"I was named Charlie Davenport an' *encordin' to de way I figgers I ought to be nearly a hund'ed years old. Nobody knows my birthday, 'cause all my white folks is gone.
"I was born one night an' de very nex' mornin' my po' little mammy died. Her name was Lucindy. My pa was William Davenport.
"When I was a little mite dey turnt me over to de granny nurse on de plantation. She was de one dat 'tended to de little pickaninnies. She got a woman to nurse me what had a young baby, so I didn't know no dif'ence. Any woman what had a baby 'bout my age would wet nurse me, so I growed up in de quarters an' was as well an' as happy as any other chil'.
"When I could tote *taters dey'd let me pick 'em up in de fiel'. Us always hid a pile away where us could git 'em an' roast 'em at night.
"Old mammy nearly always made a heap o' dewberry an' *'simmon wine.
"Us little tykes would gather black walnuts in de woods an' store 'em under de cabins to dry.
"At night when de work was all done an' de can'les was out us'd set 'roun' de fire an' eat cracked nuts an' taters. Us picked out de nuts wid horse-shoe nails an' baked de taters in ashes. Den Mammy would pour herse'f an' her old man a cup o' wine. Us never got none o' dat *less'n us be's sick. Den she'd mess it up wid wild cherry bark. It was bad den, but us gulped it down, anyhow.
"Old Granny used to sing a song to us what went lak dis:
'Kinky head, whar-fore you skeered?
Old snake crawled off, 'cause he's afeared.
Pappy will smite 'im on de back
Wid a great big club - ker whack! Ker whack!'
"Aventine, where I was born an' bred, was acrost Secon' Creek. It was a big plantation wid 'bout a hund'ed head o' folks a-livin' on it. It was only one o' de marster's places, 'cause he was one o' de riches' an' highes' quality gent'men in de whole country. I's tellin' you de trufe, us didn' b'long to no white trash. De marster was de Honorable Mister Gabriel Shields hisse'f. Ever'body knowed 'bout him. He married a Surget.
"Dem Surgets was pretty devilish; for all dey was de riches' fam'ly in de lan'. Dey was de out-fightin'es', out-cussin'es', fastes' ridin', hardes' drinkin', out-spendin'es' folks I ever seen. But Lawd! Lawd! Dey was gent'men even in dey cups. De ladies was beautiful wid big black eyes an' sof' white han's, but dey was high strung, too.
"De marster had a town mansion what's pictured in a lot o' books. It was called 'Montebella.' De big columns still stan' at de end o' Shields Lane. It burnt 'bout thirty years ago(1937).
"I's part Injun. I aint got no Nigger nose an' my hair is so long I has to keep it *wropped. I'se often heard my mammy was reddih-lookin' wid long, straight, black hair. Her pa was a full blooded Choctaw an' mighty nigh as young as she was. I'se been tol' dat nobody *dast meddle wid her. She didn' do much talkin', but she sho' was a good worker. My pappy had Injun blood, too, but his hair was kinky.
"De Choctaws lived all 'roun' Secon' Creek. Some of 'em had cabins lak settled folks. I can 'member dey las' chief. He was a tall pow'ful built man named 'Big Sam.' What he said was de law, 'cause he was de boss o' de whole tribe. One rainy night he was kilt in a saloon down in 'Natchez Under de Hill.' De Injuns went wild wid rage an' grief. Dey sung an' wailed an' done a heap o' low mutterin'. De sheriff kep' a steady watch on 'em, 'cause he was afeared dey would do somethin' rash. After a long time he kinda let up in his vig'lance. Den one night some o' de Choctaw mens slipped in town an' *stobbed de man dey b'lieved had kilt Big Sam. I 'members dat well.
"As I said b'fore, I growed up in de quarters. De houses was clean an' snug. Us was better fed den dan I is now, an' warmer, too. Us had blankets an' quilts filled wid home raised wool an' I jus' loved layin' in de big fat feather bed a-hearin' de rain patter on de roof.
"All de little darkeys he'ped bring in wood. Den us swept de yards wid brush brooms. Den sometimes us played together in de street what run de length o' de quarters. Us th'owed horse-shoes, jumped poles, walked on stilts, an' played marbles. Sometimes us made bows an' arrows. Us could shoot 'em, too, jus lak de little Injuns.
"A heap o' times old Granny would brush us hide wid a peach tree limb, but us need it. Us stole *aigs an' roasted 'em. She sho' wouldn' stan' for no stealin' if she knowed it.
"Us wore lowell-cloth shirts. It was a coarse tow-sackin'. In winter us had linsey-woolsey pants an' heavy cow-hide shoes. Dey was made in three sizes - big, little, an' *mejum. Twant no right or lef'. Dey was sorts club-shaped so us could wear 'em on either foot.
"I was a teasin', mis-che-vious chil' an' de overseer's little gal got it in for me. He was a big, hard fisted Dutchman bent on gittin' riches. He trained his pasty-faced gal to tattle on us Niggers. She got a heap o' folks whipped. I knowed it, but I was hasty; One day she hit me wid a stick an' I th'owed it back at her. 'Bout dat time up walked her pa. He seen what I done, but he didn' see what she done to me. But it wouldn' a-made no dif'ence, if he had.
"He snatched me in de air an' toted me to a stump an' laid me 'crost it. I didn' have but one thickness 'twixt me an' daylight. Cent'man! He laid it on me wid dat stick. I thought I'd die. All de time his mean little gal was a-gloatin' in my misery. I yelled an' prayed to de Lawd 'til he quit.
"Den he say to me,
'From now on you works in de fiel'. I aint gwine a-have no vicious boy lak you 'roun de lady folks.' I was too little for fiel' work, but de nex' mornin' I went to choppin' cotton. After dat I made a reg'lar fiel' han'. When I growed up I was a ploughman. I could sho' lay off a pretty cotton row, too.
"Us slaves was fed good plain grub. 'Fore us went to de fiel' us had a big braskfas' o' hot bread, 'lasses, fried salt meat dipped in corn meal, an' fried * taters. Sometimes us had fish an' rabbit meat. When us was in de fiel', two women 'ud come at dinner-time wid basket's filled wid hot pone, baked taters, corn roasted in de shucks, onion, fried squash, an' b'iled pork. Sometimes dey brought buckets o' cold butter-milk. It sho' was good to a hongry man. At supper-time us had hoecake an' cold vi'tals. Sometimes dey was sweetmilk an' collards.
"Mos' ever' slave had his own little garden patch an' was 'lowed to cook out o' it.
"Mos' ever plantation kep' a man busy huntin' an' fishin' all de time. (If dey shot a big buck, us had deer meat roasted on a spit.)
"On Sundays us always had meat pie or fish or fresh game an' roasted taters an' coffee. On Chris'mus de marster 'ud give us chicken an' barrels o' apples an' oranges. 'Course, ever' marster warnt as free handed as our'n was. (He was sho' 'nough quality.) I'se hear'd dat a heap o' cullud people never had nothin' good t'eat.
"I warnt learnt nothin' in no book. Don't think I'd a-took to it, nowhow. Dey learnt de house servants to read. Us fiel' han's never knowed nothin' 'cept weather an' dirt an' to weigh cotton. Us was learnt to figger a little, but dat's all.
"I reckon I was 'bout fifteen when hones' Abe Lincoln what called hisse'f a rail-splitter come here to talk wid us. He want all th'ough de country jus' a-rantin' an' a-preachin' 'bout us bein' his black brothers. De marster didn' know nothin' 'bout it, 'cause it was sorta secret-lak. It sho' riled de Niggers up an' lots of 'em run sway. I sho' hear'd him, but I didn' pay 'im no min'.
"When de war broke out dat old Yankee Dutch overseer o' our'n went back up North, where he b'longed. Us was pow'ful glad an' hoped he'd git his neck broke.
"After dat de Yankees come a-swoopin' down on us. My own pappy took off wid 'em. He j'ined a comp'ny what *fit at Vicksburg. I was plenty big 'nough to fight, but I didn' hanker to tote no gun. I stayed on de plantation an' put in a crop.
"It was pow'ful oneasy times after dat. But what I care 'bout freedom? Folks what was free was in misery firs' one way an' den de other.
"I was on de plantation closer to town, den. It was called 'Fish Pond Plantation.' De white folks come an' tol' us we mus' burn all de cotton so de enemy couldn' git it.
"Us piled it high in de fiel's lak great mountains. It made my innards hurt to see fire 'tached to somethin' dat had cost us Niggers so much labor an' hones' sweat. If I could a-hid some o' it in de barn I'd a-done it, but de boss searched ever'where.
"De little Niggers thought it was fun. Dey laughed an' brung out big armfuls from de cotton house. One little black gal clapped her han's an' jumped in a big heap. She sunk down an' down 'til she was buried deep. Den de wind picked up do flame an' spread it lak lightenin'. It spread so fas' dat 'fore us could bat de eye, she was in a mountain o' fiah. She struggled up all covered wid flames, a-screamin', 'Lawdy, he'p me!' Us snatched her out an' rolled her on de groun', but twant no use. She died in a few minutes.
"De marster's some went to war. De one what us loved bes' never come back no more. Us mourned him a-plenty, 'cause he was so jolly an' happy-lak, an' free wid his change. Us all felt cheered when he come 'roun'.
"Us Niggers didn' know nothin' 'bout what was gwine on in de outside worl'. All us knowed was dat a war was bein' fit. Pussonally, I b'lieve in what Marse Jefferson Davis done. He done de only thing a gent'man could a-done. He tol' Marse Abe Lincoln to 'tend to his own bus'ness an' he'd 'tend to his'n. But Marse Lincoln was a fightin' man an' he come down here an' tried to run other folks' plantations. Dat made Marse Davis so all fired mad dat he spit hard 'twixt his teeth an' say, 'I'll whip de socks off den dam Yankees.'
"Dat's how it all come 'bout.
"My white folks los' money, cattle, slaves, an' cotton in de war, but dey was till better off dan mos' folks.
"Lak all de fool Niggers o' dat time I was right smart bit by de freedom bug for awhile. It sounded pow'ful nice to be tol':
'You don't have to chop cotton no more. You can th'ow dat hoe down an' go fishin' whensoever de notion strikes you. An' you can roam 'roun' at night an' court gals jus' as late as you please. Aint no marster gwine a-say to you, "Charlie, you's got to be back when de clock strikes nine."'
"I was fool 'nough to b'lieve all dat kin' o' stuff. But to tell de hones' truf, mos' o' us didn' know ourse'fs no better off. Freedom meant us could leave where us'd been born an' bred, but it meant, too, dat us had to scratch for us ownse'fs. Dem what lef' de old plantation seamed so all fired glad to git back dat I made up my min' to stay put. I stayed right wid my white folks as long as I could.
"My white folks talked plain to me. Dey say real sad-lak, 'Charlie, you's been a dependence, but now you can go if you is so desirous. But if you wants to stay wid us you can share-crop. Dey's a house for you an' wood to keep you warm an' a mule to work. We aint got much cash, but dey's de lan' an' you can count on havin' plenty o' vit'als. Do jus' as you please.' When I looked at my marster an' knowed he needed me, I pleased to stay. My marster never forced me to do nary thing 'bout it. Didn' nobody make me work after de war, but dem Yankees sho' made my daddy work. Dey put a pick in his han' *stid o' a gun. Dey made 'im dig a big ditch in front o' Vicksburg. He worked a heap harder for his Uncle Sam dan he'd ever done for de marster.
"I hear'd tell 'bout some Nigger sojers a-plunderin' some houses: Out at Pine Ridge dey kilt a white man named Rogillio. But de head Yankee sojers in Natchez tried 'em for somethin' or nother an' hung 'em on a tree out near de Charity Horspital. Dey strung up de ones dat went to Mr. Sargent's door one night an' shot him down, too. All dat hangin' seemed to squelch a heap o' lousy goin's-on.
"Lawd! Lawd! I knows 'bout de Kloo Kluxes. I knows a-plenty. Dey was sho' 'nough devils a-walkin' de earth a-seekin' what dey could devour. Dey larruped de hide of'n de uppity Niggers an' *driv de white trash back where dey b'longed.
"Us Niggers didn' have no secret meetin's. All us had was church meetin's in arbors out in de woods. De preachers 'ud exhort us dat us was de chillun o' Israel in de wilderness an' de Lawd done sont us to take dis lan' o' milk an' honey. But how us gwine a-take lan' what's already been took?
"I sho' aint never hear'd 'bout no plantations bein' 'vided up, neither. I hear'd a lot o' yaller Niggers spoutin' off how dey was gwine a-take over de white folks' lan' for back wages. Dem bucks jus' took all dey wages out in talk. 'Cause I aint never seen no lan' 'vided up yet.
"In dem days nobody but Niggers an' *shawl-strop folks voted. Quality folks didn' have nothin' to do wid such truck. If dey had a-wanted to de Yankees wouldn' a-let 'em. My old marster didn' vote an' if anybody knowed what was what he did. Sense didn' count in dem days. It was pow'ful ticklish times an' I let votin' alone.
"De shawl-strop folks what come in to take over de country tol' us dat us had a right to go to all de balls, church meetin's, an' 'tainments de white folks give. But one night a bunch o' uppity Niggers went to a 'tainment in Memorial Hall. Dey dressed deysef's fit to kill an' walked down de aisle an' took seats in de very front. But jus' 'bout time dey got good set down, de curtain *drapped an' de white folks *riz up widout a-sayin' airy word. Dey marched out de buildin' wid dey chins up an' lef' dem Niggers a-settin' in a empty hall.
"Dat's de way it happen ever' time a Nigger tried to git too uppity. Dat night after do breakin' up o' dat 'tainment, de Kloo Kluxes*rid th'ough de lan'. I hear'd dey grabbed ever' Nigger what walked down dat aisle, but I aint hear'd yet what dey done wid 'em.
"Dat same thing happened ever' time a Nigger tried to act lak he was white.
"A heap o' Niggers voted for a little while. Dey was a black man what had office. He was named Lynch. He out a big figger up in Washington. Us had a sheriff named Winston. He was a ginger oaks Nigger an' pow'ful mean when he got riled. Sheriff Winston was a slave an', if my mem'ry aint failed me, so was Lynch.
"My granny tol' me 'bout a slave uprisin' what took place when I was a little boy. None o' de marster's Niggers 'ud have nothin' to do wid it. A Nigger tried to git 'em to kill dey white folks an' take dey lan'. But what us want to kill old Marster an' take do lan' when dey was de bes' frien's us had? Dey caught de Nigger an' hung 'im to a limb.
"Plenty folks b'lieved in charms, but I didn' take no stook in such truck. But I don't lak for de moon to shine on me when I's a-sleepin'.
"De young Niggers is headed straight for hell. All dey think 'bout is drinkin' hard likker, goin' to dance halls, an' a-ridin' in a old rattle trap car. It beats all how dey brags an' wastes things. Dey aint one whit happier dan folks was in my dey. I was as proud to git a apple as dey is to git a pint o' likker. Course, schools he'p some, but looks lak all mos' o' de young'n's is studyin' 'bout is how to git out o' hones' labor.
"I'se seen a heap o' fools what thinks 'cause they is wise in books, they is wise in all things.
"Mos' all my white folks is gone, now. Marse Randolph Shields is a doctor 'way off in China. I wish I could git word to 'im, 'cause I know he'd look after me if he knowed I was on charity. I prays de Lawd to see 'em all when I die."
Davenport, Charlie -- Additional Interview
-Miss, "I is named Charlie Davenport en 'cordin to de way I figgers I ought to be nearly a hundred. Nobody knows my birthday cause all my white folks is gone. I was born one night an' de very next mawin' my pore little Mammy died. Her name was Lucindy. My pa was William Davenport. When I was a little mite dey turned me over to de 'granny nurse' on de plantation what tended to de picanninnies. She got a woman to nuss me who had a young baby so I didn't know no difference. Any woman what had a baby 'bout my age would wet nurse me so I growed up in de quarters en was ez well en happy ez any other chile.
