Georgia Slave Children

Georgia Slave Children

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

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words about slave children. 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.

“The children who were too young to work in the field were cared for by
some old slave who likewise was unable to do field work. The children
were usually fed pot liquor, corn bread, milk, syrup, and vegetables.
Each one had his individual cup to eat from. The food on Sunday was
usually no different from that of any other day of the week. However,
Mr. Bland says that they never had to break in the smokehouse because of
hunger.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“Chilluns what wuz big enough to wuk didn’t have time in week days to
play no games on Marse Bostwick’s place. On Sunday us played wid marbles
made out of clay, but dat’s all.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia]

“The young children were assigned small tasks, such as piling brush in
“new grounds”, carrying water to field hands, and driving the calves to
pasture.

Recreational facilities were not provided and slave children had little
knowledge of how to play. Their two main amusements were building frog
houses and sliding down a steep bank on a long board. One day, as they
played up and down the highway, building frog houses at irregular
intervals, little Della looked up and saw a group of Yankee calvarymen
approaching. She screamed and began running and so attracted the
attention of Mr. Ross who was at home on a furlough.”

[Della Briscoe, Part I, Georgia]

“In de quarters us had old timey beds and cheers, but I’ll tell you whar
I slept most times. Hit was on a cot right at de foot of Mist’ess’ bed.
I stayed at de big house most of de time at night, and ‘fore bedtime I
sot close by Mist’ess on a foot stool she had special for me.”

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

“Befo’ the war, when we was little, we mostly played dolls, and had doll
houses, but sometime young marster would come out on the back porch and
play the fiddle for us. When he played ‘Ole Dan Tucker’ all the peoples
uster skip and dance ’bout and have a good time. My young mistis played
on the piano.”

[Ellen Claibourn, Part I, Georgia]

“Chilluns did have de bestes’ good times on our plantation, ’cause Old
Marster didn’t ‘low ’em to do no wuk ’til dey wuz 12 years old. Us jus’
frolicked and played ’round de yard wid de white chilluns, but us sho’
did evermore have to stay in dat yard. It wuz de cook’s place to boss us
when de other Niggers wuz off in de fields, and evvy time us tried to
slip off, she cotch us and de way dat ‘oman could burn us up wid a
switch wuz a caution.

“Dere warn’t no schools for us to go to, so us jes’ played ’round. Our
cook wuz all time feedin’ us. Us had bread and milk for breakfas’, and
dinner wuz mos’ly peas and cornbread, den supper wuz milk and bread.
Dere wuz so many chilluns dey fed us in a trough. Dey jes’ poured de
peas on de chunks of cornbread what dey had crumbled in de trough, and
us had to mussel ’em out. Yessum, I said mussel. De only spoons us had
wuz mussel shells what us got out of de branches. A little Nigger could
put peas and cornbread away mighty fast wid a mussel shell.

“Boys jes’ wore shirts what looked lak dresses ’til dey wuz 12 years old
and big enough to wuk in de field. Den dey put ’em on pants made open in
de back. Dem britches would look awful funny now, but dey wuz all us had
den, and all de boys wuz mighty proud when dey got big enough to wear
pants and go to wuk in de fields wid grown folkses. When a boy got to be
a man enough to wear pants, he drawed rations and quit eatin’ out of de
trough.”

[Willis Cofer, Part I, Georgia]

“Chillun didn’t have much to do. Us loved to hunt for turkey nests
’cause dey give us a teacake for evvy turkey egg us fetched in. Chillun
et in de yard at de big house, whar dey give us plenty of meat and
cornbread wid good vegetables for dinner. For breakfast and supper, us
had mostly buttermilk and cornbread. On Sundays us had bread made from
wheat flour and sopped good old syrup wid it. Sometimes Marse John would
give us ‘mission to kill little pigs at night and broil ’em over de
coals in our yards, and how us did enjoy ’em! I ain’t never suffered for
nothin’ in all my life, ’cause de Grants was mighty good white folks. De
old White home on Prince Avenue was deir summer home. When dey built
it, woods was all ’round and dere warn’t many houses in dat section.”

[Julia Cole, Part I, Georgia]

“Us used to play lots, but us never did have no special name for our
playin’. ‘Swingin’ the Corner,’ wuz when us all jined hands in a low
row, and de leader would begin to run ’round in circles, and at de other
end of de line dey would soon be runnin’ so fast dey wuz most flyin’.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“About the only game I can remember playing as a child was a doll game.
The Crawford children would use me for the doll, and then when my turn
came to play mamma and claim one of them for my doll, Miss Fanny or Miss
Sue would appear and then I would have to be a doll for them. I didn’t
mind, for I dearly loved them all.”

