Alice Hutcheson

[TR: date stamp: MAY 13 1938]

PLANTATION LIFE as viewed by ex-slave


165 Rockspring Street

Athens, Georgia

Written by: Grace McCune

Athens --

Edited by: Sarah H. Hall



John N. Booth

District Supervisor

Federal Writers' Project

Augusta, Georgia.


As the interviewer approached the house she could hear Alice singing,

"Good mornin' to you! Howdy you do?" and through the open window the old

woman could be seen busily engaged in household duties. Her broom,

moving in rhythm with the song, did not miss a stroke when the tune

changed to, "Lord I'se a comin' Home."

At the first sound of rapping, the singing ceased and Alice promptly

opened the door. "Good mornin' Missy," she said. "How is you?" Asked for

the story of her early life as a slave, she smiled and urged the visitor

to "have a seat in dis here rockin' cheer out here on de porch in de


"My Ma and Pa was named Har'iet Bell and William Hanson, and dey

b'longed to Marse Cal Robinson down in Monroe County. Ma was married two

times, and de fus' man was named Bell. He was de Pa of my half brother.

Only one of my three sisters is livin' now. I was born in June 1862

durin' de war. Ma's two brothers, Taylor and Bob Smith, b'longed to de

Robinson's in Morgan County. Dem Robinsons was kin to our white folkses,

and us was still all Robinson Niggers. Ma's four sisters is all done

died out long years ago.

"I jus' kin 'member one time de Yankees come to our plantation. Dey

ramsacked de place, tuk all de victuals f'um de white folkses and give

'em to de slaves. Us chillun sho' hid out whilst dey was dar, 'cause dem

was skeery times, and dem sojers sung old songs I heared lots of times

atter I got bigger. De captain would start de song. 'Member 1866, boys,

de rebels in hell of fixes, but we'll drink and eat deir bones yit.'

Atter de Yankees lef' de Niggers brung back de white folkses victuals

'cause dey was our own white folkses and dey had allus done give us

plenty of evvything.

"Us chillun didn't have to do no hard wuk, jus' played 'round de yards

wid de white chillun mos' of de time. One of our little jobs was to git

in plenty of wood for de fires. Chestnut and hick'ry wood made de bes'

fires and dere was allus plenty of good kindlin' to git 'em started. Oak

and pine bark was good to make de pot bile in a hurry. Dem ovens would

bake lak evvything wid heaps of hot coals piled 'round 'em.

"Dere warn't no Nigger schools den, but Miss Jane larnt us 'long wid de

white chillun, and us sho' had to mind dem lessons or she'd tear us up.

"De slave quarters was jus' log cabins, and dey cooked on fireplaces

jus' lak at de big house. Marster didn't have many Niggers, but us had

plenty somepin' t'eat. He had a big gyarden whar he raised mos'

evvything: corn, 'taters, cabbages, peas, onions, collard greens, and

lots of pun'kins. When de mens plowed up de 'taters us chillun had to go

'long and put 'em in baskets. De bestes' times was hog killin' times. Us

chillun wukked den. Dey hung up de hogs all night and nex' day us cut

'em, put 'em down in salt, and cooked up de lard. Us chillun got some of

dem good old skin cracklin's when dey got brown.

"Atter Marster tuk de meat out of de salt, he put brown sugar and

'lasses on de hams and shoulders, sacked 'em up, and hanged 'em in de

smokehouse. Den he say for us to git de fire ready. Us made a fire wid

cottonseed to smoke de meat. Dat kep' it good, and it didn't git old

tastin'. It was sho' good eatin' when you got some of dat meat.

"When de time come 'round to gather in de corn us wukked mighty peart

lak, 'cause us couldn't hardly wait for de cornshuckin's dat Marster was

gwine to let us have atter dat corn was hauled in f'um de fields.

Marster 'vited all de other white folkses and dey brung deir Niggers

'long. Shucks would jus' fly off of dat corn while dem Niggers was

a-singin' 'Old Liza Jane' and 'Susan Jane'. When de cornshuckin' was all

done, us had a big supper--chicken pies, barbecue, and plenty of

evvything good wid lots of liquor too. Atter supper dey started up

playin' dem fiddles and banjoes, and de dancin' begun. White folkses

danced da twistification up at de big house, but us had reg'lar old

breakdowns in a house what Marstar let us have to dance in. Wid all dat

toddy helpin' 'em 'long, sometimes dey danced all night, and some of 'em

fell out and had to be dragged off de dance flo'.

"Marse had log rollin's and 'vited evvybody. Dey all come and brung deir

Niggers. Marster had big dinners for 'em, and atter dey done rolled dem

logs all day dem Niggers evermore did eat. When dey was wukkin' dey sung

somethin' lak dis:

'I'se wukkin' on de buildin'

And hits a sho' foundation,

And when I git done

I'se goin' home to Heb'en.'

"All de neighbors comed to de quiltin's, and when de quilts was

finished, dey throwed it over de head of de house. Dat brung good luck.

"Us had to cyard, spin and reel cotton. Missy give us chillun six cuts

of thread for a days wuk and if us wukked hard and fas' us got done in

time to go chestnut and chinquapin huntin'. Us th'owed rocks 'ginst de

limbs to shake de nuts down, and us had jus' de bestes' time a-gittin'

'em out of de burrs and eatin' 'em. Us used to string chinquapins and

hang 'em 'round our necks.

