Josephine Bristow

Code No.

Project, 1885-(1)

Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis

Place, Marion, S. C.

Date, January 27, 1938

No. Words ----

Reduced from ---- words

Rewritten by ----


Ex-Slave, 73 Years

"Remembers de Confederate War, Miss. Yes, mam, I'm supposed to be, if I

can live to see February, bout 73 year old. What age Hester say she was?

Dat what I had thought from me en her conversation. Miss, I don'

remember a thing more bout de war den de soldiers comin through old

Massa's plantation en we chillun was 'fraid of dem en ran. Knew dey was

dressed in a different direction from us white folks. All was in blue,

you know, wid dem curious lookin hats en dem brass buttons on dey

bodies. No, mam, dey didn' stop nowhe' bout us. Dey was ridin on horses

en it seem like dey was in a hurry gwine somewhe'. En dey didn' stop to

old Massa's house neither. No, mam, not to my knowin, dey didn'. Well,

we was livin out to de plantation, we calls it, en Massa en Missus was

livin up here to Marion. Mr. Ferdinand Gibson, dat who been us Massa in

slavery time en Miss Connie, dat what we used to call her, was us

Missus. To my knowin, dey didn' have no chillun dey own, but dey sho had

plenty colored people. Yes, mam, seems like to my remembrance, my Massa

ran bout 30 plantations en 'sides dat, he had a lot of servants right up

here to de big house, men en women."

"I was real small in dem days en far as I can remember, we lived on de

quarter dere to old Massa's plantation in de country. Us little tots

would go every mornin to a place up on de hill, called de milk house, en

get our milk 'tween meals while de old folks was off workin. Oh, dey had

a old woman to see after we chillun en tend to us in de daytime. De old

lady dat looked after us, her name was Mary Novlin. Lord, Mr. Gibson, he

had big farms en my mother en father, dey worked on de farms. Yes'um, my

mother en father, I used to never wouldn' know when dey come home in de

evenin, it would be so late. De old lady, she looked after every blessed

thing for us all day long en cooked for us right along wid de mindin.

Well, she would boil us corn meal hominy en give us dat mostly wid milk

for breakfast. Den dey would have a big garden en she would boil peas en

give us a lot of soup like dat wid dis here oven bread. Oh, dem what

worked in de field, dey would catch dey meals when dey could. Would have

to cook way in de night or sometimes fore day. Cose dey would take dey

dinner rations wid dem to de field. More or less, dey would cook it in

de field. Yes'um, dey would carry dey pots wid dem en cook right dere in

de field whe' dey was workin. Would boil pots en make bread, too. I don'

know how long dey had to work, mam, but I hear dem say dat dey worked

hard, cold or hot, rain or shine. Had to hoe cotton en pick cotton en

all such as dat. I don' know, mam, but de white folks, I guess dey took

it dat dey had plenty colored people en de Lord never meant for dem to

do no work. You know, white folks in dem days, dey made de colored

people do."

"De people used to spin en weave, my Lord! Like today, it cloudy en

rainy, dey couldn' work in de field en would have to spin dat day. Man,

you would hear dat thing windin en I remember, I would stand dere en

want to spin so bad, I never know what to do. Won' long fore I got to

whe' I could use de shuttle en weave, too. I bad a grandmother en when

she would get to dat wheel, she sho know what she been doin. White folks

used to give de colored people task to spin en I mean she could do dat

spinnin. Yes'um, I here to tell you, dey would make de prettiest cloth

in dat day en time. Old time people used to have a kind of dye dey

called indigo en dey would color de cloth just as pretty as you ever did


"Den I recollects dat dey would have to shuck corn some of de days en

wouldn' nobody work in de field dat day. Oh, my Lord, dey would have de

big eats on dem days. Would have a big pot right out to de barn whe' dey

was shuckin corn en would boil it full as it could hold wid such as peas

en rice en collards. Would cook big bread, too, en would save a hog's

head for dat purpose often times."

"Colored people didn' have no schools nowhe' in dat day en time. No'um,

us didn' go to no church neither cause we was way off dere on de

plantation en wasn' any church nowhe' bout dere, Miss. I likes to be

truthful en I tellin you, when we was comin up, we never didn' know

nothin 'cept what we catch from de old folks."

"Old Massa, he used to come to de plantation drivin his rockaway en my

Lord a mercy, we chillun did love to run en meet him. Dey used to have a

great big gate to de lane of de plantation en when we been hear him

comin, we would go a runnin en holler, 'Massa comin! Massa comin!' En he

would come ridin through de big gate en say, 'Yonder my little niggers!

How my little niggers? Come here en tell me how you all.' Den we would

go a runnin to him en try to tell him what he ax us. Yes'um, we was sho

pleased to see old Massa cause we had to stay right dere on dat

plantation all de time round bout dat old woman what tended to us. Used

to hear my mother en my father speak bout dey had to get a ticket from

dey boss to go anywhe' dey wanted to go off de place. Pataroller catch

dem off de plantation somewhe' widout dat walkin ticket, dey would whip

dem most to death. Never didn' hear bout old Massa whippin none of dem,

but he was very tight on dem, my father say. Cose he give dem abundance

of rations en somethin to eat all de time, but colored people sho been

work for what dey would get in dem days. Didn' get nothin dey never pay

for. It been like dis, what rations us parents would get, dat would be

to dey house en what we chillun been get would be to de old woman's

house what took care of us."

"Well, Miss, some people stays here wid me, but dey works out en I tries

to help dem out somehow. No, mam, we all stays right here together en

while dey on de job, I tries to look out for de chillun. I just thinkin

bout when we come to a certain age, honey, it tough. Chillun is a heap

of trouble, I say. Well, I was de mother of five, but dey all dead 'cept

one. My husband, he been dead seven years. Yes'um, dis a bad little girl

settin here in my lap en dat one over dere in de bed, he a boy what a

right smart larger den dis one." (Little girl just can stand alone).

(Little boy wakes up). "Son, dere you wantin to get up en I don' know

whe' near a rag to put on you is. Dere, you want a piece of bread fore

you is dress. Who undressed you last night nohow? Boy, you got to stand

dere en wait till your mamma come home cause I can' find none your rags.

What de matter wid you? You so hungry, you just standin dere wid your

mouth droolin dat way. Dere your bread en tea on de bureau. Gwine on en

get it." (Little boy's breakfast consisted of a cold biscuit and a

little cold coffee poured in an empty coffee can. The little girl sat

with a clump of cold hominy in her hand on which she nibbled.)

"Lord, I think what a blessin it would be if chillun dese days was raise

like dey used to be, Miss. Yes, mam, we had what you call strict fathers

en mothers den, but chillun ain' got dem dese days. Oh, dey would whip

you en put de lash to you in dat day en time. Yes'um, Miss, if we never

do right, my father would put it to us. Sho meant what he say. Wouldn'

never whip you on Sunday though. Say dat he would get you tomorrow. Den

when Monday come, he would knock all bout like he had forget, but

toreckly he would call you up en he would sho work on you. Pa say, 'I'm

not gwine let you catch me in no lie. When I tell you I gwine cut you, I

gwine do it.' Miss, I is had my mother to hurt me so bad till I would

just fall down en roll in de sand. Hurt! Dey hurt, dat dey did. Wouldn'

whip you wid no clothes on neither. Would make you pull off. Yes, mam, I

could sniffle a week, dey been cut me such licks. Thought dey had done

me wrong, but dey know dey ain' been doin me wrong en I mean dey didn'

play wid me."

"Miss, I think folks is livin too fast in de world today. Seems to me

like all de young people is worser, I say. Well, I tell you, dey be

ridin out all times of night en girls meetin up wid Miss Fortune. At

least, our colored girls does. En don' care what dey do neither. Don'

seem to care what dey do nor how dey do. De girls nowadays, dey gets dey

livin. Girls settin higher den what dey makes demselves dese days."

Source: Josephine Bristow, colored, 73 years, Marion, S. C.

Personal interview by Annie Ruth Davis, Jan., 1938

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