I was born the twenty-fifth of December and I am 77 years old. My mother
was a slave and she belonged to Dick Belcher in Chesterfield County. Old
Dick sold us again to Gelaspe Graves. 'Member now fifteen of mother's
chillun went with her having de same master.
Honey, I don't like to talk 'bout dem times, 'cause my mother did suffer
misery. [SP: misert] You know dar was an' overseer who use to tie mother
up in de barn with a rope aroun' her arms up over her head, while she
stood on a block. Soon as dey got her tied, dis block was moved an' her
feet dangled, yo' know--couldn't tech de flo'.
Dis ol' man, now, would start beatin' her nekkid 'til the blood run down
her back to her heels. I took an' seed th' whelps an' scars fer my own
self wid dese here two eyes. ([HW struck out: this whip she said,] was a
whip like dey use to use on horses); it wuz a piece [SP: peice] of
leather 'bout as wide as my han' from little finger to thumb. After dey
had beat my muma all dey wanted another overseer. Lord, Lord, I hate
white people and de flood waters gwine drown some mo. Well honey dis man
would bathe her in salt and water. Don't you kno' dem places was a
hurtin'. Um, um.
I asked mother what she done fer 'en to beat and do her so? She said,
nothin', tother than she refused to be wife to dis man.
An' muma say, if he didn't treat her dis way a dozen times, it wasn't
Mind you, now muma's marster didn't know dis wuz going on. You know, if
slaves would tell, why dem overseers would kill 'em.
An' she sed dat dey use to have meetings an' sing and pray an' th' ol'
paddy rollers would hear dem, so to keep th' sound from goin' out,
slaves would put a great big iron pot at the door, an' you know some
times dey would fer git to put ol' pot dar an' the paddy rollers would
come an' horse whip every las' one of 'em, jes cause poor souls were
praying to God to free 'em from dat awful bondage.
Ha! ha! ha! dar wuz one ol' brudder who studied fer 'em one day an' tol
all de slaves how to git even wid 'em.
He tol' 'em to tie grape vines an' other vines across th' road, den when
de Paddy rollers come galantin' wid their horses runnin' so fast you see
dem vines would tangle 'em up an' cause th' horses to stumble and fall.
An' lots of times, badly dey would break dere legs and horses too; one
interval one ol' poor devil got tangled so an' de horse kept a carryin'
him, 'til he fell off horse and next day a sucker was found in road whar
dem vines wuz wind aroun' his neck so many times yes had choked him, dey
said, "He totely dead." Serve him right 'cause dem ol' white folks
treated us so mean.
Well, sometimes, you know dey would, the others of 'em, keep going 'til
dey fin' whar dis meeting wuz gwine on. Dey would come in and start
whippin' an' beatin' the slaves unmerciful. All dis wuz done to keep yo'
from servin' God, an' do you know some of dem devils wuz mean an' sinful
'nough to say, "Ef I ketch you here agin servin' God I'll beat you. You
haven't time to serve God. We bought you to serve us." Um, um.
God's gwine 'rod dem wicket marsters. Ef hit 'taint 'em whut gits hit,
hits gonna fall on deir chillun.
In dem back days child, meetings wuz carried on jes like we do today,
somewhatly. Only difference is the slave dat knowed th' most 'bout de
Bible would tell and explain what God had told him in a vision (yo'
young folks say, "dream") dat dis freedom would come to pass; an' den
dey prayed fer dis vision to come to pass, an' dars whar de paddy
rollers would whip 'em ag'in.
Lord! Lord dey, pew! pew! pew! Baby, I jes kno' I could if I knowed how
to write, an' had a little learning I could put off a book on dis here
situation. Yo' kno what I mean 'bout dese way back questions yo' is a
asking me to tell yo' 'bout; as fer as I can recallect in my mind.
When Graves bought us, he sold three of us an' three slaves. My brother
an' sister went down south. Muma sed to de cotton country an' too, she
say, "they were made to work [SP: wrok] in th' cotton fields by their
new marster, out in dem white fields in th' brawlin' sun from th' time
it breaked day 'till yo' couldn't see at night an', yes indeedy, an' if
God isn't my right'ous judge they were given not half to eat, no not
'nough, to eat. Dey wuz beaten ef dey ask'd for any mo'".
