Slave Narrative of Washington Allen

Person Interviewed: Washington Allen
Interviewed: December 18, 1936
Location: Columbus, Georgia
Residence: 1932-Fifth Avenue, Columbus, Georgia
Born: December –, 1854
Place of birth: “Some where” in South Carolina Present
[MAY 8 1937]

[TR: Original index refers to “Allen, Rev. W.B. (Uncle Wash)”; however, this informant is different from the next informant, Rev. W.B. Allen.]

The story of “Uncle Wash”, as he is familiarly known, is condensed as follows:

He was born on the plantation of a Mr. Washington Allen of South Carolina, for whom he was named. This Mr. Allen had several sons and daughters, and of these, one son—George Allen—who, during the 1850’s left his South Carolina home and settled near LaFayette, Alabama. About 1858, Mr. Washington Allen died and the next year, when “Wash” was “a five-year old shaver”, the Allen estate in South Carolina was divided—all except the Allen Negro slaves. These, at the instance and insistence of Mr. George Allen, were taken to LaFayette, Alabama, to be sold. All were put on the block and auctioned off, Mr. George Allen buying every Negro, so that not a single slave family was divided up.

“Uncle Wash” does not remember what he “fetched at de sale”, but he does distinctly remember that as he stepped up on the block to be sold, the auctioneer ran his hand “over my head and said: Genilmens, dis boy is as fine as split silk”. Then when Mr. George Allen had bought all the Allen slaves, it dawned upon them, and they appreciated, why he had insisted on their being sold in Alabama, rather than in South Carolina.

Before he was six years of age, little “Wash” lost his mother and, from then until freedom, he was personally cared for and looked after by Mrs. George Allen; and the old man wept every time he mentioned her name.

During the ’60’s, “Uncle Wash’s” father drove a mail and passenger stage between Cusseta and LaFayette, Alabama—and, finally died and was buried at LaFayette by the side of his wife. “Uncle Wash” “drifted over” to Columbus about fifty years ago and is now living with his two surviving children.

He has been married four times, all his wives dying “nachul” deaths. He has also “buried four chillun”.

He was taught to read and write by the sons and daughters of Mr. George Allen, and attended church where a one-eyed white preacher—named Mr. Terrentine—preached to the slaves each Sunday “evenin'” (afternoon). The salary of this preacher was paid by Mr. George Allen.

When asked what this preacher usually preached about, “Uncle Wash” answered: “He was a one-eyed man an’ couldn’ see good; so, he mout a’made some mistakes, but he sho tole us plenty ’bout hell fire ‘n brimstone.”

“Uncle Wash” is a literal worshipper of the memory of his “old time white fokes.”


Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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