Slave Narrative of Mary Woodward

Interviewer: W. W. Dixon
Person Interviewed: Mary Woodward
Location: South Carolina
Date of Birth: 1854
Age: 83

“I knows you since you ’bout dis high (indicating). When was it? Where I see you? I see you at your auntie’s house. Dat was your auntie, Miss Roxie Mobley, other side of Blackstock. You was in a little dress dat day, look lak a gal. Oh! Lordy, dat been a long time! What us has come thru since dat day and de days befo’ dat, beyond freedom.

“I was born a slave of old Marster Adam Berber, near de Catawba River side de county, in 1854. I’s a mighty small gal but I ‘members when pappy got his leg broke at de gin-house dat day, in de Christmas week. Seem lak dat was de best Christmas I ever had. White folks comin’ and a gwine, loadin’ de bed down wid presents for pappy and mammy and me.

“What my pappy name? He was name Joe and mammy go by Millie. Both b’long to Marster Adam and Miss Nellie. Dat was her name and a lovely mistress she be in dat part of de country. Her was sure pretty, walk pretty, and act pretty. ‘Bout all I had to do in slavery time was to comb her hair, lace her corset, pull de hem over her hoop and say, ‘You is served, mistress!’ Her lak them little words at de last.

“They have no chillun and dat was a grief to her more than to Marster Adam. Him comfort her many times ’bout it and ‘low it was his fault. Then they ‘spute ’bout it. Dats all de rumpus ever was ‘twixt them. I ‘spects if they had had chillun they wouldn’t have been so good to me. What you reckon? They give me dolls and laugh at de way I name them, talk to them and dress them up.

“When de Yankees come, I was a settin’ in de swing in de front yard. They ride right up and say: ‘Where your mistress?’ I say: ‘I don’t know.’ They say: ‘You is lyin’. Give her a few lashes and us’ll find out.’ Another say: ‘No, us come to free niggers, not to whip them.’ Then they ask me for to tell them where de best things was hid. I say: ‘I don’t know sir.’ Then they ransack de house, bust open de smoke house, take de meat, hams, shoulders, ‘lasses barrel, sugar, and meal, put them in a four-horse wagon, set de house, gin-house and barn afire and go on toward Rocky Mount. Our neighbors then, was Marster Aaron Powell and Sikes Gladden, on Dutchman Creek.

“After freedom I marry Alf Woodward. Us had chillun. How many? Let me see; Eli still alive, don’t know where he is though. Rosa dead; Susannah live now on Miss Sara Lord’s place, up dere near Metford. De rest of de chillun went off to Arkansas ’bout 1885, and us never heard from them.

“I forgot to tell you dat when de Yankees come and find me a settin’ in dat swing, I had on a string of beads dat Miss Nellie give to me. Them rascals took my beads off my neck, and what you reckon they did wid them? Well, if you doesn’t know, I does. De scamps, dat is one of them did, took my lovely beads and put them ’round his horse’s neck and ride off wid them, leavin’ me sobbin’ my life out in dat swing. They say you must love your enemies and pray for them dat spitefully use you but I never have pray for dat Yankee scamp to dis day. Although I’s Scotch Irish African ‘Sociate Reform Presbyterian, de spirit have never moved me to pray for de horse and rider dat went off wid my beads dat my mistress give me. When I tell Marster William Woodward, my husband’s old marster, ’bout it, him say: ‘De low dirty skunk, de Lord’ll take vengeance on him.’ Marster William give Alf a half a dollar and tell him to git me another string of beads, though Alf never done so.

“Alf was Marster William’s coachman and him and Wade Pichett, dat was a slave of Marster William, took fifteen mules, when de Yankees come, and carried them in de Wateree swamps and stayed dere and saved them. Every time Alf or Wade see Marster William, as de years comed and goed, they fetched up de subject of them mules and git sumpin’ from him. One day he laugh and say: ‘Look here Alf, I done ’bout pay for sixteen mules and dere was but fifteen in de drove.’ Alf laugh but he always got way wid it when he see any of de Woodward white folks. Well I’s glad to go now, though I has ‘joyed bein’ wid you. De Lord bless you and keep you.”

Berber, Mobley, Woodward,

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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