Monthly Archives: January 2015

Life on the Plantation Georgia

Life on the Plantation in Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

[Arrie Binns, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Rias Body, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

[Julia Bunch, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

Um-m-mh–Some gal!”

[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Sarah Byrd, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

[Ellen Claibourn, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Pierce Cody, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

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

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Margaret Green, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

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

[David Gullins, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Henderson Harris, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Robert Henry, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Emma Hurley, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Camila Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Snovey Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Mahala Jewel , Part II, Georgia]

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

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

[Benjamin Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Emmaline Kilpatrick, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

[Nicey Kinney, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Julia Larken, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Mollie Mitchell, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Charlie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Georgia Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Melvin Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Nancy Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Paul Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Lula Washington, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Eliza Williamson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Adeline Willis, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Uncle Willis, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Dink Young, Part IV, Georgia]