Alice Green

PLANTATION LIFE as viewed by Ex-Slave




Written by: Corry Fowler,

Athens --

Edited by: Sarah H. Hall



John N. Booth

District Supervisor

Federal Writers' Project

Residencies 6 & 7

Alice Green's supposed address led the interviewer to a cabin with a

padlocked front door. A small Negro girl who was playing in the

adjoining yard admitted, after some coaxing, that she knew where Alice

could be found. Pointing down the street, she said: "See dat house wid

de sheet hangin' out in front. Dat's whar Aunt Alice lives now." A few

moments later a rap on the door of the house designated was answered by

a small, slender Negress.

"Yes Mam, I'm Alice Green," was her solemn response to the inquiry. She

pondered the question of an interview for a moment and then, with

unsmiling dignity, bade the visitor come in and be seated. Only one room

of the dilapidated two-room shack was usable for shelter and this room

was so dark that lamplight was necessary at 10:00 o'clock in the

morning. Her smoking oil lamp was minus its chimney.

A Negro child about two or three years old was Alice's sole companion.

"I takes keer of little Sallie Mae whilst her Mammy wuks at a boardin'

house," she explained. "She's lots of company for me.

"Charles and Milly Green was my daddy and mammy. Daddy's overseer was a

man named Green, and dey said he was a powerful mean sort of man. I

never did know whar it was dey lived when Daddy was borned. Mammy's

marster was a lawyer dat dey called Slickhead Mitchell, and he had a

plantation at Helicon Springs. Mammy was a house gal and she said dey

treated her right good. Now Daddy, he done field work. You know what

field work is, hoein', plowin', and things lak dat. When you was a slave

you had to do anything and evvything your marster told you to. You was

jus' 'bliged to obey your marster no matter what he said for you to do.

If you didn't, it was mighty bad for you. My two oldest sisters was

Fannie and Rena. Den come my brothers, Isaac and Bob, and my two

youngest sisters, Luna and Violet. Dere was seven of us in all.

"Slaves lived in rough little log huts daubed wid mud and de chimblys

was made out of sticks and red mud. Mammy said dat atter de slaves had

done got through wid deir day's work and finished eatin' supper, dey all

had to git busy workin' wid cotton. Some carded bats, some spinned and

some weaved cloth. I knows you is done seen dis here checkidy cotton

homespun--dat's what dey weaved for our dresses. Dem dresses was made

tight and long, and dey made 'em right on de body so as not to waste

none of de cloth. All slaves had was homespun clothes and old heavy

brogan shoes.

"You'll be s'prised at what Mammy told me 'bout how she got her larnin'.

She said she kept a school book hid in her bosom all de time and when de

white chillun got home from school she would ax 'em lots of questions

all 'bout what dey had done larned dat day and, 'cause she was so proud

of evvy little scrap of book larnin' she could pick up, de white chillun

larned her how to read and write too. All de larnin' she ever had she

got from de white chillun at de big house, and she was so smart at

gittin' 'em to larn her dat atter de war was over she got to be a school

teacher. Long 'fore dat time, one of dem white chillun got married and

tuk Mammy wid her to her new home at Butler, Georgia.

"Now my daddy, he was a plum sight sho' 'nough. He said dat when

evvythin' got still and quiet at night he would slip off and hunt him up

some 'omans. Patterollers used to git atter him wid nigger hounds and

once when dey cotch him he said dey beat him so bad you couldn't lay

your hand on him nowhar dat it warn't sore. Dey beat so many holes in

him he couldn't even wear his shirt. Most of de time he was lucky enough

to outrun 'em and if he could jus' git to his marster's place fust dey

couldn't lay hands on him. Yes Mam, he was plenty bad 'bout runnin' away

and gittin' into devilment.

"Daddy used to talk lots 'bout dem big cornshuckin's. He said dat when

dey got started he would jump up on a big old pile of corn and holler

loud as he could whilst he was a snatchin' dem shucks off as fast as

greased lightin'.

"When Mammy was converted she jined the white folks church and was

baptized by a white preacher 'cause in dem days slaves all went to de

same churches wid deir marster's famblies. Dere warn't no separate

churches for Negroes and white people den.

"I warn't no bigger dan dis here little Sallie Mae what stays wid me

when de War ended and dey freed de slaves. A long time atter it was all

over, Mammy told me 'bout dat day. She said she was in de kitchen up at

de big house a-cookin' and me and my sisters was out in de yard in de

sandbed a-playin' wid de little white chillun when dem yankee sojers

come. Old Miss, she said to Mammy: 'Milly, look yonder what's a-comin'.

I ain't gwine to have nothin' left, not even a nickels worth, 'cause

dere comes dem yankees.' Dey rid on in de yard, dem sojers what wore dem

blue jackets, and dey jus' swarmed all over our place. Dey even went in

our smokehouse and evvywhar and took whatever dey wanted. Dey said

slaves was all freed from bondage and told us to jus' take anything and

evvything us wanted from de big house and all 'round de plantation whar

us lived. Dem thievin' sojers even picked up one of de babies and

started off wid it, and den Old Miss did scream and cry for sho'. Atter

dey had done left, Old Miss called all of us together and said she

didn't want none of us to leave her and so us stayed wid her a whole

year atter freedom had done come.

"Not many slaves had a chance to git property of deir own for a long

time 'cause dey didn't have no money to buy it wid. Dem few what had

land of deir own wouldn't have had it if deir white folks hadn't give it

to 'em or holp 'em to git it. My uncle, Carter Brown, had a plenty

'cause his white folks holped him to git a home and 'bout evvything else

he wanted. Dem Morton Negroes got ahead faster dan most any of de others

'round here but dey couldn't have done it if deir white folks hadn't

holped 'em so much.

"Soon as I got big enough, I started cookin' for well-off white folks.

Fact is, I ain't never cooked for no white folks dat didn't have jus'

plenty of money. Some of de white folks what has done et my cookin' is

de Mitchells, Upsons, Ruckers, Bridges, and Chief Seagraves' fambly. I

was cookin' for Chief Buesse's mammy when he was jus' a little old

shirttail boy. Honey, I allus did lak to be workin' and I have done my

share of it, but since I got so old I ain't able to do much no more. My

white folks is mighty good to me though.

"Now Honey, you may think it's kind of funny but I ain't never been much

of a hand to run 'round wid colored folks. My mammy and my white folks

dey raised me right and larned me good manners and I'm powerful proud of

my raisin'. I feels lak now dat white folks understands me better and

'preciates me more."

Why, jus' listen to dis! When Mr. Weaver Bridges told me his mother had

done died, he axed me did I want to go to the funeral and he said he was

goin' to take me to de church and graveyard too, and sho' 'nough dey did

come and git me and carry me 'long. I was glad dey had so many pretty

flowers at Mrs. Bridges' funeral 'cause I loved her so much. She was a

mighty sweet, good, kind 'oman.

"All my folks is dead now 'cept me and my chillun, Archie, Lila, and

Lizzie. All three of 'em is done married now. Archie, he's got a house

full of chillun. He works up yonder at de Georgian Hotel. I loves to

stay in a little hut off to myself 'cause I can tell good as anybody

when my chillun and in-laws begins to look cross-eyed at me so I jus'

stays out of deir way.

"I'm still able to go to church and back by myself pretty reg'lar. 'Bout

four years ago I jined Hill's Baptist Church. Lak to a got lost didn't

I? If I had stayed out a little longer it would have been too late, and

I sho' don't want to be lost."

Alice Duke Alice Green facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail