Mary Smith

[HW: Dist. 2

Ex Slave 101]



910 Spruce Street

Augusta, Georgia

(Richmond County)

BY: (Mrs.) Margaret Johnson


Fed. Writer's Proj.

Augusta, Georgia

[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

Such a hovel, such squalor it would be hard to imagine. Only first hand

observation could be a reliable witness to such conditions.

Into a tiny room was squeezed a double and a single bed with a

passage-way barely wide enough to walk between the two beds. The door

from the small porch could be opened only enough to allow one to enter,

as the head on the single bed was against it. A small fire burned in the

open fire place. An old man, ragged but respectful, and two old women

were sitting in the room, one on a broken chair, the other on an empty

nail keg. As we entered the room one of the old women got up, took a

badly clipped and handleless teacup from the hearth and offered it to a

girl lying in the single bed, in a smother of dirty quilts.

Mary was a squat figure, her head tied up in a dirty towel, her dress

ragged and dirty, and much too small for her abundant figure. She

welcomed us telling us the "po chile was bad sick" but she would talk to

us. As the door of the lean-to kitchen was open, it offered a breath of

outside air, even though polluted with the garbage scattered on the

ground, and the odors from chickens, cats and dogs meandering about.

Mary's round face was unwrinkled, but the wisps of wool showing beneath

her "head rag" were grey, and her eyes were rheumy with age. She was

entirely toothless and her large tongue rolled ceaselessly in her mouth,

chewing nothing.

Her articulation necessarily was very poor. "I wus seven yeres old when

Freedum cum. My ma and pa belonged to Mr. McNorrell of Burke County.

Miss Sally was a good lady and kind to evebody. My marster was a good

man cuz he was a preacher, I never member him whuppin' anybody. I

'members slavry, yes mam, I 'members all the slaves' meals wus cooked in

de yard, in big pots hung up on hooks on a iron bar. The fust wurk I

ever done wus to push fire wood under dem pots. Mostly I stayed home and

minded de baby. My ma uster pin a piece of fat back on my dres' before

she went to de fiel' and when de baby cry I tek him up and let 'em suck

'em. My brudder you see sittin' in dere, he de baby I uster mine. My pa

wuz the blacksmith on the plantashun, and he mek all de plows and tings

like dat. My ma tek me to de fiel when I wuz 'bout sever yeres ole and

teach me to chop cotton, I don't member what happen when freedom come,

tings wuz 'bout de same, fur as we chillun knowed."

Mary Shaw Mary Smith facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail