Susan Matthews

Works Progress Administration

Harry L. Hopkins, Administrator

Ellen S. Woodward, Assistant Administrator

Henry S. Alsberg, Director of the Federal Writers' Project


Interview with:


Madison Street,

Macon, Georgia

Written by:

Ruth H. Sanford,

Macon, Georgia

Edited by:

Annie A. Rose,

Macon, Georgia

Susan Matthews is an intelligent old negress, very tall and weighing

close to two hundred pounds. Her eyes were bright, her "store-bought"

teeth flashed in a smile as she expressed her willingness to tell us all

she remembered "'bout ole times." In a tattered, faded print dress, a

misshapen hat and ragged shoes, she sat enjoying the sunshine on the

porch while she sewed on an underskirt she was making for herself from

old sugar sacks. Her manner was cheerful; she seemed to get genuine

enjoyment from the interview and gave us a hearty invitation to come to

see her again.

"I was jes a chile" she began, "when de white folks had slaves. My ma an

her chillen wuz the onliest slaves my marster and mistis had. My pa

belonged to some mo white folks that lived 'bout five miles from us. My

marster and mistis were poor folks. They lived in a white frame house;

it wuz jes a little house that had 'bout five rooms, I reckon. The house

had a kitchen in the backyard and the house my ma lived wuz in the back

yard too, but I wuz raised in my mistis' house. I slept in her room;

slep' on the foot of her bed to keep her feets warm and everwhere my

mistis went I went to. My marster and mistis wuz sho good to us an we

loved 'em. My ma, she done the cooking and the washing fer the family

and she could work in the fields jes lak a man. She could pick her three

hundred pounds of cotton or pull as much fodder as any man. She wuz

strong an she had a new baby mos' ev'y year. My marster and Mistis liked

for to have a lot of chillen 'cause that helped ter make 'em richer."

I didn't have much time fer playin' when I wus little cause I wuz allus

busy waitin' on my mistis er taking care of my little brothers and

sisters. But I did have a doll to play with. It wuz a rag doll an my

mistis made it fer me. I wuz jes crazy 'bout that doll and I learned how

to sew making clothes fer it. I'd make clothes fer it an wash an iron

'em, and it wasn't long 'fo I knowed how to sew real good, an I been

sewing ever since.

My white folks wern't rich er tall but we always had plenty of somep'n

to eat, and we had fire wood to keep us warm in winter too. We had

plenty of syrup and corn bread, and when dey killed a hog we had fine

sausage an chitlin's, an all sorts of good eating. My marster and the

white an collored boys would go hunting, and we had squirrels an rabbits

an possums jes lots of time. Yessum, we had plenty; we never did go


"Does I remember 'bout the Yankees coming?, Yes ma'am, I sho does. The

white chillen an us had been looking fer 'em and looking fer 'em. We

wanted 'em to come. We knowed 'twould be fun to see 'em. And sho 'nuf

one day I was out in de front yard to see and I seed a whole passel of

men in blue coats coming down de road. I hollered "Here come de

Yankees". I knowed 'twuz dem an my mistis an my ma an ev'y body come out

in the front yard to see 'em. The Yankees stopped an the leading man

with the straps on his shoulders talked to us an de men got water outen

de well. No'm, they didn't take nothing an they hurt nothing. After a

while they jes went on down the road; they sho looked hot an dusty an


"After de war wuz over my pa, he comed up to our house an got my ma an

all us chillen an carries us down to his marster's place. I didn't want

ter go cause I loved my mistis an she cried when we left. My pa's ole

marster let him have some land to work on shares. My pa wuz a hard

worker an we helped him an in a few years he bought a little piece of

land an he owned it till he died. 'Bout once er twice a year we'd all go

back ter see our mistis. She wuz always glad to see us an treated us


"After de war a white woman started a school fer nigger chillen an my pa

sent us. This white lady wuz a ole maid an wuz mighty poor. She an her

ma lived by dereselves, I reckon her pa had done got kilt in de war. I

don't know 'bout that but I knows they wuz mighty poor an my pa paid her

fer teaching us in things to eat from his farm. We didn't never have no

money. I loved to go to school; I had a blue back speller an I learned

real quick but we didn't get ter go all the time. When there wuz work

ter do on the farm we had ter stop an do it.

"Times warn't no better after de war wuz over an dey warnt no wuss. We

wuz po before de war an we wuz po after de war. But we allus had somep'n

to wear and plenty to eat an we never had no kick coming.

"I never did get married. I'se a old maid nigger, an they tells me you

don't see old maid niggers. How come I ain't married I don't know. Seems

like when I was young I seed somep'n wrong with all de mens that would

come around. Then atter while I wuz kinder ole an they didn't come

around no mo. Jes' last week a man come by here what used to co't me. He

seed me settin here on the porch an I says 'Come on in an set a while',

an he did. So maybe, I ain't through co'tin, maybe I'll get married

yet." Here she laughed gleefully.

When asked which she preferred freedom or slavery she replied, "Well,

being free wuz all right while I wuz young but now I'm old an I wish I

b'longed to somebody cause they would take keer of me an now I ain't got

nobody to take keer of me. The government gives me eight dollars a month

but that don't go fer enough. I has er hard time cause I can't git

around an work like I used to."

Susan High Susan Mcintosh facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail