Slave Narrative of Sweetie Ivery Wagoner

If I was born the year of freedom or the year before my mammy didn’t know. Her name was Betty Ivery and pappy’s name was Louis Ivery, belonging to old Newt Titsworth who had a big plantation somewheres in Arkansas, but I don’t know what the name of the town. Only thing I know that man had a big place – as far as the eye could see that man owned it. He had seven or eight slave families on the place; my mother was the house girl, done the spinning, the cooking, the cleaning and all such. The old master was good to the slaves my mammy always said; never whipped them, but if they got mean and worthless he would sell them. My father was a slave, but he wasn’t a Negro. He was a Creek Indian whom the Cherokee Indians stole long years ago and put in slavery just like he was a Negro, and he married with a slave woman (her mother, Betty) and raised a big family. There was King, Louis, Marry, Cindy, Lucy, Jane, Fannie, Martha, Emma, Adeline and myself. I don’t know where any is now, we all get separated after the war and never find each other. Master Titsworth’s house was a pretty good frame place; the slave families sleep in their own cabins, but all their eating was done together in a long house made of rough brick, and the eating was plentiful with fresh killed beef or pork, plenty of corn pone made of meal ground by the old rock mills, with potatoes and vegetables seasoned high with the meats. The eatings wasn’t so good after the war when the slaves have to reach out for themselves; mostly it was corn grits, then maybe it wouldn’t be nothing like it is now when I gets hardly enough to live on, hungry most of the time and in the misery so deep I can do no work (she is an invalid and seems likely to die within a short time). There was a white overseer on the plantation and he blowed the whistle which sent everybody to their work. Mammy said he was a good man. The slave owners was always wanting more young slaves and if there was a woman on the place that didn’t have no man the old masters would send to another plantation and borrow a big husky slave man for the woman and when the woman was done with child they would send the man back to his own place. Everybody got scared when the war come along; the master was afraid somebody steal his slaves so he ups us to Texas and then we come back to Arkansas after a while and stay there until freedom. We stay for a while with the old master after the war, then my pappy go to farming and making things like wooden tubs, oat straw hats, horse collars and most anything he could sell or trade to the neighbors. My folks was part Indian alright; they wore blankets and breeches with fur around the bottoms. My father’s own daddy was Randolph Get – a – bout, and when the Indian lands given out by the allotments I got me 160 acres right here in Muskogee just north of where I live now. I use to own all that, but no more. Lots of the slaves never learn to read or write, but the mistress teach my own mammy after the day’s work was done. They set in the house long after dark and the mistress teach her, and then on Sunday, every Sunday too, they would go a little church for the preaching. My mammy would set back over on one side of the seat rows; never did she miss the Sabbath meeting. I belong to the Methodist Church, but since it been eight year that I been unable to get out, I just do all my praying at home. There’s nothing else like religion for folks to enjoy.

Titsworth, Wagoner,

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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