James Childress

Ex-Slave stories

District #5

Vanderburgh County

Lauana Creel


312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana

From an interview with James Childress and from John Bell both living at

312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana.

Known as Uncle Jimmy by the many children that cluster about the aged

man never tiring of his stories of "When I was chile."

"When I was a chile my daddy and mamma was slaves and I was a slave," so

begins many recounted tales of the long ago.

Born at Nashville, Tennessee in the year 1860, Uncle Jimmie remembers

the Civil War with the exciting events as related to his own family and

the family of James Childress, his master. He remembers sorrow expressed

in parting tears when "Uncle Johnie and Uncle Bob started to war." He

recalls happy days when the beautiful valley of the Cumberland was

abloom with wild flowers and fertile acres were carpeted with blue


"A beautiful view could always be enjoyed from the hillsides and there

were many pretty homes belonging to the rich citizens. Slaves kept the

lawns smooth and tended the flowers for miles around Nashville, when I

was a child," said Uncle Jimmie.

Uncle Jimmie Childress has no knowledge of his master's having practiced

cruelty towards any slave. "We was all well fed, well clothed and lived

in good cabins. I never got a cross word from Mars John in my life," he

declared. "When the slaves got their freedom they rejoiced staying up

many nights to sing, dance and enjoy themselves, although they still

depended on old Mars John for food and bed, they felt too excited to

work in the fields or care for the stock. They hated to leave their

homes but Mr. Childress told them to go out and make homes for


"Mother got work as a housekeeper and kept us all together. Uncle Bob

got home from the War and we lived well enough. I have lived at

Evansville since 1881, have worked for a good many men and John Bell

will tell you I have had only friends in the city of Evansville."

Uncle Jimmie recalls how the slaves always prayed to God for freedom and

the negro preachers always preached about the day when the slaves would

be no longer slaves but free and happy.

"My people loved God, they sang sacred songs, 'Swing Low Sweet Charriot'

was one of the best songs they knew". Here uncle Jimmie sang a stanza of

the song and said it related to God's setting the negroes free.

"The negroes at Mr. Childress' place were allowed to learn as much as

they could. Several of the young men could read and write. Our master

was a good man and did no harm to anybody."

James Childress is a black man, small of stature, with crisp wooly dark

hair. He is glad he is not mulatto but a thorough blooded negro.

James Cape James Cornelius facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail