Georgia Slave Freedom
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 about slave freedom. 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.
“All I can ricollect ’bout de comin’ of freedom was Old Marster tellin’
us dat us was free as jack-rabbits and dat from den on Niggers would
have to git deir own somepin t’eat. It warn’t long atter dat when dem
yankees, wid pretty blue clothes on come through our place and dey stole
most evvything our Marster had. Dey kilt his chickens, hogs, and cows
and tuk his hosses off and sold ’em. Dat didn’t look right, did it?
“‘Cordin’ to my way of thinkin’, Abraham Lincoln done a good thing when
he sot us free. Jeff Davis, he was all right too, ’cause if him and
Lincoln hadn’t got to fightin’ us would have been slaves to dis very
day. It’s mighty good to do jus’ as you please, and bread and water is
heaps better dan dat somepin t’eat us had to slave for.
[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]
I remember hearing my mother and father discuss the war; but was too
young to know just the effect the war would have on the slave. One day I
remember Mr. Hall coming to my mother telling her we were free. His
exact words were quote–“Liza you don’t belong to me any longer you
belong to yourself. If you are hired now I will have to pay you. I do
not want you to leave as you have a home here as long as you live.” I
watched my mother to see the effect his words would have on her and I
saw her eyes fill with tears. Mr. Hall’s eyes filled with tears also.
On another occasion the mistress called me asking that I come in the
yard to play with the children”. Here Mrs. Austin began to laugh and
remarked “I did not go but politely told her I was free and didn’t
belong to any one but my mama and papa. As I spoke these words my
mistress began to cry.
[Hannah Austin, Part I, Georgia]
“I ‘members jus’ as good as if it was yesterday what Mammy Mary said
when she told us de fust news of freedom. ‘You all is free now,’ she
said. ‘You don’t none of you belong to Mister Lordnorth nor Mister Alec
no more, but I does hope you will all stay on wid ’em, ’cause dey will
allus be jus’ as good to you as dey has done been in de past.’ Me, I
warn’t even studyin’ nothin’ ’bout leavin’ Marse Alec, but Sarah Ann and
Aunt Mary, dey threwed down deir hoes and jus’ whooped and hollered
’cause dey was so glad. When dem Yankees come to our place Mammy Mary
axed ’em if dey warn’t tired of war. ‘What does you know ’bout no war?’
Dey axed her right back. ‘No, us won’t never git tired of doin’ good.’
“I stayed on wid my two good Marsters ’til most 3 years atter de war,
and den went to wuk for Marse Tye Elder in Crawfordville.
“Yes Mam,” there was strong emphasis in this reply. “I sho would ruther
have slavery days back if I could have my same good Marsters ’cause I
never had no hard times den lak I went through atter dey give us
freedom. I ain’t never got over not bein’ able to see Marse Alec no
more. I was livin’ at Marse Tye Elder’s when de gate fell on Marse Alec,
and he was crippled and lamed up from dat time on ’til he died. He got
to be Governor of Georgia whilst he was crippled. When he got hurt by
dat gate, smallpox was evvywhar and dey wouldn’t let me go to see ’bout
him. Dat most killed me ’cause I did want to go see if dere was somepin’
I could do for him.
[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]
“When dey give us our freedom us went right on over to Marse Billie
Battle’s place and stayed dar wid Daddy ’bout a year; den Daddy come wid
us back to Marse Henry’s, and dar us stayed ’til Old Marster died. Long
as he lived atter de war, he wukked most of his help on sheers, and seed
dat us was tuk keer of jus’ lak he had done when us all b’longed to him.
Us never went to school much ’cause Mammy said white folks didn’t lak
for Niggers to have no larnin’, but atter de war was done over our Old
Mist’ess let colored chillun have some lessons in a little cabin what
was built in de back yard for de white chillun to go to school in.
[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]
When freedom came there were sad times on the Sybert plantation, Arrie
said. “Old Miss cried and cried, and all us cried too. Old Miss said
‘You’al jest goin’ off to perish.’ Aunt Jennie, one of the oldest women
slaves stayed on with her and took keer of her, but all us stayed on a
while. Us didn’t know whar to go an’ what ter do, an’ den come Dr.
Peters and Mr. Allen frum Arkansas to git han’s to go out dar an’ work
fer dem. My Pa took his family and we stayed two years. It took us might
nigh ar whole week to git dar, we went part way on de train and den rid
de steam boat up de Mississippi River ter de landin’. We worked in the
cotton field out dar and done all kinds er work on de farm, but us
didn’t like an’ Dr. Peters an’ Mr. Allen give my Pa money fer us ter
come home on. ‘Fore we could git started my oldest brother wanted to
come home so bad he jest pitched out and walked all de way frum Arkansas
to our old home in Georgy. We come back by Memphis and den come on home
on de train. When we wuz out dar I went to school an’ got as far as
‘Baker’. Dat’s de only schoolin’ I ever had.”
[Arrie Binns, Part I, Georgia]
“When the Civil war was begun the master seemed to be worried all the
time” states Mr. Bland. “He was afraid that we would be freed and then
he would have to hire us to do his work.”
When asked to describe his feelings about the war and the possibility of
his being freed, Mr. Bland said that he had no particular feeling of
gladness at all. The outcome of the war did not interest him at all
because Mr. Coxton was such a good master he didn’t care whether he was
freed or not. His fellow slaves felt the same way.
At the close of the war Mr. Coxton informed all the slaves that they
were free to go where they wished, but they all refused to leave. Most
of them died on the plantation. Mr. Bland says that when he became of
age his former master gave him a wagon, two mules, a horse and buggy and
[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]
“One mornin’ Marster blowed the bugle his own self and called us all up
to the big ‘ouse yard. He told us: ‘You all jus’ as free as I is. You
are free from under the taskmarster but you ain’t free from labor. You
gotter labor and wuk hard effen you aims to live and eet and have
clothes to wear. You kin stay here and wuk for me, or you kin go
wharsomever you please.’ He said he ‘ud pay us what was right, and Lady,
hit’s the troof, they didn’t nary a nigger on our plantation leave our
marster then! I wukked on with Marster for 40 years atter the war!”
“Hit was about 40 years atter the war befo’ many niggers ‘gun to own
they own lan’. They didn’ know nothin’ ’bout tendin’ to money business
when the war done ended and it take ’em a long time to larn how to buy
and sell and take care of what they makes.” James shook his head sadly.
“Ma’am, heaps of niggers ain’t never larned nothin’ ’bout them things
“Now I gwine tell you the troof. Now that it’s all over I don’t find
life so good in my old age, as it was in slavery time when I was chillun
down on Marster’s plantation. Then I didn’ have to worry ’bout whar my
clothes and my somepin’ to eat was comin’ from or whar I was gwine to
sleep. Marster tuk keer of all that. Now I ain’t able for to wuk and
make a livin’ and hit’s sho’ moughty hard on this old nigger.”
[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]
“What de slaves done when dey wuz told dat dey wuz free? I wuz too
little to know what dey meant by freedom, but Old Marster called de
overseer and told him to ring de bell for de Niggers to come to de big
house. He told ’em dey wuz free devils and dey could go whar dey pleased
and do what dey pleased–dey could stay wid him if dey wanted to. Some
stayed wid Old Marster and some went away. I never seed no yankee
sojers. I heared tell of ’em comin’ but I never seed none of ’em.
[Easter Brown, Part I, Georgia]
“I ‘members de day well when Marster told us us was free. I was glad and
didn’t know what I was glad ’bout. Den ’bout 200 Yankee soldiers come
and dey played music right dar by de roadside. Dat was de fust drum and
fife music I ever heared. Lots of de Niggers followed ’em on off wid
just what dey had on. None of our Niggers went and lots of ’em stayed
right on atter freedom.
[Julia Bunch, Part I, Georgia]
The blue-coats came to our place in ’62 and 63. They took everythin’
that was not red-hot or nailed down. The war made no changes–we did the
same work and had plenty to eat. The war was now over. We didn’t know we
wuz free until a year later. I’se stayed on with Marse Frank’s boys for
twenty years. I’se did the same work fo $35 to $40 a year with rations
[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]
After the war some of the slaves left the plantation to seek their
fortune; others remained, renting land from the Willis family or working
with them on a share crop basis.
[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]
“I stayed on wid my mudder and she stayed on wid Miss Marion. Miss
Marion give her a home on Hull Street ’cause mudder was allus faithful
and didn’t never leave her. Atter Miss Marion died, mudder wukked for
Miss Marion’s daughter, Miss Callie Hull, in Atlanta. Den Miss Callie
died and mudder come on back to Athens. ‘Bout ten years ago she died.
“What does I think ’bout freedom? I think it’s best to be free, ’cause
you can do pretty well as you please. But in slav’ry time if de Niggers
had a-behaved and minded deir Marster and Mist’ess dey wouldn’t have had
sich a hard time.
[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]
“My granpa was so trusty and hon’able his old marster give him and
granma they freedom when he died. He give him a little piece of land and
a mule, and some money, and tole him he didn’t b’long to nobody, and
couldn’t work for nobody ‘cept for pay. He couldn’t free granpa’s
chilrun, ’cause they already b’longed to their young marsters and
mistises. He worked for Mr. Hezie Boyd one year as overseer, but he say
he didn’t wanter lose his religion trying to make slaves work, so he
took to preaching. He rode ’bout on his mule and preach at all the
plantations. I never ‘member seein’ granma, but granpa came to see us
of’en. He wore a long tail coat and a _big_ beaver hat. In that hat
granma had always pack a pile of ginger cakes for us chilrun. They was
big an’ thick, an’ longish, an’ we all stood ’round to watch him take
off his hat. Every time he came to see us, granma sent us clothes and
granpa carried ’em in his saddle bags. You ever see any saddle bags,
ma’am? Well they could sho’ hold a heap of stuff!
[Ellen Claibourn, Part I, Georgia]
When Sherman made his famous “March to Sea”, one phalanx of his army
wrought its destruction between this city and Griswoldville. A gun
factory and government shoe factory were completely destroyed. Although
the citizens gave the invaders everything they thought they desired, the
rest was destroyed in most instances. They tried to ascertain the
attitudes of the land owners toward his servants and when for any reason
they presumed that one was cruel, their vengeance was expressed through
the absolute destruction of his property. In nearly every instance smoke
houses were raided and the contents either destroyed or given away.
Barrels of syrup flowing through the yard was a common sight.
[Berry Clay, Part I, Georgia]
When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, the slaves were called to
the “big house” in a group to receive the news that they were free. Both
old and young danced and cheered when this information was given out.
Many of the families remained there for a year or two until they were
able to find desirable locations elsewhere.
[Pierce Cody, Part I, Georgia]
“Atter da War wuz over, dey jus’ turned de slaves loose widout nothin’.
Some stayed on wid Old Marster and wukked for a little money and dey
“Pa went down on the Hubbard place and wukked for 40 dollars a year and
his rations. Ma made cloth for all de folkses ’round ’bout. Dey fotched
deir thread and she wove de cloth for 50 cents a day. If us made a good
crop, us wuz all right wid plenty of corn, peas, ‘tatoes, cabbage,
collards, turnip greens, all de hog meat us needed, and chickens too. Us
started out widout nothin’ and had to go in debt to de white folkses at
fust but dat wuz soon paid off. I never had no chance to go to school
and git book larnin’. All de time, us had to wuk in de fields.
[Willis Cody, Part I, Georgia]
“When news came that Negroes had been freed there was a happy jubilee
time. Marse John explained the new freedom to his slaves and we were
glad and sorry too. My mother stayed with Marse John until he died. I
was still a child and had never had to do anything more than play dolls,
and keep the children in the yard. Lord, Honey! I had a fine time those
[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]
“When freedom comed my pa wanted us to move off right away over to Mr.
Smithies’ place so our family could be together, but us stayed on wid
Marse Billie de rest of dat year. Den pa and ma moved to Lexin’ton, whar
pa digged walls and ditches and made right good pay. Ma took all four of
us chillun and run a good farm. Us got along fine.
[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]
“Mother was glad and sorry too that she was free. Marse John had been so
good to all his slaves that none of them really wanted to leave him. We
stayed on a while, then mother left and rented a room. She worked hard
and bought a house as soon as she could; others did the same. There were
very few slaves that had any money at all to begin on.
[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]
Uncle Mose says that when freedom was declared, his father came rushing
to their cabin waving his arms like a windmill, shouting: “Boy we is
free–you can go and git yourself a job ’cause I ain’t goin’ to hitch up
no more horses”. Some of the slaves remained on the plantation where
they worked for wages until their deaths. His father was one of them and
after his death, his mother moved to another plantation to live with
another son. Meanwhile Mose started traveling from place to place as
soon as he was told that he was free to go as he pleased. He paid one
visit to the plantation where he learned of his father’s death. He then
asked Manning, who was operating the plantation, for the ox that had
belonged to his father and when Manning refused to part with this
animal, he made a secret visit back, that night, and took the animal
away. He has not been back since.
[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]
“Us wukked for Mr. Green Hubbard de fust year us left de old plantation,
but he wouldn’t pay us so us left him and rented some land to farm. Den
I went to wuk for Mr. Stephens and stayed wid him 25 years. He was one
of de owners of de Georgy Railroad and I used to drive for him when he
went to ‘Gusty (Augusta) to dem board meetin’s. He had one of dem
old-time gins what run by mule power, and us sho’ did gin a heap of
cotton. Lots of times he had us to haul it all de way to ‘Gusty on dem
wagons. Mr. Stephens’ place was at Crawford, Georgy.
[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]
After freedom was declared he was still held in bondage and hired out by
the day. Once he ran away but was found and brought back. In 1867 the
remaining members of the Ormond family moved to Atlanta, bringing him
along with them. After most of them had died he was finally permitted to
go or stay as he pleased.
Says Mr. Eason: “Slavery had a good point in that we slaves always felt
that somebody was going to take care of us.” He says that he has heard
some wish for the good old days but as for himself he prefers things to
remain as they are at present.
[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]
“Us stayed on wid Marse Billy for sev’ral years atter de war. He paid us
$10 a month and he ‘lowanced out de rations to us evvy week; most allus
on Monday ’cause Sundays us had ‘nough company to eat it all at one
time. He give us three pounds of fat meat, a peck of meal, a peck of
flour, 25c worth of sugar, and a pound of coffee. Dat had to last a
“I’d rather have de days as dey is now in some ways. But one thing I
does lak to do is eat and us had a plenty of good eatin’ den and never
had to worry none ’bout whar it was a-comin’ f’um.
[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]
Mr. Favors was given about two thousand dollars in gold currency
to keep and protect for his owner. At various intervals he had to take
this money to the “Widow”. so that she might count it. Another one of
the slaves was given the son’s gold watch to keep on his person until
the Yanks left the vicinity.
Before freedom was declared Mr. Favors says that he prayed all of the
time because he never wanted to be whipped with the cowhide, like others
he had seen. Further he says that it was a happy day for him when he was
told that he could do as he pleased because he realized then that he
could do some of the things that he had always wanted to do.
When freedom was declared for the slaves the Favors family freed slaves
valued at one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The live stock that
they sold represented a like sum. Mr. Favors and his mother remained
with the “Widow,” who gave him his board in return for his services and
paid his mother twenty-five dollars per year for hers as cook.
[Lewis Favor, Part I, Georgia]
“Joy was on de way when us heared ’bout freedom, if us did have to
whisper. Marse Joe had done been kilt in de war by a bomb. Mist’ess, she
jus’ cried and cried. She didn’t want us to leave her, so us stayed on
wid her a long time, den us went off to Mississippi to wuk on de
“Dem Yankees stole evvything in sight when dey come along atter de
surrender. Dey was bad ’bout takin’ our good hosses and corn, what was
$16 a bushel den. Dey even stole our beehives and tuk ’em off wropt up
[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]
Sarah Gray’s recollections of slavery, for the most part, seem to be
pleasant. She sums it up in the statement, “In spite of the hardships we
had to go through at times, we had a lot to be thankful for. There were
frolics, and we were given plenty of good food to eat, especially after
[Sarah Gray, Part II, Georgia]
“Not many slaves had a chance to git property of deir own for a long
time ’cause dey didn’t have no money to buy it wid. Dem few what had
land of deir own wouldn’t have had it if deir white folks hadn’t give it
to ’em or holp ’em to git it. My uncle, Carter Brown, had a plenty
’cause his white folks holped him to git a home and ’bout evvything else
he wanted. Dem Morton Negroes got ahead faster dan most any of de others
’round here but dey couldn’t have done it if deir white folks hadn’t
holped ’em so much.
“One day us chillun was playin’ in de sand pile and us looked up and
seed a passel of yankees comin’. Dere was so many of ’em it was lak a
flock of bluebirds. ‘Fore dey left some folks thought dey was more lak
blue devils. My mammy was in de kitchen and Ole Miss said: ‘Look out of
dat window, Milly; de yankees is comin’ for sho’ and dey’s goin’ to free
you and take you and your chillun ‘way from me. Don’t leave me! Please
don’t leave me, Milly!’ Dem yankees swarmed into de yard. Dey opened de
smokehouse, chicken yard, corncrib, and evvything on de place. Dey tuk
what dey wanted and told us de rest was ours to do what us pleased wid.
Dey said us was free and dat what was on de plantation b’longed to us,
den dey went on off and us never seed ’em no more.
“When de War was over Ole Miss cried and cried and begged us not to
leave her, but us did. Us went to wuk for a man on halves. I had to wuk
in de field ’til I was a big gal, den I went to wuk for rich white
folks. I ain’t never wuked for no pore white folks in my whole life.
“It was a long time ‘fore Niggers could buy land for deirselfs ’cause
dey had to make de money to buy it wid. I couldn’t rightly say when
schools was set up for de Niggers. It was all such a long time ago, and
I never tuk it in nohow.
[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]
The Yankees came to the Willis plantation to notify the Negroes of their
freedom. One thing they said stands out in Green’s memory. “If your
mistress calls you ‘John,’ call her ‘Sally.’ You are as free as she is
and she can’t whip you any more. If you remain, sign a paper so that you
will receive pay for your work.” Mrs. Willis looked on with tears in her
eyes and shook her head sadly. The next day the master notified each
slave family that they could remain on his plantation if they desired
and he would give each $75.00 at Christmas. Looking at Isaiah’s
step-father, he told him that since he was afflicted he would pay him
only $50.00, but this amount was refused. Wishing to keep the man, Col.
Willis finally offered him as much as he promised the ablebodied men.
Some slave owners did not let their slaves know of their freedom, and
kept them in ignorance as long as six months; some even longer.
[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]
Very little difference was noticed in the plantation life–of
course times were harder and there was a sadness around, but work went
on as usual. When the war was over and the slaves called up and told
they were free: “Sum wuz glad an’ sum wuz sorry, dey all wuz at a
wonder–at de row’s en’, didn’t know whar ter go. De most of ’em stayed
on lak we wuz, workin’ fer our white folks. Dat’s what my Pa an’ Ma
done, dey stayed on fer sometime after de war.”
“I’m glad I knowed slavery, I had er better livin’ in dem days dan I
eber had since. No talk ’bout money in dem days–no mam, an’ ef a doctor
wuz needed he wuz right dar. I’se livin’ ter day ‘kase I got sich a good
start, an’ den too, I’se livin’ on de days of my Pa and Ma. Dey wuz good
folks an’ lived ter be old. An’ den too, I’se allus lived on a farm,
ain’t nuver knowed no t’other kind of life, an’ dat’s de healthiest and
freest way ter live.”
[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]
“When the Civil War broke out our master loaded his horses with his most
valuable possessions and refugeed forty miles from his home,” remarked
Mr. Griffin. “On one occasion the Yanks came to our plantation and stole
three of our best horses. I never saw a battle fought but often watched
the Confederate soldiers drilling. We continued to work long after
freedom was declared, not knowing that we were free. One day our
master’s son-in-law called us together and told us we were free. Most of
us didn’t know what to do but we were glad to get off of that
plantation and away from old man Griffin.” With a broad smile he
continued: “Well that is all I can tell you Miss, but come back to see
[Heard Griffin, Part II, Georgia]
“After the war, my father stayed on with Marster Mappin as a cropper
running a two horse farm for himself. In the early 70’s my father bought
12 acres of land from Judge Lawson near Eatonton, which was later sold
in lots to different colored people, and became known as Gullinsville,
and is still so called by some.
“Well, when I was a boy back in Putnam County I went to night school.
For a long time I was the only Negro in the class. My foundation work I
got under a Mr. Whitfield, Mr. John Nix, and we had a Yankee teacher,
Miss Claudia Young. In September 1885 I went to Atlanta and entered the
academic department of what is now Morehouse College. I was graduated in
academics in 1889 as valedictorian of the class–my subject being “We
Are Coming”, which was a theme on the progress of the Negro race. In
1891 I was graduated from the theological department as valedictorian,
my subject then being “Why Do Nations Die”.
“After a number of years in Mission work and in the ministry I was
compelled to retire on account on my broken health. I owe my long life
to my mother’s training in childhood. There are four things that keep
old man Gullins busy all the time–keeping out of jail, out of hell, out
of debt, and keeping hell out of me. I learned to put my wants in the
kindergarten, and if I couldn’t get what I wanted, I learned to want
what I could get. I believe it is just as essential to have jails as to
have churches. I have learned too, that you can’t substitute anything
for the grace of God.”
[David Gullins, Part II, Georgia]
Mr. Hammond made the following statement concerning the end of the war.
“Our mistress told us we were free; however, I was too young to realize
just what freedom would mean to us, but somehow I knew that we would
have to be responsible for our own upkeep. Doctors bills, medicines,
clothing, (etc) would have to be paid by us from then on. After that we
worked for anyone who would hire us and never earned over 25 or 30 cents
a day. Sometimes our pay consisted of a peck of meal or a piece of
[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]
“I ricollects dat when de news come dat dem yankees was on de way
towards our plantation, Old Mist’ess tuk her old pacin’ mule and all her
money and made Uncle Moses go down on de river wid her to help hide ’em.
I told her I was gwine tell dem yankees she had done stole my uncle and
hid him so he wouldn’t hear ’bout freedom. And when dem yankees finally
did git dar, dey was singin’ some sort of a song ’bout freedom. I lit
out to runnin’, and it was way atter midnight ‘fore Old Mist’ess found
me. I was pretty nigh skeered to death. Dey called all de slaves
together and told ’em dey was free as jack rabbits, and ‘deed dat was de
truth. Us stayed dar for years. It looked lak us warn’t never gwine to
“Grandma started out to wuk for herself as a granny ‘oman, and Old
Mist’ess give her a mule to ride on to make her trips from one farm to
another. It was a long time ‘fore Niggers could git ‘nough money
together for to buy land of deir own, and it seems lak it was a long
time ‘fore schools for Niggers was sot up.
One thing I does know: I’d
sho’ ruther have times lak dey is now. Yessum, I sho’ had.
[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]
“De way things is goin’ now, it’s better dan in slav’ey times, ’cause
dey ain’t no knockin’ and beatin’. Things is gone too fur for dat now.
If eve’ybody would be o’ one mind and serve de Lawd, dey wouldn’t be no
“I don’t know whether I’ll get th’ough dis winter or not. Hit was mighty
cold last year, and dey warn’t much fuel. But I thanks de Lawd for all
He’s done for me, and I’se ready to meet Him when he comes.”
[Shang Harris, Part II, Georgia]
“I never will forgit de day dey told us de war was over and us was free.