-When I could tote taters dey let me pick em up in de field en us allus hid a pile away what us roasted in de ashes at night.
-Ole mammy nearly allus made a heap of dewberry en simmon (persimmon) wine. En us little tykes would gather black walnuts in de woods en store 'em under de cabins to dry. At night when de work was all done en de candles out we'd set around de dyin embers en eat a pan of cracked walnuts pickin de meat out wid horseshoe nails. Den mammy would pour herself en her ole man a cup ob wine. We nevah got to taste hit lessen us got sick. Den she'd mess hit up wid wild cherry bark en say "drink dat down". Hit nearly strangled us but us gulped hit down.
-Aventine where I was bawn en bred was acrost Second Creek. Hit was a big plantation wid 'bout a hundred head ob people libin dare. Hit was only one ob us Marster's places cause he was one ob de richest en highest quality gentlemen in de whole country. Ize telling you de trufe, us didn't 'blong to no white trash. Our Marster was de Honorable Mister Gabriel Shields hisself. Ebbery body knows 'bout him. He married a Surget. Dem Surgets was pretty debblish fur all dey was de richest fambly in de land. Dey was de out fightenist, out cussinest, fastest ridin, hardest drinkin, out spendinest folks I ebber seed. But Lawd, Lawd, dey was gentlemen eben in dey cups. De Ladies was beautiful wid big black eyes en soft white hands but dey was high strung too.
Us Marster had a town mansion whats pictured in a lot of books. Hit was called 'Montebella' en de big columns still stands yit at de end ob Shields Lane. Hit burned 'bout thirty years ago.
-I iz part Injun. Kaint you see I aint got no nigger nose en my hair is so long I has to keep hit wrapped? I iz often heard my mammy was reddish lookin wid long, straight black hair. Her pa was a full blooded Choctaw en, young ez she was, I iz bin tole dat nobody dast meddle her. She didn't do much talkin but shore was a good worker. My pappy had Injun blood too but his hair was kinky.
-De Choctaws lived all round Second Creek. Some ob dem had cabins like settled folks. I kin remembah dare last chief. He was a tall, powerful built man named "Big Sam". What he said was de law kaize he was de boss ob de whole tribe. One rainy night he was kilt in a saloon down in "Natchez Under de Hill". De Injuns went wild wid rage en grief. Dey sung, en wailed en did a heap o low mutterin. De sheriff kep a stiddy watch on 'em kaize he was feared dey would do somethin rash. Aftah a long while he kinda let up in his vigilance. Den some ob de Choctaw men slipped in town en stobbed de man what day 'bleeved kilt Big Sam. I membahs hit well.
-Ez I tole you, I growed up in de quarters. Our houses was clean en snug. We was bettah fed den I is now en warmer too, kaize us had blankets en quilts filled wid home raised wool. I jist loved layin in de big fat feather bed a hearin de rain patter on de roof.
-All de little darkeys helped bring in wood en us swept de yards wid brush brooms. Sometimes us played together in de street which run de length ob de quarters.
Us throwed horse shoes, jumped poles, walked on stilts en played marbles. Sometimes us made bows en arrows too en we learned to shoot like little Injuns.
A heap ob times our ole granny would brush our hide wid a peach tree limb. But us needed hit kaize us stole aigs (eggs) en roasted dem. She show wouldn't stand fur no stealin if she knowed hit.
We wore Lowell cloth shirts. It was a coarse tow sacking. In winter we had Lindsey Woolsey pants en heavy cow hide shoes. Day was made in three sizes, big, little en mejum (medium). Dey wuzn't no right or left, but sorta club shaped so us could wear 'em on either foot.
I was a teasin, mischievous chile en de oberseers little girl got hit in fur me. He was a big, hard fisted Dutchman bent on gittin riches. So he trained his pastyfaced chile to tattle on us. She got a heap ob people whipped. I knowed hit but I was hasty. One day she hit me wid a stick en I throwed hit back at her. Jist then up walked her pa. He seen what I done but he didn't see her en hit wouldn't a made no difference if he had.
He snatched me in de air en toted me to a stump en laid me acrost hit. I didn't hab but one thickness betwee me en daylight. Gentlemen! but he laid hit on me wid dat stick. I thought I'd die, en all de time his mean little girl was gloatin in my misery. I yelled en prayed to de Lord till he quit. Den he say to me:
"From now on you works in de field. I ain't goin to hab no vicious boy like you around my wimmin folks".
I was too little fur field work but next mawin I went to choppin cotton. Aftah dat I made a regular field hand. When I growed up I was a ploughman en could shore lay off a pretty cotton row.
On Sundays us rested en had meetin in a log house where a white preacher tole us 'bout de way ob salvation.
I reckon I was 'bout fifteen when honest Abe Lincoln, what called hisself a rail splitter, come here to talk wid us. He went all through de country jest a rantin and preachin 'bout us bein his black brudders. Ole Marse didn't know nothin 'bout hit 'cause hit was sorta secret like. Hit shore riled de niggers up en lots ob 'em run away. Yas ma'am, I shore heard him but didn't pay him no mind.
When de wah broke out our ole Dutch oberseer went back nawth. We was powerful glad en hoped he'd git his neck broke.
Aftah dat de Yankees came swoopin down on us. My own pappy tuck off wid em. He jined a company what fit at Vicksburg. I was plenty big enough to fight but didn't hanker to tote no gun. I stayed on de plantation en put in a crop. Hit was powerful oneasy times aftah dat but what I keer 'bout freedom? Folks what was free was in misery fust one way en another.
By dat time I was stayin on Fish Pond plantation closer to town. Den long came de white folks tellin us we must burn all de cotton so de enemy kaint git hit.
We piled hit high in de fields like great mountains.
Hit made my innards hurt to see fire teched to somethin that had cost us niggers so much labor en honest sweat. If I could a hid some ob hit in de bayou I would, but de boss searched ebery whar.
De little niggers thought hit was fun. Day laughed en brung out big armfuls from de cotton house. One little black girl clapped her hands en jumped in a big heap. She sunk down en down till she was buried deep. Den de wind pick up de flame en spread hit like lightnin. Hit spread so fast dat fore we could bat our eyes, she was in a mountain of fire. She come up all covered wid flames en screamin "Lawdy help me!" Us snatched her out en rolled her on de ground but she died in a few minutes.
Our Ole Marsters sons went to wah. De one what us loved de best nevah come home no more. Us mourned him plenty kaise he was so jolly en happy like en free wid his change. Us all felt cheered when he come around.
Ez to Mr. Jefferson Davis ... us slaves didn't know nothin 'bout what was goin on in de outside world. All us know was dat a wah was bein fit. Pusonally, I 'bleeve in what Mr. Davis done. He done de only thing a gentleman could do. He tole Mr. Abe Lincoln to tend to his own business 'en he'd tend to hissen. But Lincoln was a fightin man en he come down here to run other folks plantations. Dat made Mr. Davis so all fired mad dat he spit hard between his teeth en say:
'I'll whip de socks offen dem damn Yankees.'
Dats how hit all come about. My white folks lost money, cattle, slaves en cotton but dey was still bettah off den most folks. I stayed right wid 'em but they is most all gone now. Marse Randolph Shields is a doctor way off in China. I 'bleeves day would look aftah me now if day knowed I was on charity.
q 1. Like all de fool niggers ob dat time I was right smartly bit by de freedom bug for a while. Hit sounded powerful nice to be tole:
'You dont have to chop cotton no mow. You kin thow dat hoe down en go fishin when so evah de notion strike you. En you kin roam around at night en cote (court) gals jest ez late ez you please. Aint no marster gwine to say to you:
"Charlie you is got to be back when de clock strikes nine."
I was fool enough to b'leeve all dat kind ob stuff. But to tell de honest to God trufe most of us didn't know ourselves no bettah off. Freedom meant we could leave whar we'd been bawn en bred, but hit also meant, we had to scratch fur ourselves. Dem what left de ole plantation seemed so all fired glad to git back dat I made up my mind to stay put.
q 2 I shore aint nevah heared 'bout any plantation bein divided up but I heared a lot of *yaller niggers spoutin off how dey was gwine to take ovah de white folks land fur back wages. Dem bucks jest tuck all dare wages out in talk. Cause I aint nevah seen no land divided yet.
I did hear tell 'bout some nigger soldiers plunderin' some houses. Out at Pine Ridge dey kilt a white man named
Rogillio. But de head Yankee soldiers in Natchez tried 'em fur somethin or anudder en hanged 'em on a tree out near de Charity Horspital. Dey also strung up de ones what went to Mr. Sargents door one night en shot him. All dat hangin' seemed to squelch a heap ob lousy goings on.
q 3 I dont know nothin 'bout no compulsion. Guess I didn't rightly hear what you axed me. Oh, dat hit! Did any body make me work? No, 'deed no, But dem Yankees shore made my daddy work. Dey put a pick in his hand instid of a gun en made him dig a big ditch in front of Vicksburg. He worked a heap harder fur his Uncle Sam den he ebber worked for Ole Marse.
My white folks talked plain to me. Dey said real sad like: Charlie you is bin a dependence but now you kin go effen you is so desirous. But effen you wants to stay wid us you kin share-crop. Dare is a house fur you, en wood to keep you warm, en a mule to work. We aint got much cash, but we is got land and you can allus count on havin' plenty o' vittals. Do jist ez you please.' When I looked at my marse en knowed he needed me, I pleased to stay. My marster show nevah forced me to do nary thing.
q 4 Lawd, Lawd does I know 'bout de Ku-Kluxes? I knows a-plenty. Dey was shore nuff debbils walkin de earth seekin what dey could devour. Dey larruped de hide offen all de uppity niggers en driv de white trash back whar dey b'longed.
Us niggers didn't have no secret meetins. All us had was church meetins in arbors out in de woods. De preachers would exhort us dat we was de chillen of Israel in de wilderness en de Lawd done sont us to take dis land ob milk en honey. But how us gwine to take land what was already took?
q 5 Yes, a heap ob niggers voted fer a little while. Us had a nigger sheriff named Winston. He was a ginger cake color en powerful mean when he got riled. De shawl-strop folks (carpetbaggers) what come in to take ovah de country tole us we had a right to go to all de balls, church meetins en entertainments de white folks give. But one night a bunch of uppity niggers went to a entertainment in Memorial Hall. Dey dressed dey selves fit to kill en walked down de aisle en took seats in de very front. But jest ez they got good set down de curtain drapped en all de white folks riz up wid out sayin airy word. But dey marched out de buildin wid dare chins up en dem niggers was left settin in a empty hall.
Dats de way hit happened ebbery time a nigger tried to get too uppity. Dat night aftah de breakin up ob dat entertainment, de Ku Kluxes rid through de land. I heared dey grabbed ebbery nigger what walked down dat aisle, but aint heared yit what dey done wid 'em.
Dat same thing happened ebbery time a nigger tried to act like he was white folks.
q 5 Dare was several black men what helt office. De chief one was named Lynch en he cut a big figger up in Washington. In dem days nobody but niggers en shawl-strap folks voted. Quality didn't have nothin to do wid sich truck. Effen dey had a wanted to de Yankees wouldn't a let 'em. My ole Marse didn't vote en effen anybody knowed what was what he did. Sense didn't count in dem days. Hit was powerful ticklish times en I let votin alone. Sheriff Winston was a slave en effen my memory aint failed me so was Lynch.
q 7 I didn't know myself no bettah off wid freedom kaise I show had to pay my own way or do wid out. Long ez I kep well hit was purty nice but when I got sick I was jist like a animal what crawled off to his hole. Marse was good but he wuzn't sponsible fur me en my fambly no mow. In slave days us was sent to de horspital. My Marster sent me to de horspital in town en paid a dollar a day fur my keep. I had de best doctah en nuss mony could git.
