Julia King

K. Osthimer, Author

Folklore: Stories From Ex-Slaves

Lucas County, Dist. 9

Toledo, Ohio

The Story of MRS. JULIA KING of Toledo, Ohio.

Mrs. Julia King resides at 731 Oakwood Avenue, Toledo, Ohio. Although

the records of the family births were destroyed by a fire years ago,

Mrs. King places her age at about eighty years. Her husband, Albert

King, who died two years ago, was the first Negro policeman employed on

the Toledo police force. Mrs. King, whose hair is whitening with age, is

a kind and motherly woman, small in stature, pleasing and quiet in

conversation. She lives with her adopted daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth King

Kimbrew, who works as an elevator operator at the Lasalle & Koch Co.

Mrs. King walks with a limp and moves about with some difficulty. She

was the first colored juvenile officer in Toledo, and worked for twenty

years under Judges O'Donnell and Austin, the first three years as a

volunteer without pay.

Before her marriage, Mrs. King was Julia Ward. She was born in

Louisville, Kentucky. Her parents Samuel and Matilda Ward, were slaves.

She had one sister, Mary Ward, a year and a half older than herself.

She related her story in her own way. "Mamma was keeping house. Papa

paid the white people who owned them, for her time. He left before Momma

did. He run away to Canada on the Underground Railroad.

"My mother's mistress--I don't remember her name--used to come and take

Mary with her to market every day. The morning my mother ran away, her

mistress decided she wouldn't take Mary with her to market. Mamma was

glad, because she had almost made up her mind to go, even without Mary.

"Mamma went down to the boat. A man on the boat told Mamma not to answer

the door for anybody, until he gave her the signal. The man was a

Quaker, one of those people who says 'Thee' and 'Thou'. Mary kept on

calling out the mistress's name and Mamma couldn't keep her still.

"When the boat docked, the man told Mamma he thought her master was

about. He told Mamma to put a veil over her face, in case the master was

coming. He told Mamma he would cut the master's heart out and give it to

her, before he would ever let her be taken.

"She left the boat before reaching Canada, somewhere on the Underground

Railroad--Detroit, I think--and a woman who took her in said: 'Come in,

my child, you're safe now.' Then Mama met my father in Windsor. I think

they were taken to Canada free.

"I don't remember anything about grandparents at all.

"Father was a cook.

"Mother's mistress was always good and kind to her.

"When I was born, mother's master said he was worth three hundred

dollars more. I don't know if he ever would have sold me.

"I think our home was on the plantation. We lived in a cabin and there

must have been at least six or eight cabins.

"Uncle Simon, who boarded with me in later years, was a kind of

overseer. Whenever he told his master the slaves did something wrong,

the slaves were whipped, and Uncle Simon was whipped, too. I asked him

why he should be whipped, he hadn't done anything wrong. But Uncle Simon

said he guessed he needed it anyway.

"I think there was a jail on the plantation, because Mamma said if the

slaves weren't in at a certain hour at night, the watchman would lock

them up if he found them out after hours without a pass.

"Uncle Simon used to tell me slaves were not allowed to read and write.

If you ever got caught reading or writing, the white folks would punish

you. Uncle Simon said they were beaten with a leather strap cut into

strips at the end.

"I think the colored folks had a church, because Mamma was always a

Baptist. Only colored people went to the church.

"Mamma used to sing a song:

"Don't you remember the promise that you made,

To my old dying mother's request?

That I never should be sold,

Not for silver or for gold.

While the sun rose from the East to the West?

"And it hadn't been a year,

The grass had not grown over her grave.

I was advertised for sale.

And I would have been in jail,

If I had not crossed the deep, dancing waves.

"I'm upon the Northern banks

And beneath the Lion's paw,

And he'll growl if you come near the shore.

"The slaves left the plantation because they were sold and their

children were sold. Sometimes their masters were mean and cranky.

"The slaves used to get together in their cabins and tell one another

the news in the evening. They visited, the same as anybody else.

Evenings, Mamma did the washing and ironing and cooked for my father.

"When the slaves got sick, the other slaves generally looked after them.

They had white doctors, who took care of the families, and they looked

after the slaves, too, but the slaves looked after each other when they

got sick.

"I remember in the Civil War, how the soldiers went away. I seen them

all go to war. Lots of colored folks went. That was the time we were

living in Detroit. The Negro people were tickled to death because it was

to free the slaves.

"Mamma said the Ku Klux was against the Catholics, but not against the

Negroes. The Nightriders would turn out at night. They were also called

the Know-Nothings, that's what they always said. They were the same as

the Nightriders. One night, the Nightriders in Louisville surrounded a

block of buildings occupied by Catholic people. They permitted the women

and children to exscape, but killed all the men. When they found out the

men were putting on women's clothes, they killed everything, women and

children, too. It was terrible. That must have been about eighty years

ago, when I was a very little girl.

"There was no school for Negro children during slavery, but they have

schools in Louisville, now, and they're doing fine.

"I had two little girls. One died when she was three years old, the

other when she was thirteen. I had two children I adopted. One died just

before she was to graduate from Scott High School.

"I think Lincoln was a grand man! He was the first president I heard of.

Jeff Davis, I think he was tough. He was against the colored people. He

was no friend of the colored people. Abe Lincoln was a real friend.

"I knew Booker T. Washington and his wife. I belonged to a society that

his wife belonged to. I think it was called the National Federation of

Colored Women's Clubs. I heard him speak here in Toledo. I think it was

in the Methodist church. He wanted the colored people to educate

themselves. Lots of them wanted to be teachers and doctors, but he

wanted them to have farms. He wanted them to get an education and make

something of themselves. All the prominent Negro women belonged to the

Club. We met once a year. I went to quite a few cities where the

meetings were held: Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.

"The only thing I had against Frederick Douglass was that he married a

white woman. I never heard Douglass speak.

"I knew some others too. I think Paul Lawrence Dunbar was a fine young

man. I heard him recite his poems. He visited with us right here several


"I knew Charles Cottrell, too. He was an engraver. There was a young

fellow who went to Scott High. He was quite an artist; I can't remember

his name. He was the one who did the fine picture of my daughter that

hangs in the parlor.

"I think slavery is a terrible system. I think slavery is the cause of

mixing. If people want to choose somebody, it should be their own color.

Many masters had children from their Negro slaves, but the slaves

weren't able to help themselves.

"I'm a member of the Third Baptist Church. None join unless they've been

immersed. That's what I believe in. I don't believe in christening or

pouring. When the bishop was here from Cleveland, I said I wanted to be

immersed. He said, 'We'll take you under the water as far as you care to

go.' I think the other churches are good, too. But I was born and raised

a Baptist. Joining a church or not joining a church won't keep you out

of heaven, but I think you should join a church."

(Interview, Thursday, June 10, 1937.)

Julia Grace Julia Larken facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail