"I was just a little tike when de Civil War done ended and I was sot free, erway down in Georgia. Dat was over 70 years ago, a long, long time I reckon. I ain't nevah been a man to look back at de past much. Old folks wat do, I thinks, are kinder chillish. I'm one at's allus been a lot more int'rested in de present. And since I left de Baptist church, dat I served as deacon nearly 40 years, and joined de Pentecostal church, I've been anxious about my life in de future - what's agoin' to become of me when I dies. De church is in my heart, Glory be, and de Spirit of de Lawd done guide de church. I love everybuddy, even my enemies, and I'm pledged to do good onto all men. I've vowed nevah to let one hour go by 'thout speakin' de Lawd's blessed name or praisin' Him."
"But now's you alls done prod me about slav'ry days, I'll tells you what I members. Sho' I'm not shamed of bein' a slave. Only so many things happened since I was a boy. I farmed about 50 years in Fayette Co., and Campbell Co. in Georgia. I married three good women; de last one done die 28 years ago. I had chillun by each of dem, eighteen chillun in all. Four of dem live here, two sons and two daughters. Dat's how I come to Dayton eleven years ago. I ain't nevah asks anybuddy to keep me since de day I was born. I pays my daughter de room rent and buys my own food. I makes about two dollars a week tendin' to dis ice house (located at Fourth and Sprague streets, where the interview was held). Dat's ernuf to keep me whiles I'm watin' for my old age pension, which I prays de Lawd will come soon. De big man down to de Old Age Pension Office done tole me I'd get my pension by Aug. 1, but I ain't seen hide nor hair of it."
"Comin' back to all I done in my life, when I was on de farm, I worked it - and worked it hard - for years and years. At one time I owned six mules and a heap of farm tools. I nevah did own no farm. I worked land on shares. Then, some time after my last wife died, I moved to Atlanta, where I done hotel work and any udder kin' of job dat I could pick up. Wages? I nevah made more'n ten or fifteen dollars a month and my keep doin' hotel work. I worked hard and I worked long, but dat's all I got in de souf till late years."
"Work and raisin' a fambly was about all I knew 'cept on Sundays. Den I allus found time to go to church. I was a deacon in one Baptist church at Fayettesville, Ga., nearly 40 years, and dere it was dat I learned to speak and pray and sometimes preach, though I nevah was an ordained minister. Since I come to Dayton and joined de Pentecostal church, I've done more speakin' and prayin' den before."
"So's you see I nevah had much time, like some of my people, to sit around and think about my slav'ry days. Course I members some things, and what I members I'll tell you about.
"You can look at me and tell by my high cheek bones and my red coloring dat I ain't no full-blooded Negro. My grandmammy was a Cherokee Indian squaw, and lived as a girl I 'spose, in Oklahoma. I dunno where she met and married my grandpappy, I fergit if my mammy ever told me. Alls I knows is dat my mothah was sold to a Charles Henry Ray, who owned a big plantashun and 500 slaves near Newman, Georgia, 39 miles from Atlanta. She was about twelve years old at de time. Her name was Louise and she looked much more Indian den cullud, likes I do. Marse Charles Henry had three chillun, John, Emma and Lavender, who after de war became a noted lawyer in Atlanta. But I wants to call your attenshun to John, for he was my daddy. When my mothah was only 13 years old, John done took advantage of her at de point of a gun. I was the result. I was born May 28, 1853. My mothah nevah did fergive my pappy for what he done to her, nor I either. Long after de war my daddy offered to give me 25 acres of his land for my very own. I wouldn't take it then, and I wouldn't take it now."
"But I allus liked my old Marse Charles Henry. He was Irish and he was a lawyer as well as a plantashun owner, and his law work done keep him away from home a lot. But I recollects that he was awful good to us cullud children. He used to pull our ears and pinch our cheeks and tweek our noses.
But he never done beat us. Sometimes he used to let his overseer whip my mothah though. She was high spirited and hard to boss. I members once of cryin' and cryin' 'cause my mothah got a lickin'. What for? My pappy had her beat 'cause she beat me. I 'spects I needed it. But he was furious when I told him about it. He had her arms tied and had her lifted up till her toes just touched de floor. That was 'cause she fought so hard to keep from gittin' a whippin'. It took three men to lick her dat time. 'Deed it allus took two or three men to punish her, she used to brag, after she got freed."
"My mammy told me she used to work in de cotton fields when she was a girl. After she done growed up she done de cookin' in de big house. But I members she often sat up all night spinnin' and makin' suits. Course in de summer I just wore a sort of a shirt like a nightgown. But in de winter I wore a suit of jeans same as other boys. Sunday clothes? I nevah heard about Sunday clothes den."
"I went to church on Sunday in the one suit I had to my back. The church, we called it the Bigbee church, was only a short distance from our plantashun. It was a white folks' Baptist church, and us cullud folks all used to sit in de back. The preacher allus talked to us during part of his sermon, tellin' us to behave ourselves, to obey our masters, and not to run away."
"I nevah got no learnin' in slav'ry times, and I nevah heard of any of the niggahs in my parts what did. If Marse Charles Henry had caught us tryin' to learn readin' and writin', I 'spects he would have whipped us hisself. It's only in late years dat I learned to read print, so's I could read my Bible. I don't do much writin' even now."
"My stepfather, whose name was Fields, did learn to write his own name, I recollects. This is how it happened. When he was a boy he was sent to carry the books home for de school chillun. On de way home he would get de chillun to write different things on a slate er on de ground by bettin' 'em dey couldn't do it. After my stepfather's trick was found out, the chillun were told not to write or teach him anything more. But not before he learned to write his name."
"My first and only teacher was a Mr. Standard, who taught school in Newnan, Ga. I was sent to him after de war. But I had to leave and go to work before I learned much."
"I heard a lot about de war, but I didn't know I was free till after de war was over. I guess de war was too far away for me to worry much about it at first. Den I suddinly got de idea it was pretty close when I saw my pappy in a gray uniform and aridin' a horse. John Ray rode away with one of de slaves whose name I forgits. The slave went along to be my daddy's servant. But it was not long 'fore dat niggah was home. In one of de battles a cannon ball done come so close to both of dem dat dey were both buried in dirt. After de servant had uncovered my daddy he came right back home, sayin' he warn't goin' to fight in no more wars, dey was too dangerous."
"I also members when some of the raidin' Yankees came on de plantashun. Dey was lookin' for food and horses. They didn't get either at the Ray's, for de reason dat we heard dey was comin' and hid 400 horses and mules and a lot of food and cattle in de swamp."
"I suttinly was very excited when I heard de raidin' Yankees had burned de town of Newnan close by Marse Hay's plantashun. I thought dem Yankees were scalawags for sure. It warn't till later dat I found out de Yankees had come down souf to free us slaves."
"Dere was great rejoicin' among us niggahs when Marse Charles Henry done told us we was free. He acted very kind and mellow-like; told all de hands dey could stay and work for him on de plantashun. He didn't seem to have no life about him at all. You see he counted much of his wea'th in de slaves he owned."
"A lot of de hands stayed on de plantashun and got as dere pay three or four pounds of meat a week and about six dollars a month. But I was itchin' to get away, so I left and got my first job workin' for a Dr. Hill, who owned a plantashun at Oak Tree, Ga. I think he paid me ten dollars a month and my keep."
"Did I evah hear of de Paddyrollers and de Klu Klux?
Lordy, yes. De Paddyrollers in slav'ry days was like policemen. Slaves warn't allowed to leave their plantashuns or farms without gettin' a pass from de overseer. If de Paddyrollers stopped you and you ain't got no pass, dey would give you a beatin' and send you back home."
"De Klu Klux, I done heard after I was free, was organized to make bed niggahs behave. I warn't afraid of 'em 'cause I was a pretty good boy and minded my own business. I heard a lot about the Klu Klux, but it warn't till long afterwards dat I evah see 'em. It was one night after de work of de day was done and I was takin' a walk near where I worked. Suddenly I hear the the hoof beats of horses and I natcherly was curious and waited beside de road to see what was comin'. I saw a company of men hooded and wearin' what looked like sheets. Dey had a young cullud man as dere prisoner. I was too skairt to say anything or ask any questions. I just went on my sweet way. Later I found out dey acclaimed de prisoner had assaulted a white woman. Dey strung him up when he wouldn't confess, and shot him full of holes and threw his body in de pond."
"I'm glad to say I nevah had much trouble with people of my own color, and I nevah got into no trouble with no white folks 'ceptin once. Dat dispute ended all right for me. It was when I was workin' a farm on shares. De crops had been large and I figgered de farmer done ow me $300. He claimed dat my livin' during de year had et up his debt to me. When I told him his figgers were wrong, he claimed I was disputin' his word. Pointin' a pistol at me he ordered me out of his sight and off his farm. I back out and was walkin' away; but I had hardly gone a block till he come runnin' after me and asked me if I'd accept $150. on account. I said yes and he told me: 'I likes a man what sticks up for his rights.'"
"I've generally kept out of trouble by keepin' my mouf shet and doin' what I thought was right. Take votin' fer instance. De boss man on de different farms where I worked would tell me around election time to vote Democratic. But I knew de Republican party was on de side of de cullud man. So I nevah say nothin' when de boss man told me how to vote. I nevah promised anything at all. I just went to de polls on election day and put my cross under de eagle."
"Course I didn't get much chance to vote in my younger days. You know how it is in a lot of dem southern states. A cullud man who ain't got so much property and can't read de Constitution of de United States ain't allowed to vote. I think dat system is very bad. But things are better dan dey was. I members when cullud men elected to Congress was warned not to go to Washington and take office."
"My mothah allus told me to be polite and respectful to folks older dan me. Chillun nowadays ain't brought up dat way. I got grandchillun and I hear how dey talk and act. Cullud chillun today are better learned dan de was. But de kids are sassy and impudent. And as for de younger generation, I declare a lot of dem seem headed for de electric chair."
"Mammy nevah had no advantages, but she was just natcherly smart. And she was so strong that she'd be taken out of de kitchen sometimes to pick cotton in de fields. Old Marse nevah made her do hard work when chillun was on de way. She nevah had to birth ohillun in de fields, like some slave women I done hear tell of. But no doctor tended her like dis; only an old granny woman."
"I guess dat's as much about slav'ry days as I recollects. Anyhow I'd much rather talk to you about de Lawd and his goodness and mercy."
Observation and explanation of Mr. Muir, reporter in the case:
Morgan Ray, the subject of this interview, is exceptionally intelligent and the interview has been presented practically in his own words, and without reportorial comment. He is a dignified old fellow who, though he is in his 84th year, could pass for 75 or less. He is short and slight and wiry, unwrinkled, clean shaven and neat in his dress. He was photographed near the ice house, for attending to which he derives a small income, rather than at his home. This is because he is seldom at his daughter's home, 371 S. Broadway,
except at nights. He rents a single room from her and has no privileges. The ice house is his proper environment, for just outside it he spends his days and a portion of his nights. He is a mixture of Negro, Caucasian and Indian, and, in his features, the Indian predominates.