I jist went along share croppin. For years I stayed on de ole place till my white folks died off en de young ones growed up en left de country. Now my chillen aint got much en I'se ole en in de way. De best time I ebber knowed was on de plantation. Town niggers don't see no good times.
q 8 & 9 Most ob de young niggers is headed straight fur hell. All dey think about is drinkin hard liquor, goin to dance halls en gittin a ole rattletrap automobile. Dey piles in en rides like dey been sont fur en kaint go. Hit beats all how dey brags en wastes things. Dey aint one whit happier den de folks was in my day. I was ez proud to git a apple ez dey is wid a pint ob liquor. 'Course schools has done a heap towards givin colored folks book learin. But hit looks to me like all dey is studying 'bout is how to git out ob honest labor. I sees a heap o fools what thinks because they is wise in books they is wise in all things.
q 10 When I was a little boy they was a slave uprisin planned. Hit was befo de wah broke out. De slaves had hit all worked out how dey was goin to march on Natchez aftah slayin all dare own white folks. Us folks wouldn't jine 'em kaise what we want to kill Ole Marse fur? One night a strange nigger come en he harangued de ole folks but dey wouldn't budge. While he was talkin up rid de sheriff en a passel ob men. He was a powerful, big black feller named Jupiter, en when he seed who was comin he turned en fled in a corn field.
My granny tole me next day dat dey kotch him hidin in a bayou en hung him on a limb. Dey didn't need no trial kaise he was kotch rilin de folks to murder.
q 11 Ole granny used to sing a song to us like dis:
Kinky haid whar-fore you skeered?
Ole snake crawled off 'cause he's afeard.
Pappy will smite him on de back
Wid a great big club ker whack! kerwhack!
q 12 Us slaves was fed good plain food. Fore us went to de field us had a big breakfast on hot bread, 'lasses, fried salt meat dipped in corn meal en fried taters. Sometimes us had fish en rabbit meat. When we was in de field two women would come at dinner time wid big baskets filled wid hot pone, baked taters, corn roasted in de shucks, onions, fried squash en biled pork. Sometimes dey brought buckets ob cold butter milk. Hit shore was good to a hongry man. On Sundays us allus had meat pie or fish or fresh game en roasted taters en coffee.
Nearly ebbery slave had his own little garden patch en he was lowed to cook out ob his patch. At nights us had cold sweet milk en hot hoe cake to crumble in de milk. Sometimes us had fresh pork en in the fall dare was collards en greens.
Most ebbery plantation kep a man busy huntin en fishin all de time. Sometime day shot a big buck en us et deer meat roasted on a spit. Now en then dare was chicken en on Christmas Ole Marse would give us barrells ob apples en oranges. 'Course ebbery Marster wuzn't ez free handed ez ourn. He was shore nuff quality. I've heard that a heap ob colored folks never had nothin good.
q 13 I wuzn't larnt nothin in a book. Don't think I'd a tuck to hit no how. Dey did teach de house servants to read but us field hands never knowed nothin but dirt, en weather en how to weigh cotton. Us was larnt to figger a little but dats all.
q 14 Dare was plenty ob folks 'bleeved in charms but I aint 'bleevin in nothin but de good Lawd. I knowed a man what wore his hair long like Samson in de Holy Book kaise he's fear'd he'd lose his strength but he got whipped by a man wid his haid nearly shaved. Aint nothin in all dat but I hates fur de moon to shine in my face at night.
q 15 Miss, I done tole you us was nussed in de city horspital when us got sick.
(2) Our Marse had us bedded en nussed en dosed by a high class doctah. En he paid a dollar a day fur our keep when us was sick. We had short shirts en was bathed by a nigger man. We was kep in de ground floor en hit was cool en clean.
De big doctah was named Blackburn en our Marse tole him: 'Don't you let none o' my niggers die'.
q 16 How I gwine to know 'bout de rights or wrongs ob slavery? Fur ez I is concerned I was bettah treated ez a slave den I is now. Folks says hit was wicked but fur all I kin see de colored folks aint made much use ob day freedom. Day is all in debt en chained down to somethin same ez us slaves was. Dare's dat man what shot de white man. He was drunk en toten a gun. Ef he gits cott (caught) he'll be worse off dan any slave cause he'll hab a ball en chain on his foot er else git his neck broke. Day aint no sich thing ez freedom. Us is all tied down to somethin.