Monthly Archives: March 2014

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]

Camp Branch Plantation Inventory January 1857

The following is an entry in a Peter W. Hairston notebook (Page 115). It is a January 1857 inventory list of animals and tools in Camp Branch Plantation in Henry County, Virginia.   What follows it here is an entry in the notebook (Page 114) for an inventory of slaves at the same plantation.


  • 14 Work Horses
  • 6 Colts
  • 70 Sheep
  • 10 Oxen
  • 55 Cattle
  • 100 Hogs
  • 35 Pigs


  • 2 Ox Carts
  • 7 Wagons
  • 10 Laye Turning Ploughs
  • 10 Small Ploughs
  • 14 Shovel Ploughs
  • 6 Coulters
  • 14 Axes
  • 4 Iron Wedges
  • 9 Cradles
  • 12 Pair of Plough Gears
  • 1 Set of Blacksmith’s Tools
  • 1 Fan Mill
  • 1 Cutting Knife
  • 1 Grind Stone
  • 2 Lock Chains
  • 12 Mattocks
  • 40 Hoes
  • Sowed in fall of 1856 130 baskets of [scratched out]

1857 Jan List of Negroes in Henry County, Virginia

  1. Nelson
  2. Hughes
  3. Miles
  4. Ben
  5. Ity
  6. Booker
  7. Mimy
  8. Marshall
  9. Peter
  10. Daniel
  11. Sucky
  12. Ruth
  13. Randall
  14. Rachael
  15. Louisa
  16. Jefferson
  17. Clary
  18. Milly
  19. Caty
  20. Lucy
  21. Cajah
  22. Wisley
  23. Ann
  24. Tom
  25. Fanny
  26. Sarah
  27. Emanuel
  28. Esther
  29. Letitia
  30. Sucky
  31. Daniel
  32. Silvy
  33. Juicy
  34. Loyd
  35. Elly
  36. Kit
  37. Alcie
  38. Emiline
  39. Annaiky
  40. Eliza
  41. Isaac
  42. Lotty
  43. Evans
  44. Augustine
  45. Darkas
  46. Nathan
  47. Lewis
  48. Edmund
  49. Jane
  50. Patsy
  51. Sandy
  52. Lewis
  53. Salem
  54. Nancy
  55. Haidee
  56. Susan
  57. Clem
  58. Louise
  59. Polly
  60. Nick
  61. Tabby
  62. Jordan
  63. Louisa
  64. Charly
  65. Riely
  66. Isaac
  67. Nick
  68. Peyton
  69. Doctor
  70. Edy
  71. Martha
  72. Edward
  73. Patrick
  74. Marinda
  75. Matilda
  76. Charlotte
  77. Mary
  78. Fanny
  79. Hannah
  80. Fed
  81. John
  82. Ginny
  83. Price
  84. Rose
  85. Jack
  86. Green
  87. Rhody
  88. Mary
  89. Price
  90. Lizzy
  91. Aimy
  92. Lucy
  93. Julina
  94. Bosh
  95. Henderson
  96. Edward
  97. Emanuel
  98. Henry
  99. Tyler
  100. Samina
  101. Bedford
  102. Fanny
  103. Alex
  104. Margaret
  105. Harrison


Town Fork Plantation Inventory January 1857

The following is an entry in a Peter W. Hairston notebook (page 116).  It is a January 1857 inventory list of animals and tools of Town Fork Plantation in Davie County, North Carolina.  Beside this list in the notebook is a January 1857 list of Slaves at Town Fork Plantation.


  • 8 Work Horses
  • 2 Colts
  • 6 Oxen
  • 19 Head of Cattle
  • 28 Sheep
  • 38 Hogs
  • 26 Pigs


  • 1 Ox Cart
  • 2 Wagons
  • 4 Loye Turning Ploughs
  • 6 Small Ploughs
  • 4 Shovel Ploughs
  • 2 Coulters
  • 7 Axes
  • 4 Iron Hoe Dyes
  • 6 Cradles
  • 7 Pr Plough Gears
  • 2 Fan Mills
  • 2 Cutting Knives
  • 1 Grind Stone
  • 1 Lock Chain
  • 6 Mattocks
  • 8 Hilling Hoes
  • 20 Weeding Hoes

1857 List of Negroes at Town Fork

  1. Alcey
  2. Milly
  3. Granville
  4. Vol
  5. Viney
  6. Edy
  7. Beverly
  8. Tip
  9. Sam
  10. Jane
  11. Ruth
  12. Henry
  13. Lou
  14. Linville
  15. Trammell
  16. Happy
  17. Jim
  18. Fed
  19. Mary
  20. Ed
  21. Fanny
  22. Gilblas
  23. Bob
  24. Peter
  25. Jack
  26. Ennis
  27. Perry
  28. Dick
  29. Maria
  30. James
  31. Gil
  32. Salem
  33. William
  34. Robert
  35. Essex
  36. Stokes
  37. John
  38. Dicy
  39. Shadrack





William McBryar, Buffalo Soldier

William Bryar, born February 14, 1861 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, married Sallie B. Waugh December 6, 1906.  Sallie’s sister Elsie P. Waugh married Dr. Jacob C Hairston, born August 26, 1858 in Martinsville, Virginia.  Jacob C. may have been the son of Jacob Hairston, born 1824 in Martinsville, Virginia and Bettie Hairston.

William McBryar was a Buffalo Soldier in the United States Army and a recipient of the Metal of Honor for his actions during the Cherry Creek Campaign in Arizona Territory.  The Cherry Creek Campaign occurred March 2-7, 1890 near Globe, Arizona.

On March 2, 1890, a group of five “drunken” renegades killed a wagon driver named Herbert and stole two large horses, about ten miles west of Fort Thomas and the San Carlos Reservation.  At the time, Fort Thomas was home to Troop K of the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Powhatan Clarke, a Metal of Honor recipient who fought in Geronimo’s War. (Wikipedia, Cherry Creek Campaign)

The pursuit through the canyon was so dangerous that at some points the scouts had to lie down and crawl through the narrow passages to trace the renegades’ footprints.  The calvarymen waited down at the river to water the horses but, at about 12:00 pm, the scouts made contact with the fugitives, near the mouth of Cherry Creek.  Lieutenants Clarke and Watson heard the firing from the river and immediately they proceeded towards the sound.  Clarke recalled that he felt “a calm chill looking for a live Indian with a gun down in one of these great canyons.”  Not long after that, the cavalrymen were under fire and they assisted the scouts in trapping the renegades within “a three sided tangle of boulders.”  The renegades put up a “hard fight” but were eventually forced to retreat into a “shallow cave” as the expedition surrounded and moved in on their position.  In the cave the hostiles were safe from direct fire so “one of the sergeants [William McBryar], an excellent shot” began “firing against a rock almost in front of their cave, thereby splattering lead and splintered rock in their faces.”  When the soldiers and the scouts closed to within fifty yards of the cave’s entrance, they prepared to make a charge but the renegades decided to surrender, having lost three killed or wounded out of five men.  (Wikipedia, Cherry Creek Campaign)

Indian Wars Metal of Honor Recipient. He was a sergeant in Company B, 10th United States Cavalry, serving in Arizona on May 11, 1889 [March 7, 1890] when he earned this Metal. His citation reads: Distinguished himself for coolness, bravery, and marksmanship while his troop was in pursuit of hostile Apache Indians. He was awarded this metal on May 15, 1890. He was one of only 18 black soldiers to win the Metal of Honor during the Indian Wars, and the only recipient of the 10th U.S. Cavalry. He was more educated than most recruits, having attended three years of college and being proficient in Spanish. He later rose to the rank of First Lieutenant. He helped give the Buffalo Soldiers a proud heritage. (Find A Grave, William Bryar)

Slave 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. 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 what they were provided in the way of rations during their 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 rations) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
[Booker T. Washington]

