From: South Carolina
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S. C.
Date, October 21, 1937
Ex-Slave, 72 Years
"Well, I tell you just like it been. Dat was an unexpectin trip when you
come here dat day en I wasn' thinkin bout much dat I had know to tell
you. It been kind o' put me on a wonder."
"You see, child, I never didn' see my grandfather cause when I was born,
dey had done sold him away. I hear tell dat sometimes dey would take de
wife from dey husband en another time dey would take de husband from dey
wife en sell dem off yonder somewhe' en never didn' see dem no more
neither. Yes, I sho know dat cause I hear my father speak bout dat
plenty times. Yes, mam, dey sold my uncle's wife away en he never didn'
see her no more till after freedom come en he done been married again
den. Speculators carried my mother's first husband off en den she
married again. Cose I was born of de second husband en dat ain' been
"I hear talk bout dat didn' none of de colored people have nothin in
slavery time en heap of dem wasn' allowed to pick up a paper or nothin
no time. Often hear dem talk dat some of de niggers was freed long time
fore dey know bout it. Hear dem say some white folks hold dem long time
till dey could make out to get somethin for demselves. Don' think so.
Don' think so. No, mam, don' think so. Dey might been intended for dem
to get somethin when dey was freed, but I never learn of nobody gettin
nothin. Cose I often heard my father say some white folks thought more
bout dey colored people den others en hope dem out more. Hear tell dat
didn' none of dem have no clothes much den. No, mam, colored people won'
bless wid no clothes much in dem days. I remember dey had to wear dese
old big shoes, call brogans, wid brass all cross de toes here. Nobody
don' wear nothin like dat now. Dey was coarse shoes. Some say plenty of
de people had to go barefooted all de time in dem days. Reckon dat would
kill de people in dis day en time. Couldn' stand nothin like dat. Yes,
mam, see Tom Bostick walk right cross dat field many a day just as
barefooted as he come in de world en all de ground would be covered over
wid ice en snow. De people get after him en he say, 'Well, I had worser
den dis to go through wid in slavery time.' Say he come up dat way en he
never know no difference den dat he had thick shoe on his foot."
"Well, you see, some of de white folks would spare dey colored people so
much ration when dey knock off work on a Saturday to last dem till de
next Saturday come. Hear tell dey give dem a peck of meal en a little
molasses en a hog jowl en dat had to last dem all de week. Dem what use
a little tobacco, give dem a plug of dat en give dem a little flour for
Sunday. Didn' nobody have to work on Sunday en den dey would allow dem
two days off for Christmas too. I tellin you bout how my white folks
would do, but dem what had a rough Massa, dey just got one day. I hear
dem say dey always had a little flour on Christmas. Don' know what else
dey give dem, but won' nothin much. I know dat. Sho know dat."
"I hear say two intelligent people didn' live so far apart en one never
treat dey colored people right en being as dey wasn' allowed to go from
one place to another widout dey had a ticket wid dem, dey would steal
somethin en run away. Say de just man tell dat other man dat if he would
feed his niggers right, dey wouldn' have no need to be stealin so much
things. No'um, I does hate to tell dat. Cose dey say dey done it. Say de
overseer would beat dem up dat never do what he tell dem to do mighty
bad en wouldn' be particular bout whe' dey was buried neither. Hear talk
dat dey bury heap of dem in a big hole down side de woods somewhe'. Cose
I don' know whe' dat word true or not, but dat what dey tell me."
"Oo--oo--yes, mam, dey sho whip de colored women in dem days. Yes, mam,
de overseer done it cause I hear dem say dat myself. Tell dat dey take
de wives en whip de blood out dem en de husband never didn' dare to say
nothin. Hear dey whip some so bad dey had to grease dem. If de colored
people didn' do to suit de white folks, dey sho whip dem. No, mam, if
dey put you out to work, ain' nobody think dey gwine lay down under de
bresh (brush) en stay dere widout doin dey portion of work. Yes, child,
hear bout dat more times, den I got fingers en toes."
"Oh, de times be worser in a way dese days. Yes, mam, dey sho worser in
a way. De people be wiser now den what dey used to be, but dere so much
gwine on, dey ain' thinkin bout dey welfare no time en dat'll shorten
anybody days. Oh, honey, we livin in a fast world dese days. Peoples
used to help one another out more en didn' somebody be tryin to pull you
down all de time. When you is found a wicked one in dat day en time, it
been a wicked one. Cose de people be more intelligent in learnin dese
days, but I'm tellin you dere a lot of other things got to build you up
'sides learnin. Dere one can get up to make a speech what ain' got no
learnin en dey can just preach de finest kind of speech. Say dey ain'
know one thing dey gwine say fore dey get up dere. Folks claim dem kind
of people been bless wid plenty good mother wit. Den another time one
dat have de learnin widout de mother wit can get up en seem like dey
just don' know whe' to place de next word. Yes, mam, I hear dat often."
