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Marjorie Woods Austin

From: Mississippi

Sam McAllum, Ex-slave, Lauderdale County
Marjorie Woods Austin
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes

Meridian, Mississippi

To those familiar with the history of "Bloody Kemper" as recorded, the
following narrative from the lips of an eye-witness will be heresy. But
the subject of this autobiography, carrying his ninety-five years more
trimly than many a man of sixty, is declared sound of mind as well as of
body by the Hector Currie family, prominent in Mississippi, for whom he
has worked in a position of great trust and responsibility for fifty
years or more.

While this old Negro may be mistaken at some points (the universal
failing of witnesses), his impressions are certainly not more involved
than the welter of local records. Mrs. Currie states that if Sam said he
saw a thing happen thus, it may be depended upon that he is telling
exactly what he really saw.

Sam McAllum, ex-slave, lives in Meridian, Lauderdale County. Sam is five
feet three inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.

"De firs' town I ever seen were DeKalb in Kemper County. De Stephenson
Plantation where I were born warnt but 'bout thirteen miles north o'
DeKalb. I were born de secon' o' September in 1842. My mammy b'longed to
de Stephensons an' my pappy b'longed to Marster Lewis Barnes. His
plantation wasn't so very far from Stephenson. De Stephensons an'
Barneses were kin' white people. My pappy were a old man when I were
born--I were de baby chil'. After he died, my mammy marry a McAllum

"Dey were 'bout thirty slaves at Stephenson. My mammy worked in de
fiel', an' her mammy, Lillie, were de yard-woman. She looked after de
little cullud chillun.

"I don't recollec' any playthings us had 'cept a ball my young marster
gimme. He were Sam Lewis Stephenson, 'bout my age. De little cullud
chillun' ud play 'Blin' Man', 'Hidin'', an' jus' whatever come to han'.

"My young marster learned me out o' his speller, but Mistis whupped me.
She say I didn' need to learn nothin' 'cept how to count so's I could
feed de mules widout colicin' 'em. You give' em ten years[FN: ears] o'
corn to de mule. If you give' em more, it 'ud colic' 'em an' dey'd die.
Dey cos' more'n a Nigger would. Dat were de firs' whuppin' I ever
got--when me an' my young marster were a-spellin'.

"I stayed wid him special, but I waited on all de white folk's chillun
at Stephenson. I carried de foot tub in at night an' washed dey foots,
an' I'd pull de trun'le bed out from under de other bed. All de boys
slep' in de same room.

"Den I were a yard boy an' waited on de young marster an' mistis. Hadn'
been to de fiel' den--hadn' worked yet.

"Mr. Stephenson were a surveyor an' he fell out wid Mr. McAllum an' had
a lawsuit. He had to pay it in darkies. Mr. McAllum had de privilege o'
takin' me an' my mammy, or another woman an' her two. He took us. So us
come to de McAllum plantation to live. It were in Kemper, too, 'bout
eight miles from Stephenson. Us come dere endurin' of de war. Dat were
when my mammy marry one of de McAllum Niggers. My new pappy went to de
war wid Mr. McAllum an' were wid 'im when he were wounded at Mamassas
Gab Battle. He brung 'im home to die--an' he done it.

"Den de Yankees come th'ough DeKalb huntin' up cannons an' guns an'
mules. Dey sho' did eat a heap. Us hid all de bes' things lak silver,
an' driv'[FN: drove] de stock to de swamp. Dey didn' burn nothin', but
us hear'd tell o' burnin's in Scooba an' Meridian. I were a-plowin' a
mule an' de Yankees made me take him out. De las' I seen o' dat mule, he
were headed for Scooba wid three Yankees a-straddle of 'im.

"Times were tight--not a grain o' coffee an' not much else. When us
clo'es[FN: clothes] were plumb wore out, de mistis an' de Nigger wimmins
made us some out o' de cotton us had raised. My granny stayed de
loom-room all de time. De other winmins done de spinnin' an' she done de
weavin'. She were a' good'n'.

"De M & O (Mobile & Ohio Railroad) were a-burnin' wood, den. Dey couldn'
git coal. Dey used taller[FN: tallow] pots 'stead o' oil. De engineer
had to climb out on de engine hisse'f an' 'tend to dam taller pots. Dey
do diffe'nt now.

"Dey were such a sca'city of men, dey were a-puttin' 'em in de war at
sixty-five. But de war end 'fore dey call dat list.

"Mistis didn' have nobody to he'p her endurin' de war. She had to do de
bes' she could.

"When she hear'd de Niggers talkin' 'bout bein' free, she wore 'em out
wid a cowhide. She warnt a pow'ful-built woman, neither. She had to do
it herse'f, 'cause twant nobody to do it for 'er. Dey warnt nothin' a
Nigger could do but stan' up an' take it.

"Some folks treated dey slaves mighty bad--put Nigger dogs on 'em. All
my white folks were good to dey slaves, 'cordin' to how good de Niggers
b'haved deyse'fs. Course, you couldn' leave no plantation widout a pass,
or de pateroller'd git you. I aint countin' dat, 'cause dat were
somthin' ever'body knowed 'forehan'.

"Dey were a heap o' talk 'bout de Yankees a-givin' ever' Nigger forty
acres an' a mule. I don't know how us come to hear 'bout it. It jus'
kinda got aroun'. I picked out my mule. All o' us did.

"Times were mighty tough. Us thought us knowed trouble endurin' de war.
Um-m-m! Us didn' know nothin' 'bout trouble.

"Dey were so many slaves at McAllum's, dey had to thin 'em out. Mistis
put us out[FN: hired us out]. She sent me to Mr. Scott close to Scooba.
I were mos' a grown boy by den an' could plow pretty good. Come de
surrender, Mr. Scott say, 'Sambo, I don't have to pay yo' mistis for you
no more. I have to pay you if you stay. Niggers is free. You is free.' I
didn' b'lieve it. I worked dat crop out, but I didn' ask for no pay. Dat
didn' seem right. I didn' un'erstan' 'bout freedom, so I went home to my
old mistis. She say, 'Sambo, you don't b'long to me now.'

"Dey bound us young Niggers out. Dey sent me an' my brother to a man dat
were goin' to give us some learnin' 'long wid farmin'. His name were
Overstreet. Us worked dat crop out, but us aint never seen no speller,
nor nothin'.

"Den us went back to Stephenson's, where us were born, to git us age.
Old mistis say, 'Sambo, you aint twenty-one yet.'

"She cried, 'cause I had to go back to Mr. Overstreet. But I didn'. My
mammy an' me went back to McAllum's an' stayed until a man give us a
patch in turn[FN: return] for us he'pin' him on his farm.

"I know 'bout de Kloo Kluxes[FN: Klu Kluxes]. I seen 'em. 'Bout de firs'
time I seen 'em were de las'. Aint nobody know zackly[FN: exactly] 'bout
dem Kloo Kluxes. Some say it were a sperrit dat hadn' had no water since
de war. One rider would drink fo' or five gallons at one time--kep' us
a-totin' buckets fas' as us could carry 'em. It were a sperrit, a evil

"But folks dat aint acted right liable to be found mos' anytime tied up
some'r's: De Niggers were a-havin' a party one Satu'd'y night on
Hampton's plantation. Come some men on horses wid some kin' o'
scare-face on 'em. Dey were all wropped[FN: wrapped] up, disguised. De
horses were kivered[FN: covered] up, too. Dey call for Miler Hampton. He
were one o' de Hampton Niggers. He been up to somethin'. I don't know
what he done, but dey say he done somethin' bad. Dey didn' have no
trouble gittin' him, 'cause us were all scared us'd git kilt, too. Dey
carried 'im off wid 'em an' kilt him dat very night.

"Us went to DeKalb nex' day in a drove an' ask de white folks to he'p
us. Us buy all de ammunition us could git to take de sperrit, 'cause us
were a-havin' 'nother party de nex' week. Dey didn' come to dat party.

"I don't know why dey don't have no Kloo Kluxes now. De sperrit still
have de same power.

"Den I go to work for Mr. Ed McAllum in DeKalb--when I aint workin' for
de Gullies. Mr. Ed were my young marster, you know, an' now he were de
jailor in DeKalb.

"I knowed de Chisolms, too. Dat's how come I seen all I seen an' know
what aint never been tol'. I couldn' tell you dat. Maybe I's de only one
still livin' dat were grown an' right dere an' seen it happen. I aint
scared now nothin' 'ud happen to me for tellin'--Mr. Currie'd see to
dat--I jus' aint never tol'. Dem dat b'longed to my race were scared to
tell. Maybe it were all for de bes'. Dat were a long time ago. Dey give
out things den de way dey wanted 'em to soun', an' dat's de way dey done
come down:

"'It started wid Mr. John Gully gittin' shot. Now Mr. Gully were a
leadin' man 'mong de white democratic people in Kemper, but dey aint had
much chance for 'bout seven years (I disremember jus' how long) on
'count o' white folks lak de Chisolms runnin' ever'thing. Ever'body were
sho' it were some' o' de Chisolm crowd, but some folks knowed it were
dat Nigger, Walter Riley, dat shot Mr. Gully. (But aint nobody ever tol'
de sho' 'nough reason why Walter shot Mr. John Gully.)

"'De Chisolms warnt Yankees, but dey warnt white democratic people. Dey
do say de Chisolms an' folks lak' em used to run 'roun' wid de Yankees.
Maybe dat's how come dey was diffe'nt. Even 'fore de Yankees come
a-tall, when Mr. Chisolm were on us side, he were loud moufed[FN:
mouthed] 'bout it.

"'Mr. John Gully he'p Mr. Chisolm git to be judge, but he turnt out to
be worse dan dem he had to judge. Mr. Gully an' de others made 'im
resign. I reckon maybe dat's why he quit bein' a Democratic an' started
ructions wid Mr. Gully.

"'Come de surrender, Mr. Chisolm, he got to be a big leader on de other
side. An' he seen to it dat a lot o' de white democratic men got he'p
from votin' an' a lot o' Niggers step up an' vote lak he tol' 'em (dey
were scared not to). So de Chisolms kep' gittin' all de big places.

"'A lot o' widders an' folks lak dat what couldn' he'p deyse'fs los' dey
homes an' ever'thing dey had. De papers de gran' jury make out 'bout it
were stored in de sheriff's office. De sheriff give out dat his office
done been broke open an' all dem papers stole.

"'Den Mr. Chisolm's brother got hisse'f p'inted[FN: appointed] sheriff
an' make Mr. Chisolm deputy. Dat's when he started runnin' things, sho'
'nough. Nex' thing you know, Mr. Chisolm is de sho' 'nough sheriff,

"'Den he gather all his kin' o' folks 'roun' 'im an' dey make out a
black lis'. De folkses names dat were on it were de ones de Chisolms
didn' need. It were talked 'roun' dat de firs' name on dat lis' were Mr.
John Gully's name. A heap o' Kloo Kluxes' names were on it, too. Mr.
Chisolm send de Kloo Kluxes' names to de Gov'nor an' spec' him to do
somethin' 'bout runnin' 'em out. But, course, he couldn' do nothin'
'bout dat, 'cause it were a sperrit. But ever' now an' den somebody
what's name were on dat lis' 'ud git shot in de back.

"'Afore de 'lection come in November (it mus' a-been in '75) de Niggers
had been a-votin' an' doin' ever'thing de Chisolms say. Dey were still
a-harpin' back to dat forty acres an' a mule dey were promised what dey
aint never got. It were turnin' out to be jus' de same wid ever'thing
else Mr. Chisolm had been a-promisin' to give 'em. Dey aint never got
none of it. De white democratic folks won dat 'lection.

"'Soon Mr. Chisolm run for somthin' or 'nother an' got beat bad. Den he
were mad sho' 'nough. He went to Jackson to see de Gov'nor 'bout it.
Soon a heap o' white democratic men in Kemper got arrested for somethin'
or nother.

"'Den Mr. John Gully got shot an' ever'body were sho' de Chisolms done
it. Ever'body were dat mad. Chisolm an' dem had to go to court. But dey
were slippery as eels an' Walter Riley's name come out. (He were a
Nigger.) Dey give out at de trial dat Walter were hired to shoot 'im by
de Chisolm folks. Dat were not de reason, but dey was blood 'fore folks'
eyes by dat time.

"'It got worse dat Satu'd'y when Mr. Gully were buried. Folks all over
Kemper done hear'd 'bout it by now, an' by nine o'clock Sund'y mornin',
people were a-comin' in over ever' road dat led to DeKalb. Dey all had
loaded guns. It were on a Sund'y when all de killin' happened--I mean,
de windin'-up killin'. I were dere 'fore a gun were fired. I were dere
when de firs' man were wounded.

"'De cullud people had gathered in DeKalb at de Methodis' Church. Dey
hadn' a gun fired yet. Mr. Henry Gully goes to de cullud people's
church. He walked in at de front door an' took his hat off his head. Dey
were a-packed in de house for preachin'. He walked down de aisle 'til he
got in front o' de preacher an' he turn sideways an' speak: "I want to
ask you to dismiss yo' congregation. Dey is goin' to be some trouble
take place right here in DeKalb an' I don't want any cullud person to
git hurt." De preacher rise to his feet, ever' Nigger in de house were
up, an' he dismiss 'em. (Mr. Henry Gully were Mr. John Gully's brother
an' a leadin' man o' de right.)

"'De town were a-millin' wid folks from ever'where. Chisolm an' dem done
got in de jail for safety an' Miss Cornelia Chisolm went back'ards an'
for'ards to de jail. Dey thought she were a-carryin' ammunition in her
clo'es[FN: clothes] to her father. Mr. McClendon--he were one of'
em--were wid her twict. He were on de right-hand side. Some b'lieved he
were de one dat killed Mr. John Gully. Dey tol' 'im dey'd burn his house
down if he stay in it, but if he'd go on to jail, dey'd give 'im a fair

"'Well, Mr. McClendon were shot down 'side Miss Cornelia. I seen him
when he fell on his face. De man dat fired de gun turn him over an' say,
"Well, us got' im." Miss Cornelia run on to de jail where de bounce[FN:
balance] o' de fam'ly were.

"'Dem outside say, "Boys, it'll never do! Dey aint all in dere yet.
Let's sen' to Scooba an' git Charlie Rosenbaum an' John Gilmore to come
help dey frien's. Dey b'longs to dat Chisolm crowd an' we want dem,

"'So dey come. Somebody say, "Let's commence right here." I never seen a
battle b'fore, but I sho' seen one den. It were lak dis: Mr. Cal Hull
was de only democratic white frien' Mr. Rosenbaum had. He stood' twixt
his white democratic frien's an' Mr. Rosenbaum. He put his arms over Mr.
Rosenbaum an' say, "Boys, he's a frien' o' mine. If you kill him, you
kill me." Mr. Rosenbaum crawled over to de courthouse wall, an' squatted
down, an' stayed dere. Mr. Hull stood over 'im, pertectin' 'im. But Mr.
John Gilmore make for de jail an', when dey open de door for 'im, de
shootin' start. Right den were when Mr. Gilmore got his. Miss Cornelia
were struck in de wris'. It mortified an' after 'while she died from

"I know I aint tol' de sho' 'nough reason Mr. John Gully got killed.
Maybe de time done come for de truf to be tol'. Hope won't nobody think
hard o' me for tellin':

"Mr. John Gully had a bar-room an' a clerk. A white man by de name o'
Bob Dabbs walked[FN: clerked] b'hin' dat counter. Dis Nigger, Walter
Riley, I was a-tellin' you 'bout awhile ago, were a-courtin' a
yaller[FN: yellow] woman. (Dey warnt so many of 'em in dem days.) Mr.
Dabbs say, "Walter, if I ever kotch[FN: catch] you walkin wid (he called
dat yaller woman's name) I'll give you de worst beatin' ever was."
Walter were kotch wid 'er ag'in. Dat Frid'y night he come a-struttin'
into de bar-room. Mr. Dabbs say, "Come he'p move dese boxes here in de
nex' room." Walter walked in lak a Nigger will when you ask 'im to do
somethin', an' Mr. Dabbs turnt de key. "Git 'crost dat goods box," he
say. "I'll give you what I promised you." Mr. Dabbs got 'im a piece o'
plank an' burnt Walter up.

"All dis here were a-goin' on 'bout de time Niggers were a-votin' an'
doin' things 'roun' white folks. Dey thought dey were pertected by de
Chisolm crowd.

"De nex' Frid'y night Walter walked right into dat bar-room ag'in. Mr.
Dabbs say, "What you doin' here, Nigger?" Walter say, "You 'member what
you done to me tonight one week?" An' he say, "Well, what's to it?" Den
Walter say, "Well, I come to settle wid you." Mr. Dabbs say, "Let me see
if I can't hurry you up some," an' he retch[FN: reached] his han' back
his han' to his hip. But 'fore he could draw[FN: draw his gun] out,
Walter done run back to de door. Dey were a chinaberry tree close to de
door an' Walter got b'hin' it an' fired a pistol. Mr. Dabbs were hit wid
his arm a-layin' 'crost de counter wid his pistol in his han'.

"'Me an' Mr. Ed ('cause he were de jailor), we put him on a mattress in
de room back o' de bar. An' he died dat night. De word jus' kinda got'
roun' dat some of de Chisolm crowd done killed Mr. Gully's clerk.

"'Walter run off to Memphis. Mr. Gully were pursuin' after 'im to ketch
'im. Walter sho' got tired of him pursuin' after 'im. Dat were de
evidence Walter give out 'fore dey put de rope on his neck an' start him
on his way to de gallows, but twant nobody dere to put it down jus' lak
it were.

"'Mr. Sinclair were sheriff by dis time, an' my young marster an' me
went wid 'im to git Walter to take 'im to de gallows. Mr. Sinclair say,
"Ed, you goin' to de jail-house now? Here's a ha'f pint o' whiskey. Give
it to Walter, make 'im happy, den if he talk too much, nobody will
b'lieve it." Mr. Ed say, "Come on, Sambo, go wid me." He retched down
an' got a han'ful o' goobers an' put 'em in his pocket. We were eatin'
'em on de way down to de jail-house. He say, "Walter, Mr. Sinclair done
sent you a dram." Walter say, "Mr. McAllum, I see you an' Sam eatin'
peanuts comin' along. Jus' you give me a han'ful an' I'll eat dem on de
way to de gallows. I don't want no whiskey."

"'Den us got on de wagon. (I can see Walter now, standin' dere wid his
cap on de back o' his head ready to pull down over his eyes after he
git dere.) Dey were a pow'ful crowd 'roun' dat wagon.

"'Den come a rider from Scooba, pull a paper from his pocket, an' han'
it to Mr. Sinclair. He read it an' say," Let de people go on to de
gallows. De wagon turn 'roun' an' go back to de jail." De Gov'nor had
stopped de hangin' 'til de case were 'vestigated. (De people standin'
dere a-waitin' for Walter to be hung didn' know what were de matter.)

"'Dey placed Walter back in jail an' his coffin 'long wid' im. De
lawyers would visit 'im to git his testimony. Dey'd show 'im his coffin
all ready an' ask him did he do dis killin' or not. Dey want 'im to say
he were hired to do it. Dey fixed it all up. Twant nobody to tell jus'
how it were.'

"I were married by dis time to Laura. She were de nurse maid to Mr. J.H.
Currie. She's been dead twenty years, now. When de Curries come to
Meridian to live, dey give me charge o' dey plantation. I were de leader
an' stayed an' worked de plantation for' em. Dey been livin' in Meridian
twelve years. I's married now to dey cook.

"Mr. Hector tol' me if I'd come an' live wid' em here, he'd gimme dis
house here in de back yard an' paint it an' fix it all up lak you see
it. It's mighty pleasant in de shade. Folks used to always set dey
houses in a grove, but now dey cuts down more trees dan dey keeps. Us
don't cut no trees. Us porches is always nice an' shady.

"I'se got fo' boys livin'. One son were in de big strike in de
automobile plant in Detroit an' couldn' come to see me las' Chris'mus.
He'll come to see me nex' year if I's still here.

"Maybe folks goin' a-think hard o' me for tellin' what aint never been
tol' b'fore. I been asked to tell what I seen an' I done it.

"Dat's tellin' what I never thought to tell."

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