Jane Smith Hill Harmon





Minnie Branham Stonestreet




A comical little old black woman with the happy art of saying and doing

as she pleases and getting by with it, is Jane Smith Hill Harmon of

Washington-Wilkes. She lives alone in her cabin off the Public Square

and is taken care of by white friends. She is on the streets every day

carrying her long walking stick which she uses to lean on and as a

"hittin' stick". She doesn't fail to use it vigorously on any "nigger"

who teases her. She hits hard and to hurt, but it seems they had rather

hear what she has to say, and take the penalty, then to let her alone.

Her wardrobe consists of out-of-style clothes and hats given her and it

is her delight on Saturday afternoons to dress up in her finest and

fanciest creations and come strutting along down town proud of the

attention she is attracting.

Unlike most old people, Aunt Jane doesn't like to talk about the past.

She enjoys life and lives in the present. It was hard to get her to tell

anything much of her early life. Finally, however, she grew a bit

reminiscent and talked of the past for a little while.

"Yassum, I'se 88 years ole last gone May, an' I been in Washington,

Georgy fuh 53 years an' I ain't been in no Council scrape an' no Cote

nor nothin' bad lak dat, kase I 'haves myself an' don't lak niggers an'

don't fool 'long wid 'em. No'm, I sho' ain't got no use fuh niggers

'tall. An' as fuh yaller niggers--huh! I jes' hates 'em--dey's de wust

niggers de're is, dey's got dirty feets, an' dey's nasty an' mean, I

hates 'em, I tells yuh!

"I wuz borned an' raised on de Smith plantation out here a piece frum

town. I wuz one of fourteen chillun, I think I wuz de 10th 'un. We wuz

well took keer of by our Marster an' his fust wife, she wuz jes' as good

ter us as she could be, my fust Mistess wuz, but she died an' Marster

married agin an' she wuz mean ter us little niggers. She'd whup us fuh

nothin', an' us didn't known what ter do, kase our fust Mistess wuz so

good ter us, but dat last 'oman, she sho' wuz mean ter us.

"My Marster had lots of slaves an' us all had work ter do. De fust work

I done wuz churnin' an' I loved ter do 'hit kase I loved milk an' butter

so good. I'd dance an' dance 'round dat ole churn, churnin' an' churnin'

'till de butter wuz come. I allus could dance, I cuts fancy steps now

sometimes when I feels good. At one o' dem big ole country breakdowns

(dances), one night when I wuz young, I danced down seben big strong

mens, dey thought dey wuz sumpin'! Huh, I danced eb'ry one down!

"I uster play dolls wid de overseer's chillun, an' look fuh aigs, an'

tote in wood an' pick up chips. Us had good times togeder, all us little

niggers an' de little white chilluns. Us had two days at Chris'mus, an'

no work wuz done on de place of a Sunday. Everybody white an' black had

ter go ter Chu'ch. De overseer piled us all in de waggin an' took us

whether us wanted ter go or no. Us niggers set up in de loft (gallery),

an' de white folks wuz down in de Chu'ch too.

"Atter er while dey s'lected me out to be a housegirl an' den I slep' in

de big house. All de little niggers et in de white folks' kitchen out'n

er big tray whut wuz lak a trough. De cook put our victuals in de tray

an' gib us a spoon an' pone er bread a piece an' made us set 'roun' dat

tray an' eat all us wanted. 'Hit wuz good eatin', too.

"All durin' of de War my Marster wuz off fightin' an' de overseer wuz

hard on us. We wuz glad when Marster cum home er gin. De Yankees wuz

a-comin' an' Daddy Charles, he wuz a ole black man on de place, knowed

'bout Marster's money, an' he took hit all an' put it in er big box an'

went out in de night time an' buried hit 'way down deep in some thick

woods an' put leaves all over de place an' dem Yankees couldn't fin' hit

nowhar, an' dey went on off an' let us 'lone.

"My Ma wuz a 'spert spinner an' weaver, an' she spun an' wove things ter

be sont ter de Soldiers in de War. I 'members dat, her er spinnin' an'

dey say hit wuz fer de soldiers.

"Atter we wuz free I went ter school er mont'. I fit so wid all de

chillun I quit. Dey said I mustn't fight an' I knowed I couldn't git er

long widout fightin' so I jes' quit an' ain't never been ter no mo'

schools. My Marster said he wuz goin' ter have a school on de place fer

all his niggers, but freedom cum an' he didn't do hit.

"I mari'ed in my white folks' kitchen, mari'ed de fust time when I wuz

19 years ole. I been mari'ed two times an' had good husban's. Dey wuz

good ter me.

"Doctors? Doctors? I don't know nothin' 'bout no doctors! I ain't never

been sickly. Dis year (1936) I done had to have mo' ter do wid doctors

dan ever in my life. I'se gittin' now to whar I kain't walk lak I uster,

all crippled up in my laigs wid sumpin'.

"Ain't nobody lef' now but me an' one o' my six chillun. He lives up in

dat Phillerdelma (Philadelphia) an' I 'cided onst three er fo' year

ergo, to go up da're an' live wid 'im. Lawdy, Lawdy, I ain't been so

glad o' nothin' in my life as I wuz ter git back ter Washington, Georgy!

I ain't goin' 'way frum here 'till I dies. Son is mari'ed, an' sich er

'oman as he's got! She's un o' dem smart No'th'n niggers. She 'bused de

So'th an' de white folks down here all de time. I'd er beat her wid my

stick ef'n I'd er had 'tection, but I wuz way off up da're in de No'th

an' didn't know nobody. But I did found a gal what use ter live here an'

went an' stayed wid her 'till I worked an' got 'nough money ter git home

on. Jes' soon as I got here I went straight ter Mr. Sheriff Walton an'

Mr. Sturdivant (Chief of Police) an' tole dem 'bout dat sassy hateful

nigger up da're talkin' 'bout de So'th an' de white folks lak she done,

an dat she say she wuz comin' down here ter see me. I axed dem when I

got er letter sayin' she wuz a-comin' would dey take me ter Augusty ter

meet her an' when she stept off'n de train ter let me take my stick an'

beat her all I wanted ter fer talkin' bout my white folks lak she done.

Dey said: "Aunt Jane, jes' you let us know an' we sho' will take you to

Augusty ter meet her, an' let you beat her all you want ter." But she

ain't never come--she skeered, an she sho' better be, kase I'se home

down here an got all de 'tection I needs. Ef'n she ever do come, I'm

goin' ter beat her wid dis stick an sen' her back to her country up

da're in dat Phillerdelma. She ain't got no sense an' no raisin, neider,

talkin' 'bout de So'th an' my white folks what lives here."

And from the wicked flash from Aunt Jane's eyes, it will be well for her

"sassy" daughter-in-law to stay "up No'th".

Jane Smith Jane Sutton facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail