William Walters





Oklahoma Writers' Project

Ex-Slaves



WILLIAM WALTERS

Age 85 yrs.

Tulsa, Oklahoma.





Mammy Ann (that was my mother) was owned by Mistress Betsy, and lived

on the Bradford plantation in Relsford County, Tennessee, when I was

born in 1852.



My daddy, Jim Walters, then lived in Nashville, where my mammy carried

me when she ran away from the Mistress after the Rebs and Yanks

started to fight. My daddy died in Nashville in 1875.



We were runaway slaves. The slipper-offers were often captured, but

Mammy Ann and her little boy William (that's me) escaped the sharp

eyes of the patrollers and found refuge with a family of northern

symphatizers living in Nashville.



Nashville was a fort town, filled with trenches and barricades. Right

across the road from where we stayed was a vacant block used by the

Rebs as an emergency place for treating the wounded.



I remember the boom of cannons one whole day, and I heard the rumble

of army wagons as they crossed through the town. But there was nothing

to see as the fog of powder smoke became thicker with every blast of

Sesesh cannon.



When the smoke fog cleared away I watched the wounded being carried to

the clearing across the road--fighting men with arms shot off, legs

gone, faces blood smeared--some of them just laying there cussing God

and Man with their dying breath!



Those were awful times. Yet I have heard many of the older Negroes say

the old days were better.



Such talk always seemed to me but an expression of sentiment for some

good old master, or else the older Negroes were just too handicapped

with ignorance to recognize the benefits of liberty or the

opportunities of freedom.



But I've always been proud of my freedom, and proud of my old mother

who faced death for her freedom and mine when she escaped from the

Bradford plantation a long time before freedom came to the Negro race

as a whole.





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