"Marster had dese big car'iages wid de high front seats whar de driver

sot. Us had buggies den too, but attar de War us jus' had two-wheeled

carts and dey was pulled," the old Negress modestly explained, "by male


"Niggers all laked thrashin' time. Marstar, he growed lots of wheat and

de thrashin' machine tuk turn about gwine f'um one plantation to

another. Dey had big dinners on thrashin' days and plenty of toddy for

de thrashin' hands atter dey done de wuk. Dey blowed de bugle to let 'em

know when dey done finished up at one place and got ready to go on to de

nex' one.

"Missy lef' us to look atter de house when she went off to Morgan County

to see de other Robinsons, and she mos' allus fetched us a new dress

apiece when she come home. One time dey was Dolly Vardens, and dey was

so pretty us kep' 'em for our Sunday bes' dresses. Dem Dolly Vardens was

made wid overskirts what was cotched up in puffs. Evvyday dresses was

jus' plain skirts and waistes sowed together. Gal chilluns wore jus'

plain chemises made long, and boys didn't wear nothin' 'cep' long shirts

widout no britches 'til dey was 'bout twelve or fo'teen. Dem was

summertime clothes. Cold weather us had flannel petticoats and drawers.

Our bonnets had staves in de brim to make 'em stand out and had ruffles

'round de front.

"Ma done de cookin' and house wuk at de big house for Mist'ess Jane

Robinson. White folkses had lots of comp'ny, and dey had de cook fix de

mostes' good things for 'em. Dey kilt heaps of chickens and cooked whole

hams and lots of 'tater puddin's and sich lak. When Ma steamed pun'kin

'til it was done and den fried it, hit sho' would make your mouf water.

Missy's folkses was crazy 'bout de 'tater puddin's what Ma made, and

when she went off to visit 'em she allus had Ma bake one for her to take

'long to 'em.

"White folkses and Niggers all went to de same church and listened to de

same white preacher. Church day was second Sunday of evvy mont'. White

folkses went in de mornin' and Niggers atter dinner. Dem Niggers had

better behave and listen to de preacher, 'cause if dey didn't Marster

would give 'em a rakin' over sho'. Us went to Mount Zion Church in

Monroe County, and de Baptists and Meferdists both used de same church


"When anybody died, dey laid 'em out on de coolin' board 'til dey got de

coffin made up. A white man lived nigh us what made all de coffins. He

charged 50 cents to make one for a chile and a dollar for grown folkses.

Dey had de same kind of coffins for evvybody, white and black, buried

'em all in de same graveyard, and built a fence 'round it. White mens

preached all de fun'rals. When dey buried a Nigger dey mos'ly had

prayer, a little talkin' and some songs. Parts of de songs went lak dis:

"Death has been here and

Tore away a sister from our side,

Jus' in de mornin' of 'er day

As young as us, she had to die.

"Not long ago she filled 'er place

And sot wid us to larn,

But she done run 'er mortal race

And nevermore can she return.

"Us can't tell who nex' may fall

Underneath de chasen' rod,

One maybe fus', but let us all

Prepare to meet our God.

"And needful help is thine to give

For Grace our souls to Thee apply,

To larn us how to serve and live,

And make us fit at las' to die."

"Part of another one was:

"Oh, come angel band

Come and 'round me stand,

And bear me away

On your snowy wings,

To my immortal home."

"Seems lak I can mos' hear de preacher read de Scripture for his tex',

'Buy de truf and sell it not.'

"Sometimes our white folkses tuk us all to old Smyrna Church, and den Ma

allus cooked a fine dinner to take 'long, 'cause dey had church all day

and dinner on de grounds. I ain't never gwine forgit a sermon I heared

at Smyrna, onct. De tex' was, 'Be thou faithful unto death, and I will

give you a crown of life.'

"One day Marster called all his Niggers together and said us was all

free, and dat us could go whar us pleased anytime us got ready, but he

said too, dat us could stay on wid him if us wanted to. Charlie Martin

was de onlies' Nigger what didn't stay. Charlie said he wanted to go

somewhars else and Marster give him a good hoss and saddle and some

money when he lef', but I don't know how much dat money was.

"'Twarn't long 'fore dere was plenty of Ku Kluxers 'round 'bout. Dey

had on doughfaces and long white robes what come down over de hosses dey

was a-ridin'. Ma allus tole us dat if one of dem Kluxers tetched a

Nigger, dat Nigger was gwine to die, and us was so skeered us stayed out

of deir way so day didn't ketch none of us, but dey sho' did wuk on de

hides of some of dem other Niggers what dey did git a holt of.

"I wukked for Miss Sally Yervin a while and den us moved here to Athens.

My gran'pa come atter us, and Mr. Mote Robinson moved us in one of dem

big, high up waggons." An ice truck passed the cabin door and Alice

said: "Now jus' look, Honey, us didn't have nothin' lak dat den. Our

milk and butter and sich lak was kep' in de spring house. Folkses what

had wells used to put milk in buckets and let 'em down in de well wid

ropes, and dat milk would keep good and cool down dar.

"I got married atter us come to Athens. Us didn't have no big weddin',

jus' went to de preacher man's house to git married. De onlies' child us

had is done been daid for years, and my old man died 'way over 16 years


The old Negress [HW: woman] was reluctant to end the interview. "Goodbye

Missy, I hopes you come back sometime, 'cause old Alice has had a mighty

good time a-talkin' to you. Atter us gits too old to do any wuk dere

ain't many folkses takes up no time a-listenin' to old Niggers."

Alice Houston Alice Johnson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail