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James Calhart James

From: Maryland


Reference: Personal interview with James Calhart James, ex-slave,
at his home, 2460 Druid Hill Ave., Baltimore.

"My father's name was Franklin Pearce Randolph of Virginia, a descendant
of the Randolphs of Virginia who migrated to South Carolina and located
near Fort Sumter, the fort that was surrendered to the Confederates in
1851 or the beginning of the Civil War. My mother's name was Lottie
Virginia James, daughter of an Indian and a slave woman, born on the
Rapidan River in Virginia about 1823 or 24, I do not know which; she was
a woman of fine features and very light in complexion with beautiful,
long black hair. She was purchased by her master and taken to South
Carolina when about 15 years old. She was the private maid of Mrs.
Randolph until she died and then continued as housekeeper for her
master, while there and in that capacity I was born on the Randolph's
plantation August 23, 1846. I was a half brother to the children of the
Randolphs, four in number. After I was born mother and I lived in the
servants' quarters of the big house enjoying many pleasures that the
other slaves did not: eating and sleeping in the big house, playing and
associating with my half-brothers and sisters.

"As for my ancestors I have no recollection of them, the history of the
Randolphs in Virginia is my background.

"My father told mother when I became of age, he was going to free me,
send me north to be educated, but instead I was emancipated. During my
slave days my father gave me money and good clothes to wear. I bought
toys and games.

"My clothes were good both winter and summer and according to the

"My master was my father; he was kind to me but hard on the field hands
who worked in the rice fields. My mistress died before I was born. There
were 3 girls and one boy, they treated me fairly good--at first or when
I was small or until they realised their father was my father, then they
hated me. We lived in a large white frame house containing about 15
rooms with every luxury of that day, my father being very rich.

"I have heard the Randolph plantation contained about 4000 acres and
about 300 slaves. We had white overseers on the plantation, they worked
hard producing rice on a very large scale, and late and early. I know
they were severely punished, especially for not producing the amount of
work assigned them or for things that the overseers thought they should
be punished for.

"We had a jail over the rice barn where the slaves were confined,
especially on Sundays, as punishment for things done during the week.

"I could read and write when I was 12 years old. I was taught by. the
teacher who was the governess for the Randolph children. Mother could
also read and write. There was no church on the plantation; the slaves
attended church on the next plantation, where the owner had a large
slave church, he was a Baptist preacher, I attended the white church
with the Randolph children. I was generally known and called Jim
Randolph. I was baptised by the white Baptist minister and christened by
a Methodist minister.

"There was little trouble between the white and blacks, you see I was
one of the children of the house, I never came in contact much with
other slaves. I was told that the slaves had a drink that was made of
corn and rice which they drank. The overseers sometimes themselves drank
it very freely. On holidays and Sundays the slaves had their times, and
I never knew any difference as I was treated well by my father and did
not associate with the other slaves.

"In the year of 1865, I left South Carolina, went to Washington, entered
Howard University 1868, graduated in 1873, taught schools in Virginia,
North Carolina and Maryland, retired 1910. Since then I have been
connected with A.M.E. educational board. Now I am home with my
granddaughter, a life well spent.

"One of the songs sung by the slaves on the plantation I can remember a
part of it. They sang it with great feeling of happiness----

Oh where shall we go when de great day comes
An' de blowing of de trumpets and de bangins of de drums
When General Sherman comes.
No more rice and cotton fields
We will hear no more crying
Old master will be sighing.

"I can't remember the tune, people sang it according to their own tune."

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