INTERVIEW OF EX-SLAVE FROM VIRGINIA
Reported by Rev. Edward Knox
Jun. 9, 1937
Guernsey County, District #2
Ex-slave, over 80 years of age
I was born in Pocahontas County, Virginia in the drab and awful
surroundings of slavery. The whipping post and cruelty in general made
an indelible impression in my mind. I can see my older brothers in their
tow-shirts that fell knee-length which was sometimes their only garment,
toiling laborously under a cruel lash as the burning sun beamed down
upon their backs.
Pappy McNeal (we called the master Pappy) was cruel and mean. Nothing
was too hard, too sharp, or too heavy to throw at an unfortunate slave.
I was very much afraid of him; I think as much for my brothers' sakes as
for my own. Sometimes in his fits of anger, I was afraid he might kill
someone. However, one happy spot in my heart was for his son-in-law who
told us: "Do not call Mr. McNeal the master, no one is your master but
God, call Mr. McNeal, mister." I have always had a tender spot in my
heart for him.
There are all types of farm work to do and also some repair work about
the barns and carriages. It was one of these carriages my brother was
repairing when the Yankees came, but I am getting ahead of my story.
I was a favorite of my master. I had a much better sleeping quarters
than my brothers. Their cots were made of straw or corn husks. Money was
very rare but we were all well-fed and kept. We wore tow-shirts which
were knee-length, and no shoes. Of course, some of the master's
favorites had some kind of footwear.
There were many slaves on our plantation. I never saw any of them
auctioned off or put in chains. Our master's way of punishment was the
use of the whipping post. When we received cuts from the whip he put
soft soap and salt into our wounds to prevent scars. He did not teach us
any reading or writing; we had no special way of learning; we picked up
what little we knew.
When we were ill on our plantation, Dr. Wallace, a relative of Master
McNeal, took care of us. We were always taught to fear the Yankees. One
day I was playing in the yard of our master, with the master's little
boy. Some Yankee Soldiers came up and we hid, of course, because we had
been taught to fear the soldiers. One Yankee soldier discovered me,
however, and took me on his knee and told me that they were our friends
end not our enemies; they were here to help us. After that I loved them
instead of fearing them. When we received our freedom, our master was
very sorry, because we had always done all their work, and hard labor.
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