Georgia Slave Celebrations

Georgia Slave Celebrations

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their celebrations as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Young and old washed deir clothes Sadday nights. Dey hardly knowed what
Sunday was. Dey didn’t have but one day in de Christmas, and de only
diff’unce dey seed dat day was dat dey give ’em some biscuits on
Christmas day. New Year’s Day was rail-splittin’ day. Dey was told how
many rails was to be cut, and dem Niggers better split dat many or
somebody was gwine to git beat up.

“‘Bout de most fun slaves had was at dem cornshuckin’s. De general would
git high on top of de corn pile and whoop and holler down leadin’ dat
cornshuckin’ song ’til all de corn was done shucked. Den come de big
eats, de likker, and de dancin’. Cotton pickin’s was big fun too, and
when dey got through pickin’ de cotton dey et and drunk and danced ’til
dey couldn’t dance no more.”

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

“Once a week Mr. Heard allowed his slaves to have a frolic and folks
would get broke down from so much dancing” Mrs. Avery remarked. The
music was furnished with fiddles. When asked how the slaves came to own
fiddles she replied, “They bought them with money they earned selling
chickens.” At night slaves would steal off from the Heard plantation, go
to LaGrange, Ga. and sell chickens which they had raised. Of course the
masters always required half of every thing raised by each slave and it
was not permissible for any slave to sell anything. Another form of
entertainment was the quilting party. Every one would go together to
different person’s home on each separate night of the week and finish
that person’s quilts. Each night this was repeated until every one had a
sufficient amount of covering for the winter. Any slave from another
plantation, desiring to attend these frolics, could do so after securing
a pass from their master.”

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

“Christmas Day! Oh, what a time us Niggers did have dat day! Marse
Lordnorth and Marse Alec give us evvything you could name to eat: cake
of all kinds, fresh meat, lightbread, turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese,
and all kinds of wild game. Dere was allus plenty of pecans, apples, and
dried peaches too at Christmas. Marse Alec had some trees what had fruit
dat looked lak bananas on ’em, but I done forgot what was de name of dem
trees. Marse Alec would call de grown folkses to de big house early in
de mornin’ and pass ’round a big pewter pitcher full of whiskey, den he
would put a little whiskey in dat same pitcher and fill it wid sweetened
water and give dat to us chillun. Us called dat ‘toddy’ or ‘dram’. Marse
Alex allus had plenty of good whiskey, ’cause Uncle Willis made it up
for him and it was made jus’ right. De night atter Christmas Day us
pulled syrup candy, drunk more liquor, and danced. Us had a big time for
a whole week and den on New Year’s Day us done a little wuk jus’ to
start de year right and us feasted dat day on fresh meat, plenty of
cake, and whiskey. Dere was allus a big pile of ash-roasted ‘taters on
hand to go wid dat good old baked meat. Us allus tried to raise enough
‘taters to last all through de winter ’cause Niggers sho does love dem
sweet ‘taters. No Mam, us never knowed nothin’ ’bout Santa Claus ’til
atter de war.

“No Mam, dere warn’t no special cornshuckin’s and cotton pickin’s on
Marse Alec’s place, but of course dey did quilt in de winter ’cause dere
had to be lots of quiltin’ done for all dem slaves to have plenty of
warm kivver, and you knows, Lady, ‘omens can quilt better if dey gits a
passel of ’em together to do it. Marse Alec and Marse Lordnorth never
‘lowed dere slaves to mix up wid other folkses business much.”

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

“Oh Missy, dem was good old days. Us would be lucky to have ’em back
again, ‘specially when harvest time comes ’round. You could hear Niggers
a-singin’ in de fields ’cause dey didn’t have no worries lak dey got
now. When us got de corn up from de fields, Niggers come from far and
nigh to Marster’s cornshuckin’. Dat cornshuckin’ wuk was easy wid
evvybody singin’ and havin’ a good time together whilst dey made dem
shucks fly. De cornshuckin’ captain led all de singin’ and he set right
up on top of de highes’ pile of corn. De chillun was kept busy a-passin’
de liquor jug ’round. Atter it started gittin’ dark, Marster had big
bonfires built up and plenty of torches set ’round so as dere would be
plenty of light. Atter dey et all dey wanted of dem good things what had
done been cooked up for de big supper, den de wrastlin’ matches started,
and Marster allus give prizes to de best wrastlers. Dere warn’t no
fussin’ and fightin’ ‘lowed on our place, and dem wrastlin’ matches was
all in good humor and was kept orderly. Marster wanted evvybody to be
friends on our plantation and to stay dat way, for says he: ‘De Blessed
Saviour done said for us to love our neighbor as ourselfs, and to give
and what us gives is gwine to come back to us.’ Missy, de Good Lord’s
word is always right.”

[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]

“Besides those days when no
work was required, there was the 4th of July and Christmas on which the
slaves were permitted to do as they pleased. These two latter dates were
usually spent in true holiday spirit as the master usually gave a big
feast in the form of a barbecue and allowed them to invite their
friends.

When darkness came they sang and danced and this was what they called a
“frolic.” As a general rule this same thing was permitted after the
crops had been gathered. Music for these occasions was furnished by
violin, banjo and a clapping of hands. Mr. Bland says that he used to
help furnish this music as Mr. Coxton had bought him a violin.

Mr. Coxton was different from some of the slave owners in that he gave
the head of each family spending money at Christmas time–the amount
varying with the size of the family.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“At Christmas, every slave on the Body plantation received a present. The
Negro children received candy, raisins and “nigger-toes”, balls,
marbles, etc.”

[Rias Body, Part I, Georgia]

“‘Bout the most fun we had was at corn shuckin’s whar they put the corn
in long piles and called in the folkses from the plantations nigh round
to shuck it. Sometimes four or five hunnert head of niggers ‘ud be
shuckin’ corn at one time. When the corn all done been shucked they’d
drink the likker the marsters give ’em and then frolic and dance from
sundown to sunup. We started shuckin’ corn ’bout dinnertime and tried to
finish by sundown so we could have the whole night for frolic. Some
years we ‘ud go to ten or twelve corn shuckin’s in one year!

“We would sing and pray Easter Sunday and on Easter Monday we frolicked
and danced all day long! Christmas we allus had plenty good sumpin’ to
eat and we all got togedder and had lots of fun. We runned up to the big
‘ouse early Christmas mornin’ and holler out: ‘Mornin’, Christmas Gif’!’
Then they’d give us plenty of Sandy Claus and we would go back to our
cabins to have fun twel New Year’s day. We knowed Christmas was over and
gone when New Year’s day come, kazen we got back to wuk that day atter
frolickin’ all Christmas week.”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“Christmas times dey give us a week off an’ brung us a little candy an’
stuff ‘roun’. Not much, not much. On New Year’s Day us had to git back
on de job.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia]

“De slaves from all de plantations ’round come to our corn shuckin’s. Us
had ’em down in de orchard. Lots of white folks comed too. Dey kilt hogs
and us had a big supper and den us danced. Nosir, dere warn’t no toddy,
Marse didn’t b’lieve in dat, but dey would beat up apples and us drinked
de juice. It sho’ was sweet too”

[Julia Bunch, Part I, Georgia]

“Marse Frank had plenty of visitors to see him and his three gals was
excuse for anyone for miles around to come trompin’ in. He enterained
mostly on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I remembers them nights for what
was left over from de feasts the niggers would eat.”

[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]

“Frolics were common occurrences on the Willis plantation, also quilting
parties. Good foods consisting of pies, cakes, chicken, brandied
peaches, etc. “Dancing was always to be expected by anyone attending
them,” remarked Mrs. Callaway. “Our master always kept two to three
hundred gallons of whisky and didn’t mind his slaves drinking. I can
remember my master taking his sweetened dram every morning, and often he
gave me some in a tumbler. On Christmas Day big dinners were given for
all of the slaves and a few ate from the family’s table after they had
finished their dinner.”

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

“Christmas was somepin’ else. Us sho’ had a good time den. Dey give de
chilluns china dolls and dey sont great sacks of apples, oranges, candy,
cake, and evvything good out to de quarters. At night endurin’ Christmas
us had parties, and dere was allus some Nigger ready to pick de banjo.
Marse Thomas allus give de slaves a little toddy too, but when dey was
havin’ deir fun if dey got too loud he sho’ would call ’em down. I was
allus glad to see Christmas come. On New Year’s Day, de General had big
dinners and invited all de high-falutin’ rich folks.”

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

“De fus’ Sadday atter Easter wuz allus a holiday for de slaves. Us wuz
proud of dat day ’cause dat wuz de onlies’ day in de year a Nigger could
do ‘zactly what he pleased. Dey could go huntin’, fishin’ or visitin’,
but most of ’em used it to put in a good days wuk on de land what
Marster ‘lowed ’em to use for deyselves. Some of ’em come to Athens and
help lay bricks on a new buildin’ goin’ up on Jackson Street. No Ma’am,
I done forgot what buildin’ it wuz.

“De sho’ ‘nough big days wuz dem camp meetin’ days. White folkses and
Niggers all went to de same camp meetin’s, and dey brung plenty ‘long to
eat–big old loafs of light bread what had been baked in de skillets. De
night before dey sot it in de ovens to rise and by mawnin’ it had done
riz most to de top of de deep old pans. Dey piled red coals all ’round
de ovens and when dat bread got done it wuz good ‘nough for anybody. De
tables wuz loaded wid barbecued pigs and lambs and all de fried chicken
folkses could eat, and all sorts of pies and cakes wuz spread out wid de
other goodies.

“Evvy plantation gen’ally had a barbecue and big dinner for Fourth of
July, and when sev’ral white famblies went in together, dey did have
high old times tryin’ to see which one of ’em could git deir barbecue
done and ready to eat fust. Dey jus’ et and drunk all day. No Ma’am, us
didn’t know nuffin’ ’bout what dey wuz celebratin’ on Fourth of July,
‘cept a big dinner and a good time.

“Yes Ma’am, us had corn shuckin’s, and dey wuz big old times. Evvybody
from plantations miles ’round would take time out to come. Sometimes de
big piles of corn would make a line most a half a mile long, but when
all de Niggers got at dat corn de shucks sho’ would fly and it wouldn’t
be so long before all de wuk wuz done and dey would call us to supper.
Dere wuz barbecue and chickens, jus’ a plenty for all de Niggers, and
corn bread made lak reg’lar light bread and sho’ enough light bread too,
and lots of ‘tato pies and all sorts of good things.”

[Willis Cofer, Part I, Georgia]

“Christmas time was a holiday season for slaves, and they had everything
good you could want to eat. Listen, Child, I am telling you the truth.
They even had pumpkin pie. Oh, yes! Santa Claus came to see slave
children. Once I got too smart for my own good. Miss Fannie and Miss Ann
had told us to go to bed early. They said if we weren’t asleep when
Santa Claus got there, he would go away and never come back. Well, that
night I made up my mind to stay awake and see Santa Claus. Miss Fannie
and Miss Ann slipped into our quarters right easy and quiet and were
filling up stockings with candy, dolls, and everything you can imagine.
While they were doing that, they turned around and saw me with my eyes
wide open. Right there my Santa Claus ended. We didn’t have any special
observance of New Year’s Day. It was the same as any other day.

“Mother said they had cornshuckings, quiltings, and cotton pickings on
the plantation. She told me a good deal about the cornshuckings: about
how they selected a general, whose job was to get up on top of the corn
pile and holler at the top of his voice, leading the cornshucking song,
while the others all shucked the corn and sang. After the corn was all
shucked there were always fine eats. I can remember the quiltings
myself. The women went from one house to another and quilted as many as
12 quilts in one night sometimes. After the quilts were all finished
they had a big spread of good food too. Now it takes a whole month to
quilt one quilt and nothing to eat.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“On Christmas mornin’ all of us would come up to de yard back of de Big
‘Ouse and Marse Billie and de overseer handed out presents for all. Dey
wuz a little dram and cake too. Us chillun got dolls, and dresses, and
aprons. Them stuffed rag dolls wuz de prettiest things! On New Year’s
day all de mens would come up to de Big ‘Ouse early in de morning and
would work lively as dey could a-cuttin’ wood and doing all sorts of
little jobs ’til de dinner bell rung. Den Marse Billie would come out
and tell ’em dey wuz startin’ de New Year right a-workin’ lively and
fast. Den he would say dat dey would be fed good and looked atter good,
long as dey worked good. He give ’em a good taste of dram and cake all
’round, and let ’em go back to dey cabins for dinner, and dey could have
de rest of de day to frolic.

“Dem cornshuckin’s us used to have sho’ wuz a sight. Corn would be piled
up high as dis house, and de folkses would dance ’round and holler and
whoop. Ma ‘lowed us chillun to watch ’em ’bout a half hour; den made us
come back inside our cabin, ’cause dey always give de corn shuckin’
folkses some dram, and things would git mighty lively and rough by de
time all de corn wuz shucked.

“On bright moonshiny nights folkses would invite de neighbors to come
for cotton pickin’s. After the cotton wuz picked dey would eat barbecue,
and dance and have a big time.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“Christmas was a grand time at Marse John’s. We had everything good to
eat under the sun at that time and, as my mother was the cook, I was
sure of getting my share of the good things. Miss Fannie and Miss Sue
played Santa Claus to slave children. I was sorry when Mary got too
smart and peeped to see what it was all about, for after that they just
came to our house and handed us the things that would have come as Santa
Claus.

“New Year’s Day was no different from other days, except that Marse John
gave the grown folks whiskey to drink that day like he did on Christmas
morning. They couldn’t risk giving slaves much whiskey because it made
them mean, and then they would fight the white folks. They had to be
mighty careful about things like that in order to keep down uprisings.

“My mother went to cornshuckings, cotton pickings, and quiltings. They
must have had wonderful times, to hear her tell it. She said that after
the corn was shucked, cotton picked, or quilts quilted, they always gave
them plenty of good things to eat and drink and let them aloose to enjoy
themselves for the balance of the night. Those things took place at
harvest time, and everyone looked forward to having a good time at that
season. Mother said that Marse John was particular with his slaves, and
wouldn’t let them go just anywhere to these things.”

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“On the Fourth of July or at Christmas Colonel Davis always had a
festival for all his slaves. Barbecue was served and there was much
singing and dancing. These frolics were made merrier by the presence of
guests from other plantations. Music was furnished by some of the slaves
who also furnished music at the mansion whenever the Col. or some of the
members of his family had a party. There was also a celebration after
the crops had been gathered.”

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Dem old cornshuckin’s was sho’ ‘nough big times, ’cause us raised so
much corn dat it tuk several days to shuck it all. Us had to have two
generals. Dey chose sides and den dey got up on top of de biggest piles
of corn and kept de slaves a-singin’ fast so dey would wuk fast. De fust
crowd what finished got de prize. Dere ain’t much I can ‘member of words
to dem old cornshuckin’ songs. One general would start off singin’:
‘Shuck up dis corn, shuck up dis corn, ’cause us is gwine home,’ and de
other general would be a-shoutin’: ‘Make dem shucks fly, make dem shucks
fly, us is gwine to go home.’ Over and over dey kept on singin’ dem
lines. Come nighttime Marster would have big bonfires built up and set
out torches for ’em to see how to wuk, and evvy time he passed ’round
dat jug of corn likker shucks would fly some faster. When all de corn
was done shucked and de big supper had been et, dere was wrastlin’
matches and dancin’ and all sorts of frolickin’.”

[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]

“Mr. Ormond permitted few if any celebrations or frolics to take place on
his farm. When he did grant this privilege his slaves were permitted to
invite their friends who of course had to get a “pass” from their
respective masters. They, too, were required to secure a pass from Mr.
Ormond if they wanted to visit off the premises. If caught by the
“Paddle Rollers” (Patrollers) without this pass they were soundly
whipped and then taken to their master.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“What de slaves done on Saddy night? Dey done anything dey was big
‘nough to do. Dere warn’t no frolickin’ ‘cept on Sadday night. Niggers
on our place wukked all day Sadday ‘cept once a month. Some of de slaves
would slip off and stay half a day and de overseer wouldn’t miss ’em
’cause dere was so many in de field. It was jus’ too bad for any Nigger
what got cotched at dat trick. Sadday night, slaves was ‘lowed to git
together and frolic and cut de buck.

“Christmas Day Marse Billy called us to de big house and give us a
little fresh meat and sweet bread, dat was cake. Christmas warn’t much
diff’unt f’um other times. Jus’ more t’eat. Us jus’ had dat one day off,
and New Year’s Day was used as a holiday too.

“Oh, dem cornshuckin’s! All day ‘fore a cornshuckin’ dey hauled corn and
put it in great piles as high as dis here house. Us sung all de time us
was shuckin’ corn. Dere was a lot of dem old shuckin’ songs. De one us
sung most was: ‘Whooper John and Calline all night.’ Marse Billy, he
give ’em coffee and whiskey all night and dat made ’em git rough and
rowdy. Den de shucks did fly. Us had one more grand feast when de last
ear of corn had done been shucked. Dere warn’t nothin’ lackin’.

“Cotton pickin’s warn’t planned for fun and frolic lak cornshuckin’s. If
Marse Billy got behind in his crops, he jus’ sent us back to de fields
at night when de moon was bright and sometimes us picked cotton all
night long. Marster give de ‘oman what picked de most cotton a day off,
and de man what picked de most had de same privilege.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“Christmas was de time when old Marster let us do pretty much as us
pleased. Us had all kinds of good things t’eat, and atter us drunk a lot
of liquor it warn’t long ‘fore dere was a Nigger fight goin’ on. Yessum,
us had cornshuckin’s, cotton pickin’s, quiltin’s, log rollin’s, and all
sich as dat. Wid plenty t’eat and good liquor to drink on hand, Niggers
would shuck corn or pick cotton all night. It was de big eats and lots
of liquor dat made slaves lak dem things.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“When slaves come in f’um de fields at night, dey was glad to jus’ go to
bed and rest deir bones. Dey stopped off f’um field wuk at dinner time
Saddays. Sadday nights us had stomp down good times pickin’ de banjo,
blowin’ on quills, drinkin’ liquor, and dancin’. I was sho’ one fast
Nigger den. Sunday was meetin’ day for grown folks and gals. Boys
th’owed rocks and hunted birds’ nests dat day.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“Daddy used to talk lots ’bout dem big cornshuckin’s. He said dat when
dey got started he would jump up on a big old pile of corn and holler
loud as he could whilst he was a snatchin’ dem shucks off as fast as
greased lightin’.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Christmas was a big time with three or four days holiday on the
plantations. Santa Claus found his way to the Quarters and left the
little negroes stick candy and “reisens”, and “dar wuz er plenty of
pound cake fer everybody.” Fourth of July was a big holiday and all the
little boys white and black went a-fishing together that day.

There was plenty of fun for the darkies in the Gresham and Booker
community. They had dances, cornshuckings, picnics and all kinds of old
time affairs. These were attended by slaves for some distance around,
but they had to have passes or “de patter rollers would sho’ git ’em. Us
little niggers wuz feared to go ’bout much ‘kase we heered so much
erbout de patter rollers.” Wheeler enjoyed the cornshuckings more than
anything else, or rather he talked more freely about them. He said that
the corn was piled high in the barn and the men and boys, after a big
supper of “fresh meat and all kinds of good things, and plenty of sho’
nough pound cake”–(that pound cake he can’t seem to forget)–would
gather around and to the tune of an old fiddle in the hands of a
plantation musician, they would sing and shuck corn until the whole pile
was finished. Many races were entered into and the winners proclaimed
amid much shouting and laughter. This merriment and work lasted into the
night.”

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

“We had plenty of amusements in those days, such as corn shuckings,
dances, running, jumping and boxing contest. Saturday was the big
frolicking time, and every body made the most of it. Slaves were allowed
to tend little patches of their own, and were often given Saturday
afternoons off to work their crops, then when laying-by time came, we
had more time for our patches. We were allowed all we could make over
and above our certain tasks. Marster used to buy me candy when he take
me with him, but I can’t remember him giving me spending money.

“We were not compelled to attend church on Sundays, but most of the
slaves went from time to time. I was a Baptist, my family being Baptist,
but I have long since put Christianity above creeds. I learned too, many
years ago, that we can find in the contents of that old book we call the
Bible, a solution to every problem we run up against.”–Uncle Dave is a
learned theologian, and has served many years as a minister, or Doctor
of Divinity. He is very modest, and says that he wants no titles on his
name. He believes that every man and every woman gets all the credit
they deserve in this world.”

[David Gullins, Part II, Georgia]

“All I knowed Niggers to do at night atter dey come in from de fields,
was to eat supper and fling deirselfs on de beds and go right off to
sleep, ‘cept when dey wanted to hunt and fish, and most of dat sort of
thing was done atter de crops was laid by or atter dey had done been
gathered into de barns. On Saddy nights, de older womans ironed and
fixed up for Sunday whilst de men was busy gittin’ de harness and tools
and things ready for de next week’s wuk. Young folks never had nothin’
but good times on deir minds. Dey danced, frolicked, and cut de buck in
gen’ral. Dey didn’t have no sho’ ‘nough music, but dey sho’ could sing
it down. One of de dance songs went somepin’ lak dis:

‘Oh! Miss Liza, Miss Liza Jane!
Axed Miss Liza to marry me
Guess what she said?
She wouldn’t marry me,
If de last Nigger was dead.’

“Christmas was sho’ one grand time. Der warn’t no big heap of good
things lak dey has now. Old Mist’ess give de Niggers a little flour and
syrup for to make sweet cake. Dere was plenty of fresh hog meat and
chickens and all sorts of dried fruits. I was allus plum crazy ’bout de
rag doll grandma would make for my Christmas present. Come New Year’s
Day, it was time to go back to wuk and evvy slave was made to do a heap
of wuk on dat day to start de year off right.

“Slaves had a big old time at cornshuckin’s. Dey didn’t care so much
’bout de somepin’ t’eat jus’ so dey got plenty of whiskey to drink, and
when dey got all het up on dat you could hear ’em a mile away a’whoopin’
and hollerin’. Sometimes dey kilt a cow and throwed it in a pot and
biled it down wid dumplin’s, seasoned hot wid red pepper.”

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“We nuse to have frolics and break-downs all de time–quiltin’s and
finger-pickin’s and dances and all sech as dat. Finger-pickin’s was when
we’d pick de cotton off de seeds by hand. We’d spread it down in front
o’ de fire place ’cause it was easier to pick when it was hot.

“Does I ‘member de old songs? Hallelujah, I sho does!” The old darkey
began to pat his foot and clap his hands while he sang, “Pickin’ out de
cotton an’ de bolls all rotten”, repeating the same line over and over
to a sing-song melody as impossible of transcription as a bird-call.
Suddenly his smiling face fell serious and the song stopped.

“Folks nuse to have fights sometimes at de frolics but dey didn’t do no
killin’. Hit ain’t like dat now. Dey stob you now, but dey didn’t do dat
den. Somebody’d always stop ’em ‘fore it got dat fur.”

Asked about holidays, Uncle Shang replied, “Thanksgiving we give thanks
in de church on our knees. Warn’t no slave gallery. White and colored
all together and shouted together.

“Christmas we frolic and eat cake. We had serenades, too, on banjoes and
old tin pans and whatever you wanted to make a noise. And a gallon o’
liquor–anything you want!” with a loud laugh.”

[Shang Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Old Miss give dem dat wanted one a cotton patch and she didn’t make her
slaves wuk in her fields atter de dinner bell rung on Saddays. De mens
wukked in dem patches of deir own an Sadday evenin’ whilst de ‘omans
washed de clothes and cleaned up de cabins for de next week. Sadday
nights dey all got together and frolicked; picked de banjo, and drunk
whiskey. Didn’t none of ’em git drunk, ’cause dey was used to it. Dar
was barrels of it whar dey stilled it on de place. On Sundays us went
f’um cabin to cabin holdin’ prayer meetin’s. Miss Annie ‘pointed
diff’unt ones to look atter da stock evvy Sunday.

“Big times was had by all at Chris’mas time. De eats warn’t no diff’unt
‘cept dey give us sweet bread and plenty of lallyhoe (molasses) what was
made on de plantation. Us had two weeks vacation from field wuk and dey
let us go rabbit and ‘possum huntin’. Us had a gran’ time clear up to
New Year’s Day.

“Oh, us did have one more big time at dem cornshuckin’s. De corn was
hauled to de crib and de folks was ‘vited in de atternoon ‘fore de
cornshukin’ started dat night. When de mans got to shuckin’ dat corn, de
‘omans started cookin’ and dey got thoo’ ’bout de same time. Den us et,
and dat was de best part of de cornshuckin’ fun. Cotton pickin’s was
held on moonshiny nights. Dey picked cotton ’til midnight, and den dey
had a little shakin’ of de footses ’til day.

“Mens had good times at de quiltin’s too. Deir white folkses allus give
’em a little somepin’ extra t’eat at dem special times. But de ‘omans
what was cooks at de big house tied sacks ‘roun’ deir waisties under
deir skirts, and all thoo’ de day would drap a little of dis, and some
of dat, in de sacks. When day poured it out at night, dare was plenty of
good somepin’ t’eat. De mens kept de fire goin’ and if dey got hold of a
tallow candle day lit dat to help de ‘omans see how to quilt. Most of de
quiltin’s was at night and nearly all of ’em was in winter time.

“De best game us had was marbles, and us played wid homemade clay
marbles most of de time. No witches or ghosties never bothered us,
’cause us kept a horseshoe over our cabin door.”

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

“Frolics were often given on the Harper plantation. They usually
consisted of dancing and banjo playing. Slaves from other plantations
sometimes attended, but it was necessary to secure a pass from their
master and mistress in order to do so. A prize was given to the person
who could “buck dance” the steadiest with a tumbler of water balanced on
the head. A cake or a quilt was often given as the prize.”

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“At Christmus time, us allus had a BIG frolic wid music an’ dancin’. Us
danced de cotillion an’ beat on buckets wid gourds fer music. Marster
give us a little toddy now an’ den an’ us had plenty uv it at Christmas.
De frolic allus had to bust up at midnight caze Marster would git out
his horse pistols an’ start shootin’ ef it didn’t. Sometimes us ud have
a Satidy off an’ us ud all go fishin’ or have a frolic. Candy pullin’s
wuz allus de bestes kind of fun.”

[Robert Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“On Saddays the women wuked in the field ’til dinnertime, but the
menfolks wuked on ’til a hour ‘fore sundown. The women spent that time
washin’, cleanin’ up the cabins, patchin’, and gittin’ ready for the
next week. Oh! How they did frolic ’round Sadday night when they could
git passes. Sundays they went to church but not without a pass for, if
they ever was cotch out without one, them paterollers would beat ’em up
something terrible.

“Sho, Christmastime was when slaves had their own fun. Thar warn’t
nothin’ extra or diffunt give ’em, only plenty to eat and drink; Marse
Robert allus made lots of whiskey and brandy. He give his slaves six
days holiday and ‘lowed ’em to have passes. They frolicked, danced, and
visited ’round and called it havin’ a good time. Wuk begun again on New
Year’s Day and thar warn’t no more holidays ’til the next Christmas. No,
mam, not many slave chillun knowed what Santa Claus was or what
Christmas was meant to celebrate ’til they got some schoolin’ atter the
war was over.

“Sho, sho, us had cornshuckin’s, all right enough. Sometimes Marse
Robert raised so much corn us had to have more than one cornshuckin’ to
git it all shucked. The neighbors was ‘vited and such a time as us did
have atter the wuk was done. I was too little to do so much eatin’,
drinkin’, and cuttin’ the buck as the older ones done. ‘Cuttin’ the
buck’ is what I calls the kind of frolics they had atter they got full
of liquor.

“Yes, mam, they had dances all right. That’s how they got mixed up with
the paterollers. Negroes would go off to dances and stay out all night;
it would be wuk time when they got back, and they went to the field and
tried to keep right on gwine, but the Good Lord soon cut ’em down. You
couldn’t talk to folks that tried to git by with things lak that; they
warn’t gwine to do no diffunt, nohow. When they ain’t ‘cepted at St.
Peter’s gate, I’se sho they’s gwine to wish they had heeded folks that
talked to ’em and tried to holp ’em.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Sadday nights de young folkses picked de banjo, danced and cut de buck
’til long atter midnight, but Christmas times was when chilluns had deir
bestes’ good times. Marse Elbert ‘ranged to have hog killin’ close
enough to Christmas so dere would be plenty of fresh meat, and dere was
heaps of good chickens, tukkeys, cake, candies, and just evvything good.
En durin’ de Christmas, slaves visited ‘roun’ f’um house to house, but
New Year’s Day was wuk time again, and dere was allus plenty to do on
dat plantation. Most all de Niggers loved to go to dem cornshuckin’s,
’cause atter de corn was all shucked dey give ’em big suppers and let
’em dance. De cotton pickin’s was on nights when de moon was extra
bright ’cause dey couldn’t do much lightin’ up a big cotton field wid
torches lak dey did de places where dey had de cornshuckin’s. Atter
cornshuckin’s, dey mought be dancin’ by de light of torches, but us
danced in de moonlight when de cotton was picked and de prize done been
give out to de slave what picked de most. Logrollin’s was de most fun of
all. De men and ‘omans would roll dem logs and sing and dey give ’em
plenty of good eats, and whiskey by de kegs, at logrollin’s. De
Marsters, dey planned de cornshuckin’s, and cotton pickin’s, and
logrollin’s and pervided de eats and liquor, but de quiltin’ parties
b’longed to de slaves. Dey ‘ranged ’em deir own selfs and done deir own
‘vitin’ and fixed up deir own eats, but most of de Marsters would let
’em have a little somepin’ extra lak brown sugar or ‘lasses and some
liquor. De quiltin’s was in de cabins, and dey allus had ’em in winter
when dare warn’t no field wuk. Dey would quilt a while and stop to eat
apple pies, peach pies, and other good things and drink a little liquor.”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Chris’mas us went f’um house to house lookin’ for locust and persimmon
beer. Chillun went to all de houses huntin’ gingerbread. Ma used to roll
it thin, cut it out wid a thimble, and give a dozen of dem little balls
to each chile. Persimmon beer and gingerbread! What big times us did
have at Chris’mas. New Year’s Day, dey raked up de hoss and cow lots if
de weather was good. Marster jus’ made us wuk enough on New Year’s Day
to call it wukkin’, so he could say he made us start de New Year right.

“Marse David had cornshuckin’s what lasted two or three weeks at a time.
Dey had a gen’ral to keep dem brash boys straight. De number of gen’rals
‘pended on how much corn us had and how many slaves was shuckin’ corn.
Atter it was all shucked, dere was a big celebration in store for de
slaves. Dey cooked up washpots full of lamb, kid, pork, and beef, and
had collard greens dat was wu’th lookin’ at. Dey had water buckets full
of whiskey. When dem Niggers danced atter all dat eatin’ and drinkin’,
it warn’t rightly dancin’; it was wrastlin’.

“Dem moonlight cotton pickin’s was big old times. Dey give prizes to de
ones pickin’ de most cotton. De prizes was apt to be a quart of whiskey
for de man what picked de most and a dress for de ‘oman what was ahead.
Dem Niggers wouldn’t take no time to empty cotton in baskets–jus’
dumped it out quick on baggin’ in de field.

“Day went f’um one plantation to another to quiltin’s. Atter de ‘omans
got thoo’ quiltin’ and et a big dinner, den dey axed de mens to come in
and dance wid ’em.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Frolics were mostly given at corn shuckings, cane grindings, hog
killings, or quiltings. At hog killing time, huge containers of water
were heated in the yard. When it reached the desired temperature, the
hogs were driven to a certain spot where they were struck a hard blow on
the head. When they fell, they were stuck with a very sharp knife, then
scalded in the boiling water. The hair and dirt were then scrubbed off
and they were a pretty light color as they hung from a rack to be
dressed. When the work was completed, the guests cooked chitterlings and
made barbecue to be served with the usual gingercake and persimmon beer.
They then dressed in their colorful “Sunday” garments, dyed with maple
and dogwood bark, to engage in promenades, cotillions, etc., to the time
of a quill instrument.”

[Annie Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Marse Jabe Smith was a good white man. He was a grand fiddler and he
used to call us to de big house at night to dance for him. I couldn’t do
nothin’ ‘cept jump up and down and I sho’ did git tired. Marse Jabe
warn’t married. He raised his brother’s chillun, but dey was all grown
when de war come on.

“Oh! us did have a time at Chris’mas. Dey would have plenty to eat;
eggnog and all sorts of good things, and sometimes mens and ‘omans got
drunk and cut up. Marse Jabe allus give us a little cheese to eat
Christmas time. On New Year’s Day all de slaves went to de big house for
a council. Marse Jabe would talk to ’em and counsel ’em for de New Year
and tell ’em how to live.

“Cornshuckin’s! Yassum, I ricollects cornshuckin’s. De folkses comed
f’um all de plantations close ’round. Atter dey was thoo’ wid shuckin’
de corn, dey gathered ’round a long table in de yard. Marse Jabe had de
prettiest level yard you ever seed; it was swept so nice and clean. De
victuals was piled on dat table, and dey give us great kegs of apple and
peach brandy.”

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“I ‘members dem old frolics us had, when harvest times was over, and all
dat corn was piled up ready for de big cornshuckin’. Honey, us sho had
big old times. Us would cook for three or four days gittin’ ready for de
feast dat was to follow de cornshuckin’. De fust thing dey done was
‘lect a general to lead off de singin’ and keep it goin’ so de faster
dey sung, de faster dey shucked de corn. Evvy now and den dey passed de
corn liquor ’round, and dat holped ’em to wuk faster, and evvy Nigger
dat found a red ear got a extra swig of liquor. Atter de sun went down
dey wuked right on by de light of pine torches and bonfires. Dem old
pine knots would burn for a long time and throw a fine bright light.
Honey, it was one grand sight out dar at night wid dat old harvest moon
a-shinin’, fires a-burnin’, and dem old torches lit up. I kin jus’ see
it all now, and hear dem songs us sung. Dem was such happy times. When
all de corn was shucked and dey had done et all dat big supper, dey
danced for de rest of de night.

“Dey had logrollin’s when dere was new ground to be cleared up. De
menfolks done most of dat wuk, but de ‘omans jus’ come along to fix de
big supper and have a good time laughin’ and talkin’ whilst de menfolks
was doin’ de wuk. Atter de logs was all rolled, dey et, and drunk, and
danced ’til dey fell out. I’ll bet you ain’t never seed nothin’ lak dem
old break-downs and dragouts us had dem nights atter logrollin’s. Dey
sho drug heaps of dem Niggers out.

“When de harvest moon was ‘most as bright as daylight us had cotton
pickin’s. Dem big crowds of slaves would clean out a field in jus’ no
time, and you could hear ’em singin’ a long ways off whilst dey was
a-pickin’ dat cotton. Dey ‘most allus had barbecue wid all de fixin’s
to enjoy when dey finished pickin’ out de cotton, and den lots of
drinkin’ and dancin’. ‘Bout dat dancin’, Honey, I could sho cut dem
corners. Dancin’ is one thing I more’n did lak to do, and I wish I could
hear dat old dance song again. =Miss Liza Jane=, it was, and some of de
words went lak dis, ‘Steal ’round dem corners, Miss Liza Jane. Don’t
slight none, Miss Liza Jane. Swing your partner, Miss Liza Jane.’ Dere
was heaps and lots more of it, but it jus’ won’t come to me now.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“When de time come ’round to gather in de corn us wukked mighty peart
lak, ’cause us couldn’t hardly wait for de cornshuckin’s dat Marster was
gwine to let us have atter dat corn was hauled in f’um de fields.
Marster ‘vited all de other white folkses and dey brung deir Niggers
‘long. Shucks would jus’ fly off of dat corn while dem Niggers was
a-singin’ ‘Old Liza Jane’ and ‘Susan Jane’. When de cornshuckin’ was all
done, us had a big supper–chicken pies, barbecue, and plenty of
evvything good wid lots of liquor too. Atter supper dey started up
playin’ dem fiddles and banjoes, and de dancin’ begun. White folkses
danced da twistification up at de big house, but us had reg’lar old
breakdowns in a house what Marstar let us have to dance in. Wid all dat
toddy helpin’ ’em ‘long, sometimes dey danced all night, and some of ’em
fell out and had to be dragged off de dance flo’.

“Marse had log rollin’s and ‘vited evvybody. Dey all come and brung deir
Niggers. Marster had big dinners for ’em, and atter dey done rolled dem
logs all day dem Niggers evermore did eat. When dey was wukkin’ dey sung
somethin’ lak dis:

‘I’se wukkin’ on de buildin’
And hits a sho’ foundation,
And when I git done
I’se goin’ home to Heb’en.’

“All de neighbors comed to de quiltin’s, and when de quilts was
finished, dey throwed it over de head of de house. Dat brung good luck.”

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

“Dem was good old days, plenty ter eat and a cabin o’ sticks and dirt to
call yo’ own. Had good times too, ‘specially on de 4th of July and
Christmas, when old Marster Tom allus let de niggers have pigs to kill
for de feas’; why chile, you should er seen de pot we cooked dem pigs
in, it wus so big an’ heavy, it took two to put the i’on led on. And
sech music! Music played on harps, saws, and blowin’ quills. Ever’body
had a good time; even de “white folks” turned out for de dance which
went ‘way into de night.”

[Easter Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“Somehow I don’t ‘member much ’bout de celebratin’ when dey got in de
wheat and done de thrashin’. Dey was so busy wid de cotton ’bout dat
time on our place dat dere warn’t much frolickin’, but de sho’ nuff big
celebratin’ was in de fall atter all de corn was gathered and dey had
cornshuckin’s. Marse Hamp ‘vited all de white folks and deir Niggers. De
white folks visited and de Niggers done de wuk. De fust thing dey done
at cornshuckin’s was to ‘lect a gen’ral. All he done was to lead de
singin’ and try to git evvybody to jine in his song ’bout de corn, and
as dey sung faster, de shucks dey flew faster too. Atter de corn was all
shucked, dey et de big feast what us had done been cookin’ for days and
days. Hit tuk a passel of victuals, ’cause dem shuckers could sho’ hide
‘way dem good eats. Den de fiddlers started up deir music wid =Turkey in
de Straw=. De old breakdown dancin’ was on, and hit was apt to go on all
night.

“Syrup makin’ time at Marse Hamp’s was a frolic too. Us raised plenty of
sugar-cane to make dat good old ‘lasses what tasties so good wid hoecake
and home-made butter.”

[Mahala Jewel, Part II, Georgia]

“Sometimes de grown folks all went huntin’ for fun. At dem times, de
womens had on pants and tied dey heads up wid colored cloths.

“Cake walkin’ wuz a lot of fun durin’ slavery time. Dey swept de yards
real clean and set benches ’round for de party. Banjos wuz used for
music makin’. De womens wore long, ruffled dresses wid hoops in ’em and
de mens had on high hats, long split-tailed coats, and some of ’em used
walkin’ sticks. De couple dat danced best got a prize. Sometimes de
slave owners come to dese parties ’cause dey enjoyed watchin’ de dance,
and dey ‘cided who danced de best. Most parties durin’ slavery time, wuz
give on Saturday night durin’ work seasons, but durin’ winter dey wuz
give on most any night.”

[Estella Jones, Part II, Georgia]

“At Christmas dey give us anything dat us wanted. Dey give me dolls,
candy, fruit and evvything. Mistiss used to git a book and say, ‘Nig,
come here and let me larn you how to read.’ I didn’t pay no ‘tention to
her den, but now I sho’ does wish I had. My Mistiss didn’t have but one
chile, Miss Cornelia.”

[Fannie Jones, Part II, Georgia]

“Every Saturday night, the Negroes had a “breakdown,” often dancing all
night long. About twelve o’clock they had a big supper, everybody
bringing a box of all kinds of good things to eat, and putting it on a
long table.”

[Charlie King, Part III, Georgia]

“All of the slaves on the plantation were permitted to “frolic” whenever
they wanted to and for as long a time as they wanted to. The master gave
them all of the whiskey that they desired. One of the main times for a
frolic was during a corn shucking. At each frolic there was dancing,
fiddling, and eating. The next morning, however all had to be prepared
to report as usual to the fields.”

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

“Yessum, slaves sho’ looked forward to Christmas times. Dere was such
extra good eatin’s dat week and so much of ’em. Old Marster had ’em kill
a plenty of shoats, lambs, kids, cows, and turkeys for fresh meat. De
‘omans up at de big house was busy for a week ahead cookin’ peach puffs,
‘tater custards, and plenty of cakes sweetened wid brown sugar and
syrup. Dere was plenty of home-made candy for de chilluns’ Santa Claus
and late apples and peaches had done been saved and banked in wheat
straw to keep ’em good ’til Christmas. Watermelons was packed away in
cottonseed and when dey cut ’em open on Christmas Dey, dey et lak fresh
melons in July. Us had a high old time for a week, and den on New Year’s
Day dey started back to wuk.

“Come winter, de mens had big cornshuckin’s and dere was quiltin’s for
de ‘omans. Dere was a row of corn to be shucked as long as from here to
Milledge Avenue. Old Marster put a gang of Niggers at each end of de row
and it was a hot race ‘tween dem gangs to see which could git to de
middle fust. Dere was allus a big feast waitin’ for ’em when de last ear
of corn was shucked. ‘Bout dem quiltin’s!” Now Lady, what would a old
Nigger man know ’bout somepin’ dat didn’t nothin’ but ‘omans have
nothin’ to do wid?

“Dem cotton pickin’s was grand times. Dey picked cotton in de moonlight
and den had a big feast of barbecued beef, mutton, and pork washed down
wid plenty of good whiskey. Atter de feast was over, some of dem Niggers
played fiddles and picked banjoes for de others to dance down ’til dey
was wore out.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“We always had one week for Christmas. They brought us as much of good
things to eat as we could destroy in one week, but on New Year’s Day we
went back to work. No, Ma’am, as I ricollect, we didn’t have no corn
shuckings or cotton pickings only what we had to do as part of our
regular work.”

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

“Saturday varied a little from the other week days. The field work was
suspended in the afternoon to allow the mothers time to wash their
clothing. With sunset came the preparations for the weekly frolic. A
fiddler furnished music while the dancers danced numerous square dances
until a late hour.”

[Matilda McKinney, Part III, Georgia]

“Dey said on some plantations slaves was let off from wuk when de dinner
bell rung on Saddays, but not on our’n; dere warn’t never no let-up ’til
sundown on Sadday nights atter dey had tended to de stock and et supper.
On Sundays dey was ‘lowed to visit ’round a little atter dey had ‘tended
church, but dey still had to be keerful to have a pass wid ’em. Marse
Joe let his slaves have one day for holiday at Christmas and he give ’em
plenty of extra good somepin t’eat and drink on dat special day. New
Year’s Day was de hardest day of de whole year, for de overseer jus’
tried hisself to see how hard he could drive de Niggers dat day, and
when de wuk was all done de day ended off wid a big pot of cornfield
peas and hog jowl to eat for luck. Dat was s’posed to be a sign of
plenty too.

“Cornshuckin’s was a mighty go dem days, and folks from miles and miles
around was axed. When de wuk was done dey had a big time eatin’,
drinkin’, wrestlin’, dancin’, and all sorts of frolickin’. Even wid all
dat liquor flowin’ so free at cornshuckin’s I never heared of nobody
gittin’ mad, and Marse Joe never said a cross word at his cornshuckin’s.
He allus picked bright moonshiny nights for dem big cotton pickin’s, and
dere warn’t nothin’ short ’bout de big eats dat was waitin’ for dem
Niggers when de cotton was all picked out. De young folks danced and cut
up evvy chanct dey got and called deyselfs havin’ a big time.

“Games? Well, ’bout de biggest things us played when I was a chap was
baseball, softball, and marbles. Us made our own marbles out of clay and
baked ’em in de sun, and our baseballs and softballs was made out of
rags.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“On this plantation the Negroes were not allowed to engage in any frolics
or attend social gatherings. They only knew Christmas by the return of
the hired out slaves, who came home for a week before the next auction.”

[Mollie Malone, Part III, Georgia]

“Dances in dem days warn’t dese here huggin’ kind of dances lak dey has
now. Dere warn’t no Big Apple nor no Little Apple neither. Us had a
house wid a raised flatform (platform) at one end whar de music-makers
sot. Dey had a string band wid a fiddle, a trumpet, and a banjo, but
dere warn’t no guitars lak dey has in dis day. One man called de sets
and us danced de cardrille (quadrille) de virginia reel, and de 16-hand
cortillion. When us made syrup on de farm dere would always be a candy
pullin’. Dat homemade syrup made real good candy. Den us would have a
big time at corn shuckin’s too.”

[Liza Mention, Part III, Georgia]

“Slaves had half a day off on Saturday. Dey had frolics at night,
quiltings, dances, corn-shuckings, and played de fiddle. Dey stayed in
de quarters Sunday or went to church. Dey belonged to de same church wid
de whitefolks. I belonged to Old Liberty Baptist Church. De back seats
was whar de slaves set. Dey belonged to de same church just like de
whitefolks, but I wasn’t with ’em much.”

[Aunt Harriet Miller, Part III, Georgia]

“Us chillun would git up long ‘fore day Chris’mas mawnin’. Us used ter
hang our stockin’s over de fire place, but when Chris’mas mawnin’ come
dey wuz so full, hit would of busted ’em to hang ’em up on a nail, so
dey wuz allus layin’ on Ma’s cheer when us waked up. Us chillun won’t
‘lowed to go ’round de big house early on Chris’mas mawnin’ kaze us
mought ‘sturb our white folkses’ rest, and den dey done already seed dat
us got plenny Santa Claus in our own cabins. Us didn’t know nuffin’
’bout New Years Day when I wuz chillun.”

[Anna Parkes, Part III, Georgia]

“De most Niggers ever done for a good time wuz to have little parties
wid heaps of fidlin’ and dancin’. On Sunday nights dey would have prayer
meetin’s. Dem patterollers would come and break our prayer meetin’s up
and brush us if dey cotch us.

“Chris’mas wuz somepin’ else. Us had awful good times den, ’cause de
white folkses at de big house give us plenty of goodies for Chris’mas
week and us had fidlin’ and dancin’. Us would ring up de gals and run
all ’round ’em playin’ dem ring-’round-de-rosie games. Us had more good
times at corn shuckin’s, and Old Marster allus had a little toddy to
give us den to make us wuk faster.”

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

“Mrs. Price said that the slaves had very few amusements and as far as
she can remember she never saw her parents indulge in any form of play
at all. She remembers, however, that on the adjoining plantation the
slaves often had frolics where they sang and danced far into the night.
These frolics were not held very often but were usually few and far
between.”

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

“Sometimes quilting parties were held in the various cabins on the
plantation. Everyone would assist in making the winter bed covering for
one family one night and the next night for some other family, and so on
until everyone had sufficient bed covering.”

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

“Atter I growed up, us niggers on Marse Bob’s plantation had big times
at our corn shuckin’s an’ dances. Us ‘ud all git tergether at one uv de
cabins an us ‘ud have er big log fire an’ er room ter dance in. Den when
us had all shucked corn er good while ever nigger would git his gal an’
dey would be some niggers over in de corner ter play fer de dance, one
wid er fiddle an’ one ter beat straws, an’ one wid er banjo, an’ one ter
beat bones, an’ when de music ‘ud start up (dey gener’ly played ‘Billy
in de Low Grounds’ or ‘Turkey in de Straw’) us ‘ud git on de flo’. Den
de nigger whut called de set would say: ‘All join hands an’ circle to de
lef, back to de right, swing corners, swing partners, all run away!’ An’
de way dem niggers feets would fly!”

[Fanny Randolph, Part III, Georgia]

“When the “hog killin’ time come” it took 150 nigger men a week to do it.
The sides, shoulders, head and jowls were kept to feed the slaves on and
the rest was shipped to Savannah. Mr. Neal was good to his slaves and
gave them every Saturday to “play” and go to the “wrestling school”. At
Xmas they had such a good time, would go from house to house, the boys
would fiddle and they’d have a drink of liquor at each house. The liquor
was plentiful for they bought it in barrels. The plantations took turn
about having “Frolics” when they “fiddled and danced” all night.”

[Shade Richards, Part III, Georgia]

“De colored folks
had dey fun as well as dey trials and tribulations, ’cause dat Sat’day
nigh dance at de plantation wuz jist de finest ting we wanted in dem
days. All de slabes fum de udder plantation dey cum ta our barn an’ jine
in an’ if dey had a gal on dis plantation dey lob, den dat wuz da time
dey would court. Dey would swing to de band dat made de music. My
brother wuz de captain ob de quill band an’ dey sure could make you
shout an’ dance til you quz [TR: wuz?] nigh ’bout exhausted. Atta
findin’ ya gal ta dat dance den you gits passes to come courtin’ on
Sundays. Den de most ob dom dey wants git married an’ dey must den git
de consent fum de massa ceremonies wuz read ober dem and de man git
passes fo’ de week-end ta syat [TR: stay?] wid his wife. But de slabes
dey got togedder an’ have dem jump over de broom stick an’ have a big
celebration an’ dance an’ make merry ’til morning and it’s time fo’ work
agin.

“We worked de fields an’ kep’ up de plantation ’til freedom. Ebry
Wednesday de massa come visit us an look ober de plantation ta see dat
all is well. He talk ta de obersheer an’ find out how good de work is.
We lub de massa an’ work ha’d fo’ him.

“Ah kin ‘member dat Wednesday night plain as it wuz yesterday. It seems
lak de air ’round de quarters an’ de big house filled wid excitement;
eben de wind seem lak it wuz waitin’ fo’ som’ting. De dogs an’ de
pickaninnies dey sleep lazy like ‘gainst de big gate waitin’ fo’ de
crack ob dat whip which wuz de signal dat Julius wuz bringin’ de master
down de long dribe under de oaks. Chile, us all wuz happy knowin’ date
de fun would start.

“All of a sudden you hear dem chilluns whoop, an’ de dogs bark, den de
car’age roll up wid a flourish, an’ de coachman dressed in de fines’ git
out an’ place de cookie try on de groun’. Den dey all gadder in de
circle an’ fo’ dey git dey supply, dey got ta do de pigeon wing.

“Chile, you ain’t neber seen sich flingin’ ob de arms an’ legs in yo’
time. Dem pickaninnies dey had de natural born art ob twistin’ dey body
any way dey wish. Dat dere ting dey calls truckin’ now an’ use to be
chimmy, ain’t had no time wid de dancin’ dem chilluns do. Dey claps dey
hands and keep de time, while dat old brudder ob mine he blows de
quills. Massa he would allus bring de big tray ob ‘lasses cookies fo’
all de chilluns. Fast as de tray would empty, Massa send ta de barrel
fo’ more. De niggers do no work dat day, but dey jist celebrate.”

[Dora Roberts, Part III, Georgia]

“Did you have big times at Christmas, Aunt Ferebe?”

