JOSEPHINE HOWARD was born in slavery on the Walton plantation near
Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She does not know her age, but when Mr. Walton
moved to Texas, before the Civil War, she was old enough to work in
the fields. Josephine is blind and very feeble. She lives with a
daughter at 1520 Arthur St., Houston, Texas.
"Lawd have mercy, I been here a thousand year, seems like. 'Course I
ain't been here so long, but it seems like it when I gits to thinkin'
back. It was long time since I was born, long 'fore de war. Mammy's name
was Leonora and she was cook for Marse Tim Walton what had de plantation
at Tuscaloosa. Dat am in Alabamy. Papa's name was Joe Tatum and he lived
on de place 'jinin' ourn. Course, papa and mamy wasn't married like
folks now, 'cause dem times de white folks jes' put slave men and women
together like hosses or cattle.
"Dey allus done tell us it am wrong to lie and steal, but why did de
white folks steal my mammy and her mammy? Dey lives clost to some water,
somewheres over in Africy, and de man come in a little boat to de sho'
and tell dem he got presents on de big boat. Most de men am out huntin'
and my mammy and her mammy gits took out to dat big boat and dey locks
dem in a black hole what mammy say so black you can't see nothin'. Dat
de sinfulles' stealin' dey is.
"De captain keep dem locked in dat black hole till dat boat gits to
Mobile and dey is put on de block and sold. Mammy is 'bout twelve year
old and dey am sold to Marse Tim, but grandma dies in a month and dey
puts her in de slave graveyard.
"Mammy am nuss gal till she git older and den cook, and den old Marse
Tim puts her and papa together and she has eight chillen. I reckon Marse
Tim warn't no wor'ser dan other white folks. De nigger driver sho' whip
us, with de reason and without de reason. You never knowed. If dey done
took de notion dey jes' lays it on you and you can't do nothin'.
"One mornin' we is all herded up and mammy am cryin' and say dey gwine
to Texas, but can't take papa. He don't 'long to dem. Dat de lastes'
time we ever seed papa. Us and de women am put in wagons but de men
slaves am chained together and has to walk.
"Marse Tim done git a big farm up by Marshall but only live a year dere
and his boys run de place. Dey jes' like dey papa, work us and work us.
Lawd have mercy, I hear dat call in de mornin' like it jes' jesterday,
'All right, everybody out, and you better git out iffen you don't want
to feel dat bullwhip 'cross you back.'
"My gal I lives with don't like me to talk 'bout dem times. She say it
ain't no more and it ain't good to think 'bout it. But when you has live
in slave times you ain't gwine forgit dem, no, suh! I's old and blind
and no 'count, but I's alive, but in slave times I'd be dead long time
ago, 'cause white folks didn't have no use for old niggers and git shet
of dem one way or t'other.
"It ain't till de sojers comes we is free. Dey wants us to git in de
pickin', so my folks and some more stays. Dey didn't know no place to go
to. Mammy done took sick and die and I hires out to cook for Missy
Howard, and marries her coachman, what am Woodson Howard. We farms and
comes to Houston nigh sixty year ago. Dey has mule cars den. Woodson
gits a job drayin' and 'fore he dies we raises three boys and seven
gals, but all 'cept two gals am dead now. Dey takes care of me, and dat
all I know 'bout myself.
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