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Millie Markham

From: North Carolina

N.C. District: 2
Worker: Travis Jordan
No. Words: 700
Interviewed: Millie Markham
615 St. Joseph St., Durham, N.C.

[TR: Date stamp: JUN 1 1937]


"I was never a slave. Although I was born somewhere about 1855, I was
not born in slavery, but my father was. I'm afraid this story will be
more about my father and mother than it will be about myself.

"My mother was a white woman. Her name was Tempie James. She lived on
her father's big plantation on the Roanoke River at Rich Square, North
Carolina. Her father owned acres of land and many slaves. His stables
were the best anywhere around; they were filled with horses, and the
head coachman was named Squire James. Squire was a good looking, well
behaved Negro who had a white father. He was tall and light colored.
Tempie James fell in love with this Negro coachman. Nobody knows how
long they had been in love before Tempie's father found it out, but
when he did he locked Tempie in her room. For days he and Miss
Charlottie, his wife, raved, begged and pleaded, but Tempie just said
she loved Squire. 'Why will you act so?' Miss Charlottie was crying.
'Haven't we done everything for you and given you everything you

"Tempie shook her head and said: 'You haven't given me Squire. He's all
I do want.'

"Then it was that in the dark of the night Mr. James sent Squire away;
he sent him to another state and sold him.

"But Tempie found it out. She took what money she could find and ran
away. She went to the owner of Squire and bought him, then she set him
free and changed his name to Walden Squire Walden. But then it was
against the law for a white woman to marry a Negro unless they had a
strain of Negro blood, so Tempie cut Squire's finger and drained out
some blood. She mixed this with some whiskey and drank it, then she got
on the stand and swore she had Negro blood in her, so they were
married. She never went back home and her people disowned her.

"Tempie James Walden, my mother, was a beautiful woman. She was tall
and fair with long light hair. She had fifteen children, seven boys and
eight girls, and all of them lived to be old enough to see their
great-grandchildren. I am the youngest and only one living now. Most of
us came back to North Carolina. Two of my sisters married and came back
to Rich Square to live. They lived not far from the James plantation on
Roanoke River. Once when we were children my sister and I were visiting
in Rich Square. One day we went out to pick huckleberries. A woman came
riding down the road on a horse. She was a tall woman in a long grey
riding habit. She had grey hair and grey eyes. She stopped and looked
at us. 'My,' she said, 'whose pretty little girls are you?'

"'We're Squire Walden's children,' I said.

"She looked at me so long and hard that I thought she was going to hit
me with her whip, but she didn't, she hit the horse. He jumped and ran
so fast I thought she was going to fall off, but she went around the
curve and I never saw her again. I never knew until later that she was
Mis' Charlottie James, my grandmother.

"I don't know anything about slavery times, for I was born free of free
parents and raised on my father's own plantation. I've been living in
Durham over sixty-five years."

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