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Chillun never had no wuk to do. Dey jus’ et and frolicked around
gittin’ into evvything dey could find. Dey never got no lickin’s ‘less
dey was mighty bad, ’cause our Marster said he warn’t gwine to ‘low no
beatin’ on his Niggers ‘cept what he done his own self, and dat was
pow’ful little. In hot weather chillun played on de crick and de best
game of all was to play lak it was big meetin’ time. White chillun loved
to play dar too wid de little slave chillun. Us would have make-believe
preachin’ and baptizin’ and de way us would sing was a sight.

“De wooden bowls what slave chillun et out of was made out of sweetgum
trees. Us et wid mussel shells ‘stid of spoons. Dem mussel shells was
all right. Us could use ’em to git up plenty of bread and milk, or
cornpone soaked wid peas and pot likker. Dey never let chillun have no
meat ’til dey was big enough to wuk in de fields. Us had biscuit once a
week, dat was Sunday breakfast, and dem biscuits was cakebread to us. De
fust bought meat us chillun ever seed was a slab of side-meat Daddy got
from de sto’ atter us had done left de plantation, and us was skeered to
eat it ’cause it warn’t lak what us had been used to.

“Chillun jus’ wore one piece of clothes in summertime and dey all went
bar’foots. De gals’ summer gyarment was a plain, sleeveless apron dress,
and de boys wore skimpy little shirts and nothin’ else. Dey mixed
cow-hair wid de cotton when dey wove de cloth to make our winter clothes
out of, and I’m a-tellin’ you Missy, dat cow-hair cloth sho’ could
scratch, but it was good and warm and Marster seed to it dat us had all
de clothes us needed. De ‘omans made all de cloth used on de place; dey
cyarded, spun, and den wove it. Mammy was de weaver; dat was all she
done, jus’ wove cloth. Dey dyed it wid red mud and ink balls, and sich
lak.”

[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]

“Absolute cleanliness was required at all times and the floors, if they
were made of wood, had to be swept and scrubbed often. In addition to
the private dwellings there was one large house where all children not
old enough to go to the field were kept. One or two of the older women
took charge of them, seeing that they had a sufficient amount of corn
bread, vegetables and milk each day. All were fed from a trough like
little pigs.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“Dere was six of us chillun: me and Frances, Beulah, Thomas, Felix, and
Scott. Dere was mighty little wuk done by chillun in slav’ry days. I
jus’ played ’round and kicked up my heels wid de rest of de chillun.
When us played our hidin’ game, us sung somepin’ lak dis:

‘Mollie, Mollie Bright
Three score and ten,
Can I git dere by candlelight?
Yes, if your laigs is long enough!’

“Sometimes us played what us called de ‘Crow’ game. Us spread our
fingers out, side by side and counted ’em out wid a rhyme. De one de
last word of de rhyme fell on had to be de crow. I didn’t love to be
counted out and made de crow, but it was a heap of fun to count de
others out. Since I been knee high to a grasshopper, I ain’t never done
nothin’ but wuk ’round white folks’ houses.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“Little slave boys played wid sun-baked marbles, made of mud, and old
rag balls, what was sho’ a heap diffunt from what chilluns thinks dey
has got to have dese days ‘fore dey kin have a good time.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“What did us chillun do? Us wukked lak hosses. Didn’t nobody eat dar
‘less dey wukked. I’se been wukkin’ ever since I come in dis world.

“All dat us chillun wore in summer was jus’ one little shirt. It was a
long time ‘fore us knowed dere was folks anywhar dat put more dan one
piece of clothes on chillun in summer. Grandpa Jack made de red shoes us
wore widout no socks in winter. Our other winter clothes was cotton
shirts and pants, and coats what had a little wool in ’em. Summer times
us went bar headed, but Unker Ned made bullrush hats for us to wear in
winter. Dere warn’t no diff’unt clothes for Sunday. Us toted our shoes
‘long in our hands goin’ to church. Us put ’em on jus’ ‘fore us got dar
and tuk ’em off again soon as us got out of sight of de meetin’ house on
de way back home.

“One game us chillun played was ‘doodle.’ Us would find us a doodle hole
and start callin’ de doodle bug to come out. You might talk and talk but
if you didn’t promise him a jug of ‘lasses he wouldn’t come up to save
your life. One of de songs us sung playin’ chilluns games was sorter lak
dis:

“Whose been here
Since I been gone?
A pretty little gal
Wid a blue dress on.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“What for you wants to know what I played when I was a little gal? Dat
was a powerful long time ago. Us played in de sand piles, jumped rope,
played hide and seek and Old Mother Hubbard.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Wheeler tells of his life on the plantations for his time was spent
between the two where he played with the other little slaves and with
the white boys near his age. He enjoyed most playing marbles, hunting
and fishing with the little Gresham boys. He never has had a punishment
of any kind in all his whole long life, and said with much pride–“An’ I
ain’t never been in no court scrape neither. No’m, my Marsters didn’t
‘low nobody ter ‘buke dey han’s. Ef a overseer got rough an’ wanted to
beat a nigger, he had to go right den and dar.” He added: “Dem overseer
fellows wuz rough anyhow, dey warn’t our sort of folks. An’ de owners
what wuz mean to dey niggers wuz looked down on by ‘spectable white
folks lak dem what I belonged to.”

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

“Miss, my mother was one of the best women God ever made. Back in
slavery time I recall the trundle bed that we children slept on. In the
day it was pushed under the big bed, and at night it was pulled out for
us to sleep on. All through cold, bitter winter nights, I remember my
mother getting up often to see about us and to keep the cover tucked in.
She thought us sound asleep, and I pretended I was asleep while
listening to her prayers. She would bend down over the bed and
stretching her arms so as to take us all in, she prayed with all her
soul to God to help her bring up her children right. Don’t think now
that she let God do it all; she helped God, bless your life, by keeping
a switch right at hand.”

“Uncle Dave you didn’t have to be chastised, did you?”

“I got two or three whippings every day. You see my mother didn’t let
God do it all. You know if you spare the rod you spoil the child, and
that switch stimulated, regulated, persuaded and strengthened my memory,
and went a long way toward making me do the things my mother told me to
do. Hurrah for my mother! God bless her memory!”

“What about your father, Uncle Dave?”

“My father was a good man; he backed my mother in her efforts to bring
us up right. He told me many a time, ‘Boy, you need two or three
killings every day!'”

“Uncle Dave why were you so obstreperous?”

“Miss, you see I was the baby in the family a long time, as three
brothers born after me died in infancy. I was petted and spoiled, and
later on they had to whip it out of me.”

“Uncle Dave what did you do when you were a little slave?”

“Well, there was a whole drove of us little niggers. We had lots of
chickens, cattle, hogs, sheep, etc. I had to help get up the eggs, drive
cattle, open gates, go on errands for Marster, and Marster most always
took me on trips with him, letting me ride in the foot of his buggy. I
was his favorite little pet nigger.”

“In 1863, Miss Elizabeth was going to have big company at her house, and
she was saving her strawberries for the occasion. I spied all these
nice, ripe strawberries through the paling fence, and the whole crowd of
us little niggers thought they needed picking. We found an opening on
the lower side of the fence and made our way in, destroying all of those
luscious ripe strawberries. When we had about finished the job, Mistress
saw us, and hollered at us. Did we scatter! In the jam for the fence
hole I was the last one to get through and Mistress had gotten there by
that time and had me by the collar. She took me back to the house, got
the cow hide down, and commenced rubbing it over me. Before she got
through, she cut me all to pieces. I still have signs of those whelps on
me today. In the fight I managed to bite her on the wrist, causing her
to almost bleed to death. I finally got away and ran to a hiding place
of safety. [HW: I] They used soot and other things trying to stop the
bleeding.

“When Marster come home he saw Miss Elizabeth with her hand all bandaged
up, and wanted to know what the trouble was. He was told the story, so
he came out to look for me. He called me out from my hiding place, and
when he saw me with those awful whelps on me, and how pitiful looking I
was, he said, “Elizabeth, you done ruint my little nigger, David.” “I
wouldn’t have him in this fix for all the strawberries.” I was very fond
of strawberries in those days, but that experience put an end forever to
my taste for them. So much for the strawberry business!

“Even a dog [HW: likes] kind treatment. Some days Mistress was good and
kind to us little niggers, and she would save us the cold biscuits to
give us when we brought in the eggs. Sometime, she would go two or three
days without giving us any biscuits then she didn’t get no eggs. We
rascals would get up the eggs and go off and have a rock battle with
them. Every effect has a cause–then Miss would wonder why she didn’t
get any eggs and call us all in for cold biscuits, then the eggs would
come again. Of course we had our game of “tell”. If one of the gang
threatened to tell, then we all would threaten to tell all we knew on
him, and somehow we managed to get by with it all.”

[David Gullins, Part II, Georgia]

“Mr. Hammond continued–“Many a morning I have known the overseers on the
plantation where we were stopping to blow the horn for every one to get
up, long before sunrise prepare their breakfast and get to the fields.
The old women were required to care for the young children while their
mothers worked in the fields. Sometimes there would be a many as ten and
fifteen for each to look after. Around noon they were fed from a trough
which was about ten or fifteen feet in length. Pot liquor by the buckets
was thrown in the trough until they were filled. The children with
spoons in their hands would then line up on each side no sooner was the
signal given than they began eating like a lot of pigs. The smaller ones
would often jump in with their feet.”

[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]

“I wuz borned an’ raised on de Smith plantation out here a piece frum
town. I wuz one of fourteen chillun, I think I wuz de 10th ‘un. We wuz
well took keer of by our Marster an’ his fust wife, she wuz jes’ as good
ter us as she could be, my fust Mistess wuz, but she died an’ Marster
married agin an’ she wuz mean ter us little niggers. She’d whup us fuh
nothin’, an’ us didn’t known what ter do, kase our fust Mistess wuz so
good ter us, but dat last ‘oman, she sho’ wuz mean ter us.

“My Marster had lots of slaves an’ us all had work ter do. De fust work
I done wuz churnin’ an’ I loved ter do ‘hit kase I loved milk an’ butter
so good. I’d dance an’ dance ’round dat ole churn, churnin’ an’ churnin’
’till de butter wuz come. I allus could dance, I cuts fancy steps now
sometimes when I feels good. At one o’ dem big ole country breakdowns
(dances), one night when I wuz young, I danced down seben big strong
mens, dey thought dey wuz sumpin’! Huh, I danced eb’ry one down!

“I uster play dolls wid de overseer’s chillun, an’ look fuh aigs, an’
tote in wood an’ pick up chips. Us had good times togeder, all us little
niggers an’ de little white chilluns. Us had two days at Chris’mus, an’
no work wuz done on de place of a Sunday. Everybody white an’ black had
ter go ter Chu’ch. De overseer piled us all in de waggin an’ took us
whether us wanted ter go or no. Us niggers set up in de loft (gallery),
an’ de white folks wuz down in de Chu’ch too.

“Atter er while dey s’lected me out to be a housegirl an’ den I slep’ in
de big house. All de little niggers et in de white folks’ kitchen out’n
er big tray whut wuz lak a trough. De cook put our victuals in de tray
an’ gib us a spoon an’ pone er bread a piece an’ made us set ‘roun’ dat
tray an’ eat all us wanted. ‘Hit wuz good eatin’, too.”

[Jane Harmon, Part II, Georgia]

“Chilluns what was big ‘nough to do anything had to wuk. I was a moughty
little chap when dey started me in as houseboy. I slept on a trun’le
(trundle) bed in Miss Annie’s room. In de daytime my little trun’le bed
was rolled back out of sight under Miss Annie’s big old four poster
teester bed. I kep’ a fire burnin’ in her room winter and summer. Night
times she would call me. ‘Tom! Tom!’ Sometimes I was so soun’ asleep I
didn’t answer. Den pop, she would hit me on de head wid her long stick.
Den I knowed hit was time to fire up her pipe. She smoked dat pipe a
pow’ful lot atter Marse Johnny died.”

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout slavery times ‘cept what my Mammy and Daddy
told me. Daddy, he belonged to Marse Tom Heard down in Elbert County,
’bout 10 miles from Rucker place, nigh Ruckersville. Daddy said Marse
Tom had about a hunnerd and twenty-five slaves on his place. Daddy was
mighty little when Marse Tom got him, and he never bought none of
Daddy’s other kinfolks, so it was right hard for de little boy all by
hisself, ’cause de other slaves on de plantation was awful mean to him.
Dey wouldn’t let him sleep in deir quarters, so he stayed up at de big
house, and place to keep warm. Atter he got big enough to wuk, day
treated him better.”

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“No, mam, slaves warn’t paid no money them days, and it’s mightly little
I’se got holt of since. Anyhow I warn’t big enough then to do no wuk,
even if folks had been payin’ wages to slaves. The most I ever done
‘fore the war ended was to fetch water to the kitchen and pick up chips
to kindle up the fire when it got low. Matches was so scarce then that
fires warn’t ‘lowed to go slap out, but they did burn mighty low
sometimes in summer and us had to use fat lightwood splinters to git ’em
started up again.

“Right now I can’t call to mind nothin’ us played when I was a chap but
marble games. Us made them marbles out of clay and baked ’em in the sun.
Grown folks used to scare chillun ’bout Raw Head and Bloody Bones, but
that was mostly to make chillun git still and quiet at night. I ain’t
never seed no ghost in my life, but I has heared a heap of sounds and
warn’t able to find out what made them noises.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Miss, chilluns what was knee high to a duck had to wuk. ‘Til dey was
big and strong enough for field wuk, little Niggers done all sorts of
piddlin’ jobs. Dey toted water to de big house and to de hands in de
fields, fotched in chips and wood, and watched de cows. Me? I nussed
most of de time.”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“I don’t know if I was no pet, but I did stay up at de big house most of
de time, and one thing I loved to do up dar was to follow Miss Betsy
’round totin’ her sewin’ basket. When wuk got tight and hot in crop
time, I helped de other chillun tote water to de hands. De bucket would
slamp ‘gainst my laigs all along de way, and most of de water would be
done splashed out ‘fore I got to de field.

“Marse David and his fambly most allus sont deir notes and messages by
me and another yearlin’ boy what was ‘lowed to lay ’round de big house
yard so us would be handy to wait on our white folks. Dey give you de
note what dey done writ, and dey say: ‘Boy, if you lose dis note, you’ll
git a whuppin’! All de time you was carryin’ dem notes you had your
whuppin’ in your hand and didn’t know it, lessen you lost de note.

“Pitchin’ hoss shoes and playin’ marbles was heaps and lots of fun when
I was growin’ up. Atter while, de old folks ‘cided dem games was
gamblin’ and wouldn’t let us play no more.

“When Marse David changed me f’um calf shepherd to cowboy, he sont three
or four of us boys to drive de cows to a good place to graze ’cause de
male beast was so mean and bad ’bout gittin’ atter chillun, he thought
if he sont enough of us dere wouldn’t be no trouble. Dem days, dere
warn’t no fence law, and calves was jus’ turned loose in de pastur to
graze. Da fust time I went by myself to drive de cows off to graze and
come back wid ’em, Aunt Vinnie ‘ported a bunch of de cows was missin’,
’bout 20 of em, when she done de milkin’ dat night, and I had to go back
huntin’ dem cows. De moon come out, bright and clear, but I couldn’t see
dem cows nowhar–didn’t even hear de bell cow. Atter while I was
standin’ in de mayberry field a-lookin’ crost Dry Fork Crick and dere
was dem cows. De bell was pulled so clost on de bell cow’s neck whar she
was caught in de bushes, dat it couldn’t ring. I looked at dem cows–den
I looked at de crick whar I could see snakes as thick as de fingers on
your hand, but I knowed I had to git dem cows back home, so I jus’ lit
out and loped ‘cross dat crick so fast dem snakes never had no chanct to
bite me. Dat was de wust racket I ever got in.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Children tattlers kept Mr. Huff informed regarding the happenings in the
quarters, but their silence could be bought with a few shin plasters.
This “hush” money and that made from running errands were enough to keep
the children supplied with spending change. Often, when their childish
prattle had caused some adult to be punished, Mrs. Huff would keep them
in the house for a night to escape the wrath of the offender.”

[Annie Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Chillun never had to wuk on our plantation ’til dey was big enough to
go to de fields, and dat was when dey was around 12 to 14 years old. Dey
jus’ played ’round de yards and down by de wash-place dat was a little
ways off from de big house on a branch dat run from de big spring. On
wash days dat was a busy place, wid lots of ‘omans bending over dem
great big wash pots and de biggest old wooden tubs I ever seed. Dere was
plenty racket ’round de battlin’ block whar dey beat de dirt out of de
clothes, and dey would sing long as dey was a-washin’.

“Marster was sho good to his Niggers all de time. Course he made ’em wuk
‘less dey was sick. Chillun never had nothin’ to do ‘cept eat, sleep,
and play. Evvy time Marse Jack come out to his plantation he brung candy
for all de pickaninnies, and, Honey, it warn’t in no little sacks
neither; dere was allus plenty for ’em all, and it was a mighty big
crowd of us. Marster loved to come out on Sundays to see us chillun git
our heads combed. Honey, dere sho was hollerin’ on dat place when dey
started wukin’ on us wid dem jim crow combs what was made lak a curry
comb ‘ceppin’ dey warn’t quite as wide acrost. When dem jim crow combs
got stuck in dat tangled, kinky wool, damn if dem chillun didn’t yell,
and Marster would laugh and tell Granny Rose to comb it good.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“The little slaves were fed pig-fashion in the kitchen, but they were
given just so much food and no more. They were alloted two garments at
the time, summer and winter: “Why, honey, I never had no shoes ’til
after freedom come. I’ve walked on snow many a time barefooted with my
feet so cold my toes wuz stickin’ straight up with no feelin’ in ’em.
The white folks had a trained shoe-maker slave an’ he made shoes fer
them, but us little niggers didn’t have none. The first shoes I ever
remembers had wooden bottoms an’ sich a sound as they made when the
folks walked ’round with ’em on.”

[Emma Hurley, Part II, Georgia]

“Us chillun didn’t have to do no hard wuk, jus’ played ’round de yards
wid de white chillun mos’ of de time. One of our little jobs was to git
in plenty of wood for de fires. Chestnut and hick’ry wood made de bes’
fires and dere was allus plenty of good kindlin’ to git ’em started. Oak
and pine bark was good to make de pot bile in a hurry. Dem ovens would
bake lak evvything wid heaps of hot coals piled ’round ’em.”

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

“Yes, chile, I can see Mistus now a-ridin’ up on her grey horse, “Pat”,
wid er basket on her arm plum full of biscuit! Yes, chile, white
biscuits! and ain’t no short cake ever been made what could hold a light
to dem biscuits. Mistus would say, ‘Where’s dem chillun, Mammy?’

“Lawdy, you never seed so many little niggers pop up in all yo’
life–just ‘peared lak de come right out o’ de groun’. Sometimes dere
‘ud be so many chillun, she’d have to break de biscuits to make ’em go
‘roun’ and sometimes when she’s have an extry big basket, she’d say,
‘Bring on de milk, and less feed dese chullun.’ A big bucket o’ milk
would be brung and po’d in little troughs and de’d lay down on dey
little stommacks, and eat jest lak pigs! But de wuz jest as slick and
fat as yer please–lots fatter an us is now! And clean too. Old Mustus
would say, ‘Mammy, you scrub dese chillun and use dat “Jim-Crow.”‘ Lawd,
chile! I done fergot you doan know what a “Jim-Crow” wus–dat’s a little
fine com’ what’ll jest natchully take the skin plum off yo’ haid ‘long
wid de dirt.”

[Easter Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“I was born and raised up right dar. Ma wukked in de fields, and
Mist’ess brung me up in de big house ’cause she said I was gwine to have
to wait on her when she got old. Dare was sho’ a moughty big lot of
slave chillun a-comin’ on all de time and Marster and Mist’ess was good
as dey could be to all of ’em.

“Whilst us was little, slave chillun didn’t have much wuk to do. De
littlest ones just picked up trash when de yards was bein’ cleant up and
done easy jobs lak dat.

“Marse Hamp never fooled wid dem little one track stores at Maxeys, de
town nighest our plantation. When he needed somepin’, he just cotch a
train and lit out for ‘Gusty (Augusta), Georgie. Mist’ess knowed when he
was comin’ back, and she allus sont de car’iage to meet him. When us
chillun seed ’em gittin’ out de car’iage and hosses, us didn’t wait, us
just lit out and when dat train got to de crossin’ all of us was right
dar a-waitin’ to see our Marster step off. Den us followed dat car’iage
down de big road plum back to de plantation, ’cause us knowed Marster
never forgot none of us. Dere was new dresses for de gals and clothes
for de boys too, and us felt moughty proud when us dressed up in dem
store bought clothes f’um ‘Gusty. Chilluns’ evvy day clothes was just
slips cut all in one piece, sleeves and all. Boys wore long shirts ’til
dey was big and strong enough for field wuk. Clothes for de grown folks
was made out of cloth wove in de loom house right dar on de plantation,
but dere was some beaded cloth too.”

[Mahala Jewel, Part II, Georgia]

“As a little girl Jennie Kendricks spent all of her time in the master’s
house where she played with the young white children. Sometimes she and
Mrs. Moore’s youngest child, a little boy, would fight because it
appeared to one that the other was receiving more attention from Mrs.
Moore than the other. As she grew older she was kept in the house as a
playmate to the Moore children so she never had to work in the field a
single day.”

[Jennie Kendricks, Part III, Georgia]

“Charlie said that all the “Niggers” on “ole Master’s place” had to work,
“even chillun over seven or eight years of age.”

The first work that Charlie remembered was “toting cawn” for his mother
“to drap”, and sweeping the yards up at the “big house”. He also recalls
that many times when he was in the yard at the “big house”, “Ole Miss”
would call him in and give him a buttered biscuit.

The Master and Mistress always named the Negro babies and usually gave
them Bible names.

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

[Charlie King, Part III, Georgia]

“I never done much field wuk ’til de war come on, ’cause Mistess was
larnin’ me to be a housemaid. Marse Gerald and Miss Annie never had no
chillun ’cause she warn’t no bearin’ ‘oman, but dey was both mighty fond
of little folks. On Sunday mornin’s mammy used to fix us all up nice and
clean and take us up to de big house for Marse Gerald to play wid. Dey
was good christian folks and tuk de mostest pains to larn us chillun how
to live right. Marster used to ‘low as how he had done paid $500 for
Ca’line but he sho wouldn’t sell her for no price.”

[Nicey Kinney, Part III, Georgia]

“Little Niggers, what was too young to wuk in de fields, toted water to
de field hands and waited on de old ‘omans what was too old to wuk in de
craps. Dem old ‘omans looked atter de babies and piddled ’round de
yards.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“When “Aunt” Matilda was old enough to do a little work, she was moved
into the house where she swept floors, waited on the table, and fanned
flies while a meal was being served. The adult females who lived in the
house did most of the weaving and sewing. All the summer, garments were
made and put away for winter use. Two dresses of osnaburg were then
given each person.”

[Matilda McKinney, Part III, Georgia]

“My Aunt Mary b’longed to Marse John Craddock and when his wife died and
left a little baby–dat was little Miss Lucy–Aunt Mary was nussin’ a
new baby of her own, so Marse John made her let his baby suck too. If
Aunt Mary was feedin’ her own baby and Miss Lucy started cryin’ Marse
John would snatch her baby up by the legs and spank him, and tell Aunt
Mary to go on and nuss his baby fust. Aunt Mary couldn’t answer him a
word, but my ma said she offen seed Aunt Mary cry ’til de tears met
under her chin.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“Slaves not needed on the home plantation were “hired out” to other land
owners for from $200.00 to $300.00 a year. This was done the first of
each year by an auction from a “horse block”. When Mollie was seven
months old her mother, Clacy Brock, was “hired out” and she was taken
care of by two old Negroes, too old to work, and who did nothing but
care for the little “Niggers”. Mollie grew up with these children
between the “big house” and the kitchen. When she was old enough she was
“put to mind” the smaller children and if they did’nt behave she pinched
them, but “when the ‘ole Miss found it out, she’d sure ‘whup me'”, she
said. These children were fed cornbread and milk for breakfast and
supper, and “pot licker” with cornbread for dinner. They slept in a
large room on quilts or pallets. Each night the larger children were
given so many “cuts” to spin, and were punished if all weren’t finished.
The thread was woven into cloth on the loom and made into clothes by the
slaves who did the sewing. There were no “store bought” clothes, and
Mollie was free before she ever owned a pair of shoes. Clothes had to be
furnished by the owner for the slaves he “hired out”.

The young lady daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Brock wore “drag tail” dresses,
and Mollie says the little Negroes had to hold these long skirts off the
ground whenever they were out doors, then spread them as they went into
the house so they could “strut.”

[Mollie Malone, Part III, Georgia]

“I didn’t have much time fer playin’ when I wus little cause I wuz allus
busy waitin’ on my mistis er taking care of my little brothers and
sisters. But I did have a doll to play with. It wuz a rag doll an my
mistis made it fer me. I wuz jes crazy ’bout that doll and I learned how
to sew making clothes fer it. I’d make clothes fer it an wash an iron
’em, and it wasn’t long ‘fo I knowed how to sew real good, an I been
sewing ever since.”

[Susan Matthews, Part III, Georgia]

“As Fanny grew up, she was trained by “ole Miss” to be a house girl, and
did “sech wuk” as churning, minding the flies “offen de table when de
white folks et, gwine backards and forads to de smoke-house for my
mammy.”

She recalls that when she “minded the flies offen the table she allus
got plenty of biscuits and scraps o’ fried chicken the white folks left
on their plates.” “But,” Fanny added with a satisfied smile, “Marse
Green’s darkies never wanted for sumpin t’eat, case he give ’em a
plenty, even molasses all dey wanted.” Fanny and her mammy always ate in
“de Missis kitchen.”

[Fanny Nix, Part III, Georgia]

“When asked to describe the work assigned to little Negroes, she quickly
answered: “Chilluns didn’t do nuffin’. Grownup Negroes done all de wuk.
All chilluns done wuz to frolic and play. I wuz jes’ ‘lowed ter tote de
key basket kaze I wuz all time hangin’ ’round de big house, and wanted
so bad to stay close to my ma in de kitchen and to be nigh Ole Miss.

“What sort of clo’es did I wear in dem days? Why Lady, I had good
clo’es. Atter my little mistesses wore dey clo’es a little, Ole Miss
give ’em to me. Ma allus made me wear clean, fresh clo’es, and go
dressed up good all de time so I’d be fittin’ to carry de key basket for
Ole Miss. Some of de udder slave chilluns had homemade shoes, but I
allus had good sto’-bought shoes what my young mistess done outgrowed,
or what some of de comp’ny gimme. Comp’ny what had chilluns ’bout my
size, gimme heaps of clo’es and shoes, and some times dey didn’t look
like dey’d been wore none hardly.”

[Anna Parkes, Part III, Georgia]

“I was a water boy, and was ‘spected to tote water f’um de spring to de
house, and to de hands in de fiel’. I helped Mandy, one of de colored
gals, to drive de calves to de pasture and I toted in a little wood and
done little easy jobs lak dat. Lawsy Miss! I never seed no money ’til
atter de War. If I had a had any money what could I have done wid it,
when I couldn’t leave dat place to spend it?

“Dare ain’t much to tell ’bout what little Nigger chillun done in
slavery days. Dem what was big enough had to wuk, and dem what warn’t,
played, slep’ and scrapped. Little Niggers is bad as game chickens ’bout
fightin’.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“Marster never let none of de slave chillun on his plantation do no wuk
’til dey got fifteen–dat was soon ‘nough, he said. On all of his
plantations dere was one old ‘oman dat didn’t have nothin’ else to do
but look atter and cook for de nigger chillun whilst dey mammies was at
wuk in de fields. Aunt Viney tuk keer of us. She had a big old horn what
she blowed when it was time for us to eat, and us knowed better dan to
git so fur off us couldn’t hear dat horn, for Aunt Viney would sho’ tear
us up. Marster had done told her she better fix us plenty t’eat and give
it to us on time. Dere was a great long trough what went plum ‘cross de
yard, and dat was whar us et. For dinner us had peas or some other sort
of veg’tables, and cornbread. Aunt Viney crumbled up dat bread in de
trough and poured de veg’tables and pot-likker over it. Den she blowed
de horn and chillun come a-runnin’ from evvy which away. If us et it all
up, she had to put more victuals in de trough. At nights, she crumbled
de cornbread in de trough and poured buttermilk over it. Us never had
nothin’ but cornbread and buttermilk at night. Sometimes dat trough
would be a sight, ’cause us never stopped to wash our hands, and ‘fore
us had been eatin’ more dan a minute or two what was in de trough would
look lak de red mud what had come off of our hands. Sometimes Aunt Viney
would fuss at us and make us clean it out.

“Dere was a big sand bar down on de crick what made a fine place to
play, and wadin’ in de branches was lots of fun. Us frolicked up and
down dem woods and had all sorts of good times–anything to keep away
from Aunt Viney ’cause she was sho’ to have us fetchin’ in wood or
sweepin’ de yards if us was handy whar she could find us. If us was out
of her sight she never bothered ’bout dem yards and things. Us was
skeered to answer dat horn when us got in Marster’s ‘bacco. He raised
lots of ‘bacco and rationed it out to mens, but he never ‘lowed chillun
to have none ’til dey was big enough to wuk in de fields. Us found out
how to git in his ‘bacco house and us kept on gittin’ his ‘bacco ‘fore
it was dried out ’til he missed it. Den he told Aunt Viney to blow dat
horn and call up all de chillun. I’se gwine to whup evvy one of ’em, he
would ‘clare. Atter us got dere and he seed dat green ‘bacco had done
made us so sick us couldn’t eat, he jus’ couldn’t beat us. He jus’
laughed and said: ‘It’s good enough for you.'”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

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