Lillie Baccus: She I was born at West Point, Mississippi but went to Arkansas "because they said money was easy to get---growed on bushes. I had four little children to make a living for and they said it was easier." 21 She had eleven children and yet only three survived. The night the stars fell was before her time, but her grandmother told her of the event:
Grandma raised us. She was sold twice. She said she run out of the house to pick up a star when the stars fell. They showered down and disappeared.22Rachel Bradley: Her master and mistress were Mitchell and Elisabeth Simmons and they had two sons and two daughters. They lived on a plantation about twelve miles from Farmersville, Louisiana. Her mother was an "Indian" born in Virginia and she served as the cook for the Simmons and Rachel was a nursemaid. She was in Louisiana when the stars fell:
I was born in Louisiana. Yes ma'm, I was here before the stars fell. My brothers was out feedin' the horses. Yes ma'm, in slavery times when the stars fell, and he ask my mother would they go back up. I was small but he was a grown man. He was mammy's oldest child.23Gus Bradshaw: Gus was born about 1845, at Keecheye, Alabama, a slave of David Cavin. He recalls being brought to Texas in the 1850's, when the Cavin family settled near old Port Caddo. Gus remained with his master for ten years after emancipation. He did not believe that blacks should vote and the educated blacks did nothing but cause trouble. His mother told him of the "night the stars fell:"
Mama say to me one day, 'Son, I's here when the stars fell.' She tell me they fell like a sheet and spread over the ground. Ike Hood, the old blacksmith on our place, he told me, too. I says, 'Ike, how old was you when the stars fell?' He say, 'I's thirty-two.'24Elizabeth Brennan: Elizabeth was born in Helena, Arkansas. Her grandmother and her mother were separated and sold to different owners. Her master did not feed her or her children and told her that if she wanted food, she would have to steal it. Her grandmother, however, would not let Elizabeth have pockets in her dresses, "Said it was a temptation for us to learn to steal. She thought that was awful and to lie too."25
She told us about a time when the stars fell or a time about like it. Her master got scared in Virginia. His niece killed herself 'cause she thought the world was coming to an end. Mama of the baby was walking, crying and praying. Grandmama had the baby. She said it was a terrible morning.26Sylvester Brooks: Mr. Brooks was born in Green County, Alabama, a slave of Josiah Collier. When slavery ended, Mr. Collier called all seventy families of his slaves and told them, "Boys you is as free as I am, all of you dat want to go can go, an' all of you dat want to stay can stay an' work on fer wages dis year an nex' year I give you a crop or work fer wages, which way you want to work." Mr. Collier told Sylvester about the night the stars fell on Alabama::
Old Marse often told me 'bout de stars fallin'. It was 'long 'bout sundown and growed dark all a sudden and de chickens goes to roost. Den some stars with long tails 'gins to shoot, den it look like all de stars had come out of Heave, and did dey fall! De stars not all what fell. De white folks and de niggers fell on dere knees, prayin' to Gawd to save dem iffen de world comin' to a end, and de women folks all run down in de cellar and stayed till mornin'. Old Mars say it was in 1833, and he say dem stars fall a while and quit awhile, like de showers when it rains.27Calline Brown: Calline belonged to "the meanest folks what ever lived. They warn't nothing but poor white trash what had never had nothing in their lives....Even after Master got so crippled he couldn't walk, he would call us to him and strike us with his crutch. I don't know nothing 'bout no dates, figures goes right out of my head, but I knows we stayed there a long, long time.28 Her next sentence is:
I remember well when the stars fell. They didn't come straight down like most folks thinks they did. They went right slanting like towards the North, and they looked like balls of fire. We was all so scared we screamed and cried and prayed all at the same time. It sure looked like the end of the world had come, and I speck we would have been all burned to death if the Good Lord hadn't let them stars go slanting like to the North. We didn't even know when the War was over. The white folks tried to keep it out of the ears about freedom.29Alex Bufford: Alex Bufford was born in Buchanan County, Missouri. Carl Boyer, the interviewer tells us more about Alex than Alex tells us about himself. According to My Boyer, "The Negro was a part of the early Buchanan County family. They were black slaves and happy. The negro Mammy had her proper place in the scheme of things. She was no fiction of a later day novelist, but genuine, gentle, untiring, and faithful. The Negro mammy merits a prominent place in the picture an artist might paint, for on her broad shoulders was carried the generation which made the early history of Missouri fascinating and great."30 He also describes the "night the stars fell" for Alex:
The wonderful meteoric display known as the "star shower" or "the time when the stars fell," occured in 1833. It was on the night of the 12th and 13th of November. Many ignorant persons concluded that the Judgment day had come, or that the end of the world was at hand. Negroes especially were very much frightened. A dance was in progress on a Buchanan County farm, attended exclusively by slaves from the neighborhood. When the star shower began the negroes were first made aware of the fact by a messenger who ran frantically into the cabin and shouted, "If you all wants to git to hebin, you'd better 'gin to say yo' pra'rs mighty sudden, case the Lawd is acomin' wi'de fire an' de glory an' de wuld'll be burnt up like a cracklin' 'fo mo'nin."Richard Carruthers: He was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Billy Coats bought him and his mother and brought them to Bastrop Co., Texas. Richard was on a plantation with over five hundred slaves. The overseer was an awful man by the name of Tom Hill, but "his temper born of the debbil, himse'f. His name was Tom Hill, but us called him 'Debbil Hill.'"32 He created such a fear in his slaves that he was seen as having powers:
The dancers ran out, fell on their kneew and cried for mercy. Not for many days did they recover from their fright. One old negro declared that if the world and his life were spared he would agree to break eighty pounds of hemp every day instead of fifty, as he had been accustomed to do.31
They was other signs too. I remembers well when the stars fall. Them stars pepper down jus' like hail. They come close to the ground and bust open with a big noise. God jus' didn' mean for them stars to hit the earth, for do they hit the earth they sure set in on fire. Us niggers so scared we run and hide and pray. We thought it was the judgement day, that the end right thar. It sure dumb old Devil Hill---them stars was over his jurisdiction. He jus' stand there plumb scared.33Jeptha Choice: Jeptha was born in slavery on the plantation of Jezre Choice near Henderson, Texas. Jeptha was sent to school with the white children, and after he was freed, he was sent to school for several years, and became a teacher. After the Civil War, the son-in-law of Jeptha's former master, paid 25cents weekly to a nearby school for his tuition and Jeptha became a "sure 'nuff colege nigger."34 Among his recollections was this:
I recollec' hearing the womenfolks say that befo' I was bo'n some stars fell in April or May, - fifteenth of April or fifteenth of May in 1835, about a year befo' the Texas War; and where the stars fell they set fire to all the small stuff on the ground, like chaff and straw, and the old nigger folks thought that the world was comin' to the end.35George Coleman: Coleman was born on the Washington plantation in Richmond Virginia on August 16, 1830. When he was sixteen years old, he was sold for $1500.00 to David Coleman of Mississippi. Coleman remembers that he and the other slaves on his plantation were not freed until several months after they were legally free. He also remembers the "night the stars fell:"
I members hearing Uncle Reuben Coleman and his wife named, Aunt Mary Ann, tell about the time de stars fell. How scared dey all was. Some of de niggers on dat place jumped in a creek. Jus plain scared to death, you know dey thot de worl had done cum to a end.36William Davis: He was born near Kingston, Tennessee, on the first of April, 1845. His family were the only slaves owned by Jonathan Draper, Baptist minister. In 1869 William joined the army and was stationed at Fort Stockton, Texas. His father was "Indian" from the Congo whose ship washed ashore in the Carolinas; his father "had scars on de right side he head and cheek what he say am tribe marks."37 He knows of the "night the stars fell" only peripherally:
But, I guess mamma was born in Alabama an' belong to de Ames, dat was Mis' Lizzie's name before she married Marster John, 'cause I hear her say when de stars fall, I think she say in 1832, she was 'bout eighteen, an' de cullud folks all thought de world was endin'.38Charlotte Foster: Charlotte Foster was born just outside of Spartanburg, S.C. Though she was never beaten, she could hear the cries and moans coming from the plantations nearby to her. One of the young women from a plantation near hers grew tired of the beatings and went to the woods and ate poison oak; she died. Among her memorable experiences were the day she saw Abraham Lincoln riding with Federal soldiers and yet another night:
Aunt Charlotte said she remembered when the stars fell. "That was something awful to see. Dey just fell in every direction. Master said to wake the chilluns up and let 'em see it. Everybody thought the world was coming to an end. We went out on de front porch to look at the sight; we'd get scared and go back into de house, den come out again to see the sight. It was something awful, but I sure saw it." (Records show that the great falling of stars happened in the year 1833, so Aunt Charlotte must be older than she claims, if she saw this eventful sight. Yet she was positive she had seen the stars falling all over the heavens. She made a sweep of her arm from high to low to illustrate how they fell.)39Mary Gladdy: Mary was born in Hancock County, Georgia, between Milledgeville and Sparta. She was the property of Thomas Schlatter. "No event in those early years impressed itself more vividly upon Aunt Edie's mind than the Indian War, in the thirties. She was at the home of one of the Indians when she first heard of the uprising against the whites, and she frankly says that she was frightened almost to death when she listened to the cold-blooded plots to exterminate the white people. Not much attention was paid to her on account of her being a Negro."40 The story continues:
Those were very thrilling times and Aunt Edie confesses that she was exceedingly glad when the troubles with the red men were over. Another happening of the thirties which Aunt Edie recalls quite distinctly is the falling of the stars. She says quaintly that there was more religion that year in Georgia than there ever was before or has been since. The wonderful manner in which the stars shot across the heavens by the thousands, when every sign seemed to point to the destruction of the earth, left a lasting impression upon her brain.41Annie Hawkins: Annie Hawkins belonged to Dave Giles, the "meanest man who ever lived." "I know that don't sound reasonable that a white man in a Christian community would do such a thing but you can't realize how heartless he was. People didn't know about it and we dassent tell for we knowed he'd kill us if we did. You must remember he owned us body and soul and they wasn't anything we could do about it."42 One day, she was sure that her deliverance had come:
I calls myself 90, but I don't know jest how old I really am but I was a good sized gal when we moved from Georgia to Texas. We come on a big boat and one night the stars fell. Talk about being scared! We all run and hid and hollered and prayed. We thought the end of the world had come.43Betty Hodge: Betty's mother was Lucy Lea and her husband was a preacher by the name of Israel Thomas. Her grandmother had a "good deal of Indian blood in her. I heard em say. She had high cheeks and the softest, prettiest hair. She told about the stars falling:"44
She said they never hit the ground, that they was like shooting stars 'cepting they all come down like. Everybody was scared to death.45Josephine Howard: Josephine was born into slavery on the Walton plantation near Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She does not know her age, but When the Waltons moved to Texas just before the Civil War, she was old enough to work in the fields. Her mother's name was Lenora and her father's was Joe Tatum. Her parents were not married, "cause dem times de white folks jes' put slave men and women together like hosses or cattle."46 She remembers "the night the stars fell," because "when you has live in slave times you ain't gwine forgit dem, no, suh!"47
I 'members some 'bout old Tim's plantation whar I was born, but not much 'cause I wasn't very big when he bring us to Texas. I 'members when de stars fall, yes suh, I sure 'member dat. 'Course I was little, jes' 'bout six or mebbe seven year when de stars fall. Lord have mercy, we thought de world was endin' sure 'nough. It got all red-like, an' whar de stars fall it scotched de ground---'jes' burnt up de bresh whar dey hit an' make de ground all black-like. In de mornin' folks look for de stars what fall in de night but dey don't find none, an' nobody knows all 'bout it yet.48Lizzie Johnson: Lizzie was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She, her mother, and her grandmother were sold and they never saw their family again. Her father was sold during the war. She knew nothing of the Leonidic meteor storm, but her grandmother remembered:
Grandma said she remembered the stars falling. She said it turned dark and seem like two hours sparkles fell. They said stars fell. She said it was bad times. People was scared half to death. Mules and horses just raced. She said it took place up in the day. They didn't have timepieces to know the time it come on.49Wesley Jones: Mr. Jones liked to drink "likker," but he was never once in his life drunk. In addition, he was the barbecue "chef" and stayed up all night putting together sauces and basting the meats. While others "cut de buck and de pigeon wing" to entertain the whites, he was known for his ability to "anoint" meat and create barbecue delicacies. He remembers some things quite well:
Heap o' stars fell when I was young. Day fell regular fer a minute or so. I laid down for a nap and de niggers woke me up a hollering. Ev'y darky was scared, but it sho was a pretty sight.Chaney Mack: Her father was from Africa and returned to Africa in 1884 with the Pan-Africanist Bishop Henry McNeil Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Her mother was a fullblood Choctaw from Tennessee whose father was a "Beloved Man" among the Choctaw. Chaney's mother's family was slain following an Indian uprising and she was given as a slave to a Dr. Jernigan of Mississippi.50 Chaney tells of how her mother would gather her children around the fireside and talk to them about things she had seen in her life and of things that would happen in their lives that she would not live to see:
"I 'members de earthquake, too. De earth shake and tremble so hard dat some loose bricks fell out my chimney-and de pitcher fell off de winder-sill down on de flo'. I was 'bout 50 years old den, if I 'members correct. Dat come 'long in 1886.
She usta tell us about when de stars fall in 1833. She saw de Comet-star den--a star wid a long tail. She tole us dat dar would be another war, and we'd see another comet. She said she could read dem stars. Den she said we would live to see waggins run widout horses, and every nation would go back to dere own home by de end of time, and at de end of de nex' war dat de bottom rail would come to de top--and dat dere would be war and rumors of war; kinfolks agin kinfolks; daughter agin mother, sons agin fathers. She say she see all dem things in de future through de stars. We chillun would set round de fire and lissen to her talk. She lived to be 112 years old. She ust-a go out at night and look up at de stars and den come back and tell us what was gonna happen. 51Lizzie McCloud: Lizzie was born and lived in Tennessee, but later moved to Arkansas. She "was scared to death of the white folks. Miss Lizzie --- she mean as the devil. She wouldn't step her foot on the ground, she so rich. No ma'm wouldn't put her foot on the ground. Have her carriage drive up to the door and have that silk carpet put down for her to walk on. Yes Lord. Wouldn't half feed us and they went and named me after her."52
I know all about the stars fallin'. I was out in the field and just come in to get our dinner. Got so dark and the stars begin to play aroun'. Mistress say, 'Lizzie, it's the judgment.' She was just a hollerin'. Yes ma'm I was a young woman. I been here a long time, yes ma'm, I been here a long time. Worked and whipped, too. I run off many a time.53Patsy Moses: Patsy was born in Ft. Bend County, Texas in 1863 and was a slave of the Armstrong family originally from Tennessee. Her great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War and her father fought "in the war for freedom." Her grandfather was a Hardshell Baptist preacher and he was the one who told her of the night the stars fell. This is her story:
My ole gran-dad was de one dat tell us so many things, 'specially 'bout what de niggers did an believed, fer he was a Hardshell Baptist preacher an' too ole ter go ter de Civil War an' so stayed home an' helped ter take keer ob us, he had twenty gran-chillun an' I was de first one ter be baptized into de church. He preached 'bout de way ob de wicked leadin' folks ter hell an' dat what become of dem effn dey didn't repent an' turn from dey sins an' be saved. His favorite song was "On Jordans Stormy Banks I Stan'", w'en dey git religion dey call hit "comin' thro'". Den w'en dey cum thro' wid dey being converted dey sing "Free at Last," an ole slave song, w'en dey cums ter de mourners bench dey sing "Rock Daniel, w'at yer cumin' here fer? "I cum here fer ter Rock Daniel, my Lord, Rock Daniel," an' dey den goes inter de shoutin' songs w'en dey sing hit.Virginia Newman: Virginia was freeborn, the daughter of a black boat captain and a part black, part Indian mother. Her grandmother was a fullblood Indian. When a young girl, Virginia apprenticed herself, and says she was nursegirl in the family or Gov. Foster, of Louisiana. She does not know her age, but says she saw the "Stars fall" in 1833. Though her account is short, it is prosaic:
"I kin 'member him tellin' 'bout de revival meetin' w'en de stars fell, w'en he jes startin' ter preach he holdin' one ob his first big meetin's an' de young folks pay no 'tention much ter him, he was tryin' ter get dem ter cum ter de mourners bench an' gib dar hearts ter de Lawd, w'en dey had been preachin' an' prayin' an singin' till dey mos' ready ter quit an' still dey would not cum, he tellin' dem 'bout de fire an' brimstone cumin' down from hebben ter destroy dem an' all ob a sudden hit git dark an' pretty soon a star shoot like a sky rocket, den 'nuther an 'nuther, an den hit look like de whole ob de hebbenly stars goin' ter cum down.
"Den de sinners an' de church members bof' cum as fas' as dey kin git dar an fall on dey knees an' goes ter prayin' "Oh Lawd don't shoot me fer I'se gwine ter do right from dis day on, please Gawd don't let me be kilt," an' dey goes on dis way all de night, de Lawd was a showin' dem what he could do ter dem effen dey would not do what he say do. De Bible tole dem 'bout de fire an' brimstone an' dey has ter be shown. Yes my gran-dad say dat de Lawd had him ter preach ter dem an' dey would not do like he say, so he sen' down de fire ter show dem who is de boss, an' dey can't fool wid God, hit was a long time befo' dey quit bein' skeered ter fool wid de Lawd w'en he sent dem word ter cum ter de mourners bench an' git religion.54
When de stars fall I's 'bout six year old. They didn' fall on de groun'. They cross de sky like a millions of firebugs.55Julia Oklaby: Julia Grimes Jones Ocklbary was born a slave on March 2, 1855, at Bastrop, Texas and belonged to Henry Grimes of Bastrop County. Julia's mother was Melissa Grimes, her father Arthur Grimes, who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian. He was captured by the Grimes and was reared by them, and made an overseer on the Henry Grimes' cotton plantation. His father remembered the falling of the stars and passed the story on to him:
Pa told us many a time dat he remembahed de big fallin' ob de stars. He said dat when dem stars stahted to fallin' he run lak everything and crawled under de white folks' house. Yo' know dat Pa was married seben times. He'd always talk about it. He had chillun by every wife 'cept two. Pa has been dead now about eighteen years, and he was about a hunnert and twenty-five when he died. Dr. Gray said dat Pa got so old and feeble dat dere was no medicine in de country dat could help him.56Susan Davis Rhodes: Susan was born in Jones County North Carolina. She was a nurse girl, waitress and housemaid during her slave days. She and her family were quite religious, "We used to steal off to de woods and have church, like de spirit moved us, sing and pray to our own liking and soul satisfaction and we sure did have good meatings, honey. Baptize in de river like God said. We had deen spirit filled meetins at night on de bank of de river and God met us dere. He was quiet 'nough so de white folks didn't know we was dere and what a glorious time we did have in de Lord."57
I was born in Jones County, North Carolina more than 100 years ago, I don't know exactly how old I is but goin' by de count I got on my children, dere ages and de war, and I even 'members de stars fallin', I do know I'se more'n 100, but how much more I can't tell you dat... I 'members when de stars fell, I tried to ketch some of 'em but I couldn't. I see'd in a dream a long time ago, honey, dat one of dese United States presidents was going to send folks around to get some of us slaves living to tell about our lives way back yonder, 'cause dey wants to know 'bout it from us ourselves and not what somebody else wants to say. 58Clarissa Scales: She was born a slave on January 6, 1858, on the Vaughan plantation, Plum Creek, Hays County. Clarissa's mother was Mary Vaughan, who was brought from Louisiana to Texas by William Vaughan. Mary was married when she was fifteen to Thomas W. Vaughan. She remembers her mother, "Mammy was a tall and heavy set woman. She was mo' dan six foot tall. She was a maid-doctah, dat means dat she was a woman dat waited on wimmen at childbirth. Mammy always told me dat de last thing she saw when she left Baton Rouge was her mammy standin' on a big wood block to be sold fo' a slave. Dat's de last time dat she ever saw her mammy." Clarissa also remembers the night the stars fell:
She could even remembah de great fallin' ob de stars. She says dat a man knocked on dere door and said: "Wake up----O-O-Oh, yo-all oughta see all ob dem stars dat is fallin'. Git up--its jedgment day!"Alice Shaw: Alice was born near Columbus, Mississippi and belonged to Tom Evans and his wife Mary. It was a rather large plantation with about a hundred slaves. Her job was to fan the flies away from the table and carry the finished dishes to the kitchen. She was a Methodist who attended worship services with a white minister at a brush arbor church in the fields. She liked to tell jokes and riddles, "What kind of a hen lays the longest? A dead hen."59 Alice did not remember 1833, but her mother did:
My mother's name was Lucy Amos. She use to tell me 'bout the time the stars fell in 1833. She was in the house and she looked out the winder and saw the stars going 'zip, zip, hitting right on the ground.' She thought the world was coming to an end. She remembered too, when they had to bar the door and cover the chimbly tops to keep the wolves out.60Edward Taylor: Edward was born in Chaineyville, Louisiana in 1812 he believes, "but I don't know. I do know, I was owned by Marse William Chaney. He was a rich old slave owner. I thought in dem days white folks was God, didn't know no better.... My slave owners would make de blacksmith make buck horns and fasten 'em like a crown on de slave women's heads and brad 'em on dere so dey would know 'em by dat mark. Dey was so tight and heavy for dem women to carry around dey often times swell up dere head so dey couldn't hardly see out dere eyes."61 He too remembers "the night the stars fell" among other things of note:
I 'member well when de stars fell, I saw 'em twixt midnight and day and tried to ketch some of 'em. I was grown. too, most. I wasn't scared 'cause I thought long as I staid where de white folks was, dey would protect me from all harm, even de stars in de elements, storms, or what not, just stay near de white folks and I had nothing to worry about. I thought white folks made de stars, sun and everything on de earth. I knowed nothing but to be driven and beat all de time. I seed em take de bottom rail out of de rail fences and stick de nigger's head in de hole den jam de balance of de fence down on his neck, and beat him till he's stiff. Den I seed 'em put 40 or 50 slaves in stock and as high as 300 at a time and punish 'em, till some of 'em died. It was terrible.62Phil Town: Mr. Town was born the fourth of thirteen children on a large plantation in Virginia owned by "Governor" George Towns. "Governor" was so kind to his slaves that they were known as "Gov. Towns' free negroes" to those on the neighboring farms. He never separated families, neither did he strike a slave except "on rare occasions." They were never given passes but obtained verbal consent to go where they wished and always remained as long as they choose.63
Phil remembers when the stars fell in 1833. "They came down like rain," he said. When asked why he failed to keep some, he replied that he was afraid to touch them even after they became black.64Daphne Williams: Daphne was born in Tallahassee, Florida, a slave to Mrs. Nancy Herring. When she was about ten or twelve years old, the family moved to Texas to escape the "smugglin" of slaves. Daphne's mother was named Millie and her father was named Daniel. As she took care of the white children, she was not allowed to play with the black children; in addition, she only saw her brothers a couple of times. She did see the stars fall though:
I seed the stars fall. God give me a good eyesight. The sun was shinin' and it was plain daylight and the stars fall jus' like hail, only they never fall all the way to the groun'. They fall so far end then they stop and go out. They stay up in the element all the time. Missus sent for the niggers to come up to the house and pray. All that time the stars was a-comin' through the element. All the darkies, little and big, was a-prayin' on their knees, 'cause they thing the jedgment sho' come then.65Jane Williams: Jane lived near Magee, Mississippi. She was born about 1842, was owned during slavery time by Tom Martin on Strong River, in Simpson County. Jane lost her family to the auction block, "I had two sisters an' two brothers dat was sole away from us an' took plumb off some wheres. Us never did see 'em no more. Don't know yet whut eber become ob 'em. All I knows is dey all met an' had a big slave auction. Dey was carried up in a great long line, folks would buy 'em fer big sums o' money, an' my brothers an' sisters was sole dat way."66
Fo long dey started rumors of de war an' on to gittin real up-sot. De stars fell; I saw 'em, dat was a sign o' war. Us slaves as a rule knowed nothin' 'bout it much, yo' know, de real meanin' or whut to expect. Us couldn't read. We was tole all kind o' things. Some say us would git land when us was freed, but of course us didn't know. When it at las' broke out deir was some long hard years. Things got all ruint an' run down. We could see de lights from de battles an' hear de guns a shootin' an' see de soldiers a marchin'.67Lou Williams: Ms. Williams was said to be the oldest citizen of San Angelo, Texas, was born in southern Maryland in 1829. She and her family were slaves of Abram and Kitty Williams and she served as nursemaid to her master's children from the age of eight until after the Civil War. She liked her family, "When massa take us to town he say he want us to see how de mean slave owners raffles off de fathers and de husban's and de mothers and de wives and do chillen. He takes us 'round to do big platform and a white man git up dere with de slave and start hollerin' for bids, and de slave stands dere jes' pitiful like, and when somebody buy de slave all de folks starts yellin' and a cryin'. Dem sho' was bad times. Our massa wouldn't do his niggers dat way and we loved him for it, too."68 When the stars fell, Ms. Williams believed that only her prayers saved the world:
When I jes' a li'l gal I seed de stars fall and when everything get dark like and dem bright stars begin to fall we all start runnin' and hollerin' to our missy and she say. 'Chillen, don't git under my coat, git en your knees and start prayin', and when we begins to pray de Lord he sends a shower of rain and puts out dem stars an de whole world would a been burned up.Isaac Wilson: Isaac lives about two miles north west of D'Lo Mississippi, on a farm. He was born about 1845, and was owned by John Wilson at New Hebron Mississippi. He enjoyed singing and joking and "findin' fun in things."69 He loved the way that the fiddle would take him away from his troubles. He also remembers the "night the stars fell."
I 'members a seein' de stars fall. Dat was some sight. Hit nigh mos' scart every body in de whole country ter death. Us thought sho' dat de worle had done come ter de end. De stars was a fallin' down lak rain makin' hit as light as day. Hit sho' would hab been a purty sight if us hadn't been scart ter death. After dey quit fallin', den dey say hit was de sign of all kinds of dreadful troubles.70Willis Winn: He was born in Louisiana, a slave of Bob Winn, who Willis says taught him from his youth that his birthday was March 10, 1822. When he was freed Willis and his father, who was from Alabama, moved to Hope, Arkansas and then to Texarkana and from there to Marshall, Texas. He witnessed many slave beatings on his farm; not being allowed to look at a book, he learned to read after the Civil War while he was in jail in Arkansas. He remembers the night the stars fell:
I can show you right where I was when the stars fell. Some say they covered the ground like snow, but nary one ever hit the ground. They fell in 'bout twelve feet of the ground. The chillen jumped up and tried to cotch them. I don't 'member how long they fell, but they was shootin' through the air like sky-rockets for quite a spell.71Mary Woodridge: Mary and her twin sister were born in Washington County, Kentucky near Lexington. When the girls were about fourteen, their owner took them to a slave market and auctioned them off to different owners. Mary does not know what happened to her sister. About five years later, she was sold again to a slavetrader and she was kept in a stockade for several years. In spite of this, she believed in slavery [or so she says] "Nigger aint got no business being set free, niggers still oughter be slaves. Us niggers did not hev to bother bout de victuals or nuthin....Wen my Missis called us niggers gether and told us we was free I was as happy as a skinned frog but you seed I didn't have any sense. All niggers are fools."72 It seems that they were even foolish enough to believe in myths.
Myth: Notions about nature when the stars fell in 1833.Amanda Young: Amanda Young is the great-great grandmother of a well-respected African American historian/genealogist and friend of mine, Angela Walton Rajj. Her cousin, Frances Swager told her told this story to me and I place it on a website for further generations to read about and to know of as a pivotal event in the lives of many 19th century slaves. Amanda was born a slave in Maury County, Tennessee. Amanda said she was a small girl, when one night while sleeping in the quarters, someone started screaming outside. Her story continues in the manner in which she told it:
At the Old Thomas Kennedy farm (Uncle Tom's Cabin), young Tom and some more boys wore playing cards in one of the negro cabins. One of the slaves went to the cabin door and called loudly, "Mas'r Tom! Come quick, the whole heavens is falling." He continued to call. After much persuasion and repeated calls from the old negro, young Tom said, "I'll go and see what the Damned old negro wants". Young Tom went to the door and saw the stars raining down. He ran to the big house and jumped on a feather bed, and prayed loudly for help.73
Somebody in the quarters started yellin' in the middle of the night to come out and to look up at the sky. We went outside and there they was a fallin' everywhere! Big stars coming down real close to the groun' and just before they hit the ground they would burn up! We was all scared. Some o' the folks was screamin', and some was prayin'. We all made so much noise, the white folks came out to see what was happenin'. They looked up and then they got scared, too.
But then the white folks started callin' all the slaves together, and for no reason, they started tellin' some of the slaves who their mothers and fathers was, and who they'd been sold to and where. The old folks was so glad to hear where their people went. They made sure we all knew what happened.........you see, they thought it was Judgement Day."74
On to Next Section
23 Rachel Bradley in Works Progress Administration: Louisiana Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
24 Gus Bradshaw in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
25 Elizabeth Brennan in Works Progress Administration: Arkansas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
27 Sylvester Brooks in Works Progress Administration: Alabama Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
28 Calline Brown Moses in Works Progress Administration: Mississippi Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
30 Alex Bufford in Works Progress Administration: Missouri Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
32 Richard Carruthers in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
34 Jeptha Choice in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
36 George Coleman in Works Progress Administration: Mississippi Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
37 William Davis in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
39 Charlotte Foster in Works Progress Administration: South Carolina Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
40 Mary Gladdy in Works Progress Administration: Georgia Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
42 Annie Hawkins in Works Progress Administration: Oklahoma Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
44 Betty Hodge in Works Progress Administration: Arkansas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
46 Josephine Howard in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
49 Lizzie Johnson in Works Progress Administration: Arkansas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
50 "She was big enough to know they was fighting and trying to drive 'em out. Her mother's name was "Marthy." She remembers when dey usta have "Green Corn Dances." Dey cooked all dere stuff together in a big pot, green corn, butter beans, and rabbit or any other kind of animal dey killed. After dey all eat dey have a big dance round de pot and call it de "Green Corn Dance" ... They lived in log huts, they cooked all their stuff together in big pots. They believed in de "Big Spirit." [Chaney Mack in Works Progress Administration: Mississippi Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).]
52 Lizzie McCloud in Works Progress Administration: Arkansas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932)
54 Patsy Moses in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
55 Virginia Newman in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
56 Julia Grimes Jones Ocklbary in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
57 Susan Davis Rhodes in Works Progress Administration: Missouri Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
59 Alice Shaw in Works Progress Administration: Mississippi Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
61 Edward Taylor in Works Progress Administration: Missouri Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
63 George Town in Works Progress Administration: Georgia Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
65 Daphne Williams in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
66 Jane Williams in Works Progress Administration: Mississippi Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
68 Lou Williams in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
69 Isaac Wilson Moses in Works Progress Administration: Mississippi Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
71 Willis Winn in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
72 Mary Woodridge in Works Progress Administration: Texas Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932).
73 ibid. Although this entry is listed under Mary Woodbridge, there is some doubt as to whether it can be attributed to her. It could also be attributed to Sue Higgins, but there is no information about her. As the cabin is called "Uncle Tom's Cabin," it deserves even greater scrutiny.
74 "The Night the Stars Fell: My Search for Amanda Young" Angela Walton Rajj Website