Monthly Archives: November 2016

Georgia Slave Celebrations

Georgia Slave Celebrations

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

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

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

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

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Rias Body, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Julia Bunch, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Marshal Butler, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Willis Cofer, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]

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

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

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

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

[David Gullins, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

[Shang Harris, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Robert Heard, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Annie Huff, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Easter Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

[Mahala Jewel, Part II, Georgia]

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

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

[Estella Jones, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Fannie Jones, Part II, Georgia]

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

[Charlie King, Part III, Georgia]

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

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Matilda McKinney, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Mollie Malone, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Liza Mention, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Aunt Harriet Miller, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Anna Parkes, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Fanny Randolph, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Shade Richards, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

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

[Dora Roberts, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

[Ferebe Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Henry Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Charlie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Melvin Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Paul Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

[Cordelia Thomas, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Jane Toombs, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Emma Virgel, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Rhoda Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]