“Chris’man–huh!–Chris’man warn’t no diffunt from other times. We used
to have quiltin’ parties, candy pullin’s, dances, corn shuckin’s, games
like thimble and sich like.”

[Ferebe Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

“Christmas was a great holiday on the plantation. There was no work done
and everybody had a good time with plenty of everything good to eat.
Easter was another time when work was laid aside. A big Church service
took place Sunday and on Monday a picnic was attended by all the negroes
in the community.

There were Fourth of July celebrations, log rollings, corn shuckings,
house coverings and quilting parties. In all of these except the Fourth
of July celebration it was a share-the-work idea. Uncle Henry grew a bit
sad when he recalled how “peoples use ter be so good ’bout hep’in’ one
‘nother, an’ now dey don’t do nothin’ fer nobody lessen’ dey pays ’em.”
He told how, when a neighbor cleared a new ground and needed help, he
invited all the men for some distance around and had a big supper
prepared. They rolled logs into huge piles and set them afire. When all
were piled high and burning brightly, supper was served by the fire
light. Sometimes the younger ones danced around the burning logs. When
there was a big barn full of corn to be shucked the neighbors gladly
gathered in, shucked the corn for the owner, who had a fiddler and maybe
some one to play the banjo. The corn was shucked to gay old tunes and
piled high in another barn. Then after a “good hot supper” there was
perhaps a dance in the cleared barn. When a neighbor’s house needed
covering, he got the shingles and called in his neighbors and friends,
who came along with their wives. While the men worked atop the house the
women were cooking a delicious dinner down in the kitchen. At noon it
was served amid much merry making. By sundown the house was finished and
the friends went home happy in the memory of a day spent in toil freely
given to one who needed it.

All those affairs were working ones, but Uncle Henry told of one that
marked the end of toil for a season and that was the Fourth of July as
celebrated on the Hunt and Alfriend plantations. He said: “On the
evenin’ of the third of July all plows, gear, hoes an’ all sich farm
tools wuz bro’t in frum the fields an’ put in the big grove in front o’
the house where a long table had been built. On the Fo’th a barbecue wuz
cooked, when dinner wuz ready all the han’s got they plows an’ tools,
the mules wuz bro’t up an’ gear put on them, an’ den ole Uncle Aaron
started up a song ’bout the crops wuz laid by an’ res’ time had come,
an’ everybody grabbed a hoe er sumpin’, put it on they shoulder an’
jined the march ’round an’ round the table behind Uncle Aaron singin’
an’ marchin’, Uncle Aaron linin’ off the song an’ ev’ry body follerin’
him. It wuz a sight to see all the han’s an’ mules er goin’ ’round the
table like that. Den when ev’ry body wuz might nigh ‘zausted, they
stopped an’ et a big barbecue dinner. Us use ter work hard to git laid
by by de Fo’th so’s we could celebrate. It sho’ wuz a happy time on our
plantations an’ the white peoples enjoyed it as much as us niggers did.

“Us use ter have good times over there in Hancock County”, continued
Uncle Henry. Ev’rybody wuz so good an’ kind ter one ‘nother; ‘t’ain’t
like that now–no mam, not lak it use ter be. Why I ‘members onst, when
I fust growed up an’ wuz farmin’ fer myself, I got sick way long up in
the Spring, an’ my crop wuz et up in grass when one evenin’ Mr.
Harris–(he wuz overseein’ fer Mr. Treadwell over on the next plantation
to the Alfriends)–come by. I wuz out in the field tryin’ ter scratch
’round as best I could, Mr. Harris say: ‘Brit, you in de grass mighty
bad.’ I say: ‘Yassir, I is, but I been sick an’ couldn’t hep’ myself,
that’s how come I so behind.’ He say: ‘Look lak you needs hep’.’
‘Yassir,’ I says, ‘but I ain’t got nobody to work but me.’ Dat’s all he
said. Well sir, the nex’ mornin’ by times over comes Mr. Harris wid six
plows an’ eight hoe han’s an’ they give me a whole day’s work an’ when
they finished that evenin’ they want a sprig of grass in my crop; it wuz
clean as this floor, an’ I’se tellin’ yer the truth. Dat’s the way
peoples use ter do, but not no mo’–everybody too selfish now, an’ they
think ain’t nobody got responsibilits (responsibilities) but them.”

[Henry Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

“Us chilluns was glad to see Chris’mas time come ’cause us had plenty to
eat den; sich as hogshead, backbones, a heap of cake, and a little
candy. Us had apples what had been growed on de place and stored away
special for Chris’mas. Marse Jeff bought some lallahoe, dat was syrup,
and had big old pones of lightbread baked for us to sop it up wid. What
us laked best ’bout Chris’mas was de good old hunk of cheese dey give us
den and de groundpeas. Don’t you know what groundpeas is? Dem’s goobers
(peanuts). Such a good time us did have, a-parchin’ and a-eatin’ dem
groundpeas! If dere was oranges us didn’t git none. Marse Jeff give de
grown folkses plenty of liquor and dey got drunk and cut de buck whilst
it lasted. New Year’s Day was de time to git back to wuk.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“When de craps was laid by and most of de hardest wuk of de year done
up, den was camp-meetin’ time, ‘long in de last of July and sometimes in
August. Dat was when us had de biggest times of all. Dey had great big
long tables and jus’ evvything good t’eat. Marster would kill five or
six hogs and have ’em carried dar to be barbecued, and he carried his
own cooks along. Atter de white folks et dey fed de Niggers, and dere
was allus a plenty for all. Marster sho’ looked atter all his Niggers
good at dem times. When de camp-meetin’ was over, den come de big
baptizin’: white folks fust, den Niggers. One time dere was a old slave
‘oman what got so skeered when dey got her out in de crick dat somebody
had to pull her foots out from under her to git her under de water. She
got out from dar and testified dat it was de devil a-holdin’ her back.

“Dem cornshuckin’s was sho’ ‘nough big times. When us got all de corn
gathered up and put in great long piles, den de gittin’ ready started.
Why dem ‘omans cooked for days, and de mens would git de shoats ready to
barbecue. Marster would send us out to git de slaves from de farms
’round about dar.

“De place was all lit up wid light’ood-knot torches and bonfires, and
dere was ‘citement a-plenty when all de Niggers got to singin’ and
shoutin’ as dey made de shucks fly. One of dem songs went somepin lak
dis: ‘Oh! my haid, my pore haid, Oh! my pore haid is ‘fected.’ Dere
warn’t nothin’ wrong wid our haids–dat was jus’ our way of lettin’ our
overseer know us wanted some likker. Purty soon he would come ’round wid
a big horn of whiskey, and dat made de ‘pore haid’ well, but it warn’t
long ‘fore it got wuss again, and den us got another horn of whiskey.
When de corn was all shucked den us et all us could and, let me tell
you, dat was some good eatin’s. Den us danced de rest of de night.

“Next day when us all felt so tired and bad, Marster he would tell us
’bout stayin’ up all night, but Mist’ess tuk up for us, and dat tickled
Old Marster. He jus’ laughed and said: ‘Will you listen to dat ‘oman?’
Den he would make some of us sing one of dem songs us had done been
singin’ to dance by. It goes sort of lak dis: ‘Turn your pardner ’round!
Steal ’round de corner, ’cause dem Johnson gals is hard to beat! Jus’
glance ’round and have a good time! Dem gals is hard to find!’ Dat’s
jus’ ’bout all I can ricollect of it now.”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

“Us had parties an’ dances at night. Sometimes Mist’ess let Celia wear
some of de little missies’ clo’es, ’cause she wanted her to outshine de
other Nigger gals. Dey give us a week at Christmas time, an’ Christmas
day wuz a big day. Dey give us most evvythin’: a knot of candy as big as
my fist, an’ heaps of other good things. At corn shuckin’s Old Marster
fotched a gallon keg of whiskey to de quarters an’ passed it ’round.
Some just got tipsy an’ some got low down drunk. De onliest cotton
pickin’ us knowed ’bout wuz when us picked in de daytime, an’ dey warn’t
no good time to dat. A Nigger can’t even sing much wid his head all bent
down pickin’ cotton.

“Folkses had fine times at weddin’s dem days. Dar wuz more vittuls dan
us could eat. Now dey just han’ out a little somethin’. De white folkses
had a fine time too. Dey let de Niggers git married in deir houses. If
it wuz bad weather, den de weddin’ wuz most genully in de hall, but if
it wuz a pretty day, dey married in de yard.

“I can’t ‘member much ’bout de games us played or de songs us sung. A
few of de games wuz marbles, football, an’ town ball.”

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

“The slaves on “Marse Jim’s” place were allowed about four holidays a
year, and a week at Christmas, to frolic. The amusements were dancing
(“the break-down”), banjo playing, and quill blowing. Sometimes when the
“patarol” was in a good humor, he would take about twenty-five or thirty
“Niggers” and go fishing at night. This kind of fishing was mostly
seining, and usually “they got plenty o’ fish”.

[Charlie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Yes’m,” was the reply. “We never worked on Christmas or the Fourth of
July. Marster always give us big sacks of fruit an’ candy on Christmas
an’ a barbecue the Fourth of July. We never worked none New Year’s Day,
neither. We jest sot around an’ et chicken, fish an’ biscuit. Durin’ the
week on Wednesday an’ Thursday night we had dances an’ then they was a
lot of fiddlin’ an’ banjo playin’. We was glad to see days when we never
had to work ’cause then we could sleep. It seem like the niggers had to
git up soon’s they lay down. Marster was good to us but the overseer was
mean. He wan’t no po’ white trash; he was up-to-date but he like to beat
on niggers.”

[Melvin Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Now Missy, how come you wants to know ’bout dem frolics us had dem
days? Most of ’em ended up scandlous, plumb scandlous. At harvest season
dere was cornshuckin’s, wheat-thrashin’s, syrup-cookin’s, and
logrollin’s. All dem frolics come in deir own good time. Cornshuckin’s
was de most fun of ’em all. Evvybody come from miles around to dem
frolics. Soon atter de wuk got started, marster got out his little brown
jug, and when it started gwine de rounds de wuk would speed up wid sich
singin’ as you never heared, and dem Niggers was wuking in time wid de
music. Evvy red ear of corn meant an extra swig of liquor for de Nigger
what found it. When de wuk was done and dey was ready to go to de tables
out in de yard to eat dem big barbecue suppers, dey grabbed up deir
marster and tuk him to de big house on deir shoulders. When de supper
was et, de liquor was passed some more and dancin’ started, and
sometimes it lasted all night. Folkses sometimes had frolics what dey
called fairs; dey lasted two or three days. Wid so much dancin’, eatin’,
and liquor drinkin’ gwine on for dat long, lots of fightin’ took place.
It was awful. Dey cut on one another wid razors and knives jus’ lak dey
was cuttin’ on wood. I ‘spects I was bad as de rest of ’em ’bout dem
razor fights, but not whar my good old mist’ess could larn ’bout it. I
never did no fightin’ ’round de meetin’-house. It was plumb sinful de
way some of dem Niggers would git in ruckuses right in meetin’ and break
up de services.”

[Paul Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Did you ever hear of dem logrollin’s? On our place dey spent ’bout two
whole days cookin’ and gittin’ ready. Marster axed evvybody from fur and
nigh, and dey allus come ’cause dey knowed he was gwine to give ’em a
good old time. De way dey rolled dem logs was a sight, and de more good
corn liquor Marster passed ’round, de faster dem logs rolled. Come
night-time, Marster had a big bonfire built up and sot lots of pitchpine
torches ’round so as dere would be plenty of light for ’em to see how to
eat dat fine supper what had done been sot out for ’em. Atter supper,
dey danced nigh all de rest of de night. Mammy used to tell us ’bout de
frolics next day, ’cause us chillun was made to go to bed at sundown.
Come day, go day, no matter what might happen, growin’ chillun had to be
in bed at deir reg’lar time, but Mammy never forgot to tell us all ’bout
de good times next day.

“Mammy said dem cornshuckin’s meant jus’ as much fun and jollification
as wuk. Dey gathered Marster’s big corn crap and ‘ranged it in long,
high piles, and sometimes it tuk sev’ral days for dem cornshuckers to
git it all shucked, but evvybody stayed right dar on de job ’til it was
finished. At night, dey wukked by de light of big fires and torches, den
dey had de big supper and started dancin’. Dey stopped so often to swig
dat corn liquor Marster pervided for ’em dat ‘fore midnight folkses
started fallin’ out and drappin’ down in de middle of de dance ring. De
others would git ’em by de heels and drag ’em off to one side ’til dey
come to and was ready to drink more liquor and dance again. Dat was de
way dey went on de rest of de night.”

[Cordelia Thomas, Part IV, Georgia]

“At Christmas Santa Claus found his way to the Quarters on the Gollatt
plantation and each little slave had candy, apples, and “sich good
things as dat.” Aunt Jane gave a glowing description of the preparation
for the Christmas season: “Lawdy, how de folks wu’ked gittin’ ready fer
Chris’mus, fer three er fo’ days dey stayed in de kitchen er cookin’ an’
er bakin’–daye wuz de bes’ light bread–great big loaves baked on de
fire place, an’ cakes an’ mo’ good ginger cakes. Dey wuz plenty cooked
up to las’ er long time. An’ another thing, dare want no cookin’ on
Sunday, no mam, no wu’k of no kind. My Mistess had de cook cookin’ all
day Fridays an’ Saddays so when Sunday come dare wuz hot coffee made an’
dat wuz all, everything else wuz cooked up an’ cold.”

[Jane Toombs, Part IV, Georgia]

“Recreation was not considered important so no provision was made in the
regular routine. It was, however, possible to obtain “time off” at
frequent intervals and these might be termed irregular vacation periods.
Evening entertainment at which square dancing was the main attraction,
were common. Quill music, from a homemade harmonica, was played when
banjoes were not available. These instruments were made by binding with
cane five to ten reeds of graduated lengths. A hole was cut in the upper
end of each and the music obtained by blowing up and down the scale.
Guests came from all neighboring farms and engaged in the “Green Corn”
dance which was similar to what is now called Buck dancing. Near the end
of such a hilarious evening, the guests were served with persimmon beer
and ginger cakes,–then considered delicacies.”

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

“‘Bout de best times us had in de plantation days was de corn shuckin’s,
log rollin’s and syrup cookin’s. Us allus finished up dem syrup cookin’s
wid a candy pullin’.”Atter he had all his corn gathered and put in big long piles, Marster
‘vited de folkses from all ’round dem parts. Dat was de way it was done;
evvybody holped de others git de corn shucked. Nobody thought of hirin’
folkses and payin’ out cash money for extra wuk lak dat. Dey ‘lected a
gen’ral to lead off de singin’ and atter he got ’em to keepin’ time wid
de singin’ de little brown jug was passed ’round. When it had gone de
rounds a time or two, it was a sight to see how fast dem Niggers could
keep time to dat singin’. Dey could do all sorts of double time den when
dey had swigged enough liquor. When de corn was all shucked dey feasted
and den drunk more liquor and danced as long as dey could stand up. De
logrollin’s and candy pullin’s ended de same way. Dey was sho grand good
times.”

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

“How did they spend Sundays? Why, they went to church on Sunday and
visited around, holding prayermeetings at one another’s cabins. Now,
Christmas morning! Yes, mam, that was a powerful time with the darkies,
if they didn’t have nothing but a little sweet cake, which was nothing
more than gingerbread. However, Marse George did have plenty of good
things to eat at that time, such as fresh pork and wild turkeys, and we
were allowed to have a biscuit on that day. How we did frolic and cut up
at Christmas! Marse George didn’t make much special to do on New Year’s
Day as far as holiday was concerned; work was the primary object,
especially in connection with slaves.”Oh-oo-h!

Everybody had cornshuckings. The man designated to act as the
general would stick a peacock tail feather in his hat and call all the
men together and give his orders. He would stand in the center of the
corn pile, start the singing, and keep things lively for them. Now and
then he would pass around the jug. They sang a great deal during
cornshuckings, but I have forgotten the words to those songs. Great
excitement was expressed whenever a man found a red ear of corn, for
that counted 20 points, a speckled ear was 10 points and a blue ear 5
points, toward a special extra big swig of liquor whenever a person had
as many as 100 points. After the work was finished they had a big feast
spread on long tables in the yard, and dram flowed plentiful, then they
played ball, tussled, ran races, and did anything they knew how to amuse
themselves.”

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

“Us had four days holiday for Christmas. Old Miss give us
lots of good things to eat dem four days; dere was cake, fresh meat, and
all kinds of dried fruit what had been done stored away. All de Niggers
tuk dat time to rest but my Mammy. She tuk me and went ’round to de
white folkses’ houses to wash and weave. Dey said I was a right smart,
peart little gal, and white folkses used to try to hire me from Old
Miss. When dey axed her for me, Old Miss allus told ’em: ‘You don’t want
to hire dat gal; she ain’t no ‘count.’ She wouldn’t let nobody hire her
Niggers, ‘cept Mammy, ’cause she knowed Mammy warn’t gwine to leave her
nohow. On New Year’s Day, if dere warn’t too much snow on de ground, de
Niggers burnt brush and cleared new ground.

“When Aunt Patience led de singin’ at cornshuckin’s, de shucks sho’ly
did fly. Atter de corn was shucked, dey fed us lots of good things and
give us plenty of liquor. De way cotton pickin’ was managed was dis:
evvybody dat picked a thousand pounds of cotton in a week’s time was
‘lowed a day off. Mammy picked her thousand pounds evvy week.

“Dances? Now you’s talkin’ ’bout somepin’ sho’ ‘nough. Old John, de
fiddler man, was right dere on our plantation. Niggers dat had done
danced half de night would be so sleepy when de bugle sounded dey
wouldn’t have time to cook breakfast. Den ’bout de middle of de mawnin’
dey would complain ’bout bein’ so weak and hongry dat de overseer would
fetch ’em in and have ’em fed. He let ’em rest ’bout a hour and a half;
den he marched ’em back to de field and wuked ’em ’til slap black dark.
Aunt Sook was called de lead wench. If de moon warn’t out, she put a
white cloth ’round her shoulders and led ’em on.”

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

“Marse Jim was mighty good to de Niggers what wukked for him, and us all
loved him. He didn’t ‘low no patterollers or none of dem Ku Kluxers
neither to bother de Niggers on his place. He said he could look atter
’em his own self. He let ’em have dances, and evvy Fourth of July he had
big barbecues. Yessum, he kilt hogs, goats, sheep and sometimes a cow
for dem barbecues. He believed in havin’ plenty to eat.

“I ‘members dem big corn shuckin’s. He had de mostes’ corn, what was in
great big piles put in a circle. All de neighbors was axed to come and
bring deir Niggers. De fus’ thing to do was to ‘lect a gen’ral to stand
in de middle of all dem piles of corn and lead de singin’ of de reels.
No Ma’am, I don’t ‘member if he had no shuck stuck up on his hat or not,
and I can’t ricollec’ what de words of de reels was, ’cause us chillun
was little den, but de gen’ral he pulled off de fus’ shuck. Den he
started singin’ and den dey all sung in answer to him, and deir two
hands a-shuckin’ corn kep’ time wid de song. As he sung faster, dey jus’
made dem shucks more dan fly. Evvy time de gen’ral would speed up de
song, de Niggers would speed up deir corn shuckin’s. If it got dark
‘fore dey finished, us chillun would hold torch lights for ’em to see
how to wuk. De lights was made out of big pine knots what would burn a
long time. Us felt mighty big when us was ‘lowed to hold dem torches.

When dey got done shuckin’ all de corn, dey had a big supper, and Honey,
dem was sho’ some good eatments–barbecue of all sorts–jus’ thinkin’
’bout dem pies makes me hongry, even now. Ma made ’em, and she couldn’t
be beat on chicken pies and sweet potato pies. Atter dey done et and
drunk all dey wanted, Marse Jim would tell ’em to go to it. Dat was de
word for de gen’ral to start up de dancin’, and dat lasted de rest of de
night; dat is if dey didn’t all fall out, for old time corn shuckin’
breakdowns was drag-outs and atter all dem ‘freshments, hit sho’ kept
somebody busy draggin’ out dem what fell out. Us chillun was ‘lowed to
stay up long as us wanted to at corn shuckin’s, and sometimes us would
git out and try to do lak de grown-up Niggers. Hit was de mos’ fun.

“Dey went huntin’ and fishin’ and when dey cotch or kilt much, dey had a
big supper. I ‘members de fus’ time I ever cooked ‘possum. Ma was sick
in de bed, and de mens had done been ‘possum huntin’. Ma said I would
jus’ have to cook dem ‘possums. She told me how to fix ’em and she said
to fix ’em wid potatoes and plenty of butter and red pepper. Den she
looked at me right hard and said dat dey had better be jus’ right. Dat
skeered me so I ain’t never been so I could eat no ‘possum since den.
Yessum, dey was cooked jus’ right, but cookin’ ’em jus’ once when I was
skeered cured me of de taste for eatin’ ‘possum.”

[Emma Virgel, Part IV, Georgia]

“Saturday was the only afternoon off and Christmas was the only vacation
period, but one week of festivities made this season long remembered.
Many “frolics” were given and everyone danced where banjoes were
available; also, these resourceful people secured much of their music
from an improvised fiddle fashioned from a hand saw. Immediately after
these festivities, preparations began for spring planting. New ground
was cleared; old land fertilized and the corn fields cleared of last
year’s rubbish.”

[Rhoda Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

“The only time that this diet ever varied was at Christmas time when the
master had all slaves gathered in one large field. Then several hogs
were killed and barbecued. Everyone was permitted to eat as much as he
could, but was forbidden to take anything home. When some one was
fortunate enough to catch a possum or a coon, he had a change of food.”

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

“‘Bout Christmas Day? They always had something like brandy, cider, or
whiskey to stimulate the slaves on Christmas Day. Then there was fresh
meat and ash-roasted sweet ‘taters, but no cake for slaves on our place,
anyhow, I never saw no cake, and surely no Santa Claus. All we knowed
bout Christmas was eating and drinking. As a general thing there was a
big day’s work expected on New Years Day because we had to start the
year off right, even if there was nothing for the slaves to do that day
but clean fence corners, cut brush and briers, and burn off new ground.
New Years Day ended up with a big old pot of hog jowl and peas. That was
for luck, but I never really knowed if it brought luck or not.

“Well, yes, once a year they had big cornshuckings in our section and
they had generals to lead off in all the singing; that was done to whoop
up the work. My Pa was one of the generals and he toted the jug of
liquor that was passed ’round to make his crowd hustle. After the corn
was shucked the crowd divided into two groups. Their object was to see
which could reach the owner of the corn first and carry him where he
wanted to go. Usually they marched with him on their shoulders to his
big house and set him down on his porch, then he would give the word for
them to all start eating the good things spread out on tables in the
yard. There was a heap of drinking done then, and dancing too–just all
kinds of dancing that could be done to fiddle and banjo music. My Pa was
one of them fiddlers in his young days. One of the dances was the
cotillion, but just anybody couldn’t dance that one. There was a heap of
bowing and scraping to it, and if you were not ‘quainted with it you
just couldn’t use it.”

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

“Christmas times, chilluns went to bed early ’cause dey was skeered
Santa Claus wouldn’t come. Us carried our stockin’s up to de big house
to hang ’em up. Next mornin’ us found ’em full of all sorts of good
things, ‘cept oranges. I never seed nary a orange ’til I was a big gal.
Miss Polly had fresh meat, cake, syrup puddin’ and plenty of good sweet
butter what she ‘lowanced out to her slaves at Christmas. Old Marster,
he made syrup by de barrel. Plenty of apples and nuts and groundpeas was
raised right dar on de plantation. In de Christmas, de only wuk slaves
done was jus’ piddlin’ ’round de house and yards, cuttin’ wood, rakin’
leaves, lookin’ atter de stock, waitin’ on de white folks and little
chores lak dat. Hard work started again on de day atter New Year’s Day.
Old Marster ‘lowed ’em mighty little rest from den ’til atter de craps
was laid by.

“Course Marster let his slaves have cornshuckin’s, cornshellin’s, cotton
pickin’s, and quiltin’s. He had grove atter grove of pecan, chestnut,
walnut, hickor’nut, scalybark, and chinquapin trees. When de nuts was
all gathered, Old Marster sold ’em to de big men in de city. Dat was why
he was so rich. Atter all dese things was gathered and tended to, he
give his slaves a big feast and plenty to drink, and den he let ’em rest
up a few days ‘fore dey started back to hard wuk.”

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

“There were some days when the master called them all to his back yard
and told them that they could have a frolic. While they danced and sang
the master and his family sat and looked on. On days like the Fourth of
July and Christmas in addition to the frolic barbecue was served and
says Mr. Womble: “It was right funny to see all of them dancing around
the yard with a piece of meat in one hand and a piece of bread in the
other.”

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

“Even with all the hardships that the slaves had to suffer they still had
time to have fun and to enjoy themselves, Mr. Wright continued. At
various times Mr. House permitted them to have a frolic. These frolics
usually took place on such holidays as 4th of July, Christmas or
“laying-by time”, after the cultivating of the crops was finished and
before gathering time. During the day the master provided a big barbecue
and at night the singing and dancing started. Music was furnished by
slaves who were able to play the banjo or the fiddle. The slaves usually
bought these instruments themselves and in some cases the master bought
them. “In my case,” declared Mr. Wright, “I made a fiddle out of a large
sized gourd–a long wooden handle was used as a neck, and the hair from
a horse’s tail was used for the bow. The strings were made of cat-gut.
After I learned to play this I bought a better violin.” Sometimes the
slaves slipped away to the woods to indulge in a frolic. As a means of
protection they tied ropes across the paths where they would be less
likely to be seen. These ropes were placed at such a height as to knock
a man from his horse if he came riding up at a great speed. In this way
the master or the overseer was stopped temporarily, thereby giving the
slaves time to scamper to safety. In addition to the presents given at
Christmas (candy and clothing) the master also gave each family half a
gallon of whisky. This made the parties more lively.”

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

Georgia Slave Clothes

Georgia Slave Clothes

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their clothes as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Summertime, us jus’ wore homespun dresses made lak de slips dey use for
underwear now. De coats what us wore over our wool dresses in winter was
knowed as ‘sacques’ den, ’cause dey was so loose fittin’. Dey was heavy
and had wool in ’em too. Marse Lewis, he had a plenty of sheep, ’cause
dey was bound to have lots of warm winter clothes, and den too, dey
lakked mutton to eat. Oh! dem old brogan shoes was coarse and rough.
When Marse Lewis had a cow kilt dey put de hide in de tannin’ vat. When
de hides was ready, Uncle Ben made up de shoes, and sometimes dey let
Uncle Jasper holp him if dere was many to be made all at one time. Us
wore de same sort of clothes on Sunday as evvyday, only dey had to be
clean and fresh when dey was put on Sunday mornin’.”

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

“Each family was provided with a loom and in Mrs. Avery’s family, her
grandmother, Sylvia Heard, did most of the carding and spinning of the
thread into cloth. The most common cloth for women clothes was homespun,
and calico. This same cloth was dyed and used to make men shirts and
pants. Dye was prepared by taking a berry known as the shumake berry and
boiling them with walnut peelings. Spring and fall were the seasons for
masters to give shoes and clothing to their slaves. Both men and women
wore brogan shoes, the only difference being the piece in the side of
the womens.”

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

“Summertime us jus’ wore what us wanted to. Dresses was made wid full
skirts gathered on to tight fittin’ waisties. Winter clothes was good
and warm; dresses made of yarn cloth made up jus’ lak dem summertime
clothes, and petticoats and draw’s made out of osnaburg. Chillun what
was big enough done de spinnin’ and Aunt Betsey and Aunt Tinny, dey wove
most evvy night ’til dey rung de bell at 10:00 o’clock for us to go to
bed. Us made bolts and bolts of cloth evvy year.

“Us went bar’foots in summer, but bless your sweet life us had good
shoes in winter and wore good stockin’s too. It tuk three shoemakers for
our plantation. Dey was Uncle Isom, Uncle Jim, and Uncle Stafford. Dey
made up hole-stock shoes for de ‘omans and gals and brass-toed brogans
for de mens and boys.

“Us had pretty white dresses for Sunday. Marse Alec wanted evvybody on
his place dressed up dat day. He sont his houseboy, Uncle Harris, down
to de cabins evvy Sunday mornin’ to tell evvy slave to clean hisself up.
Dey warn’t never give no chance to forgit. Dere was a big old room sot
aside for a wash-room. Folkses laughs at me now ’cause I ain’t never
stopped takin’ a bath evvy Sunday mornin’.”

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

“On the Coxton plantation all slaves always had a sufficient amount of
clothing. These clothes which were issued when needed and not at any
certain time included articles for Sunday wear as well as articles for
work. Those servants who worked in the “big house” wore practically the
same clothes as the master and his wife with the possible exception that
it met the qualification of being second-handed. An issue of work
clothing included a heavy pair of work shoes called brogans, homespun
shirts and a pair of jeans pants. A pair of knitted socks was also
included The women wore homespun dresses for their working clothes. For
Sunday wear the men were given white cotton shirts and the women white
cotton dresses. All clothing was made on the plantation by those women
who were too old for field work.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“I never seed no store bought clothes twel long atter freedom done come!
One slave ‘oman done all the weavin’ in a separate room called the ‘loom
house.’ The cloth was dyed with home-made coloring. They used indigo for
blue, red oak bark for brown, green husks offen warnicks (walnuts) for
black, and sumacs for red and they’d mix these colors to make other
colors. Other slave ‘omans larned to sew and they made all the clothes.
Endurin’ the summertime we jus’ wore shirts and pants made outen plain
cotton cloth. They wove wool in with the cotton to make the cloth for
our winter clothes. The wool was raised right thar on our plantation. We
had our own shoemaker man–he was a slave named Buck Bolton and he made
all the shoes the niggers on our plantation wore.”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“Tell you ’bout our clo’es: us wore home-made clo’es, pants an’ shirts
made out of cotton in summer an’ in de winter dey give us mo’ home-made
clo’es only dey wuz made of wool. All de clawf wuz made on de loom right
dar on de plantation. Us wore de same things on Sunday what us did in de
week, no diffunt. Our shoes wuz jus’ common brogans what dey made at
home. I ain’t seed no socks ’til long atter de War. Co’se some folkses
mought a had ’em, but us didn’t have none.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia]

“Cloth for clothing was woven on the place. Della’s grandmother did most
of the spinning, and she taught her child to spin when she was so small
that she had to stand on a raised plank to reach the wheel. After the
cloth was spun it was dyed with dye made from “shoemake” (sumac) leaves,
green walnuts, reeds, and copperas. One person cut and others sewed. The
dresses for women were straight, like slips, and the garments of the
small boys resembled night shirts. If desired, a bias fold of
contrasting colour was placed at the waist line or at the bottom of
dresses. The crudely made garments were starched with a solution of
flour or meal and water which was strained and then boiled.”

[Della Briscoe, Part I, Georgia]

“No’m, us Niggers never wore no clothes in summer, I means us little
‘uns. In de winter us wore cotton clothes, but us went barefoots. My
uncle Sam and some of de other Niggers went ’bout wid dey foots popped
open from de cold. Marster had 110 slaves on his plantation.”

[Easter Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“They taught me to do everything. Ah’d use battlin’ blocks and battlin’
sticks to wash the clothes; we all did. The clothes wuz taken out of the
water an put on the block and beat with a battlin’ stick, which was made
like a paddle. On wash days you could hear them battlin’ sticks poundin’
every which-away. We made our own soap, used ole meat and grease, and
poured water over wood ashes which wuz kept in a rack-like thing and the
water would drip through the ashes. This made strong lye. We used a lot
‘o sich lye, too, to bile with.”

[Julia Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“In summer time us wore checkedy dresses made wid low waistes and
gethered skirts, but in winter de dresses was made out of linsey-woolsey
cloth and underclothes was made out of coarse unbleached cloth.
Petticoats had bodice tops and de draw’s was made wid waistes too. Us
chillun didn’t know when Sunday come. Our clothes warn’t no diffu’nt den
from no udder day. Us wore coarse, heavy shoes in winter, but in summer
us went splatter bar feets.”

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

“I was laughing at myself just the other day about those homespun
dresses and sleeveless aprons I wore as a child. I reckon that was a
sign you were coming to ask me about those things. I kept one of those
dresses of mine until my own baby girl wore it out, and now I am sorry I
let her wear it, for it would be so nice to have it to show you. We wore
just a one piece costume in summer and had calico and muslin dresses for
Sunday. Wintertime, I wore a balmoral petticoat, osnaburg drawers, and
er-r-r. Well, Jacob! I never thought I would live to see the day I’d
forget what our dresses were called. Anyway they were of woolen material
in a checked design, and were made with a full skirt gathered on to a
deep yoke. Uncle Patrick Hull–he was a deep slave belonging to Mr. A.L.
Hull–made all the shoes for Marse John’s slaves. We all wore brass-toed
brogans.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“Us had plenty of clothes made out of homespun checks, and Marse John
give us brass-toed shoes. Our dresses was well sewed and made wid belts
to ’em. Nobody went ’bout half naked on our plantation lak some of de
old folks f’um other farms talks ’bout. Us had good well-made clothes,
even if dey was made out of common cloth.”

[Julia Cole, Part I, Georgia]

“In summertime us chillun wore just one piece of clo’es. It wuz a sack
apron. In winter grandma made us yarn underskirts and yarn drawers
buttoned down over our knees. Ma made our home-knit stockings. Dey
called our brass toed shoes ‘brogans.’ I don’t speck you ever seed a
brass toed shoe!”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“In the summertime we wore homespun dresses made with a full skirt
gathered onto a tight-fitting waist. In the wintertime the dresses were
made of checked woolen material called linsey cloth. For underwear, we
wore balmoral petticoats and osnaburg drawers. We went barefooted most
of the time. I remember one particular time when the ground was frozen
and I went about without any shoes, but it didn’t bother me. Barefooted
children seldom had bad colds in winter. We wore just anything on
Sunday, but we had to look nice and clean.”

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Although there was only one distribution of clothing per year nobody
suffered from the lack of clothes because this one lot had enough to
last a year if properly cared for. The children wore one piece garments,
a cross between a dress and a slightly lengthened shirt, made of
homespun or crocus material [TR note: “crocus” is a coarse, loosely
woven material like burlap]. No shoes were given them until winter and
then they got the cast-offs of the grown ups. The men all wore pants
made of material known as “ausenberg”. The shirts and under wear were
made of another cotton material. Dresses for the women were of striped
homespun. All shoes were made on the premises of the heaviest leather,
clumsely fashioned and Uncle Mose says that slaves like his father who
worked in the mansion, were given much better clothing. His father
received of “The Colonel” and his grown sons many discarded clothes. One
of the greatest thrills of Mose’s boyhood was receiving first pair of
“ausenberg” pants. As his mother had already taught him to knit (by
using four needles at one time) all that he had to do was to go to his
hiding place and get the socks that he had made.

None of the clothing worn by the slaves on this particular plantation
was bought. Everything was made by the slaves, even to the dye that was
used.”

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Clothing on the Ormond plantation was usually insufficient to satisfy
the needs of the slave. Each year one issue was given each slave. For
the men this issue consisted of 1 pair of brogan shoes, several homespun
shirts, a few pairs of knitted socks, and two or three pairs of pants.
The brogans were made of such hard leather until the wearers’ feet were
usually blistered before the shoes were “broken in.” The women, in
addition to a pair of shoes and some cotton stockings were given several
homespun dresses. On one occasion Mr. Eason says that he wore his shoes
out before time for an issue of clothing. It was so cold until the skin
on his feet cracked, causing the blood to flow. In spite of this his
master would give him no more shoes. All clothing was made on the
plantation except the shoes.

Those women who were too old for field work did the sewing in addition
to other duties to be described later.

Indigo was cultivated for dyeing purposes and in some instances a dye
was made by boiling walnut leaves and walnut hulls in water. In addition
to her duties as cook, Mr. Eason’s mother had to also weave part of the
cloth. He told of how he had to sit up at night and help her and how she
would “crack” him on the head for being too slow at times.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“Our clothes was made new for us in de fall out of cloth wove in looms
right dar on de plantation. Top clothes was dyed wid hick’ry bark. De
full skirts was gathered to tight fittin’ waisties. Underskirts was made
de same way. De dresses had done wore thin ‘nough for hot weather by de
time winter was gone so us wore dem same clothes straight on through de
summer, only us left off de underskirts den. Slave chillun didn’t never
wear no shoes. Our foots cracked open ’til dey looked lak goose foots.
Us wore de same on Sunday as evvy day, ‘cept dat our clothes was clean,
and stiff wid meal starch when us got into ’em on Sunday mornin’s.

“Old Aunt Martha what nussed de chillun while deir Mammies wukked in de
field was de quiltin’ manager. It warn’t nothin’ for ‘omans to quilt
three quilts in one night. Dem quilts had to be finished ‘fore dey
stopped t’eat a bit of de quiltin’ feast. Marse Billy ‘vided dem quilts
out ‘mongst de Niggers what needed ’em most.

“Dem blue and white beads what de grown ‘omans wore was jus’ to look
pretty. Dey never meant nothin’ else.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“Everybody wore the homespun cotton clothes that were made on the
plantation by the slave women. The women wore striped ausenberg dresses
while the men wore ausenberg pants and shirts that had been made into
one garment. My clothes were always better than the other little
fellows, who ran around in their shirttails because I was always in the
house of the “Widow.” They used red clay to do the dyeing with. In the
winter time cracked feet were common. The grown people wore heavy shoes
called brogans while I wore the cast-off shoes of the white ladies. We
all wrapped our feet in bagging sacks to help them to keep warm. We
were given one complete outfit of clothes each year and these had to
last until the time for the next issue.”

Sheets for the beds were also made out of homespun material while the
heavier cover such as the quilts, etc., were made from the dresses and
the other clothing that was no longer fit for wear.”

[Lewis Favor, Part I, Georgia]

“Boys wore long blue striped shirts in summer and nothin’ else a t’all.
Dem shirts was made jus’ lak mother hubbards. Us wore de same thing in
winter only dem shirts was made new for winter. By summer dey had done
wore thin. When de weather got too cold, Marster give us old coats, what
grown folks had done most wore out, and us warn’t none too warm den wid
de wind a-sailin’ under our little old shirt tails. Our shoes was rough
old brogans what was hard as rocks, and us had to put rags inside ’em to
keep ’em from rubbin’ de skin off our foots. Us didn’t know what socks
and stockin’s was dem.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“Us jus’ wore common clothes. Winter time dey give us dresses made out
of thick homespun cloth. De skirts was gathered on to tight fittin’
waisties. Us wore brass toed brogan shoes in winter, but in summer
Niggers went bar’foots. Us jus’ wore what us could ketch in summer. By
dat time our winter dresses had done wore thin and us used ’em right on
through de hot weather.

Discarded bed clothing was given to slave families on the Griffin
Plantation and often it was necessary to keep a big log fire in the
winter, in order to sleep comfortably. Clothing for individual needs
consisted of one pair of brogan shoes a year and homemade cotton
garments, shirts, pants, dresses, etc. Every person went bare footed in
the summer and saved their one pair of shoes for the winter.”

[Heard Griffin, Part II, Georgia]

“After the work in the fields was completed for the day, women were then
required to work at night spinning thread into cloth. Each woman had a
task which consisted of making so many cuts a night. As Mr. Hammond
remarked, “You couldn’t hear your ears at night on some plantations, for
the old spinning wheels”. At 9 o’clock the overseer would blow the horn
for every one to go to bed. The cloth woven by women was used to make
men clothing also, and was dyed different colors from dye which was made
by boiling walnut hulls and berries of various kinds. Color varied
according to the kind of berry used. One pair of shoes, made to order,
was given each person once a year.”

[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]

“What us wore in summer? Well, it was lak dis–little Nigger chillun
didn’t stay out of de branch long ‘nough to need much clothes in hot
weather, but in de winter dey give us dresses made out of coarse cloth
wove on de loom right dar on de plantation. Some of dem dresses was red
and some was blue. De cloth was dyed wid red oak bark and copperas, and
dey used indigo what dey raised on de place to dye de blue cloth. De
waisties was close fittin’ and sorter skimpy skirts was gathered on to
’em. De underskirts was unbleached white cloth made jus’ lak de dresses
only some skimpier. Old Marster raised plenty of cattle and saved de
hides what he sont to de tannery to be got ready for my uncle, Moses
Downs, to make our brogan shoes. Dem shoes had brass toes to keep ’em
from wearing out too quick. Uncle Mose was sho’ a smart shoemaker. He
had to make shoes for all de slaves on de whole plantation.”

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Chilluns didn’t wear but one piece of clothes in summer; dat was a
shirt. In winter dey doubled up on us wid two shirts. I ‘members how dem
shirt tails used to pop in de wind when us runned fast. Us chillun used
to tie up de ‘bacco, what us stole f’um Miss Annie, in de under-arm part
of de long loose sleeves of our shirts. Us didn’t git no shoes for our
foots, winter or summer, ’til us was ten years old.”

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves clothes was all made at home. Gals spun de thread and old ‘omens
wove de cloth on home-made looms; my Mammy was one of dem weavin’
‘omans. Clothes for summer was jus’ thin cotton, but cotton and wool was
mixed for cold weather, and don’t think dem wool and cotton clothes
didn’t keep out de cold; dey sho did. Deir clothes was dyed wid barks
from trees, ink balls, walnut hulls, and red bud. Most evry plantation
had its own shoemaker man dat tanned all de leather and made up all de
shoes. Leather for slaves’ shoes warn’t allus tanned and shoes made out
of untanned leather looked lak dey had done been dyed red.

“My Daddy said slaves went to de white folks’ church ’til dey got some
churches for colored folks. Church days was big days wid folks den
’cause dey didn’t have meetin’ evvy Sunday. Slave ‘omans had percale or
calico dresses, brogan shoes, and big home-made bonnets wid slats in de
brims for Sunday-go-to-meetin’ wear, and if it was cold dey wropt up in
shawls. Menfolks wore cotton shirts and pants. Dey had grand preachin’
dem days and folks got honest-to-goodness ‘ligion.”

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“Dye for coloring the cloth was provided by collecting sweet gum, dogwood
bark, and red clay. Mixing these together produced different colors of
dye. Sweet gum and clay produced a purple; dogwood, a blue.

Two dresses a year were allowed the women, while two cotton shirts and
two pair of cotton pants were given the men. Everyone received one pair
of shoes. Emmaline’s father was a shoemaker by trade and made shoes for
both slaves and the Harper family. The slaves shoes were called “nigger
shoes,” and made from rough horse and mule hide. The white folks’ shoes
were made from soft calf leather. Mr. Harper had a tanning vat on his
plantation especially for the purpose of tanning hides for their shoes.
Emmaline said these tanning vats reminded her of baptismal holes. The
water was very deep, and once her sister almost drowned in one. Barks of
various kinds were placed in the water in these vats to produce an acid
which would remove the hair from the hides. Layers of goat, calf, and
horse hides were placed in the vats and, after a certain length of time
removed and dried.”

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“Each family was given a spinning wheel and loom. After the day’s work
each slave home was the scene of spinning and weaving cloth for the
occupant’s clothes and bedding.

The master gave each slave a pair of shoes; Benjamin received his first
pair of shoes when he was five years old. All slaves went barefoot in
summer months.”

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

“Our clothes warn’t nothin’ to talk about. In summer boys wore just one
piece and that looked lak a long nightshirt. Winter clothes was jean
pants and homespun shirts; they was warm but not too warm. Thar warn’t
no sich things as Sunday clothes in them days, and I never had a pair of
shoes on my foots in slavery time, ’cause I warn’t big enough to wuk.
Grown Negroes wore shoes in winter but they never had none in summer.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“All de cloth for our clothes was wove in de loom room up at de big
house. Little gal’s dresses was made just lak deir Ma’s, wid full skirts
gathered on to plain, close fittin’ waisties. Little boys just wore
shirts. Didn’t no chillun wear but one piece of clothes in summer.
Winter time us wore de same only dey give us a warm underskirt, and
rough red brogan shoes. Didn’t no Niggers wear shoes in warm weather
durin’ slavery times.”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Winter time dey give chillun new cotton and wool mixed shirts what come
down most to de ankles. By de time hot weather come de shirt was done
wore thin and swunk up and ‘sides dat, us had growed enough for ’em to
be short on us, so us jus’ wore dem same shirts right on thoo’ de
summer. On our place you went bar foots ’til you was a great big
yearlin’ ‘fore you got no shoes. What you wore on yo’ haid was a cap
made out of scraps of cloth dey wove in de looms right dar on our
plantation to make pants for de grown folks.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Probably because of the absence of male slaves, no shoe-maker was
maintained. Footwear for the entire group was purchased at Strong’s Shoe
Store in Macon.”

[Annie Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Cloth spun from cotton produced at home was woven into the material
under the watchful eye of the mistress, afterwards being cut into
dresses for the women, shirts and trousers for men. Winter garments were
made of wool from home raised sheep. Some of this home-spun material was
colored with dye made from powdered red rocks. With a shoe hammer, last,
pegs (instead of nails) and a standard pattern slave cobblers fashioned
shoes from the hides of their master’s cattle. They were no models of
beauty, but strong, durable shoes designed for hard wear.”

[Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“De gal chillun in dem days wore little slips, and de boys had shirts
split up de sides. Dey jus’ wore one piece in summer, no drawers or
nothin’. In de winter us had good warm clothes, made out of coarse
ausenburg (osnaburg) cloth. Us wore de same clothes Sundays as evvyday,
only us was s’posed to put ’em on clean on Sunday mornin’. A colored man
named Clark Dogget made our shoes out of rough red leather what never
had been dyed or colored up none. Sometimes Manuel would have to help
him wid de shoemakin’.”

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Folks wove all deir cloth at home dem days. Dey made up plenty of
cotton cloth for hot weather, and for de cold wintertime, dere warn’t
nothin’ warmer dat us knowed about dan de cloth dey made out of
home-raised wool and cotton. Marster kept a slave dat didn’t have
nothin’ else to do but make shoes for evvybody on de place. Yes, mam,
Honey, dey tanned de hide evvy time dey kilt a cow. Leather was tanned
wid whiteoak bark. Chillun’s shoes was finished off wid brass knobs on
de toes, and us was sho mighty dressed up Niggers when us got on dem
shoes wid deir shiny knobs. Little gals’ dresses was made wid long
skirts gathered on to plain waisties. Dere warn’t no showin’ de legs lak
dey does now. Little boys had red and black jeans suits made wid
waisties and britches sewed together in front but wid a long buttoned-up
openin’ in de back. Most of de other places jus’ put long shirts on
little boys, but dat warn’t de way dey done on our place, ’cause us
didn’t belong to no pore folks. Our Marster had plenty and he did lak to
see his Niggers fixed up nice. Course in summertime none of de chillun
didn’t wear nothin’ but little slips, so dey could keep cool, but in
winter it was diffunt. Honey, dem old balmoral petticoats was some
sight, but dey was sho warm as hell. I seed a piece of one of mine not
long ago whar I had done used it to patch up a old quilt. ‘Omans’
dresses was made jus’ about lak dis one I got on now, ‘ceptin’ I didn’t
have enough cloth to make de skirt full as dem old-time clothes used to
be.” The old woman stood up to show just how her dress was fashioned.
The skirt, sewed to a plain, close-fitting waist, was very full in the
back, but plain across the front. Lina called attention to an opening on
the left side of the front. “See here, Chile,” she said, “here’s a sho
‘nough pocket. Jus’ let me turn it wrong-side-out to show you how big it
is. Why, I used a whole 25 pound flour sack to make it ’cause I don’t
lak none of dese newfangled little pockets. I lak things de way I was
raised. Dis pocket hangs down inside and nobody don’t see it. De
chilluns fusses ’bout my big pocket, but it ain’t in none of deir
dresses, and I’se sho gwine to wear ’em ’til dey is wore out to a gnat’s
heel.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“Us had to cyard, spin and reel cotton. Missy give us chillun six cuts
of thread for a days wuk and if us wukked hard and fas’ us got done in
time to go chestnut and chinquapin huntin’. Us th’owed rocks ‘ginst de
limbs to shake de nuts down, and us had jus’ de bestes’ time a-gittin’
’em out of de burrs and eatin’ ’em. Us used to string chinquapins and
hang ’em ’round our necks.”

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

“De white folks clothes an’ all o’ de slaves clothes wuz all made on de
plantation. De marster’s wife could sew an’ she an’ her mother an’ some
of de slaves done all o’ de spinning an’ weaving on de place. I’ve
worked many a day in de house where dey made de cloth at. To color de
clothes dey made dyes out o’ all kinds o’ barks. If dey wanted
yellowstripes dey used dye made out o’ hickory bark. Dere wuz always
plenty o’ clothes fer everybody ’cause dey give two complete outfits two
times a year–one in de summer an’ one in de winter. Fer blankets we
used homespun spreads.”

“Even de shoes wuz made on de plantation–dere wuz a man on de place
dat made all o’ de shoes. Dey wuz made out o’ cowhide an’ wuz very
stiff. You had to grease ’em to wear ’em an’ after you done dat you
could do pretty well. De clothes dat dey wore on Sunday wuz’nt no
different fum de ones dat dey wore in de week–dey didn’t have nowhere
to go on Sundays unless dey had services somewhere in de woods.”

[Amanda Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“De clothes den wus’nt but ol’ plain white cloth. Most of ’em wus
patched fum de legs to de waist. Some wus patched so till dey looked
like a quilt. Some of de women wore dese long striped cotton dresses an’
when dey would go in de fiel’ de Spanish needles an’ de burrs would
stick all over ’em. De only shoes dat you got wus red brogans. If you
got anything better it wus some dat de marster give you fer brushing off
his shoes at de house. You wus so proud whenever dey give you a pair o’
shoes or a ol’ straw hat dat dey wus through wid at de house you went
back an’ showed it to everybody an’ you wus mighty proud too. I used to
drive my marster’s hoss an’ buggy fer ‘im an’ so I used to git a lotsa
stuff like dat.”

[Benjamin Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“She stated that they all wore good clothing and that all of it was made
on the plantation with one exception. The servants spun the thread and
Mrs. Moore and her daughters did all of the weaving as well as the
making of the dresses that were worn on this particular plantation. “The
way they made this cloth”, she continued, “was to wind a certain amount
of thread known as a “cut” onto a reel. When a certain number of cuts
were reached they were placed on the loom. This cloth was colored with a
dye made from the bark of trees or with a dye that was made from the
indigo berry cultivated on the plantation. The dresses that the women
wore on working days were made of striped or checked materials while
those worn on Sunday were usually white.”

She does not know what the men wore on work days as she never came in
contact with them. Stockings for all were knitted on the place. The
shoes, which were the one exception mentioned above, were made by one
Bill Jacobs, an elderly white man who made the shoes for all the
plantations in the community. The grown people wore heavy shoes called
“Brogans” while those worn by the children were not so heavy and were
called “Pekers” because of their narrow appearance. For Sunday wear, all
had shoes bought for this purpose. Mr. Moore’s mother was a tailoress
and at times, when the men were able to get the necessary material, she
made their suits.”

[Jennie Kendricks, Part III, Georgia]

“Charlie and all of his ten brothers and sisters helped to card and spin
the cotton for the looms. Sometimes they worked all night, Charlie often
going to sleep while carding, when his mother would crack him on the
head with the carder handle and wake him up. Each child had a night for
carding and spinning, so they all would get a chance to sleep.”

[Charlie King, Part III, Georgia]

“Evvything us needed was raised on dat plantation ‘cept cotton. Nary a
stalk of cotton was growed dar, but jus’ de same our clothes was made
out of cloth dat Mistess and my mammy wove out of thread us chillun
spun, and Mistess tuk a heap of pains makin’ up our dresses. Durin’ de
war evvybody had to wear homespun, but dere didn’t nobody have no better
or prettier dresses den ours, ’cause Mistess knowed more’n anybody ’bout
dyein’ cloth. When time come to make up a batch of clothes Mistess would
say, ‘Ca’line holp me git up my things for dyein’,’ and us would fetch
dogwood bark, sumach, poison ivy, and sweetgum bark. That poison ivy
made the best black of anything us ever tried, and Mistess could dye the
prettiest sort of purple wid sweetgum bark. Cop’ras was used to keep de
colors from fadin’, and she knowed so well how to handle it dat you
could wash cloth what she had dyed all day long and it wouldn’t fade a
speck.

“Sometimes Marse Gerald would be away a week at a time when he went to
court at Jefferson, and de very last thing he said ‘fore he driv off
allus was, ‘Ca’line, you and de chillun take good care of Mistess.’ He
most allus fetched us new shoes when he come back, ’cause he never kept
no shoemaker man on our place, and all our shoes was store-bought. Dey
was jus’ brogans wid brass toes, but us felt powerful dressed up when us
got ’em on, ‘specially when dey was new and de brass was bright and
shiny. Dere was nine of us chillun, four boys and five gals. Us gals had
plain cotton dresses made wid long sleeves and us wore big sunbonnets.
What would gals say now if dey had to wear dem sort of clothes and do
wuk lak what us done? Little boys didn’t wear nothin’ but long shirts in
summertime, but come winter evvybody had good warm clothes made out of
wool off of Marse Gerald’s own sheep, and boys, even little tiny boys,
had britches in winter.”

[Nicey Kinney, Part III, Georgia]

“Our homespun dresses had plain waisties wid long skirts gathered on to
’em. In hot weather chillun wore jus’ one piece; dat was a plain slip,
but in cold weather us had plenty of good warm clothes. Dey wove cotton
and wool together to make warm cloth for our winter clothes and made
shoes for us to wear in winter too. Marster evermore did believe in
takin’ good keer of his Niggers.”

[Julia Larken, Part III, Georgia]

“We got good clothes too says Mr. Lewis. All of ’em was bought. All de
chillun wore a long shirt until dey wus too big an’ den dey was given
pants an’ dresses. De shoes wus made out of red leather an’ wus called
brogans. After we moved to Georgia our new marster bought de cloth an’
had all de clothes made on de plantation.”

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

“De cotton, flax, and wool what our clothes was made out of was growed,
spun, wove, and sewed right dar on our plantation. Marse John had a
reg’lar seamster what didn’t do nothin’ else but sew. Summertime us
chillun wore shirts what looked lak nightgowns. You jus’ pulled one of
dem slips over your haid and went on ’cause you was done dressed for de
whole week, day and night. Wintertime our clothes was a heap better. Dey
give us thick jeans pants, heavy shirts, and brogan shoes wid brass
toes. Summertime us all went bar’foots.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“On the Hale plantation clothing was issued two times each year, once at
the beginning of summer and again at the beginning of the winter season.
On this first issue all were given striped dresses made of cotton
material. These dresses were for wear during the week while dresses made
of white muslin were given for Sunday wear. The dye which was necessary
in order to color those clothes worn during the week was made by boiling
red dirt or the bark of trees in water. Sometimes the indigo berry was
also used. The winter issue consisted of dresses made of woolen
material. The socks and stockings were all knitted. All of this wearing
apparel was made by Mrs. Hale. The shoes that these women slaves wore
were made in the nearby town at a place known as the tan yards. These
shoes were called “Brogans” and they were very crude in construction
having been made of very stiff leather. None of the clothing that was
worn on this plantation was bought as everything necessary for the
manufacture of clothing was available on the premises.”

[Amanda McDaniel, Part III, Georgia]

“In summer, the slave women wore white homespun and the men wore pants
and shirts made out of cloth what looked like overall cloth does now. In
winter, we wore the same things, ‘cept Marse Billy give the men woolen
coats what come down to their knees, and the women wore warm wraps what
they called sacks. On Sunday we had dresses dyed different colors. The
dyes were made from red clay and barks. Bark from pines, sweetgums, and
blackjacks was boiled, and each one made a different color dye. The
cloth made at home was coarse and was called ‘gusta cloth. Marse Billy
let the slaves raise chickens, and cows, and have cotton patches too.
They would sell butter, eggs, chickens, brooms, made out of wheat straw
and such like. They took the money and bought calico, muslin and good
shoes, pants, coats and other nice things for their Sunday clothes.
Marse Billy bought leather from Marster Brumby’s tanyard and had shoes
made for us. They was coarse and rough, but they lasted a long time.”

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

“De one little cotton shirt dat was all chillun wore in summertime den
warn’t worth talkin’ ’bout; dey called it a shirt but it looked more lak
a long-tailed nightgown to me. For winter, our clothes was made of wool
cloth and dey was nice and warm. Mistess, slaves never knowed what
Sunday clothes was, ‘cept dey did know dey had to be clean on Sunday. No
matter how dirty you went in de week-a-days, you had to put on clean
clothes Sunday mornin’. Uncle John Craddock made shoes for all de grown
folks on our plantation, but chillun went barfoots and it never seemed
to make ’em sick; for a fact, I b’lieves dey was stouter den dan dey is
now.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“All of the clothing worn on this plantation was made there. Some of the
women who were too old to work in the fields did the spinning and the
weaving as well as the sewing of the garments. Indigo was used to dye
the cloth. The women wore callico dresses and the men wore ansenberg
pants and shirts. The children wore a one piece garment not unlike a
slightly lengthened dress. This was kept in place by a string tied
around their waists. There were at least ten shoemakers on the
plantation and they were always kept bust [TR: busy?] making shoes
although no slave ever got but one pair of shoes a year. These shoes
were made of very hard leather and were called brogans.”

[Richard Orford, Part III, Georgia]

“Us had pretty good clothes most all de year ’round. In summer, shirts,
and pants wuz made out of coarse cotton cloth. Sometimes de pants wuz
dyed gray. Winter time us had better clothes made out of yarn and us
allus had good Sunday clothes. ‘Course I wuz jes’ a plow boy den and
now I done forgot lots ’bout how things looked. Our shoes wuz jes’
common brogans, no diff’unt on Sunday, ‘ceppin’ de Nigger boys what wuz
shinin’ up to de gals cleaned up deir shoes dat day.”

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

“The servants on our plantation always had a plenty of clothes,”
continued Mrs. Price, “while those on the plantation next to ours (Mrs.
Kennon’s father) never had enough, especially in the winter.” This
clothing was given when it was needed and not at any specified time as
was the case on some of the other plantations in that community. All of
these articles were made on the plantation and the materials that were
mostly used were homespun (which was also woven on the premises) woolen
goods, cotton goods and calico. It has been mentioned before that the
retinue of servants was small in number and so for this reason all of
them had a reasonable amount of those clothes that had been discarded by
the master and the mistress. After the leather had been cured it was
taken to the Tannery where crude shoes called “Twenty Grands” were made.
These shoes often caused the wearer no little amount of discomfort until
they were thoroughly broken in.

For bedding, homespun sheets were used. The quilts and blankets were
made from pieced cotton material along with garments that were unfit for
further wear. Whenever it was necessary to dye any of these articles a
type of dye made by boiling the bark from trees was used.”

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

“In every slave home was found a wooden loom which was operated by hands
and feet, and from which the cloth for their clothing was made. When the
work in the fields was finished women were required to come home and
spin one cut (thread) at night. Those who were not successful in
completing this work were punished the next morning. Men wore cotton
shirts and pants which were dyed different colors with red oak bark,
alum and copper. Copper produced an “Indigo blue color.” “I have often
watched dye in the process of being made,” remarked Mr. Pye. Mr. Pye’s
father was a shoemaker and made all shoes needed on the plantation. The
hair was removed from the hides by a process known as tanning. Red oak
bark was often used for it produced an acid which proved very effective
in tanning hides. Slaves were given shoes every three months.”

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

“All de clo’es was made on de plantation, too. Dey spun de thread from
cotton and wool, and dyed it and wove it. We had cutters and dem dat
done de sewin’.”

[Ferebe Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

“Colonel De Binien always saw that his slaves had sufficient clothing. In
the summer months the men were given two shirts, two pairs of pants, and
two pairs of underwear. All of these clothes were made of cotton and all
were sewed on the plantation. No shoes were worn in the summer. The
women were given two dresses, two underskirts, and two pairs of
underwear. When the winter season approached another issue of clothes
was given. At this time shoes were given. They were made of heavy red
leather and were known as “brogans”

[Julia Rush, Part III, Georgia]

“Slave chillun didn’t wear nothin’ in summer but shirts what looked lak
gowns wid long sleeves. Gals and boys was dressed in de same way when
dey was little chaps. In winter us wore shirts made out of coarse cloth
and de pants and little coats was made out of wool. De gals wore wool
dresses.” He laughed and said: “On Sunday us jus’ wore de same things.
Did you say shoes? Lawsy Miss! I was eight or nine ‘fore I had on a pair
of shoes. On frosty mornin’s when I went to de spring to fetch a bucket
of water, you could see my feet tracks in de frost all de way dar and
back.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“De white ladies had nice silk dresses to wear to church. Slave ‘omans
had new calico dresses what dey wore wid hoopskirts dey made out of
grapevines. Dey wore poke bonnets wid ruffles on ’em and, if de weather
was sort of cool, dey wore shawls. Marster allus wore his linen duster.
Dat was his white coat, made cutaway style wid long tails. De cloth for
most all of de clothes was made at home. Marse Joe raised lots of sheep
and de wool was used to make cloth for de winter clothes. Us had a great
long loom house whar some of de slaves didn’t do nothin’ but weave
cloth. Some cyarded bats, some done de spinnin’, and dere was more of
’em to do de sewin’. Miss Ellen, she looked atter all dat, and she cut
out most of de clothes. She seed dat us had plenty to wear. Sometimes
Marster would go to de sewin’ house, and Mist’ess would tell him to git
on ‘way from dar and look atter his own wuk, dat her and Aunt Julia
could run dat loom house. Marster, he jus’ laughed den and told us
chillun what was hangin’ round de door to jus’ listen to dem ‘omans
cackle. Oh, but he was a good old boss man.”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

“Yes ma’am, us had good clo’es de year ’round. Our summer clothes wuz
white, white as snow. Old Marster said dey looked lak linen. In winter
us wore heavy yarn what de women made on de looms. One strand wuz wool
and one wuz cotton. Us wore our brogan shoes evvy day and Sunday too.
Marster wuz a merchant and bought shoes from de tanyard. Howsomever, he
had a colored man on his place what could make any kind of shoes.”

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

“Honey, de clothes us wore den warn’ t lak what folks has now. Little
gals jus’ wore slips cut all in one piece, and boys didn’t wear nothin’
but long shirts ’til dey was big enough to wuk in de fields. Dat was
summertime clothes. In winter, dey give us plenty of warm clothes wid
flannel petticoats and brass-toed shoes. Grown-up Negroes had dresses
what was made wid waisties and skirts sewed together. Dey had a few
gathers in de skirts, but not many. De men wore homespun britches wid
galluses to hold ’em up. White folks had lots better clothes. Mist’ess’
dresses had full, ruffled skirts and, no foolin’, her clothes was sho’ly
pretty. De white menfolks wore plain britches, but dey had bright
colored coats and silk vests dat warn’t lak de vests de men wears now.
Dem vests was more lak fancy coats dat didn’t have no sleeves. Some
folks called ’em ‘wescoats.’ White chillun never had no special clothes
for Sunday.

“Miss Julia used to make me sweep de yard wid a little brushbroom and I
had to wear a bonnet den to keep dust out of my hair. Dat bonnet was
ruffled ’round de front and had staves to hold de brim stiff, but in de
back it didn’t have no ruffle; jus’ de bottom of de crown what us called
de bonnet tail. Dem bonnets looked good enough in front but mighty
bob-tailed in de back.”

[Nancy Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“All our clothes and shoes was home-made, and I mean by that they growed
the cotton, wool, and cattle and made the cloth and leather on the
plantation. Summer clothes was made of cotton homespun, and cotton and
wool was wove together for winter clothin’. Marse Jack owned a man what
he kept there to do nothin’ but make shoes.”

[Nellie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Long as us was little, us didn’t have to wuk at nothin’ ‘cept little
jobs lak pickin’ up chips, bringin’ in a little wood, and sometimes de
biggest boys had to slop de hogs. Long ’bout de fust of March, dey tuk
de pants ‘way from all de boys and give ’em little shirts to wear from
den ’til frost. Yes Mam, dem shirts was all us boys had to wear in
summer ’til us was big enough to wuk in de fields. Gals jus’ wore one
piece of clothes in summertime too; dey wore a plain cotton dress. All
our clothes, for summer and winter too, was made right dere on dat
plantation. Dey wove de cloth on de looms; plain cotton for summer, and
cotton mixed wid a little wool for winter. Dere was a man on de
plantation what made all our brogans for winter. Marster made sho us had
plenty of good warm clothes and shoes to keep us warm when winter come.”

[Paul Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Our Marster evermore did raise de cotton–lots of it to sell, and
plenty for clothes for all de folkses, white and black, what lived on
his place. All de cloth was home-made ‘cept de calico for de best Sunday
dresses. Chillun had to spin de thread and deir mammies wove de cloth.
‘Fore de end of de war, whilst I was still so little I had to stand on a
box to reach de spinnin’ wheel good, I could spin six reels a day.”

[Cordelia Thomas, Part IV, Georgia]

“Sewing was no easy job as there were few small women among the servants.
The cloth made at home, was plentiful, however, and sufficient clothing
was made for all. Some persons preferred making their own clothes and
this privilege was granted; otherwise they were made in a common sewing
room. Ten yards was the average amount of cloth in a dress, homespun and
gingham, the usual materials. The men wore suits of osnaburg and jeans.
This was dyed to more durable colors through the use of [HW: with]
indigo [HW: (blue)] and a dye made from railroad bark (brown).”

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

“Dey mixed wool wid de lint cotton to spin thread to make cloth for our
winter clothes. Mammy wove a lot of dat cloth and de clothes made out of
it sho would keep out de cold. Most of our stockin’s and socks was knit
at home, but now and den somebody would git hold of a sto-bought pair
for Sunday-go-to-meetin’ wear.”

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

“Now, about the clothes we wore in the days of the war, I couldn’t
rightly say, but my Mother said we had good comfortable garments. In the
summer weather, boys and men wore plain cotton shirts and jeans pants.
The home-made linsey-woolsy shirts that we wore over our cotton shirts,
and the wool pants that we wore in winter, were good and warm; they had
brogan shoes in winter too. Folks wore the same clothes on Sundays as
through the week, but they had to be sure that they were nice and clean
on Sundays. Dresses for the women folks were made out of cotton checks,
and they had sunbonnets too.”

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

“Chillun didn’t wear nothin’ but cotton slips in summer, but de winter
clothes was good and warm. Under our heavy winter dresses us wore
quilted underskirts dat was sho nice and warm. Sunday clothes? Yes
Mar’m, us allus had nice clothes for Sunday. Dey made up our summertime
Sunday dresses out of a thin cloth called Sunday-parade. Dey was made
spenser fashion, wid ruffles ’round de neck and waist. Our ruffled
petticoats was all starched and ironed stiff and slick, and us jus’
knowed our long pantalettes, wid deir scalloped ruffles, was mighty
fine. Some of de ‘omans would wuk fancy eyelets what dey punched in de
scallops wid locust thorns. Dem pantalettes was buttoned on to our
drawers. Our Sunday dresses for winter was made out of linsey-woolsey
cloth. White ladies wore hoopskirts wid deir dresses, and dey looked lak
fairy queens. Boys wore plain shirts in summer, but in winter dey had
warmer shirts and quilted pants. Dey would put two pair of britches
togedder and quilt ’em up so you couldn’t tell what sort of cloth dey
was made out of. Dem pants was called suggins.

“All de Niggers went barfoots in summer, but in winter us all wore
brogans. Old Miss had a shoe shop in de cellar under de big house, and
when dem two white ‘omans dat she hired to make our shoes come, us
knowed wintertime was nigh. Dem ‘omans would stay ’til day had made up
shoes enough to last us all winter long, den dey would go on to de next
place what dey s’pected to make shoes.”

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

“Us chillun didn’t git out and go off lak dey does dese days. Us stayed
dar on de plantation. In winter us had to wear plenty of clothes, wid
flannel petticoats and sich lak, and us stayed in by de fire. Big boys
had clothes made out of jeans, but little boys wore homespun shirts. On
hot days us jus’ wore one piece of clothes, a sort of shirt what was
made long and had a yoke in it.”

[Emma Virgel,  Part IV, Georgia]

“The slaves did most of the weaving on the plantation, but after the
cloth was woven the problem of giving it color presented itself. As they
had no commercial dye, certain plants were boiled to give color. A plant
called indigo, found in the cotton patch, was the chief type of dye,
although thare was another called copperas. The dresses made from this
material were very plain.”

[Rhoda Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

“The long shirts slave boys wore in summer were straight like a meal
sack open at both ends, with holes in the sides for your arms to go
through. You stuck your head in one end and it came out the other; then
you were fully dressed for any whole summer day. These summer shirts
were made of thin osnaburg. Our winter clothes were made of woolen cloth
called merino. Old Boss kept enough sheep to provide plenty of wool and
some mighty good food. Slave children had no extra or special clothes
for Sunday; they wore the same kind of gowns, or long shirts, seven days
a week. Old Boss provided brass-toed brogans for winter, but we never
thought of such a thing as shoes to wear in hot weather.”

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

“Summertimes us wore homespun dresses, made wid full skirts sewed on to
tight fittin’ waisties what was fastened down de back wid buttons made
out of cows and rams horns. Our white petticoat slips and pantalettes
was made on bodices. In winter us wore balmorals what had three stripes
’round de bottom, and over dem us had on long sleeved ap’ons what was
long as de balmorals. Slave gals’ pantalettes warn’t ruffled and tucked
and trimmed up wid lace and ‘broidery lak Miss Polly’s chilluns’ was.
Ours was jus’ made plain. Grown folks wore rough brogans, but me, I wore
de shoes what Miss Polly’s chillun had done outgrowed. Dey called ’em
Jackson shoes, ’cause dey was made wid a extra wide piece of leather
sewed on de outside so as when you knocked your ankles ‘gainst one
another, it wouldn’t wear no holes in your shoes. Our Sunday shoes
warn’t no diffunt from what us wore evvyday.”

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

“Mr. Womble stated further that clothes were given to all the slaves once
a year. An issue for the men usually consisted of one or two pairs of
pants and some shirts, underwear, woolen socks, and a pair of heavy
brogans that had been made of horse hide. These shoes were reddish in
appearance and were as stiff as board according to Mr. Womble. For
special wear the men were given a garment that was made into one piece
by sewing the pants and shirt together. This was known as a
“roundabout”. The women were given one or two dresses that had been made
of the same material as that of the men’s pants. As the cloth that these
clothes were made of was very coarse and heavy most of them lasted until
the time for the next issue. None of the clothing that the slaves wore
was bought. After the cloth had been made by the slaves who did all the
spinning and the weaving the master’s wife cut the clothes out while the
slave women did the sewing. One of the men was a cobbler and it was he
who made all of the shoes for slave use. In the summer months the field
hands worked in their bare feet regardless of whether they had shoes or
not. Mr. Womble says that he was fifteen years of age when he was given
his first pair of shoes. They were a pair of red boots and were so stiff
that he needed help to get them on his feet as well as to get them off.
Once when the master had suffered some few financial losses the slaves
had to wear clothes that were made of crocus material. The children wore
sacks after holes had been cut out for their heads and arms. This
garment looked like a slightly lengthened shirt in appearance. A dye
made from red clay was used to give color to these clothes.

The bed clothing consisted of bagging sacks and quilts that were made
out of old clothes.”

[George Womble, Part IV., Georgia]

“Clothing was issued once per year usually around September. An issue
consisted mostly of the following: 1 pair of heavy shoes called “Negro
Brogans.” Several homespun shirts, woolen socks and two or three pairs
of jeans pants. The women were either given dresses and underskirts that
were already made or just the plain cloth to make these garments from.
Some of their clothing was bought and some was made on the plantation.
The wool socks were knitted on the plantation along with the homespun
which was woven there. The homespun was dyed by placing it in a boiling
mixture of green walnut leaves or walnut hulls. In the event that plaid
material was to be made the threads were dyed the desired color before
being woven. Another kind of dye was made from the use of a type of red
or blue berry, or by boiling red dirt in water (probably madder). The
house slaves wore calico dresses or sometimes dresses made from woolen
material.

Often this clothing was insufficient to meet the individual needs. With
a broad smile and an almost imperceptible shake of his old gray head Mr.
Wright told how he had worked in the field without shoes when it was so
cold until the skin cracked and the blood flowed from these wounds. He
also told how he used to save his shoes by placing them under his arm
and walking barefooted when he had a long distance to go. In order to
polish these shoes a mixture of soot and syrup was used.

The young slave children wore a one-piece garment with holes cut for the
head and arms to go through. In appearance it resembled a slightly long
shirt. As Mr. House did not give blankets, the slaves were required to
make the necessary cover by piecing together left over goods. After this
process was completed, it was padded with cotton and then dyed in much
the same way as homespun. After the dyeing was completed the slave was
the owner of a new quilt.”

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

“The standard clothes of the slaves were: jeans in the winter for men and
women, cottonades and osnabergs for men in the summer, and calicos and
“light goods” for the women in the summer time. About 75% of the cloth
used for slaves’ clothing was made at home.”

[Dink Young, Part IV, Georgia]

Georgia Slave Medicine

Georgia Slave Medicine

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their medicine as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Miss, white folks jus’ had to be good to sick slaves, ’cause slaves was
property. For Old Marster to lose a slave, was losin’ money. Dere warn’t
so many doctors dem days and home-made medicines was all de go. Oil and
turpentine, camphor, assfiddy (asafetida), cherry bark, sweetgum bark;
all dem things was used to make teas for grown folks to take for deir
ailments. Red oak bark tea was give to chillun for stomach mis’ries.”

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

“Health of slaves was very important to every slave owner for loss of
life meant loss of money to them. Consequently they would call in their
family doctor, if a slave became seriously ill. In minor cases of
illness home remedies were used. “In fact,” Mrs. Avery smilingly
remarked, “We used every thing for medicine that grew in the ground.”
One particular home remedy was known as “Cow foot oil” which was made by
boiling cow’s feet in water. Other medicines used were hoarhound tea,
catnip tea, and castor oil. Very often medicines and doctors failed to
save life; and whenever a slave died he was buried the same day. Mrs.
Avery remarked, “If he died before dinner the funeral and burial usually
took place immediately after dinner.”

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

“Old Marster was powerful good to his Niggers when dey got sick. He had
’em seed atter soon as it was ‘ported to him dat dey was ailin’. Yessum,
dere warn’t nothin’ short ’bout our good Marsters, ‘deed dere warn’t!
Grandpa Stafford had a sore laig and Marse Lordnorth looked atter him
and had Uncle Jim dress dat pore old sore laig evvy day. Slaves didn’t
git sick as often as Niggers does now days. Mammy Mary had all sorts of
teas made up for us, ‘cordin’ to whatever ailment us had. Boneset tea
was for colds. De fust thing dey allus done for sore throat was give us
tea made of red oak bark wid alum. Scurvy grass tea cleant us out in the
springtime, and dey made us wear little sacks of assfiddy (asafetida)
’round our necks to keep off lots of sorts of miseries. Some folkses
hung de left hind foot of a mole on a string ’round deir babies necks to
make ’em teethe easier. I never done nothin’ lak dat to my babies ’cause
I never believed in no such foolishment. Some babies is jus’ natchelly
gwine to teethe easier dan others anyhow.”

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

“Mr. Kilpatrick preached all de funerals too. It ‘pears lak a heap more
folks is a-dyin’ out dese days dan died den, and folks was a heap better
den to folks in trouble. Dey would go miles and miles den when dey
didn’t have no auto’biles, to help folks what was in trouble. Now, dey
won’t go next door when dere’s death in de house. Den, when anybody died
de fust thing dey done was to shroud ’em and lay ’em out on de coolin’
board ’til Old Marster’s cyarpenter could git de coffin made up. Dere
warn’t no embalmers dem days and us had to bury folks de next day atter
dey died. De coffins was jus’ de same for white folks and deir slaves.
On evvy plantation dere was a piece of ground fenced in for a graveyard
whar dey buried white folks and slaves too. My old Daddy is buried down
yonder on Marse Henry’s plantation right now.”

[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]

“Aunt Arrie said the Doctor was always called in when they were sick,
“but we never sont fer him lesse’n somebody wuz real sick. De old folks
doctored us jest fer little ailments. Dey give us lye tea fer colds.
(This was made by taking a few clean ashes from the fire place, putting
them in a little thin bag and pouring boiling water over them and let
set for a few minutes. This had to be given very weak or else it would
be harmful, Aunt Arrie explained.) Garlic and whiskey, and den, dar
ain’t nothin’ better fer the pneumony dan splinter tea. I’ve cured bad
cases with it.” (That is made by pouring boiling water over lightwood
splinters.)”

[Arrie Binns, Part I, Georgia]

“A doctor was employed regularly by Mr. Coxton to minister to the needs
of the slaves in time of illness. “We also had our own medicine,” says
Mr. Bland. At different times excursions were made to the woods where
“yarbs” (herbs) were gathered. Various kinds of teas and medicines were
made by boiling these roots in water. The usual causes of illness on
this plantation were colds, fevers, and constipation. Castor oil and
salts were also used to a great extent. If an individual was too ill to
work an older slave had to nurse this person.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“We saved a heap of bark from wild cherry and poplar and black haw and
slippery ellum trees and we dried out mullein leaves. They was all mixed
and brewed to make bitters. Whensomever a nigger got sick, them bitters
was good for–well ma’am, they was good for what ailed ’em! We tuk ’em
for rheumatiz, for fever, and for the misery in the stummick and for
most all sorts of sickness. Red oak bark tea was good for sore throat.”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“Yes Ma’am, dere wuz one thing dey wuz good ’bout. When de Niggers got
sick dey sont for de doctor. I heered ’em say dey biled jimson weeds an’
made tea for colds, an’ rhubarb tea wuz to cure worms in chillun. I wuz
too young to be bothered ’bout witches an’ charms, Rawhead an’ Bloody
Bones an’ sich. I didn’t take it in.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia]

“As a precaution against disease, a tonic was given each slave every
spring. Three were also, every spring, taken from the field each day
until every one had been given a dose of calomel and salts. Mr. Ross
once bought two slaves who became ill with smallpox soon after their
arrival. They were isolated in a small house located in the center of a
field, while one other slave was sent there to nurse them. All three
were burned to death when their hut was destroyed by fire.”

[Della Briscoe, Part I, Georgia]

“Doctors wuzn’t so plentiful then. They’d go ’round in buggies and on
hosses. Them that rode on a hoss had saddle pockets jest filled with
little bottles and lots of them. He’d try one medicine and if it didn’t
do not [TR: no?] good he’d try another until it did do good and when the
doctor went to see a sick pusson he’d stay rat there until he wuz
better. He didn’t jest come in and write a ‘scription fur somebody to
take to a drug store. We used herbs a lots in them days. When a body had
dropsy we’d set him in a tepid bath made of mullein leaves. There wuz a
jimson weed we’d use fur rheumatism, and fur asthma we’d use tea made of
chestnut leaves. We’d git the chestnut leaves, dry them in the sun jest
lak tea leaves, and we wouldn’t let them leaves git wet fur nothin’ in
the world while they wuz dryin’. We’d take poke salad roots, boil them
and then take sugar and make a syrup. This wuz the best thing fur
asthma. It was known to cure it too. Fur colds and sich we used
ho’hound; made candy out’n it with brown sugar. We used a lots of rock
candy and whiskey fur colds too. They had a remedy that they used fur
consumption–take dry cow manure, make a tea of this and flavor it with
mint and give it to the sick pusson. We didn’t need many doctors then
fur we didn’t have so much sickness in them days, and nachelly they
didn’t die so fast; folks lived a long time then. They used a lot of
peachtree leaves too for fever, and when the stomach got upsot we’d
crush the leaves, pour water over them and wouldn’t let them drink any
other kind of water ’till they wuz better. Ah still believes in them ole
ho’made medicines too and ah don’t believe in so many doctors.”

[Julia Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“We Niggers were a healthy lot. If we wuz really sick Marse Frank would
send for Doctor Fielding Ficklin of Washington. If jus’ a small cold de
nigger would go to de woods and git catnip and roots and sich things. If
tummy ache–dere was de Castor oil–de white folks say children cry for
it–I done my cryin’ afterwards. For sore throat dere was alum.
Everybody made their own soap–if hand was burned would use soap as a
poultice and place it on hand. Soap was made out of grease, potash and
water and boiled in a big iron pot. If yo’ cut your finger use kerozene
wid a rag around it. Turpentine was for sprains and bad cuts. For
constipation use tea made from sheep droppings and if away from home de
speed of de feet do not match de speed of this remedy.”

[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]

“Medical care was promptly given a slave when he became ill. Special care
was always given them for the Willis family had a personal interest in
their slaves. “On one occasion,” remarked Mrs. Calloway, “the scarlet
fever broke out among the slaves and to protect the well ones it became
necessary to build houses in a field for those who were sick. This
little settlement later became know as “Shant Field.” Food was carried
to a hill and left so that the sick persons could get it without coming
in contact with the others. To kill the fever, sticks of fat pine were
dipped in tar and set on fire and then placed all over the field.”

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

“Sunday afternoons were quietly spent, visiting being the only means of
recreation. One of the favorite stay at home pastimes was the inspection
of heads. The pediculous condition made frequent treatment necessary for
comfort. The young white men liked to visit the “quarters” and have the
slaves search their heads. They would stretch full length upon the cabin
floors and rest their heads upon a pillow. Usually they offered a gift
of some sort if many of the tiny parasites were destroyed, so the clever
picker who found a barren head simply reached into his own and produced
a goodly number. There existed on this plantation an antagonistic
feeling toward children (born of slave parents) with a beautiful suit of
hair, and this type of hair was kept cropped very short.

Medical care was also free. Excellent physicians were maintained. It was
not considered necessary to call a physician until home
remedies–usually teas made of roots–had had no effect. Women in
childbirth were cared for by grannies,–Old women whose knowledge was
broad by experience, acted as practical nurses.”

[Pierce Cody, Part I, Georgia]

“When his slaves were taken sick, Marse John always called in a doctor.
An old woman, who was known as ‘Aunt Fannie,’ was set aside to nurse
sick slaves. Dr. Joe Carlton was Marse John’s doctor. What I am going to
tell you is no fairy tale. Once I was so sick that Marse John called in
Dr. Carlton, Dr. Richard M. Smith, Dr. Crawford Long, and Dr. James
Long, before they found out what was wrong with me. I had inflammatory
rheumatism and I wore out two and a half pairs of crutches before I
could walk good again. Now, Dr. Crawford Long is a great and famous man
in history, but it is sure true that he doctored on this old Negro many
years ago.

“Honey, don’t flatter me. Don’t you know a little girl 10 years old
can’t remember everything that went on that far back. A few things they
dosed the slaves with when they were sick was horehound tea, garlic
mixed with whiskey, and the worm-few (vermifuge?) tea that they gave to
Negro children for worms. That worm-few dose was given in April.
Asafetida was used on us at all times and sage tea was considered a
splendid medicine.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“When us was sick, dey give us herbs and things of dat sort. In de
springtime, dey give us jerusalem oak seed in syrup for nine mornin’s
and by den us was allus rid of de worms. Dey ‘tended to slave chillun so
good and dutiful dat dere warn’t many of ’em died, and I don’t never
‘member no doctor comin’ to my Mamma’s house.”

[Julia Cole, Part I, Georgia]

“When folkses got sick, Marse Billie had ’em looked atter. Mist’ess
would come every day to see ’bout ’em, and if she thought dey wuz bad
off, she sont atter Dr. Davenport. Dr. Davenport come dar so much ’til
he courted and married Marse Billie’s daughter, Miss Martha Glenn. I wuz
named for Miss Martha. Dey sho’ did take special good keer of de mammies
and de babies. Dey had a separate house for ’em, and a granny ‘oman who
didn’t have nothin’ else to do but look atter colored babies and
mammies. De granny ‘oman took de place of a doctor when de babies wuz
born, but if she found a mammy in a bad fix she would ax Mist’ess to
send for Dr. Davenport.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“Marse John was grand to sick slaves. He always sent for Dr. Moore, who
would make his examination and write out his prescription. When he left
his parting word was usually ‘Give him a sound thrashing and he will get
better.’ Of course he didn’t mean that; it was his little joke. Dr.
Holt, Dr. Crawford Long, and Dr. Jones Long were sometimes called in for
consultation on particularly serious cases. We didn’t like Dr. Moore and
usually begged for one of the other doctors. I don’t think my white
folks used teas made of herbs, leaves or roots; they may have, but I
don’t remember it. However, I do know that we wore little sacks of
asafetida around our necks to keep off diseases, and the white folks
wore it too.”

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“There was little if any sickness but Colonel Davis employed a doctor who
visited the plantation each week. On other occasions the overseer
administered such remedies as castor oil, turpentine, etc., and the
slaves had remedies of their own. For stomach ache they used a tea made
of Jimson weeds. Another medicine was heart leaf tea. Manual and
religious training were the only types allowed on the plantation. Trades
like carpentry, blacksmithing, etc. were learned from the white
mechanics sometimes employed by Colonel Davis. All slaves were required
to attend church and a special building was known as “Davis’ Chapel.” A
Negro preacher officiated and no white people were present. Uncle Mose
doesn’t know what was preached as he and Manning always slipped into
town on Sundays to see the girls. Uncle Mose says he and Manning were
together so much that occasionally they even slept in the same
bed,–sometimes in Manning’s house and sometimes at his own house.”

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“These old women were also responsible for the care of the sick. When
asked if a doctor was employed, Mr. Eason replied that one had to be
mighty sick to have the services of a doctor. The usual treatment for
sick slaves was castor oil, which was given in large doses, salts and a
type of pill known as “hippocat.” (ipecac)”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“Our white folks was good as dey knowed how to be when us got sick. I
don’t ‘member dat dey ever had a doctor for de slaves, but dey give us
all kinds of home-brewed teas. Pinetops, mullein and fat light’ood
splinters was biled together and de tea was our cure for diff’unt
ailments. Scurvy grass tea mixed wid honey was good for stomach
troubles, but you sho’ couldn’t take much of it at a time. It was de
movin’est medicine! Round our necks us wore asafetida sacks tied on
strings soaked in turpentine. Dat was to keep diseases off of us.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“Whenever any of the slaves were sick the doctor was called if
conditions warranted it, otherwise a dose of castor oil was prescribed.
Mr. Favors stated that after freedom was declared the white people for
whom they worked gave them hog-feet oil and sometimes beef-oil both of
which had the same effect as castor oil. If any were too ill to work in
the field one of the others was required to remain at the cabin or at
some other convenient place so as to be able to attend to the wants of
these so indisposed.”

[Lewis Favor, Part I, Georgia]

“Marster had mighty good keer tuk of his slaves when dey got sick. Dere
warn’t many doctors dem days. Dey jus’ used home-made medicines, mostly
teas made out of yarbs (herbs). I jus’ can’t git up no ricollection of
what yarbs dey did put in dem teas. I does ‘member dat chillun had to
live wid bags of assfiddy (asafetida) ’round deir necks to keep off
ailments. Ma give me and Bob, each one, a block of dat assfiddy for good
luck. I throwed my block ‘way a few years ago, and I ain’t had nothin’
but bad luck ever since.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“Old Marster put evvy foot forward to take care of his slaves when dey
tuk sick, ’cause dey was his own property. Dey poured asafiddy
(asafetida) and pinetop tea down us, and made us take tea of some sort
or another for ‘most all of de ailments dere was dem days. Slaves wore a
nickel or a copper on strings ’round deir necks to keep off sickness.
Some few of ’em wore a dime; but dimes was hard to git.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“Dey tuk mighty good care of slaves when dey got sick. Dey had to,
’cause slaves was propity and to let a slave die was to lose money. Ole
Miss, she looked atter de ‘omans and Ole Marster, he had de doctor for
de mens. I done forgot most of what dey made us take. I know dey made us
wear assfiddy (asafetida) sacks ’round our necks, and eat gumgoo wax.
Dey rubbed our heads wid camphor what was mixed wid whiskey. Old folks
used to conjure folks when dey got mad at ’em. Dey went in de woods and
got certain kinds of roots and biled ’em wid spider webs, and give ’em
de tea to drink.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves did not lack medical treatment and were given the best of
attention by the owner’s family doctor. Sometimes slaves would pretend
illness to escape work in the field. A quick examination, however,
revealed the truth. Home remedies such as turpentine, castor oil, etc.,
were always kept on hand for minor ailments.”

[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Wheeler said that the Doctor who lived near by was always called in when
the negroes were sick and they had the best of care; their owners saw to
that. Of course there were simple home remedies like mullein tea for
colds, Jerusalem Oak seed crushed up and mixed with syrup, given to them
in the Springtime, and always that terrible “garlic warter” they so
despised to take.”

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

“Our master was too mean to let us have frolics,” remarked Mr. Griffin;
“we never knew anything, but work. Of course when we got sick we were
given the best medical care possible. People didn’t die, they always got
well.” Home remedies made from various roots were used for minor
illnesses.”

[Heard Griffin, Part II, Georgia]

“When we got sick we were not allowed to suffer through negligence on
the part of our owner”, remarked Mr. Hammond. Family doctors of the
white families attended the slaves and through them they were well cared
for. Castor oil was the favorite home remedy used in those days and it
could always be found on the family shelf.”

[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]

“Old Mist’ess was mighty special good to her slaves when dey was sick.
Fust thing she done was send for de doctor. I kin see him now. He rid
horseback and carried his medicine in saddlebags. He used to put some
kind of powders in a glass of water and give it to de sick ones. Dere
was three old ‘omans what Old Mist’ess kept to look atter sick slave
‘omans. Dem old granny nurses knowed a heap about yarbs (herbs). May
apple and blacksnake roots, king of de meadow, (meadow rue) wild asthma
(aster) and red shank, dese was biled and deir tea give to de slaves for
diffunt ailments.” Asked to describe king of the meadow, she continued:
“Honey, ain’t you never seed none? Well, it’s such a hard tough weed dat
you have to use a axe to chop it up, and its so strong and pow’ful dat
nothin’ else kin grow nigh ’round it. Back in dem days folks wore tare
(tar) sacks ’round deir necks and rubbed turpentine under deir noses.
When deir ailments got too hot, lak when Mammy died, dey made ’em
swallow two or three draps of turpentine.”

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Miss Annie doctored us. In summer, she made us pull up certain roots
and dry special leafs for to make her teas out of. Horehoun’, boneset,
and yellow root was de main things she used. She made a sort of sody out
of de white ashes f’um de top of a hick’ry fire and mixed it wid vinegar
for headaches. De black ashes, left on de bottom of de hick’ry fire, was
leached for lye, what was biled wid grease to make our soap.”

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves were given treatment by the doctor when they became ill, but if
the doctor stated that the slave was well enough to work, they had to go
to the fields. Sick babies were left at home while the parents were at
work in the field. No matter what sickness the child suffered, castor
oil was the only remedy ever given.”

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“Slave owners guarded carefully against illness among their slaves. Home
remedies such as certain oil, turpentine, teas of all sorts were used.
If these did no good the doctor was called in; he usually brought along
all varieties of medicine in his saddle bags and gave what was needed.
Benjamin Henderson considers that people were much healthier in those
days and did not need doctors often.”

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

“When slaves got sick Marse Robert was good enough to ’em; he treated
’em right, and allus sont for a doctor, ‘specially when chillun was
borned. Oil, turpentine, and salts was the medicines the doctors give
the most of to slaves. ‘Fore they was sick enough to send for the
doctor the homefolks often give sick folks boneset and life-everlastin’
teas, and ‘most evvybody wore a little sack of asafetida ’round their
necks to protect ’em from diseases.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“The master regarded his slaves as [HW: deleted: a] valuable [HW:
deleted: piece of] property and they received treatment as such. When
they were ill the doctor would be sent for or “Old Mistis” would come to
the cabins bringing her basket of oil, pills, and linament.”

[Robert Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Marse Elbert and Miss Sallie was sho’ moughty good when deir Niggers
tuk sick. Castor oil and turpentine was what dey give ’em most of de
time. Horehound tea was for colds, and elderberry tea was to help babies
teethe easier. Yessum, us wore beads, but dey was just to look pretty.”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Marse David and Miss Betsey tuk moughty good keer of deir Niggers,
‘specially when dey was sick. Dr. Bynam Bell, deir oldest son, was a
doctor but Miss Betsey was a powerful good hand at doctoring herself.
She looked atter all da slave ‘omans. For medicines dey give us asafiddy
(asafetida), calomel, and castor oil more dan anything else for our
diff’unt ailments.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Marse Jabe was mighty good to his slaves when dey got sick. I seed
Mammy sick once. Dr. Lumpkin Landon was sont atter. De slaves would git
fever weeds and sweetgum bark, bile ’em together, and take de tea for
colds, coughs, and fever. Dey wore little sacks of assfidity
(assafoetida) ’round dey necks to keep off disease, and strung hollow
treadsass (treadsalve) roots on strings lak necklaces and hung ’em
’round de babies’ necks to make ’em teethe easy.”

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Honey, there wuz one time when them white folks wuz good to us slaves,”
said Aunt Emma, “an’ that wuz when we wuz sick. They would give us
homemade remedies like tansy tea, comfort root tea, life everlasting
tea, boneset tea, garlic water an’ sich, ‘cordin’ ter what ailed us.
Then if we didn’t git better they sont fer the doctor. If we had a
misery anywhere they would make poultices of tansy leaves scalded, or
beat up garlic an’ put on us. Them folks wuz sho’ ‘cerned ’bout us when
we wuz sick, ’cause they didn’t want us ter die.”

[Emma Hurley, Part II, Georgia]

“Hardly anybody ever got sick on de plantation. When dey wuz sick de
white lady would come out once in a while to see how you wuz gittin’
‘long. If anybody wuz very sick de doctor would come on his horse an’
bring his medicine wid ‘im when he come. When you wuz sick like dis
somebody from de fiel’ would stay in an’ do de nursin’. All de medicine
I ‘members is big blue mass pills an’ salts–dey would give you des fer
anything. When you wuz too sick to go to de fiel’ an’ not sick enuff to
be in bed you had to report to de white lady at de house–she could tell
pretty much if you wuz sick an’ she would work on you–if you did’nt git
better den she would send fer de doctor.”

[Amanda Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“When there was serious illness the slaves had the attention of Dr.
Ferrel. On other occasions the old remedy of castor oil and turpentine
was administered. There was very little sickness then according to Mr.
Lewis. Most every family kept a large pot of “Bitters” (a mixture of
whiskey and tree barks) and each morning every member of the family took
a drink from this bucket. This supposedly prevented illness.”

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

“When slaves got sick, our white folks was mighty good ’bout havin’ ’em
keered for. Dey dosed ’em up wid oil and turpentine and give ’em teas
made out of hoarhound for some mis’ries and bone-set for other troubles.
Most all the slaves wore a sack of assfiddy (asafetida) ’round deir
necks all de time to keep ’em from gittin’ sick.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“According to Mrs. McDaniel all the serious illnesses were handled by a
doctor who was called in at such times. At other times Mr. or Mrs. Hale
gave them either castor oil or salts. Sometimes they were given a type
of oil called “lobelia oil.” At the beginning of the spring season they
drank various teas made out of the roots that they gathered in the
surrounding woods. The only one that Mrs. McDaniel remembers is that
which was made from sassafras roots. “This was good to clean the
system,” says Mrs. McDaniel. Whenever they were sick they did not have
to report to the master’s house each day as was the case on some of the
other plantations. There were never any pretended illnesses to avoid
work as far as Mrs. McDaniel knows.”

[Amanda McDaniel, Part III, Georgia]

“Oh! Yes, Ma’am, Marse Billy was good to his slaves, when they got sick.
He called in Dr. Jones Long, Dr. Harden, and Dr. Lumpkin when they was
real sick. There was lots of typhoid fever then. I don’t know nothing
about no herbs, they used for diseases; only boneset and hoarhound tea
for colds and croup. They put penrile (pennyroyal) in the house to keep
out flies and fleas, and if there was a flea in the house he would shoo
from that place right then and there.”

“The old folks put little bags of assfiddy (assafoetida) around their
chillun’s necks to keep off measles and chickenpox, and they used
turpentine and castor oil on chillun’s gums to make ’em teethe easy.
When I was living on Milledge Avenue, I had Dr. Crawford W. Long to see
about one of my babies, and he slit that baby’s gums so the teeth could
come through. That looked might bad to me, but they don’t believe in old
ways no more.”

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

“Home remedies for illness were used much more extensively than any
doctor’s medicine. Teas, compounded from sage, boneset, tansy, and
mullen, usually sufficed for any minor sickness, and serious illness was
rare.”

[Matilda McKinney, Part III, Georgia]

“Marse Joe tuk mighty good keer of sick slaves. He allus called in a
doctor for ’em, and kept plenty of castor ile, turpentine, and de lak on
hand to dose ’em wid. Miss Emily made teas out of a heap of sorts of
leaves, barks, and roots, sich as butterfly root, pine tops, mullein,
catnip and mint leaves, feverfew grass, red oak bark, slippery ellum
bark, and black gum chips. Most evvybody had to wear little sacks of
papaw seeds or of assyfizzy (asafetida) ’round deir necks to keep off
diseases.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“Hoar-hound and penny-royal were used for minor ailments, and “varnish”
was put on cuts by the “ole Miss”. Mollie doesn’t remember ever seeing a
doctor, other than a mid-wife, on the plantation. Home made remedies for
“palpitation of the heart” was to wear tied around the neck a piece of
lead, pounded into the shape of the heart, and punched with nine holes,
or to get some one “not kin to you”, to tie some salt in a small bag and
wear it over your heart. Toothache was cured by smoking a pipe of “life
everlasting”, commonly called “rabbit tobacco”. Headaches were stopped
by beating the whites of an egg stiff, adding soda and putting on a
cloth, then tying around the head.”

[Mollie Malone, Part III, Georgia]

“Didn’t nobody hardly have a doctor in dem days.
De white folks used yarbs an’ ole ‘omans to he’p ’em at dat time. Mammy
had er ole ‘oman whut lived on de place evvy time she had a little ‘un.
She had one evvy year too. She lost one. Dat chile run aroun’ ’til she
wuz one year ole an’ den died wid de disentery.”

[Aunt Carrie Mason, Part III, Georgia]

“Yes Ma’am, dey took mighty good care of us effen us got sick. Ole
Marster would call in Doctor Moore or Doctor Carleton and have us looked
atter. De ‘omans had extra good care when dey chilluns comed. ‘Til
freedom come, I wuz too little to know much ’bout dat myself, but Ma
allus said dat Negro ‘omans and babies wuz looked atter better ‘fore
freedom come dan dey ever wuz anymo’.”

[Anna Parkes, Part III, Georgia]

“Loss of life among slaves was a calamity and if a doctor earned a
reputation for losing his patients, he might as well seek a new
community. Often his downfall would begin by some such comment as, “Dr.
Brown lost old man Ingram’s nigger John. He’s no good and I don’t intend
to use him.”

[G W Pattillo, Part III, Georgia]

“Oh! No Ma’am, I don’t ‘member nothin’ ’bout what us played when I wuz a
little chap, and if I ever knowed anything ’bout Rawhead and Bloody
Bones and sich lak I done plumb forgot it now. But I do know Old Marster
and Old Mist’ess sho’ wuz powerful good when dey Niggers got sick. Dey
put a messenger boy on a mule and sont ‘im for Dr. Hudson quick, ’cause
to lose a Nigger wuz losin’ a good piece of property. Some Niggers wore
some sort of beads ’round deir necks to keep sickness away and dat’s all
I calls to mind ’bout dat charm business.”

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

“A doctor was employed to attend to those persons who were sick. However
he never got chance to practice on the Kennon premises as there was
never any serious illness. Minor cases of sickness were usually treated
by giving the patient a dose of castor oil or several doses of some form
of home made medicine which the slaves made themselves from roots that
they gathered in the woods. In order to help keep his slaves in good
health Mr. Kennon required them to keep the cabins they occupied and
their surroundings clean at all times.”

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

“A doctor was only called when a person had almost reached the last
stages of illness. Illness was often an excuse to remain away from the
field. “Blue mass pills”, castor oil, etc. were kept for minor aches and
pains. When a slave died he was buried as quickly as a box could be
nailed together.”

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

“Course dey had doctors in dem days, but we used mostly home-made
medicines. I don’t believe in doctors much now. We used sage tea, ginger
tea, rosemary tea–all good for colds and other ail-ments, too.”

“We had men and women midwives. Dr. Cicero Gibson was wid me when my
fus’ baby come. I was twenty-five years old den. My baby chile
seventy-five now.”

[Ferebe Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

“There was very little illness on the plantation where Mrs. Rush lived.
Practically the only medicine ever used was castor oil and turpentine.
Some of the slaves went to the woods and gathered roots and herbs from
which they made their own tonics and medicines.”

[Julia Rush, Part III, Georgia]

“When slaves got sick, dey didn’t have no doctor dat I knowed ’bout.
Miss Carrie done de doctorin’ herself. Snake root tea was good for colds
and stomach mis’ries. Dey biled rabbit tobacco, pine tops, and mullein
together; tuk de tea and mixed it wid ‘lasses; and give it to us for
diffunt ailments. If dey done dat now, folkses would live longer. Ma put
asafiddy (asafetida) sacks ’round our necks to keep off sickness.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“Old Marster an’ Mist’ess looked atter deir Niggers mighty well. When
dey got sick, de doctor wuz sont for straight away. Yes Ma’am, dey
looked atter ’em mighty well. Holly leaves an’ holly root biled together
wuz good for indigestion, an’ blackgum an’ blackhaw roots biled together
an’ strained out an’ mixed wid whiskey wuz good for diffunt mis’ries.
Some of de Niggers wore little tar sacks ‘roun’ dey necks to keep de
fever ‘way.”

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

“Mistus b’lieved in lookin’ atter her niggers w’en dey was sick. She would give ’em medicine at home. Candy an’ tea, made wid ho’e houn’ an’ butterfly root tea was good for worms; dewberry wine, lak’wise dewberry root tea was good for de stomach ache; samson snake root an’ poplar bark tea was good medicine for coles an’ so’e th’oats, an’ w’en you was in pain, de red pepper bag would sho’ help lots sometimes. If de homemade medicine diden’ cyore ’em, den Mistus sont for de doctor.”

[Georgia Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“When we wuz sick de white folks seed dat wewuz ‘tended to. Dey use ter mak Jerusalem Oak candy an’ give us. Dey took de leaves of dat bush an’ boiled ’em an’ den use dat water dey wuz boiled in an’ put sugar ‘nough in hit ter mak candy. An dey used plenty of turpentine on us too–plenty ov hit, an’ I believes in dat terday, hit’s er good medicine.”

[Jane Toombs, Part IV, Georgia]

The health problem was not acute as these people were provided with everything necessary for a contented mind and a robust body. [TR: original line: The health problem was not a very acute one as these people were provided with everything conducive to a contented mind which plays a large part in maintaining a robust body.] However, a Doctor who lived nearby cared for the sick. Two fees were set–the larger one being charged if the patient recovered. Home remedies were used for minor ills–catnip tea for thrash, tea from Samson Snakeroot for cramps, redwood and dogwood bark tea [HW: and horehound candy] for worms, [HW: many] root teas used [HW: medicinally] by this generation. Peach brandy was given to anyone suspected of having pneumonia,–if the patient coughed, it was certain that he was a victim of the disease.”

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

“Folkses warn’t sick much in dem days lak dey is now, but now us don’t eat strong victuals no more. Us raked out hot ashes den and cooked good old ashcakes what was a heap better for us dan dis bread us buys from de stores now. Marster fed us plenty ashcake, fresh meat, and ash roasted ‘taters, and dere warn’t nobody what could out wuk us.”

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

“We learned to use lots of herbs and other home-made remedies during the war when medicine was scarce at the stores, and some old folks still use these simple teas and poultices. Comfrey was a herb used much for poultices on risings, boils, and the like, and tea made from it is said to be soothing to the nerves. Garlic tea was much used for worms, but it was also counted a good pneumonia remedy, and garlic poultices helped folks to breathe when they had grippe or pneumonia. Boneset tea was for colds. Goldenrod was used leaf, stem, blossom, and all in various ways, chiefly for fever and coughs. Black snake root was a good cure for childbed fever, and it saved the life of my second wife after her last child was born. Slippery ellum was used for poultices to heal burns, bruises, and any abrasions, and we gargled slippery ellum tea to heal sore throats, but red oak bark tea was our best sore throat remedy. For indigestion and shortness of the breath we chewed calamus root or drank tea made from it. In fact, we still think it is mighty useful for those purposes.”

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

“Old Marster was mighty good to his Niggers,” she said. When any of ’em got sick Old Miss sont to town for him, and he allus come right out and fetched a doctor. Old Miss done her very best for Pappy when he was tuk sick, but he died out jus’ de same. Pappy used to drive a oxcart and, when he was bad off sick and out of his haid, he hollered out: ‘Scotch dat wheel! Scotch dat wheel!’ In his mind, he was deep in de bad place den, and didn’t know how to pray. Old Miss, she would say: ‘Pray, Pete, Pray.’ Old Miss made a heap of teas from diff’unt things lak pennyroyal, algaroba wood,  assafras, flat tobacco, and mullein. Us wore rabbits foots, little bags of asfiddy (asafetida), and garlic tabs ’round our necks to keep off mis’ries. I wishes I had a garlic tab to wear ’round my neck now.”

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

“Serious illnesses were not frequent and home remedies compounded of roots and herbes usually sufficed. Queensy’s light root, butterfly roots, scurry root, red shank root, bull tongue root were all found in the woods and the teas made from their use were “cures” for many ailments. Whenever an illness necessitated the services of a physician, he was called. One difference in the old family doctor and those of today was the method of treatment. The former always carried his medicine with him, the latter writes prescriptions. The fee was also much smaller in olden times.”

[Rhoda Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

“When any of the slaves were bad sick Old Boss called in his own family doctor, Dr. Joe Bradbury. His plantation hit up against ours. The main things they gave for medicine them days was oil and turpentine. Sometimes folks got black snakeroot from the woods, biled it, and gave the tea to sick folks; that was to clean off the stomach. Everybody wore buckeyes ’round their necks to keep off diseases for we never knowed nothing about asefetida them days; that came later.”

[Green WIllbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

“White folks was mighty good and kind when deir slaves got sick. Old Marster sont for Dr. ‘Pree (DuPree) and when he couldn’t git him, he got Dr. Brown. He made us swallow bitter tastin’ powders what he had done mixed up in water. Miss Polly made us drink tea made out of Jerusalem oak weeds. She biled dem weeds and sweetened de tea wid syrup. Dat was good for stomach trouble, and us wore elder roots strung ’round our necks to keep off ailments.”

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

“Aunt Adeline was surprised when asked if the Doctor ever was called in to see her or any of the slaves when they were sick back in slavery days–in fact she was a bit indignant as she answered; “_No mam_, I was born, growed up, married, had sixteen children and never had no Doctor with me ’til here since I got so old”. She went on to say that her white folks looked after their Negroes when they were sick.

They were given tonics and things to keep them well so sickness among them was rare. No “store-bought” medicines, but good old home-made remedies were used. For instance, at the first sniffle they were called in and given a drink of fat lightwood tea, made by pouring boiling water over finely split kindling–“that” explained Aunt Adeline, “was cause lightwood got turpentine in it”. In the Springtime there was a mixture of anvil dust (gathered up from around the anvil in the blacksmith’s shop) and mixed with syrup, and a teaspoon full given every morning or so to each little piccaninny as they were called up in the “white folks’ yard”. Sometimes instead of this mixture they were given a dose of garlic and whisky–all to keep them healthy and well.”

[Adeline Willis, Part IV, Georgia]

“Most of the sickness on the Womble plantation was due to colds and fever. For the treatment of either of these ailments the master always kept a large can filled with a mixture of turpentine and caster oil. When anyone complained of a cold a dose of this oil was prescribed. The master gave this dose from a very large spoon that always hung from the can. The slaves also had their own home made remedies for the treatment of different ailments. Yellow root tea and black-hall tea were used in the treatment of colds while willow tea was used in the treatment of fever. Another tea made from the droppings of sheep was used as a remedy for the measles. A doctor was always called when anyone was seriously ill. He was always called to attend those cases of childbirth. Unless a slave was too sick to walk he was required to go to the field and work like the others. If, however, he was confined to his bed a nurse was provided to attend to his needs.”

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

“Besides having to take care of the young children, these older slaves were required to care for those slaves who were ill. Mr. House employed a doctor to attend his slaves when their cases seemed to warrant it. If the illness was of a minor nature he gave them castor oil, salts or pills himself. Then, too, the slaves had their own home remedies. Among these were different tonics made from “yarbs” (herbs), plasters made from mustard, and whisky, etc. Most illnesses were caused by colds and fevers. Mr. Wright says that his two brothers and his sister, all of whom were younger than he, died as a result of typhoid fever.”

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

 

 

Georgia Plantation Slave Food Rations

Georgia Plantation Slave Food Rations

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their food rations as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Potlicker and cornbread was fed to us chillun, out of big old wooden
bowls. Two or three chillun et out of de same bowl. Grown folks had
meat, greens, syrup, cornbread, ‘taters and de lak. ‘Possums! I should
say so. Dey cotch plenty of ’em and atter dey was kilt ma would scald
’em and rub ’em in hot ashes and dat clean’t ’em jus’ as pretty and
white. OO-o-o but dey was good. Lord, Yessum! Dey used to go fishin’ and
rabbit huntin’ too. Us jus’ fotched in game galore den, for it was de
style dem days. Dere warn’t no market meat in slavery days. Seemed lak
to me in dem days dat ash-roasted ‘taters and groundpeas was de best
somepin t’eat what anybody could want. ‘Course dey had a gyarden, and it
had somepin of jus’ about evvything what us knowed anything ’bout in de
way of gyarden sass growin’ in it. All de cookin’ was done in dem big
old open fireplaces what was fixed up special for de pots and ovens.
Ashcake was most as good as ‘taters cooked in de ashes, but not quite.

Dey used to skeer us
out ’bout red ‘taters. Dey was fine ‘taters, red on de outside and
pretty and white on de inside, but white folks called ’em
‘nigger-killers.’ Dat was one of deir tricks to keep us from stealin’
dem ‘taters. Dere wern’t nothin’ wrong wid dem ‘taters; dey was jus’ as
good and healthy as any other ‘taters. Aunt Lucy, she was de cook, and
she told me dat slaves was skeered of dem ‘nigger-killer’ ‘taters and
never bothered ’em much den lak dey does de yam patches dese days.”

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

“Slaves were required to prepare their own meals three times a day. This
was done in a big open fire place which was filled with hot coals. The
master did not give them much of a variety of food, but allowed each
family to raise their own vegetables. Each family was given a hand out
of bacon and meal on Saturdays and through the week corn ash cakes and
meat; which had been broiled on the hot coals was the usual diet found
in each home. The diet did not vary even at Christmas only a little
fruit was added.”

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

“Oh, yessum! Marse Alec, had plenty for his slaves to eat. Dere was
meat, bread, collard greens, snap beans, ‘taters, peas, all sorts of
dried fruit, and just lots of milk and butter. Marse Alec had 12 cows
and dat’s whar I learned to love milk so good. De same Uncle Jim what
made our beds made our wooden bowls what dey kept filled wid bread and
milk for de chillun all day. You might want to call dat place whar Marse
Alec had our veg’tables raised a gyarden, but it looked more lak a big
field to me, it was so big. You jus’ ought to have seed dat dere
fireplace whar dey cooked all us had to eat. It was one sho ‘nough big
somepin, all full of pots, skillets, and ovens. Dey warn’t never ‘lowed
to git full of smut neither. Dey had to be cleant and shined up atter
evvy meal, and dey sho was pretty hangin’ dar in dat big old fireplace.

“George and Mack was de hunters. When dey went huntin’ dey brought back
jus’ evvything: possums, rabbits, coons, squirrels, birds, and wild
turkeys. Yessum, wild turkeys is some sort of birds I reckon, but when
us talked about birds to eat us meant part’idges. Some folkses calls ’em
quails. De fishes us had in summertime was a sight to see. Us sho et
good dem days. Now us jus’ eats what-some-ever us can git.”

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

“Jus’ a few of de slave famblies was ‘lowed to do deir own cookin’
’cause Marster kept cooks up at de big house what never had nothin’ else
to do but cook for de white folks and slaves. De big old fireplace in
dat kitchen at de big house was more dan eight feet wide and you could
pile whole sticks of cord-wood on it. It had racks acrost to hang de
pots on and big ovens and little ovens and big, thick, iron fryin’ pans
wid long handles and hefty iron lids. Dey could cook for a hunderd
people at one time in dat big old kitchen easy. At one time dere was
tables acrost one end of de kitchen for de slaves t’eat at, and de slave
chillun et dar too.

“Us never could eat all de meat in Marster’s big old smokehouse.
Sometimes he tuk hams to de store and traded ’em for sugar and coffee.
Plenty of ‘bacco was raised on dat plantation for all de white folks and
de growed-up Niggers. Slave chillun warn’t sposen to have none, so us
had to swipe what ‘bacco us got. If our Mammies found out ’bout us
gittin’ ‘bacco, dey stropped us ’til de skin was most off our backs, but
sometimes us got away wid a little. If us seed any of de old folks was
watchin’ us, us slipped de ‘bacco from one to another of us whilst dey
s’arched us, and it went mighty bad on us if dey found it.”

[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]

“In the same manner that clothing was sufficient, so was food plentiful.
At the end of each week each family was given 4 lbs. of meat, 1 peck of
meal, and some syrup. Each person in a family was allowed to raise a
garden and so they had vegetables whenever they wished to. In addition
to this they were allowed to raise chickens, to hunt and to fish.
However, none of the food that was secured in any of the ways mentioned
above could be sold. When anyone wished to hunt, Mr. Coxton supplied the
gun and the shot.

Although the slaves cooked for themselves, their breakfast and dinner
were usually sent to them in the fields after it had been prepared in
the cook house. The reason for this was that they had to get up too soon
in the morning, and at noon too much time would be lost if they were
permitted to go to their cabins for lunch.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“Rias was a great hand to go seining with a certain clique of white boys,
who always gave him a generous or better than equal share of the fish
caught.

As for food, the slaves had, with the exception of “fancy trimmins”,
about the same food that the whites ate. No darky in Harris County that
he ever heard of ever went hungry or suffered for clothes until after
freedom.”

[Rias Body, Part I, Georgia]

“Maw, she went up to the big house onc’t a week to git the ‘lowance or
vittles. They ‘lowanced us a week’s rations at a time. Hit were
generally hog meat, corn meal and sometimes a little flour. Maw, she
done our cookin’ on the coals in the fireplace at our cabin. We had
plenty of ‘possums and rabbits and fishes and sometimes we had wild
tukkeys and partidges. Slaves warn’t spozen to go huntin’ at night and
everybody know you can’t ketch no ‘possums ‘ceppin’ at night! Jus’ the
same, we had plenty ‘possums and nobody ax how we cotch ’em!” James
laughed and nodded. “Now, ’bout them rabbits! Slaves warn’t ‘lowed to
have no guns and no dogs of they own. All the dogs on our plantation
belonged to my employer–I means, to my marster, and he ‘lowed us to use
his dogs to run down the rabbits. Nigger mens and boys ‘ud go in crowds,
sometimes as many as twelve at one time, and a rabbit ain’t got no
chance ‘ginst a lot of niggers and dogs when they light out for to run
‘im down!

“What wild critters we wanted to eat and couldn’t run down, we was right
smart ’bout ketchin’ in traps. We cotch lots of wild tukkeys and
partidges in traps and nets. Long Crick runned through our plantation
and the river warn’t no fur piece off. We sho’ did ketch the fishes,
mostly cats, and perch and heaps and heaps of suckers. We cotch our
fishes mos’n generally with hook and line, but the carpenters on our
plantation knowed how to make basket traps that sho’ nuff did lay in
the fishes! God only knows how long it’s been since this old nigger
pulled a big shad out of the river. Ain’t no shads been cotch in the
river round here in so long I disremembers when!

“We didn’ have no gardens of our own round our cabins. My employer–I
means, my marster–had one big gyarden for our whole plantation and all
his niggers had to work in it whensomever he wanted ’em to, then he give
’em all plenty good gyarden sass for theyselfs. They was collards and
cabbage and turnips and beets and english peas and beans and onions, and
they was allus some garlic for ailments. Garlic was mostly to cure wums
(worms). They roasted the garlic in the hot ashes and squez the juice
outen it and made the chilluns take it. Sometimes they made poultices
outen garlic for the pneumony.”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“Us et cornbread, sweet ‘tatoes, peas, home-made syrup an’ sich lak. De
meat wuz fried sometimes, but mos’ of de time it wuz biled wid de
greens. All de somethin’ t’eat wuz cooked in de fireplace. Dey didn’t
know what stoves wuz in dem days. Yes Ma’am, us went ‘possum huntin’ at
night, an’ us had plenty ‘possums too. Dey put sweet ‘tatoes an’ fat
meat roun’ ’em, an’ baked ’em in a oven what had eyes on each side of it
to put hooks in to take it off de fire wid.

“No Ma’am, us didn’t go fishin’, or rabbit huntin’ nuther. Us had to wuk
an’ warn’t no Nigger ‘lowed to do no frolickin’ lak dat in daytime. De
white folkses done all de fishin’ an’ daytime huntin’. I don’t ‘member
lakin’ no sartin’ somethin’. I wuz jus’ too glad to git anythin’. Slaves
didn’t have no gyardens of dey own. Old Marster had one big gyarden what
all de slaves et out of.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia]

“Refrigeration was practically unknown, so a well was used to keep the
butter fresh. This cool well was eighty feet deep and passed through a
layer of solid rock. A rope ladder was suspended from the mouth of the
well to the place where the butter was lowered for preservation. For
safety, and to shield it from the sun, reeds were planted all around the
well. And as they grew very tall, a stranger would not suspect a well
being there.

Food was distributed on Monday night, and for each adult slave the
following staple products were allowed–

Weekly ration: On Sunday:
3-1/2 lbs. meat One qt. syrup
1 pk. of meal One gal. flour
1 gal. shorts One cup lard

Vegetables, milk, etc., could be obtained at the “big house”, but fresh
meat and chickens were never given. The desire for these delicacies
often overcame the slaves’ better natures, and some frequently went
night foraging for small shoats and chickens.

One of Della’s grandmother’s favorite recipes was made of dried beef and
wheat. The wheat was brought from the field and husked by hand. This,
added to the rapidly boiling beef, was cooked until a mush resulted,
which was then eaten from wooden bowls with spoons of the same material.
White plates were never used by the slaves.”

[Della Briscoe, Part I, Georgia]

“What did us have to eat? Lordy mussy! Mist’ess! us had everything.
Summertime dere wuz beans, cabbage, squashes, irish ‘tatoes, roas’en
ears, ‘matoes, cucumbers, cornbread, and fat meat, but de Nigger boys,
dey wuz plum fools ’bout hog head. In winter dey et sweet ‘tatoes,
collards, turnips and sich, but I et lak de white folkses. I sho does
lak ‘possums and rabbits. Yessum, some of de slaves had gyardens, some
of ’em sholy did.”

[Easter Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“We didn’t have stoves plentiful then: just ovens we set in the
fireplace. Ah’s toted a many a armful of bark–good ole hickory bark to
cook with. We’d cook light bread–both flour and corn. The yeast fur
this bread wuz made frum hops. Coals of fire wuz put on top of the oven
and under the bottom, too. Everything wuz cooked on coals frum a wood
fire–coffee and all. Wait, let me show you my coffee tribet. Have you
ever seen one? Well, Ah’ll show you mine.” Aunt Sally got up and hobbled
to the kitchen to get the trivet. After a few moments search she came
back into the room.

“No, it’s not there. Ah guess it’s been put in the basement. Ah’ll show
it to you when you come back. It’s a rack made of iron that the pot is
set on befo’ puttin’ it on the fire coals. The victuals wuz good in them
days; we got our vegetables out’n the garden in season and didn’t have
all the hot-house vegetables. Ah don’t eat many vegetables now unless
they come out’n the garden and I know it. Well, as I said, there wuz
racks fitted in the fireplace to put pots on. Once there wuz a big pot
settin’ on the fire, jest bilin’ away with a big roast in it. As the
water biled, the meat turned over and over, comin’ up to the top and
goin’ down again, Ole Sandy, the dog, come in the kitchen. He sot there
a while and watched that meat roll over and over in the pot, and all of
a sudden-like he grabbed at that meat and pulls it out’n the pot.
‘Course he couldn’t eat it ’cause it wuz hot and they got the meat befo’
he et it. The kitchen wuz away frum the big house, so the victuals wuz
cooked and carried up to the house. Ah’d carry it up mahse’f. We
couldn’t eat all the different kinds of victuals the white folks et and
one mornin’ when I was carryin’ the breakfast to the big house we had
waffles that wuz a pretty golden brown and pipin’ hot. They wuz a
picture to look at and ah jest couldn’t keep frum takin’ one, and that
wuz the hardest waffle fur me to eat befo’ I got to the big house I ever
saw. Ah jest couldn’t git rid of that waffle ’cause my conscience
whipped me so.”

[Julia Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“Dere was allus plenty t’eat ’cause Marster had a 2-acre gyarden and a
big fruit orchard. Two cooks was in de kitchen all de time. Dey cooked
in a big fireplace, but us had big ovens to cook de meat, biscuits and
lightbread in. Us made ‘lasses and syrup and put up fruits just lak dey
does now.”

[Julia Bunch, Part I, Georgia]

“The Willis family as kind and religious and saw to it that their slaves
were given plenty of food to eat. Every Monday night each family was
given its share of food for the week. Each grown person was given a peck
of corn [TR: meal on original page] and three pounds of meat; besides
the vegetables, etc. On Tuesday morning each family was given an ample
amount of real flour for biscuits.”

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

“Us had evvything good to eat. Marse Thomas was a rich man and fed ‘is
Niggers well. Dey cooked in a big open fireplace and biled greens and
some of de udder vittals in a great big pot what swung on a rack. Meat,
fish and chickens was fried in a griddle iron what was sot on a flat
topped trivet wid slits to let de fire thoo. Dey called it a trivet
’cause it sot on three legs and hot coals was raked up under it. Hoe
cakes made out of cornmeal and wheat flour sho’ was good cooked on dat
griddle. ‘Tatoes was roasted in de ashes, and dey cooked bread what dey
called ash cake in de ashes. Pound cake, fruit cake, light bread and
biscuits was baked in a great big round pot, only dey warn’t as deep as
de pots dey biled in; dese was called ovens. Makes me hongry to think
’bout all dem good vittals now.

“Oh! Yes Ma’am, us had plenty ‘possums. Pappy used to cotch so many
sometimes he jest put ’em in a box and let us eat ’em when us got ready.
‘Possums tasted better atter dey was put up in a box and fattened a
while. Us didn’t have many rabbits; dey warn’t as much in style den as
dey is now, and de style of eatin’ ‘possums lak dey done in slav’ry
times, dat is ’bout over. Dey eats ’em some yet, but it ain’t stylish no
mo’. Us chillun used to go fishin’ in Moore’s Branch; one would stand on
one side of de branch wid a stick, and one on de udder side would roust
de fishes out. When dey come to de top and jump up, us would hit ’em on
de head, and de grown folks would cook ’em. Dere warn’t but one gyarden,
but dat had plenty in it for evvybody.”

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

“A day of rest was given the slaves about once
every three months in addition to the regular holidays which are
observed today. On holidays, “frolics” at which square dances were the
chief form of entertainment (by the music of a banjo or fiddle) were
enjoyed. Ring games were played by the children. The refreshments
usually consisted of ash cakes and barbecue. The ash cake was made by
wrapping corn pones in oak leaves and burying the whole in hot ashes.
When the leaves dried, the cake was usually done and was carefully moved
to prevent its becoming soiled. [HW: A] skillful cook could produce
cakes that were a golden brown and not at all ashy.

Food was provided by the owners and all families cooked for themselves
whether they were many or one. The weekly allotments of meal, meat,
etc., were supplemented through the use of vegetables which could always
be obtained from the fields. On special days chicken or beef was given
and each one had a sufficient amount for his needs. Hunting and fishing
were recreations in which the slaves were not allowed to participate
although they frequently went on secret excursions of this nature. All
food stuff as well as cloth for garments was produced at home.”

[Berry Clay, Part I, Georgia]

“Several cooks were regularly maintained. Some cooked for the men who had
no families, others for the members of the big house and guests. The
menus varied little from day to day. A diet of bread–called “shortening
bread,”–vegetables and smoked meat were usually consumed. Buttermilk
was always plentiful. On Sundays “seconds” (flour) were added to the
list and butter accompanied this. Chickens, fresh meat, etc., were
holiday items and were seldom enjoyed at any other time.

Not only were the slaves required to work but the young men of the “big
house” also had their duties. In the summer they went fishing. While
this sport was enjoyed, it was done on an extremely large scale in order
that everyone should have an adequate supply of fish. The streams
abounded in all kinds of fish, and nets were used to obtain large
quantities necessary. In winter hunting was engaged in for this same
purpose. Rabbits, squirrels, etc., were the usual game, but in addition
the trapping of wild hogs was frequently indulged in. The woods
contained many of these animals which were exceptionally vicious. The
hunters, however, trapped them in much the same way that rabbits are now
caught, without injury to the flesh [TR: ‘making the meat more
delicious’ marked out]. Deer were also plentiful and venison enjoyed
during its season. Horned snakes were the greatest impediments to more
abundant hunting.”

[Pierce Cody, Part I, Georgia]

“Dere warn’t no
sto’-bought stoves den, and all our cookin’ wuz done in de fireplace.
Pots wuz hung on iron cranes to bile and big pones of light bread wuz
cooked in ovens on de hearth. Dat light bread and de biscuits made out
of shorts wuz our Sunday bread and dey sho’ wuz good, wid our home-made
butter. Us had good old corn bread for our evvyday bread, and dere ain’t
nothin’ lak corn bread and buttermilk to make healthy Niggers. Dere
wouldn’t be so many old sick Niggers now if dey et corn bread evvyday
and let all dis wheat bread and sto’-bought, ready-made bread alone
‘cept on Sunday.

“Dere wuz four or five acres in Marster’s big old gyarden, but den it
tuk a big place to raise enough for all de slaves and white folkses too
in de same gyarden. Dere wuz jus’ de one gyarden wid plenty of cabbage,
collards, turnip greens, beans, corn, peas, onions, ‘taters, and jus’
evvything folkses laked in de way of gyarden sass. Marster never ‘lowed
but one smokehouse on his place. It wuz plumb full of meat, and evvy
slave had his meat rations weighed out reg’lar. Dere wuz jes’ one dairy
house too whar de slaves got all de milk and butter dey needed. Marster
sho’ did b’lieve in seeing dat his Niggers had a plenty to eat.

“Marster raised lots of chickens and de slaves raised chickens too if
dey wanted to. Marster let ’em have land to wuk for deyselves, but dey
had to wuk it atter dey come out of his fields. All dey made on dis land
wuz deir own to sell and do what dey wanted to wid. Lots of ’em plowed
and hoed by moonlight to make deir own crops.

“When us turned Marster’s watch dogs loose at night, dey warn’t nothin’
could come ’round dat place. Dey had to be kept chained up in de
daytime. Sometimes Marster let us take his dogs and go huntin’ and dey
wuz de best ‘possum trailers ’round dem parts. When dey barked up a
‘simmon tree, us allus found a ‘possum or two in dat tree. Sometimes
atter us cotched up lots of ’em, Marster let us have a ‘possum supper.
Baked wid plenty of butter and ‘tatoes and sprinkled over wid red
pepper, dey is mighty good eatments. My mouf’s jus’ a-waterin’ ’cause
I’m thinkin’ ’bout ‘possums.”

[Willis Cofer, Part I, Georgia]

“I am going to tell you the truth about what we had to eat, so listen
now. It was egg bread, biscuits, peas, potatoes–they they were called
‘taters then–artichoke pickles, tea cakes, pies, and good old healthy
lye hominy. There was plenty of meat served, but I was not allowed to
eat that, as I was never a very strong child. I was a fool about stale
bread, such as biscuit, cornbread, and light bread. Mother was a fine
cook and her battercakes would just melt in your mouth. Of course, you
know we had no stoves in those days and the cooking was done in open
fireplaces, in ovens and pots. Oh yes! We had a garden. There was only
one on the place and enough was raised in it to feed all of the people
living there.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“Ma’s chillun all had vittals from de white folkses kitchen. After Marse
Billie’s fambly done et and left de table, de cook wuz s’posed to take
what wuz left to feed de house niggers and her own chillun, and us did
have sho’ ’nuff good vittals. All de other slave folks had day rations
weighed out to ’em every week and dey cooked in dey own cabins. When de
wheat wuz ground at de mill it made white flour, and shorts, and
seconds. Most of de shorts wuz weighed out in rations for de slave
folks. Now and den at Christmas and special times dey got a little white
flour. Dey liked cornbread for reg’lar eatin’. Dey wuz always lots of
hogs on Marse Billie’s plantation, and his colored folkses had plenty of
side meat. Slaves never had no time to hunt in de day time, but dey sho’
could catch lots of ‘possums at night, and dey knowed how to git catfish
at night too.

“‘Cross de road from de Big ‘Ouse, Marse Billie had a big gyarden, and
he seed dat his help had plenty of somethin’ good to bile. Dey won’t no
separate gyardens. Dey didn’t have no time to work no gyardens of dey
own.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“My mother was the cook and looked after the house. Oh, yes indeed, we
had good food to eat. Bread, milk, meat, collard greens, turnips, and
potatoes. I would say we had just everything that was grown in the
garden and on the plantations to eat at that time. The cooking was done
in the kitchen in the yard. The fireplace was as wide as the end of this
room, and a long iron bar extended from one end to the other. The great
cooking pots were suspended over the coals from this bar by means of pot
hooks. Heavy iron skillets with thick lids were much used for baking,
and they had ovens of various sizes. I have seen my mother bake
beautiful biscuits and cakes in those old skillets, and they were ideal
for roasting meats. Mother’s batter cakes would just melt in your mouth
and she could bake and fry the most delicious fish. There was no certain
thing that I liked to eat more than anything else in those days. I was
young and had a keen appetite for all good things. Miss Fannie and Miss
Susan often made candy and it was so good I could have eaten all they
made, had they given it to me. My father hired his time out; he made and
sold gingercakes on the railroad.”

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Asked if there was sufficient food for all slaves, Uncle Mose said “I
never heard any complaints.” At the end of each week every family was
given some fat meat, black molasses, meal and flour in quantity varying
with the size of the family. At certain intervals during the week, they
were given vegetables. Here too, as in everything else, Mose’s father
was more fortunate than the others, since he took all his meals at the
mansion where he ate the same food served to the master and his family.
The only difference between Week-day and Sunday diet was that biscuits
were served on Sundays. The children were given only one biscuit each.
In addition to the other bread was considered a delicacy. All food stuff
was grown on the plantation.”

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“De fireplaces was a heap bigger dan dey has now, for all de cookin’ was
done in open fireplaces den. ‘Taters and cornpone was roasted in de
ashes and most of de other victuals was biled in de big old pots what
swung on cranes over de coals. Dey had long-handled fryin’ pans and
heavy iron skillets wid big, thick, tight-fittin’ lids, and ovens of all
sizes to bake in. All of dem things was used right dar in de fireplace.
Dere never was no better tastin’ somepin t’eat dan dat cooked in dem old
cook-things in open fireplaces.

“Durin’ of de war time, soda and salt was both hard to git. Dey biled
down de dirt from under old smokehouses to git salt, and soda was made
out of burnt corncobs. You would be s’prised to see what good cookin’
could be done wid dat old corncob soda.”

[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]

“The amount of food given each slave was also inadequate as a general
rule. At the end of each week they all went to a certain spot on the
plantation where each was given 1 peck of meal, 1 gal. of syrup, and 3
pounds of meat. They often suffered from that particular stomach ailment
commonly known as hunger. At such times raids were made on the
smokehouse. This was considered as stealing by the master and the
overseer but to them it was merely taking that which they had worked
for. At other times they increased their food by hunting and fishing.
Possums and coons were the usual game from such a hunting expedition.
All meals usually consisted of grits, bacon, syrup, corn bread and
vegetables. On Sundays and holidays the meals varied to the extent that
they were allowed to have biscuits which they called “cake bread.” The
slaves made coffee by parching corn meal, okra seed or Irish potatoes.
When sufficiently parched any one of the above named would make a vile
type of coffee. Syrup was used for all sweetening purposes. The produce
from the gardens which the master allowed them could only be used for
home consumption and under no circumstances could any of it be sold.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“Grown folks was fed cornbread and meat wid plenty of vegetables in de
week days and on Sunday mornin’s dey give ’em wheat bread, what was
somethin’ slaves didn’t see no more ’til de next Sunday mornin’. ‘Bout
four o’clock on summer atternoons, dey sot a big old wooden bowl full of
cornbread crumbs out in de yard and poured in buttermilk or potliquor
’til de crumbs was kivered. Den dey let de chillun gather ’round it and
eat ’til de bowl was empty. In winter chillun was fed inside de house.

“‘Possums, Oh, mussy me! My grandpa hunted ‘possums at night and fetched
in two and three at a time. Don’t say nothin’ ’bout dem rabbits for dere
warn’t no end to ’em. Rabbits stewed, rabbits fried, and rabbits dried,
smoked, and cured lak hog meat! I et so many rabbits when I was young I
can’t stand to look at ’em now but I could eat ‘possums and gnaw de
bones all day long. Marse Billy let grandpa go fishin’ and he was all
time bringin’ back a passel of minnows and other fishes. Us rubbed ’em
down wid lard and salt and pepper, den rolled ’em in cornmeal and baked
’em. I never seed no fried meat ’til I was a big strappin’ gal. Dere was
one big gyarden whar dey raised ‘nough vegetables for all de white folks
and slaves too. All de bilin’ was done in pots swung on cranes over
coals in de fireplace.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“Rations were distributed on Sunday morning of each week, and the slaves
had plenty to eat. The slaves were also allowed to fish, thus often
adding variety to their regular fare.”

[Martha Everette, Part I, Georgia]

“As a general rule all of the slaves on this plantation had enough food
to keep them well and healthy. At the end of each week the field hands
were given enough food to last them seven days. For most of them the
week’s supply consisted of three and one-half pounds of pork or fat
meat, one peck of meal, flour, and black molasses. The only meals that
they had to prepare from the above mentioned articles were breakfast and
supper. Dinner was cooked in the plantation kitchen by one of the women
who was too old for work in the fields. For this particular meal the
slaves had some different type of vegetable each day along with the fat
meat, corn bread, and the pot liquor which was served every day. They
were allowed to come in from the fields to the house to be served.
Breakfast usually consisted of fat meat, molasses, and corn bread while
supper consisted of pot-liquor, bread, and milk. The only variation from
this diet was on Sunday when all were allowed to have bisquits instead
of corn bread. Mr. Favors was asked what happened if anyone’s food was
all eaten before it was time for the weekly issue and he answered: “It
was just too bad for them ’cause they would have to do the best they
could until the time came to get more.” When such a thing happened to
anyone the others usually helped as far as their limited supplies would
permit.

Mr. Favors says that he, his mother, and the two maids ate the same kind
of food that the “Widow,” and her nieces were served. After he had seen
to the wants of all at the table he had to take a seat at the table
beside his owner where he ate with her and the others seated there.”

[Lewis Favor, Part I, Georgia]

“Us cotch lots of ‘possums, but mighty few of ’em us Niggers ever got a
chance to eat, or rabbits neither. Dey made Niggers go out and hunt ’em
and de white folks et ’em. Our mouths would water for some of dat
‘possum but it warn’t often dey let us have none. I don’t know nothin’
’bout no fishin’ bein’ done dem days. Yessum, slaves had deir own
gyardens, and dey better wuk ’em good if dey wanted any gyarden sass to
eat. Cookin’ was done in dem big open fireplaces, mostly in pots and
thick iron skillets what had lids on ’em.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“What I et? Anything I could git. Peas, green corn, ‘tatoes, cornbread,
meat and lye hominy was what dey give us more dan anything else. Bakin’
was done in big old ovens what helt three pones of bread and in skillets
what helt two. Big pots for bilin’ was swung over de coals in de
fireplace. Dey was hung on hooks fastened to de chimbly or on cranes
what could be swung off de fire when dey wanted to dish up de victuals.
Hit warn’t nothin’ for us to ketch five or six ‘possums in one night’s
huntin’. De best way to tote ‘possums is to split a stick and run deir
tails thoo’ de crack–den fling de stick crost your shoulders and tote
de ‘possums ‘long safe and sound. Dat way dey can’t bite you. Dey’s bad
’bout gnawin’ out of sacks. When us went giggin’ at night, us most allus
fotched back a heap of fishes and frogs. Dere was allus plenty of fishes
and rabbits. Our good old hound dog was jus’ ’bout as good at trailin’
rabbits in de daytime as he was at treein’ ‘possums at night. I was
young and spry, and it didn’t seem to make no diff’unce what I et dem
days. Big gyardens was scattered over de place whar-some-ever Marster
happened to pick out a good gyarden spot. Dem gyardens all b’longed to
our Marster, but he fed us all us wanted out of ’em.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“Money! Oh-h-h, no Ma’am! I never seed no money ’til I was a great big
gal. My white folks was rich and fed us good. Dey raised lots of hogs
and give us plenty of bread and meat wid milk and butter and all sorts
of vegetables. Marster had one big garden and dere warn’t nobody had
more good vegetables den he fed to his slaves. De cookin’ was done in
open fireplaces and most all de victuals was biled or fried. Us had all
de ‘possums, squirrels, rabbits, and fish us wanted cause our marster
let de mens go huntin’ and fishin’ lots.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Every two weeks, rations of meal, molasses and bacon were given each
slave family in sufficient quantity. The slaves prepared their own
meals, but were not allowed to leave the fields until noon. A nursing
mother, however, could leave between times.”

[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Margaret described “the quarters” and told of the life. “Each fam’ly had
a garden patch, and could raise cotton. Only Marse Cooke raised cotton;
what we raised we et”.”

[Margaret Green, Part II, Georgia]

“All us little niggers on the Booker plantation et in de white folks’
kitchen, a big old kitchen out in de yard. De grown slaves cooked and et
in dey cabins, but our Mistess wouldn’t trust ’em to feed de little
ones. My Gramma wuz de cook an’ we had plenty of good victuals, we’d all
set er round an’ eat all we wanted three times er day.”

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

“Food consisting of meal, bacon meat, and syrup was given the slave
families once a week. Occasionally “short” a second quality of flour was
given them for their Sunday meals. The Griffins were not liberal in
feeding their slaves, but would not object to their raising a little
corn, and a few vegetables. They had to work their gardens at night,
however, by the light of burning fat wood. Real coffee was on unheard-of
luxury among slaves: so scorched or corn meal served the purpose just as
well. On Christmas the master called each slave and gave him a dram of
whiskey. No other food or fruit was given. [HW: strikes this sentence
out]

Tin pans served as plates for the families. Spoons, knives, and forks
were unheard of: “Many a day I have eaten mashed bread and milk from a
trough and thought it was good,” remarked Mr. Griffin.

Occasionally on other plantations slaves were allowed to earn money by
selling vegetables, chickens, etc. On the Griffin Plantation they could
only sell home made “gingercakes” for which a five-cent piece of paper
money was received in return. There were three pieces of paper money
used in those days: the five-cent, ten-cent, and fifteen-cent pieces.”

[Heard Griffin, Part II, Georgia]

“The rations for the next week were given each family on saturday nights,
amounts varying according to the number in each family. Usually a small
family received three lbs. of bacon, one peck of meal, and one quart of
syrup.”

[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]

“What did us have t’eat? Oo-o! Dey give us plenty good victuals. Dere
was bread and meat; peas, greens, and other vegetables; all de milk us
wanted, and sometimes dere was good old gingercakes made wid sorghum
syrup. As for me, I laked fried fat meat and cornbread cooked in de
ashes better dan greens and sweet things any old time. All de cookin’
was done in great big open fireplaces dat was plum full of ovens,
skillets and all sorts of long handled pans and things. Gentlemen! Dat
pot would bile down wid dem peas in it ‘fore you knowed it if you didn’t
watch it close. Dere never was no other bread good as what us baked in
dem ovens and in de ashes.

“‘Possums! You jus’ makes my mouth water, talkin’ ’bout ‘possums. Folks
thought so much of deir ‘possum dogs dem days dey fed ’em ’til dey was
jus’ fat and lazy. Dey cotched de ‘possums, singed and scraped de hair
off of ’em, finished dressin’ ’em and drapped ’em in de pot to bile ’til
dey was tender. Den dey put ’em in bakin’ pans and kivvered ’em over wid
strips of fat meat and baked ’em jus’ as nice and brown, and if dey had
good sweet ‘tatoes, dey roasted ’em in de ashes, peeled ’em, and put ’em
on de big old platters wid de ‘possums. Rabbits was plentiful too and I
loves ’em ’til dis good day. Most of de young tender rabbits what dey
cotched was fried, but if dey brung in some old tough ones dey was
throwed in de pot wid a piece of fat meat and biled ’til dey was done.
Squirrels was cooked jus’ lak rabbits. Dere was plenty of fish down dar
in Greene County whar us lived, but I never did eat ’em. Slaves would
wuk all day and fish all night, but you never did ketch Dosia foolin’
’round no fish ponds. Slave famblies was ‘lowed to have little gyarden
patches if dey wanted ’em. I ricollect how I used to go to de gyarden in
de winter and cut down collards atter frost had done hit ’em and fetched
’em to de house to be biled down for dinner.”

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Oh, but us had plenty of good things to eat on de Poore
plantation–meat and bread wid lots of turnips and ‘tatoes. ‘Bout once a
month dey give us lallyhoe. Dey calls dat ‘lasses now. Us et our
breakfast and dinner out of wooden bowls. Under a long shed built next
to de kitchen was a long trough. At night dey crumbled cornbread in it,
and poured it full of buttermilk. Grown folks and chilluns all gathered
‘roun’ dat old trough and et out of it wid deir wooden spoons. No Ma’am,
dere warn’t no fightin’ ‘roun’ dat trough. Dey all knowed better’n dat.

“Us got ‘possums and rabbits de best ways us could–cotch ’em in traps,
hit ’em wid rocks, and trailed ’em wid dogs. Us lakked ‘possums baked
wid ‘tatoes, but most of de rabbits was stewed wid dumplin’s. All our
cookin’ was done on big open fireplaces. Dey didn’t fry nothin’ dem
days; leastwise dey never give de slaves no fried victuals. Grown folks
seined for fish in Big Crick and Saluda River at night, ’cause dey
couldn’t git away f’um field wuk in de day. Chillun cotch a heap of fish
wid hook and line. De river and crick bofe run thoo’ Miss Annie’s
plantation so us didn’t have to ax for a pass evvy time us went a
fishin’. Us allus had to have a pass if us left de plantation for
anything or de patterollers was apt to git you and look out den, for you
was sho’ to git a larrupin’ if dey cotch you off f’um home widout no
pass.

“Dere warn’t but one gyarden on de Poore plantation, and it was big
enough to feed all de white folks and slaves too. Two whole acres of dat
gyarden was sowed down in turnips.”

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

“Evvybody cooked on fireplaces dem days, ’cause dere warn’t no
sto’-bought stoves. Marse Tom fed all his slaves at de big house; he
kept ’em so regular at wuk dere warn’t no time for ’em to do deir own
cookin’.

“Folks sho ‘nough did live at home den; dey raised all sorts of
vegetables sich as corn, ‘taters, wheat, rye, and oats, and what’s more,
dey raised de cotton and wool to make de cloth for deir clothes. Cows,
hogs, goats, sheep, chickens, geese, and turkeys was runnin’ all over
dem pastures, and dere warn’t no lack of good victuals and home-made
clothes. When hogs and cows was kilt to put meat in de smokehouse deir
hides was tanned for leather to be used for harness and shoes, and a
heap of times a piece of hide was used for a cheer-seat.

“Daddy said dey had a powerful hard time gittin’ things lak soda, salt,
sugar, and coffee durin’ de war times. He said dat sometimes corn and
okra seeds was parched right brown and ground up to be used for coffee,
but it warn’t nigh as good as sho ‘nough coffee. When de salt had to be
used if folks and critters was to keep well. Dey dug up de dirt under
old smokehouses and biled it to git out de salt. Nobody didn’t waste
none of dat salt. No Surree! It was too hard to git. When it got so dey
couldn’t buy no soda, dey saved nice clean corncobs and burned dem into
a fine powder what dey used for soda. Was it fit for bread-makin’? Why,
Missy, dem biscuits made out of corncob soda and baked in dem old dutch
ovens was fit for anybody to eat and enjoy. De onliest trouble ’bout it
was gittin’ ’em to bake enough of it.

“Chillun loved hogkillin’ times. Five or six mens would jine up and go
from place to place in de community whar dere was lots of hogs to be
kilt. When dem hogs was all butchered de folks would git together and
sich a supper as dey would have! De mostest fresh meat sich as
chit’lin’s, haslets, pig foots, and sausage, wid good old collard
greens, cracklin’ bread, and hot coffee. I’m a-tellin’ you, Lady, dat
was good eatin’, and atter you had done been wukin’ in de hogkillin’ dem
cold days you was ready for victuals dat would stay by you.”

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“Meals on week days consisted principally of syrup and bread and they
were glad, Emmaline stated, to see Saturday come, because they knew they
would have biscuit made from “seconds” on Sunday. Butter seems to have
been a delicacy but little known. “The only butter I remember eating
before we were freed,” Emmaline declared, “was that which my little
mistress Fannie would slip to me.” This led her mother to say, “Miss
Fannie is so crazy about ‘Em’ I am going to give ‘Em’ to her for a
cook.”

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“Summer rations on the Henderson plantations never varied from bacon and
corn bread. In the fall each family was free to eat as many of the
different vegetables as they wanted.

Wooden spoons, bowls, and trays, were kept clean by scouring regularly
with sand. At Christmas those who asked for whiskey were given an ample
amount; and occasionally each family was given a cake baked by Mr.
Henderson’s mother.”

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

“Us et home produce them days. Folks didn’t know nothin’ ’bout livin’
out of cans and paper sacks lak they does now. Thar was allus plenty of
hog meat, syrup, milk and butter, cornbread, and sometimes us chillun
got a biscuit. Thar was one big old garden on the place that had
evvything in the way of vegetables growin’ in it, besides the patches of
beans, peas, ‘taters, and the lak that was scattered ’round in the
fields. The orchards was full of good fruit sich as apples, peaches,
pears, and plums, and don’t forgit them blackberries, currants, and figs
what growed ’round the aidge of the back yard, in fence corners, and off
places. Sho, us had ‘possums, plenty of ’em, ’cause they let us use the
dogs to trail ’em down with. ‘Possums was biled ’til they was tender,
then baked with sweet ‘taters, and thar ain’t no better way been found
to fix ’em to this good day, not even if they’s barbecued. Sho, sho, us
had rabbits and squirrels by the wholesale, and fish too if us tuk time
to do our fishin’ at night. They never did lak to see slaves settin’
’round fishin’ in the daytime.

“All the cookin’ was done in a log cabin what sot a good little piece
behind the big house. The big old fireplace in that kitchen held a
four-foot log, and when you was little you could set on one end of that
log whilst it was a-burnin’ on t’other. They biled in pots hangin’ from
hooks on a iron bar that went all the way ‘cross the fireplace, and the
bakin’ was done in skillets and ovens, but sometimes bread was wropt up
in cabbage or collard leaves and baked in hot ashes; that was ashcake.
Thick iron lids fitted tight on them old skillets, and most of ’em had
three legs so hot coals could be raked under ’em. The ovens sot on
trivets over the coals.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Food was always given out to the slaves from the commissary and the
smokehouse. There was flour and corn meal, dried beans and other
vegetables, and cured pork and beef in the winter. In season the
servants had access to the master’s vegetable garden and they were
always given as much milk as they could use.”

[Robert Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Warn’t nothin’ short ’bout de eats. Our white folkses b’lieved in good
eatin’s. Dey give us bread and meat wid all de cabbage, colla’d and
turnip greens us wanted, and us had ‘matoes, ‘tatoes, chickens and
ducks. Yessum, and dere allus was plenty ‘possums and rabbits cooked
’bout lak dey is now, only dere warn’t no stoves in dem days. Pots for
biling swung on racks dey called cranes, over de coals in big open
fireplaces. Baking was done in ovens and skillets. Dere was allus lots
of fishes in season, but I didn’t do none of de fishin’, ’cause I was
too skeered of de water when I was a chap.”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Us et good, not much diff’unt f’um what us does now. Most times it was
meat and bread wid turnip greens, lye hominy, milk, and butter. All our
cookin’ was done on open fireplaces. Oh! I was fond of ‘possums,
sprinkled wid butter and pepper, and baked down ’til de gravy was good
and brown. You was lucky if you got to eat ‘possum and gnaw de bones
atter my Ma done cooked it.

“Dey cotch rabbits wid dogs. Now and den, a crowd of Niggers would jump
a rabbit when no dogs was ’round. Dey would tho’ rocks at him and run
him in a hollow log. Den dey would twiss him out wid hickory wisps
(withes). Sometimes dere warn’t no fur left on de rabbit time dey got
him twisted out, but dat was all right. Dey jus’ slapped him over daid
and tuk him on to de cabin to be cooked. Rabbits was most gen’ally
fried.

“Grown boys didn’t want us chillun goin’ ‘long ‘possum huntin’ wid ’em,
so all right, dey tuk us way off crost de fields ’til dey found a good
thick clump of bushes, and den dey would holler out dat dere was some
moughty fine snipes ’round dar. Dey made us hold de poke (bag) open so
de snipes could run in. Den dey blowed out deir light’ood knot torches,
and left us chillun holdin’ de poke whilst dey went on huntin’ ‘possums.

“Atter dinner Saddays all of us tuk our hooks, poles, and lines down to
Dry Fork Crick, when it was de right time of de year to fish. Sometimes
dey stewed fish for old folkses to eat, but young folkses loved ’em
fried best.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“All food was raised on the plantation and cooked in the family kitchen.
Every one had the same kind of food and the game caught or killed by the
elder sons was a delicacy relished by all. When the family meal was
served, a mischievous collection of black children would sometimes crawl
under the table and meddle with each person seated there. Instead of
being scolded, they would receive luscious morsels from the hands of the
diners. Mrs. Huff often laughingly stated that she knew not which was
more annoying–“the children or the chickens, as neither were disciplined.”

[Annie Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Food was cooked on an open
fireplace and the frying pan was the most important utensil; vegetables
were boiled in a swinging kettle. The griddle stood several inches from
the floor, on three small pegs. Through the middle a “pin” was placed so
that the griddle might revolve as the bread etc., cooked on the side
near the hottest part of the fire. Matches, a luxury, were then sold in
small boxes the size of the average snuff box at ten cents per box.

Food was provided by the Master who gave it out in regular weekly
allotments. Collard greens, peas, smoked meat and corn bread were the
chief items on all menus. On Sundays a small amount of flour for
biscuits and some coffee was given; buttermilk was always plentiful.
Holidays were usually synonymous with barbecue when large hogs and
beeves were killed and an ample supply of fresh meat was given each
person. As all food was raised on the plantation, everyone had plenty.”

Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Victuals dem days warn’t fancy lak day is now, but Marstar allus seed
dat us had plenty of milk and butter, all kinds of greens for bilein’,
‘tatoes and peas and sich lak. Chilluns et cornbread soaked in de pot
liquor what de greens or peas done been biled in. Slaves never got much
meat. Dey mixed butter wid home-made syrup and sopped it up wid
cornbread. Dare warn’t much wheat bread for slaves.

“Dere was a good ‘possum hound on de plantation what was a fine rabbit
dog too, and Marster let us use him to ketch us lots of ‘possums and
rabbits. De mens went seinin’ at night in Buffalo Crick what run thoo’
Marse Jabe’s place. Dey used to put back all de little fishes and de
turkles and tarrepins. ‘Possums was baked wid sweet ‘tatoes and rabbits
was parbiled in a big old open fireplace in big pots and skillets.
Marster had one big gyarden whar enough was growed for evvybody on de
whole plantation, but some of de slaves was ‘lowed to have deir own
little gyardens and cotton patches what dey wukked on moonlight nights.”

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Dey allus had plenty to cook, ’cause dere was plenty of victuals raised
on Marse Jack’s place. Chillun was all fed up at de big house whar Marse
Garner, de overseer, lived. Deir mammies was ‘lowed to come in from de
fields in time to cook dinner for de menfolks, but dey didn’t git deir
chillun back home ’til atter supper. Granny Rose had ’em all day, and
she had to see dat dey had de right sort of victuals to make chillun
grow fast and strong. Chillun et out of wooden trays, and, Honey, dey
sho was some sight; dey looked jus’ lak pig troughs. Dey poured peas,
cabbage, or whatever de chillun was to eat right in dat trough on top of
a passel of cornbread. For supper chillun jus’ had milk and bread, but
dere was allus plenty of it. Marse Jack had lots of cows, and old Aunt
Mary didn’t have no other job but to churn enough so dere would allus be
plenty of milk and butter, ’cause Marse Jack had done said milk was good
for chillun and dat us was to have it to drink any time us wanted it.

“Evvybody cooked on fireplaces den. I jus’ wish you could see dat big
old fireplace in de big house kitchen; you could stand up in it. It had
long racks clear acrost de inside for de pots what dey biled in to hang
on. Bakin’ was done in thick iron skillets dat had heavy lids. You sot
’em on coals and piled more coals all over ’em. Us had somepin dat most
folks didn’t have; dat was long handled muffin pans. Dey had a lid dat
fitted down tight, and you jus’ turned ’em over in de fire ’til de
muffins was cooked on both sides. I had dem old muffin irons here, but
de lid got broke off and dese here boys done lost ’em diggin’ in de
ground wid ’em. Dem victuals cooked on open fireplaces was mighty fine,
and I wishes you could have a chance to see jus’ how nice dey was.

“Evvy kind of vegetable us knowed anything ’bout was raised right dar on
de place and dey had big old fields of corn, oats, rye, and wheat. Us
had lots of fruit trees on de plantation too. Dere warn’t no runnin’ off
to de store evvy time dere was a special meal to be got up. Coffee,
sugar, salt, and black pepper was de most Marse Jack had to buy in de
way of victuals. Course dey was hard to git in war times. Parched corn
and okra seed was ground together for coffee, and us had to git up dirt
under old smokehouses and bile it down for salt. Dere was allus a little
sugar ’round de sides of de syrup barr’ls, and us had to make out wid
dat hot red pepper ’til atter de war was done over a good long time,
‘fore dere was any more black pepper shipped in. Spite of all dat,
Honey, dem was good old days.

“Marster raised enough cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, and turkeys for us
to have all de meat us needed. He had lots of mules and oxen too. Dey
used de mules for ‘most of de plowin’ and for goin’ to mill, and don’t
forgit it took plenty of goin’ to mill to feed as many Niggers as our
Marster had. Lordy, Lady! I never knowed how many slaves he owned. Oxen
pulled dem two-wheeled carts dey hauled in de craps wid, and I has rid
to town in a ox-cart many a time. Dem old oxen was enough to make a
preacher lose his best ‘ligion. Dey had a heap of mean ways, but de wust
thing dey done was to run spang down in de water evvy time dey come to a
crick. It never mattered how deep it was, and you might holler all day,
but dey warn’t coming out of dat water ’till dey was good and ready. Dat
happened evvy time dey saw a crick, but dere warn’t nothin’ us could do
’bout it, for Marse Jack sho never ‘lowed nobody to lay deir paws on his
stock.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“De slave quarters was jus’ log cabins, and dey cooked on fireplaces
jus’ lak at de big house. Marster didn’t have many Niggers, but us had
plenty somepin’ t’eat. He had a big gyarden whar he raised mos’
evvything: corn, ‘taters, cabbages, peas, onions, collard greens, and
lots of pun’kins. When de mens plowed up de ‘taters us chillun had to go
‘long and put ’em in baskets. De bestes’ times was hog killin’ times. Us
chillun wukked den. Dey hung up de hogs all night and nex’ day us cut
’em, put ’em down in salt, and cooked up de lard. Us chillun got some of
dem good old skin cracklin’s when dey got brown.

“Atter Marster tuk de meat out of de salt, he put brown sugar and
‘lasses on de hams and shoulders, sacked ’em up, and hanged ’em in de
smokehouse. Den he say for us to git de fire ready. Us made a fire wid
cottonseed to smoke de meat. Dat kep’ it good, and it didn’t git old
tastin’. It was sho’ good eatin’ when you got some of dat meat.

“Ma done de cookin’ and house wuk at de big house for Mist’ess Jane
Robinson. White folkses had lots of comp’ny, and dey had de cook fix de
mostes’ good things for ’em. Dey kilt heaps of chickens and cooked whole
hams and lots of ‘tater puddin’s and sich lak. When Ma steamed pun’kin
’til it was done and den fried it, hit sho’ would make your mouf water.
Missy’s folkses was crazy ’bout de ‘tater puddin’s what Ma made, and
when she went off to visit ’em she allus had Ma bake one for her to take
‘long to ’em.”

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

“Dere wuz a always plenty to eat ’cause dey raised everything dat you
c’n think of. Dere wuz all kinds o’ vegetables an’ big fiel’s of hogs
an’ ’bout fifteen or twenty head’a cattle dat had to be milked everyday.
Dem dat had families got a issue o’ food everyday an’ de others whut wuz
single wuz fed at de cookhouse. De only time we ever got biscuits wuz on
Sundays–de res’ o’ de time we et cornbread. Marster had two
smokehouses–one fer de lard an’ one fer de meat. Besides des he ‘lowed
de slaves to raise dere own vegetables in dey wanted to but dey could’nt
raise no chickens on stuff like dat”.”

[Amanda Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves did not have to prepare their food during the week. Their food
was brought to them in pails from the “big house”. (The master’s house
was called the “big house”.) On Sundays they were given groceries to
prepare their own meals. Mrs. Jackson remembers the bread that was made
from “shorts”. “Shorts” was the name given to a second grade of flour,
similar to whole wheat. The first grade was always used in the master’s
house. As a whole, Dr. Hoyle gave his slaves enough food; however, on
several occasions she remembers that a friend of her mother’s, who lived
on the adjoining plantation, handed pans of food over the fence to them.”

[Camila Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“Yes Ma’am, hit
sho’ is hard times wid old Hailie now. I was raised whar folks had
plenty. Our white folks warn’t no pore white trash, and if my old
Marster and Mist’ess was a-livin’ today dey sho’ would do somepin’ for
old Hailie in a hurry, ’cause dey allus give us plenty of evvything dey
had.”

Marse Hamp was sho’ a rich man
and on his big old plantation dey raised evvything dey needed lak, peas,
‘tatoes, ingons, collards, cabbages, and turnip sallet, beans, punkins,
and plenty of corn, wheat and rye. Marse Hamp had lots of cows, hogs,
sheep, and goats too. Miss Liza was our Mist’ess, and she raised more
chickens dan dey ever could use. I just tells you, my white folks warn’t
no pore folks.”

[Mahala Jewel, Part II, Georgia]

“On our plantation de white folks been feedin’ de slaves off fat meat,
jowls, an’ heads an’ jaws. Dey kept all de meat out in de smoke house in
de back yard. In dis house dey kept de hams all hangin’ up high an’
above dem dey kept de sausages and den above dem dey kept de finest hams
all trimmed an’ everything. De slaves eat dat fat meat an’ thought dat
dey wus eatin’ pound cake. Come down to chicken–if you got it you stole
it when de white folks wus sleep at night an’ den you had to be careful
an’ bury all de feathers in de groun’ ’cause if you burned ’em de white
folks would smell ’em.”

[Benjamin Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“Ma said her didn’t never see no hog meat ’til she come to dis country.
Her said dey et all sorts of fishes; just went to de beach and got
crabs, oysters, and swimp (shrimp) wid de hulls still on ’em, but when
her done et some hog meat at Marster’s plantation, her said hit sho’ was
good.

“On de plantation dey had big gyardens whar dey raised heaps of
cabbages, potatoes, colla’d greens, turnip sallet, onions, peas,
rutabagas, and pun’kins and sech lak. Dey raised plenty of chickens,
tukkeys, hogs, cows and sheep, and dey wove good wool cloth on de
plantation looms out of de wool f’um dem dar sheep.”

[Georgia Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“De overseer’s house was a one-story buildin’ and it was furnished in de
old time stuff. De beds was teestered and had slats to hold de
mattresses. When Marster would come in from de fields he would be so
tired he never did go nowhar. Sometimes I would say to him, ‘I’se cold,’
and he would say, ‘Nig, you jus’ crawl up on de foot of my bed and git
warm.’ He would say ‘Nig, what you want for supper?’ and I would say, ‘I
wants some bread and milk and a little syrup.’ He give me anything dat I
wanted to eat, and us had good things to eat. Us had chickens, hogs, and
good milk cows. I kin see de big bowls of milk now dat us used to have.
Us made a heap of butter and sont it to Augusta onct a month and sold it
for 25c a pound.”

[Fannie Jones, Part II, Georgia]

“There was always enough feed for everybody on the Moore plantation. Mrs.
Moore once told Jennie’s mother to always see that her children had
sufficient to eat so that they would not have to steal and would
therefore grow up to be honorable. As the Grandmother did all of the
cooking, none of the other servants ever had to cook, not even on
Sundays or other holidays such as the Fourth of July. There was no stove
in this plantation kitchen, all the cooking was done at the large
fireplace where there were a number of hooks called potracks. The pots,
in which the cooking was done, hung from these hooks directly over the
fire.

The meals served during the week consisted of vegetables, salt bacon,
corn bread, pot liquor, and milk. On Sunday they were served milk,
biscuits, vegetables, and sometimes chicken. Jennie Kendricks ate all of
her meals in the master’s house and says that her food was even better.
She was also permitted to go to the kitchen to get food at any time
during the day. Sometimes when the boys went hunting everyone was given
roast ‘possum and other small game. The two male slaves were often
permitted to accompany them but were not allowed to handle the guns.
None of the slaves had individual gardens of their own as food
sufficient for their needs was raised in the master’s garden.”

[Jennie Kendricks, Part III, Georgia]

“Yes, Miss, we had plenty
of liquor. Ole Master always kept kegs of it in the cellar and big
‘Jimmy-john’s’ full in the house, and every Saturday night he’d give us
darkies a dram, but nobody nevah seed no drunk Nigger lak dey does now.”

Charlie’s mother used to give her “chillun” “burnt whiskey” every
morning “to start the day off.” This burnt whiskey gave them “long
life”.”

[Charlie King, Part III, Georgia]

“Mr. Lewis states that he and his fellow slaves always had “pretty fair”
food. Before they moved to Georgia the rations were issued daily and for
the most part an issue consisted of vegetables, rice, beans, meat
(pork), all kinds of fish and grits, etc.

De food wus “pretty fair” here
too. We got corn bread an’ biscuit sometimes–an’ it was sometimes
too–bacon, milk, all kinds of vegetables an’ sicha stuff like dat. De
flour dat we made de biscuits out of was de third grade shorts.”

The food on Sunday was almost identical with that eaten during the week.
However, those who desired to were allowed to hunt as much as they
pleased to at night. They were not permitted to carry guns and so when
the game was treed the tree had to be cut down in order to get it. It
was in this way that the family larder was increased.”

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

“‘Bout dem eatments, Miss, it was lek dis, dere warn’t no fancy victuals
lak us thinks us got to have now, but what dere was, dere was plenty of.
Most times dere was poke sallet, turnip greens, old blue head collards,
cabbages, peas, and ‘taters by de wholesale for de slaves to eat and,
onct a week, dey rationed us out wheat bread, syrup, brown sugar, and
ginger cakes. What dey give chillun de most of was potlicker poured over
cornbread crumbs in a long trough. For fresh meat, outside of killin’ a
shoat, a lamb, or a kid now and den, slaves was ‘lowed to go huntin’ a
right smart and dey fotch in a good many turkles (turtles), ‘possums,
rabbits, and fish. Folks didn’t know what iron cookstoves was dem days.
Leastwise, our white folks didn’t have none of ’em. All our cookin’ was
done in open fireplaces in big old pots and pans. Dey had thick iron
skillets wid heavy lids on ’em, and dey could bake and fry too in dem
skillets. De meats, cornbread, biscuits, and cakes what was cooked in
dem old skillets was sho’ mighty good.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“As has been previously stated, Mrs. Hale did all of the cooking on the
plantation with the possible exception of Sundays when the slaves cooked
for themselves. During the week their diet usually consisted of corn
bread, fat meat, vegetables, milk, and potliquor. The food that they ate
on Sunday was practically the same. All the food that they ate was
produced in the master’s garden and there was a sufficient amount for
everyone at all times.”

[Amanda McDaniel, Part III, Georgia]

“Yes, Ma’am, Marse Billy ‘lowed his slaves to have their own gyardens,
and ‘sides plenty of good gyarden sass, we had milk and butter, bread
and meat, chickens, greens, peas, and just everything that growed on the
farm. Winter and summer, all the food was cooked in a great big
fireplace, about four feet wide, and you could put on a whole stick of
cord wood at a time. When they wanted plenty of hot ashes to bake with,
they burnt wood from ash trees. Sweet potatoes and bread was baked in
the ashes. Seems like vittuls don’t taste as good as they used to, when
we cooked like that. ‘Possums, Oh! I dearly love ‘possums. My cousins
used to catch ’em and when they was fixed up and cooked with sweet
potatoes, ‘possum meat was fit for a king. Marse Billy had a son named
Mark, what was a little bitty man. They said he was a dwarf. He never
done nothing but play with the children on the plantation. He would take
the children down to the crick what run through the plantation and fish
all day. We had rabbits, but they was most generally caught in a box
trap, so there warn’t no time wasted a-huntin’ for ’em.”

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

“Most of the Negro mothers did field work, so it was necessary for others
to care for the children. Mr. Ball handled this problem in the usual
way. He established what would today be called a day nursery. Each
mother brought her offspring to the home of an elderly woman before
leaving for her day’s work. Here, they were safely kept until their
parents returned. The midday meal for everyone was prepared at the Big
House and the slaves were served from huge tubs of vegetables and pots
of meat. “Aunt” Julia was responsible for the children’s noon meal.

Food was distributed on Sunday morning. Two-and-a-half pounds of meat, a
quantity of syrup, and a peck of meal were given each adult for the
week. A special ration for Sunday alone was potatoes, buttermilk, and
material for biscuits. Each family had its own garden from which a
supply of vegetables could always be obtained in season. The smaller
children had additional delicacies, for they early learned that the
house where produce was kept had holes in the floor which yielded
peanuts, etc, when punched with a stick.”

[Matilda McKinney, Part III, Georgia]

“Now, you is talkin’ ’bout somepin sho ‘nough when you starts ’bout dem
victuals. Marse Joe, he give us plenty of sich as collards, turnips and
greens, peas, ‘taters, meat, and cornbread. Lots of de cornbread was
baked in pones on spiders, but ashcakes was a mighty go in dem days.
Marster raised lots of cane so as to have plenty of good syrup. My pa
used to ‘possum hunt lots and he was ‘lowed to keep a good ‘possum hound
to trail ’em wid. Rabbits and squirrels was plentiful and dey made
mighty good eatin’. You ain’t never seed sich heaps of fish as slaves
used to fetch back atter a little time spent fishin’ in de cricks and de
river.

“De kitchen was sot off from de big house a little piece, but Old
Marster had a roof built over de walkway so fallin’ weather wouldn’t
spile de victuals whilst dey was bein’ toted from de kitchen in de yard
to de dinin’ room in de big house. I don’t reckon you ever seed as big a
fireplace as de one dey cooked on in dat old kitchen. It had plenty of
room for enough pots, skillets, spiders, and ovens to cook for all de
folks on dat plantation. No, mam, slaves never had no gardens of deir
own; dey never had no time of deir own to wuk no garden, but Old Marster
fed ’em from his garden and dat was big enough to raise plenty for all.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“My white folks wern’t rich er tall but we always had plenty of somep’n
to eat, and we had fire wood to keep us warm in winter too. We had
plenty of syrup and corn bread, and when dey killed a hog we had fine
sausage an chitlin’s, an all sorts of good eating. My marster and the
white an collored boys would go hunting, and we had squirrels an rabbits
an possums jes lots of time. Yessum, we had plenty; we never did go
hongry.”

[Susan Matthews, Part III, Georgia]

“Back in dem times, folkses cooked on open fireplaces in winter time and
in summer dey built cook stands out in de yard to set de spiders on, so
us could cook and eat outdoors. Dere warn’t no stoves nowhar. When us
wuz hard up for sompin’ green to bile ‘fore de gyardens got goin’ good,
us used to go out and git wild mustard, poke salad, or pepper grass. Us
et ’em satisfactory and dey never kilt us. I have et heaps of kinds of
diffunt weeds and I still eats a mess of poke salad once or twice a year
’cause it’s good for you. Us cooked a naked hunk of fat meat in a pot
wid some corn dumplin’s.

“De grown folks would eat de meat and de chilluns would sit around on de
floor and eat de potlikker and dumplin’s out of tin pans. Us enjoyed dat
stuff jus’ lak it had been pound cake.”

[Liza Mention, Part III, Georgia]

“According to Mr. Orford there was always sufficient food on the Orford
plantation for the slaves. All cooking was done by one cook at the cook
house. In front of the cook house were a number of long tables where the
slaves ate their meals when they came in from the fields. Those children
who were too young to work in the fields were also fed at this house but
instead of eating from the tables as did the grown-ups they were fed
from long troughs much the same as little pigs. Each was given a spoon
at meal time and then all of the food was dumped into the trough at the
same time.

The week day diet for the most part consisted of meats and
vegetables–“sometimes we even got chicken an’ turkey”–says Mr. Orford.
Coffee was made by parching meal or corn and then boiling it in water.
None of the slaves ever had to steal anything to eat on the Orford
plantation.”

[Richard Orford, Part III, Georgia]

“Did dey pay us any money? Lawsy, Lady! What for? Us didn’t need no
money. Ole Marster and Ole Miss all time give us plenty good sompin’
teat, and clo’es, and dey let us sleep in a good cabin, but us did have
money now and den. A heap of times us had nickles and dimes. Dey had
lots of comp’ny at Ole Marster’s, and us allus act mighty spry waitin’
on ’em, so dey would ‘member us when dey lef’. Effen it wuz money dey
gimme, I jes’ couldn’t wait to run to de sto’ and spend it for candy.”

“You see I didn’t have to save up for nuffin’. Ole Marster and Ole Miss,
dey took keer of us. Dey sho’ wuz good white folkses, but den dey had to
be good white folkses, kaze Ole Marster, he wuz Jedge Lumpkin, and de
Jedge wuz bound to make evvybody do right, and he gwine do right his own
self ‘fore he try to make udder folkses behave deyselvs. Ain’t nobody,
nowhar, as good to dey Negroes as my white folkses wuz.”

“Who taught you to say ‘Negroes’ so distinctly?” she was asked.

“Ole Marster,” she promptly answered, “He ‘splained dat us wuz not to be
‘shamed of our race. He said us warn’t no ‘niggers’; he said us wuz
‘Negroes’, and he ‘spected his Negroes to be de best Negroes in de whole
land.

“Old Marster had a big fine gyarden. His Negroes wukked it good, and us
wuz sho’ proud of it. Us lived close in town, and all de Negroes on de
place wuz yard and house servants. Us didn’t have no gyardens ’round our
cabins, kaze all of us et at de big house kitchen. Ole Miss had flowers
evvywhar ’round de big house, and she wuz all time givin’ us some to
plant ’round de cabins.

“All de cookin’ wuz done at de big house kitchen, and hit wuz a sho’
‘nough big kitchen. Us had two boss cooks, and lots of helpers, and us
sho’ had plenny of good sompin’ teat. Dat’s de Gawd’s trufe, and I means
it. Heap of folkses been tryin’ to git me to say us didn’t have ‘nough
teat and dat us never had nuffin’ fittin’ teat. But ole as I is, I cyan’
start tellin’ no lies now. I gotter die fo’ long, and I sho’ wants to be
clean in de mouf and no stains or lies on my lips when I dies. Our
sompin’ teat wuz a heap better’n what us got now. Us had plenny of
evvything right dar in de yard. Chickens, ducks, geese, guineas,
tukkeys, and de smoke’ouse full of good meat. Den de mens, dey wuz all
time goin’ huntin’, and fetchin’ in wild tukkeys, an poddiges, and heaps
and lots of ‘possums and rabbits. Us had many fishes as us wanted. De
big fine shads, and perch, and trouts; dem wuz de fishes de Jedge liked
mos’. Catfishes won’t counted fittin’ to set on de Jedges table, but us
Negroes wuz ‘lowed to eat all of ’em us wanted. Catfishes mus’ be mighty
skace now kaze I don’t know when ever I is seed a good ole river catfish
a-flappin’ his tail. Dey flaps dey tails atter you done kilt ’em, and
cleaned ’em, and drap ’em in de hot grease to fry. Sometimes dey nigh
knock de lid offen de fryin’ pan.”

[Anna Parkes, Part III, Georgia]

“The cotton raised was woven into cloth from which their clothing was
made. “We had plenty of good clothing and food,” Pattillo continued.
“The smokehouse was never locked and we had free access to the whole
house. We never knew the meaning of a key.”

[G W Pattillo, Part III, Georgia]

“Us sho’ had plenty somepin’ t’eat, sich as meat, and cornbread, and
good old wheat bread what wuz made out of seconds. Dere wuz lots of
peas, corn, cabbage, Irish ‘tatoes, sweet ‘tatoes, and chickens,
sometimes. Yes Ma’am, sometimes. I laks coffee, but us Niggers didn’t
have much coffee. Dat wuz for de white folkses at de big house. Cookin’
wuz done in de fireplace in great big spiders. Some of de biggest of de
spiders wuz called ovens. Dey put coals of fire underneath and more
coals on top of de lid. Ma baked bread and ‘taters in de ashes. In
winter she put de dough in a collard leaf so it wouldn’t burn. In summer
green corn shucks wuz wrapped ’round de dough ‘stid of collard leaves.
All de fish and ‘possums and rabbits us had wuz cotch right dar on Old
Marster’s place, ’cause if one of our Niggers got cotch offen our place
hit wuz jes’ too bad. I sho’ does love ‘possum, and us had lots of ’em,
’cause my brudder used to ketch ’em by de wholesale wid a dog he had,
and dat same dog wuz a powerful good rabbit hound too.”

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

“In the same manner that clothing was plentiful so was there always
enough food. When Mrs. Price was asked if the slaves owned by Mr. Kennon
were permitted to cultivate a garden of their own she stated that they
did’nt need to do this because of the fact that Mr. Kennon raised
everything that was necessary and they often had more than enough. Their
week-day diet usually consisted of fried meat, grits, syrup and corn
bread for breakfast; vegetables, pot liquor or milk, and corn bread for
dinner; and for supper there was milk and bread or fried meat and bread.
On Sunday they were given a kind of flour commonly known as the
“seconds” from which biscuits were made. “Sometimes”, continued Mrs.
Price, “my mother brought us the left-overs from the master’s table and
this was usually a meal by itself”. In addition to this Mr. Kennon
allowed hunting as well as fishing and so on many days there were fish
and roast ‘possum. Food on the elder Mr. Kennon plantation was just as
scarce as it was plentiful on his son’s. When asked how she knew about
this Mrs. Price told how she had seen her father take meat from his
master’s smoke house and hide it so that he could give it to those
slaves who invaribly slipped over at night in search of food. The elder
Mr. Kennon had enough food but he was too mean to see his slaves enjoy
themselves by having full stomachs.”

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

“Plenty of food was raised on the Ealey plantation, but the slave
families were restricted to the same diet of corn meal, syrup, and fat
bacon. Children were fed “pot likker”, milk and bread from poplar
troughs, from which they ate with wooden spoons. Grown-ups ate with
wooden forks. Slaves were not allowed to raise gardens of their own,
although Mr. Pye’s uncle was given the privilege of owning a rice patch,
which he worked at night.”

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

“This plantation was large and raised everything–corn, wheat, cotton,
“taters”, tobacco, fruit, vegetables, rice, sugar cane, horses, mules,
goats, sheep, and hogs. They kept all that was needed to feed the slaves
then sent the surplus to Savannah by the “Curz”. The stage took
passengers, but the “Curz” was 40 or 50 wagons that took the farm
surplus to Savannah, and “fetched back things for de house.”

Mr. Neal “traded” with Dr. by the year and whenever the slaves were hurt
or sick he had to come “tend” to them. He gave the families their food
by the month, but if it gave out all they had to do was to ask for more
and he always gave it to them. They had just as good meals during the
week as on Sunday, any kind of meat out of the smoke house, chickens,
squabs, fresh beef, shoats, sheep, biscuits or cornbread, rice,
potatoes, beans, syrup and any garden vegetables. Sometimes they went
fishing to add to their menu.”

[Shade Richards, Part III, Georgia]

“My marster had over a thousand acres o’ land. He was good to us. We had
plenty to eat, like meat and bread and vegetables. We raised eve’ything
on de plantation–wheat, corn, potatoes, peas, hogs, cows, sheep,
chickens–jes’ eve’ything.

“De marsters let de slaves have little patches o’ lan’ for deyse’ves. De
size o’ de patch was ‘cordin’ to de size o’ yo’ family. We was ‘lowed
’bout fo’ acres. We made ’bout five hundred pounds o’ lint cotton, and
sol’ it at Warrenton. Den we used de money to buy stuff for Chris’man.”

[Ferebe Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

“All food on the colonel’s plantation was issued daily from the corn
house. Each person was given enough corn to make a sufficient amount of
bread for the day when ground. Then they went out and dug their potatoes
from the colonel’s garden. No meat whatsoever was issued. It was up to
the slaves to catch fish, oysters, and other sea food for their meat
supply. All those who desired to were permitted to raise chickens,
watermelons and vegetables. There was no restriction on any as to what
must be done with the produce so raised. It could be sold or kept for
personal consumption.

The food was almost the same here as it had been at the other
plantation. At the end of each week she and her fellow slaves were given
a “little bacon, vegetables, and some corn meal.”[HW: ?] This had to
last for a certain length of time. If it was all eaten before the time
for the next issue that particular slave had to live as best he or she
could. In such an emergency the other slaves usually shared with the
unfortunate one.”

[Julia Rush, Part III, Georgia]

“Did you always have enough to eat, and clothes to wear?”

“Yes ma’am, Marster put out a side uv meat and a barrul o’ meal and all
uv us would go and git our rations fur de week.”

“Suppose some one took more than his share, and the supply ran short.”

“Lawd Ma’am, we knowed better’n to do dat kinder thing. Eve’ybody, had
er garden patch an’ had plenty greens and taters and all dat kinder
thing. De cloth fur de slave close wuz all made on the place and Missis
see to mekkin’ all de close we wear.”

[Nancy Settles, Part III, Georgia]

“Marse Jeff Southerland was a pore man, but he fed us all us could eat
sich as turnips, cabbages, collards, green corn, fat meat, cornbread,
‘taters and sometimes chicken. Yes Ma’am, chicken dinners was sorter
special. Us didn’t have ’em too often. De cookin’ was all done at de big
house in a open fireplace what had a rack crost it dat could be pulled
out to take de pots off de fire. ‘Fore dey started cookin’, a fire was
made up ready and waitin’; den de pots of victuals was hung on de rack
and swung in de fireplace to bile. Baking was done in skillets. Us
cotched rabbits three and four at a time in box traps sot out in de plum
orchard. Sometimes us et ’em stewed wid dumplin’s and some times dey was
jus’ plain biled, but us laked ’em bes’ of all when dey was fried lak
chickens.

“Oh! dem ‘possums! How I wisht I had one right now. My pa used to ketch
40 or 50 of ’em a winter. Atter dey married, Ma had to stay on wid Marse
Jeff and Pa was ‘bliged to keep on livin’ wid Marster Marsh Sheets. His
marster give him a pass so dat he could come and stay wid Ma at night
atter his wuk was done, and he fetched in de ‘possums. Dey was baked in
de white folkses kitchen wid sweet ‘tatoes ‘roun’ ’em and was barbecued
sometimes. Us had fishes too what was mighty good eatin’. Dere warn’t
but one gyarden on de plantation.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“My Old Marster done larnt me how to gyarden. He allus made us
raise lots of gyarden sass such as: beans, peas, roas’in’ ears,
collards, turnip greens, and ingons (onions). For a fact, dere was jus’
’bout all de kinds of veg’tables us knowed anything ’bout dem days right
dar in our Marster’s big old gyarden. Dere was big patches of ‘taters,
and in dem wheatfields us growed enough to make bread for all de folks
on dat dere plantation. Us sho’ did have plenty of mighty good somepin
t’eat.

“Aunt Martha, she done de milkin’ and helped Aunt Nancy cook for de
slaves. Dey had a big long kitchen up at de big house whar de overseer
lived. De slaves what wuked in de field never had to do deir own
cookin’. It was all done for ’em in dat big old kitchen. Dey cooked some
of de victuals in big old washpots and dere was sho’ a plenty for all.
All de cookin’ was done in big fireplaces what had racks made inside to
hang pots on and dey had big old ovens for bakin’, and thick iron
skillets, and long-handled fryin’ pans. You jus’ can’t ‘magine how good
things was cooked dat way on de open fire. Nobody never had no better
hams and other meat dan our Marster kept in dem big old smokehouses, and
his slaves had meat jus’ lak white folks did. Dem cooks knowed dey had
to cook a plenty and have it ready when it was time for de slaves to
come in from de fields. Miss Ellen, she was the overseer’s wife, went
out in de kitchen and looked over evvything to see that it was all right
and den she blowed de bugle. When de slaves heared dat bugle, dey come
in a-singin’ from de fields. Dey was happy ’cause dey knowed Miss Ellen
had a good dinner ready for ’em.

“Us had water buckets, called piggens, what was made out of cedar and
had handles on de sides. Sometimes us sawed off little vinegar kegs and
put handles on ’em. Us loved to drink out of gourds. Dere was lots of
gourds raised evvy year. Some of ’em was so big dey was used to keep
eggs in and for lots of things us uses baskets for now. Dem little
gourds made fine dippers.

“Us had big ‘possum hunts, and us sho’ cotched a heap of ’em. De gals
cooked ’em wid ‘taters and dey jus’ made your mouth water. I sho’ wish I
had one now. Rabbits was good too. Marster didn’t ‘low no huntin’ wid
guns, so us jus’ took dogs when us went huntin’. Rabbits was kilt wid
sticks and rocks ‘cept when a big snow come. Dey was easy to track to
dey beds den, and us could jus’ reach in and pull ’em out. When us cotch
‘nough of ’em, us had big rabbit suppers.

Our chillun used to come bring my
dinner. Us had dem good old red peas cooked wid side meat in a pot in de
fireplace, and ashcake to go wid ’em. Dat was eatin’s. Julie would rake
out dem coals and kivver ’em wid ashes, and den she would wrop a pone of
cornbread dough in collard or cabbage leaves and put it on dem ashes and
rake more ashes over it. You had to dust off de bread ‘fore you et it,
but ashcake was mighty good, folks what lived off of it didn’t git sick
lak dey does now a-eatin’ dis white flour bread all de time. If us had
any peas left from dinner and supper, Julie would mash ’em up right
soft, make little cakes what she rolled in corn meal, and fry ’em for
breakfast. Dem sausage cakes made out of left-over peas was mighty fine
for breakfast.”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

“Lawdy! Missie, us had evvythin’ to eat; all kinds of greens, turnips,
peas, ‘tatoes, meat and chickens. Us wuz plumb fools ’bout fried chicken
and chicken stew, so Marster ‘lowed us to raise plenty of chickens, and
sometimes at night us Niggers would git together and have a hee old
time. No Ma’am, us didn’t have no gyardens. Us didn’t need none. Old
Marster give us all de vittuls us wanted. Missie, you oughta seed dem
big old iron spiders what dey cooked in. ‘Course de white folkses called
’em ovens. De biscuits and blackberry pies dey cooked in spiders, dey
wuz somethin’ else. Oh! don’t talk ’bout dem ‘possums! Makes me hongry
just to think ’bout ’em. One night when pa and me went ‘possum huntin’,
I put a ‘possum what us cotched in a sack and flung it ‘cross my back.
Atter us started home dat ‘possum chewed a hole in de sack and bit me
square in de back. I ‘member my pa had a little dog.” Here he stopped
talking and called a little black and white dog to him, and said: “He
wuz ’bout de size of dis here dog, and pa said he could natchelly
jus’ make a ‘possum de way he always found one so quick when us
went huntin’.” The old man sighed, and looking out across the field,
continued: “Atter slav’ry days, Niggers turned dey chilluns loose,
an’ den de ‘possums an’ rabbits most all left, and dere ain’t so many
fishes left in de rivers neither.”

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

“De quarters was built away f’um de big ‘ouse. Dey was cabins made of
logs an’ dey all had dey own gardens whar dey raised all kinds of
vegetables an’ allus had plenny of hog meat. De cookin’ was done on a
big fireplace an’ in brick ovens. ‘Taters was baked in de ashes, an’ dey
sho’ was good.

“Dey had big times huntin’ an’ fishin’ w’en de wuk was over. Dey cotch
lots of ‘possums, an’ had big ‘possum suppers. De ‘possums was roasted
with plenny of ‘taters, butter an’ red pepper. Us would eat an’ dance
most of de night w’en us had a ‘possum supper.

“De rabbits was so bad in de gardens dat dey tuk white rags an’ tied ’em
on sticks stuck up in de ground. Rabbits woulden’ come ‘roun’ den, cyaze
dey was ‘fraid of dem white rags flyin’ on de sticks.”

[Georgia Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“We had enuff for anybody. Th’ vittles was cooked in great big pots over
th’ fire jest like they was cookin’ for stock. Peas in this pot, greens
in that one. Corn-bread was made up an’ put back in th’ husks an’ cooked
in th’ ashes. They called that a ash cake. Well, when ever’thing was
done th’ vittles was poured in a trough an’ we all et. We had spoons cut
out of wood that we et with. Thar was a big lake on th’ plantation whar
we could fish an’ they show was good when we had ’em for supper.
Sometimes we go huntin’ an’ then we had possum an’ squirrel to eat. Th’
possums was best of all.”

[Melvin Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“De biggest, bestest fireplace up at de big house was in de kitchen whar
Mammy done de cookin’. It had a great wide hearth wid four big swingin’
racks and four big old pots. Two of de ovens was big and two was little.
Dat was better cookin’ ‘rangements and fixin’s dan most of de other
white folks in dis town had den. When dat fire got good and hot and dere
was plenty of ashes, den Mammy started cookin’ ash cakes and ‘taters.
One of Mammy’s good ash-roasted ‘taters would be awful good right now
wid some of dat good old home-made butter to go wid it. Marster allus
kept jus’ barrels and barrels of good old home-made ‘lasses sirup,
’cause he said dat was what made slave chilluns grow fast and be strong.
Folks don’t know how to have plenty of good things to eat lak us had
den. Jus’ think of Marse Joe’s big old plantation down nigh de Georgia
Railroad whar he raised our somepin’ t’eat: vegetables sich as green
corn, ‘taters, cabbages, onions, collards, turnip greens, beans,
peas–more than I could think up all day–and dere was plenty of wheat,
rye, and corn for our bread.

“Out dar de pastur’s was full of cows, hogs and sheep, and dey raised
lots of chickens and turkeys on dat farm. Dey clipped wool from dem
sheep to weave wid de cotton when dey made cloth for our winter clothes.”

[Nancy Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Slaves slept in log cabins what had rock chimblies at the end. The
rocks was put together with red clay. All the slaves was fed at the big
house kitchen. The fireplace, where they done the cookin’, was so big it
went ‘most across one end of that big old kitchen. It had long swingin’
cranes to hang the pots on, and there was so many folks to cook for at
one time that often there was five or six pots over the fire at the same
time. Them pots was large too–not lak the little cookin’ vessels we use
these days. For the bakin’, they had all sizes of ovens. Now Child, let
me tell you, that was good eatin’. Folks don’t take time enough to cook
right now; They are always in too big a hurry to be doin’ something else
and don’t cook things long enough. Back in dem days they put the
vegetables on to cook early in the mornin’ and biled ’em ’til they was
good and done. The biggest diffunce I see is that folks didn’t git sick
and stay sick with stomach troubles then half as much as they does now.
When my grandma took a roast out of one of them old ovens it would be
brown and juicy, with lots of rich, brown gravy. Sweet potatoes baked
and browned in the pan with it would taste mighty fine too. With some of
her good biscuits, that roast meat, brown gravy, and potatoes, you had
food good enough for anybody. I just wish I could taste some more of it
one more time before I die.

“Why, Child, two of the best cake-makers I ever knew used them old ovens
for bakin’ the finest kinds of pound cakes and fruit cakes, and evvybody
knows them cakes was the hardest kinds to bake we had in them days. Aunt
Betsey Cole was a great cake-baker then. She belonged to the Hulls, what
lived off down below here somewhere but, when there was to be a big
weddin’ or some ‘specially important dinner in Athens, folks ‘most
always sent for Aunt Betsey to bake the cakes. Aunt Laura McCrary was a
great cake-maker too; she baked the cake for President Taft when he was
entertained at Mrs. Maggie Welch’s home here.

“In them days you didn’t have to be runnin’ to the store evvy time you
wanted to cook a extra good meal; folks raised evvything they needed
right there at home. They had all the kinds of vegetables they knowed
about then in their own gardens, and there was big fields of corn, rye,
and wheat. Evvy big plantation raised its own cows for plenty of milk
and butter, as well as lots of beef cattle, hogs, goats, and sheep.
‘Most all of ’em had droves of chickens, geese, and turkeys, and on our
place there were lots of peafowls. When it was goin’ to rain them old
peafowls set up a big holler. I never knew rain to fail after them
peafowls started their racket.”

[Nellie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Folkses raised deir livin’, all of it, at home den. Dey growed all
sorts of gyarden truck sech as corn, peas, beans, sallet, ‘taters,
collards, ingons, and squashes. Dey had big fields of grain. Don’t
forgit dem good old watermillions; Niggers couldn’t do widout ’em.
Marster’s old smokehouse was plumb full of meat all de time, and he had
more cows, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, geese, and de lak, dan
I ever larnt how to count. Dere warn’t no runnin’ off to de sto’ evvy
time dey started cookin’ a company meal.”

[Paul Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Slaves didn’t do no cookin’ on our place ’cause Marster fed evvybody up
at de big house. Missy, I ain’t never gwine to forgit dat big old
fireplace up dar. Dey piled whole sticks of cord wood on it at one time,
wid little sticks crossways under ’em and, let me tell you, dat was a
fire what would cook anything and evvything. De pots hung on swingin’
racks, and dere was big ovens, little ovens, long-handled fryin’ pans,
and heavy iron skillets wid tight, thick lids. It sho’ was a sight de
way us chillun used to make ‘way wid dem ash-roasted ‘taters and dat
good, fresh butter. Us chillun had to eat supper early ’cause all
chillun had to be in bed ‘fore dark. It warn’t lak dese days. Why Missy,
chilluns now stays up ‘most all night runnin’ ’round dese parts.

“Marster was sho’ good ’bout seein’ dat his Niggers had plenty to eat
and wear. For supper us et our bread and milk wid wooden spoons out of
wooden bowls, but for dinner dey give us veg’ables, corn pone, and
‘taters. Marster raised all de sorts of veg’ables what dey knowed
anything ’bout in dem days, and he had big old fields of wheat, rye,
oats, and corn, ’cause he ‘lowed dat stock had to eat same as folkses.
Dere was lots of chickens, turkeys, cows, hogs, sheep, and some goats on
dat plantation so as dere would allus be plenty of meat for evvybody.

“Chillun was happy when hog-killin’ time come. Us warn’t ‘lowed to help
none, ‘cept to fetch in de wood to keep de pot bilin’ whar de lard was
cookin’. Our Mist’ess allus had de lard rendered in de bigges’ washpot,
what dey sot on rocks in de fireplace. Us didn’t mind gittin’ de wood
for dat, ’cause when dem cracklin’s got done, dey let us have all us
could eat and, jus’ let me tell you, Missy, you ain’t never had nothin’
good ‘less you has et a warm skin cracklin’ wid a little salt. One time
when dey was renderin’ lard, all us chillun was crowdin’ ’round close as
us could git to see which one could git a cracklin’ fust. Mist’ess told
us to stand back ‘fore somebody got burnt; den Mammy said she was gwine
to take de hides off our backs ’bout gittin’ so close to dat fire, and
’bout dat time somebody ‘hind me gimme a quick push; and in de fire I
went. Marster grabbed me ‘most time I hit dem red coals, but one hand
and arm was burnt so bad I had to wear it in a sling for a long time.
Den Marster laid down de law and told us what he would do if he cotch us
chillun hangin’ ’round de fire whar dey was cookin’ lard again.

“Folkses said our Marster must have a powerful sweet tooth on account of
he kept so many bee hives. When bees swarmed folkses rung bells and beat
on tin pans to git ’em settled. Veils was tied over deir haids to keep
de bees from gittin’ to deir faces when dey went to rob de hives.
Chillun warn’t never ‘lowed to be nowhar nigh durin’ dat job. One day I
sneaked out and got up close to see how dey done it, and dem bees got
all over me. Dey stung me so bad I couldn’t see for days and days.
Marster, he jus’ fussed and said dat gal, Cordelia, she was allus whar
she didn’t b’long. Missy, I ain’t never wanted to fool wid no more bees,
and I don’t even lak honey no more.”

[Cordelia Thomas, Part IV, Georgia]

“My Mother spun an’ wove de cloth, an’ dyed hit, but our Mistess made
our clothes. My Grandma, Nancy, wuz de cook an’ she fed all de little
‘uns in de big ole kitchen whut sot out in de yard. She had a tray she
put our victuals on an Uh, Uh, whut good things we had ter eat, an’ er
plenty of everything! Us et jess whut our white folks had, dey didn’t
mak’ no difference in us when hit cum ter eatin’. My Grandaddy looked
atter de meat, he done everything ’bout dat, an’ he sho’ knowed how ter
fix it, too.

“De fust thing I recollects is bein’ round in de kitchen when dey wuz
makin’ ginger cakes an’ my Mistess givin’ me de pan she made ’em in fer
me ter sop hit out. Dey ain’t nothin’ whut smells good lak’ de cookin’
in dem days, I kain’t smell no victuals lak’ dat now. Everything wuz
cooked on a big ole open fire place in one end of de kitchen. Dem good
ole days done gone now. Folkes done got wiser an’ wickeder–dey ain’t
lak’ dey use ter be.”

[Jane Toombs, Part IV, Georgia]

“Every family was given a weekly supply of food but this was more for
convenience than anything else as they were free to eat anything their
appetites called for. They killed chickens, ate vegetables, meats, etc.
at any time. The presence of guests at the “quarters” roused Mrs. Towns
to activity and she always helped to prepare the menu. One of her
favorite items was chicken–prepared four different ways, in pie, in
stew, fried, and baked. She gave full directions for the preparation of
these delicacies to unskilled cooks. Pound cake was another favorite and
she insisted that a pound of butter and a dozen eggs be used in each
cake. When the meal was nearly ready, she usually made a trip to the
cabin to see if it had been well prepared. The hostess could always tell
without any comment whether she had satisfied her mistress, for if she
had, a serving was carried back to the big house. Fishing was a form of
remunerative recreation enjoyed by all. Everyone usually went on
Saturday afternoon, but if only a few made the trip, the catch was
shared by all.”

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

“Evvybody cooked on open fireplaces dem days. Dey had swingin’ racks
what dey called cranes to hang de pots on for bilin’. Dere was ovens for
bakin’ and de heavy iron skillets had long handles. One of dem old
skillets was so big dat Mammy could cook 30 biscuits in it at one time.
I allus did love biscuits, and I would go out in de yard and trade Aunt
Tama’s gingerbread to de other chilluns for deir sheer of biscuits. Den
dey would be skeered to eat de gingerbread ’cause I told ’em I’d tell on
’em. Aunt Tama thought dey was sick and told Marse Frank de chilluns
warn’t eatin’ nothin’. He axed ’em what was de matter and dey told him
dey had done traded all deir bread to me. Marse Frank den axed me if I
warn’t gittin’ enough t’eat, ’cause he ‘lowed dere was enough dar for
all. Den Aunt Tama had to go and tell on me. She said I was wuss dan a
hog atter biscuits, so our good Marster ordered her to see dat li’l Neal
had enough t’eat.”

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

“What did we have to eat then? Why, most everything; ash cakes was a
mighty go then. Cornbread dough was made into little pones and placed on
the hot rocks close to the fire to dry out a little, then hot ashes were
raked out to the front of the fireplace and piled over the ash cakes.
When thoroughly done they were taken out and the ashes washed off; they
were just like cake to us children then. We ate lots of home-made lye
hominy, beans, peas, and all kinds of greens, cooked with fat meat. The
biggest, and maybe the best thing in the way of vegetables that we had
then was the white-head cabbage; they grew large up there in Carolina
where I lived. There was just one big garden to feed all the folks on
that farm.

“Marse George had a good ‘possum dog that he let his slaves use at
night. They would start off hunting about 10 o’clock. Darkies knew that
the best place to hunt for ‘possums was in a persimmon tree. If they
couldn’t shake him out, they would cut the tree down, but the most fun
was when we found the ‘possum in a hollow log. Some of the hunters would
get at one end of the log, and the others would guard the other end, and
they would build a fire to smoke the ‘possum out. Sometimes when they
had to pull him out, they would find the ‘possum in such a tight place
that most of his hair would be rubbed off before they could get him out.
Darkies hunted rabbits, squirrels, coons, all kinds of birds, and
‘specially they was fond of going after wild turkeys. Another great
sport was hunting deer in the nearby mountains. I managed to get a shot
at one once. Marse George was right good about letting his darkies hunt
and fish at night to get meat for themselves. Oh! Sure, there were lots
of fish and they caught plenty of ’em in the Little Tennessee and Sugar
Fork Rivers and in the numerous creeks that were close by. Red horse,
suckers, and salmon are the kinds of fish I remember best. They were
cooked in various ways in skillets, spiders, and ovens on the big open
fireplace.”

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

“Now ’bout dat somepin t’eat. Sho dat! Us had plenty of dem good old
collards, turnips, and dem sort of oatments, and dar was allus a good
chunk of meat to bile wid ’em. Marse Ike, he kep’ plenty of evvy sort of
meat folkses knowed about dem days. He had his own beef cattle, lots of
sheep, and he killed more’n a hunnert hogs evvy year. Dey tells me dat
old bench dey used to lay de meat out on to cut it up is standin’ dar
yet.

“‘Possums? Lawd, dey was plentiful, and dat ain’t all dere was on dat
plantation. One time a slave man was ‘possum huntin’ and, as he was
runnin’ ’round in de bresh, he looked up and dar was a b’ar standin’
right up on his hind laigs grinnin’ and ready to eat dat Nigger up. Oh,
good gracious, how dat Nigger did run! Dey fetched in ‘possums in piles,
and dere was lots of rabbits, fixes, and coons. Dem coon, fox and
‘possum hounds sho knowed deir business. Lawsy, I kin jus’ smell one of
dem good old ‘possums roastin’ right now, atter all dese years. You
parbiled de ‘possum fust, and den roasted him in a heavy iron skillet
what had a big old thick lid. Jus’ ‘fore de ‘possum got done, you peeled
ash-roasted ‘taters and put ’em all ’round da ‘possum so as day would
soak up some of dat good old gravy, and would git good and brown. Is you
ever et any good old ashcake? You wropped de raw hoecake in cabbage or
collard leafs and roasted ’em in de ashes. When dey got done, you had
somepin fit for a king to eat.

“De kitchen was sot off a piece from de big house, and our white folkses
wouldn’t eat deir supper ‘fore time to light de lamps to save your life;
den I had to stan’ ‘hind Old Miss’ cheer and fan her wid a
turkey-feather fan to keep de flies off. No matter how rich folkses was
dem days dere warn’t no screens in de houses.

“I never will forgit pore old Aunt Mary; she was our cook, and she had
to be tapped evvy now and den ’cause she had de drapsy so bad. Aunt
Mary’s old man was Uncle Harris, and I ‘members how he used to go
fishin’ at night. De udder slaves went fishin’ too. Many’s de time I’se
seed my Mammy come back from Barber’s Crick wid a string of fish
draggin’ from her shoulders down to de ground. Me, I laked milk more’n
anything else. You jus’ oughta seed dat place at milkin’ time. Dere was
a heap of cows a fightin’, chillun hollerin’, and sich a bedlam as you
can’t think up. Dat old plantation was a grand place for chillun, in
summertime ‘specially, ’cause dere was so many branches and cricks close
by what us chillun could hop in and cool off.”

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

“My Pa and Ma was Louis and Mary Jackson. Dey b’longed to Marse John
Montgomery, way down in Oconee County. Marse John didn’t have no wife
den, ’cause he didn’t git married ’til atter de War. He had a big place
wid lots of slaves. He was sho’ good to ’em, and let ’em have plenty of
evvything. De slave quarters was log cabins wid big fireplaces, whar dey
done de cookin’. Dey had racks to hang pots on to bile and dey baked in
ovens set on de harth (hearth). Dat was powerful good eatin’. Dey had a
big old gyarden whar dey raised plenty of corn, peas, cabbages,
potatoes, collards, and turnip greens. Out in de fields dey growed
mostly corn, wheat, and cotton. Marster kep’ lots of chickens, cows,
hogs, goats, and sheep; and he fed ’em all mighty good.”

[Emma Virgel, Part IV, Georgia]

“Food was distributed weekly in quantities according to the size of the
family. A single man would receive:

1 pk. meal on Sunday

1 qt. syrup flour (seconds)

3-1/2 lbs. meat Holidays–July 4th and Christmas
fresh meat.

Peas, pepper grass, polk salad were plentiful in the fields. Milk and
“pot likker” could be had from the big house when desired, although
every family cooked for itself. Saturday afternoon was the general
fishing time and each person might catch as many as he needed for his
personal use.”

[Rhoda Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

“At daybreak each morning they were called from these crude beds to
prepare for the day’s work. Breakfast, which consisted of white bacon,
corn bread, and imitation coffee, was served before they left for the
scene of their day’s work. Incidentally the slaves under Mr. Brown’s
ownership never had any other form of bread than corn bread.

This imitation coffee was made by putting corn meal in a pan, parching
it until it reached a deep golden brown and steeping it in boiling
water. At noon, dinner was brought to them in the field in wash tubs
placed on carts drawn by oxen. Dinner consisted of fat meat, peas and
corn bread. Often all laundry was done in these same tubs.”

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

“What about our food? The biggest thing we had was buttermilk, some
sweet milk, and plenty of cornbread, hog meat, and peas. As a rule we
had wheat bread once a week, usually on Sunday. All kinds of fruits were
plentiful in their seasons. Each slave family was permitted to have
separate garden space, in fact, Old Boss insisted that they work their
own gardens, and they raised plenty of vegetables. Grown folks had
rabbits and ‘possums but I never did get much ‘quainted with them. We
fished in the cricks and rills ’round the plantation and brought in lots
of hornyheads and perch. You never saw any hornyheads? Why they is just
fish a little bigger and longer than minnows and they have little horns
on their heads. We caught a good many eels too; they look like snakes,
but folks call them eels. I wasn’t much ‘quainted with them fish they
brought from way down South; they called them mullets.

“The kitchen was a separate log house out in the back yard. The
fireplace, where the cooking was done, took up one end of the kitchen,
and there was a rack acrost it to hang the cook-pots on for biling.
Baking and frying was done in ovens and heavy iron skillets that sat on
trivets so coals could be piled underneath, as well as over the lids.”

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

“Our Old Marster was a pow’ful rich man, and he sho’ b’lieved in givin’
us plenty to eat. It warn’t nothin’ fine, but it was good plain eatin’
what filled you up and kept you well. Dere was cornbread and meat,
greens of all sorts, ‘taters, roas’en-ears and more other kinds of
veg’tables dan I could call up all day. Marster had one big old gyarden
whar he kept most evvything a-growin’ ‘cept cabbages and ‘matoes. He
said dem things warn’t fittin’ for nobody to eat. Marster let Daddy go
huntin’ enough to fetch in lots of ‘possums, coons, rabbits, and
squirrels. Us cooked ’em ’bout lak us does now, only us never had no
stoves den, and had to do all de cookin’ in open fireplaces in big old
pots and long handled skillets what had big old heavy lids. I’se seed Ma
clean many a ‘possum in hot ashes. Den she scalded him and tuk out his
innards. She par-boiled and den baked him and when she fetched him to de
table wid a heap of sweet ‘taters ’round him on de dish, dat was sho’
somepin good to eat. Daddy done his fishin’ in Muddy Crick ’cause slaves
wern’t ‘lowed to leave de plantation for nothin’ lak dat.”

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

“At the end of the week all the field hands met in the master’s backyard
where they were given a certain amount of food which was supposedly
enough to last for a week. Such an issue was made up of three pounds of
fat meat, one peck of meal, and one quart of black molasses. Mr. Womble
was asked what the slaves did if their allowance of food ran out before
the end of the week, and he replied in the following manner: “If their
food gave out before the time for another issue they waited until night
and then one or two of them would go to the mill-house where the flour
and the meal was kept. After they had succeeded in getting in they would
take an auger and bore a hole in the barrel containing the meal. One
held the sack while the other took a stick and worked it around in the
opening made by the auger so as to make the meal flow freely. After
their bags were filled the hole was stopped up, and a hasty departure
was made. Sometimes when they wanted meat they either went to the smoke
house and stole a ham or else they would go to the pen where the pigs
were kept and take a small pig out. When they got to the woods with this
animal they proceeded to skin and clean it (it had already been killed
with a blow in the head before they left the pen). All the parts that
they did not want were either buried or thrown in the nearby river.
After going home all of this meat was cooked and hidden. As there was
danger in being caught none of this stolen meat was ever fried because
there was more danger of the odor of frying meat going farther away than
that odor made by meat being boiled.” At this point Mr. Womble stated
that the slaves were taught to steal by their masters. Sometimes they
were sent to the nearby plantations to steal chickens, pigs, and other
things that could be carried away easily. At such times the master would
tell them that he was not going to mistreat them and that he was not
going to allow anyone else to mistreat them and that by taking the above
mentioned things they were helping him to be more able to take care of
them.

At breakfast the field hands ate fried meat, corn bread, and molasses.
When they went to the house for dinner they were given some kind of
vegetable along with pot liquor and milk. When the days work was done
and it was time for the evening meal there was the fried meat again with
the molasses and the corn bread. Mr. Womble says that they ate this kind
of food every day in the week. The only variation was on Sunday when
they were given the seconds of the flour and a little more molasses so
that they might make a cake. No other sweetening was used except the
molasses.

As for Mr. Womble and the cook they fared better as they ate the same
kind of food that the master and his family did. He remembers how he
used to take biscuits from the dishes that were being sent to the
masters table. He was the waiter and this was an easy matter. Later he
took some of these biscuits and sold them to the other little boys for a
nickle each. Neither the master or the slaves had real coffee. They all
drank a type of this beverage that had been made by parching bran or
meal and then boiled in water.

All the food that was eaten was grown on the plantation in the master’s
gardens. He did not permit the slaves to have a garden of their own
neither could they raise their own chickens and so the only time that
they got the chance to enjoy the eating of chicken was when they decided
to make a special trip to the master’s poultry yard.”

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

“The food that the slaves ate [**TR: was] all raised on the plantation. At
the end of each week each slave was given 3 lbs. of meat (usually pork),
1 peck of meal and some syrup. Breakfast and dinner usually consisted of
fried meat, corn bread and syrup. Vegetables were usually given at
dinner time. Sometimes milk was given at supper. It was necessary to
send the meals to the field slaves as they were usually too far away
from the house to make the trip themselves. For this purpose there was a
woman who did all the cooking for the field hands in a cook house
located among the slave cabins.

Mr. House permitted his slaves to have a garden and chickens of their
own. In fact, he gave each of them land, a small plot of ground for this
purpose. The benefit of this was twofold as far as the slave was
concerned. In the first place he could vary his diet. In the second
place he was able to earn money by selling his produce either in town or
to “Old Marster.” Sometimes Old Marster took the produce to town and
sold it for them. When he returned from town the money for the sale of
this produce was given to the slave. Mr. Wright says that he and all the
other slaves felt that they were being cheated when the master sold
their goods. Mr. House also permitted his slaves to hunt and fish both
of which were done at night for the most part.

Coffee was made by parching meal and then placing it in boiling water.
To sweeten this coffee, syrup was used. One delicacy that he and the
other slaves used to have on Sunday was biscuit bread which they called
“cake bread.””

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

“The average weekly ration allowed an adult Walton slave was a peck of
meal, two “dusters” of flour (about six pounds), seven pounds of flitch
bacon, a “bag” of peas, a gallon of grits, from one to two quarts of
molasses, a half pound of green coffee–which the slave himself parched
and “beat up” or ground, from one to two cups of sugar, a “Hatful” of
peas, and any “nicknacks” that the Major might have–as extras.

Many acres were planted to vegetables each year for the slaves and, in
season, they had all the vegetables they could eat, also Irish potatoes,
sweet potatoes, roasting ears, watermelons and “stingy green” (home
raised tobacco). In truth, the planters and “Niggers” all used “stingy
green”, there then being very little if any “menufro” (processed
tobacco) on the market.”

[Dink Young, Part IV, Georgia]

Georgia Plantation Slave Quarters

Georgia Plantation Slave Quarters

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their living quarters as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Us lived in mud-daubed log cabins what had old stack chimblies made out
of sticks and mud. Our old home-made beds didn’t have no slats or metal
springs neither. Dey used stout cords for springs. De cloth what dey
made the ticks of dem old hay mattresses and pillows out of was so
coarse dat it scratched us little chillun most to death, it seemed lak
to us dem days. I kin still feel dem old hay mattresses under me now.
Evvy time I moved at night it sounded lak de wind blowin’ through dem
peach trees and bamboos ’round de front of de house whar I lives now.”

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

“The homes provided for the slaves were two room log cabins which had one
door and one window. These homes were not built in a group together but
were more or less scattered over the plantation. Slave homes were very
simple and only contained a home made table, chair and bed which were
made of the same type of wood and could easily be cleaned by scouring
with sand every Saturday. The beds were bottomed with rope which was run
backward and forward from one rail to the other. On this framework was
placed a mattress of wheat straw. Each spring the mattresses were
emptied and refilled with fresh wheat straw.”

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

“De long, log houses what us lived in was called “shotgun” houses ’cause
dey had three rooms, one behind de other in a row lak de barrel of a
shotgun. All de chillun slept in one end room and de grown folkses slept
in de other end room. De kitchen whar us cooked and et was de middle
room. Beds was made out of pine poles put together wid cords. Dem
wheat-straw mattresses was for grown folkses mostly ’cause nigh all de
chillun slept on pallets. How-some-ever, dere was some few slave chillun
what had beds to sleep on. Pillows! Dem days us never knowed what
pillows was. Gals slept on one side of de room and boys on de other in
de chilluns room. Uncle Jim, he was de bed-maker, and he made up a heap
of little beds lak what dey calls cots now.”

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was log cabins built in long rows. Some had chimblies in
de middle, twixt two rooms, but de most of ’em was jus’ one-room cabins
wid a stick and mud chimbly at de end. Dem chimblies was awful bad ’bout
ketchin’ on fire. Didn’t nobody have no glass windows. Dey jus’ had
plain plank shutters for blinds and de doors was made de same way, out
of rough planks. All de beds was home-made and de best of ’em was
corded. Dey made holes in de sides and foots and haidpieces, and run
heavy home-made cords in dem holes. Dey wove ’em crossways in and out of
dem holes from one side to another ’til dey had ’em ready to lay de
mattress mat on. I’se helped to pull dem cords tight many a time. Our
mattress ticks was made of homespun cloth and was stuffed wid wheat
straw. ‘Fore de mattress tick was put on de bed a stiff mat wove out of
white oak splits was laid on top of de cords to pertect de mattress and
make it lay smooth. Us was ‘lowed to pick up all de old dirty cotton
’round de place to make our pillows out of.”

[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]

“When asked to describe the living quarters of the slaves on his
plantation he looked around his room and muttered: “Dey wuz a lot better
than dis one.” Some of the cabins were made of logs and some of
weatherboards. The chinks in the walls were sealed with mud. In some
instances boards were used on the inside to keep the weather out. There
were usually two windows, shutters being used in the place of window
panes. The chimney and fireplace were made of mud and stones. All
cooking was done at the fireplace as none of them were provided with
stoves. Iron cooking utensils were used. To boil food a pot was hung
over the fire by means of a hook. The remaining furniture was a bench
which served as a chair, and a crude bed. Rope running from side to side
served as bed springs. The mattress was made of straw or hay. For
lighting purposes, pine knots and candles were used. The slaves on the
Coxton plantation were also fortunate in that all cabins had good
floors. All cabins and their furnishings were built by the slaves who
learned the use of hammer and saw from white artisans whom Mr. Coxton
employed from time to time. Mr. Bland remarked that his father was a
blacksmith, having learned the trade in this manner.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“We stayed in a one room log cabin with a dirt floor. A frame made
outen pine poles was fastened to the wall to hold up the mattresses. Our
mattresses was made outen cotton bagging stuffed with wheat straw. Our
kivers was quilts made outen old clothes. Slave ‘omens too old to work
in the fields made the quilts.”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“‘Bout de beds, Nigger boys didn’t pay no ‘tention to sich as dat ’cause
all dey keered ’bout wuz a place to sleep but ‘peers lak to me dey wuz
corded beds, made wid four high posties, put together wid iron pegs, an’
holes what you run de cords thoo’, bored in de sides. De cords wuz made
out of b’ar grass woun’ tight together. Dey put straw an’ old quilts on
’em, an’ called ’em beds.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia

“I don’t know much ’bout slave quarters, or what dey had in ’em, ’cause
I wuz raised in de house wid de white folkses. I does know beds in de
quarters wuz lak shelves. Holes wuz bored in de side of de house, two in
de wall and de floor, and poles runnin’ from de wall and de floor,
fastened together wid pegs; on ’em dey put planks, and cross de foot of
de bed dey put a plank to hold de straw and keep de little ‘uns from
fallin’ out.”

[Easter Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“Houses on the Byrd Plantation were made of logs and the cracks were
daubed with mud. The chimnies were made of mud and supported by sticks.

Each fireplace varied in length from 3 to 4 feet because they serve the
purpose of stoves; and the family meals were prepared in those large
fireplaces often two and three pots were suspended from a rod running
across the fireplace. Most of the log houses consisted of one room;
however if the family was very large two rooms were built. The
furnishings consisted only of a home-made table, benches, and a
home-made bed, the mattress of which was formed by running ropes from
side to side forming a framework. Mattresses were made by filling a tick
with wheatstraw. The straw was changed each season. Laughing Mrs. Byrd
remarked, “Yessirree, them houses wuz warmer than some are ter day.”

[Sarah Byrd, Part I, Georgia]

“Slave homes on the Willis plantation differed in no respect from the
usual type found elsewhere. All homes were simple log cabins grouped
together, forming what is known as slave quarters.”

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

“All de slave quarters wuz log cabins and little famblies had cabins wid
jes’ one room. Old Marster sho’ did want to see lots of chilluns ’round
de cabins and all de big famblies wuz ‘lowed to live in two-room cabins.
Beds for slaves wuz made by nailing frames, built out of oak or walnut
planks to de sides of de cabins. Dey had two or three laigs to make ’em
set right, and de mattresses wuz filled wid wheat straw.”

[Willis Cofer, Part I, Georgia]

“Lord bless your life, Honey! We didn’t live in log cabins, as you call
them. There were two slave houses. The one Aggie lived in was two-story,
the other one had just one story and they were both weatherboarded like
Marse John’s own house. The grown folks slept on beds made with tall oak
posts. There were no metal springs then and the beds were corded
instead. The straw-stuffed mattress ticks were made with plain and
striped material, and pillows were filled with cotton. We children slept
on trundle beds, which were pushed up under the big beds in the daytime,
and pulled out for us to sleep on at night.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“Our beds had big home-made posties and frames, and us used ropes for
springs. Grandma brought her feather bed wid her from Virginny, and she
used to piece up a heap of quilts outen our ole clo’es and any kind of
scraps she could get a holt of. I don’t know what de others had in dey
cabins ’cause ma didn’t ‘low her chillun to visit ’round de other
folkses none.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“The slave quarters were located a short distance below the mansion. The
cabins one-roomed weatherboard structures were arranged so as to form a
semi-circle. There was a wide tree-lined road leading from the master’s
home to these cabins.

Furnishings of each cabin consisted of one or two benches, a bed, and a
few cooking utensils. These were very crude, especially the beds. Some
of them had four posts while the ends of others were nailed to the
walls. All lumber used in their construction was very heavy and rough.
Bed springs were unheard of–wooden slats being used for this purpose.
The mattresses were large ausenberg bags stuffed to capacity with hay,
straw, or leaves. Uncle Mose told about one of the slaves, named Ike,
whose entire family slept on bare pine straw. His children were among
the fattest on the plantation and when Colonel Davis tried to make him
put this straw in a bag he refused claiming that the pine needles kept
his children healthy.

The floors and chimneys on the Davis Plantation were made of wood and
brick instead of dirt and mud as was the case on many of the other
surrounding plantations. One window (with shutters instead of window
panes) served the purpose of ventilation and light. At night pine knots
or candles gave light. The little cooking that the slaves did at home
was all done at the open fireplace.

Near the living quarters was a house known as the “chillun house.” All
children too young for field work stayed at this house in the care of
the older slave women. There was no hospital building on the premises.
The sick had to remain in their individual cabins where they too were
cared for by slaves too old for field work.

Only one family lived in a cabin. Mose’s mother and father each had a
separate cabin. He did not explain the reason for this but said that he
was made to live in his father’s cabin. Whenever he could, (usually when
his father was away with the Colonel for a day or two) he stayed in his
mothers cabin. “The only difference between the houses we lived in
during slavery and those that some of us live in now who said is that we
had more room there than we have now.” He says that even the community
cook house was larger than some of the living quarters of today. All
cabins were white washed the same as the other buildings on the
plantation, and the occupants were required to keep the interiors and
the surrounding clean at all times. The overseer’s cabin was located a
short distance away from the slave cabins, so that it would be easier
for him to keep check on his charges.”

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Slaves lived in log cabins what had red mud daubed in de cracks ‘twixt
de logs. De roofs was made out of boards what had so many cracks ‘twixt
’em, atter a few rains made ’em swink (shrink), dat us could lay in bed
and see de stars through dem big holes. Even if us did have leaky
houses, folkses didn’t git sick half as much as dey does now. Our
homemade beds was made out of rough planks nailed to high poles;
leastways de poles was high for de headpieces, and a little lower for de
footpieces. For most of dem beds, planks was nailed to de wall for one
long side and dere was two laigs to make it stand straight on de other
long side. Dey never seed no metal springs dem days but jus’ wove cords
back and forth, up and down and across, to lay de mattress on. I never
seed no sto’-bought bed ’til atter I was married. Bedticks was made out
of homespun cloth stuffed wid wheatstraw, and sometimes dey slept on rye
or oatstraw. Pillows was stuffed wid hay what had a little cotton mixed
in it sometimes. Atter a long day of wuk in de fields, nobody bothered
’bout what was inside dem pillows. Dey slept mighty good lak dey was.
Dey fixed planks to slide across de inside of de holes dey cut out for
windows. De doors swung on pegs what tuk de place of de iron hinges dey
uses dese days. Dem old stack chimblies was made out of sticks and red
mud.”

[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]

“The cabins that the slaves occupied were located on one section of the
plantation known as the “quarters.” These dwellings were crude
one-roomed structures usually made from logs. In order to keep the
weather out mud was used to close the openings between the logs. In
most instances the furnishing of a cabin was complete after a bed, a
bench (both of which were made by the slave) and a few cooking utensils
had been placed in it. As there were no stoves for slave use all cooking
was done at the fireplace, which, like the chimney, was made of mud and
stones. One or two openings served the purpose of windows, and shutters
were used instead of glass. The mattresses on which they slept were made
from hay, grass or straw. When a light was needed a tallow candle or a
pine knot was lighted.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“Our log cabins what us lived in was daubed inside and out wid mud to
keep out bad weather. Our beds was held together by cords what was
twisted evvy which way. You had to be mighty careful tightenin’ dem
cords or de beds was liable to fall down. Us slept on wheat straw
mattresses and had plenty of good warm quilts for kiver.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“There were two one-roomed cabins located directly behind the four-roomed
house of the “Widow,” the entire lot of them were built out of logs.
These two cabins were for the use of those servants who worked in the
house of their owner. At one end of each cabin there was a wide
fireplace which was made of sticks, stones, and dried mud. Instead of
windows there were only one or two small holes cut in the back wall of
the cabin. The beds were made out of heavy planks and were called
“Georgia Looms,” by the slaves. Wooden slats were used in the place of
bed springs while the mattresses were merely large bags that had been
stuffed to capacity with hay, wheat straw, or leaves. The only other
furnishings in each of these cabins were several benches and a few
cooking utensils. Mr. Favors says: “We didn’t have plank floors like
these on some of the other plantations; the plain bare ground served as
our floor.” As he made this statement he reminded this worker that he
meant his mother and some of the other house servants lived in these
cabins. He himself always lived in the house with the “Widow Favors,”
who had provided a comfortable bed along with a small chair for his use.
These slaves who worked in the fields lived in several cabins that were
somewhat nearer to their fields than the other two cabins mentioned
above.

The remaining buildings on the Favors’ plantation were the smokehouse
and the cook house where in addition to the cooking the younger children
were cared for by another old person. The woman who cared for these
children had to also help with the cooking.”

[Lewis Favor, Part I, Georgia]

“I knows us lived
in log houses what had great big chimblies made out of sticks and mud.
Why, dem fireplaces was ’bout eight feet wide, and you could put a whole
stick of cord wood on de fire. Us slept on high-up old timey beds what
had big posties and instead of springs, dey had stout cords wove ‘cross
to hold de mattress. De last time I slept on one of dem sort of beds was
when I was a little boy, sleepin’ wid my Ma. Pa and Ma was both field
hands. Ma’s mammy was de onliest one of my grandmas I ever seed. Her
name was Ca’line and she lived wid Grandpa Abe on another plantation.
Ma’s sister, my aunt Ca’line was cook up at our Old Marster’s big house.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“Us lived in log huts. Evvy hut had a entry in de middle, and a mud
chimbly at each end. Us slep’ in beds what was ‘tached to de side of de
hut, and dey was boxed up lak wagon bodies to hold de corn shucks and de
babies in. Home-made rugs was put on top of de shucks for sheets, and de
kivver was de same thing.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“Us lived in a long house dat had a flat top and little rooms made like
mule stalls, just big enough for you to git in and sleep. Dey warn’t no
floors in dese rooms and neither no beds. Us made beds out of dry grass,
but us had cover ’cause de real old people, who couldn’t do nothin’
else, made plenty of it. Nobody warn’t ‘lowed to have fires, and if dey
wuz caught wid any dat meant a beatin’. Some would burn charcoal and
take de coals to deir rooms to help warm ’em. Every pusson had a tin
pan, tin cup, and a spoon. Everybody couldn’t eat at one time, us had
’bout four different sets. Nobody had a stove to cook on, everybody
cooked on fire places and used skillets and pots. To boil us hung pots
on racks over de fire and baked bread and meats in de skillets.”

[Leah Garrett, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves lived in rough little log huts daubed wid mud and de chimblys
was made out of sticks and red mud. Mammy said dat atter de slaves had
done got through wid deir day’s work and finished eatin’ supper, dey all
had to git busy workin’ wid cotton. Some carded bats, some spinned and
some weaved cloth. I knows you is done seen dis here checkidy cotton
homespun–dat’s what dey weaved for our dresses. Dem dresses was made
tight and long, and dey made ’em right on de body so as not to waste
none of de cloth. All slaves had was homespun clothes and old heavy
brogan shoes.

“Slaves lived in mud-daubed log huts what had chimblies made out of
sticks and mud. Lordy Honey! Dem beds was made wid big high posties and
strung wid cords for springs. Folks never had no wire bedsprings dem
days. Our mattresses was wheat straw put in ticks made out of coarse
cloth what was wove on de loom right dar on de plantation.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“His slave quarters were made up of rows of 2-room log cabins with a
different family occupying each room. The fireplaces were built three
and four feet in length purposely for cooking. The furniture, consisting
of a bed, table, and chair, was made from pine wood and kept clean by
scouring with sand. New mattresses and pillows were made each spring
from wheat straw.”

[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]

“One and two roomed log cabins were found on practically all the
plantations. The number of rooms depended upon the number in the family.
Sometimes one room would contain three and four bed scaffolds, so called
by Mr. Hammond because of their peculiar construction. Some beds were
nailed to the walls and all of them were built with roped bottoms. Home
made tables and benches completed the furnishings of a slave home. There
were no stoves, large fireplaces, five to six feet in length, served the
purpose of stoves for cooking. Cooking utensils including an oven and
very large pots were found in every home. Wooden plates and spoons were
used on some plantations.”

[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]

“All de houses in de slave quarters was log cabins ‘cept two. Dey was
made of boards what was put on straight up and down. All de houses had
chimblies made out of mud and sticks. De beds had high posties and some
of ’em was nailed to de wall of de cabin. Dey didn’t know nothin’ ’bout
no wire springs den, and dey strung de beds wid heavy cords for springs.
Dey made mattress ticks out of coarse home-wove cloth; some was striped
and some was plain unbleached white. Atter de wheat was thrashed evvy
year de ‘omans tuk deir ticks and emptied out de old straw and went and
filled ’em wid new wheat straw. Wisht I had a nice fresh made wheat
straw mattress now. Us had plenty of good quilts for kivver.”

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves lived in one-room log cabins dat had rock chimblies, and each
cabin had one little window wid a wooden shutter dey fastened at night
and in bad weather. Deir beds was made out of pine poles fastened to de
sides of dem old beds ‘teesters,’ ’cause de posties was so high. Ropes
or cords was criss-crossed to hold ’em together and to take de place of
springs. Nobody hadn’t ever saw no iron springs on beds dem days. Dem
big old ticks was generally filled wid wheat straw, but sometimes slaves
was ‘lowed to pick up waste cotton and wash, dry, and card it to stuff
deir bed-ticks wid. But Missy, dat was jus’ too much trouble when a good
old straw tick slept so fine. Cheers was made out of oak splits, and
cane and rye plaits was used for de cheer-bottoms. Dem old cheers sot
mighty good and lasted a lifetime.”

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“The slave’s cabins were constructed of rough-hewn logs, with the cracks
daubed with mud and, as Emmaline recalled it, were very warm; warmer, in
fact, than many of their houses are today. The furniture consisted of a
“corded” bed, wooden tables and benches. This “corded” bed was
constructed by running rope or cord from the head to the foot and then
from side to side. A wooden peg was driven into the holes to hold the
cord in place. Pegs were a household necessity and had to be cared for
just as a key is today. Most homes also included a quilt slab, a sort of
table used to place quilts on, as a necessary part of the furniture.”

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“The Henderson slave houses were of the one-room log type, with one
window and one door; each cabin was furnished with a bed, chair, and
table. Large fireplaces took the place of stoves for cooking. These were
constructed four or five feet in width so that one or two pots or a side
of meat could be suspended from a hook which was fastened on a rack in
the stick and dirt chimney.”

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was off from the big house a piece, and they was built
in rows lak streets. Most of the log cabins had one room; some had two,
but all of them had plain old stack chimblies made of sticks and red
mud. Our beds was just home-made makeshifts, but us didn’t know no
diffunce ’cause us never had seed no better ones. They sawed pine posts
the right height and bored holes through them and through the slabs they
had cut for the railin’s, or side pieces. They jined the bed together
with cords that they wove back and forth and twisted tight with a stout
stick. Them cords served two purposes; they held the bed together and
was our springs too, but if us warn’t mighty keerful to keep ’em twisted
tight our beds would fall down. Lak them old beds, the mattresses us had
them days warn’t much compared with what we sleeps on now. Them ticks
was made of coarse home-wove cloth, called ‘osnaburg,’ and they was
filled with straw. My! How that straw did squeak and cry out when us
moved, but the Blessed Lord changed all that when he gave us freedom and
let schools be sot up for us. With freedom Negroes soon got more
knowledge of how a home ought to be.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Us lived in log cabins scattered ’round de plantation. De biggest of
’em had two rooms and evvy cabin had a chimbly made out of sticks and
red mud. Most of de chillun slept on pallets on de floor, but I slept
wid my Pa and Ma ’cause I was so pettish. Most of de beds was made out
of poles, dis a-way: Dey bored two holes in de wall, wide apart as dey
wanted de bed, and in dese holes dey stuck one end of de poles what was
de side pieces. Dey sharpened de ends of two more poles and driv’ ’em in
de floor for de foot pieces and fastened de side pieces to ’em. Planks
was put acrost dis frame to hold a coarse cloth tick filled wid wheat
straw. Ma had a ruffle, what was called a foot bouncer, ’round de foot
of her bed. Beds up at de big house was a sight to see. Dey had high
posties and curtains over de top and ’round de bottom of deir beds. Dem
beds at de big house was so high dey had steps to walk up so dey could
git in ’em. Oh, dey was pretty, all kivvered over wid bob’ net to keep
flies and skeeters off de white folkses whilst dey slept!”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was laid out lak streets. Us lived in log cabins. Beds?
Dey was jus’ makeshift beds, what was made out of pine poles. De side of
de house was de head of de beds. De side rails was sharpened at both
ends and driv’ in holes in de walls and foot posties. Den dey put boards
‘cross de side rails for de mattresses to lay on. De coarse cloth bed
ticks was filled wid ‘Georgy feathers.’ Don’t you know what Georgy
feathers was? Wheat straw was Georgy feathers. Our kivver was sheets and
plenty of good warm quilts. Now dat was at our own quarters on Marse
David Bell’s plantation.”

“Didn’t evvybody have as good places to sleep as us. I ‘members a white
fambly named Sims what lived in Flatwoods. Dey was de porest white folks
I ever seed. Dey had a big drove of chillun and deir Pa never wukked a
lick in his life–He jus’ lived on other folkses’ labors. Deir little
log cabin had a partition in it, and ‘hind dat partition dere warn’t a
stitch of nothin’. Dey didn’t have no floor but de ground, and back
‘hind dat partition was dug out a little deeper dan in de rest of de
house. Dey filled dat place wid leaves and dat’s whar all de chilluns
slept. Evvy day Miss Sallie made ’em take out de leaves what dey had
slep’ on de night before and fill de dugout wid fresh leaves. On de
other side of de partition, Miss Sallie and her old man slept ‘long wid
deir hog, and hoss, and cow, and dat was whar dey cooked and et too. I
ain’t never gwine to forgit dem white folks.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“The quarters consisted of poorly constructed cabins with worse
interiors. There were no beds, only bunks made of two poles balancing
sides nailed to the walls. Rags and old clothing served as a mattress
and the other furniture was equally bad.”

[Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Us slep’ on corded beds what had high postes and ruffled curtains
’round de foot. De beds what had curtains all ’round de top of dem high
postes was called teester beds. When all dem curtains was fresh washed
and starched, de beds sho’ did look grand. Chilluns slep’ on pallets on
de flo’.”

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Honey, dat old plantation was sho one big place. Back of de big house,
whar de overseer lived, was just rows and rows of slave cabins. Dey
stacked ’em up out of big logs jus’ lak dey made hog-pen fences. All de
cracks ‘twixt de logs was chinked up tight wid red mud and, let me tell
you, Honey, dey was keerful to lay on so much red mud over dem sticks
dat chimblies on our place never did ketch fire lak dey did on some of
de places whar dey done things sort of shiftless lak. Dem cabins had two
rooms and a shed room ‘crost de back whar day done de cookin’. Two
famblies lived in evvy cabin.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“Aunt Emma told of how the slaves had to live on the plantation and an
unpleasant story it was. There were no neat cabins all in a row making
up the “quarters” where the slaves lived. Instead they were made to live
around in any old hut they could find shelter in. Her mother and three
other women stayed in one room of the house the white family lived in.”

[Emma Hurley, Part II, Georgia]

“De place where de slaves lived wuz in de back o’ de white folks house.
Dey called it de “quarters”. Dere wuz lotsa log cabins kinda ‘ranged
‘roun in a sorta circle an’ all of ’em had big dirt chimneys on de
outside. De holes in de walls wuz stopped up wid dried mud to keep de
weather out. Fer furniture dey jes’ nailed up anything–dere wuz a bench
or two an’ a few boards nailed together fer a bed. De mattress wuz a big
tickin’ stuffed wid straw or dried grass. Some of de houses had big iron
pots so dat dey could cook if dey wanted to. De fireplaces wuz big ones
an’ dey had racks in de inside of ’em so dat de pots could hang dere
when dey wuz cookin’. De only light dat dey had wuz de firelight–don’t
care how hot it wuz–if you wanted to see you had to make a fire in de
fireplace. De floors in all de cabins wuz made wid wood.”

[Amanda Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“Us sho’ did have a pretty place. De big house was painted white, and
dere was big old yards wid lots of flowers. De slave quarters was white
too. Dey was one room cabins built in long rows, way off f’um de big
house. Home-made beds was nailed to de wall and had just two laigs, and
de big ticks stuffed wid straw made dem beds moughty good places to
sleep.

“Most of de slaves et at de two long tables close by de kitchen up nigh
de big house. De kitchen warn’t built on to de big house, but hit sot
out in de yard a little piece. Dat’s de way evvybody had deir kitchens
built dem days.”

[Mahala Jewel, Part II, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was just one room log cabins what was built so de
corners come together to big old chimneys. Yessum, I ‘members dey just
had one big chimney to evvy four cabins. Dey cooked on de fireplace and
had pot racks for to hang de pots on, and ovens to bake in. Us sho’
could do ‘way wid a heap of sweet ‘tatoes what had done been roasted in
de ashes. Cabins was planked up on de inside and de outside was daubed
wid mud in de cracks to keep out de wind and rain. Our home-made beds,
nailed to de side of de cabins, had ticks filled wid wheat straw. White
folks had nice corded beds. Ma said hit was lots of trouble to keep dem
cords tight. Dey had hooks for to draw ’em up tight and den peg ’em down
wid wooden pegs.”

[Georgia Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“The houses that they lived in were one-roomed structures made of heavy
plank instead of logs, with planer [HW: ?] floors. At one end of this
one-roomed cabin there was a large chimney and fireplace made of rocks,
mud, and dirt. In addition to the one door, there was a window at the
back. Only one family could live in a cabin as the space was so limited.
The furnishings of each cabin consisted of a bed and one or two chairs.
The beds were well constructed, a great deal better than some of the
beds the ex-slave saw during these days. Regarding mattresses she said,
“We took some tick and stuffed it with cotton and corn husks, which had
been torn into small pieces and when we got through sewing it looked
like a mattress that was bought in a store.

Light was furnished by lightwood torches and sometimes by the homemade
tallow candles. The hot tallow was poured into a candle mold, which was
then dipped into a pan of cold water, when the tallow had hardened, the
finished product was removed.”

[Jennie Kendricks, Part III, Georgia]

“Mammy lived in de old kitchen close by de big house ’til dere got to be
too many of us; den Marse Gerald built us a house jus’ a little piece
off from de big house. It was jus’ a log house, but Marster had all dem
cracks chinked tight wid red mud, and he even had one of dem
franklin-back chimblies built to keep our little cabin nice and warm.
Why, Child, ain’t you never seed none of dem old chimblies? Deir backs
sloped out in de middle to throw out de heat into de room and keep too
much of it from gwine straight up de flue. Our beds in our cabin was
corded jus’ lak dem up at de big house, but us slept on straw ticks and,
let me tell you, dey sho slept good atter a hard days’s wuk.”

[Nicey Kinney, Part III, Georgia]

“De log cabins what de slaves lived in was off a piece from de big
house. Dem cabins had rock chimblies, put together wid red mud. Dere
warn’t no glass in de windows and doors of dem cabins–jus’ plain old
home-made wooden shutters and doors.” Julia laughed as she told of their
beds. “Us called ’em four posters, and dat’s what dey was, but dey was
jus’ plain old pine posties what one of de men on de plantation made up.
Two posties at de head and two at de foot wid pine rails betwixt ’em was
de way dey made dem beds. Dere warn’t no sto’-bought steel springs dem
days, not even for de white folks, but dem old cord springs went a long
ways towards makin’ de beds comfortable and dey holped to hold de bed
together. De four poster beds de white folks slept on was corded too,
but deir posties warn’t made out of pine. Dey used oak and walnut and
sometimes real mahogany, and dey carved ’em up pretty. Some of dem big
old posties to de white folkses beds was six inches thick.”

[Julia Larken, Part III, Georgia]

“The slaves living quarters were located in the rear of the “big house”
(this was true of the plantation located in Pensacola as well as the one
in Georgia). All were made of logs and, according to Mr. Lewis, all were
substantially built. Wooden pegs were used in the place of nails and the
cracks left in the walls were sealed with mud and sticks. These cabins
were very comfortable and only one family was allowed to a cabin. All
floors were of wood. The only furnishings were the beds and one or two
benches or bales which served as chairs. In some respects these beds
resembled a scaffold nailed to the side of a house. Others were made of
heavy wood and had four legs to stand upon. For the most part, however,
one end of the bed was nailed to the wall. The mattresses were made out
of any kind of material that a slave could secure, burlap sacks,
ausenberg, etc. After a large bag had been made with this material it
was stuffed with straw. Heavy cord running from side to side was used
for the bed springs. The end of the cord was tied to a handle at the end
of the bed. This pemitted the occupant to tighten the cord when it
became loosened. A few cooking utensils completed the furnishings. All
illumination was secured by means of the door and the open fire place.”

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was lots of log cabins wid chimlies of criss-crossed
sticks and mud. Pore white folks lived in houses lak dat too. Our bed
was made wid high posties and had cords, what run evvy which a-way, for
springs. ‘Course dey had to be wound tight to keep dem beds from fallin’
down when you tried to git in ’em. For mattresses, de ‘omans put wheat
straw in ticks made out of coarse cloth wove right dar on de plantation,
and de pillows was made de same way. Ole Miss, she let her special
favorite Niggers, what wuked up at de big house, have feather mattresses
and pillows. Dem other Niggers shined dey eyes over dat, but dere warn’t
nothin’ dey could do ’bout it ‘cept slip ’round and cut dem feather beds
and pillows open jus’ to see de feathers fly. Kivver was ‘lowanced out
evvy year to de ones what needed it most. In dat way dere was allus good
kivver for evvybody.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“There were two one-room log cabins in the rear of the master’s house.
These cabins were dedicated to slave use. Mrs. McDaniel says: “The
floors were made of heavy wooden planks. At one end of the cabin was the
chimney which was made out of dried mud, sticks, and dirt. On the side
of the cabin opposite the door there was a window where we got a little
air and a little light. Our beds were made out of the same kind of wood
that the floors were and we called them “Bed-Stilts.” Slats were used
for springs while the mattresses were made of large bags stuffed with
straw. At night we used tallow candles for light and sometimes fat pine
that we called light-wood. As Mrs. Hale did all of our cooking we had
very few pots and pans. In the Winter months we used to take mud and
close the cracks left in the wall where the logs did not fit close
together.”

[Amanda McDaniel, Part III, Georgia]

“‘Bout our houses? Mistess, I’se gwine to tell you de trufe, dem houses
slaves had to live in, dey warn’t much, but us didn’t know no better
den. Dey was jus’ one-room log cabins wid stick and dirt chimblies. De
beds for slaves was home-made and was held together wid cords wove evvy
which away. If you didn’t tighten dem cords up pretty offen your bed was
apt to fall down wid you. Suggin sacks was sewed together to make our
mattress ticks and dem ticks was filled wid straw. Now, don’t tell me
you ain’t heared of suggin sacks a-fore! Dem was coarse sacks sort of
lak de guano sacks us uses now. Dey crowded jus’ as many Niggers into
each cabin as could sleep in one room, and marriage never meant a thing
in dem days when dey was ‘rangin’ sleepin’ quarters for slaves. Why, I
knowed a man what had two wives livin’ in de same cabin; one of dem
‘omans had all boys and t’other one didn’t have nothin’ but gals. It’s
nigh de same way now, but dey don’t live in de same house if a man’s got
two famblies.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“Us had er right hard time in dem days. De beds us used den warn’t like
dese here nice beds us has nowadays. Don’t you laugh, Berry, I knows
dese beds us got now is ’bout to fall down,” Aunt Carrie admonished her
grandson when he guffawed at her statement, “You chilluns run erlong now
an’ git thoo’ wid dat cleanin’.” Aunt Carrie’s spirits seemed dampened
by Berry’s rude laugh and it was several minutes before she started
talking again. “Dese young folks don’t know nuthin’ ’bout hard times. Us
wukked in de ole days frum before sunup ’til black night an’ us knowed
whut wuk wuz. De beds us slep’ on had roun’ postes made outen saplins of
hickory or little pine trees. De bark wuz tuk off an’ dey wuz rubbed
slick an’ shiny. De sprangs wuz rope crossed frum one side uv de bed to
de udder. De mattress wuz straw or cotton in big sacks made outen
osnaberg or big salt sacks pieced tergether. Mammy didn’t have much soap
an’ she uster scrub de flo’ wid sand an’ it wuz jes ez white. Yas mam,
she made all de soap us used, but it tuk a heap. We’uns cooked in de
ashes an’ on hot coals, but de vittals tasted a heap better’n dey does
nowadays. Mammy had to wuk in de fiel’ an’ den cum home an’ cook fer
marster an’ his fambly. I didn’ know nuthin’ ’bout it ’till atter
freedom but I hyearn ’em tell ’bout it.”

[Aunt Carrie Mason, Part III, Georgia]

“In the rear of the master’s house was located the slave’s quarters. Each
house was made of logs and was of the double type so that two families
could be accommodated. The holes and chinks in the walls were daubed
with mud to keep the weather out. At one end of the structure was a
large fireplace about six feet in width. The chimney was made of dirt.

As for furniture Mr. Orford says: “You could make your own furniture if
you wanted to but ol’ marster would give you a rope bed an’ two or three
chairs an’ dat wus all. De mattress wus made out of a big bag or a
tickin’ stuffed wid straw–dat wus all de furniture in any of de
houses.”

[Richard Orford, Part III, Georgia]

“The master’s house, called the “Big House,” was a two-story frame
structure consisting of 10 rooms. Although not a mansion, it was fairly
comfortable. The home provided for Pattillo’s family was a three-room
frame house furnished comfortably with good home-made furniture.”

[G W Pattillo, Part III, Georgia]

“De slave quarters wuz little log houses scattered here and dar. Some of
’em had two rooms on de fust flo’ and a loft up ‘bove whar de boys most
genially slep’ and de gals slep’ downstairs. I don’t ‘member nothin’
t’all ’bout what us done ‘cept scrap lak chilluns will do.

“Oh! I ain’t forgot ’bout dem beds. Dey used cords for springs, and de
cords run f’um head to foot; den dey wove ’em ‘cross de bed ’til dey
looked lak checks. Wheat straw wuz sewed up in ticks for mattresses.
When you rolled ’round on one of dem straw mattresses, de straw crackled
and sounded lak rain. No Ma’am, I don’t know nothin’ t’all ’bout my
gran’pa and gran’ma.”

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

“All of the houses on the Kennon plantation were made of logs including
that of Mr. Kennon himself. There were only two visible differences in
the dwelling places of the slaves and that of Mr. Kennon and there were
(1) several rooms instead of the one room allowed the slaves and (2)
weatherboard was used on the inside to keep the weather out while the
slaves used mud to serve for this purpose. In these crude one-roomed
houses (called stalls) there was a bed made of some rough wood. Rope
tied from side to side served as the springs for the mattress which was
a bag filled with straw and leaves. There were also one or two boxes
which were used as chairs. The chimney was made of rocks and mud. All
cooking was done here at the fireplace. Mrs. Price says; “Even Old
Marster did’nt have a stove to cook on so you know we did’nt.” The only
available light was that furnished by the fire. Only one family was
allowed to a cabin so as to prevent overcrowding. In addition to a good
shingle roof each one of these dwellings had a board floor. All floors
were of dirt on the plantation belonging to the elder Mr. Kennon.”

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

“Houses on the Ealey plantation were built of pine poles after which the
cracks were filled with red mud. Most of these houses consisted of one
room; however, a few were built with two rooms to accommodate the larger
families. The beds, called “bunks” by Mr. Pye were nailed to the sides
of the room. Roped bottoms covered with a mattress of burlap and hay
served to complete this structure called a bed. Benches and a home made
table completed the furnishings. There were very few if any real chairs
found in the slave homes. The houses and furniture were built by skilled
Negro carpenters who were hired by the mistress from other slave owners.
A kind slave owner would allow a skilled person to hire his own time and
keep most of the pay which he earned.”

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

“The slave quarters on the plantation were located behind the colonel’s
cabin[??]. All were made of logs. The chinks in the walls were filled
with mud to keep the weather out. The floors were of wood in order to
protect the occupants from the dampness. The only furnishings were a
crude bed and several benches. All cooking was done at the large
fireplace in the rear of the one room.”

[Julia Rush, Part III, Georgia]

“De quarters whar us lived was log cabins chinked wid mud to
keep out de rain and wind. Chimblies was made out of fiel’ rock and red
clay. I never seed a cabin wid more dan two rooms in it.

“Beds warn’t fancy dem days lak dey is now; leastwise I didn’t see no
fancy ones. All de beds was corded; dey had a headboard, but de pieces
at de foot and sides was jus’ wide enough for holes to run de cords
thoo’, and den de cords was pegged to hold ’em tight. Nigger chillun
slep’ on pallets on de flo’.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“De slave quarters was long rows of log cabins wid chimblies made out of
sticks and red mud. Dem chimblies was all de time ketchin’ fire. Dey
didn’t have no glass windows. For a window, dey jus’ cut a openin’ in a
log and fixed a piece of plank ‘cross it so it would slide when dey
wanted to open or close it. Doors was made out of rough planks, beds was
rough home-made frames nailed to de side of de cabins, and mattresses
was coarse, home-wove ticks filled wid wheat straw. Dey had good
home-made kivver. Dem beds slept mighty good.”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

“De slave quarters wuz in rows and had two rooms and a shed. Dey had
beds made out of poles fastened together wid pegs and ‘cross ’em wuz
laid de slats what dey spread de wheat straw on. Us had good kivver
’cause our Marster wuz a rich man and he believed in takin’ keer of his
Niggers. Some put sheets dat wuz white as snow over de straw. Dem sheets
wuz biled wid home-made soap what kept ’em white lak dat. Udder folkses
put quilts over de straw. At de end of de slave quarters wuz de barns
and cow sheds, and a little beyond dem wuz de finest pasture you ever
seed wid clear water a-bubblin’ out of a pretty spring, and runnin’
thoo’ it. Dar’s whar dey turned de stock to graze when dey warn’t
wukkin’ ’em.”

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

“He had another slave to do
all the carpenterin’ and to make all the coffins for the folks that died
on the plantation. That same carpenter made ‘most all the beds the white
folks and us slaves slept on. Them old beds–they called ’em
teesters–had cords for springs; nobody never heard of no metal springs
them days. They jus’ wove them cords criss-cross, from one side to the
other and from head to foot. When they stretched and sagged they was
tightened up with keys what was made for that purpose.”

[Nellie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“De cracks of de log cabins whar de slaves lived was chinked wid red mud
to keep out de cold and rain. Dere warn’t no glass in de windows, dey
jus’ had plank shutters what dey fastened shut at night. Thin slide
blocks kivvered de peepholes in de rough plank doors. Dey had to have
dem peepholes so as dey could see who was at de door ‘fore dey opened
up. Dem old stack chimblies what was made out of sticks and red clay,
was all time gittin’ on fire. Dem old home-made beds had high posties
and us called ’em ‘teesters.’ To take de place of springs, what hadn’t
never been seen ’round dar in dem days, dey wove heavy cords lengthways
and crostways. Over dem cords dey laid a flat mat wove out of white oak
splints and on dat dey put de homespun bed ticks stuffed wid wheat
straw. Dey could have right good pillows if dey was a mind to pick de
scrap cotton and fix it up, but dere warn’t many of ’em keered dat much
’bout no pillows.”

[Cordelia Thomas, Part IV, Georgia]

“Jane told of the log cabins in the Quarters where all the negroes lived.
She said they were all in a row “wid er street in de front, er wide
street all set thick wid white mulberry trees fer ter mak’ shade fer de
chillun ter play in.”

[Jane Toombs, Part IV, Georgia]

“The “big house,” a
large unpainted structure which housed a family of eighteen, was in the
midst of a grove of trees near the highway that formed one of the
divisions of the plantation. It was again divided by a local railway
nearly a mile from the rear of the house. Eighty-eight slaves were
housed in the “quarters” which were on each side of the highway a little
below the planter’s home.

These “quarters” differed from those found in the surrounding territory
as the size of the houses varied with the number in the family. The
interiors were nicely furnished and in most instances the families were
able to secure any furniture they desired. Feather mattresses, trundle
beds and cribs were common and in families where there were many
children, large fireplaces–some as many as eight feet wide–were
provided so that every one might be [TR: ‘able to keep’ crossed out]
comfortable in winter. A variety of cooking utensils were given and
large numbers of waffle irons, etc., then considered luxuries, were
found here.”

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

“Dem old cord beds was a sight to look at, but dey slept good. Us
cyarded lint cotton into bats for mattresses and put ’em in a tick what
us tacked so it wouldn’t git lumpy. Us never seed no iron springs dem
days. Dem cords, criss-crossed from one side of de bed to de other, was
our springs and us had keys to tighten ’em wid. If us didn’t tighten ’em
evvy few days dem beds was apt to fall down wid us. De cheers was
homemade too and de easiest-settin’ ones had bottoms made out of rye
splits. Dem oak-split cheers was all right, and sometimes us used cane
to bottom de cheers but evvybody laked to set in dem cheers what had
bottoms wove out of rye splits.”

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

“Dat was a be-yootiful place, wid woods, cricks, and fields spread out
most as fur as you could see. De slave quarters would’a reached from
here to Milledge Avenue. Us lived in a one-room log cabin what had a
chimbly made out of sticks and mud. Dem homemade beds what us slep’ on
had big old high posties wid a great big knob on de top of each post.
Our matt’esses was coarse home-wove cloth stuffed wid field straw. You
know I laked dem matt’esses ’cause when de chinches got too bad you
could shake out dat straw and burn it, den scald de tick and fill it wid
fresh straw, and rest in peace again. You can’t never git de chinches
out of dese cotton matt’esses us has to sleep on now days. Pillows? What
you talkin’ ’bout? You know Niggers never had no pillows dem days,
leaseways us never had none. Us did have plenty of kivver dough. Folkses
was all time a-piecin’ quilts and having quiltin’s. All dat sort of wuk
was done at night.”

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

“Approximately one block from the planter’s home, the “quarters” were
clustered. These were numerous loghouses with stick-and-clay chimneys in
which the slave families dwelt. Each house was composed of one room
sparsely furnished. The beds were corded with rope and as large families
were stressed, it was often necessary for several members to sleep on
the floor. There was an open fireplace at which family meals were
prepared. Equipment consisted of an iron pot suspended by a hanger and a
skillet with long legs that enabled the cook to place fire beneath it.
Bread known as “ash cake” was sometimes cooked on the hot coals.”

[Rhodus Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

“Mr. Ward and his fellow slaves lived in one-room houses in the rear of
the master’s home. The furnishings consisted of a bed which was known as
a “Grand Rascal” due to its peculiar construction. The mattress made in
the form of a large bag was stuffed with hat and dried grass.

“De beds dat all o’ de slaves slept in wus called ‘Grand Rascals’. Dey
wus made on de same order as a box. De way dey made ’em wus like dis:
dey took four strips of narrow wood, each one of ’em ’bout a foot wide,
an’ den dey nailed ’em together so dat dey wus in de shape of a square.
Den dey nailed a bottom onto dis square shape. Dis bottom wus called de
slats. When dis wus finished dey set dis box on some legs to keep it
off’n de floor, an’ den dey got busy wid de mattress. Dey took ol’ oat
sacks an’ filled ’em wid straw an’ hay an’ den dey put dis in de box an’
slept on it. Dere wusn’t no springs on dese bunks an’ everybody had a
hard time sleepin’.

“De real name of dese wus ‘Sonova-Bitches’ but de slaves called ’em
‘Grand Rascals’ ’cause dey didn’t want people to hear ’em use a bad
word.”

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

“Our houses? Slaves lived in log cabins built the common way. There was
lots of forest pine in those days. Logs were cut the desired length and
notches put in each end so they would fit closely and have as few cracks
as possible, when they stacked them for a cabin. They sawed pine logs
into blocks and used a frow to split them into planks that were used to
cover the cracks between the logs. Don’t you know what a frow is? That’s
a wooden wedge that you drive into a pine block by hitting it with a
heavy wooden mallet, or maul, as they are more commonly called. They
closed the cracks in some of the cabins by daubing them with red mud.
The old stack chimneys were made of mud and sticks. To make a bed, they
first cut four posts, usually of pine, and bored holes through them with
augers; then they made two short pieces for the head and foot. Two long
pieces for the sides were stuck through the auger holes and the bedstead
was ready to lay on the slats or cross pieces to hold up the mattress.
The best beds had heavy cords, wove crossways and lengthways, instead of
slats. Very few slaves had corded beds. Mattresses were not much; they
were made of suggin sacks filled with straw. They called that straw
‘Georgia feathers.’ Pillows were made of the same things. Suggin cloth
was made of coarse flax wove in a loom. They separated the flax into two
grades; fine for the white folks, and coarse for the Negroes.”

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

“Us lived in log cabins
what had jus’ one room wid a stick and mud chimbly at de end. Our
bedsteads was made out of rough planks and poles and some of ’em was
nailed to de sides of de cabins. Mattress ticks was made out of osnaburg
and us filled ’em wid wheat straw in season. When dat was used up us got
grass from de fields. Most any kind of hay was counted good ‘nough to
put in a slave’s mattress. Dey let us mix some cotton wid de hay our
pillows was stuffed wid.”

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

“De big house was set in a half acre yard. ‘Bout fifty yards on one side
was my house, and fifty yards on de yudder side was de house o’ Granny,
a woman what tended de chillun and had charge o’de yard when we went to
Bath.” Willis gestured behind him. “Back yonder was de quarters, half a
mile long; dey wuz one room ‘crost, and some had shed room. When any of
’em got sick, Marster would go round to see ’em all.”

[Uncle Willis, Part IV, Georgia]

“The housing facilities varied with the work a slave was engaged in on
the Womble plantation according to Mr. Womble. He slept in the house
under the dining-room table all of the time. The cook also slept in the
house of her owner. For those who worked on the fields log cabins (some
distance behind the master’s house.) were provide [sic]. Asked to
describe one of these cabins Mr. Womble replied: “They were two roomed
buildings made out of logs and daubed with mud to keep the weather out.
At one end there was a chimney that was made out of dried mud, sticks
and stones. The fireplace was about five or six feet in length and on
the inside of it there were some hooks to hang the pots from when there
was cooking to be done.

“There was only one door and this was the front one. They would’nt put a
back door in a cabin because it would be easy for a slave to slip out of
the back way if the master or the overseer came to punish an occupant.
There were one or two small openings cut in the back so that they could
get air.”

“The furniture was made by the blacksmith”, continued Mr. Womble. “In
one corner of the room there was a large bed that had been made out of
heavy wood. Rope that ran from side to side served as the springs while
the mattress was a large bag that had been stuffed with wheat straw. The
only other furnishings were a few cooking utensils and one or two
benches.” As many as four families lived in one of these cabins although
the usual number to a cabin was three families. There was one other
house where the young children were kept while their parents worked in
the fields.”

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

The houses or cabins of the slaves were located a short distance in the
rear of “Old Marster’s” house. These houses were usually made from
logs–the chinks being closed with mud. In some cases boards were used
on the inside of the cabin to keep the weather out, but according to Mr.
Wright, mud was always the more effective. The floor was usually covered
with boards and there were two or three windows to each cabin, shutters
being used in place of glass. The chimney and fireplace were made of
mud, sticks and stones. All cooking was done on the fireplace in iron
utensils, which Mr. Wright declares were a lot better than those used
today. For boiling, the pots hung from a long hook directly above the
fire. Such furniture as each cabin contained was all made by the slaves.
This furniture usually consisted of a wooden bench, instead of a chair,
and a crude bed made from heavy wood. Slats were used in the place of
springs. The mattress was made stuffing a large bag with wheat straw.
“This slept as good as any feather bed” says Mr. Wright. Candles were
used to furnish light at night.

On this plantation each family did not have an individual cabin.
Sometimes as many as three families shared a cabin, which of course was
rather a large one. In this case it was partitioned off by the use of
curtains.”

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

Update June 30, 2015

The June 30, 2015 update includes significant additions of Non-Hairston families and source additions. Virginia marriage sources were used to link husband and wife to parents and match to census records. These marriage records are one of the most useful tools used in this update as the record often included the husband’s father’s name and mother’s maiden name as well as the wife’s father’s name and mother’s maiden name. Non-Hairston families were emphasized this update to build the database to be able to link the marriages of Hairston daughters to their new in-laws.

Life on the Plantation Georgia

Life on the Plantation in Georgia

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their celebrations as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their work experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Aunt Arrie told of their life on the plantation and it was not unlike
that of other slaves who had good masters who looked after them. They
had plenty to eat and to wear. Their food was given them and they cooked
and ate their meals in the cabins in family groups. Santa Claus always
found his way to the Quarters and brought them stick candy and other
things to eat. She said for their Christmas dinner there was always a
big fat hen and a hog head.

In slavery days the negroes had quiltings, dances, picnics and everybody
had a good time, Aunt Arrie said, “an’ I kin dance yit when I hears a
fiddle.” They had their work to do in the week days, but when Sundays
came there was no work, everybody rested and on “preachin’ days” went to
Church. Her father took them all to old Rehoboth, the neighborhood white
church, and they worshiped together, white and black, the negroes in
the gallery. That was back in the days when there was “no lookin’
neither to the right nor to the left” when in church; no matter what
happened, no one could even half way smile. This all was much harder
than having to listen to the long tiresome sermons of those days, Arrie
thinks, specially when she recalled on one occasion “when Mr. Sutton wuz
a preachin’ a old goat [HW: got] up under the Church an’ every time Mr.
Sutton would say something out real loud that old goat would go ‘Bah-a-a
Bah ba-a-a’ an’ we couldn’t laugh a bit. I most busted, I wanted ter
laugh so bad.”

Aunt Arrie leads a lonely life now. She grieves for her loved ones more
than negroes usually do. She doesn’t get about much, but “I does go over
to see Sis Lou (a neighbor) every now an’ den fer consolation.” She says
she is living on borrowed time because she has always taken care of
herself and worked and been honest. She said that now she is almost at
the close of her life waiting day by day for the call to come, she is
glad she knew slavery, glad she was reared by good white people who
taught her the right way to live, and she added: “Mistess, I’se so glad
I allus worked hard an’ been honest–hit has sho paid me time an’ time
agin.”

[Arrie Binns, Part I, Georgia]

“The “patarolers,” according to “Uncle” Rias, were always quite active in
ante-bellum days. The regular patrol consisted of six men who rode
nightly, different planters and overseers taking turns about to do
patrol duty in each militia district in the County.

All slaves were required to procure passes from their owners or their
plantation overseers before they could go visiting or leave their home
premises. If the “patarolers” caught a “Nigger” without a pass, they
whipped him and sent him home. Sometimes, however, if the “Nigger”
didn’t run and told a straight story, he was let off with a lecture and
a warning. Slave children, though early taught to make themselves
useful, had lots of time for playing and frolicking with the white
children.

Every Saturday was a wash day. The clothes and bed linen of all Whites
and Blacks went into wash every Saturday. And “Niggers”, whether they
liked it or not, had to “scrub” themselves every Saturday night.

The usual laundry and toilet soap was a homemade lye product, some of it
a soft-solid, and some as liquid as water. The latter was stored in jugs
and demijohns. Either would “fetch the dirt, or take the hide off”; in
short, when applied “with rag and water, something had to come”.

Rias Body had twelve brothers, eight of whom were “big buck Niggers,”
and older than himself. The planters and “patarolers” accorded these
“big Niggers” unusual privileges–to the end that he estimates that they
“wuz de daddies uv least a hunnert head o’ chillun in Harris County
before de war broke out.” Some of these children were “scattered” over a
wide area.

Among the very old slaves whom he knew as a boy were quite a few whom
the Negroes looked up to, respected, and feared as witches, wizzards,
and magic-workers. These either brought their “learnin” with them from
Africa or absorbed it from their immediate African forebears. Mentally,
these people wern’t brilliant, but highly sensitized, and Rias gave “all
sich” as wide a berth as opportunity permitted him, though he knows “dat
dey had secret doins an carrying-ons”. In truth, had the Southern Whites
not curbed the mumbo-jumboism of his people, he is of the opinion that
it would not now be safe to step “out his doe at night”.

[Rias Body, Part I, Georgia]

“Spring plowin’ and hoein’ times we wukked all day Saddays, but mos’en
generally we laid off wuk at twelve o’clock Sadday. That was dinnertime.
Sadday nights we played and danced. Sometimes in the cabins, sometimes
in the yards. Effen we didn’ have a big stack of fat kindling wood lit
up to dance by, sometimes the mens and ‘omans would carry torches of
kindling wood whils’t they danced and it sho’ was a sight to see! We
danced the ‘Turkey Trot’ and ‘Buzzard Lope’, and how we did love to
dance the ‘Mary Jane!’ We would git in a ring and when the music started
we would begin wukkin’ our footses while we sang ‘You steal my true love
and I steal your’n!’

“Atter supper we used to gether round and knock tin buckets and pans, we
beat ’em like drums. Some used they fingers and some used sticks for to
make the drum sounds and somebody allus blowed on quills. Quills was a
row of whistles made outen reeds, or sometimes they made ’em outen bark.
Every whistle in the row was a different tone and you could play any
kind of tune you wants effen you had a good row of quills. They sho’ did
sound sweet!

“We didn’ know nuttin’ ’bout games to play. We played with the white
folkses chilluns and watched atter ’em but most of the time we played in
the crick what runned through the pastur’. Nigger chilluns was allus
skeered to go in the woods atter dark. Folkses done told us
Raw-Head-and-Bloody Bones lived in the woods and git little chilluns and
eat ’em up effen they got out in the woods atter dark!

“‘Rockabye baby in the tree trops’ was the onliest song I heard my maw
sing to git her babies to sleep. Slave folkses sung most all the time
but we didn’ think of what we sang much. We jus’ got happy and started
singin’. Sometimes we ‘ud sing effen we felt sad and lowdown, but soon
as we could, we ‘ud go off whar we could go to sleep and forgit all
’bout trouble!” James nodded his gray head with a wise look in his
bright eyes. “When you hear a nigger singin’ sad songs hit’s jus’ kazen
he can’t stop what he is doin’ long enough to go to sleep!”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“Yassir, dey was sho’ good white people and very rich. Dere warn’t
nothin’ lackin’ on dat plantation. De big house was part wood and part
brick, and de Niggers lived in one or two room box houses built in rows.
Marse Jackie runned a big grist mill and done de grindin’ for all de
neighbors ’round ’bout. Three or four Niggers wukked in de mill all de
time. Us runned a big farm and dairy too.

“Folks done dey travelin’ in stages and hacks in dem days. Each of de
stages had four hosses to ’em. When de cotton and all de other things
was ready to go to market, dey would pack ’em and bring ’em to Augusta
wid mules and wagons. It would take a week and sometimes longer for de
trip, and dey would come back loaded down wid ‘visions and clothes, and
dere was allus a plenty for all de Niggers too.”

[Julia Bunch, Part I, Georgia]

“De Collar plantation wuz big and I don’t know de size of it. Et must
have been big for dere war [HW: 250] niggahs aching to go to work–I
guess they mus’ have been aching after de work wuz done. Marse Frank
bossed the place hisself–dere war no overseers. We raised cotton,
corn, wheat and everything we un’s et. Dere war no market to bring de
goods to. Marse Frank wuz like a foodal lord of back history as my good
for nothing grandson would say–he is the one with book-larning from
Atlanta. Waste of time filling up a nigger’s head with dat trash–what
that boy needs is muscle-ology–jes’ look at my head and hands.

My mammy was maid in de Collar’s home and she had many fine
dresses–some of them were give to her by her missus. Pappy war a field
nigger for ole Ben Butler and I worked in the field when I wuz knee high
to a grasshopper. We uns et our breakfast while et war dark and we
trooped to the fields at sun-up, carrying our lunch wid us. Nothing
fancy but jes’ good rib-sticking victuals. We come in from the fields at
sun-down and dere were a good meal awaiting us in de slave quarters. My
good Master give out rations every second Monday and all day Monday wuz
taken to separate the wheat from the chaff–that is–I mean the victuals
had to be organized to be marched off to de proper depository.”

[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]

“We sure froliked Saturday nights. Dat wuz our day to howl and we howled.
Our gals sure could dance and when we wuz thirsty we had lemonade and
whiskey. No sah! we never mixed [HW: no] whiskey with [HW: no]
water.–Dem dat wanted lemonade got it–de gals all liked it. Niggers
never got drunk those days–we wuz scared of the “Paddle-Rollers.”
Um-m-h and swell music. A fiddle and a tin can and one nigger would beat
his hand on the can and another nigger would beat the strings on the
[HW: fiddle] [TR: ‘can’ marked out.] with broom straws. It wuz almos’
like a banjo. I remembers we sung “Little Liza Jane” and “Green Grows
the Willow Tree”. De frolik broke up in de morning–about two
o’clock–and we all scattered to which ever way we wuz going.

If we went visiting we had to have a pass. If nigger went out without a
pass de “Paddle-Rollers” would get him. De white folks were the
“Paddle-Rollers” and had masks on their faces. They looked like niggers
wid de devil in dere eyes. They used no paddles–nothing but straps–wid
de belt buckle fastened on.

Yes sah! I got paddled. Et happened dis way. I’se left home one Thursday
to see a gal on the Palmer plantation–five miles away. Some gal! No, I
didn’t get a pass–de boss was so busy! Everything was fine until my
return trip. I wuz two miles out an’ three miles to go. There come de
“Paddle-Rollers” I wuz not scared–only I couldn’t move. They give me
thirty licks–I ran the rest of the way home. There was belt buckles all
over me. I ate my victuals off de porch railing. Some gal! Um-m-h. Was
worth that paddlin’ to see that gal–would do it over again to see Mary
de next night.

“O Jane! love me lak you useter,
O Jane! chew me lak you useter,
Ev’y time I figger, my heart gits bigger,
Sorry, sorry, can’t be yo’ piper any mo”.

Um-m-mh–Some gal!”

[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]

“Doctor Byrd was rather kind and tried to help his slaves as much as
possible, but according to Mrs. Byrd his wife was very mean and often
punished her slaves without any cause. She never gave them anything but
the coarsest foods. Although there of plenty of milk and butter, she
only gave it to the families after it had soured. “Many a day I have
seed butter just sittin around in pans day after day till it got good
and spoiled then she would call some uv us and give it ter us. Oh she
wuz a mean un,” remarked Mrs. Byrd. Continuing Mrs. Byrd remarked “she
would give us bread that had been cooked a week.” Mr. Byrd gave his
slave families good clothes. Twice a year clothing was distributed among
his families. Every June summer clothes were given and every October
winter clothes were given. Here Mrs. Byrd remarked “I nebber knowed what
it wuz not ter have a good pair uv shoes.” Cloth for the dresses and
shirts was spun on the plantation by the slaves.

“We wuz always treated nice by Master Byrd and he always tried ter save
us punishment at the hands uv his wife but that ‘oman wuz somethin’
nother. I nebber will ferget once she sent me after some brush broom and
told me ter hurry back. Well plums wuz jest gitting ripe so I just took
my time and et all the plums I wanted after that I come on back ter the
house. When I got there she called me upstairs, ‘Sarah come here.’ Up
the steps I went and thar she stood with that old cow hide. She struck
me three licks and I lost my balance and tumbled backward down the
stairs. I don’t know how come I didn’t hurt myself but the Lord wuz wid
me and I got up and flew. I could hear her just hollering ‘Come back
here! come back here!’ but I ant stop fer nothing. That night at supper
while I wuz fanning the flies from the table she sed ter the doctor.
‘Doctor what you think? I had ter whip that little devil ter day. I sent
her after brush broom and she went off and eat plums instead of hurrying
back.’ The doctor just looked at her and rolled his eyes but never sed a
word. There wuz very little whipping on Byrd’s plantation, but I have
gone ter bed many a night and heard ’em gittin whipped on the plantation
next ter us. If dey runned away they would put the hounds on ’em.”

There were frolics on the Byrd plantation any time that the slaves chose
to have them. “Yes sir we could frolic all we want ter. I use ter be so
glad when Saturday night came cause I knowed us wuz go have a frolic and
I wouldn’t have a bit ‘uv appetite I would tell my ma we gwine dance ter
night I dont want nothin teet. Yes sir us would frolic all night long
sometimes when the sun rise on Sunday morning us would all be layin
round or settin on the floor. They made music on the banjo, by knocking
bones, and blowing quills.”

[Sarah Byrd, Part I, Georgia]

“Many of the slave families, especially Mrs. Callaway’s family, were
given the privilege of earning money by selling different products. “My
grandfather owned a cotton patch,” remarked Mrs. Callaway, “and the
master would loan him a mule so he could plow it at night. Two boys
would each hold a light for him to work by. He preferred working at
night to working on his holidays. My master had a friend in Augusta,
Ga., by the name of Steve Heard and just before my grandfather got ready
to sell his cotton, the master would write Mr. Heard and tell him that
he was sending cotton by Sam and wanted his sold and a receipt returned
to him. He also advised him to give all the money received to Sam. When
grandfather returned he would be loaded down with sugar, cheese, tea,
mackerel, etc. for his family.”

When the women came home from the fields they had to spin 7 cuts, so
many before supper and so many after supper. A group of women were then
selected to weave the cuts of thread into cloth. Dyes were made from red
shoe berries and later used to dye this cloth different colors. All
slaves received clothing twice a year, spring and winter. Mr. Jim Willis
was known for his kindness to his slaves and saw to it that they were
kept supplied with Sunday clothes and shoes as well as work clothing. A
colored shoemaker was required to keep the plantation supplied with
shoes; and everyone was given a pair of Sunday shoes which they kept
shined with a mixture of egg white and soot.

The size of the Willis Plantation and the various crops and cattle
raised required many different types of work. There were the plow hands,
the hoe hands, etc. Each worker had a required amount of work to
complete each day and an overseer was hired by slave owners to keep
check on this phase of the work. “We often waited until the overseer got
behind a hill, and then we would lay down our hoe and call on God to
free us, my grandfather told me,” remarked Mrs. Callaway. “However, I
was a pet in the Willis household and did not have any work to do except
play with the small children. I was required to keep their hands and
faces clean. Sometimes I brought in chips to make the fires. We often
kept so much noise playing in the upstairs bedroom that the master would
call to us and ask that we keep quiet.” Older women on the plantation
acted as nurses for all the small children and babies while their
parents worked in the fields. The mistress would keep a sharp eye on the
children also to see that they were well cared for. A slave’s life was
very valuable to their owners.

Religion played as important part in the lives of the slaves, and such
[TR: much?] importance was attached to their prayer meetings. There were
no churches, provided and occasionally they attended the white churches;
but more often they held their prayer meetings in their own cabins.
Prayers and singing was in a moaning fashion, and you often heard this
and nothing more. On Sunday afternoons everyone found a seat around the
mulberry tree and the young mistress would conduct Sunday School.”

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

“Oh! dey had ’bout a hundred slaves I’m sho’, for dere was a heap of
’em. De overseer got ’em up ’bout five o’clock in de mornin’ and dat
breakfust sho’ had better be ready by seben or else somebody gwine to
have to pay for it. Dey went to deir cabins ’bout ten at night. Marse
was good, but he would whup us if we didn’t do right. Miss Marion was
allus findin’ fault wid some of us.

“My mudder said she prayed to de Lord not to let Niggers be slaves all
deir lifes and sho’ ‘nough de yankees comed and freed us. Some of de
slaves shouted and hollered for joy when Miss Marion called us togedder
and said us was free and warn’t slaves no more. Most of ’em went right
out and left ‘er and hired out to make money for deyselfs.”

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

“No ma’am, no overseer ever went to marster’s table, or in the house
‘cept to speak to marster. Marster had his overseers’ house and give ’em
slaves to cook for ’em and wait on ’em, but they never go anywhere with
the fam’ly.

“The house servants’ houses was better than the fiel’-hands’–and
Marster uster buy us cloth from the ‘Gusta Fact’ry in checks and plaids
for our dresses, but all the fiel’-hands clothes was made out of cloth
what was wove on mistis’ own loom. Sometime the po’ white folks in the
neighborhood would come an’ ask to make they cloth on mistis’ loom, and
she always let ’em.

“Yes, ma’am, we had seamsters to make all the clothes for everybody, and
mistis had a press-room, where all the clothes was put away when they
was finished. When any body needed clothes mistis would go to the
press-room an’ get ’em.

“Yes, ma’am, everybody did they own work. De cook cooked, and the
washer, she didn’t iron no clothes. De ironer did that. De housemaid
cleaned up, and nurse tended the chilrun. Then they was butlers and
coachmen. Oh, they was a plenty of us to do eve’ything.

“We didn’t have a stove, just a big fire place, and big oven on both
sides, and long-handle spiders. When we was fixin’ up to go to Camp
Meeting to the White Oak Camp meeting grounds, they cooked chickens and
roasted pigs, and put apples in they mouth and a lot of other food–good
food too. De food peoples eat these days, you couldn’t have got _nobody_
to eat. Camp Meetin’ was always in August and September. It was a good
Methodis’ meetin’, and eve’ybody got religion. Sometimes a preacher
would come to visit at the house, an’ all the slaves was called an’ he
prayed for ’em. Sometimes the young ones would laugh, an’ then marster
would have ’em whipped.”

[Ellen Claibourn, Part I, Georgia]

Church services for this group were held jointly with the white members,
the two audiences being separated by a partition. Gradually, the colored
members became dissatisfied with this type of service and withdrew to
form a separate church. The desire for independence in worship must
necessarily have been strong, to endure the inconveniences of the “brush
arbor” churches that they resorted to. As a beginning, several trees
were felled, and the brush and forked branches separated. Four heavy
branches with forks formed the framework. Straight poles were laid
across these to form a crude imitation of beams and the other framework
of a building. The top and sides were formed of brush which was thickly
placed so that it formed a solid wall. A hole left in one side formed a
doorway from which beaten paths extended in all directions. Seats made
from slabs obtained at local sawmills completed the furnishing. In
inclement weather, it was not possible to conduct services here, but
occasionally showers came in the midst of the service and the audience
calmly hoisted umbrellas or papers and with such scant protection, the
worship continued.
Gossip, stealing, etc. was not tolerated. No one was ever encouraged to
“tattle” on another. Locks were never used on any of the cabin doors or
on the smokehouse. Food was there in abundance and each person was free
to replenish his supply as necessary. Money was more or less a novelty
as it was only given in 1c pieces at Christmas time. As food, clothing,
and shelter were furnished, the absence was not particularly painful.
Connected with nearly every home were those persons who lived “in the
woods” in preference to doing the labor necessary to remain at their
home. Each usually had a scythe and a bulldog for protection. As food
became scarce, they sneaked to the quarters in the still of the night
and coaxed some friend to get food for them from the smokehouse. Their
supply obtained, they would leave again. This was not considered
stealing.”

[Pierce Cody, Part I, Georgia]

“Not all the slaves had to work on Saturday afternoons. This was their
time of the week to get together and have a little fun around their
quarters. Sunday mornings they went to church, as a rule, and on Sunday
nights they visited each other and held prayer meetings in their homes.
Don’t get me wrong. They had to have passes to go visiting and attend
those prayer meetings.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“De overseer blowed a horn to wake ’em up just ‘fore day, so as
everybody could cook, eat, and git out to de fields by sunrise. Dey quit
nigh sundown, in time for ’em to feed de stock, do de milkin’, tend to
bringin’ in de wood, and all sorts of other little jobs dat had to be
done ‘fore it got too dark to see. Dey never wuz no work done at night
on our plantation.

“I never heared of no trouble twixt de white folkses and dey colored
folkses. Grandma and ma never ‘lowed us to go to no other cabins, and us
didn’t hear ’bout no talk what wuz goin’ on ‘mongst de others. At night
ma always spinned and knit, and grandma, she sewed, makin’ clo’es for us
chillun. Dey done it ’cause dey wanted to. Dey wuz workin’ for deyselves
den. Dey won’t made to work at night. On Sadday night, ma bathed all her
chillun. I don’t know what de other famblies done den. Slaves wuz ‘lowed
to frolic Sadday night, if dey b’haved deyselves. On Sunday nights dey
most always had prayer meetings.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“After the work for the day was finished at the big house, the slaves
went to their quarters to weave cloth and sew, but when ten o’clock came
and the bell sounded, everything had to be quiet. Slaves on our place
worked Saturday afternoons the same as any other day. On Saturday nights
the young folks and a few of the older folks danced. Some of them got
passes from Marse John so they could visit around. They popped corn,
pulled candy, or just sat around and talked. Those of us who desired
went to Sunday School and church on Sundays; others stayed at home and
did their washing and ironing, and there was always plenty of that to be
done.”

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“The first few years of his life were spent in town where he helped his
mother in the kitchen by attending to the fire, getting water, etc. He
was also required to look after the master’s horse. Unlike most other
slave owners who allowed their house servants to sleep in the mansion,
Mr. Ormond had several cabins built a short distance in the rear of his
house to accommodate those who were employed in the house. This house
group consisted of the cook, seamstress, maid, butler, and the wash
woman. Mr. Eason and those persons who held the above positions always
had good food because they got practically the same thing that was
served to the master and his family. They all had good clothing–the
women’s dresses being made of calico, and the butler’s suits of good
grade cloth, the particular kind of which Mr. Eason knows nothing about.
He himself wore a one-piece garment made of crocus.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“When slaves come in f’um de fields at night, dey was glad to jus’ go to
bed and rest deir bones. Dey stopped off f’um field wuk at dinner time
Saddays. Sadday nights us had stomp down good times pickin’ de banjo,
blowin’ on quills, drinkin’ liquor, and dancin’. I was sho’ one fast
Nigger den. Sunday was meetin’ day for grown folks and gals. Boys
th’owed rocks and hunted birds’ nests dat day.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves lived in rough little log huts daubed wid mud and de chimblys
was made out of sticks and red mud. Mammy said dat atter de slaves had
done got through wid deir day’s work and finished eatin’ supper, dey all
had to git busy workin’ wid cotton. Some carded bats, some spinned and
some weaved cloth. I knows you is done seen dis here checkidy cotton
homespun–dat’s what dey weaved for our dresses. Dem dresses was made
tight and long, and dey made ’em right on de body so as not to waste
none of de cloth. All slaves had was homespun clothes and old heavy
brogan shoes.

“Oh-h-h! Dat was a great big old plantation, and when all dem Niggers
got out in de fields wid horses and wagons, it looked lak a picnic
ground; only dem Niggers was in dat field to wuk and dey sho’ did have
to wuk.

“Marster had a carriage driver to drive him and Ole Miss ’round and to
take de chillun to school. De overseer, he got de Niggers up ‘fore day
and dey had done et deir breakfast, ‘tended to de stock, and was in de
field by sunup and he wuked ’em ’til sundown. De mens didn’t do no wuk
atter dey got through tendin’ to de stock at night, but Mammy and lots
of de other ‘omans sot up and spun and wove ’til ‘leven or twelve
o’clock lots of nights.

“My pappy was a man what b’lieved in havin’ his fun and he would run off
to see de gals widout no pass. Once when he slipped off dat way de
patterollers sicked dem nigger hounds on him and when dey cotched him
dey most beat him to death; he couldn’t lay on his back for a long time.

“Atter slaves got through deir wuk at night, dey was so tired dey jus’
went right off to bed and to sleep. Dey didn’t have to wuk on Sadday
atter dinner, and dat night dey would pull candy, dance, and frolic ’til
late in de night. Dey had big times at cornshuckin’s and log rollin’s.
My pappy, he was a go-gitter; he used to stand up on de corn and whoop
and holler, and when he got a drink of whiskey in him he went hog wild.
Dere was allus big eatin’s when de corn was all shucked.

“Christmas warn’t much diffunt from other times. Us chillun had a heap
of fun a-lookin’ for Santa Claus. De old folks danced, quilted, and
pulled candy durin’ de Christmastime. Come New Year’s Day, dey all had
to go back to wuk.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“His master was Colonel Dick Willis, who with his wife “Miss Sally”
managed a plantation of 3,000 acres of land and 150 slaves. Col. Willis
had seven children, all by a previous marriage. Throughout the State he
was known for his wealth and culture. His plantation extended up and
down the Oconee River.

Old Uncle Peter, one of the Willis slaves, was a skilled carpenter and
would go about building homes for other plantation owners. Sometimes he
was gone as long as four or five months.

Large families were the aim and pride of a slave owner, and he quickly
learned which of the slave women were breeders and which were not. A
slave trader could always sell a breeding woman for twice the usual
amount. A greedy owner got rid of those who didn’t breed. First,
however, he would wait until he had accumulated a number of
undesirables, including the aged and unruly.

The Willis plantation was very large and required many workers. There
were 75 plow hands alone, excluding those who were required to do the
hoeing. Women as well as men worked in the fields. Isaiah Green declares
that his mother could plow as well as any man. He also says that his
work was very easy in the spring. He dropped peas into the soft earth
between the cornstalks, and planted them with his heel. Cotton, wheat,
corn, and all kinds of vegetables made up the crops. A special group of
women did the carding and spinning, and made the cloth on two looms. All
garments were made from this homespun cloth. Dyes from roots and berries
were used to produce the various colors. Red elm berries and a certain
tree bark made one kind of dye.

Besides acting as midwife, Green’s grandmother Betsy Willis, was also a
skilled seamstress and able to show the other women different points in
the art of sewing. Shoes were given to the slaves as often as they were
needed. Green’s step-father was afflicted and could not help with the
work in the field. Since he was a skilled shoe maker his job was to make
shoes in the winter. In summer, however, he was required to sit in the
large garden ringing a bell to scare away the birds.

Col. Willis was a very kind man, who would not tolerate cruel treatment
to any of his slaves by overseers. If a slave reported that he had been
whipped for no reason and showed scars on his body as proof, the
overseer was discharged. On the Willis Plantation were 2 colored men
known as “Nigger Drivers.” One particularly, known as “Uncle Jarrett,”
was very mean and enjoyed exceeding the authority given by the master.
Green remarked, “I was the master’s pet. He never allowed anyone to whip
me and he didn’t whip me himself. He was 7-ft. 9 in. tall and often as I
walked with him, he would ask, “Isaiah, do you love your old master?’ Of
course I would answer, yes, for I did love him.”

There were some owners who made their slaves steal goods from other
plantations and hide it on theirs. They were punished by their master,
however, if they were caught.

In those days there were many Negro musicians who were always ready to
furnish music from their banjo and fiddle for the frolics. If a white
family was entertaining, and needed a musician but didn’t own one, they
would hire a slave from another plantation to play for them.

Col. Willis always allowed his slaves to keep whatever money they
earned. There were two stills on the Willis plantation, but the slaves
were never allowed to drink whiskey at their frolics. Sometimes they
managed to “take a little” without the master knowing it.”

[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Margaret said her mother was a seamstress and also a cook. Three other
seamstresses worked on the plantation. There was a spinning wheel and a
loom, and all the cotton cloth for clothing was woven and then made into
clothes for all the slaves. There were three shoe makers on the place
who made shoes for the slaves, and did all the saddle and harness
repair.”

[Margaret Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Wheeler was quick to say that the happiest time of his life was those
days of slavery and the first years immediately after. He was happy, had
all that anyone needed, was well taken care of in every way. He spoke of
their family as being a happy one, of how they worked hard all day, and
at night were gathered around their cabin fire where the little folks
played, and his mother spun away on her “task of yarn”. His Mistess made
all his clothes, “good warm ones, too.” All the little negroes played
together and there “wuz a old colored lady” that looked after them “an’
kept ’em straight.”

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

“My family lived continuously on the Mappin plantation until after the
war. Perhaps the most grievous fault of slavery was its persistent
assault upon the home life. Fortunately, none of our family was ever
sold, and we remained together until after the war. Marster Mappin was
far above the average slave owner; he was good to his slaves, fed them
well, and was a very humane gentleman. We had such quantities of
food–good rations, raised on the plantation. We had cattle, goats,
hogs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, geese, all kinds of grain, etc. Very
often a beef was butchered, we had fresh meat, barbecued kids, plenty
vegetables, in fact just plenty to eat, and the slaves fared well. On
Sundays we had pies and cakes and one thing and another. A special cook
did the cooking for the single slaves. I’ll say our rations were 150%
fit. Everyone had certain tasks to perform, and all that was done above
certain requirements was paid for in some way. We always had meat left
over from year to year, and this old meat was made into soap, by using
grease and lye and boiling all in a big iron pot. After the mixture
become cold, it was a solid mass, which was cut and used for soap. Those
were good old days. Everybody had plenty of everything.”

[David Gullins, Part II, Georgia]

“The slaves were allowed Saturday afternoons, provided there was no
fodder or other stuff down in the field to be put into the barn loft in
case of rain. From breakfast on, they had all Sunday, even the
cook and other house servants. “Ole Miss had the cook bake up light
bread and make pies on Saturday to do at the big house through Sunday.”

[Henderson Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Washin’ton Church was de name of de meetin’ house whar us Niggers on de
Poore plantation went to church wid our white folks. Couldn’t none of us
read no Bible and dere warn’t none of de Niggers on our plantation ever
converted and so us never had no baptizin’s. De preacher preached to de
white folks fust and den when he preached to de Niggers all he ever said
was: ‘It’s a sin to steal; don’t steal Marster’s and Mist’ess’ chickens
and hogs;’ and sech lak. How could anybody be converted on dat kind of
preachin’? And ‘sides it never helped none to listen to dat sort of
preachin’ ’cause de stealin’ kept goin’ right on evvy night. I never did
see no fun’rals in dem days.”

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

“Dey had special mens on de plantation for all de special wuk. One
carpenter man done all de fixin’ of things lak wagons and plows, holped
wid all de buildin’ wuk, and made all de coffins.”

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“The Henderson plantation comprised 250 acres and Mr. Henderson owned
only five slaves to carry the necessary work. Besides Benjamin’s
immediate family there was one other man slave, named Aaron. Cotton,
cattle and vegetables were the chief products of the farm. The work was
divided as follows: Benjamin’s job was to keep the yards clean and bring
up the calves at night; his older sister and brother, together with
Aaron, did the field work; and his mother worked in the house as general
servant.

The same routine continued from day to day, each person going about his
or her particular job. Plenty of flour was raised on the plantation and
the master had to buy very little.”

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

“The master’s house contained twelve rooms, each about 16 x 16 feet. The
kitchen was in the back yard and food was carried to the dining room in
the high basement to the big house by means of an underground passage.
Two servants stood guard over the table with huge fans made of peacock
feathers which they kept in continuous motion during meals to “shoo de
flies away.”

The slave quarters were on the banks of a creek down the hill behind the
big house. Nearby were the overseer’s cottage, the stables, and the
carriage houses.

Yes, in spite of the hard work required, life was very pleasant on the
plantations. The field hands were at work at sun-up and were not allowed
to quit until dark. Each slave had an acre or two of land which he was
allowed to farm for himself. He used Saturday morning to cultivate his
own crop and on Saturday afternoon he lolled around or went fishing or
visiting. Saturday nights were always the time for dancing and
frolicking. The master sometimes let them use a barn loft for a big
square dance. The musical instruments consisted of fiddles; buckets,
which were beaten with the hands; and reeds, called “blowing quills,”
which were used in the manner of a flute.”

[Robert Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“To tell de truth, Missy, I don’t know how many acres was in dat big old
plantation. Dere just ain’t no tellin’. Niggers was scattered over dat
great big place lak flies. When dey come in f’um de fields at night, dem
slaves was glad to just go to sleep and rest.

“Dey didn’t do no field wuk atter dinner on Saddays. De ‘omans washed,
ironed and cleaned up deir cabins, while de mens piddled ‘roun’ and got
de tools and harness and things lak dat ready for de next week’s wuk.”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Atter slaves got in f’um de fields at night, de ‘omans cooked supper
whilst de mens chopped wood. Lessen de crops was in de grass moughty bad
or somepin’ else awful urgent, dere warn’t no wuk done atter dinner on
Saddays. De old folks ironed, cleant house, and de lak, and de young
folks went out Sadday nights and danced to de music what dey made
beatin’ on tin pans. Sundays, youngsters went to de woods and hunted
hickernuts and muscadines. De old folks stayed home and looked one
anothers haids over for nits and lice. Whenever dey found anything, dey
mashed it twixt dey finger and thumb and went ahead searchin’. Den de
‘omans wropt each others hair de way it was to stay fixed ’til de next
Sunday.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Sunday was the only day of rest and usually all the adults attended
church. On this plantation a church with a colored Minister was provided
and services, while conducted on the same order as those of the white
churches, were much longer. Generally children were not allowed to
attend church, but occasionally this privilege was granted to one. Huff
recalls vividly his first visit to Sunday services. Being very small and
eager to attend he sat quietly by his mother’s side and gazed with
wonder at the minister and congregation. An emotional outburst was part
of the services and so many of the “sisters” got “happy” that the child,
not having witnessed such a scene before, was frightened; as the number
of shouters increased, he ran from the building screaming in terror.”

[Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Marster had a big old ginhouse on de plantation about 2 miles from de
big house, but I never seed in it, ’cause dey didn’t ‘low ‘omans and
chillun ’round it. De menfolks said dey hitched up mules to run it, and
dat dey had a cotton press inside de ginhouse. Dey said it was a heap of
trouble to git rid of all dem old cotton-seeds dat piled up so fast in
ginnin’ time. Dere was a great big wuk-shop on de place too, whar dey
fixed evvything, and dat was whar dey made coffins when anybody died.
Yes, mam, evvything was made at home, even down to de coffins.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“Every Wednesday night the slaves had to go to the spring and wash their
clothes by torch light. They did have all day Sunday as a resting
period, but they were not allowed to go to church and no religious
services were held for them. There was one day holiday at Christmas,
“but I never heard of a Santa Claus when I wuz a child,” said Emma.”

[Emma Hurley, Part II, Georgia]

“Marster had dese big car’iages wid de high front seats whar de driver
sot. Us had buggies den too, but attar de War us jus’ had two-wheeled
carts and dey was pulled,” the old Negress modestly explained, “by male
cows.”

“Niggers all laked thrashin’ time. Marstar, he growed lots of wheat and
de thrashin’ machine tuk turn about gwine f’um one plantation to
another. Dey had big dinners on thrashin’ days and plenty of toddy for
de thrashin’ hands atter dey done de wuk. Dey blowed de bugle to let ’em
know when dey done finished up at one place and got ready to go on to de
nex’ one.

“Missy lef’ us to look atter de house when she went off to Morgan County
to see de other Robinsons, and she mos’ allus fetched us a new dress
apiece when she come home. One time dey was Dolly Vardens, and dey was
so pretty us kep’ ’em for our Sunday bes’ dresses. Dem Dolly Vardens was
made wid overskirts what was cotched up in puffs. Evvyday dresses was
jus’ plain skirts and waistes sowed together. Gal chilluns wore jus’
plain chemises made long, and boys didn’t wear nothin’ ‘cep’ long shirts
widout no britches ’til dey was ’bout twelve or fo’teen. Dem was
summertime clothes. Cold weather us had flannel petticoats and drawers.
Our bonnets had staves in de brim to make ’em stand out and had ruffles
’round de front.”

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

“A slave’s home life was very simple. After work hours they were allowed
to visit other plantations; however, they could not visit any plantation
unless their master was friendly with the owner of this particular
plantation. One of the most enjoyable affairs in those days was the
quilting party. Every night they would assemble at some particular house
and help that person to finish her quilts. The next night, a visit would
be made to some one else’s home and so on, until everyone had a
sufficient amount of bed-clothing made for the winter. Besides, this was
an excellent chance to get together for a pleasant time and discuss the
latest gossip. Most friendly calls were made on Sunday, after securing a
“pass”. This “pass” was very necessary to go from one plantation to
another.”

[Camila Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“I don’t even know who my mother and father was. I never knowed what
‘come of ’em. Me and my two little brothers was lef’ in Virginia when
Captain Williams come to Georgia. De specalators got hol’ o’ us, and dey
refugeed us to Georgia endurin’ o’ de war. Niggers down here used to be
all time axin’ me where my folks was, and who dey was–I jes’ tell ’em
de buzzards laid me and de sun hatch me.”

[Snovey Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“All de slaves went to church wid deir white folks, and sot in de back
part of de meetin’ house. Us went to old Beard (Baird) Church, off out
in de country, and sometimes I had to take de littlest white chilluns
out and stay in de car’iage wid ’em, if dey got too restless inside de
meetin’ house. Out dar in de car’iage us could listen to de singin’ and
it sho’ did sound sweet. Meetin’ days was big days. Dey fetched deir
dinners and stayed all day. De McWhorter family allus carried great big
baskets, and one of deir biggest baskets was kept special just to carry
chickens in, and de barbecue, it was fixed right dar on de church
grounds. Slave gals sot de long tables what was built out under de
trees, and dem same gals cleant up atter evvybody had done got thoo’
eatin’. Niggers et atter de white folks, but dere was allus a plenty for
all. Little Niggers kept de flies off de tables by wavin’ long branches
kivvered wid green leafs for fly brushes. Some few of ’em brung
home-made paper fly brushes f’um home. Most of dem all day meetin’s was
in July and August. Some folks called dem months de ‘vival season,
’cause dere was more ‘vival meetin’s den dan in all de rest of de year.
De day ‘fore one of dem big baptizin’s dey dammed up de crick a little,
and when dey gathered ’round de pool next day dere was some tall
shoutin’ and singin’. White preachers done all de preachin’ and
baptizin’.”

[Mahala Jewel , Part II, Georgia]

“We worked in de fiel’ every day an’ way in de night we shucked an’
shelled corn. De cook done all de cookin’. When all of de marster’s 75
slaves wus in de fiel’ dey had two cooks to feed ’em. At twelve o’clock
de cooks would blow a horn at de stump in de yard back o’ de cook house.
Even de hosses an’ de mules knowed dat horn an’ dey would’nt go a step
further. You had to take de mule out of de harness an’ take ‘im to de
spring an’ water ‘im an’ den take ‘im to de house where a colored man up
dere named Sam Johnson had all de feed ready fer de hosses. When you git
dere all de hosses go to dere own stalls where dere wus ten ears o’ corn
an’ one bundle o’ fodder fer each hoss. While dem hosses is eatin’ you
better be out dere eatin’ yo’ own. Sarah an’ Annie, de cooks had a big
wooden tray wid de greens an’ de meat all cut up on it an’ you pass by
wid yo’ tin pan an’ dey put yo’ meat all cut up on it along wid de
greens an’ den you could eat anywhere you wanted to–on de stump or in
de big road if you wanted to. Sometimes some of ’ems meat would give out
or dere bread would give out an’ den dey would say: “I’ll give you a
piece of my bread for some or yo’ meat or I’ll give you some of my meat
for some of yo’ bread”. Some of ’em would have a big ol’ ash cake an’
some of ’em would have jes’ plain corn bread. Dere wus usually a big
skillet o’ potatoes at de cook house an’ when you eat an’ drink yo’
water den you is ready to go back to work. Dey wus goin’ to let you lay
down in de shade fer ’bout a hour but you would make de time up by
workin’ till dark. Some of ’em worked so ’till dey back wus gone. Dey
could’nt even stand up straight.

“Sometimes dey would give us a dollar at Christmas time an’ if somebody
did’nt take it fum us we would have it de nex’ Christmas ’cause we
didn’t have nuthin’ to spend it fer.”

[Benjamin Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“Well,” she said, “Fore dis hyar railroad wuz made, dey hauled de cotton
ter de Pint (She meant Union Point) en sold it dar. De Pint’s jes’ ’bout
twelve miles fum hyar. Fo’ day had er railroad thu de Pint, Marse Billie
used ter haul his cotton clear down ter Jools ter sell it. My manny say
dat long fo’ de War he used ter wait twel all de cotton wuz picked in de
fall, en den he would have it all loaded on his waggins. Not long fo’
sundown he wud start de waggins off, wid yo’ unker Anderson bossin’ ’em,
on de all night long ride towards Jools. ‘Bout fo’ in de mawnin’ Marse
Billie en yo’ grammaw, Miss Margie, ‘ud start off in de surrey, driving
de bays, en fo’ dem waggins git ter Jools Marse Billie done cotch up wid
em. He drive er head en lead em on ter de cotton mill in Jools, whar he
sell all his cotton. Den him en Miss Margie, dey go ter de mill sto’ en
buy white sugar en udder things dey doan raise on de plantation, en load
’em on de waggins en start back home.”

[Emmaline Kilpatrick, Part III, Georgia]

“De bestest water dat ever was come from a spring right nigh our cabin
and us had long-handled gourds to drink it out of. Some of dem gourds
hung by de spring all de time and dere was allus one or two of ’em
hangin’ by de side of our old cedar waterbucket. Sho’, us had a cedar
bucket and it had brass hoops on it; dat was some job to keep dem hoops
scrubbed wid sand to make ’em bright and shiny, and dey had to be clean
and pretty all de time or mammy would git right in behind us wid a
switch. Marse Gerald raised all dem long-handled gourds dat us used
‘stid of de tin dippers folks has now, but dem warn’t de onliest kinds
of gourds he growed on his place. Dere was gourds mos’ as big as
waterbuckets, and dey had short handles dat was bent whilst de gourds
was green, so us could hang ’em on a limb of a tree in de shade to keep
water cool for us when us was wukin’ in de field durin’ hot weather.

“Did you ever see folks shear sheep, Child? Well, it was a sight in dem
days. Marster would tie a sheep on de scaffold, what he had done built
for dat job, and den he would have me set on de sheep’s head whilst he
cut off de wool. He sont it to de factory to have it carded into bats
and us chillun spun de thread at home and mammy and Mistess wove it into
cloth for our winter clothes. Nobody warn’t fixed up better on church
days dan Marster’s Niggers and he was sho proud of dat.”

[Nicey Kinney, Part III, Georgia]

“Dere ain’t no tellin’ how big Marster’s old plantation was. His house
set right on top of a high hill. His plantation road circled ’round dat
hill two or three times gittin’ from de big road to de top of de hill.
Dere was a great deep well in de yard whar dey got de water for de big
house. Marster’s room was upstairs and had steps on de outside dat come
down into de yard. On one side of his house was a fine apple orchard, so
big dat it went all de way down de hill to de big road.

“On de other side of de house was a large gyarden whar us raised
evvything in de way of good veg’tables; dere was beans, corn, peas,
turnips, collards, ‘taters, and onions. Why dey had a big patch of
nothin’ but onions. Us did love onions. Dere was allus plenty of good
meat in Marster’s big old smokehouse dat stood close by de well.
Marster, he believed in raisin’ heaps of meat. He had cows, hogs, goats,
and sheep, not to mention his chickens and turkeys.

“Slaves didn’t come to de house for dinner when dey was wukin’ a fur
piece off in de fields. It was sont to ’em, and dat was what kilt one of
my brothers. Whilst it was hot, de cooks would set de bucket of dinner
on his haid and tell him to run to de field wid it fore it got cold. He
died wid brain fever, and de doctor said it was from totin’ all dem hot
victuals on his haid. Pore Brudder John, he sho’ died out, and ever
since den I been skeered of gittin’ too hot on top of de haid.

“‘Fore Grandma Mary got too old to do all de cookin’, Mammy wuked in de
field. Mammy said she allus woke up early, and she could hear Marster
when he started gittin’ up. She would hurry and git out ‘fore he had
time to call ’em. Sometimes she cotch her hoss and rid to the field
ahead of de others, ’cause Marster never laked for nobody to be late in
de mornin’. One time he got atter one of his young slaves out in de
field and told him he was a good mind to have him whupped. Dat night de
young Nigger was tellin’ a old slave ’bout it, and de old man jus’
laughed and said: ‘When Marster pesters me dat way I jus’ rise up and
cuss him out.’ Dat young fellow ‘cided he would try it out and de next
time Marster got atter him dey had a rukus what I ain’t never gwine to
forgit. Us was all out in de yard at de big house, skeered to git a good
breath when us heared Marster tell him to do somepin, ’cause us knowed
what he was meanin’ to do. He didn’t go right ahead and mind Marster lak
he had allus been used to doin’. Marster called to him again, and den
dat fool Nigger cut loose and he evermore did cuss Marster out. Lordy,
Chile, Marster jus’ fairly tuk de hide off dat Nigger’s back. When he
tried to talk to dat old slave ’bout it de old man laughed and said:
‘Shucks, I allus waits ’til I gits to de field to cuss Marster so he
won’t hear me.’

“Us chillun thought hog killin’ time wes de best time of all de year. Us
would hang ’round de pots whar dey was rendin’ up de lard and all day us
et dem good old browned skin cracklin’s and ash roasted ‘taters. Marster
allus kilt from 50 to 60 hogs at a time. It tuk dat much meat to feed
all de folks dat had to eat from his kitchen. Little chillun never had
nothin’ much to do ‘cept eat and sleep and play, but now, jus’ let me
tell you for sho’, dere warn’t no runnin’ ’round nights lak dey does
now. Not long ‘fore sundown dey give evvy slave chile a wooden bowl of
buttermilk and cornpone and a wooden spoon to eat it wid. Us knowed us
had to finish eatin’ in time to be in bed by de time it got dark.

“I kin ricollect dat ‘fore dere was any churches right in our
neighborhood, slaves would walk 8 and 10 miles to church. Dey would git
up ‘way ‘fore dawn on meetin’ day, so as to git dar on time. Us wouldn’t
wear our shoes on dem long walks, but jus’ went barfoots ’til us got
nearly to de meetin’ house. I jus’ kin ‘member dat, for chillun warn’t
‘lowed to try to walk dat fur a piece, but us could git up early in de
mornin’ and see de grown folks start off. Dey was dressed in deir best
Sunday go-to-meetin’ clothes and deir shoes, all shined up, was tied
together and hung over deir shoulders to keep ’em from gittin’ dust on
’em. [HW in margin: Sunday clothing] Men folks had on plain homespun
shirts and jeans pants. De jeans what deir pants was made out of was
homespun too. Some of de ‘omans wore homespun dresses, but most of ’em
had a calico dress what was saved special for Sunday meetin’ wear.
‘Omans wore two or three petticoats all ruffled and starched ’til one or
dem underskirts would stand by itself. Dey went barfoots wid deir shoes
hung over deir shoulders, jus’ lak de mens, and evvy ‘oman pinned up her
dress and evvy one of her petticoats but one to keep ’em from gittin’
muddy. Dresses and underskirts was made long enough to touch de ground
dem days. Dey allus went off singin’, and us chillun would be wishin’
for de time when us would be old enough to wear long dresses wid
starched petticoats and go to meetin’. Us chillun tried our best to stay
‘wake ’til dey got home so us could hear ’em talk ’bout de preachin’ and
singin’ and testifyin’ for de Lord, and us allus axed how many had done
jined de church dat day.

“Us had all sorts of big doin’s at harvest time. Dere was cornshuckin’s,
logrollin’s, syrup makin’s, and cotton pickin’s. Dey tuk time about from
one big plantation to another. Evvy place whar dey was a-goin’ to
celebrate tuk time off to cook up a lot of tasty eatments, ‘specially to
barbecue plenty of good meat. De Marsters at dem diffunt places allus
seed dat dere was plenty of liquor passed ’round and when de wuk was
done and de Niggers et all dey wanted, dey danced and played ‘most all
night. What us chillun laked most ’bout it was de eatin’. What I ‘member
best of all is de good old corn risin’ lightbread. Did you ever see any
of it, Chile? Why, my Mammy and Grandma Mary could bake dat bread so
good it would jus’ melt in your mouth.

“All us chillun used to pick cotton for Marster, and he bought all our
clothes and shoes. One day he told me and Mary dat us could go to de
store and git us a pair of shoes apiece. ‘Course us knowed what kind of
shoes he meant for us to git, but Mary wanted a fine pair of Sunday
shoes and dat’s what she picked out and tuk home. Me, I got brass-toed
brogans lak Marster meant for us to git. ‘Bout half way home Mary put on
her shoes and walked to de big house in ’em. When Marster seed ’em he
was sho’ mad as a hornet, but it was too late to take ’em back to de
store atter de shoes had done been wore and was all scratched up.
Marster fussed: ‘Blast your hide, I’m a good mind to thrash you to
death.’ Mary stood dar shakin’ and tremblin’, but dat’s all Marster ever
said to her ’bout it. Us heared him tell Mist’ess dat dat gal Mary was a
right smart Nigger.

“Marster had a great big old bull dat was mighty mean. He had real long
horns, and he could lift de fence railin’s down one by one and turn all
de cows out. Evvy time he got out he would fight us chillun, so Marster
had to keep him fastened up in de stable. One day when us wanted to play
in de stable, us turned Old Camel (dat was de bull) out in de pasture.
He tuk down rails enough wid his horns to let de cows in Marster’s fine
gyarden and dey et it all up. Marster was wuss dan mad dat time, but us
hid in de barn under some hay ’til he went to bed. Next mornin’ he
called us all up to git our whuppin’, but us cried and said us wouldn’t
never do it no more so our good old Marster let us off dat time.”

[Julia Larken, Part III, Georgia]

“Old Marster John McCree was sho’ a good white man, I jus’ tells you de
truf, ’cause I ain’t in for tellin’ nothin’ else. I done jus’ plum
forgot Ole Miss’ fust name, and I can’t git up de chilluns’ names no
way. I didn’t play ’round wid ’em much nohow. Dey was jus’ little young
chillun den anyhow. Dey lived in a big old plank house–nothin’ fine
’bout it. I ‘members de heavy timbers was mortised together and de other
lumber was put on wid pegs; dere warn’t no nails ’bout it. Dat’s all I
ricollects ’bout dat dere house right now. It was jus’ a common house,
I’d say.

“Dere was a thousand or more acres in dat old plantation. It sho’ was a
big piece of land, and it was plumb full of Niggers–I couldn’t say how
many, ’cause I done forgot. You could hear dat bugle de overseer blowed
to wake up de slaves for miles and miles. He got ’em up long ‘fore sunup
and wuked ’em in de fields long as dey could see how to wuk. Don’t talk
’bout dat overseer whuppin’ Niggers. He beat on ’em for most anything.
What would dey need no jail for wid dat old overseer a-comin’ down on
’em wid dat rawhide bull-whup?

“Atter dey come in from de fields, dem Niggers et deir supper, went to
deir cabins, sot down and rested a little while, and den dey drapped
down on de beds to sleep. Dey didn’t wuk none Sadday atter dinner in de
fields. Dat was wash day for slave ‘omans. De mens done fust one thing
and den another. Dey cleant up de yards, chopped wood, mended de
harness, sharpened plow points, and things lak dat. Sadday nights, Old
Marster give de young folks passes so dey could go from one place to
another a-dancin’ and a-frolickin’ and havin’ a big time gen’ally. Dey
done most anything dey wanted to on Sundays, so long as dey behaved
deyselfs and had deir passes handy to show if de patterollers bothered
’em.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“I tell you, Honey, when the days work was over them slaves went to bed,
‘cep’ when the moon was out and they worked in their own cotton patches.
On dark nights, the women mended and quilted sometimes. Not many worked
in the fields on Saturday evenin’s. They caught up on little jobs aroun’
the lot; a mending harness and such like. On Saturday nights the young
folks got together and had little frolics and feasts, but the older
folks was gettin’ things ready for Sunday, ’cause Marse Billy was a
mighty religious man: we had to go to church, and every last one of the
children was dragged along too.”

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

“Mollie Mitchell, a white haired old darkey, 85 years old was born on the
Newt Woodard plantation. It is the old Jackson Road near Beulah Church.
Until she was 7 years old she helped about the house running errands for
her “Missus”, “tendin’ babies”, “sweeping the yard”, and “sich.” At 7
she was put in the fields. The first day at work she was given certain
rows to hoe but she could not keep in the row. The Master came around
twice a day to look at what they had done and when it was not done
right, he whipped them. “Seems like I got whipped all day long,” she
said. One time when Mollie was about 13 years old, she was real sick,
the master and missus took her to the bathing house where there was
“plenty of hot water.” They put her in a tub of hot water then took her
out, wrapped her in blankets and sheets and put her in cold water. They
kept her there 4 or 5 days doing that until they broke her fever.
Whenever the negroes were sick, they always looked after them and had a
doctor if necessary. At Christmas they had a whole week holiday and
everything they wanted to eat. The negroes lived a happy carefree life
unless they “broke the rules.” If one lied or stole or did not work or
did not do his work right or stayed out over the time of their pass,
they were whipped. The “pass” was given them to go off on Saturday. It
told whose “nigger” they were and when they were due back, usually by 4
o’clock Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. “The patta-roll” (patrol)
came by to see your pass and if you were due back home, they would give
you a whippin’!”

[Mollie Mitchell, Part III, Georgia]

“Marse Jeff was a good man; he never whupped and slashed his Niggers. No
Ma’am, dere warn’t nobody whupped on Marse Jeff’s place dat I knows
’bout. He didn’t have no overseer. Dere warn’t no need for one ’cause he
didn’t have so many slaves but what he could do de overseein’ his own
self. Marse Jeff jus’ had ’bout four mens and four ‘oman slaves and him
and young Marse Johnny wukked in de fiel’ ‘long side of de Niggers. Dey
went to de fiel’ by daybreak and come in late at night.

“When Marse Jeff got behind wid his crop, he would hire slaves f’um
other white folkses, mostly f’um Pa’s marster, dat’s how Pa come to know
my Ma.

“Dere was ’bout a hunderd acres in our plantation countin’ de woods and
pastures. Dey had ’bout three or four acres fenced in wid pine poles in
a plum orchard. Dat’s whar dey kep’ de calves.

“Marse Jeff was sich a pore man he didn’t have no corn shuckin’s on his
place, but he let his Niggers go off to ’em and he went along hisself.
Dey had a big time a-hollerin’ and singin’ and shuckin’ corn. Atter de
shuckin’ was all done dere was plenty to eat and drink–nothin’ short
’bout dem corn shuckin’s.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“I was borned on Marster Joe Echols’ plantation in Oglethorpe County,
’bout 10 miles from Lexin’ton, Georgy. Mammy was Cynthia Echols ‘fore
she married up wid my daddy. He was Peyton Shepherd. Atter Pappy and
Mammy got married, Old Marse Shepherd sold Pappy to Marse Joe Echols so
as dey could stay together.

“Marse Joe, he had three plantations, but he didn’t live on none of ’em.
He lived in Lexin’ton. He kept a overseer on each one of his plantations
and dey had better be good to his Niggers, or else Marse Joe would sho’
git ’em ‘way from dar. He never ‘lowed ’em to wuk us too hard, and in
bad or real cold weather us didn’t have to do no outside wuk ‘cept
evvyday chores what had to be done, come rain or shine, lak milkin’,
tendin’ de stock, fetchin’ in wood, and things lak dat. He seed dat us
had plenty of good somepin t’eat and all de clothes us needed. Us was
lots better off in dem days dan us is now.”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

“The Negroes were required to go to Church on Sunday. They called it
“gwine to meetin'”, often leaving at sun up and walking ten or twelve
miles to the meeting house, staying all day and late into the night.

If “ole Marse” happened to be in a good humor on Sunday, he would let
the Darkies use the “waggins” and mules. The little “Niggers” never went
to meetin’ as they were left at home to take care of the house and
“nuss” the babies. There were no Sunday Schools in those days. When the
grown folks got back late in the night, they often “had to do some tall
knocking and banging to get in the house–’cause the chillun were so
dead asleep, and layin’ all over the floor”.

When asked if the slaves wouldn’t be awfully tired and sleepy the next
morning after they stayed up so late, he replied that they were “sho
tired” but they had better turn out at four o’clock when ole Marse
“blowed the horn!” They [TR: then?] he added with a chuckle, “the
field was usually strowed with Niggers asleep in the cotton rows when
they knocked off for dinner”.

“No, Miss, the Marster never give us no money (here he laughed), for we
didn’t need none. There wasn’t nothing to buy, and we had plenty to eat
and wear”.”

[Charlie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Our slaves had prayer meetin’ twict a week in deir quarters, ’til dey
got ‘roun’ to all de cabins den dey would start over again. Dey prayed
an’ sung all de old songs, and some of ’em as I ‘member are: ‘Roll
Jordan Roll,’–‘Better Mind How you Step on de Cross,’–‘Cause You Ain’
Gon ‘er be Here Long,’–‘Tell de Story Bye an’ Bye,’–‘All God’s
Chilluns are a Gatherin’ Home,’ an’ ‘We’ll Understand Better Bye an’
Bye.’ Dey really could sing dem old songs. Mistus would let me go to dem
cabin prayer meetin’s an’ I sho’ did enjoy ’em.

“I ‘member one night dey had a quiltin’ in de quarters. De quilt was up
in de frame, an’ dey was all jes’ quiltin’ an’ singin’, ‘All God’s
Chilluns are a Gatherin’ Home,’ w’en a drunk man wannid to preach, an’
he jumped up on de quilt. Hit all fell down on de flo’, an’ dey all got
fightin’ mad at ‘im. Dey locked ‘im in de smokehouse ’til mornin’, but
dey diden’ nobody tell Mistus nuffin’ ’bout it.

“Us chilluns had to pick peas; two baskets full ‘fo’ dinner an’ two ‘fo’
night, an’ dey was big baskets too. I ‘member dere was a white widow
‘oman what lived near our place, an’ she had two boys. Mistus let dem
boys pick ’em some peas w’en us would be pickin’, an’ us would run ’em
off, cause us diden’ lak’ po’ white trash. But Mistus made us let ’em
pick all dey wannid.”

[Georgia Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“In the summertime,” he continued, “We wore shirts that come down to
here.” Melvin measured to his ankle. “In the wintertime we wore heavy
jeans over them shirts an’ brogan shoes. They made shoes on the
plantation but mine was store-bought. Marster give us all the vittles
an’ clothes we needed. He was good to ever’body. I ‘member all the po’
white trash that lived near us. Marster all time send ’em meat an’ bread
an’ help ’em with they crop. Some of ’em come from Goldsboro, North
Ca’lina to git a crop whar we lived. They was so sorry they couldn’t git
no crop whar they come frum, so they moved near us. Sometimes they even
come to see the niggers an’ et with us. We went to see them, too, but we
had more to eat than them. They was sorry folks.”

“The niggers had a church in the bush arbor right thar on the place.
Preacher Sam Bell come ever’ Sunday mornin’ at ten clock an’ we sot thar
an’ listened to him ’till ‘leven thirty. Then we tear home an’ eat our
dinner an’ lie round till four-thirty. We’d go back to church an’ stay
’bout hour an’ come home for supper. The preacher was the onliest one
that could read the Bible. When a nigger joined the church he was
baptized in the creek near the bush arbor.” And in a low tone he began
to speak the words of the old song though he became somewhat confused.

“Lord, remember all Thy dying groans,
And then remember me.
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody sea.

“Through many dangers, toils an’ snares,
I have already come.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

[Melvin Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Dey used to have big ‘tracted meetin’s in Pierce’s Chapel nigh Foundry
Street and Hancock Avenue, and us was allus glad for dem meetin’ times
to come. Through de week dey preached at night, but when Sunday come it
was all day long and dinner on de ground. Pierce’s Chapel was a old
fashioned place, but you forgot all ’bout dat when Brother Thomas got in
de pulpit and preached dem old time sermons ’bout how de devil gwine to
git you if you don’t repent and be washed in de blood of de Lamb. De
call to come up to de mourner’s bench brought dem Negroes jus’ rollin’
over one another in de ‘citement. Soon dey got happy and dere was
shoutin’ all over de place. Some of ’em jus’ fell out. When de ‘tracted
meetin’ closed and de baptizin’ dey come, dat was de happiest time of
all. Most of de time dere was a big crowd for Brother Thomas to lead
down into de river, and dem Negroes riz up out of de water a-singin’:
_Lord, I’m comin’ Home_, _Whar de Healin’ Waters Flow_, _Roll, Jordan
Roll_, _All God’s Chillun Got Wings_, and sich lak. You jus’ knowed dey
was happy.”

[Nancy Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Course evvybody cooked on open fireplaces dem days, and dat was whar us
picked out dem cotton seeds, ’round dat big old fireplace in de kitchen.
All de slaves et together up dar at de big house, and us had some mighty
good times in dat old kitchen. Slave quarters was jus’ little one room
log cabins what had chimblies made of sticks and red mud. Dem old
chimblies was all de time a-ketchin’ on fire. De mud was daubed ‘twixt
de logs to chink up de cracks, and sometimes dey chinked up cracks in de
roof wid red mud. Dere warn’t no glass windows in dem cabins, and dey
didn’t have but one window of no sort; it was jus’ a plain wooden
shutter. De cabins was a long ways off from de big house, close by de
big old spring whar de wash-place was. Dey had long benches for de
wash-tubs to set on, a big old oversize washpot, and you mustn’t leave
out ’bout dat big old battlin’ block whar dey beat de dirt out of de
clothes. Dem Niggers would sing, and deir battlin’ sticks kept time to
de music. You could hear de singin’ and de sound of de battlin’ sticks
from a mighty long ways off.”

“Brudder Bradberry used to come to our house to hold prayermeetin’s, but
Lawsey, Missy, dat man could eat more dan any Nigger I ever seed from
dat day to dis. When us knowed he was a-comin’ Mistess let us cook up
heaps of stuff, enough to fill dat long old table plumb full, but dat
table was allus empty when he left. Yes Mam, he prayed whilst he was
dere, but he et too. Dem prayers must’a made him mighty weak.

“Marster Joe Campbell, what lived in our settlement, was sho a queer
man. He had a good farm and plenty of most evvything. He would plant his
craps evvy year and den, Missy, he would go plumb crazy evvy blessed
year. Folkses would jine in and wuk his craps out for him and, come
harvest time, dey had to gather ’em in his barns, cause he never paid
’em no mind atter dey was planted. When de wuk was all done for him,
Marster Joe’s mind allus come back and he was all right ’til next
crap-time. I told my good old marster dat white man warn’t no ways
crazy; he had plumb good sense, gittin’ all dat wuk done whilst he jus’
rested. Marster was a mighty good man, so he jus’ grinned and said
‘Paul, us mustn’t jedge nobody.’”

[Paul Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“To consider only the general plan of operation, this plantation was no
different from the average one in pre-civil war days but there was a
phase of the life here which made it a most unusual home. “Governor” was
so exceptionally kind to his slaves that they were known as “Gov. Towns’
free negroes” to those on the neighboring farms. He never separated
families, neither did he strike a slave except on rare occasions. Two
things which might provoke his anger to this extent, were: to be told a
lie, and to find that a person had allowed some one to take advantage of
him. They were never given passes but obtained verbal consent to go
where they wished and always remained as long as they chose.

Phil Towns’ father worked in the field and his mother did light work in
the house, such as assisting in spinning. Mothers of three or more
children were not compelled to work, as the master felt that their
children needed care. From early childhood boys and girls were given
excellent training. A boy who robbed a bird’s nest or a girl who
frolicked in a boisterous manner was severely reprimanded. Separate
bedrooms for the two sexes were maintained until they married. The girls
passed thru two stages–childhood, and at sixteen they became “gals”.
Three years later they might marry if they chose but the husband had to
be older–at least 21. Courtships differed from those of today because
there were certain hours for visiting and even though the girl might
accompany her sweetheart away from home she had to be back at that hour.
They had no clocks but a “time mark” was set by the sun. A young man was
not allowed to give his girl any form of gift, and the efforts of some
girls to secretly receive gifts which they claimed to have “found”, were
in vain, for these were taken from them. After the proposal, the
procedure was practically the same as is observed today. The consent of
the parent and the master was necessary. Marriages were mostly held at
night and no pains were spared to make them occasions to be remembered
and cherished. Beautiful clothes–her own selections–were given the
bride, and friends usually gave gifts for the house. These celebrations,
attended by visitors from many plantations, and always by the Towns
family, ended in gay “frolics” with cakes, wine, etc., for refreshments.

During the first year of married life the couple remained with the
bride’s mother who instructed her in the household arts. Disputes
between the newlyweds were not tolerated and punishment by the parents
was the result of “nagging”. At the end of a year, another log cabin was
added to the quarters and the couple began housekeeping. The moral code
was exceedingly high; the penalty for offenders–married or single,
white or colored–was to be banished from the group entirely. Thus
illegitimate children were rare enough to be a novelty.”

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

“Marster had one of dem old cotton gins what didn’t have no engines. It
was wuked by mules. Dem old mules was hitched to a long pole what dey
pulled ’round and ’round to make de gin do its wuk. Dey had some gins in
dem days what had treadmills for de mules to walk in. Dem old treadmills
looked sorter lak stairs, but most of ’em was turned by long poles what
de mules pulled. You had to feed de cotton by hand to dem old gins and
you sho had to be keerful or you was gwine to lose a hand and maybe a
arm. You had to jump in dem old cotton presses and tread de cotton down
by hand. It tuk most all day long to gin two bales of cotton and if dere
was three bales to be ginned us had to wuk most all night to finish up.

“Colored folkses went to church wid deir own white folkses and sot in de
gallery. One Sunday us was all settin’ in dat church listenin’ to de
white preacher, Mr. Hansford, tellin’ how de old debbil was gwine to git
dem what didn’t do right.” Here Neal burst into uncontrollable laughter.
His sides shook and tears ran down his face. Finally he began his story
again: “Missy, I jus’ got to tell you ’bout dat day in de meetin’ ‘ouse.
A Nigger had done run off from his marster and was hidin’ out from one
place to another. At night he would go steal his somepin t’eat. He had
done stole some chickens and had ’em wid him up in de church steeple
whar he was hidin’ dat day. When daytime come he went off to sleep lak
Niggers will do when dey ain’t got to hustle, and when he woke up
Preacher Hansford was tellin’ ’em ’bout de debbil was gwine to git de
sinners. Right den a old rooster what he had stole up and crowed so loud
it seemed lak Gabriel’s trumpet on Judment Day. Dat runaway Nigger was
skeered ’cause he knowed dey was gwine to find him sho, but he warn’t
skeered nuffin’ compared to dem Niggers settin’ in de gallery. Dey jus’
knowed dat was de voice of de debbil what had done come atter ’em. Dem
Niggers never stopped prayin’ and testifyin’ to de Lord, ’til de white
folkses had done got dat runaway slave and de rooster out of de steeple.
His marster was der and tuk him home and give him a good, sound
thrashin’.

“Slaves was ‘lowed to have prayermeetin’ on Chuesday (Tuesday) and
Friday ’round at de diffunt plantations whar deir marsters didn’t keer,
and dere warn’t many what objected. De good marsters all give deir
slaves prayermeetin’ passes on dem nights so de patterollers wouldn’t
git ’em and beat ’em up for bein’ off deir marster’s lands. Dey ‘most
nigh kilt some slaves what dey cotch out when dey didn’t have no pass.
White preachers done de talkin’ at de meetin’houses, but at dem Chuesday
and Friday night prayermeetin’s, it was all done by Niggers.

“Marster had a long pocketbook what fastened at one end wid a ring. One
day when he went to git out some money he dropped a roll of bills dat he
never seed, but Daddy picked it up and handed it back to him right away.
Now my Daddy could have kept dat money jus’ as easy, but he was a
‘ceptional man and believed evvbody ought to do right.

“One time Marster missed some of his money and he didn’t want to ‘cuse
nobody, so he ‘cided he would find out who had done de debbilment. He
put a big rooster in a coop wid his haid stickin’ out. Den he called all
de Niggers up to de yard and told ’em somebody had been stealin’ his
money, and dat evvybody must git in line and march ’round dat coop and
tetch it. He said dat when de guilty ones tetched it de old rooster
would crow. Evvybody tetched it ‘cept one old man and his wife; dey jus’
wouldn’t come nigh dat coop whar dat rooster was a-lookin’ at evvybody
out of his little red eyes. Marster had dat old man and ‘oman sarched
and found all de money what had been stole.

“White folkses owned us back in de days ‘fore de war but our own white
folkses was mighty good to deir slaves. Dey had to larn us ‘bedience
fust, how to live right, and how to treat evvybody else right; but de
best thing dey larned us was how to do useful wuk.

“When de war was over dey closed de little one-room school what our good
Marster had kept in his back yard for his slaves, but out young Miss
Ellen larnt my sister right on ’til she got whar she could teach school.
Daddy fixed up a room onto our house for her school and she soon had it
full of chillun.”

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

“Oh! Why, my white folks took a great deal of pains teaching their
slaves how to read and write. My father could read, but he never learned
to write, and it was from our white folks that I learned to read and
write. Slaves read the Bible more than anything else.

Darkies used to stretch ropes and grapevines
across the road where they knew paterollers would be riding; then they
would run down the road in front of them, and when they got to the rope
or vine they would jump over it and watch the horses stumble and throw
the paterollers to the ground. That was a favorite sport of slaves.

“After the darkies got in from the field at night, ate their supper, and
finished up the chores for the day, on nights when the moon shone bright
the men would work in their own cotton patches that Marse George allowed
them; the women used their own time to wash, iron, patch, and get ready
for the next day, and if they had time they helped the men in their
cotton patches. They worked straight on through Saturdays, same as any
other day, but the young folks would get together on Saturday nights and
have little parties.”

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

“Now Missy, how was Nigger chillun gwine to git holt of money in slavery
time? Old Marse, he give us plenty of somepin t’eat and all de clothes
us needed, but he sho kep’ his money for his own self.

“Rita and Retta was de Nigger ‘omans what put pizen in some collards
what dey give Aunt Vira and her baby to eat. She had been laughin’ at a
man ’cause his coattail was a-flappin’ so funny whilst he was dancin’,
and dem two Jezebels thought she was makin’ fun of dem. At de graveyard,
‘fore dey buried her, dey cut her open and found her heart was all
decayed. De overseer driv dem ‘omans clear off de plantation, and
Marster, he was mighty mad. He said he had done lost ’bout $2,000. If he
had kotched dem ‘omans he woulda hung ’em, cause he was de hanger. In
’bout two weeks dat overseer left dar, and Old Marse had to git him
anudder man to take his place.”

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

“On Sundays the slaves were permitted to have a religious meeting of
their own. This usually took place in the back yard or in a building
dedicated for this purpose. They sang spirituals which gave vent to
their true feelings. Many of these songs are sung today. There was one
person who did the preaching. His sermon was always built according to
the master’s instructions which were that slaves must always remember
that they belonged to their masters and were intended to lead a life of
loyal servitude. None of the slaves believed this, although they
pretended to believe because of the presence of the white overseer. If
this overseer was absent sometimes and the preacher varied in the text
of his sermon, that is, if he preached exactly what he thought and felt,
he was given a sound whipping.”

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

“One thing ’bout de mulatto niggers, wuz, dey thought dey wuz better
than de black niggers. I guess it wuz ’cause dey was half white. Dere
wuz a bad feelin’ ‘tween the mulatto slaves an de black ones.”

[Lula Washington, Part IV, Georgia]

“My Ma and Pa were Mary and Isom Willbanks;
they were raised on the same plantation where I was born. Ma was a field
hand, and this time of the year when work was short in the
field–laying-by time, we called it–and on rainy days she spun thread
and wove cloth. As the thread left the spinning wheel it went on a reel
where it was wound into hanks, and then it was carried to the loom to be
woven into cloth. Pa had a little trade; he made shoes and baskets, and
Old Boss let him sell them. Pa didn’t make shoes for the slaves on our
plantation; Old Boss bought them ready-made and had them shipped here
from the West.

“That plantation covered a large space of land, but to tell you how many
acres is something I can’t do. There were not so many slaves. I’ve
forgot how they managed that business of getting slaves up, but I do
know we didn’t get up before day on our place. Their rule was to work
slaves from sunup to sundown. Before they had supper they had a little
piddlin’ around to do, but the time was their own to do as they pleased
after they had supper. Heaps of times they got passes and went off to
neighboring plantations to visit and dance, but sometimes they went to
hold prayer-meetings. There were certain plantations where we were not
permitted to go and certain folks were never allowed on our place. Old
Boss was particular about how folks behaved on his place; all his slaves
had to come up to a certain notch and if they didn’t do that he punished
them in some way or other. There was no whipping done, for Old Boss
never did believe in whipping slaves.”

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

“Just a few recollections of life in slavery time, as told me by [TR:
illegible] who was Eliza Taliaferro Williamson, daughter of Dickerson
and Polly Taliaferro. My mother was born at Mt. Airy, North Carolina,
near the Virginia line, and always went to school, across the line, in
Virginia. Her grandfather was John Taliaferro, slave holder, tobacco
raiser, and farmer. The Negro quarters were near the main or Big House.
Mother said that great-grandfather would go to the back door each night
and call every slave to come in for family prayer. They came and knelt
in the Big House, while old marster prayed. Mother said it was like a
camp-meeting when he died–wailing and weeping by the Negroes for their
old Marster. She said the slaves had the same food that the white family
had and the same warm clothes for winter. All clothing, bed sheeting,
table linen, towels, etc. were hand woven. They raised sheep for wool,
and flax for linen, but I don’t know where they got the cotton they
used. The work of the house and farm was divided as with a big family.
Some of the women cooked, sewed, wove, washed, milked, but was never
sent to the field. None of the Toliver family believed in women working
in the field. When each of great-grandfather’s children married, he or
she was given a few slaves. I think he gave my grandfather, Dickerson
Taliaferro, three slaves, and these he brought with him to Georgia when
they settled in Whitfield County.”

[Eliza Williamson, Part IV, Georgia]

“When slaves come in from de fields at night de ‘omans cleant up deir
houses atter dey et, and den washed and got up early next mornin’ to put
de clothes out to dry. Mens would eat, set ’round talkin’ to other mens
and den go to bed. On our place evvybody wukked on Saddays ’til ’bout
three or four o’clock and if de wuk was tight dey wukked right on ’til
night lak any other day. Sadday nights de young folks got together to
have deir fun. Dey danced, frolicked, drunk likker, and de lak of dat.
Old Marster warn’t too hard on ’em no time, but he jus’ let ’em have dat
night to frolic. On Sunday he give dem what wanted ’em passes to go to
church and visit ’round.

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

“She told about the slaves living in the Quarters–log houses all in a
long row near the “white folks’ house”, and how happy they were. She
couldn’t remember how many slaves were on the plantation, but was sure
there were many: “Yas’m, my Marster had lots of niggers, jest how many,
I don’t know, but there sho’ was a sight of us”. They were given their
allowance of “rations” every week and cooked their own meals in their
cabins. They had good, plain, home-raised things to eat–“and we was
glad to get it too. We didn’t have no fancy fixings, jest plain food”.
Their clothes were made by Negro sewing women out of cloth spun and
woven right there in the Quarters. All the little dresses were made
alike. “When they took a notion to give us striped dresses we sho’ was
dressed up. I never will forget long as I live, a hickory
stripe–(that’s what they called stripes in them days)–dress they made
me, it had brass buttons at the wrist bands. I was so proud of that
dress and felt so dressed up in it I jest strutted er round with it on”,
and she chuckled over the recollection of that wonderful dress she wore
so long ago.

There was great rejoicing over the birth of a Negro baby and the white
folks were called upon to give the little black stranger a name.”

[Adeline Willis, Part IV, Georgia]

“Dey made dey own money. In slavery time, if you wanted four-five acre
of land to plant you anything on, marster give it to you and whatever
dat land make, it belong to you. You could take dat money and spend it
any way you wanted. Still he give you somethin’ to eat and clothe you,
but dat patch you mek cotton on, sometimes a whole bale, dat money
yours.”

[Uncle Willis, Part IV, Georgia]

“On Sundays all of the slaves were allowed to attend the white church
where they listened to the services from the rear of the church. When
the white minister was almost through he would walk back to where the
slaves sat and tell them not to steal their master’s chickens, eggs, or
his hogs and their backs would not be whipped with many stripes. After
this they were dismissed and they all left the church wondering what the
preacher’s sermon meant. Some nights they went to the woods and
conducted their own services. At a certain spot they all knelt and
turned their faces toward the ground and then they began moaning and
praying. Mr. Womble says that by huddling in this circle and turning
their voices toward the ground the sound would not travel very far.”

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

“When Mr. Wright was asked about the treatment that was given the house
slaves in comparison to that given the field slaves, he replied with a
broad grin that “Old Marster” treated them much the same as he would a
horse and a mule. That is, the horse was given the kind of treatment
that would make him show off in appearance, while the mule was given
only enough care to keep him well and fit for work. “You see,” continued
Mr. Wright, “in those days a plantation owner was partially judged by
the appearance of his house servants.” And so in addition to receiving
the discarded clothes of “Old Marster” and his wife, better clothing was
bought for the house slaves.

The working hours of the house slave and the field slave were
practically the same. In some cases the house slaves had to work at
night due to the fact that the master was entertaining his friends or he
was invited out and so someone had to remain up to attend to all the
necessary details.

On the plantation of Mr. House the house slaves thought themselves
better than the field slaves because of the fact that they received
better treatment. On the other hand those slaves who worked in the
fields said that they would rather work in the fields than work in the
house because they had a chance to earn spending money in their spare or
leisure time. House servants had no such opportunity.

In bad weather they were not required to go to the fields–instead they
cut hedges or did other small jobs around the house. The master did not
want them to work in bad weather because there was too much danger of
illness which meant a loss of time and money in the end.

Mr. House wanted his slaves to learn a trade such as masonry or
carpentry, etc., not because it would benefit the slave, says Mr.
Wright, but because it would make the slave sell for more in case he had
“to get shet (rid) of him.” The slaves who were allowed to work with
these white mechanics, from whom they eventually learned the trade, were
eager because they would be permitted to hire themselves out. The money
they earned could be used to help buy their freedom, that is, what money
remained after the master had taken his share. On the other hand the
white mechanic had no particular objection to the slaves being there to
help him, even though they were learning the trade, because he was able
to place all the hard work on the slave which made his job easier. Mr.
Wright remembers how his grandfather used to hire his time out doing
carpentry work, making caskets and doing some masonry. He himself can
plaster, although he never hired out during slavery.”

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

“The boys, white and black, and slightly older than she, played “Fox” and
“Paddle-the-Cat” together. In fact, until the white boys and girls were
ten or twelve years of age, their little Negro playmates, satellites,
bodyguards, “gangs”, and servants, usually addressed them rather
familiarly by their first names, or replied to their nicknames that
amounted to titles of endearment. Thus, Miss Susie Walton–the later
Mrs. Robert Carter–was “Susie Sweet” to a host of little Negro girls of
her age. Later on, of course, this form of familiarity between slave
child and white child definitely ceased; but for all time there existed
a strong bond of close friendship, mutual understanding, and spirit of
comradeship between the Whites and Blacks of every plantation. As an
example, Pat Walton, aged 18, colored and slave, “allowed” to his young
master in 1861: “Marse Rosalius, youse gwine to de war, ain’t yer?” and
without waiting for an answer, continued: “So is Pat. You knows you
ain’t got no bizness in no army ‘thout a Nigger to wait on yer an keep
yer outa devilment, Marse Rosalius. Now, doen gin me no argyment, Marse
Rosalius, case ise gwine ‘long wid yer, and dat settles it, sah, it do,
whether you laks it or you don’t lak it.” Parenthetically, it might be
here inserted that this speech of Pat’s to his young master was typical
of a “style” that many slaves adopted in “dictating” to their white
folks, and many Southern Negroes still employ an inoffensive, similar
style to “dominate” their white friends.”

[Dink Young, Part IV, Georgia]

Jubal Anderson Early

Jubal Anderson Early was born November 3, 1816 in the Red Valley section of Franklin County, Virginia, to Mason Joab Early and Ruth Stovall Hairston. Ruth Stovall Hairston was born 1794 to Samuel Hairston and Judith Saunders. Samuel Hairston was born September 25, 1755 to Robert Hairston (son of immigrant Peter Hairston) and Ruth Stovall.

Wikipedia says of Jubal Anderson Early:  The Early family was a well connected old Virginia family.  Early’s father operated an extensive tobacco plantation of more that 4,000 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge.  Early attended local schools as well as private academies in Lynchburg and Danville before entering West Point in 1833.  He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1837, ranked 18th of 50.  After graduating from the Academy, Early fought against the Seminole in Florida as a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S Artillery Regiment before resigning from the Army for the first time in 1838.  He practiced law in the 1840’s as a prosecutor for both Franklin and Floyd Counties in Virginia.  He was noted for a case in Mississippi where he beat the top lawyers in the state.  His law practice was interrupted by the Mexican-American War, in which he served as a Major with the 1st Virginia Volunteers from 1847-1848.  He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1841-1843.  Early was a Whig and strongly opposed secession at the April 1861 Virginia convention for that purpose.  He accepted a commission as a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia.  He was sent to Lynchburg, Virginia, to raise three regiments and then commanded one of them, the 24th Virginia infantry, as a colonel in the Confederate States Army.  Early was promoted to brigadier general after the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861.  He fought most of the battles in the eastern theater.  At Antietam, Jubal ascended to division command.  At Fredericksburg, Early saved the day by counterattacking a division of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, which penetrated a gap in Jackson’s lines.  He was promoted to major general on January 17, 1863.  Approaching Gettysburg from the northeast on July 1, 1863, Early’s division was on the left most flank of the confederate line.  He soundly defeated Brig. Gen. Francis Barlow’s division (part of the Union XI Corps), inflicting three times the casualties to the defenders as he suffered, and drove the Union troops back through the streets of town capturing many of them.  On May 31, 1864, Lee expressed his confidence in Early’s initiative and abilities at higher command levels, promoting him to the temporary rank of lieutenant general.  In the Valley Campaigns of 1864, Lee sent Early’s Corps to sweep the Union forces from the Shenandoah Valley and to menace Washington, D.C. , hoping to compel Grant to dilute his forces against Lee around Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.  Early’s invasion caused considerable panic in Washington and Baltimore , and he was able to get to the outskirts of Washington.  Realizing Early could easily attack Washington, Grant sent out an army under the command of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan to subdue his forces.  At times outnumbering the Confederates three to one , Sheridan defeated Early in three battles, starting in early August , and laid waste to much of the agricultural properties in the Valley.  Early fought in the battle of the Wilderness and assumed command of the ailing A. P. Hill’s Third Corps during the march to intercept Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Spotsylvania Court House.  At the Battle of Cold Harbor, Lee replaced the ineffectual Ewell with Early as the commander of the Second Corps.  When the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered April 9, 1865, Early escaped to Texas by horseback, where he hoped to find a Confederate force still holding out.  He proceeded to Mexico, and from there sailed to Cuba, and Canada.  Early was pardoned in 1868 by President Andrew Johnson but still remained an unreconstructed rebel.  In 1869, he returned to Virginia and resumed the practice of law.  At the age of 77, after falling down a flight of stairs, Early died in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Slave Celebrations

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from South Carolina describing in their own words their celebrations as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their work experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“They give us Christmas Day. Every woman got a handkerchief to tie up
her hair. Every girl got a ribbon, every boy a barlow knife, and every
man a shin plaster. De neighbors call de place, de shin plaster, Barlow,
Bandanna place. Us always have a dance in de Christmas.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Peter Clifton]

“On Christmas Day master always give big dinners for slaves, and on New
Year we had a holiday.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Wallace Davis]

“My Massa ne’er didn’t work us hard lak. Coase uz de day’ ud come, de
hands hadder go up to de big house en go ’bout dey business, but dey
al’ays knock offen early on uh Saturday evenin’ en le’ everbody do jes
wha’ dey wanna dere on de plantation. Ne’er didn’t use no horn to wake
dey colored peoples up en didn’t wake em work en de big Christmus day en
New Years’ neither. Ne’er hab no udder holidays but dem two. My Massa
gi’e aw his colored peoples uh big Christmus dinner to de white folks
house. Jes hab plenty uv fresh meat en rice en biscuit en cake fa
eve’ybody dat day.”
[Washington Dozier]

“Old Marse he give us de rations fer de barbecues. Every master wanted
his darkies to be thought well of at de barbecues by de darkies from all
de other plantations. De had pigs barbecued; goats; and de Missus let de
wimmen folks bake pies, cakes and custards fer de barbecue, jes’ ‘zactly
like hit was fer de white folks barbecue deself!”

“Whilst de meats fer de company table was kept barbecued out in de yard,
de cakes, pies, breads, and t’other fixings was done in de kitchen out
in de big house yard. Baskets had ter be packed to go to camp meetin’.
Tables was built up at Rogers under de big oak trees dat has all been
cut down now. De tables jes’ groaned and creeked and sighed wid victuals
at dinner hour every day durin’ de camp meetin’.”

“Missus fetch her finest linens and silver and glasses to out-shine dem
brung by de t’other white folks o’ quality. In dem days de white folks
o’ quality in Union most all come from Goshen Hill and Fish Dam. After
de white folks done et all dey could hold den de slaves what had done
come to church and to help wid de tables and de carriages would have de
dinner on a smaller table over clost to de spring. Us had table cloths
on our table also and us et from de kitchen china and de kitchen silver.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Gus Feaster]

“At de Sardis
sto’ dey used to give big barbecues. Dem days barbecues was de mos’
source of amusement fer ev’ybody, all de white folks and de darkies de
whole day long. All de fiddlers from ev’ywhars come to Sardis and fiddle
fer de dances at de barbecues. Dey had a platform built not fer from de
barbecue table to dance on. Any darky dat could cut de buck and de
pigeon wing was called up to de platform to perform fer ev’ybody.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Wesley Jones]

“De slaves what belong to my white folks have frolicsome days all
through de year. Go to frolic on Saturday en go to white folks church on
Sunday en sit in portion of church in de gallery. Den on Christmas eat
en drink de best liquor dere was en de Fourth of July de one day dat dey
have to go to [HW: Eutaw] Springs. Dey go in buggies en wagons en have
plenty of everything to eat dat day. I know dere was a battle up dere,
although I didn’ never go wid em. Cotton pickin en corn shuckin days
won’ no work times, dey was big frolics. De first one shuck red corn had
to tell who his best girl was en all dem things. All dem come to cotton
pickin dat want to en pick cotton en cook big dinner. Pick cotton till
’bout 5:30 in de evenin’ en den knock off for de eats en de dancin. Go
to all de slaves weddings too. Dey would mostly get married ’bout on a
Sunday evenin’.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Gable Locklier]

“Marster lak he dram, ’specially in de fall of de year when it fust git
cool. Us used to have big corn shuckin’s on de plantation at night,
‘long ’bout de fust of November of every year. All de corn was hauled
from de fields and put in two or three big piles in de barnyard and de
slaves would git ’round them, sing and shuck de corn. De slave women
would hang buckets of raw tar afire on staves drove in de ground ’round
de crowd, to give light. Them was sho’ happy times.”

“When Christmas come, all de slaves on de plantation had three days give
to them, to rest and enjoy themselves. Missus and de two little misses
fixed up a big Christmas tree. It was a big holly bush wid red berries
all over it. It sho’ was a picture of beautifulness. I can see missus so
plain now, on Christmas mornin’, a flirtin’ ’round de Christmas trees,
commandin’ de little misses to put de names of each slave on a package
and hang it on de tree for them. She was always pleased, smilin’ and
happy, ’cause she knowed dat she was doin’ somethin’ dat would make
somebody else happy. She tried as hard to make de slaves happy as she
did to make her own white friends happy, it seem lak to me. Close to de
tree was a basket and in dat basket was put in a bag of candy, apples,
raisins and nuts for all de chillun. Nobody was left out.”

“Christmas mornin’, marster would call all de slaves to come to de
Christmas tree. He made all de chillun set down close to de tree and de
grown slaves jined hands and make a circle ’round all. Then marster and
missus would give de chillun deir gifts, fust, then they would take
presents from de tree and call one slave at a time to step out and git
deirs. After all de presents was give out, missus would stand in de
middle of de ring and raise her hand and bow her head in silent thanks
to God. All de slaves done lak her done. After all dis, everybbdy was
happy, singin’, and laughin’ all over de place. Go ’way from here, white
man! Don’t tell me dat wasn’t de next step to heaven to de slaves on our
plantation. I sees and dreams ’bout them good old times, back yonder, to
dis day.”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Junius Quattlebaum]

“On Christmas day, the master would have a big dinner for his slaves and
spread it out in the yard. Corn shuckings were popular and so were
cotton pickings, where big eats were prepared for those who helped.
They had big feasts at marriages, and even the slaves had feasts at
their marriages, the master and his family taking part in the
ceremonies.”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Morgan Scurry]

Slave Tasks

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from South Carolina describing in their own words their own work experience as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their work experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“De most of de niggers work in de field. They went to work as soon as it git light
enough to see how to git ’round; then when twelve o’clock come, they all
stops for dinner and don’t go back to work ’til two. All of them work on
’til it git almost dark.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Victoria Adams]

“Work used to start on the plantation at four o’clock in the morning,
when the people went in the garden. At eight or nine o’clock they went
into the big fields. Everybody was given a task of work. When you
finished your task you could quit. If you didn’t do your work right you
got a whipping.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Henry Brown]

“Cotton pickin’ was de biggest work I ever did, outside of drivin’ a
wagon and playin’ de fiddle. Look at them fingers; they is supple. I
carry two rows of cotton at a time. One week I pick, in a race wid
others, over 300 pounds a day. Commencin’ Monday, thru Friday night, I
pick 1,562 pounds cotton seed. Dat make a bale weighin’ 500 pounds, in
de lint.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Andy Brice]

“Listen good now. When
I got big and couldn’t play ’round at chillun’s doings, I started to
platting cornshucks and things fer making hoss and mule collars, and
scouring-brooms and shoulder-mats. I cut hickory poles and make handles
out of dem fer de brooms. Marse had hides tanned, and us make buggy
whips, wagon whips, shoe strings, saddle strings and sech as dat out of
our home-tanned leather. All de galluses dat was wo’ in dem days was
made by de darkies.”

“White oak and hickory was split to cure, and we made fish baskets, feed
baskets, wood baskets, sewing baskets and all kinds of baskets fer de
Missus. All de chair bottoms of straight chairs was made from white oak
splits, and de straight chairs was made in de shop.”
[South Carolina, Part I, George Briggs]

“Well, when I got my pants, my maw fetched me in and I clumb up de steps
dat Marse Johnson had, to git up in his swing wid. At fus, dey had to
show me jus how to hole de brush, kaise dem peacock feathers wuz so
long, iffen you didn’t mind your bizness, de ends of dem feathers would
splash in de gravy er sumpin nother, and den de Missus table be all
spattered up. Some o’ de Marsters would whorp de nigger chilluns fer dat
carelessness, but Marse Johnson, he always good to his niggers. Mos de
white fokes good to de niggers round bout whar I comes from.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Henry Coleman]

“Our work was light; we got up at sun-up at blowing of de horn and
worked till sundown. Sometimes we worked on Saturday afternoons when we
had to. On Saturday nights we had frolics–men and women. Some women
would wash their clothes on Saturday afternoons. Den at night we have
prayer meetings.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Wallace Davis]

“My daddy was de blacksmith for Mr. Jackie Davis en he could make plows
en hoes en all dem kind of things. He have a circuit dat he go round en
mend things on other white folks plantations. Some of de time, he bring
back more den $100.00 to he boss dat he would make. Go all bout in dat
part of Marion county dat be part of Florence county dose times.”
[South Carolina, Part I, William Henry Davis]

“My father was owned by Robert W. Williams, of Mount Olive, and he was
the most highly prized Negro in the vicinity. He was a natural carpenter
and builder. Often he would go to the woods and pick out trees for the
job in hand. Some of the houses he built there are standing today.
Mother was equally trained and well equipped to make a home and keep it
neat and clean. When they were free in 1865, half the community was
eager to employ them and pay them well for their services. And, when I
came along, they were living in their own house and prospering.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Rev John B Elliot]

“Oh, dere was bout two or three hundred acres in de Rogers place. Slaves
worked from daylight till dark in de winter time. Always be up fore day
cause my boss generally called de slaves fore day. Hear him say, ‘Rob,
come, come. Aaron, come, come.’ We didn’ work hard though. Didn’ work in
hot sun in June, July en August cause in slavery time dey allow us to
take out at 10 or 11 o’clock en go swimmin. Den we had to be back in de
field bout three o’clock. Had plenty poor white neighbors bout dere en
boss hire me to man like dat one time. Poor man give bout 1-1/2 hours
for noon whe’ I get two hours back home en I never go back de next day.
Boss say, ‘Why don’ you go back to work?’ I tell him dat fellow wouldn’
give me long enough time for noon. My boss wouldn’ force me to go back
when I tell him dat.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Aaron Ford]

“I wasn’t a very big boy in slavery time, tho’ I ‘member choppin’
cotton, and pickin’ cotton and peas ‘long ‘side mammy in de field. Pappy
was called ‘Bill de Giant’, ’cause him was so big and strong. They have
mighty bad plantation roads in them days. I see my pappy git under de
wagon once when it was bogged up to de hub and lift and heft dat wagon
and set it outside de ruts it was bogged down in. Him stayed at de
blacksmith shop, work on de wagons, shoe de mules and hosses, make
hinges, sharpen de plow points and fix de iron rings in de wagon wheels.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Henry Gladney]

“Now does you wanna know what I do when I was a child, from de time I
git up in de mornin’ to de time I go to bed? I was ’bout raised up in de
house. Well, in de evenin’, I fill them boxes wid chips and fat
splinters. When mornin’ come, I go in dere and make a fire for my young
mistresses to git up by. I help dress them and comb deir hair. Then I
goes down stairs and put flowers on de breakfas’ table and lay de Bible
by Marse William’s chair. Then I bring in de breakfas’. (Table have to
be set de night befo’) When everything was on de table, I ring de bell.
White folks come down and I wait on de table.”

“After de meal finish, Marse William read de Bible and pray. I clear de
table and help wash de dishes. When dat finish, I cleans up de rooms.
Then I acts as maid and waitress at dinner and supper. I warms up de
girls’ room, where they sleep, after supper. Then go home to poppy John
and Mauma Anne. Dat was a happy time, wid happy days!”
[South Carolina, Part II, Adeline Hall Johnson]

“We lived in a little one-room house
in dere yard. The mistress learned me to card and spin, and to weave
when I was a child. When I was old enough, dey put me in de field to
work, hoe and pick cotton. We got no money for working, but got our
place to live, some victuals and a few clothes to wear. We had no
garden, but helped de mistress in her garden and she give us something
to eat from it. We had homespun dresses; we made not much underclothes,
but sometimes in awful cold weather, we had red flannel underskirts.”

“Nigger boys in slavery when dere work was done in evening, sometime
went hunting and caught rabbits, squirrels or ’possums.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Mary Johnson]

“Fer my first task I had 1/4 of an acre in taters, ’bacca and
watermelons de first year. Some of de boys had ’pinders, cantloupes and
matises (tomatoes) in dere task of a 1/4 acre.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Richard Jones]

“Good Master all right. Give plenty to eat. Reasonable task. Task dem
time one-fourth to one half acre. Ditching man ten compass. Got to slush
’em out. Got to bail that water out till you kin see track.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Gabe Lance]

“I was a strong gal, went to de field when I’s twelve years old, hoe my
acre of cotton, ‘long wid de grown ones, and pick my 150 pounds of
cotton. As I wasn’t scared of de cows, they set me to milkin’ and
churnin’. Bless God! Dat took me out of de field. House servants ‘bove
de field servants, them days. If you didn’t git better rations and
things to eat in de house, it was your own fault, I tells you! You just
have to help de chillun to take things and while you doin’ dat for them,
you take things for yourself.”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Mary Raines]

“I couldn’ tell you nothin bout how many slaves Massa Randall Davis had,
but I know dat he had a right smart of them. I know it cause he had so
many field hands dey didn’ none of em never have to work every day in de
field. Oh, dey just knock bout our Massa house en see after de stock en
such things as dat what time dey didn’ have to work in de field.”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Hector Smith]

“Dere wus three kinds of days wurk on de plantation: One is de whole
tas’, meanin’ a whole han’ or a person een his prime. He wus given two
tas’ fur dis day’s wurk. A tas’ carried frum twenty four to twenty five
rows which wus thirty-five feet long en twenty five feet wide. De shree
fourth han’ wus given one whole tas’ which consists of twelve rows. All
de young chillun wus included in dis group. De half han’ was de old
slaves who did a half tas’ for dere day’s work. When it was time to pick
cotton, de shree fourth han’ had to pick thirty pound’ an’ de half han’
twenty fur dere day’s wurk. Dose who attended to the gin only include de
three fourth han’.”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Prince Smith]

“Dere was more classes ‘mongst de slaves. De fust
class was de house servants. Dese was de butler, de maids, de nurses,
chambermaids, and de cooks. De nex’ class was de carriage drivers and de
gardeners, de carpenters, de barber, and de stable men. Then come de
nex’ class de wheelwright, wagoners, blacksmiths and slave foremen. De
nex’ class I ‘members was de cow men and de niggers dat have care of de
dogs. All dese have good houses and never have to work hard or git a
beatin’. Then come de cradlers of de wheat, de threshers, and de millers
of de corn and de wheat, and de feeders of de cotton gin. De lowest
class was de common field niggers. (Slave owner, Nick Peay, with 19 plantations and 1,000 slaves)”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Rosa Stark]