“How did they feed us? Had better things to eat then, than now and more
different kind of somethin’s. Us had pears, ‘lasses, shorts, middlings
of de wheat, corn bread, and all kinds of milk and vegetables.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Annie Bell]

“Oh, gourds waz de t’ing in dem days. Dey waz wha’ de peoples hab to
drink outer en wash dey hominy en rice in aw de time. Dey was de bestest
kind uv bowl fa we chillun to eat corn bread en clabber outer. Peoples
dis day en time don’ hab no sech crockery lak de people use’er hab.
Honey, day hab de prettiest little clay bowls den.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Maggie Black]

“We had a pretty good house to live in in slavery time, and some fair
things to eat, but never was paid any money. We had plenty to eat like
fat meat, turnips, cabbages, cornbread, milk and pot-liquor. Master sent
his corn and apples, and his peaches to old man Scruggs at Helena, near
Newberry, to have him make his whiskey, brandy, and wine for him. Old
man Scruggs was good at that business. The men hunted some, squirrels,
rabbits, possums, and birds.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Fordon Bluford]

“Us had plenty to eat in slavery time. It wasn’t de best but it filled
us up and give us strength ‘nough to work. Marster would buy a years
rations on de first of every year and when he git it, he would have some
cooked and would set down and eat a meal of it. He would tell us it
didn’t hurt him, so it won’t hurt us. Dats de kind of food us slaves had
to eat all de year. Of course, us got a heap of vegetables and fruits in
de summer season, but sich as dat didn’t do to work on, in de long
summer days.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Samuel Boulware]

“Molasses was made from watermelons in time of de war. Dey was also made
from May-apples or may-pops as some call dem, and sometimes dey was made
from persimmons and from wheat brand. In Confederate days, Irish potato
tops was cooked fer vegetables. Blackberry leaves was ocassionally used
fer greens or fer seasoning lambs quarters.”
[South Carolina, Part I, George Briggs]

“De old lady, she looked after every blessed
thing for us all day long en cooked for us right along wid de mindin.
Well, she would boil us corn meal hominy en give us dat mostly wid milk
for breakfast. Den dey would have a big garden en she would boil peas en
give us a lot of soup like dat wid dis here oven bread.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Josephine Bristow]

“The slaves had a plenty o’ vegetables all the time. Master planted t’ree
acres jus’ for the slaves which was attended to in the mornin’s before
tas’ time. All provision was made as to the distribution on Monday
evenin’s afta tas’.”

“Sat’day was a workin’ day but the tas’ was much shorter then other days.
Men didn’t have time to frolic ’cause they had to fin’ food for the
fambly; master never give ‘nough to las’ the whole week. A peck o’ co’n,
t’ree pound o’ beacon, quart o’ molasses, a quart o’ salt, an’ a pack o’
tobacco was given the men. The wife got the same thing but chillun
accordin’ to age. Only one holiday slaves had an’ that was Christmas.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Henry Brown]

“Aw, we had good eats den. Wish I has some of dem old ash-cakes now
which was cooked in de brick oven or in de ashes in de fireplace. My
mistress had a big garden, and give us something to eat out of it. We
used to go hunting, and killed possums, rabbit, squirrels, and birds.”
[South Carolina, Part I, Wallace Davis]

“Cook in
clay oven en on de fireplace. Make up fire en when it die down, dey put
tatoes (potatoes) in de oven en let em stay dere all night. My God, won’
nothin no better den dem oven tatoes was. Some of de time, dey have wire
in de chimney wid de pots hanging on dat. Folks used to make up a cake
of corn bread en pat it on de hearth en when de fire burn right low, dey
cover de cake all up in pile of ashes. When it get done, it be brown
through de ashes en dey take it out en wash en rub all de ashes off it.
Den it was ready to eat. Dat what dey call ash cake. Just seem like what
de peoples used to cook be sweeter eatin den what dey cooks dis day en
[South Carolina, Part I, William Henry Davis]

“Would give us three meals a day cause de old woman
always give us supper fore us mammy come out de field dat evenin. Dem
bigger ones, dey would give dem clabber en boil peas en collards
sometimes. Would give de little babies boil pea soup en gruel en suck
bottle. Yes, mam, de old woman had to mind all de yearlin chillun en de
babies, too. Dat all her business was. I recollects her name, it been
Lettie. Would string us little wooden bowls on de floor in a long row en
us would get down dere en drink just like us was pigs. Oh, she would
give us a iron spoon to taste wid, but us wouldn’ never want it. Oh, my
Lord, I remember just as good, when we would see dem bowls of hot
ration, dis one en dat one would holler, ‘dat mine, dat mine.’ Us would
just squat dere en blow en blow cause we wouldn’ have no mind to drink
it while it was hot. Den we would want it to last a long time, too. My
happy, I can see myself settin dere now coolin dem vitals (victuals).”
[South Carolina, Part I, Ryer Emmanuel]

“As I has said once, de fields was in lay-by shape and de Missus done
already got de house cleaned. De chilluns was put in one room to sleep
and dat make more room fer de preachers and guests dat gwine to visit in
de big house fer de nex’ six weeks. Den de plans fer cooking had to be
brung ’bout. Dey never had no ice in dem days as you well knows; but us
had a dry well under our big house. It was deep and everything keep real
cool down dar. Steps led down into it, and it allus be real dark down
dar. De rats run aroun’ down dar and de younguns skeert to go down fer
anything. So us carry a lightwood not [HW: knot] fer light when us put
anything in it or take anything out. Dar ain’t no need fer me to tell
you ’bout de well house where us kept all de milk and butter, fer it was
de talk o’ de country ’bout what nice fresh milk and butter de missus
allus had. A hollow oak log was used fer de milk trough. Three times a
day Cilla had her lil’ boy run fresh cool well water all through de
trough. Dat keep de milk from gwine to whey and de butter fresh and
cool. In de dry well was kept de canned things and dough to set till it
had done riz. When company come like dey allus did fer de camp meetings,
shoalts and goats and maybe a sheep or lamb or two was kilt fer barbecue
out by Cilla’s cabin. Dese carcasses was kept down in de dry well over
night and put over de pit early de next morning after it had done took
salt. Den dar was a big box kivvered wid screen wire dat victuals was
kept in in de dry well. Dese boxes was made rat proof.”

“Lots of times Newt and Anderson would tell me and John to come and git
under de steps while ole Marse was eating his supper. When he git up
from de table us lil’ niggers would allus hear de sliding o’ his chair,
kaize he was sech a big fat man. Den he go into de missus room to set by
de fire. Dar he would warm his feets and have his Julip. Quick as
lightning me and John scamper from under de steps and break fer de big
cape jasamine bushes long de front walk. Dar we hide, till Anderson and
Newt come out a fetching ham biscuit in dey hands fer us. It would be so
full of gravy, dat sometime de gravy would take and run plumb down to de
end o’ my elbow and drap off, ‘fo I could git it licked offn my wrists.
Dem was de best rations dat a nigger ever had. When dey had honey on de
white folks table, de boys never did fail to fetch a honey biscuit wid
dem. Dat was so good dat I jest take one measley lil’ bite of honey and
melted butter on my way to de ‘quarter. I would jest taste a leetle.
When I git to Mammy den me and Mammy set off to ourself’s and taste it
till it done all gone. Us had good times den; like I never is had befo’
or since.”

“All de fields was enclosed wid a split rail fence in dem days. De hands
took dey rations to de field early every morning and de wimmens slack
work round eleven by de sun fer to build de fire and cook dinner. Missus
‘low her niggers to git buttermilk and clabber, when de cows in full, to
carry to de field fer drinking at noon, dat is twelve o’clock. All de
things was fetched in waggins and de fire was built and a pot was put to
bile wid greens when dey was in season. Over coals meat was baked and
meal in pones was wrapped in poplar leaves to bake in de ashes. ‘Taters
was done de same way, both sweet ‘taters and irish. Dat made a good
field hand dinner. Plenty was allud had and den ‘lasses was also fetched
along. Working niggers does on less dese days.”

“Does you know dat de poplar leaves was wet afo’ de meal pone was put in
it? Well, it was, and when it got done de ashes was blowed off wid your
breath and den de parched leaves folded back from de cooked pone. De
poplar leaves give de ash cake a nice fresh sweet taste. All forks and
spoons was made out’n sticks den; even dem in de big house kitchen.
Bread bowls and dough trays was all made by de skilled slaves in de
Marse’s shop, by hands dat was skilled to sech as dat.”

“Sides dat dem chilluns was fed. Each child had a maple fork and spoon
to eat wid. Lil’ troughs was made fer dem to eat de milk and bread from.
‘Shorts’, low stools, was made fer dem to set up to de troughs to,
whilst dey was eating. De other ole ladies helped wid de preparations of
dey messes o’ vittals. One ole woman went her rounds wid a wet rag a
wiping dem chilluns dresses when dey would spill dey milk and bread.
Marse Tom and sometime Missus come to see de lil’ babies whilst dey was
a eating. De other ole ladies ‘tended to de small babies. Sometimes it
was many as fifteen on de plantation at one time dat was too little to
[South Carolina, Part II, Gus Feaster]

“Yes sir, us had a plenty of rations to eat; no fancy vittles, just
plain corn bread, meat and vegetables. Dere was no flour bread or any
kind of sweet stuff for de slaves to eat. Master say sweet things
‘fected de stomach and teeth in a bad way. He wanted us to stay well and
healthy so us could work hard.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Jane Johnson]

“We had home-raised meat, lots of hogs and cattle. Marse had a big
garden and we got lots of vegetables. Marse fed slaves in a trough in de
yard. He had his own smokehouse whar he cured his meat. His flour was
ground in de neighborhood. Sometimes he give a slave family a small
patch to plant watermelons in.”
[South Carolina, Part II, Mary Jane Kelly]

“Our food in slavery time was good and a lot of it. De food was cooked
good and prepared for us by servants dat didn’t do nothin’ else but
‘tend to de food dat de rest of de slaves had to eat. When us had beef
us went to de pasture for it; when us had pork, us went to de hog lot.
De cabbage and turnips come from de garden and field dere at home, and
when us was eatin’ them us knowed they didn’t come from out yonder, like
de stuff us has to eat dese days.”
[South Carolina, Part III, Walter Long]

“I went hungry many days, even when I was a slave. Sometimes I would
have to pick up discarded corn on the cob, wipe the dirt off and eat it.
Sometimes during slavery, though, we had plenty to eat, but my master
would give us just anything to eat. He didn’t care what we got to eat.”

“I sure was scared of my master, he treated us niggers just like we was
[South Carolina, Part III, Victoria Perry]

“Some of the nigger boys hunted ‘possums,
rabbits and squirrels. Dr. Scurry had 100 acres in woods. They were just
full of squirrels and we killed more squirrels than you can count.”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Morgan Scurry]

“Us chillun slept on de floor. Mammy had some kind of ‘traption or
other, ‘ginst de wall of de log house us live in, for her and de baby
child to git in at night. Us have plenty to eat, sich as: peas, ‘tatoes,
corn bread, ‘lasses, buttermilk, turnips, collards and fat meat.”
[South Carolina, Part IV, Dan Smith]

“Mossa’s custom at de end of de week wus to give a dry peck o’ corn
which you had to grin’ on Sat’day ebenin’ w’en his wurk wus done. Only
on Chris’mus he killed en give a piece o’ meat. De driber did de
distribution o’ de ration. All young men wus given four quarts o’ corn
a week, while de grown men wus given six quarts. All of us could plant
as much lan’ as we wuld fur our own use. We could raise fowls. My master
wus a gentleman, he treat all his slaves good. My fadder an’ me wus his
[South Carolina, Part IV, Prince Smith]