As to marriage, when a slave wanted to marry, why he would jes ask his
marster to go over and ask de tother marster could he take unto himself
dis certain gal fer a wife. Mind you now, all de slaves dat marster
called out of quarters an' he'd make 'em line up see, stand in a row
like soldiers, and de slave man is wid his marster when dis askin' is
gwine on, and he pulls de gal to him he wants; an' de marster den make
both jump over broom stick an' after dey does, dey is prenounced man an'
wife, both stayin' wid same marsters (I mean ef John marries Sallie,
John stay wid his ol' marster an' Sal' wid hers, but had privileges, you
know, like married folks; an' ef chillun were born all of 'em, no matter
how many, belonged to de marster whar de woman stayed).
If I aint made a mistake, I think it wuz in April when de war
surrendered an' muma an' all us wuz turned aloose in May. Yes dat ol'
wench, a ol' heifer, oh child, it makes my blood bile when I think 'bout
it. Yes she kept muma ig'runt. Didn't tell her nuthing 'bout being free
'til den in May.
Den her mistess, Miss Betsy Godsey, tol' her she wuz free, an' she
(muma) coul' cook fer her jes th' same dat she would give her something
to eat an' help clothe us chillun, dat wuz ef muma continual' to sta wid
her an' work.
You see, we didn't have nuthin' an' no whar to go, um, um, um so we all,
you know, jes took en stayed 'til we wuz able wid God's help to pull us
selves together. But my God it wuz 'ginst our will, but, baby, couldn't
My fathers master tol' him he could farm one half fer th' tother an'
when time rolled 'roun' fer dem 'viding crops he took an' give to him
his part like any honest man would do. Ah, Lord child, dem wuz terrible
times too, oh! it makes me shudder when I think of some slaves had to
stay in de woods an' git long best way dey could after freedom done bin'
clared; you see slaves who had mean master would rather be dar den whar
dey lived. By an' by God opened a way an' dey got wid other slaves who
had huts. You see, after th' render no white folks could keep slaves. Do
yo' know even now, honey, an' dat done bin way bac' yonder, dese ol'
white folks think us poor colored people is made to work an' slave fer
dem, look! dey aint give you no wages worth nuthin'. Gal cook all week
fer two an' three dollars. How can you live off it, how kin, how kin
My father waited on soldiers and after de s'render dey carried him an'
his brother as fer as Washington D.C. I think we all use to say den,
"Washington City." Aint you done heard folks talk 'bout dat city? 'Tis a
grade big city, daus whar de President of dis here country stay; an' in
bac' days it wuz known as 'vidin' lin' fer de North an' South. I done
hear dem white folks tell all 'bout dem things--dis line. As I wuz
tellin' you, his brother wuz kept, but dey sent father bac' home. Uncle
Spencer wuz left in Prince Williams County. All his chillun ar' still
dar. I don't know de name of Yankee who carried him off.
Lord, Lord, Honey, dem times too over sad, 'cause Yankees took lots of
slaves away an' dey made homes. An' whole heap of families lost sight of
each other. I know of a case whar after hit wuz ten years a brother an'
sister lived side by side an' didn't know dey wuz blood kin.
My views 'bout de chillun in dem bac' days is dat dese here chillun what
is now comin' up is too pizen brazen fer me.
No jes' lem me tell you how I did I married when I wuz 14 years old. So
help me God, I didn't know what marriage meant. I had an idea when you
loved de man, you an' he could be married an' his wife had to cook,
clean up, wash, an' iron fer him was all. I slept in bed he on his side
an' I on mine fer three months an' dis aint no lie. Miss Sue, he never
got close to me 'cause muma had sed "Don't let no body bother yo'
principle," 'cause dat wuz all yo' had. I 'bey my muma, an' tol' him so,
and I said to go an' ask muma an' ef she sed he could get close to me
hit was alright. An' he an' I went to gether to see and ask muma.
Den muma said "Come here chillun," and she began tellin' me to please my
husband, an' 'twas my duty as a wife, dat he had married a pu'fect lady.
Dese here chillun don't think of deir principle. Run purfectly wild. Old
women too. Dey ain't all 'em true to one, but have two.
Jes what is gittin' into dis generation; is hit de worl' comin' to an
Ha! ha! ha! I goin' tel' yo' som'thin' else.
I had a young man to come to see me one evenin' an' he sed dis to me,
"Miss Moore" "Let me jin my fence to your plantation."
I give him his hat. I say, "no" yo' go yo' way an' I go mine. I wuz
through wid him, an' mind yo' I from dat da' 'til dis aint knowed what
he wuz talkin' 'bout an' wuz ashamed to ask muma; but I thought he
I didn't never go to school. Had to work an' am working now an' when hit
breaks good weather, I go fishing. And who works dat big garden out dar?
No body but me.
You know I'm mother of eleven chillun', an' 'tis seven living an' four
of dem ded.
Minnie Davis Minnie Fulkes