Dinah Cunningham

Project #1655

W. W. Dixon

Winnsboro, S. C.



Dinah Cunningham lives about seven miles west of Ridgeway, S. C., on the

Hood place about a hundred yards off the old Devil's Race Track road.

She lives with her daughter and son-in-law and their three children.

They live in a two-room frame house with a shed room annex. In the

annex, Dinah and the smaller children sleep. They are kind to Dinah, who

is feeble and can do no farm labor. Dinah is as helpless about the home

as a child.

"I's come up here 'bout seventeen miles for to let you see me. 'Spect

you don't see much in dis old worn out critter. Now does you?

"Well, here I is, and I wants you white folks to help me, 'cause I's

served you from generation to generation. Wid de help of de Lord and

trustin' in Jesus de Lamb, I knows I's goin' to git help. When is they

gwine to start payin' off? I's heard them say how you got to be on de

roll and signed up befo' de fourth day of July. So here I is!

"I was born de fust day of March, 1853, out from Ridgeway, sunrise side.

My marster was David Robertson and my mistress name Sally. Her was

mighty pretty. Her was a Rembert befo' she marry Marse Dave. They had

one child dat I was de nurse for and her name was Luray. Her marry Marse

Charlie Ray.

"De onliest whippin' I got was 'bout dat child. I had de baby on de

floor on a pallet and rolled over on it. Her make a squeal like she was

much hurt and mistress come in a hurry. After de baby git quiet and go

to sleep, she said: 'Dinah, I hates to whip you but de Good Book say,

spare de rod and spoil de child.' Wid dat, she goes out and git a little

switch off de crepe myrtle bush and come back and took my left hand in

her left hand, dat had all de rings on de fingers, and us had it 'round

dat room. I make a big holler as she 'plied dat switch on dese very legs

dat you sees here today. They is big and fat now and can scarcely wobble

me 'long but then, they was lean and hard and could carry me 'long like

a deer in de woods.

"My white folks was no poor white trash, I tells you! Good marse and

good mistress had heap of slaves and overseers. One overseer name Mr.

Welch. De buckra folks dat come visitin', use to laugh at de way he put

grease on his hair, and de way he scraped one foot back'ards on de

ground or de floor when they shake hands wid him. He never say much, but

just set in his chair, pull de sides of his mustache and say 'Yas sah'

and 'No sah', to them dat speak to him. He speak a whole lot though,

when he git down in de quarters where de slaves live. He wasn't like de

same man then. He woke everybody at daylight, and sometime he help de

patrollers to search de houses for to ketch any slaves widout a pass.

"Us had all us need to eat, sich as was good for us. Marse like to see

his slaves fat and shiny, just like he want to see de carriage hosses

slick and spanky, when he ride out to preachin' at Ainswell and sometime

de Episcopal church at Ridgeway. My young mistress jine de Baptist

church after she marry, and I 'member her havin' a time wid sewin'

buckshots in de hem of de dress her was baptized in. They done dat, you

knows, to keep de skirt from floatin' on top of de water. You never have

thought 'bout dat? Well, just ask any Baptist preacher and he'll tell

you dat it has been done.

"When de Yankees come, they went through de big house, tore up

everything, ripped open de feather beds and cotton mattresses, searchin'

for money and jewels. Then they had us slaves ketch de chickens, flung

open de smoke-house, take de meat, meal, flour, and put them in a

four-hoss wagon and went on down to Longtown. Them was scandlous days,

boss! I hope never to see de likes of them times wid dese old eyes


"I 'member 'bout de Ku Klux just one time, though I heard 'bout them a

heap. They come on de Robertson place all dressed up wid sheets and

false faces, ridin' on hossback, huntin' for a republican and a radical

nigger, (I forgits his name, been so long) but they didn't find him.

They sho' was a sight and liked to scared us all to death.

"Was I ever married? Sure I was, I marry Mack Cunningham. Us was jined

in de holy wedlock by Marse Alex Matherson, a white trial justice. Ask

him and he'll tell you when it was. I's got some chillun by dat husband.

There is William at Charlotte, and Rosy at Ridgeway. Rosy, her marry a

man name Peay. Then there is Millie Gover at Rembert and Lila Brown at

Smallwood, de station where Marse Charlie Ray and my Mistress Luray was

killed by a railroad train runnin' into de automobile they was in. Then

there is my daughter, Delia Belton, at Ridgeway, and John L., a son

livin' and farmin' at Cedar Creek.

"I b'longs to de Mt. Olivet Church dat you knows 'bout. White folks

comes there sometime for to hear de singin'. They say us can carry de

song better than white folks. Well, maybe us does love de Lord just a

little bit better, and what's in our mouth is in our hearts.

"What you gwine to charge for all dat writin' you got down there? If you

writes much more maybe I ain't got enough money to pay for it. I got a

dollar here but if it's more than dat you'll have to wait on me for de

balance. You say it don't cost nothin'? Well, glory hallelujah for dat!

I'll just go 'round to de colored restaurant and enjoy myself wid beef

stew, rice, new potatoes, macaroni and a cup of coffee. I wonder what

they'll have for dessert. 'Spect it'll be some kind of puddin'. But I'd

be more pleased if you would take half of this dollar and go get you a

good dinner, too. I would like to please you dat much!

"May de good Lord be a watch 'tween me and you 'til us meets again."

Dilly Yelladay Dinah Perry facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail