(J.R. Wilkerson) [HW: Ky 7]

[Tinie Force and Elvira Lewis:]

During the period of slavery in the Purchase Region, buying and selling

slaves was carried on at irregular intervals. The trading usually took

place at the home of the slave owner. The prices paid for slaves was

dependent upon certain conditions. In case of a full grown, robust negro

boy the price was sometimes as much as one thousand dollars. The prices

paid was varied according to the age, the general health and other

conditions of the individual.

At times pathetic scenes prevailed in the selling of slaves; namely, the

separation of mother and child. Often, a boy or girl would be sold and

taken away from his or her mother. In many cases the parting would be

permanent and the child and its mother would never see each other again.

The slave owner maintained separate housing quarters for his slaves. In

some cases the living quarters of slaves was comfortable and agreeable;

in other cases, living conditions of slaves was anything but agreeable;

Some masters were reasonably gentle to their slaves, while others were


One of the saddest, darkest and most pathetic conditions that existed

during the period of slavery was the intimate mingling of slave owners,

in fact many white men, with negro women. It has become known that very

often a slave was sold who was the direct offspring of his or her owner.

This practice prevailed to some extent in the Purchase Region, but was

not universal. When the emancipation proclamation became effective and

the slaves were given freedom, some of them prefered to remain with

their masters, while others started out into the world for themselves.

Very often, some of the slaves, who had anticipated that liberty meant

more to them than anything else, and who went out into the cold world of

indifference, soon returned to their old masters. They found that their

former home was a much better place to abode than anything outside of


Recreations of slaves:

The following is an old fashion ballad that was sung during the period

of slavery and which was very common throughout the Purchase Region:

"Jeff Davis rode a big white horse, but Lincoln rode a mule--Jeff Davis

was a fine, smart man, and Lincoln was a fool. Jeff Davis had a fine

white; Lincoln only had a mule--Jeff Davis was a wonderful man and

Lincoln was a fool".

Ring dancing was largely practiced during the slavery period. Especially

was this participated in throughout the Purchase Region. This was a

rather primative kind of dancing and was performed mostly by negro

children. The general procedure was to draw a ring on the ground,

ranging from 15 to 30 feet in diameter. The size of the ring to be used

was determined by the number of persons who were engaged in the dancing

ring. The youngsters would congregate within the ring and dance to the

rhythmic hand clapping and rhythm of the tambourine, which was performed

by the white people in the community.

Sometimes large congregations witnessed these primitive affairs, and

they became a great Saturday evening entertainment for the community at

large. During the periods of intermission, the youngsters, who had

engaged in the dancing would be given a kind of feast on barbecued meat

and cider drinking. At the conclusion of this brief festivity, they

would continue in their dancing, and very often this hilarity would be

carried on well into the evening.

Another kind of entertainment, which was practiced during the period of

slavery, was the singing of negro folk songs and spirituals. The darkies

would hold gatherings of this kind at the homes of individuals or

members, and engage in singing their favorite songs. These singings were

generally held during the evenings, especially on Saturdays and Sundays,

and not only afforded a favorite pass time for the darkies; but also for

white people. Most always, the singings were attended by a large

audience of white people, men, women and children. Those gatherings grew

with increasing popularity, until they became one of the most favorite

classes of amusement.

Also, the darkies were very fond of sports, such as were common to the

period, and many of them were very dexterous in the leading sports of

the day. One of the most common of those was hurdle racing. Here, the

contestants would leap over hurdles that were placed at regular

intervals apart. At time, numerous participants would engage in these

races, and the sport would extend over the entire day. There was a kind

of jumping too, which was called hurtling. In the sport, the contestants

made use of a hurtling pole, which was a small rigid-pole about 12 feet

in length. The jumper would take a long running start, which would

enable him to take on additional momentum; and with the assistance of

the hurtling pole, would leap over a hurdle that was placed a

considerable elevation above the ground. The chief object in this kind

of jumping was leaping over a high hurdle. The contestant, who made the

highest leap, was awarded the highest honors of the contest. A second,

third and fourth honors were awarded too.

Another kind of contest was called "A free for all". Here a ring was

drawn on the ground which ranged from about 15 ft. to 30 ft. in diameter

depending on the number of contestants who engaged in the combat. Each

participant was given a kind of bag that was stuffed with cotton and

rags into a very compact mass. When so stuffed, the bags would weigh on

an average of 10 pounds, and was used by the contestants in striking

their antagonist. Each combatant picked whichever opponent he desired

and attempted to subdue him by pounding him over the head with the bag,

which he used as his weapon of defense. And which was used as an

offending weapon. The contest was continued in this manner till every

combatant was counted out, and a hero of the contest proclaimed. Some

times two contestants were adjudged heroes, and it was necessary to run

a contest between the two combatants before a final hero could be

proclaimed. Then the two antagonist would stage a battle royal and would

continue in the conflict till one was proclaimed victorious.

Sometimes these Free-For-All battles were carried on with a kind of

improvised boxing gloves, and the contests were carried on in the same

manner as previously described. Very often, as many as 30 darkies of the

most husky type were engaged in these battles, and the contests were

generally attended by large audiences. Being staged during the period of

favorable weather, and mostly on Saturday afternoon; these physical

exhibitions were the scenes of much controversial conflict, gambling,

excessive inebriation and hilarity.

Banjo and guitar playing were practiced by the many darkies of the

slavery period also. These were on the order of concerts; and many

darkies although they had no scientific training, became rather

accomplished musicians in this respect. Melodious music might be heard

at these old fashion contests, as most darkies, who acquired knowledge

in the playing of these instruments were familiar with nearly all the

melodies and folks songs that were common to the period.

(The foregoing is copied verbatim from conversation with Tinie Force,

and Elvira Lewis, LaCenter, Ky. These 2 negro women are very familiar

with the slavery period, as they were both slaves, and many of the facts

common to that time were witnessed by them.)

Avalena Mcconico Barbara Haywood facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail