FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
June 30, 1938
DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA EX-SLAVE STORIES
Charley Roberts of Perrine, Florida, was born on the Hogg plantation
near Allendale, S.C.
"Yes, sah, I' members de vary day when we first heard that we was free.
I was mindin' the little calf, keepin' it away from the cow while my
mother was milkin'.
"We have to milk the cows and carry the milk to the Confederate soldiers
quartered near us.
"At that time, I can 'member of the soldiers comin' 'cross the Savannah
River. They would go to the plantations and take all the cows, hogs,
sheep, or horses they wanted and "stack" their guns and stay around some
places and kill some of the stock, or use the milk and eat corn and all
the food they wanted as they needed it. They'd take quilts and just
anything they needed.
"I don't know why, but I remember we didn't have salt given to us, so we
went to the smoke house where there were clean boards on the floor where
the salt and grease drippings would fall from the smoked hams hanging
from the rafters. The boards would be soft and soaked with salt and
grease. Well, we took those boards and cooked the salt and fat out of
them, cooked the boards right in the bean soup. That way we got salt and
the soup was good.
"They used to give us rinds off the hams. I was a big boy before I ever
knew there was anything but rinds a pork meat. We went around chewing
away at those rinds of hams, and we sure liked them. We thought that was
the best meat there was.
"I used to go to the Baptist church in the woods, but I never went to
school. I learned to read out of McGuffey's speller. It was a little
book with a blue back. I won't forget that.
"I try to be as good as I know how. I've never given the state any
trouble, nor any of my sons have been arrested. I tries to follow the
Golden Rule and do right.
"I have seven living children. We moved to Miami when our daughter moved
here and took sick. We live at Perrine now, but we want to come to
Miami, 'cause I aint able to work, but my wife, she is younger and able
to work. We don't want to go on charity any more'n we have to."
Jennie Colder was born in Georgia on Blatches' settlement. "Blatches, he
kep's big hotel, too and he kep' "right smart" slaves. By the time I was
old enough to remember anything we was all' free, but we worked hard. My
father and mother died on the settlement.
"I picked cotton, shucked cotton, pulled fodder and corn and done all
dat. I plowed with mules. Dis is Jennie Colder, remember dat. Don't
forget it. I done all dat. I plowed with mules and even then the
overseer whipped me. I dont know exactly how old I am, but I was born
Banana Williams, 1740 N.W. 5th Court, Miami, Florida was born in Grady
County, Georgia, near Cairo in the 16th District.
"The man what I belonged to was name Mr. Sacks. My mother and father
lived there. I was only about three years old when peace came, but I
remember when the paddle rollers came there and whipped a man and woman.
"I was awful 'fraid, for that was somethin' I nevah see before. We
"stayed on" but we left before I was old enough to work, but I did work
in the fields in Mitchell County.
"I came to Miami and raised 5 children. I'm staying with my daughter,
but I'm not able to work much. I'm too done played out with old age."
Frank Bates, 367 N.W. 10th Street, Miami, Florida was born on Hugh Lee
Bates' farm in Alabama in the country not very far from Mulberry Beat.
"My mother and father lived on the same plantation, but I was too little
to do more than tote water to the servants in the fields.
"I saw Old Bates whip my mother once for leaving her finger print in the
pone bread when she patted it down before she put it into the oven.
"I remember seeing Lundra, Oscar and Luke Bates go off to war on three
fine horses. I dont know whether they ever came back or not, for we
moved that same day."
William Neighten gave his address as 60th Street, Liberty City. He was
only a baby when freedom came, but he too, "stayed on" a long time
He did not know his real name, but he was given his Massy's name.
"Don't ask me how much work I had to do. Gracious! I used to plow and
hoed a lot and everything else and then did'nt do enough. I got too many
Rivana Williams Boynton [TR: as in earlier interview, but Riviana,
above] was born on John and Mollie Hoover's plantation near Ulmers,
S.C., being 15 years of age when the 'Mancipation came.
"Our Boss man, he had "planty" of slaves. We lived in a log houses. My
father was an Indian and he ran away to war, but I don't 'member
anything of my mother. She was sold and taken away 'fore I ever knew
anything of her.
"I 'member that I had to thin cotton in the fields and mind the flies in
the house. I had a leafy branch that was cut from a tree. I'd stand and
wave that branch over the table to keep the flies out of the food.
"I'd work like that in the day time and at night I'd sleep in my uncle's
shed. We had long bunks along the side of the walls. We had no beds,
just gunny sacks nailed to the bunks, no slats, no springs, no nothing
else. You know how these here sortin' trays are made,--these here trays
that they use to sort oranges and 'matoes. Well, we had to sleep on gunn
"They had weavin' looms where they made rugs and things. I used to holp
'em tear rags and sew 'em an' make big balls and then they'd weave those
rugs,--rag rugs, you know. That's what we had to cover ourselves with.
We didn't had no quilts nor sheets not nothin like that."
[TR: The following portion of this interview is a near repeat of a
portion of an earlier interview with this informant; however it is
included here because the transcription varies.]
"I 'member well when the war was on. I used to turn the corn sheller and
sack the shelled corn for the Confederate soldiers. They used to sell
some of the corn, and I guess they gave some of it to the soldiers.
Anyway the Yankees got some that they didn't intend them to get.
"It was this way:
"The Wheeler Boys were Confederates. They came down the road as happy as
could be, a-singin':
'Hurrah! Hur rah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! for the Broke Brook boys.
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah for the Broke Brook boys of South Car-o-li-ne-ah.'
"So of course, we thought they were our soldiers singin' our songs.
Well, they came and tol' our boss that the Yankees were coming and we
had better hide our food and valuable things for they'd take everything
"So they helped our Massy hide the things. They dug holes and buried the
potatoes and covered them over with cotton seed. Then our Massy gave
them food for their kindness and set out with two of the girls to take
them to a place of safety, and before he could come back for the Missus
The Yankees were upon us.
"But before they got there, our Missus had called us together and told
us what to say.
"Now you beg for us! You can save our lives. If they ask you if we are
good to you, you tell them, 'YES'!
"If they ask you, if we give your meat, you tell them 'YES'!
"Now the rest didn't get any meat, but I did 'cause I worked in the
house, so I didn't tell a lie, for I did get meat, but the rest didn't
"We saw the Yankees coming. They never stopped for nothing. Their horses
would jump the worn rail fences and they'd come right across the fiel's
"They came to the house first and bound our Missus up stairs so she
couldn't get away, then they came out to the sheds and asked us all kind
"We begged for our Missus and we say:
'Our Missus is good. Don't kill her!
'Dont take our meat away from us!
'Dont hurt our Missus!
'Dont burn the house down!
[TR: The rest of the interview is new information.]
"We begged so hard that they unloosened her, but they took some of the
others for refugees and some of the slaves volunteered and went off with
"They took potatoes and all the hams they wanted, but they left our
Missus, 'cause me save her life.
"The Uncle what I libbed with, he was awful full of all kinds of
devilment. He stole sweet taters out of the bank. He called them "pot"
roots and sometimes he called them "blow horts". You know they wuld blow
up big and fat when they were roasted in the ashes.
"My uncle, he liked those blow horts mighty well, and one day, when he
had some baked in the fireplace, Ole Massy Hoover, he came along and
peeked in through the "hold" in de chimley wall, where the stones didn't
fit too good.
"He stood there and peeked in an' saw my uncle eat in' those blow
horts. He had a big long one shakin' the ashes off on it. He was blowing
it to cool it off so he could eat it and he was a-sayin'
"'Um! does blowhorts is mighty good eatin'. Then Massy, he come in wid
his big whip, and caught him and tied him to a tree and paddled him
until he blistered and then washed his sore back with strong salt water.
You know they used to use salt for all of sores, but it sho' did smart.
"My aunt, she was an Indian woman. She didn't want my uncle to steal,
but he was just full of all kind of devilment.
"My Massy liked him, but one day he played a trick on him.
"My Uncle took sick, he was so sick that when my Massy came to see him,
he asked him to pray that he should die. So Massy Hoover, he went home
and wrapped himself up in a big long sheet and rapped on the door real
"Uncle, he say, 'who's out there? What you want?'
"Massy, he change his voice and say, 'I am Death. I hear that you want
to die, so I've come after your soul. Com with me! Get ready. Quick I am
in a hurry!'
"'Oh, my sakes!' my uncle, he say, 'NO, no I aint ready yet. I aint ready
to meet you. I don't want to die.'
"My Missus whipped me once, but not so very hard. I was under Her
daughter, Miss Mollie. She liked me and always called me "Tinker". When
she heard me crying and goin' on, she called:
"'Tinker, come here. What's the matter? Did you Missus whip you?'
"Then my Missus said, 'Tinker was a bad girl, I told her to sweep the
yard and she went off and hid all day.'
"Mollie, she took me up in her arms and said, 'They mustn't whip
Tinker; she's my little girl.'
"If it hadn't been for Miss Mollie, I don't know where I'd be now. I
married right after freedom. My husband, Alexander Boynton and I stayed
right on the plantation and farmed on the shares.
"We had planty of children,--18 in all.--three sets of twins. They all
grew up, except the twins, they didn't any of them get old enough to get
married, but all the rest lived and raised children.
"They are all scattered around, but my youngest son is only 38 years
old. I have grand-children, 40 years old.
"I don't know just how many, but I have 20 grand-children and I have
three generations of grand-children. Yes, my grand-children, some of
them, have grand-children. That makes five generations.
"I tell them that I am a "gitzy, gitzy" grand-mother."
"I live right here with my daughter. She's my baby girl. I'm not very
strong anymore, but I have a big time telling stories to my
great-grand-children and great-great-grand children".
Salena Taswell, 364 NW 8th St. Miami, Florida, is one of the oldest
ex-slave women in Miami. Like most ex-slaves she is very courteous; she
will talk about the "old times", if she has once gained confidence in
you, but her answers will be so laconic that two or three visits are
necessary in order for an interviewer to gain tangible information
without appearing too proddish.
With short, measured step, bent form, unsteady head, wearing a beaming
smile, Salena takes the floor.
"Ole Dr. Jameson, he wuz my Massy. He had a plantation three mile from
Perry, Georgia. I can 'member whole lots about working for them. Y' see
I was growned up when peace came.
"My mother used to be a seamstress and sewed with her fingers all the
time. She made the finest kind of stitches while I worked around de
table or did any other kind of house work.
"I knowed de time when Ab'ram Linkum come to de plantation. He come
through there on the train and stopped over night oncet. He was known by
Dr. Jameson and he came to Perry to see about the food for the soldiers.
"We all had part in intertainin' him. Some shined his shoes, some cooked
for him, an' I waited on de table, I can't forget that. We had chicken
hash and batter cakes and dried venison that day. You be sure we knowed
he was our friend and we catched what he had t' say. Now, he said this:
(I never forget that 'slong as I live) 'If they free de people, I'll
bring you back into the Union' (To Dr. Jameson) 'If you don't free your
slaves, I'll "whip" you back into the Union. Before I'd allow my wife
an' children to be sold as slaves, I'll wade in blood and water up to my
"Now he said all that, if my mother and father were living, they'd tell
y' the same thing. That's what Linkum said.
"He came through after Freedom and went to the 'Sheds' first. I couldn't
'magine what was going on, but they came runnin' to tell me and what a
time we had.
"Linkum went to the smoke house and opened the door and said 'Help
yourselves; take what you need; cook yourselves a good meall and we sho'
had a celebration!"
"The Dr. didn't care; he was lib'ral. After Freedom, when any of us got
married he'd give us money and send a servant along for us. Sometimes
even he'd carry us himself to our new home."
DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, FOLKLORE
There is a unique organization in the colored population of Miami known
as the "Ex Slave Club." This club now claims twenty-five members, all
over 65 years of age and all of whom were slaves in this country prior
to the Civil War. The members of this interesting group are shown in the
accompanying photograph. The stories of their lives as given verbatim by
these aged men and women are recorded in the following stories:
"My name's Annie Trip. How my name's Trip, I married a Trip, but I was
borned in Georgia in the country not so very far from Thomasville. I'm
sure you must ha' heard of Thomasville, Georgia. Well, that's where I
was borned, on Captain Hamlin's plantation.
"Captain Hamlin, he was a greatest lawyer. Henry Hamlin, you know he was
the greatest lawyer what ever was, so dey tell me. You see I was small.
My mother and father and four brothers all lived there together. Some of
the rest were too small to remember much, but dey wuz all borned dare
just de samey. Wish I wuz dare right now. I had plenty of food then. I
didn't need to bother about money. Didn't have none. Didn't have no
debts to pay, no bother not like now.
"Now I have rheumatism and everything, but no money. Didn't need any
money on Captain Hamlin's plantation." And Annie walked away complaining
about rheumatism and no money, etc. before her exact age and address
could be obtained.
Millie Sampson, 182 W. 14th St. Miami, Florida, was born in Manning,
S.C. only three years 'bfo' Peace".
"My mother and father were born on the same plantation and I di'n't
have nothin' to do 'sept play with the white children and have plenty to
eat. My mother and father were field han's. I learned to talk from the
Annie Gail, 1661 NW 6th Court, Miami, Florida, was four years old when
"I was borned on Faggott's place near Greenville, Alabama. My mother,
she worked for Faggott. He wuz her bossman. When she'd go out to de
fiel's, I 'member I used to watch her, for somehow I wuz feared she would
get away from me.
"Now I 'member dat jes ez good as 'twas yesterday. I didn't do anything.
I just runned 'round.
"We just 'stayed on' after de' 'Mancipation'. My mother, she was hired
then. I guess I wuzn't 'fraid ob her leavin' after dat."
Jessie Rowell, 331 NW 19th St., Miami, Florida was born in Mississippi,
between Fossburg and Heidelberg, on the Gaddis plantation.
"My grandmother worked in the house, but my mother worked in the field
hoeing or picking cotton or whatever there was to do. I was too little
"All that I can 'member is, that I was just a little tot running 'round,
and I would always watch for my mother to come home. I was always glad
to see her, for the day was long and I knew she'd cook something for me
to eat. I can 'member dat es good as 'twas yestiday.
"We 'stayed on' after Freedom. Mother was give wages then, but I don't
know how much."
Margaret White, 6606 18th Ave., Liberty City, Miami. Florida is one of
those happy creatures who doesn't look as if she ever had a care in the
world. She speaks good English:
"I am now 84 years old, for I was 13 when the Emancipation Proclamation
was made. It didn't make much difference to me. I had a good home and
was treated very nicely.
"My master was John Eckels. He owned a large fruit place near Federal,
"My father was a tailor and made the clothes for his master and his
servants. I was never sold. My master just kept me. They liked me and
wouldn't let me be sold. He never whipped me, for I was a slave, you
know, and I had to do just as I was told.
"I worked around the house doing maid's work. I also helped to care for
the children in the home."
Priscilla Mitchell, 1614 NW 5th Ave., was born in Macon County, Alabama,
March 17, 1858.
"Y' see, ah wuz oney 7 years old when ah wuz 'mancipated. I can 'member
pickin' cotton, but I didn't work so hard, ah wuz too young.
"I wuz my Massy's pet. No, no he wouldn't beat me. Whenever ah's bad or
did little things that my mother didn't want me to do and she'd go to
whip me, all I needed to do was to run to my Massy and he'd take me up
and not let my mother git me."
This is a sample of the attitude that very many have toward their
Fannie McCay, 1720 NW 3rd Court, Miami, Florida was born on a plantation
while her father and mother were slaves; she claims her age is 73 years
which would make her too young to remember "mancipation" but
nevertheless she was slave property of her master and could have been
sold or given away even at that tender age. Her parents, too, "stayed
on" quite a while after the "mancipation".
Being one of those who "didn't have too much time to talk too much," her
main statement was:
"'Bout all hi ken 'member is dat hi hused go hout wid de old folks when
dey went out to pick cotton. Hi used to pick a little along.
"I had plenty to eat and when we went away, my Massy had a little calf
that I liked so well. I begged my Massy to give it to me, but he never
gave me none."
Hattie Thomas was six years old when peace was declared. She was
'borned' near Custer, Ga. on Bob Morris' plantation. At the tender age
of five, she can remember of helping to care for the other children,
some of whom were her own brothers and children, for her mother kept her
eight children with her.
Bob Morris' plantation being a large one, the problem of feeding all the
slaves and their children was, in itself, a large one. Hattie can well
remember of 'towing' the milk to the long wooden troughs for the
children. Her mother and the other servants would throw bread crusts and
corn breads into the milk troughs and when they would become
well-soaked, all the little slave-children would line up with their
"So it happened that the ones who could eat the fastest would be the
ones who would get the fattest.
"We had a good plenty to eat and it didn't make much difference how it
was served. We got it just the same and didn 't know any better.
"We stayed on after de 'mancipation an' ah wants t' tell y' ah worked
hard in dose days. Of course, ah worked hardest after Peace wuz
"I wuz on dat plantation when there wuz no matches. Yes, dat wuz befo'
matches wuz made an' many-a time ah started fire in de open fire place
by knookin' two stones together until I'd sen' sparks into a wad
o'cotton until it took fire.
"Now, mind y' this was on Bob Morrison's plantation between Custard and
Cotton Hill, Ga. We had no made brooms; we just bound broom corn tops
together and used them for brooms and brushes. We didn't have no stoves
either. We just cooked in a high pot on a rack. I done all dat.
"Ah haint had no husband for 38 years, but ah raised two sets
o'chilluns, nine in all and now ah has 25 grandchildren and I don't know
how many great gran' chillun."
David Lee, 1006 NW 1st Court, Miami, Fla. is proud of his "missus" and
the training he received on the plantation.
"Ah can't tell y' 'zackkly mah age, but ah knows dat when Freedom was
declared, ah was big 'nough ter drive a haws an' buggy', for ah had nice
folks. Ah could tell u' right smart 'bout 'em.
"Ah libbed near Cusper, Ga. on Barefield's fahm. Dare daughter, Miss Ann
Barefield, she taught a school few miles away, 'round pas' the Post
Hoffice. Ah s'posen ah mus' bee 9 or 10 years hold, for ah' carried Miss
Ann backwards and forwards t' school hev'ry marnin' and den in the
hevenin', ah'd stop 'round fer de mails when ah'd go fer to carry her
"Miss Ann, she used ter gibme money, but hi didn't know what t' do wid
hit. Ah had all de clothes ah could we ah and all ah could eat and
didn't need playthings, couldn't read much, and didn't know where to buy
any books. Ah had hit good.
"When peace wuz signed, dey gib me lots of Confederate bills to play
with. Ah had ten-dollah bills and lots o' twenty-dollah bills, good
bills, but y'know dey wus 't wuth nothing. Ah have a twenty-doll ah bill
'roun som'ers, if hi could evah fin' hit.
"Yes, ah had hit good. My mothah, she stayed on de plantation, too. She
did de churnin' and she run de loom. She wuz a good weaver. Ah used ter
help her run de loom.
"We stayed on a while after Freedom and den our Massy he giv' my mothah
a cow and calf along wid other presents an 'he carried us back to my
father an' we had a little home.
"Ah loved man Missus just as good as ah did my own mothah. She whipped
me a few times but then de whippins wuz honly raps on de head wid her
thimble. Ah spose ah needed hit, for ah "did like sugah"! (Growing more
confidential he explained);
"Now, ah wouldn't steal nothin' else, but--uh--ah,--uh--ah did like
"Missus, she had a big barrel ob lumpy sugah in de pantry. De doo' wuz
ginnerly looked, but sometimes when hit wuz hopen, ah'd go in an' take a
"Ah 'rembah once, ah crawled in tru de winder and mah Missus she
s'picionated ah wuz in dare eatin' sugah, so she called, "David, you
anser me, you all's in [TR: rest of page cut off.]
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