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Susan Hamilton

From: South Carolina

Project #1885
Augustus Ladson
Charleston, S.C.

No. Words: 1195




I'm a hund'ed an' one years old now, son. De only one livin' in my crowd
from de days I wuz a slave. Mr. Fuller, my master, who was president of
the Firs' National Bank, owned the fambly of us except my father. There
were eight men an' women with five girls an' six boys workin' for him.
Most o' them wus hired out. De house in which we stayed is still dere
with de cisterns an' slave quarters. I always go to see de old home
which is on St. Phillip Street.

My ma had t'ree boys an' t'ree girls who did well at their work. Hope
Mikell, my eldest bredder, an' James wus de shoemaker. William Fuller,
son of our master, wus de bricklayer. Margurite an' Catharine wuz de
maids an' look at de children.

My pa b'long to a man on Edisto Island. Frum what he said, his master
was very mean. Pa real name wus Adam Collins but he took his master'
name; he wus de coachman. Pa did supin one day an his master whipped
him. De next day which wuz Monday, Pa carry him 'bout four miles frum
home in de woods an' give him de same 'mount of lickin' he wus given on
Sunday. He tied him to a tree an' unhitched de horse so it couldn't git
tie-up an' kill a self. Pa den gone to de landin' an' catch a boat dat
wus comin' to Charleston wood fa'm products. He wus permitted by his
master to go to town on errands, which helped him to go on de boat
without bein' question'. When he got here he gone on de water-front an'
ax for a job on a ship so he could git to de North. He got de job an'
sail' wood de ship. Dey search de island up an' down for him wood
houndogs en w'en it wus t'ought he wus drowned, 'cause dey track him to
de river, did dey give up. One of his master' friend gone to New York en
went in a store w'ere Pas wus employed as a clerk. He reconize' pa is
easy is pa reconize' him. He gone back home an' tell pa master who know
den dat pa wusn't comin' back an' before he died he sign' papers dat pa
wus free. Pa ma wus dead an' he come down to bury her by de permission
of his master' son who had promised no ha'm would come to him, but dey
wus fixin' plans to keep him, so he went to the Work House an' ax to be
sold 'cause any slave could sell e self if e could git to de Work House.
But it wus on record down dere so dey couldn't sell 'im an' told him his
master' people couldn't hold him a slave.

People den use to do da same t'ings dey do now. Some marry an' some live
together jus' like now. One t'ing, no minister nebber say in readin' de
matrimony "let no man put asounder" 'cause a couple would be married
tonight an' tomorrow one would be taken away en be sold. All slaves wus
married in dere master house, in de livin' room where slaves an' dere
missus an' massa wus to witness de ceremony. Brides use to wear some of
de finest dress an' if dey could afford it, have de best kind of
furniture. Your master nor your missus objected to good t'ings.

I'll always 'member Clory, de washer. She wus very high-tempered. She
wus a mulatta with beautiful hair she could sit on; Clory didn't take
foolishness frum anybody. One day our missus gone in de laundry an' find
fault with de clothes. Clory didn't do a t'ing but pick her up bodily
an' throw 'er out de door. Dey had to sen' fur a doctor 'cause she
pregnant an' less than two hours de baby wus bo'n. Afta dat she begged
to be sold fur she didn't want to kill missus, but our master ain't
nebber want to sell his slaves. But dat didn't keep Clory frum gittin' a
brutal whippin'. Dey whip' 'er until dere wasn't a white spot on her
body. Dat wus de worst I ebber see a human bein' got such a beatin'. I
t'ought she wus goin' to die, but she got well an' didn't get any better
but meaner until our master decide it wus bes' to rent her out. She
willingly agree' since she wusn't 'round missus. She hated an' detest'
both of them an' all de fambly.

W'en any slave wus whipped all de other slaves wus made to watch. I see
women hung frum de ceilin' of buildin's an' whipped with only supin tied
'round her lower part of de body, until w'en dey wus taken down, dere
wusn't breath in de body. I had some terribly bad experiences.

Yankees use to come t'rough de streets, especially de Big Market,
huntin' those who want to go to de "free country" as dey call' it. Men
an' women wus always missin' an' nobody could give 'count of dere
disappearance. De men wus train' up North fur sojus.

De white race is so brazen. Dey come here an' run de Indians frum dere
own lan', but dey couldn't make dem slaves 'cause dey wouldn't stan' for
it. Indians use to git up in trees an' shoot dem with poison arrow. W'en
dey couldn't make dem slaves den dey gone to Africa an' bring dere black
brother an' sister. Dey say 'mong themselves, "we gwine mix dem up en
make ourselves king. Dats e only way we'll git even with de Indians."

All time, night an' day, you could hear men an' women screamin' to de
tip of dere voices as either ma, pa, sister, or brother wus take without
any warnin' an' sell. Some time mother who had only one chile wus
separated fur life. People wus always dyin' frum a broken heart.

One night a couple married an' de next mornin' de boss sell de wife. De
gal ma got in in de street an' cursed de white woman fur all she could
find. She said: "dat damn white, pale-face bastard sell my daughter who
jus' married las' night," an' other t'ings. The white 'oman treaten' her
to call de police if she didn't stop, but de collud woman said: "hit me
or call de police. I redder die dan to stan' dis any longer! De police
took her to de work House by de white woman orders an' what became of
'er, I never hear.

W'en de war began we wus taken to Aiken, South Ca'lina w'ere we stay'
until de Yankees come t'rough. We could see balls sailin' t'rough de air
w'en Sherman wus comin'. Bumbs hit trees in our yard. W'en de freedom
gun wus fired, I wus on my 'nees scrubbin'. Dey tell me I wus free but I
didn't b'lieve it.

In de days of slavery woman wus jus' given time 'nough to deliver dere
babies. Dey deliver de baby 'bout eight in de mornin' an' twelve had too
be back to work.

I wus a member of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for 67
years. Big Zion, across de street wus my church before den an' before
Old Bethel w'en I lived on de other end of town.

Sence Lincoln shook hands with his assasin who at de same time shoot
him, frum dat day I stop shakin' hands, even in de church, an' you know
how long dat wus. I don't b'lieve in kissin' neider fur all carry dere
meannesses. De Master wus betrayed by one of his bosom frien' with a


Interview with (Mrs.) Susan Hamilton, 17 Henrietta Street, who claims to be
101 years of age. She has never been sick for twenty years and walks as though
just 40. She was hired out by her master for seven dollars a month which had to
be given her master.

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