Sarah Gray




A paper submitted

by Minnie B. Ross

Revision of original copy

and typing by

J. C. Russell


Talk with ex-slave


M. B. Ross

Sarah Gray is an aged ex-slave, whose years have not only bent her body

but seem to have clouded her memory. Only a few facts relating to

slavery could, therefore, be learned from her. The events she related,

however, seemed to give her as much pleasure as a child playing with a

favorite toy.

The only recollection Sarah has of her mother is seeing her as she lay

in her coffin, as she was very young when her mother died. She remembers

asking her sisters why they didn't give her mother any breakfast.

Sarah's master was Mr. Jim Nesbit, who was the owner of a small

plantation in Gwinnett County. The exact number of slaves on the

plantation were not known, but there were enough to carry on the work of

plowing, hoeing and chopping the cotton and other crops. Women as well

as men were expected to turn out the required amount of work, whether it

was picking cotton, cutting logs, splitting rails for fences or working

in the house.

Sarah was a house slave, performing the duties of a maid. She was often

taken on trips with the mistress, and treated more as one of the Nesbit

family than as a slave. She remarked, "I even ate the same kind of food

as the master's family."

The Nesbits, according to Sarah, followed the customary practice of the

other slave owners in the matter of the punishment of slaves. She says,

however, that while there were stories of some very cruel masters, in

her opinion the slave owners of those days were not as cruel as some

people today. She said occasionally slave owners appointed some of the

slaves as overseers, and very often these slave-overseers were very


When the war began, the Nesbits and other plantation owners grouped

together, packed their wagons full of supplies, took all of their

slaves, and started on a journey as refugees. They had not gone very far

when a band of Yankee soldiers overtook them, destroyed the wagons, took

seventy of the men prisoners and marched off taking all of the horses,

saying they were on their way to Richmond and when they returned there

would be no more masters and slaves, as the slaves would be freed. Some

of the slaves followed the Yankees, but most of them remained with their

masters' families.

They were not told of their freedom immediately on the termination of

the war, but learned it a little later. As compensation, Mr. Nesbit

promised them money for education. She declares, however, that this

promise was never fulfilled.

Sarah Gray's recollections of slavery, for the most part, seem to be

pleasant. She sums it up in the statement, "In spite of the hardships we

had to go through at times, we had a lot to be thankful for. There were

frolics, and we were given plenty of good food to eat, especially after

a wedding."

The aged ex-slave now lives with a few distant relatives. She is well

cared for by a family for whom she worked as a nurse for 35 years, and

she declares that she is happy in her old age, feeling that her life has

been usefully spent.

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