Georgia Smith



286 Augusta Ave.

Athens, Georgia

Written by:

Miss Grace McCune

Research Worker

Federal Writers' Project

Athens, Georgia

Edited by:

Mrs. Sarah H. Hall


Federal Writers' Project

Athens, Georgia

WPA Residency No. 6

April 6, 1938

The cold, rainy, and altogether disagreeable weather on the outside was

soon forgotten when the interviewer was admitted to the neat little home

of Aunt Georgia Smith and found the old woman enjoying the cheerful

warmth of her blazing fire.

Aunt Georgia appeared to be quite feeble. She was not only willing, but

eager to talk of her experiences, and explained that her slow and rather

indistinct articulation is one of the several bad after effects of her

recent stroke of paralysis.

"My pappy was Blackstone Smith, and he b'longed to Marse Jeb Smith. My

mammy was Nancy Chappell, owned by Mistus Peggie Chappell.

"I stayed wid my mammy on Mistus Chappell's plantation in Oglethorpe

County, near old Antioch Church. W'en I was 'bout five or six years ole

my mammy died. Den my pappy done come an' got me, an' I was to stay wid

'im on Marster Smith's place. Dey was good to me dar, but I warn't

satisfied, an' I cried for Old Mistus.

"I'd jes' go 'roun' snifflin', an' not eatin' nuffin', an' one day w'en

us was pickin' peaches, Marster Smith tole my pappy he better take dat

chile back to her old mistus, 'fo' she done git sick fer sho'.

"Hit was de next day w'en dey ax me did I want to see Old Mistus an' I

jes' cry an' say, 'yassum.' Den Marster say: 'Blackstone, hitch a mule

to dat wagon, an' take dat chile right back to her Old Mistus.' I tell

'em I can walk, but dey made me ride in de wagon, an' I sho' was glad I

was goin' back home.

"I seed Old Mistus 'fo' I got dar, an' jumped out of de wagon an' run to

'er. W'en she seed me, she jes' grabbed me, an' I thought she was a

laughin', but when I seed dat she was cryin', I tole 'er not to cry, dat

I warn't goin' to leave 'er no mo'.

"Mistus sho' was good to me, but she was good to all 'er niggers, an'

dey all loved 'er. Us allus had plenny of evvything, she made us wear

plenny of good warm clo'es, an' us wo'e flannel petticoats when hit was

cole weather. Chillun don't wear 'nuff clo'es dese days to keep 'em

warm, an nuffin' on deir legs. Hits a wonder dey doan' freeze.

"I diden' stay at de quarters with de udder niggers. Mistus kep' me in

de big 'ouse wid 'er, an' I slep' on a cotton mattress on de floor by de

side of 'er bed. She had a stick dat she used to punch me wid w'en she

wannid somepin' in de night, an' effen I was hard to wake, she sho'

could punch wid dat stick.

"Mistus diden' ever have us niggers whipped 'lessen it jes' had to be

done. An' if us chilluns was bad, fussin' an' fightin', Mistus would git

'er a stick, but us would jes' run an' hide, an' Mistus would forgit all

'bout it in jes' a little w'ile.

"Marster was dead, an' us had a overseer, but he was good to us jes'

lak' Mistus was. Hit was a big old plantation, wid lots of niggers. W'en

de overseer would try to larn de chilluns to plow an' dey diden' want to

larn, dey would jes' play 'roun'. Sometimes dey snuck off to de udder

side of de fiel' an' hunnid for lizards. Dey would hold a lizard's head

wid a stick, an' spit 'bacco juice in 'is mouf an' turn 'im loose. De

'bacco juice would make de lizard drunk, and he would run 'roun' an'

'roun'. Dey would cotch snakes, kill dem an' hang de skins on trees so

hit would rain an' dey wouldn't have to wuk in de fiel'.

"De quarters was built away f'um de big 'ouse. Dey was cabins made of

logs an' dey all had dey own gardens whar dey raised all kinds of

vegetables an' allus had plenny of hog meat. De cookin' was done on a

big fireplace an' in brick ovens. 'Taters was baked in de ashes, an' dey

sho' was good.

"Dey had big times huntin' an' fishin' w'en de wuk was over. Dey cotch

lots of 'possums, an' had big 'possum suppers. De 'possums was roasted

with plenny of 'taters, butter an' red pepper. Us would eat an' dance

most of de night w'en us had a 'possum supper.

"De rabbits was so bad in de gardens dat dey tuk white rags an' tied 'em

on sticks stuck up in de ground. Rabbits woulden' come 'roun' den, cyaze

dey was 'fraid of dem white rags flyin' on de sticks.

"Mistus b'lieved in lookin' atter her niggers w'en dey was sick. She

would give 'em medicine at home. Candy an' tea, made wid ho'e houn' an'

butterfly root tea was good for worms; dewberry wine, lak'wise dewberry

root tea was good for de stomach ache; samson snake root an' poplar bark

tea was good medicine for coles an' so'e th'oats, an' w'en you was in

pain, de red pepper bag would sho' help lots sometimes. If de homemade

medicine diden' cyore 'em, den Mistus sont for de doctor.

"Slaves went to de white folkses chu'ch an' sot up in de gallery. Dey

stayed all day at chu'ch, an' had big dinners on de groun'. Dem was sho'

'nough good dinners. Us had big times on meetin' days.

"Our slaves had prayer meetin' twict a week in deir quarters, 'til dey

got 'roun' to all de cabins den dey would start over again. Dey prayed

an' sung all de old songs, and some of 'em as I 'member are: 'Roll

Jordan Roll,'--'Better Mind How you Step on de Cross,'--'Cause You Ain'

Gon 'er be Here Long,'--'Tell de Story Bye an' Bye,'--'All God's

Chilluns are a Gatherin' Home,' an' 'We'll Understand Better Bye an'

Bye.' Dey really could sing dem old songs. Mistus would let me go to dem

cabin prayer meetin's an' I sho' did enjoy 'em.

"W'en slaves died dey jes' tuk 'em off an buried 'em. I doan' 'member

'em ever havin' a funeral, 'til way atter freedom done come an' niggers

got dey own chu'ches.

"I 'member one night dey had a quiltin' in de quarters. De quilt was up

in de frame, an' dey was all jes' quiltin' an' singin', 'All God's

Chilluns are a Gatherin' Home,' w'en a drunk man wannid to preach, an'

he jumped up on de quilt. Hit all fell down on de flo', an' dey all got

fightin' mad at 'im. Dey locked 'im in de smokehouse 'til mornin', but

dey diden' nobody tell Mistus nuffin' 'bout it.

"Us chilluns had to pick peas; two baskets full 'fo' dinner an' two 'fo'

night, an' dey was big baskets too. I 'member dere was a white widow

'oman what lived near our place, an' she had two boys. Mistus let dem

boys pick 'em some peas w'en us would be pickin', an' us would run 'em

off, cause us diden' lak' po' white trash. But Mistus made us let 'em

pick all dey wannid.

"I was 'bout twelve years old w'en freedom come, an' was big 'nough to

wait on Mistus good den. I 'member how I used to run to de spring wid a

little tin bucket w'en she wannid a fresh drink of water.

"Mos' of de slaves stayed with Mistus atter freedom come, 'cause dey all

loved her, an' dey diden' have no place to go. Mistus fed 'em jes' lak'

she had allus done and paid 'em a little money too. Us diden' never have

no fussin' an' fightin' on our place, an' de Ku Klux Klan never come

'roun' dar, but de niggers had to have a ticket if dey lef' de place on

Sunday. Dat was so de paddyrollers woulden' whip 'em if dey cotch 'em.

"All de niggers on de udder places, called us free niggers long 'fo'

freedom come, 'cause we diden' have no whippin' post, an' if any of us

jes' had to be whipped, Mistus would see dat dey warn't beat bad 'nough

to leave no stripes.

"My pappy left de old Smith plantation, soon atter he got 'is freedom,

an' went to Augusta, Georgia whar he died in jes' 'bout two years.

"I waked up one mornin' an' heered Mistus makin' a funny fuss. She was

tryin' to git up an' pullin' at her gown. I was plum skeert an' I runned

atter some of de udder folkses. Dey come a runnin' but she never did

speak no mo', an' diden' live but jes' a few hours longer. De white

folkses made me go to 'er funeral. Dere sho' was a big crowd of folkses

dar, 'cause evvybody loved Mistus; she was so good to evvybody. Dey

diden' preach long, mos'ly jes' prayed an' sung Mistus' favorite songs:

'All God's Chillun are a Gatherin' Home,' and', 'We'll Understand Bye

an' Bye.'

"I lef' de old place not long atter Mistus died, 'cause hit was too

lonesome dar an' I missed her so much, I come to town an' jes' wukked

for white folkses. I doan' 'member all of 'em. But I cain' wuk no mo'

now, an' hit woan' be so long 'til I see my old Mistus again, an' den I

can still wait on her, an' we woan' have to part no mo'."

Georgia Johnson Georgia Telfair facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail