Josephine Bacchus

Code No.

Project, 1885-(1)

Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis

Place, Marion, S. C.

Date, January 4, 1938

No. of Words ----

Reduced from ---- words

Rewritten by ----


Ex-Slave, 75-80 Years

"No, my mercy God, I don' know not one thought to speak to you bout.

Seems like, I does know your face, but I been so sick all de year dat I

can' hardly remember nothin. Yes, sweetheart, I sho caught on to what

you want. Oh, I wishes I did know somethin bout dat old time war cause I

tell you, if I been know anything, I would sho pour it out to you. I got

burn out here de other day en I ain' got near a thing left me, but a

pair of stockings en dat old coat dere on de bed. Dat how-come I stayin

here wid Miss Celia. My husband, he dead en she took me in over here for

de present. No'um, I haven't never had a nine months child. Reckon dat

what ailin me now. Bein dat I never had no mother to care for me en give

me a good attention like, I caught so much of cold dat I ain' never been

safe in de family way. Yes, mam, I had my leg broke plenty times, but I

ain' never been able to jump de time. Lord, I got a misery in my back

dere. I hope it ain' de pneumonias."

"Well, you see, I couldn' tell you nothin bout my mother cause I never

didn' know nothin bout my mother. My Jesus, my brother tell bout when

dey had my mother layin out on de coolin board, I went in de room whe'

she was en axed her for somethin to eat en pushed her head dat way. You

know, I wouldn' touch my hand to do nothin like dat, but I never know.

Dat it, de coolin board, dat what dey used to have to lay all de dead

people on, but dis day en time, de undertaker takes dem en fixes dem up

right nice, I say. I tellin you, I ain' had no sense since I lost my

people. Sometimes, I axes de Lord what he keepin me here for anyhow.

Yes, mam, dat does come to me often times in de night. Oh, it don' look

like I gwine ever get no better in dis life en if I don', I just prays

to God to be saved. Yes, Lord, I prays to be lifted to a restful home."

"Just like as I been hear talk, some of de people fare good in slavery

time en some of dem fare rough. Dat been accordin to de kind of task

boss dey come up under. Now de poor colored people in slavery time, dey

give dem very little rest en would whip some of dem most to death.

Wouldn' none of dem daresen to go from one plantation to another widout

dey had a furlough from dey boss. Yes, mam, if dey been catch you comin

back widout dat walkin paper de boss had give you, great Jeruseleum, you

would sho catch de devil next mornin. My blessed a mercy, hear talk dey

spill de poor nigger's blood awful much in slavery time. Hear heap of

dem was free long time fore dey been know it cause de white folks, dey

wanted to keep dem in bondage. Oh, my Lord, dey would cut dem so hard

till dey just slash de flesh right off dem. Yes, mam, dey call dat thing

dey been whip dem wid de cat o' nine tail. No, darlin, I hear talk it

been made out of pretty leather plaited most all de way en den all dat

part down to de bottom, dey just left it loose to do de cuttin wid. Yes,

honey, dem kind of whips was made out of pretty leather like one of dese

horse whips. Yes, mam, dat been how it was in slavery time."

"Yankees! Oh, I hear folks speak bout de Yankees plunderin through de

country plenty times. Hear bout de Yankees gwine all bout stealin white

people silver. Say, everywhe' dey went en found white folks wid silver,

dey would just clean de place up. Dat de blessed truth, too, cause dat

exactly what I hear bout dem."

"Lord, pray Jesus, de white people sho been mighty proud to see dey

niggers spreadin out in dem days, so dey tell me. Yes, mam, dey was glad

to have a heap of colored people bout dem cause white folks couldn' work

den no more den dey can work dese days like de colored people can.

Reckon dey love to have dey niggers back yonder just like dey loves to

have dem dese days to do what dey ain' been cut out to do. You see, dey

would have two or three women on de plantation dat was good breeders en

dey would have chillun pretty regular fore freedom come here. You know,

some people does be right fast in catchin chillun. Yes'um, dey must been

bless wid a pile of dem, I say, en every colored person used to follow

up de same name as dey white folks been hear to."

"No'um, I never didn' go to none of dem cornshuckin en fodder pullin en

all dem kind of thing. Reckon while dey was at de cornshuckin, I must

been somewhe' huntin somethin to eat. Den dem kind of task was left to

de men folks de most of de time cause it been so hot, dey was force to

strip to do dat sort of a job."

"Lord, I sho remembers dat earth shake good as anything. When it come on

me, I was settin down wid my foots in a tub of water. Yes, my Lord, I

been had a age on me in de shake. I remember, dere been such a shakin

dat evenin, it made all de people feel mighty queer like. It just come

in a tremble en first thing I know, I felt de difference in de crack of

de house. I run to my sister Jessie cause she had been live in New York

en she was well acquainted wid dat kind of gwine on. She say, 'Josie,

dis ain' nothin but dem shake I been tellin you bout, but dis de first

time it come here en you better be a prayin.' En, honey, everything

white en colored was emptied out of doors dat night. Lord, dey was

scared. Great Jeruseleum! De people was scared everywhe'. Didn' nobody

know what to make of it. I tellin you, I betcha I was 30 years old in de


"Now, I guess time you get done gettin up all dem memorandums, you gwine

have a pile. I tell you, if you keep on, you sho gwine have a bale cause

dere a lot of slavery people is spring up till now. I ought to could

fetch back more to speak to you bout, but just like I been tell you, I

wasn' never cared for by a mother en I is caught on to a heap of

roughness just on account dat I ain' never had a mother to have a care

for me."

"Oh, de people never didn' put much faith to de doctors in dem days.

Mostly, dey would use de herbs in de fields for dey medicine. Dere two

herbs, I hear talk of. Dey was black snake root en Sampson snake root.

Say, if a person never had a good appetite, dey would boil some of dat

stuff en mix it wid a little whiskey en rock candy en dat would sho give

dem a sharp appetite. See, it natural cause if you take a tablespoon of

dat bitter medicine three times a day like a person tell you, it bound

to swell your appetite. Yes, mam, I know dat a mighty good mixture."

"Oh, my Lord, child, de people was sho wiser in olden times den what dey

be now. Dey been have all kind of signs to forecast de times wid en dey

been mighty true to de word, too. Say, when you hear a cow low en cry so

mournful like, it ain' gwine be long fore you hear tell of a death."

"Den dere one bout de rain. Say, sometimes de old rain crow stays in de

air en hollers en if you don' look right sharp, it gwine rain soon. Call

him de rain crow. He hollers mostly like dis, 'Goo-oop, goo-oop.' Like


"De people used to have a bird for cold weather, too. Folks say, 'Don'

you hear dat cold bird? Look out, it gwine be cold tomorrow.' De cold

bird, he a brown bird. If you can see him, he a fine lookin bird, too.

Yes'um, right large en strong lookin, but don' nobody hardly ever see

him dese days."

"En I reckon you hear talk bout dis one. Say, not to wash on de first

day of de New Year cause if you do, you will wash some of your family

out de pot. Say, somebody will sho die. Dat right, too. Den if possible,

must boil some old peas on de first day of de New Year en must cook some

hog jowl in de pot wid dem. Must eat some of it, but don' be obliged to

eat it all. En ought to have everything clean up nicely so as to keep

clean all de year. Say, must always put de wash out on de line to be

sure de day fore New Years en have all your garments clean."

"What my ideas bout de young folks dese days? Well, dey young folks en

dey ain' young folks, I say. Cose I don' bother up wid dem none, but I

think wid my own weak judgment, dey quite different from when I come

along. Folks is awful funny dis day en time to my notion. Don' care what

people see dem do no time. I sho think dey worser den what dey used to

be. De way I say dey worser, I used to have to be back at such en such a

time, if I went off, but now dey go anytime dey want to en dey comes

back anytime dey want to. I sho think dey worser. De fact of it, I know

dey worser."

Source: Josephine Bacchus, colored, age 75-80, Marion, S. C.

Personal interview by Annie Ruth Davis, Dec., 1937.

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