic
Temple as you go up. Ole man Jim Jones, a colored shoe maker, worked in
dis shop.

"I can read, but I cannot write, 'cause I've been run over three times
by automobiles. Once my buggy wus torn to pieces, an' I wus knocked
high in de air. De first time dey run into me dey killed my hoss. De
third time dey paralized my arm and busted the linin' o' my stomach.

"I learned to read an' write since de surrender by studying in spare
time. Dey wouldn't let any slaves have books in slavery time. Mother
had a book she kep' hid. Dey would whup a slave if dey caught him wid a

"Dere were between twenty-five and thirty slaves on de plantation but
dere wus no church. Dey would not allow us to have prayer meetings in
our houses, but we would gather late in de night and turn pots upside
down inside de door to kill de sound and sing and pray for freedom. No
one could hear unless dey eaves-drapped.

"The patteroller rode around to see after de slaves and whipped 'em
when dey caught' em away from home. I have seen slaves whipped. Dey
took them into the barn and corn crib and whipped 'em wid a leather
strap, called de cat-o'nine tails. Dey hit 'em ninety-nine licks
sometimes. Dey wouldn't allow 'em to call on de Lord when dey were
whippin' 'em, but dey let 'em say 'Oh! pray, Oh! pray, marster'. Dey
would say, 'Are you goin' to work? Are you goin' visitin' widout a
pass? Are you goin' to run away?' Dese is de things dey would ax him,
when dey wus whuppin' him.

"My old marster's brother John wus a slave speculator. I 'member seein'
him bringin' slaves in chains to de plantation when he wus carryin' 'em
to Richmond to put 'em on de auction block to be sold. Dey were
handcuffed wid a small chain to a large chain between 'em, two men side
by side; dere wus 'bout thirty in a drove. Dere wus 'bout three or four
white men on horses. Dey wus called slave drivers; some went before,
an' some behind. Dey carried pistols on dere sides. De distance wus so
fur, dey camped out at night. De slaves set by de fire, and slept on
dese trips wid de chains on 'em. Evertime de mens come to our house I
wus afraid my mother and father would be sold away from me. If a woman
wus a good breeder she sold high, sometimes bringin' five hundred to a
thousand dollars. De man who wus doin' de buyin' would inspect dem. Dey
would look in dere mouthes, and look 'em over just like buyin' hosses.
There were no jails on de plantation.

"Sometimes we went to the white folkses church. De preacher would tell
us to obey our missus and master. Dat's what de preacher tole us. Dey
would take us back home and give us plenty to eat after preachin' was
over, and tell us to do what de preacher said. Dey tasked us Saturday
mornings, and if we got it done we could go to de branch on a flat rock
and wash our clothes.

"Dey 'lowed my father to hunt wid a gun. He wus a good hunter an' he
brought a lot o' game to de plantation. Dey cooked it at de great house
and divided it up. My father killed deer and turkey. All had plenty o'
rabbits, possums, coons, an' squirrels.

"My father's first wife wus sold from him, an' I am de chile o' de
second wife. I had five brothers, Greene, Isom, Nupez, den Sam Woods,
who wus no slave, den Spencer Woods, he wus no slave. I had five
sisters: Mollie, Rasella, who were slaves, an' Nancy, Catharine, an'
Fanny who were not slaves. My father wus named Major Woods, and mother
wus named Betty Woods.

"Yes Sir, I 'member gettin' sick before de surrender, an' dey bled me
and gave me blue mass pills. Dey wouldn't tell me what wus de matter.
Missus chewed our food for us, when we wus small. De babies wus fed wid
sugar tits, and the food missus chewed. Deir suckled mothers suckled
dem at dinner, an' den stayed in de field till night. I remember missus
chewin' fer me, an' de first whippin' I got. Missus whipped me for
pushin' my sister in de fire. Sister called me a lie and I pushed her
in de fire an' burned her hand. Missus whipped me. We never did fight
nor push one another after dat.

"Marster used colored overseers when he did not work his men hisself.

"I wus very much afraid o' de Ku Klux. Dey wore masks and dey could
make you think dey could drink a whole bucket of water and walk widout
noise, like a ghost. Colored folks wus afraid of 'em. Dey wus de fear
o' de niggers.

"I married Addie Shaw in 1888 first, den in 1918 I married agin. I
think Abraham Lincoln wus all right. He caused us to be free. Franklin
D. Roosevelt is all right; he kept a lot of people from perishing to


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