"What I meant by what I say bout de wicked one? I meant when you found a
wild one, it been a wild one for true. I mean you better not meddle wid
one like dat cause dey don' never care what dey do. People look like dey
used to care more for dey lives den dey do dese days. Dat what I meant,
but you can weigh dat like you want to. You see, dere be different ways
for people to hurt demselves."
"Oh, my soul, hear talk bout dere be ghosts en hants, but I never didn'
experience nothin like dat. Yes, mam, I hear too much of dat. Been
hearin bout dat ever since I been in a manner grown, you may say. I hear
people say dey see dem, but I ain' take up no time wid nothin like dat.
I have a mind like dis, if such a thing be true, it ain' intended for
everybody to see dem. I gwine tell you far as I know bout it. I hear
dese old people say when anybody child born wid a caul over dey face,
dey can always see dem things en dem what ain' born dat way, dey don'
see dem. Cose I don' know nothin bout what dat is en I is hate to tell
it, but I hear lot of people say dey can see hants en ghosts all time of
a night. Yes'um, I hear de older people say dat, but I don' know whe' it
true or no. I know I don' see nothin myself, but de wind. Don' see dat,
but I feels it."
"Oh, my God, some people believe in dat thing call conjurin, but I didn'
never believe in nothin like dat. Never didn' understand nothin like
dat. Hear say people could make you leave home en all dat, but I never
couldn' see into it. Never didn' believe in it."
"Yes, mam, I see plenty people wear dem dimes round dey ankle en all
kind of things on dey body, but never didn' see my mother do nothin like
dat. I gwine tell you it just like I got it. Hear talk dat some would
wear dem for luck en some tote dem to keep people from hurtin dem. I got
a silver dime in de house dere in my trunk right to dis same day dat I
used to wear on a string of beads, but I took it off. No, mam, couldn'
stand nothin like dat. Den some peoples keeps a bag of asafetida tied
round dey neck to keep off sickness. Folks put it on dey chillun to keep
dem from havin worms. I never didn' wear none in my life, but I know it
been a good thing for people, especially chillun. Let me see, dere a
heap of other things dat I learn bout been good for people to wear for
sickness. Dere been nutmeg dat some people make a hole in en wear it
round dey neck. I forget whether it been good for neuralgia or some of
dem other body ailments, but I know it won' for no conjurin."
"Honey, pa always say dat you couldn' expect no more from a child den
you puts in dey raisin. Pa say, 'Sylvia, raise up your chillun in de
right way en dey'll smile on you in your old age.' Honey, I don' see
what dese people gwine expect dey chillun to turn out to be nohow dese
days cause dey ain' got no raisin en dey ain' got no manners. I say, I
got a feelin for de chillun cause dey parents ain' stay home enough of
time to learn dem nothin en dey ain' been know no better. Remember when
my parents went off en tell us to stay home, we never didn' darsen to go
off de place. Den when dey would send us off, we know we had to be back
in de yard fore sunup in de evenin. Yes, child, we all had to be
obedient to our parents in dat day en time. I always was sub-obedient
myself en I never had no trouble nowhe'. Yes, mam, when we went off
anywhe', we ax to go en we been back de hour dey expect to see us. Yes,
mam, chillun was more obedient den. None of us didn' sass us parents.
Won' raise dat way. I remember when I was young, I used to tote water en
make fire to de pot for my mother to wash plenty times. Den dey learn me
how to use a hoe en when I was married en left home, won' nothin strange
"No, mam, I didn' have no weddin when I was married, but everything was
pleasant en turned out all right. Yes, mam, everybody don' feel so good
leavin home, but I felt all right, I was married over dere in Bethel M.
E. Church en served a little cake en wine dere home afterwards en dat
ain' no weddin. Didn' have nothin but pound cake en wine. Had three
plain cakes. Two was cut up dere home en I remember I carried one wid me
over Catfish dere to de Reaves place."
Source: Sylvia Durant, ex-slave, age about 72, Marion, S. C.
Personal interview by Annie Ruth Davis, Oct., 1937.
Next: Louisa Adams
Previous: Silva Durant