Ellis Ken Kannon



328 5th Avenue N.

St. Mary's Church

Nashville, Tennessee

"I dunno jes how ole I ez. I wuz bawn in Tennessee as a slave. Mah

mammy kum frum Virginia. Our marster wuz Ken Kannon."

"Our Mistress wouldn't let us slaves be whup'd but I member mah daddy

tellin' 'bout de Overseer whuppin' 'im en he run 'way en hid in a log.

He tho't de blood hounds, he heered 'bout a half mile 'way, on his

trail could heer 'im breathe but de hounds nebber fin' 'im. Atter de

hounds pas' on, mah daddy lef' de log hidin' place en w'en he got ter

a blacksmith shop, he se'ed a white man wid a nigger who had handcuffs

on en w'en de white man tuk off de handcuffs, de nigger axed mah daddy

whar he wuz gwine en he tole 'im back ter mah Mistress en de nigger

sezs I ez too. Mah daddy slipped 'way fum 'im en went home."

"W'en I wuz a young boy, I didn't wear nothin' but a shirt lak all

urthur boys en hit wuz a long thing lak a slip dat kum ter our knees.

Our Mistress had a big fier place en w'en we would kum in cole she

would say ain't you all cole. (You all was always used in the plural

and not singular as some writers have it). W'ile we wuz warmin' she

often played de organ fer us ter heer."

"I waited on mah Marster 'til he d'ed. Dey let me stay rite wid de

body. Mah Mistress, Mammy ob de Marster, wuz in bad health at dat

time, en 'fore we sta'ted ter de graveyard, I put a feather bed in de

car'age en got a pitcher ob water ready en 'fore we git dere she got

awful sick."

"Durin' slavery de slaves hadder keep quiet en dey would turn a kittle

upside down ter keep de white folks 'yearin dere prayers en chants.

W'en a slave wanted ter go ter 'nother plantation he had ter hab a

pass. Ef' dey disobeyed dey got a whuppin, en ef dey had a pass widout

de Marsters signature dey got a whuppin. Ef'n dey had ter hab passes

now dere wouldin' be no meaness."

"I member de Klu Klux Klan kumin ter mah daddy's home axin fer water

en dey would keep us totin' water ter dem fer fifteen ter twenty

minutes. Dey didn't whup er hurt any ob us. I also member 'yearin mah

mammy en daddy tellin' us 'bout de sta'rs fallin'. I member de comet.

Hit wuz a big ball en had a long tail."

"I hab 'yerd dem tell 'bout Mr. Robertson. He wuz mean ter his slaves

en dey sezs dey could see a ball ob fier rollin' on de fence en w'en

dey would git ter de spring, a big white thing lak a dog would crawl

under de rock. De slaves wuz natur'ally superstitious en b'leeved in

dreams, ole sayings en signs. I hab mahse'f se'ed things dat I ain't

onderstan'. Hab almost seen de things dat (apostle) John seed."

"Dunno nuthin 'bout any ob de ex-slaves voting er de Nat Turner


"Atter freedum mos' ob de slaves wuk'd fer dere livin' jes as I ez. De

men in de fiel's, de 'omen in de house. I wuk'd at a hotel in

McMinnville en one day, I wuz keepin' de flies off de table wid a

brush made frum fine strips ob papah en de string broke en hit fell

on de table. One man jumped up grabbed a cheer sayin' ah'll knock you

down wid dis cheer."

"De slave 'pected ter git 40 akers ob land en a mule but nobody eber

got hit as fur as I know. We didn't git nuthin. Our white peeple

wuzzent able ter gib us anyting. Eve'ythin' dey had wuz tuk durin' de

wah. Dey wuz good ter us an stuck wid us en mah peeple stayed wid mah


"Dis young gineratshun ob niggers, I 'clare dey ez jes 'bout gon'. Dey

won't wuk, all's stealin' en mabe wuk long 'nuff ter git a few clothes

ter strut 'round in. I may be wrong but dat ez mah hones' pinion."

"De songs--I member ez:

De Ole Ship ob Zion.

Do You Think You'll be Able ter tek me Home."

"I has bin 'yer fifteen y'ars en hab wuked onder two Priests en now

wukin under de third. Dey hab all bin nice ter me. Hab neber had any

trubble wid white peeple en you'd be sprized how good dey ez ter me.

Dey don't treat me lak a nigger."

"Eber since I got mah freedum en 'fore I got dis chuch job, I dun all

kinds ob odd jobs, waited on tables, pressin' clothes en anyting else

dat kum 'long, but sum jobs wuz small pay but hit kep me 'live."

"Don't member any slave uprisin's. Our peeple wuz good ter us."

Ellis Jefson Elmira Hill facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail