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Richard Macks

From: Maryland

Sept. 7, 1937

Reference: Personal interview with Richard Macks, ex-slave,
at his home, 541 W. Biddle St., Baltimore.

"I was born in Charles County in Southern Maryland in the year of 1844.
My father's name was William (Bill) and Mother's Harriet Mack, both of
whom were born and reared in Charles County--the county that James
Wilkes Booth took refuge in after the assassination of President Lincoln
in 1865. I had one sister named Jenny and no brothers: let me say right
here it was God's blessing I did not. Near Bryantown, a county center
prior to the Civil War as a market for tobacco, grain and market for

"In Bryantown there were several stores, two or three taverns or inns
which were well known in their days for their hospitality to their
guests and arrangements to house slaves. There were two inns both of
which had long sheds, strongly built with cells downstairs for men and a
large room above for women. At night the slave traders would bring their
charges to the inns, pay for their meals, which were served on a long
table in the shed, then afterwards, they were locked up for the night.

"I lived with my mother, father and sister in a log cabin built of log
and mud, having two rooms; one with a dirt floor and the other above,
each room having two windows, but no glass. On a large farm or
plantation owned by an old maid by the name of Sally McPherson on
McPherson Farm.

"As a small boy and later on, until I was emancipated, I worked on the
farm doing farm work, principally in the tobacco fields and in the woods
cutting timber and firewood. I slept on a home-made bed or bunk, while
my mother and sister slept in a bed made by father on which they had a
mattress made by themselves and filled with straw, while dad slept on a
bench beside the bed and that he used in the day as a work bench,
mending shoes for the slaves and others. I have seen mother going to the
fields each day like other slaves to do her part of the farming. I being
considered as one of the household employees, my work was both in the
field and around the stable, giving me an opportunity to meet people
some of whom gave me a few pennies. By this method I earned some money
which I gave to my mother. I once found a gold dollar, that was the
first dollar I ever had in my life.

"We had nothing to eat but corn bread baked in ashes, fat back and
vegetables raised on the farm; no ham or any other choice meats; and
fish we caught out of the creeks and streams.

"My father had some very fine dogs; we hunted coons, rabbits and
opossum. Our best dog was named Ruler, he would take your hat off. If my
father said: 'Ruler, take his hat off!', he would jump up and grab your

"We had a section of the farm that the slaves were allowed to farm for
themselves, my mistress would let them raise extra food for their own
use at nights. My father was the colored overseer, he had charge of the
entire plantation and continued until he was too old to work, then
mother's brother took it over, his name was Caleb.

"When I was a boy, I saw slaves going through and to Bryansville town.
Some would be chained, some handcuffed, and others not. These slaves
were bought up from time to time to be auctioned off or sold at
Bryantown, to go to other farms, in Maryland, or shipped south.

"The slave traders would buy young and able farm men and well-developed
young girls with fine physiques to barter and sell. They would bring
them to the taverns where there would be the buyers and traders, display
them and offer them for sale. At one of these gatherings a colored girl,
a mulatto of fine stature and good looks, was put on sale. She was of
high spirits and determined disposition. At night she was taken by the
trader to his room to satisfy his bestial nature. She could not be
coerced or forced by him [TR: 'by him' lined out] so she was attacked by
him. In the struggle she grabbed a knife and with it, she
sterilized[HW:?] him and from the result of injury he died the next day.
She was charged with murder. Gen. Butler, hearing of it, sent troops to
Charles County to protect her, they brought her to Baltimore, later she
was taken to Washington where she was set free. She married a Government
employe, reared a family of 3 children, one is a doctor practicing
medicine in Baltimore and the other a retired school teacher, you know
him well if I were to tell you who the doctor is. This attack was the
result of being goodlooking, for which many a poor girl in Charles
County paid the price. There are several cases I could mention, but they
are distasteful to me.

"A certain slave would not permit this owner to whip him, who with
overseer and several others overpowered the slave, tied him, put him
across a hogshead and whipped him severely for three mornings in
succession. Some one notified the magistrate at Bryantown of the
brutality. He interfered in the treatment of this slave, threatening
punishment. He was untied, he ran away, was caught by the constable,
returned to his owner, melted sealing wax was poured over his back on
the wounds inflicted by him, when whipping, the slave ran away again and
never was caught.

"There was a doctor in the neighborhood who bought a girl and installed
her on the place for his own use, his wife hearing of it severely beat
her. One day her little child was playing in the yard. It fell head down
in a post hole filled with water and drowned. His wife left him;
afterward she said it was an affliction put on her husband for his sins.

"During hot weather we wore thin woolen clothes, the material being made
on the farm from the wool of our sheep, in the winter we wore thicker
clothes made on the farm by slaves, and for shoes our measures were
taken of each slave with a stick, they were brought to Baltimore by the
old mistress at the beginning of each season, if she or the one who did
the measuring got the shoe too short or too small you had to wear it or
go barefooted.

"We were never taught to read or write by white people.

"We had to go to the white church, sit in the rear, many times on the
floor or stand up. We had a colored preacher, he would walk 10 miles,
then walk back. I was not a member of church. We had no baptising, we
were christened by the white preacher.

"We had a graveyard on the place. Whites were buried inside of railing
and the slaves on the outside. The members of the white family had
tombstones, the colored had headstones and cedar post to show where they
were buried.

"In Charles County and in fact all of Southern Maryland tobacco was
raised on a large scale. Men, women and children had to work hard to
produce the required crops. The slaves did the work and they were driven
at full speed sometimes by the owners and others by both owner and
overseers. The slaves would run away from the farms whenever they had a
chance, some were returned and others getting away. This made it very
profitable to white men and constables to capture the runaways. This
caused trouble between the colored people and whites, especially the
free people, as some of them would be taken for slaves. I had heard of
several killings resulting from fights at night.

"One time a slave ran away and was seen by a colored man, who was
hunting, sitting on a log eating some food late in the night. He had a
corn knife with him. When his master attempted to hit him with a whip,
he retaliated with the knife, splitting the man's breast open, from
which he died. The slave escaped and was never captured. The white
cappers or patrollers in all of the counties of Southern Maryland
scoured the swamps, rivers and fields without success.

"Let me explain to you very plain without prejudice one way or the
other, I have had many opportunities, a chance to watch white men and
women in my long career, colored women have many hard battles to fight
to protect themselves from assault by employers, white male servants or
by white men, many times not being able to protect, in fear of losing
their positions. Then on the other hand they were subjected to many
impositions by the women of the household through woman's jealousy.

"I remember well when President Buchanan was elected, I was a large boy.
I came to Baltimore when General Grant was elected, worked in a livery
stable for three years, three years with Dr. Owens as a waiter and
coachman, 3 years with Mr. Thomas Winanson Baltimore Street as a butler,
3 years with Mr. Oscar Stillman of Boston, then 11 years with Mr. Robert
Garrett on Mt. Vernon Place as head butler, after which I entered the
catering business and continued until about twelve years ago. In my
career I have had the opportunity to come in contact with the best white
people and the most cultured class in Maryland and those visiting
Baltimore. This class is about gone, now we have a new group, lacking
the refinement, the culture and taste of those that have gone by.

"When I was a small boy I used to run races with other boys, play
marbles and have jumping contests.

"At nights the slaves would go from one cabin to the other, talk, dance
or play the fiddle or sing. Christmas everybody had holidays, our
mistress never gave presents. Saturdays were half-day holidays unless
planting and harvest times, then we worked all day.

"When the slaves took sick or some woman gave birth to a child, herbs,
salves, home liniments were used or a midwife or old mama was the
attendant, unless severe sickness Miss McPherson would send for the
white doctor, that was very seldom."

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