One of de ‘omans what was down by de spring a washin’ clothes started
shoutin’: ‘Thank God-a-Moughty I’se free at last!’ Marse Tom heared her
and he come and knocked her down. It was ’bout October or November ‘fore
he ever told us dat us was free sho’ ‘nough. Dat same ‘oman fainted dead
away den ’cause she wanted to holler so bad and was skeered to make a
soun’. De yankees come thoo’ soon atter dat and said us was free and
‘vited all de Niggers dat wanted to, to go ‘long wid dem. I never will
forgit how bad dem yankees treated Old Miss. Dey stole all her good
hosses, and her chickens and dey broke in de smokehouse and tuk her
meat. Dey went in de big house and tuk her nice quilts and blankets. She
stood all of dat wid a straight face but when dey foun’ her gold, she
just broke down and cried and cried. I stayed on and was Miss Annie’s
houseboy long as she lasted. I was 21 when she died.
“Yes Ma’am, if Old Miss was livin’ I’d ruther have slavery days back,
’cause den you knowed you was gwine to have plenty t’eat and wear, and a
good place to sleep even if Mist’ess did make you wuk moughty hard. Now
you can wuk your daylights plum out and never can be sho’ ’bout gittin’
[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]
Times has changed in lots of ways since dem good old days. Some folks
laughs when us calls ’em ‘good old days,’ and dey wants to know how come
us thinks dey was good old days, when us had such hard wuk to do den.
Course folks had to wuk hard and didn’t have all dese new-fangled
gadgets to wuk wid lak dey got now, but I still calls ’em de good old
days ’cause folks was better off den; dey loved one another and was
allus ready to lend a helpin’ hand, ‘specially in times of trouble.
[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]
When the Harpers learned that the slaves were free, they offered
Emmaline’s father and mother a house, mule, hog, and cow if they would
remain on their plantation, but they thought they might fare better
elsewhere and hired out to a plantation owner in an adjoining county.
[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]
“Gen’l Heard died whiles de war wuz ragin’ an’ Ole Mistis come out on de
po’ch an’ tolt us we wuz all free. Most all de niggers stayed on wid
Mistis arter de war an’ worked fer fo’ths. Us used her mules an’ tools
an’ she give us rations just lak Marster had been a doin’ afore dey wuz
any war. She would uv been powerful rich ef Confederacy money hadn’t uv
been so wuthless. She had four loads uv it hauled outen de house an’
dumped in a ditch.
[Robert Heard, Part II, Georgia]
After the war Benjamin’s mother married and moved with her husband to
another farm, where she spent the rest of her life. Some families moved
to other plantations, and during the first year after the war they were
forced to work for one-sixth of the crop raised. The next year
plantation owners realized this amount was unfair and agreed to let the
ex-slaves work for one-third of the crops raised. Finally they worked on
halves. Even now, working on halves is common in rural villages.
Benjamin Henderson believes he has lived long because he has lived a
clean, useful life filled with plenty of hard work. He married at the
age of 28 years and was the father of five children, none of whom are
His physical condition prevents him from working at present, but he has
not given up hope that he will soon be able to take care of himself
[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]
“It warn’t long then ‘fore Marse Robert sont my pa to fetch Miss Martha
and her chillun, and the slaves too, back to the old plantation. Pa
wuked for him ’til June of the next year and then rented a farm on
“I heared ’bout night-riders, but I never seed none of ’em. It was said
they tuk Negroes out of their cabins and beat ’em up jus’ ’cause they
belonged to the Negro race. Negroes was free but they warn’t ‘lowed to
act lak free people. Three months atter the war, schools was opened up
here for Negroes and they was in charge of Yankee teachers. I can’t call
back the name of the Yankee woman that taught me.
“It was several years before no Negroes was able to buy land, and thar
was just a few of ’em done it to start with. Negroes had to go to school
fust and git larnin’ so they would know how to keep some of them white
folks from gittin’ land ‘way from ’em if they did buy it.
“Now that its all been over more than 70 years and us is had time to
study it over good, I thinks it was by God’s own plan that President
Abraham Lincoln sot us free, and I can’t sing his praises enough. Miss
Martha named me for Jeff Davis, so I can’t down him when I’se got his
name; I was named for him and Benjamin Franklin too. Oh! Sho, I’d ruther
be free and I believes the Negroes is got as much right to freedom as
any other race, ‘deed I does believe that.
[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]
Life [HW: deleted: had indeed been; added: was] was very pleasant in
those times; but Uncle Robert, at ease in a comfortable rocker, would
not agree that it was more to his liking than this present-day
[Robert Henry, Part II, Georgia]
She also recalls that when the slaves were freed that her ole Marse
called all of the darkies around him out in the yard and told them that
they were as free as he was and could leave if they wanted to, but if
they would stay ’till Christmas and help him that he would pay them
wages. All of them stayed except one Negro named “Big John” who left
with a bunch of Yankees that came along soon after.
[Laura Hood, Part II, Georgia]
“Us had been hearin’ fust one thing and another ’bout freedom might
come, when one mornin’ Mr. Will Bell, a patteroller, come ridin’ on his
hoss at top speed thoo’ de rye field whar us was at wuk. Us made sho’ he
was atter some pore slave, ’til he yelled out: ‘What you Niggers wukkin’
for? Don’t you know you is free as jay birds?’ ‘Bout dat time de trumpet
blowed for dinner and us fell in line a-marchin’ up to de big house.
Marse David said: ‘You all might jus’ as well be free as anybody else.’
Den he promised to give us somepin’ to eat and wear if us would stay on
wid him, and dere us did stay for ’bout three years atter de war.
“In a way, I’m satisfied wid what confronts me. A pusson in jail or on
de chaingang would ruther be outside and free dan in captivity. Dat’s
how I feels.
[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]
Superstition was usually a part of the life of a slave. Those seeking to
escape from a cruel Master used to rub turpentine on the soles of their
feet to prevent capture. Others collected quantities of soil from a
graveyard and sprinkled it in their tracks for a certain distance. Both
of these precautions were used to throw the dogs off scent. Refugee
slaves often found shelter on Mr. Huff’ estate, where they were
assisted in further flight by the Huff Negroes. Those who remained in
the woods were fed regularly.
When the war ended, Mr. Huff would not tell his slaves they were free,
for, it was said, that he hated the thought of a Negro being able to
wear a starched shirt. Slaves from neighboring plantations spread the
news. A few days later Mrs. Huff returned from a trip to Macon and
called all the children together to tell them that, even though they
were free, they would have to remain with her until they were
twenty-one. Little Mary exclaimed loudly–“I’m free! I won’t stay here
When the Emancipation Proclamation was made public, the Yankee soldiers
gave a dinner in Macon for all Negroes and poor Whites who cared to
come. A line was formed on the outside of the building in which the
dinner was served and no one was allowed to enter unless he was in poor
circumstances. Food of every description was served in abundance and
all admitted were allowed to eat as much as they desired.
[Annie Huff, Part II, Georgia]
The attitude of the slaves toward freedom varied and as they were not
allowed to discuss it, their hope was veiled in such expressions as the
“LORD will provide”. Some were even afraid to settle any statement and
silently prayed that their release would come soon. Some feared that
something might prevent their emancipation so they ran away and joined
the Yankee Army, hoping to be able to destroy their former master.
During this time masters suffered as well as their slaves, for many of
their sons went gaily forth to battle and were never heard of again.
Simpson Rigerson, son of “Marse” Jesse Rigerson, was lost to his
parents. A younger son, who lost his right hand while “helping” feed
cane to a grinder, is the only member of the family now living.
Sorrow did not break this slaves group and they soon learned to sing
away their troubles. One song which gives some light on their attitude
toward the government went as follows:
I. Jeff Davis rode the gray horse
Ole Lincoln rode the mule
Jeff Davis is the gentleman
Ole Lincoln is the fool
I’ll lay ten dollars down
I’ll count it one by one.
I’ll give ten dollars to know the man
Who struck Peter Butler’s son.
II. I lay down in my bed
I lay down in no dread
Conscript come and took me
And dragged me from my bed.
III. I went down a new cut road
She went down the lane
I turned my back upon her
And ‘long come Liza Jane.
After freedom was declared, Bryant Huff’s family moved several miles
from the Rigerson plantation to one owned by an elderly woman. They ran
from a mean master but their flight was a “leap from the frying pan into
the fire”, for this woman proved even worse than their former master. At
the close of the war the K.K.K. was very active and their fearful
exploits made them the terror of the slaves. A band of the latter was
organized to attempt to curb the K.K.K. activities. Neither gang knew
who was a member of the other, but their clashes were frequent. One
night the K.K.K. appeared at the Huff cabin and when admitted took the
father, an uncle, and a man named Mansfield from the house. After
forcing the father to break a gun which he had borrowed from Mr.
Rigerson, they beat him so brutally that his arm was broken. The uncle,
a minister who preached a type of doctrine that they liked, was
unharmed. Mansfield, accused of being a member of the anti-K.K.K. gang,
was beaten unmercifully. While this was being done, two members of the
gang returned to the house where they searched the back room (men slept
in the front room, the women and children in the rear) to see if any
adults were secreted there. The small boys under the bed said “Don’t
harm us, we’re only children”. After this outrage, done at the request
of the mistress, the Huff family moved back to the Rigerson plantation.
Mr. Rigerson’s harsh disposition was broken after the Civil War ended
and he repented of his severe treatment of his former slaves. Daniel
Huff whom he had despised and feared, became his best friend who nursed
him until death. Huff’s wife received three acres of ground and two
houses from her former master who also gave her an apology for his past
meanness and stated that he wished to provide her with a home for life.
[Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]
“Dis young race lives so fas’ dey needs
to know what a hard time us had.”
“Soon atter de surrender, Marse Jabe told his Niggers dey was free as he
was, but dat he didn’t want nary one to leave him. He wanted ’em to stay
wid him he said, and he offered to pay ’em wages. Dere warn’t nary one
what left. Mammy wukked and plowed right on lak she done before. Atter I
was big enough, I went to Lexin’ton to wuk for Mrs. McWhorter.
Yes Ma’am, for myself I’d rather have de old days
wid good Old Marster to take keer of me.”
[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]
“No, mam, I ain’t forgot when de Yankees come to our place. Dat was
right atter de end of de war, not long atter us had been told ’bout
freedom. When us heared dey was on deir way us tuk and hid all de stuff
us could, but dey sho tore up dat place. Dey tuk all de meat out of de
smokehouse and give it to de Niggers, but deir bellies was already full
and dey didn’t need it, so dey give it back to Marse Jack soon as dem
sojers was gone. ‘Fore dey left dem Yankee sojers tuk Marse Jack’s mules
and horses slap out of de plows and rid ’em off, and left deir old
wore-out stock right dar.
“Freedom didn’t make so many changes on our place right at fust, ’cause
most of de slaves stayed right on dar, and things went on jus’ lak dey
had ‘fore dere was any war. Marse Jack had done told ’em dey was free,
but dat dem what wanted to stay would be tuk keer of same as ‘fore de
war. Dere warn’t many what left neither, ’cause Marse Jack had been so
good to evvy one of ’em dey didn’t want to go ‘way.
“God A’mighty, when my heart begins to burn
And dat old wheel begins to turn,
Den, Oh, Lord! Don’t leave me here.”
It seemed from the length of her chant that the wheels would turn
indefinitely, but no sooner had she finished that song, than she started
“When my old mammy died a-shoutin’,
All de friend I had done died and gone.
She died a-prayin’, she died a-prayin’.
“In dat day dat you died, dat you died,
Gwine to be a star risin’ in dat mornin’.
Didn’t you hear ’em say, ‘gwine to be a
Star risin’ in de mornin’.
“De Christians all will know in dat day,
Dat my old mammy died a-shoutin’, died a-shoutin’,
‘Cause dat star sho gwine to be dar.
“Oh, Lord! Don’t leave me now, Oh, Lord!
But guide me all ‘long de way, ‘long de way.
‘Cause I’se in trouble, dat I am.
Lord! Oh, Lord! don’t leave me now.”
[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]
Not even the faintest smile crossed Aunt Emma’s wrinkled face while she
was talking. Although she lived to marry and have a home of her own with
good children, she is sad when she thinks of her childhood with all its
injustice and suffering. “I’se glad my race don’t have to suffer now
what we did on that plantation. Some of my old friends tells me they had
good homes an’ wuz took keer of an’ all that, but from my own
‘sperience, I’se glad my chillun never knowed slavery.”
When asked about the war and what she remembered of those terrible
times, Aunt Emma slowly shook her head and said: “I never wants to live
through sich sad times no more. Them wuz the hardest an’ the saddest
days I ever knowed. Everybody went ’round like this: (here she took up
her apron and buried her face in it)–they kivered their face with
what-somever they had in their hands that would ketch the tears. Sorrow
an’ sadness wuz on every side. The men all went off to fight an’ left
the women an’ chillun an’ niggers behind to do the best they could.”
“Times wuz so hard, why, honey, in them times folks couldn’t git so much
as some plain salt to use on their victuals. The white folks had the
dirt dug up from out’n their smokehouses an’ hauled it up to Mr.
Sisson’s an’ he run it an’ got what salt he could out’n it. I ‘members
one day I went over there fer sumpthin’ an’ the dirt what he had run wuz
piled way up high like sawdust these days. There warn’t no soda neither,
so the white folks took watermelon rinds, fixed ’em keerful like we does
fer perserves, burned ’em an’ took the ashes an’ sifted ’em an’ used ’em
fer soda. Coffee giv’ out an none could be bought so they took okra
seeds an’ parched ’em good an’ brown an’ ground ’em an’ made coffee
out’n ’em. Some folks made coffee out’n parched ground wheat too.
Everybody had to do the best they could in them times.
[Emma Hurley, Part II, Georgia]
“I jus’ kin ‘member one time de Yankees come to our plantation. Dey
ramsacked de place, tuk all de victuals f’um de white folkses and give
’em to de slaves. Us chillun sho’ hid out whilst dey was dar, ’cause dem
was skeery times, and dem sojers sung old songs I heared lots of times
atter I got bigger. De captain would start de song. ‘Member 1866, boys,
de rebels in hell of fixes, but we’ll drink and eat deir bones yit.’
Atter de Yankees lef’ de Niggers brung back de white folkses victuals
’cause dey was our own white folkses and dey had allus done give us
plenty of evvything.
“One day Marster called all his Niggers together and said us was all
free, and dat us could go whar us pleased anytime us got ready, but he
said too, dat us could stay on wid him if us wanted to. Charlie Martin
was de onlies’ Nigger what didn’t stay. Charlie said he wanted to go
somewhars else and Marster give him a good hoss and saddle and some
money when he lef’, but I don’t know how much dat money was.
[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]
In reply to a query regarding the possibility of a slave buying his
freedom Mrs. Jackson replied: “De only ones I knowed to go free wuz some
whose marsters willed ’em enuff money to buy deyself out an’ dey wuz
[Amanda Jackson, Part II, Georgia]
“Den de word spread lak wild fire: “The Niggers wuz free”. That night
all the slaves went up to the “Big House”, wurried an’ askin’ ‘Young
Marster Tom, where is we goin’? What is we goin’ to do?’ Young Marster
Tom said, “Go on back to your cabins and go to bed, dey are your homes
and you can stay on here as long as you want to.””
[Easter Jackson, Part II, Georgia]
Uncle Manuel grew sad as he recalled the good old days long gone. He
made an unusual statement for one of his race when he said: “Mistess, ef
somebody had er thousan’ dollars in one han’ an’ in de y’uther a pass
fer me ter go back to dem ole days an’ axed me which ‘un I’de tak’, I’de
go back to dem ole days an’ live de rest ov my life. Dere aint’ nothin’
to dese times now–nothin’ ‘cept trubble, peoples is livin’ so fast, dey
don’t tak’ no time ter stop an’ ‘sider, dey jes’ resh right into
trubble. I use ter drive oxen–four ov ’em–an’ dey took me ‘long all
right. I’se plowed oxen too, now yu nuver see ‘un kase dey’s too slow;
hit’s autymobiles an’ gas-run things, no’m, folks don’t ‘sider on de
ways ov life lak dey use ter.
[Manuel Johnson, Part II, Georgia]
A slave might secure his freedom without running away. This is true in
the case of Jennie Kendricks’ grandfather who, after hiring his time out
for a number of years, was able to save enough money with which to
purchase himself from his master.
After the war ended and all the slaves had been set free, some did not
know it, [HW: as] they were not told by their masters. [HW: A number of
them] were tricked into signing contracts which bound them to their
masters for several years longer.
[Jennie Kendricks, Part III, Georgia]
“Marster didn’t have but two boys and one of ’em got kilt in de war. Dat
sho’ly did hurt our good old Marster, but dat was de onliest diffunce de
war made on our place. When it was over and dey said us was free, all de
slaves stayed right on wid de Marster; dat was all dey knowed to do.
Marster told ’em dey could stay on jus’ as long as dey wanted to, and
dey was right dar on dat hill ’til Marster had done died out and gone to
[Julia Larken, Part III, Georgia]
All of the slaves on the plantation were glad when they were told that
they were free but there was no big demonstration as they were somewhat
afraid of what the Master might do. Some of them remained on the
plantation while others of them left as soon as they were told that they
Several months after freedom was declared Mr. Lewis’ father was able to
join his family which he had not seen since they had moved to Georgia.
When asked his opinion of slavery and of freedom Mr. Lewis said that he
would rather be free because to a certain degree he is able to do as he
pleases, on the other hand he did not have to worry about food and
shelter as a slave as he has to do now at times.
[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]
“It was a happy day for us slaves when news come dat de war was over and
de white folks had to turn us ‘loose. Marster called his Niggers to come
up to de big house yard, but I never stayed ’round to see what he had to
say. I runned ’round dat place a-shoutin’ to de top of my voice. My
folks stayed on wid Old Marster for ’bout a year or more. If us had
left, it would have been jus’ lak swappin’ places from de fryin’ pan to
de fire, ’cause Niggers didn’t have no money to buy no land wid for a
long time atter de war.
Soon Ed was willing to talk again. “Yessum,” he said. “I sho’ had ruther
be free. I don’t never want to be a slave no more. Now if me and Nett
wants to, us can set around and not fix and eat but one meal all day
long. If us don’t want to do dat, us can do jus’ whatsomever us pleases.
Den, us had to wuk whether us laked it or not.
[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]
“Now and then the Negroes bought a little land, and white folks gave
little places to some Negroes what had been good slaves for ’em.
[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]
“Marse Joe never did tell his Niggers dey was free. One day one of dem
Yankee sojers rid through de fields whar dey was wukin’ and he axed ’em
if dey didn’t know dey was as free as deir Marster. Dat Yankee kept on
talkin’ and told em dey didn’t have to stay on wid Marse Joe ‘less dey
wanted to, end dey didn’t have to do nothin’ nobody told ’em to if dey
didn’t want to do it. He said dey was deir own bosses and was to do as
dey pleased from de time of de surrender.
“Schools was sot up for slaves not long atter dey was sot free, and a
few of de old Marsters give deir Niggers a little land, but not many of
’em done dat. Jus’ as de Niggers was branchin’ out and startin’ to live
lak free folks, dem nightriders come ‘long beatin’, cuttin’, and
slashin’ ’em up, but I ‘spects some of dem Niggers needed evvy lick dey
“Now, Mistess, you knows all Niggers would ruther be free, and I ain’t
no diffunt from nobody else ’bout dat. Yes, mam, I’se mighty glad Mr.
Abraham Lincoln and Jeff Davis fit ’til dey sot us free. Dat Jeff Davis
ought to be ‘shamed of hisself to want Niggers kept in bondage; dey says
dough, dat he was a mighty good man, and Miss Millie Rutherford said
some fine things ’bout him in her book what Sarah read to me, but you
can’t ‘spect us Niggers to b’lieve he was so awful good.
[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]
“After de war wuz over my pa, he comed up to our house an got my ma an
all us chillen an carries us down to his marster’s place. I didn’t want
ter go cause I loved my mistis an she cried when we left. My pa’s ole
marster let him have some land to work on shares. My pa wuz a hard
worker an we helped him an in a few years he bought a little piece of
land an he owned it till he died. ‘Bout once er twice a year we’d all go
back ter see our mistis. She wuz always glad to see us an treated us
“Times warn’t no better after de war wuz over an dey warnt no wuss. We
wuz po before de war an we wuz po after de war. But we allus had somep’n
to wear and plenty to eat an we never had no kick coming.
When asked which she preferred freedom or slavery she replied, “Well,
being free wuz all right while I wuz young but now I’m old an I wish I
b’longed to somebody cause they would take keer of me an now I ain’t got
nobody to take keer of me. The government gives me eight dollars a month
but that don’t go fer enough. I has er hard time cause I can’t git
around an work like I used to.”
[Susan Matthews, Part III, Georgia]
After freedom, [HW: al]most all of Mr. Willis’ darkies stayed on with
him but Henry “had to act smart and run away.” He went over into Alabama
and managed “to keep [TR: “his” crossed out] body and soul together
somehow, for several years and then [TR: “he” crossed out] went back to
[Henry Nix, Part III, Georgia]
Lewis remembers very clearly when Mr. Crowder gave his darkies their
freedom. “Mastah sont me and my mammy out to the cabin to tell all de
darkies to come up to de “big house”. When they got there, there were so
many that [HW: they] [some] were up on the porch, on the steps and all
over the yard.”
“Mr. Crowder stood up on the porch and said, “You darkies are all free
now. You don’t belong to me no more. Now pack up your things and go on
off.” My Lord! How them darkies did bawl! And most of them did not leave
[Lewis Ogletree, Part III, Georgia]
“I knows I wuz fixed a heap better fo’ de War, than I is now, but I sho’
don’t want no slav’ry to come back. It would be fine effen evvy Negro
had a marster like Jedge Lumpkin, but dey won’t all dat sort.”
“One night, jes’ atter I got in bed, some mens come walkin’ right in
Ma’s house widout knockin’. I jerked de kivver up over my head quick,
and tried to hide. One of de mens axed Ma who she wuz. Ma knowed his
voice, so she said: ‘You knows me Mister Blank,’ (she called him by his
sho’ ’nuff name) ‘I’m Liza Lumpkin, and you knows I used to b’long to
Jedge Lumpkin.’ De udders jes’ laughed at him and said: ‘Boy, she knows
you, so you better not say nuffin’ else.’ Den anudder man axed Ma how
she wuz makin’ a livin’. Ma knowed his voice too, and she called him by
name and tole him us wuz takin’ in washin’ and livin’ all right. Dey
laughed at him too, and den anudder one axed her sompin’ and she called
his name when she answered him too. Den de leader say, ‘Boys, us better
git out of here. These here hoods and robes ain’t doin’ a bit of good
here. She knows ev’ry one of us and can tell our names.’ Den dey went
out laughin’ fit to kill, and dat wuz de onliest time de Ku Kluxers ever
wuz at our house, leastways us s’posed dey wuz Ku Kluxers.
[Anna Parkes, Part III, Georgia]
After the war ended, Master Ingram called his slaves together and told
them of their freedom, saying, “Mr. Lincoln whipped the South and we are
going back to the Union. You are as free as I am and if you wish to
remain here you may. If not, you may go any place you wish. I am not
rich but we can work together here for both our families, sharing
everything we raise equally.” Pattillo’s family remained there until
1870. Some owners kept their slaves in ignorance of their freedom.
Others were kind enough to offer them homes and help them to get a
Pattillo remebers slavery gratefully and says he almost wishes these
days were back again.
[G W Pattillo, Part III, Georgia]
When Mrs. Kennon informed them that they were free to go or to stay as
they pleased, her father, who had just come out of hiding, told Mrs.
Kennon that he did not want to remain on the plantation any longer than
it was necessary to get his family together. He said that he wanted to
get out to himself so that he could see how it felt to be free. Mrs.
Price says that as young as she was she felt very happy because the
yoke of bondage was gone and she knew that she could have a privelege
like everybody else. And so she and her family moved away and her
father began farming for himself. His was prosperous until his death.
[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]
After the war was over with and freedom was declared Mr. Burke continued
to hold Mrs. Rush. After several unsuccessful attempts she was finally
able to escape. She went to another part of the state where she married
and started a family of her own.
Because of the cruel treatment that she received at the hands of some of
her owners[??] Mrs. Rush says that the mere thought of slavery makes her
blood boil. Then there are those, under whom she served, who treated her
with kindness, whom she holds no malice against.
[Julia Rush, Part III, Georgia]
“Ma said us was gwine to be free. Marse Jeff said us warn’t, and he
didn’t tell us no diffunt ’til ’bout Chris’mas atter de War was done
over wid in April. He told us dat us was free, but he wanted us to stay
on wid him, and didn’t none of his Niggers leave him. Dey all wukked de
same as dey had before dey was sot free only he paid ’em wages atter de
[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]
“De big war was ’bout over when dem yankees come by our place and jus’
went through evvything. Dey called all de slaves together and told ’em
dey was free and didn’t b’long to nobody no more, and said de slaves
could take all dey wanted from de smokehouses and barns and de big
house, and could go when and whar dey wanted to go. Dey tried to hand us
out all de meat and hams, but us told ’em us warn’t hongry, ’cause
Marster had allus done give us all us wanted. When dey couldn’t make
none of us take nothin’, dey said it was de strangest thing dey had done
ever seed, and dat dat man Echols must have sho’ been good to his
“When dem yankees had done gone off Marster come out to our place. He
blowed de bugle to call us all up to de house. He couldn’t hardly talk,
’cause somebody had done told him dat dem yankees couldn’t talk his
Niggers into stealin’ nothin’. Marster said he never knowed ‘fore how
good us loved him. He told us he had done tried to be good to us and had
done de best he could for us and dat he was mighty proud of de way evvy
one of us had done ‘haved ourselfs. He said dat de war was over now, and
us was free and could go anywhar us wanted to, but dat us didn’t have to
go if us wanted to stay dar. He said he would pay us for our wuk and
take keer of us if us stayed or, if us wanted to wuk on shares, he would
‘low us to wuk some land dat way. A few of dem Niggers drifted off, but
most of ’em stayed right dar ’til dey died.”
A sad note had come into Robert’s voice and he seemed to be almost
overcome by the sorrow aroused by his reminiscences. His daughter was
quick to perceive this and interrupted the conversation: “Please Lady,”
she said. “Pa’s too feeble to talk any more today. Can’t you let him
rest now and come back again in a day or two? Maybe he will be done
‘membered things he couldn’t call back today.”
“Me, I stayed right on dar ’til atter Marster died. He was sick a long,
long time, and one morning Old Mist’ess, she called to me. ‘Robert,’ she
said, ‘you ain’t gwine to have no Marster long, ’cause he’s ’bout gone.’
I called all de Niggers up to de big house and when dey was all in de
yard, Mist’ess, she said: ‘Robert, you been wid us so long, you kin come
in and see him ‘fore he’s gone for good.’ When I got in dat room I
knowed de Lord had done laid His hand on my good Old Marster, and he was
a-goin’ to dat Home he used to preach to us Niggers ’bout, and it
‘peared to me lak my heart would jus’ bust. When de last breath was done
gone, I went back out in de yard and told de other Niggers, and dere was
sho’ cryin’ and prayin’ ‘mongst ’em, ’cause all of ’em loved Marster.
Dat was sho’ one big funeral. Mist’ess said she wanted all of Marster’s
old slaves to go, ’cause he loved ’em so, and all of us went. Some what
had done been gone for years come back for Marster’s funeral.
“Us had our troubles den, but dey warn’t lak de troubles us has now.
Now, it seems lak dem was mighty good days back when Arch Street was
jus’ a path through de woods.
[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]
“Atter de War I stayed on wid Marse Fred, an’ wukked for wages for six
years, an’ den farmed on halves wid him. Some of de Niggers went on a
buyin’ spree, an’ dey bought land, hand over fist. Some bought eight an’
nine hundred acres at a time.”
Asked what he thinks about slavery, now that it is over, he replied: “I
think it is all right. God intended it. De white folks run de Injuns
out, but dey is comin’ back for sho’. God said every nation shall go to
deir own land ‘fore de end.
[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]
Charlie Tye recalls vividly when the Yankees passed through and
graphically related the following incident. “The Yankees passed through
and caught “ole Marse” Jim and made him pull off his boots and run
bare-footed through a cane brake with half a bushel of potatoes tied
around his neck; then they made him put his boots back on and carried
him down to the mill and tied him to the water post. They were getting
ready to break his neck when one of Master’s slaves, “ole Peter Smith”,
asked them if they intended to kill “Marse Jim”, and when they said
“Yes”, Peter choked up and said, “Well, please, suh, let me die wid ole
Marse! Well, dem Yankees let ole Marse loose and left! Yes, Missy, dat’s
de truf ‘case I’ve heered my daddy tell it many’s the time!”
[Charlie Smith, Part III, Georgia]
“I was ’bout twelve years old w’en freedom come, an’ was big ‘nough to
wait on Mistus good den. I ‘member how I used to run to de spring wid a
little tin bucket w’en she wannid a fresh drink of water.
“Mos’ of de slaves stayed with Mistus atter freedom come, ’cause dey all
loved her, an’ dey diden’ have no place to go. Mistus fed ’em jes’ lak’
she had allus done and paid ’em a little money too. Us diden’ never have
no fussin’ an’ fightin’ on our place, an’ de Ku Klux Klan never come
‘roun’ dar, but de niggers had to have a ticket if dey lef’ de place on
Sunday. Dat was so de paddyrollers woulden’ whip ’em if dey cotch ’em.
“All de niggers on de udder places, called us free niggers long ‘fo’
freedom come, ’cause we diden’ have no whippin’ post, an’ if any of us
jes’ had to be whipped, Mistus would see dat dey warn’t beat bad ‘nough
to leave no stripes.
[Georgia Smith, Part III, Georgia]
“In a sense the niggers is better off since freedom come. Ol’ Marster
was good an’ kind but I like to be free to go whar I please. Back then
we couldn’t go nowhar ‘less we had a pass. We don’t have no overseer to
bother us now. It ain’t that I didn’t love my Marster but I jest likes
to be free. Jest as soon as Marster said I didn’t b’long to nobody no
more I left an’ went to Tallahassee. Mr. Charlie Pearce come an’ wanted
some hands to work in orange groves an’ fish for him so that’s what I
done. He took a whole crew.
[Melvin Smith, Part III, Georgia]
“My grandfather was a blacksmith and farmhand owned by Old Man Dillard
Love. According to my earliest recollection my grandmother Van Hook was
dead and I have no memories about her. My great, great grandmother,
Sarah Angel, looked after slave children while their mothers were at
work. She was a free woman, but she had belonged to Marse Tommy Angel
and Miss Jenny Angel; they were brother and sister. The way Granny Sarah
happened to be free was; one of the women in the Angel family died and
left a little baby soon after one of Granny’s babies was born, and so
she was loaned to that family as wet nurse for the little orphan baby.
They gave her her freedom and took her into their home, because they did
not want her sleeping in slave quarters while she was nursing the white
child. In that settlement, it was considered a disgrace for a white
child to feed at the breast of a slave woman, but it was all right if
the darkey was a free woman. After she got too old to do regular work,
Granny Sarah used to glean after the reapers in the field to get wheat
for her bread. She had been a favored slave and allowed to do pretty
much as she pleased, and after she was a free woman the white folks
continued to look after her every need, but she loved to do for herself
as long as she was able to be up and about.
[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]
“It was a long time atter de war was done over ‘fore schools for Niggers
was sot up, and den when Nigger chillun did git to go to school dey
warn’t ‘lowed to use de old blue-back spellin’ book ’cause white folkses
said it larn’t ’em too much.
“It was two or three years atter de war ‘fore any of de Niggers could
save up enough money to start buyin’ land, and den, if dey didn’t watch
dey steps mighty keerful, de white folkses would find a way to git dat
land back from de Niggers.
[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]
Ward recalls vividly Sherman’s march through Georgia. When Sherman
reached the present site of Hapeville, he bombarded Atlanta with cannon,
afterwards marching through and burning the city. The white residents
made all sorts of frantic attempts to hide their money and other
valuables. Some hiding places were under stumps of trees and in sides of
hills. Incidentally Sherman’s army found quite a bit of the hidden
wealth. Slaves were never allowed to talk over events and so very few,
if any, knew about the war or its results for them before it actually
happened. At the time that Sherman marched through Atlanta, Ward and
other slaves were living in an old mansion at the present site of
Peachtree and Baker Streets. He says that Sherman took him and his
fellow slaves as far as Virginia to carry powder and shot to the
soldiers. He states that he himself did not know whether Sherman
intended to keep him in slavery or free him. At the close of the war,
his master, Mr. Brown, became ill and died later. Before His death he
informed the slaves that they could remain on his property or go where
they wanted to. Ward was taken to Mississippi where he remained in
another form of slavery (Peonage System) for 40 years. He remembers when
Atlanta was just a few hills without any buildings. Some of the
buildings he worked on are the Herman Building and the original Kimball
House, a picture of which is attached.
“After Sherman come through Atlanta he let de slaves go, an’ when he
did, me an’ some of de other slaves went back to our ol’ masters. Ol’
man Gov. Brown wus my boss man. After de war wus over Ol’ man Gordon
took me an’ some of de others out to Mississippi. I stayed in peonage
out dere fer ’bout forty years. I wus located at jes’ ’bout forty miles
south of Greenwood, an’ I worked on de plantations of Ol’ man Sara Jones
an’ Ol’ man Gordon.
“I couldn’t git away ’cause dey watched us wid guns all de time. When de
levee busted dat kinda freed me. Man, dey was devils; dey wouldn’t ‘low
you to go nowhere–not even to church. You done good to git sumpin’ to
eat. Dey wouldn’t give you no clothes, an’ if you got wet you jes’ had
to lay down in whut you got wet in.
“An’, man, dey would whup you in spite of de devil. You had to ask to
git water–if you didn’t dey would stretch you ‘cross a barrel an’ wear
you out. If you didn’t work in a hurry dey would whup you wid a strap
dat had five-six holes in it. I ain’t talkin’ ’bout whut I heard–I’m
talkin’ ’bout whut I done see’d.
“One time dey sent me on Ol’ man Mack Williams’ farm here in Jasper
County, Georgia. Dat man would kill you sho. If dat little branch on his
plantation could talk it would tell many a tale ’bout folks bein’
knocked in de head. I done seen Mack Williams kill folks an’ I done seen
‘im have folks killed. One day he tol’ me dat if my wife had been good
lookin’, I never would sleep wid her again ’cause he’d kill me an’ take
her an’ raise chilluns off’n her. Dey uster take women away fum dere
husbands an’ put wid some other man to breed jes’ like dey would do
cattle. Dey always kept a man penned up an’ dey used ‘im like a stud
“When you didn’t do right Ol’ Mack Williams would shoot you or tie a
chain ‘roun your neck an’ throw you in de river. He’d git dem other
niggers to carry dem to de river an’ if dey didn’t he’d shoot ’em down.
Any time dey didn’t do whut he said he would shoot ’em down. He’d tell
’em to “Ketch dat nigger”, an’ dey would do it. Den he would tell ’em to
put de chain ‘roun dere neck an’ throw ’em in de river. I ain’t heard
dis–I done seen it.
[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]
“Marster Terrell gave my mammy an pappy a oxcart an mule an a bushel of
meal. Den my pappy an mammy come got me an my sister an’ brother. Den we
come from Randolph, Alabama to Georgia.”
[Lula Washington, Part IV, Georgia]
“Old Boss had done told slaves they were free as he was and could go
their own way, but we stayed on with him. He provided for Pa and give
him his share of the crops he made. All of us growed up as field hands.
[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]
“Me I’se sho’ glad Mr. Lincoln sot us free. Iffen it was still slav’ry
time now old as I is, I would have to wuk jus’ de same, sick or no. Now
I don’t have to ax nobody what I kin do. Dat’s why I’se glad I’se free.
[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]
When asked about the war Aunt Adeline said that times were much harder
then: “Why we didn’t have no salt–jest plain salt, and couldn’t get
none them days. We had to get up the dirt in the smokehouse where the
meat had dripped and ‘run it’ like lye, to get salt to put on
things–yas’m, times was sho’ hard and our Marster was off in war all
four years and we had to do the best we could. We niggers wouldn’t know
nothing about it all if it hadn’t a been for a little old black, sassy
woman in the Quarters that was a talkin’ all the time about ‘freedom’.
She give our white folks lots of trouble–she was so sassy to them, but
they didn’t sell her and she was set free along with us. When they all
come home from the war and Marster called us up and told us we was free,
some rejoiced so they shouted, but some didn’t, they was sorry. Lewis
come a runnin’ over there an’ wanted me and the chillun to go on over to
his white folks’ place with him, an’ I wouldn’t go–_No mam_, I wouldn’t
leave my white folks. I told Lewis to go on and let me ‘lone, I knowed
my white folks and they was good to me, but I didn’t know his white
folks. So we kept living like we did in slavery, but he come to see me
every day. After a few years he finally ‘suaded me to go on over to the
Willis place and live with him, and his white folks was powerful good to
me. After a while, tho’ we all went back and lived with my white folks
and I worked on for them as long as I was able to work and always felt
like I belonged to ’em, and you know, after all this long time, I feel
like I am their’s.”
[Adeline Willis, Part IV, Georgia]
“All the slaves on our place wuz treated well. I never heard of any of
’em bein’ whipped. I was ten years old when freedom come, and I always
knowed I wuz to belong to one of marster’s daughters. After freedom my
father and mother worked on just the same for marster. When my father
died, marster’s fam’ly wanted him buried in the fam’ly lot but I wanted
him to lie by my mother.”
[Cornelia Winfield, Part IV, Georgia]
Several years before the war Mr. Wombly was sold to Mr. Jim Wombly, the
son of Mr. Enoch Wombly. He was as mean as his father or meaner, Mr.
Wombly says that the first thing that he remembers in regard to the war
was to hear his master say that he was going to join the army and bring
Abe Lincoln’s head back for a soap dish. He also said that he would wade
in blood up to his neck to keep the slaves from being freed. The slaves
would go to the woods at night where they sang and prayed. Some used to
say; “I knew that some day we’ll be free and if we die before that time
our children will live to see it.”
After the slaves were set free any number of them were bound over and
kept, says Mr. Womble. He himself was to remain with the Womble family
until he reached the age of twenty-one. When this time came Mr. Womble
refused to let him go. However, Mrs. Womble helped him to escape but he
was soon caught one night at the home of an elderly white lady who had
befriended him. A rope was tied around his neck and he was made to run
the entire way back to the plantation while the others rode on horse
back. After a few more months of cruel treatment he ran away again. This
time he was successful in his escape and after he had gone what he
considered a safe distance he set up a blacksmith shop where he made a
living for quite a few years.
[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]
When the Civil War began all the slaves on the House plantation grew
hopeful and glad of the prospect of being set free. Mr. House was heard
by some of the slaves to say that he hoped to be dead the day Negroes
were set free. Although the slaves prayed for their freedom they were
afraid to even sing any type of spiritual for fear of being punished.
When the Yankee troops came through near the House plantation they asked
the slaves if their master was mean to them. As the answer was “no” the
soldiers marched on after taking all the livestock that they could find.
At the adjoining plantation where the master was mean, all property was
When freedom was declared he says that he was a very happy man. Freedom
to him did not mean that he could quit work but that he could work for
himself as he saw fit to. After he was freed he continued working for
his master who was considerably poorer than he had ever been before.
After the war things were in such a state that even common table salt
was not available. He remembers going to the smokehouse and taking the
dirt from the floor which he later boiled. After the boiling process of
this water which was now salty was used as a result of the dripping from
the meats which had been hung there to be smoked in the “good old days.”
[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]