Ryer Emmanuel

Code No.

Project, 1885-(1)

Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis

Place, Marion, S.C.

Date, December 16, 1937



"Oh, my Lord, child, I ain' know nothin bout slavery time no more den we

was just little kids livin dere on de white people plantation. I was

just a little yearlin child den, I say. Been bout six years old in

slavery time. Well, I'll say dat I bout 80 some odds, but I can' never

seem to get dem odds together. I was a big little girl stayin in old

Massa yard in dem days, but I wasn' big enough to do nothin in de house

no time. My old Massa been Anthony Ross en he had set my age down in de

Bible, but my old Missus, she dead en I know dem chillun wouldn' never

know whe' to say dat Bible at dese days. Old Miss, she been name Matt

Ross. I wish somebody could call up how long de slaves been freed cause

den dey could call up my age fast as I could bat my eyes. Say, when de

emancipation was, I been six years old, so my mammy tell me. Don' know

what to say dat is, but I reckon it been since freedom."

"I been born en bred right over yonder to dat big patch of oak trees

bout dat house what you see after you pass de white people church cross

de creek dere. De old man Anthony Ross, he been have a good mind to his

colored people all de time. Yes, mam, my white folks was proud of dey

niggers. Um, yes'um, when dey used to have company to de big house, Miss

Ross would bring dem to de door to show dem us chillun. En my blessed,

de yard would be black wid us chillun all string up dere next de door

step lookin up in dey eyes. Old Missus would say, 'Ain' I got a pretty

crop of little niggers comin on?' De lady, she look so please like. Den

Miss Ross say, 'Do my little niggers want some bread to gnaw on?' En us

chillun say, 'Yes'um, yes'um, we do.' Den she would go in de pantry en

see could she find some cook bread to hand us. She had a heap of fine

little niggers, too, cause de yard would be black wid all different

sizes. Won' none of dem big enough to do nothin. No, mam, dey had to be

over 16 year old fore old Massa would allow dem to work cause he never

want to see his niggers noways stunt up while dey was havin de growin

pains. Den when dey was first grow up, dey would give some of dem a

house job en would send de others in de field to mind de cows en de

sheep en bring dem up. Wouldn' make dem do no heavy work right to start

wid. But dem what was older, dey had to work in de field. I reckon dey

would be workin just bout like dey is now from sunrise in de mornin till

sunset in de evenin."

"Yes, honey, I been come here under a blessin cause my white folks never

didn' let dey colored people suffer no time. Always when a woman would

get in de house, old Massa would let her leave off work en stay dere to

de house a month till she get mended in de body way. Den she would have

to carry de child to de big house en get back in de field to work. Oh,

dey had a old woman in de yard to de house to stay dere en mind all de

plantation chillun till night come, while dey parents was workin. Dey

would let de chillun go home wid dey mammy to spend de night en den she

would have to march dem right back to de yard de next mornin. We didn'

do nothin, but play bout de yard dere en eat what de woman feed us.

Yes'um, dey would carry us dere when de women would be gwine to work. Be

dere fore sunrise. Would give us three meals a day cause de old woman

always give us supper fore us mammy come out de field dat evenin. Dem

bigger ones, dey would give dem clabber en boil peas en collards

sometimes. Would give de little babies boil pea soup en gruel en suck

bottle. Yes, mam, de old woman had to mind all de yearlin chillun en de

babies, too. Dat all her business was. I recollects her name, it been

Lettie. Would string us little wooden bowls on de floor in a long row en

us would get down dere en drink just like us was pigs. Oh, she would

give us a iron spoon to taste wid, but us wouldn' never want it. Oh, my

Lord, I remember just as good, when we would see dem bowls of hot

ration, dis one en dat one would holler, 'dat mine, dat mine.' Us would

just squat dere en blow en blow cause we wouldn' have no mind to drink

it while it was hot. Den we would want it to last a long time, too. My

happy, I can see myself settin dere now coolin dem vitals (victuals)."

"Like I speak to you, my white folks was blessed wid a heap of black

chillun, but den dere been a odd one in de crowd what wasn' noways like

dem others. All de other chillun was black skin wid dis here kinky hair

en she was yellow skin wid right straight hair. My Lord, old Missus been

mighty proud of her black chillun, but she sho been touches bout dat

yellow one. I remember, all us chillun was playin round bout de step one

day whe' Miss Ross was settin en she ax dat yellow child, say, 'Who your

papa?' De child never know no better en she tell her right out exactly

de one her mammy had tell her was her papa. Lord, Miss Ross, she say,

'Well, get off my step. Get off en stay off dere cause you don' noways

belong to me.' De poor child, she cry en she cry so hard till her mammy

never know what to do. She take en grease her en black her all over wid

smut, but she couldn' never trouble dat straight hair off her noway. Dat

how-come dere so much different classes today, I say. Yes, mam, dat whe'

dat old stain come from."

"My mammy, she was de housewoman to de big house en she say dat she

would always try to mind her business en she never didn' get no whippin

much. Yes, mam, dey was mighty good to my mother, but dem other what

never do right, dey would carry dem to de cow pen en make dem strip off

dey frock bodies clean to de waist. Den dey would tie dem down to a log

en paddle dem wid a board. When dey would whip de men, de boards would

often times have nails in dem. Hear talk dey would wash dem wid dey

blood. Dat first hide dey had, white folks would whip it off dem en den

turn round en grease dem wid tallow en make dem work right on. Always

would inflict de punishment at sunrise in de mornin fore dey would go to

work. Den de women, dey would force dem to drop dey body frock cross de

shoulders so dey could get to de naked skin en would have a strap to

whip dem wid. Wouldn' never use no board on de women. Oh, dey would have

de lot scatter bout full of dem what was to get whip on a mornin."

"You see, de colored people couldn' never go nowhe' off de place widout

dey would get a walkin ticket from dey Massa. Yes, mam, white folks

would have dese pataroller walkin round all bout de country to catch dem

colored people dat never had no walkin paper to show dem. En if dey

would catch any of dem widout dat paper, dey back would sho catch

scissors de next mornin."

"Well, I don' know as de white folks would be meanin to kill any of dey

niggers, but I hear talk dey would whip dem till dey would die some of

de time en would bury dem in de night. Couldn' bury dem in de day cause

dey wouldn' have time. When dey would be gwine to bury dem, I used to

see de lights many a time en hear de people gwine along singin out

yonder in dem woods just like dey was buryin buzzards. Us would set down

en watch dem gwine along many a night wid dese great big torches of

fire. Oh, dey would have fat lightwood torches. Dese here big hand

splinters. Had to carry dem along to see how to walk en drive de wagon

to haul de body. Yes, child, I been here long enough to see all dat in

slavery time. All bout in dese woods, you can find plenty of dem slavery

graves dis day en time. I can tell bout whe' dere one now. Yes, mam,

dere one right over yonder to de brow of de hill gwine next to Mr.

Claussens. Can tell dem by de head boards dere. Den some of de time, dey

would just drop dem anywhe' in a hole along side de woods somewhe' cause

de people dig up a skull right out dere in de woods one day en it had

slavery mark on it, dey say. Right over dere cross de creek in dem big

cedars, dere another slavery graveyard. People gwine by dere could often

hear talk en couldn' never see nothin, so dey tell me. Hear, um--um--um,

en would hear babies cryin all bout dere, too. No'um, can' hear dem much

now cause dey bout to be wearin out. I tell you, I is scared every time

I go along dere. Some of dem die wicked, I say."

=Source:= Ryer Emmanuel, colored, age 78, Claussens, S.C.

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

Ruby Lorraine Radford Ryer Emmanuel facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail