Slave Narrative of Doc Daniel Dowdy

Person Interviewed: Doc Daniel Dowdy
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Madison County, Georgia
Date of Birth: June 6, 1856
Age: 81

I was born June 6, 1856 in Madison County, Georgia. Father was named Joe Dowdy and mother was named Mary Dowdy. There was 9 of us boys, George, Smith, Lewis, Henry, William, myself, Newt, James and Jeff. There was one girl and she was my twin, and her name was Sarah. My mother and father come from Richmond, Va., to Georgia. Father lived on one side of the river and my mother on the other wide. My father would come over ever week to visit us. Noah Meadows bought my father and Elizabeth Davis, daughter of the old master took my mother. They married in Noah Meadows’ house.

My mother was the cook in the Big House. They’d give us pot likker with bread crumbs in it. Sometimes meat, jest sometimes, very seldom. I liked black-eyed peas and still do till now. We lived in weatherboard house. Our parents had corded-up beds with ropes and us chillun slept on the floor for most part or in a hole bored in a log. Our house had one window jest big enough to stick your heat out of, and one door, and this one door faced the Big House which was your master’s house. This was so that you couldn’t git out ‘less somebody seen you.

My job was picking up chips and keeping the calves and cows separate so that the calves wouldn’t suck the cows dry. Mostly, we had Saturday afternoons off to wash. I was show boy doing the war, me and my sister ’cause we was twins. My mother couldn’t be bought ’cause she done had 9 boys for one farm and neither my father, ’cause he was the father of ’em. I was religious and didn’t play much, but I sho’ did like to listen to preachings. I did used to play marbles sometimes. We jest wore shirts and nothing else both winter and summer. They was a little heavier in winter and that’s all. No shoes ever. I had none till after I was set free. I guess I was almost 12 years old then.

The overseer on our place was a large tall, black man. We had plenty poor white neighbors. They was one of our biggest troubles. They’d allus look in our window and door all the time.

I saw slaves sold. I can see that old block now. My cousin Eliza was a pretty girl, really good looking. Her master was her father. When the girls in the big house had beaux coming to see ’em, they’d ask, “Who is that pretty gal?” So they decided to git rid of her right away. The day they sold her, will allus be remembered. They stripped her to be bid off and looked at. I wasn’t allowed to stand in the crowd. I was laying down under a fig brush. The man that bought Eliza was from New York. The Negroes had made up nuff money to buy her off they self, but they wouldn’t let that happen. There was a man bidding for her who was a Swedeland. He allus bid for the good looking cullud gals and bought ’em for his own use. He ask the man from New York, “Whut you gonna do with her when you git ‘er?” The man from New York said, “None of your damn business, but you ain’t got money nuff to buy ‘er.” When the man from New York had done bought her, he said. “Eliza, you are free from now on.” She left and went to New York with him. Mama and Eliza both cried when she was being showed off, and master told ’em to shut up before he knocked they brains out.

Iffen you didn’t do nothing wrong, they whipped you now and then anyhow. I called a boy Johnny once and he took me ‘hind the garden and poured it on me and made me call him master. It was from then on I started to fear the white man. I come to think of him as a bear. Sometimes fellows would be a little late making it in and they got whipped with a cow-hide. The same man whut whipped me to make me call him master, well, he whipped my mamma. He tied her to a tree and beat her unmerciful and cut her tender parts. I don’t know why he tied her to that tree.

The first time you was caught trying to read or write. you was whipped with a cow-hide, the next time with a cat-o-nine tails and the third time they cut the first jint offen your forefinger. They was very severe. You most allus got 30 and 9 lashes.

They carried news from one plantation by whut they call relay. Iffen you was caught, they whipped you till you said, “Oh, pray Master!” One day a man gitting whipped was saying Oh pray master, Lord have mercy!” They’d say “Keep whipping that nigger Goddam him.” He was whipped till he said, “Oh pray Master, I gotta nuff.” Then they said, “Let him up now, ’cause he’s praying to the right man.”

My father was the preacher and an educated man. You know the sermon they give him to preach? – Servant, Obey Your Master. Our favorite baptizing hymn was On Jordan’s Stormy Bank I Stand. My favorite song is Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.

Oh, them patrollers! They had a chief and he git ’em together and iffen they caught you without a pass and sometimes with a pass, they’d beat you. But iffen you had a pass, they had to answer to the law. One old master had two slaves, brothers, on his place. They was both preachers. Mitchell was a hardshell Baptist and Andrew was a Missionary Baptist. One day the patroller chief was rambling thoo’ the place and found some letters writ to Mitchell and Andrew. He went to the master and said, “Did you know you had some niggers that could read and write?” Master said, “Ho, but I might have, who do you ‘spect?” The patroller answered, “Mitchell and Andrew.” The old master said, “I never knowed Andrew to tell me a lie ’bout nothing!”

Mitchell was called first and asked could he read and write. He was scared stiff. He said, “Haw-sir.” Andrew was called and asked. He said, “Yes-sir.” He was asked iffen Mitchell could. He said, “Sho’, better’n me.” The master told John Arnold, the patroller chief, not to bother ’em. He gloried in they spunk. When the old master died, he left all of his niggers a home apiece. We had Ku Klux Klans till the government sent Federal officers out and put a stop to their ravaging and sent ’em to Sing Sing.

Doing the war my father was carpenter. His young master come to him ’cause he was a preacher and asked him must he go to the front and my father told him not to go ’cause he wouldn’t make it. He went on jest the same and when he come back my father had to tote him in the house ’cause he had one leg tore off. The Yankees come thoo’, ransacked houses, leave poor horses and take fat ones and turn the poor ones in the corn they left. They took everthing they could. They cuss niggers who dodged ’em for being fools and make ’em show ’em everything they knowed whar was.

Our old master was mighty old and him and the women folks cried when we was freed. He told us we was free as he was.

I come to Oklahoma in 1906. I come out of that riot in 1906. Some fellow knocked up a colored woman or something and we waded right in and believe me we made Atlanta a fit place to live in. It is one of the best cities in America.

I married Miss Emmaline Fitt. I carried her to the preacher one of the coldest nights I ever rid. I have three chillun and don’t know how many grandchillun. My chillun is one a nurse, one in Arizona for his health and the other doing first one thing and another.

I think Abraham Lincoln was the greatest human being ever been on earth ‘cepting the Apostle Paul. Who any better’n a man who liberated 4,000,000 Negroes? Some said he wasn’t a Christian, but he told some friends once, “I’m going to leave you and may never see you again (and he didn’t) so I’m going to take the Divine Spirit with me and leave it with you.”

Jeff Davis was as bloody as he could be. I don’t lak him a’tall. But you know good things come from enemies. I don’t even admire George Washington. White men from the south that will help the Negro is far and few between. Booker T. Washington was a great man. He made some blunders and mistakes, but he was a great man. He is the father of industrial education and you know that sho’ is a great thing.

The white folks was ignorant. You know the better you prepare yourself the better you act. Iffen they had put some sense in our heads ‘stead of sticks on our heads, we’ud been better off and more benefit to ’em. I had something from within that made me fear God and taught me how to pray. People say God don’t hear sinners pray, but he do. Everybody ought to be Christians so not to be lost.

I work in real estate and can do a lot of work. I don’t use no crutches and no cane and walk all the time, never hardly ride. I come in at 1 and 2 o’clock a. m. and get up between 8 and 9 a. m. ‘cept Sundays, I get up at 7 or 8 a. m. so I can be ready to go to Sunday School. I cook for my own self all the time too. I am a Baptist and a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church. I am a trustee in my church too.

Dowdy, Fitt, Meadows,

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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