From: Georgia Narratives, Part 2
RICHMOND COUNTY EX-SLAVE INTERVIEW
Written by: Louise Oliphant
Federal Writers' Project
Edited By: John N. Booth
Federal Writers' Project
Residencies 6 & 7
Leah Garrett, an old Negress with snow-white hair leaned back in her
rocker and recalled customs and manners of slavery days. Mistreatment at
the hands of her master is outstanding in her memory.
"I know so many things 'bout slavery time 'til I never will be able to
tell 'em all," she declared. "In dem days, preachers wuz just as bad and
mean as anybody else. Dere wuz a man who folks called a good preacher,
but he wuz one of de meanest mens I ever seed. When I wuz in slavery
under him he done so many bad things 'til God soon kilt him. His wife or
chillun could git mad wid you, and if dey told him anything he always
beat you. Most times he beat his slaves when dey hadn't done nothin' a
t'all. One Sunday mornin' his wife told him deir cook wouldn't never fix
nothin' she told her to fix. Time she said it he jumped up from de
table, went in de kitchen, and made de cook go under de porch whar he
always whupped his slaves. She begged and prayed but he didn't pay no
'tention to dat. He put her up in what us called de swing, and beat her
'til she couldn't holler. De pore thing already had heart trouble; dat's
why he put her in de kitchen, but he left her swingin' dar and went to
church, preached, and called hisself servin' God. When he got back home
she wuz dead. Whenever your marster had you swingin' up, nobody
wouldn't take you down. Sometimes a man would help his wife, but most
times he wuz beat afterwards.
"Another marster I had kept a hogshead to whup you on. Dis hogshead had
two or three hoops 'round it. He buckled you face down on de hogshead
and whupped you 'til you bled. Everybody always stripped you in dem days
to whup you, 'cause dey didn't keer who seed you naked. Some folks'
chillun took sticks and jobbed (jabbed) you all while you wuz bein'
beat. Sometimes dese chillun would beat you all 'cross your head, and
dey Mas and Pas didn't know what stop wuz.
"Another way marster had to whup us wuz in a stock dat he had in de
stables. Dis wuz whar he whupped you when he wuz real mad. He had logs
fixed together wid holes for your feet, hands, and head. He had a way to
open dese logs and fasten you in. Den he had his coachman give you so
many lashes, and he would let you stay in de stock for so many days and
nights. Dat's why he had it in de stable so it wouldn't rain on you.
Everyday you got dat same number of lashes. You never come out able to
"I had a cousin wid two chillun. De oldest one had to nuss one of
marster's grandchildren. De front steps wuz real high, and one day dis
pore chile fell down dese steps wid de baby. His wife and daughter
hollered and went on turrible, and when our marster come home dey wuz
still hollerin' just lak de baby wuz dead or dyin'. When dey told him
'bout it, he picked up a board and hit dis pore little chile 'cross de
head and kilt her right dar. Den he told his slaves to take her and
throw her in de river. Her ma begged and prayed, but he didn't pay her
no 'tention; he made 'em throw de chile in.
"One of de slaves married a young gal, and dey put her in de "Big House"
to wuk. One day Mistess jumped on her 'bout something and de gal hit her
back. Mistess said she wuz goin' to have Marster put her in de stock and
beat her when he come home. When de gal went to de field and told her
husband 'bout it, he told her whar to go and stay 'til he got dar. Dat
night he took his supper to her. He carried her to a cave and hauled
pine straw and put in dar for her to sleep on. He fixed dat cave up just
lak a house for her, put a stove in dar and run de pipe out through de
ground into a swamp. Everybody always wondered how he fixed dat pipe,
course dey didn't cook on it 'til night when nobody could see de smoke.
He ceiled de house wid pine logs, made beds and tables out of pine
poles, and dey lived in dis cave seven years. Durin' dis time, dey had
three chillun. Nobody wuz wid her when dese chillun wuz born but her
husband. He waited on her wid each chile. De chillun didn't wear no
clothes 'cept a piece tied 'round deir waists. Dey wuz just as hairy as
wild people, and dey wuz wild. When dey come out of dat cave dey would
run everytime dey seed a pusson.
"De seven years she lived in de cave, diffunt folks helped keep 'em in
food. Her husband would take it to a certain place and she would go and
git it. People had passed over dis cave ever so many times, but nobody
knowed dese folks wuz livin' dar. Our Marster didn't know whar she wuz,
and it wuz freedom 'fore she come out of dat cave for good.
"Us lived in a long house dat had a flat top and little rooms made like
mule stalls, just big enough for you to git in and sleep. Dey warn't no
floors in dese rooms and neither no beds. Us made beds out of dry grass,
but us had cover 'cause de real old people, who couldn't do nothin'
else, made plenty of it. Nobody warn't 'lowed to have fires, and if dey
wuz caught wid any dat meant a beatin'. Some would burn charcoal and
take de coals to deir rooms to help warm 'em. Every pusson had a tin
pan, tin cup, and a spoon. Everybody couldn't eat at one time, us had
'bout four different sets. Nobody had a stove to cook on, everybody
cooked on fire places and used skillets and pots. To boil us hung pots
on racks over de fire and baked bread and meats in de skillets.
"Marster had a big room right side his house whar his vittals wuz
cooked. Den de cook had to carry 'em upstairs in a tray to be served.
When de somethin' t'eat wuz carried to de dinin' room it wuz put on a
table and served from dis table. De food warn't put on de eatin' table.
"De slaves went to church wid dey marsters. De preachers always preached
to de white folks first, den dey would preach to de slaves. Dey never
said nothin' but you must be good, don't steal, don't talk back at your
marsters, don't run away, don't do dis, and don't do dat. Dey let de
colored preachers preach but dey give 'em almanacs to preach out of. Dey
didn't 'low us to sing such songs as 'We Shall Be Free' and 'O For a
Thousand Tongues to Sing'. Dey always had somebody to follow de slaves
to church when de colored preacher was preachin' to hear what wuz said
and done. Dey wuz 'fraid us would try to say something 'gainst 'em."
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