Slave Narrative of Alice Bradley

Interviewer: Grace McCune
Person Interviewed: Alice Bradley
Location: Athens, Georgia

Alice Bradley, or “Aunt Alice” as she is known to everybody, “runs cards” and claims to be a seeress. Apologetic and embarrassed because she had overslept and was straightening her room, she explained that she hadn’t slept well because a dog had howled all night and she was uneasy because of this certain forerunner of disaster.

“Here t’is Sunday mornin’ and what wid my back, de dog, and de rheumatics in my feets, its [TR: ‘done’ crossed out] too late to go to church, so come in honey I’se glad to hab somebody to talk to. Dere is sho’ goin’ to be a corpse close ’round here. One night a long time ago two dogs howled all night long and on de nex’ Sunday dere wuz two corpses in de church at de same time. Dat’s one sign dat neber fails, when a dog howls dat certain way somebody is sho’ goin’ to be daid.”

When asked what her full name was, she said: “My whole name is Alice Bradley now. I used to be a Hill, but when I married dat th’owed me out of bein’ a Hill, so I’se jus’ a Bradley now. I wuz born on January 14th but I don’t ‘member what year. My ma had three chillun durin’ de war and one jus’ atter de war. I think dat las’ one wuz me, but I ain’t sho’. My pa’s name wuz Jim Hill, and ma’s name wuz Ca’line Hill. Both of ’em is daid now. Pa died October 12, 1896 and wuz 88 years old. Ma died November 20, 1900; she wuz 80 years old. I knows dem years is right ’cause I got ’em from dat old fambly Bible so I kin git ’em jus’ right. One of my sisters, older dan I is, stays in Atlanta wid her son. Since she los’ one of her sons, her mind’s done gone. My other sister ain’t as old as I is but her mind is all right and she is well.”

“I wuz raised in Washin’ton, Wilkes County, and de fust I ‘members was stayin’ wid Miss Alice Rayle. She had three chillun and I nussed ’em. One of de boys is a doctor now, and has a fambly of his own, and de las’ I heared of ‘im, he wuz stayin’ in Atlanta.

“I’se been married’ two times. I runned away wid Will Grisham, when I wuz ’bout 14 years old. Mr. Carter, a Justice of de Peace, met us under a ‘simmon tree and tied de knot right dar. My folks ketched us, but us wuz already married and so it didn’t make no diffunce.

“I lived on a farm wid my fust husband, and us had three chillun, but dey is all gone now. I ‘members when my oldes’ gal wuz ’bout 2 years old, dey wuz playin’ out on de porch wid dey little dog, when a mad dog come by and bit my chillun’s dog. Folks kilt our dog, and jus’ ’bout one week atterwards my little gal wuz daid too. She did love dat little dog, and he sho’ did mind ‘er. She jus’ grieved herself to death ’bout dat dog.

“Atter my fust husband died, I married Rich Bradley. Rich wuz a railroad man, and he went off to Washin’ton, D.C., to wuk. He sont me money all de time den, but when he went from dar to Shecargo to wuk I didn’t hear from ‘im long, and I don’t know what’s happened to ‘im ’til now, for it’s been a long time since I heared from ‘im.

“I loves to run de cyards for my friends. I always tells ’em when I sees dere’s trouble in de cyards for ’em, and shows ’em how to git ’round it, if I kin. None of de res’ of my folks ever run de cyards, but I’se been at it ever since I wuz jus’ a little gal, pickin’ up old wore out cyards, dat had bean th’owed away, ’cause I could see things in ’em. I ‘members one time when I wuz small and didn’t know so good what de cyards wuz tellin’ me, dat a rich man, one of de riches’ in Wilkes County, wuz at our place, I tol ‘im de cyards when I run ’em. I saw sompin’ wuz goin’ to happen on his place, dat two colored mens would be tangled up wid, but I didn’t know jus’ what wuz goin’ to happen. And sho’ ’nuff, two colored mens sot fire to his barns and burned up all his horses and mules, de onlies’ thing dey saved wuz one ridin’ horse. Dey ketched de mens, and dey served time for what dey done. One of ’em died way out yonder where dey sont ’em.

“I ‘members one white lady way out in Alabama sont a note axin’ me to run de cyards for her. I runned ’em and got one of my friends to writer her what I seed. Dey had run bright and dat wuz good luck. One time I runned de cyards for two sisters dat had done married two brothers, and de cyards run so close kin date I wuz able to tell ’em how dey wuz married and dey tol me dat I wuz right.

“And jus’ a few days ago a old man come to see me thinkin’ dat he wuz pizened. When I runned de cyards, I seed his trouble. He had been drinkin’ and wuz sick, so I jus’ give him a big dose of soda and cream of tartar and he got better. Den I tole him to go on home; dat nobody hadn’t done nothin’ to ‘im and all he needed wuz a little medicine.

“I told Mr. Dick Armell of how he wuz goin’ to git kilt if he went up in his airyplane dat day and begged him not to try it but to wait. He wouldn’t listen and went on and got kilt jus’ lak I tole ‘im he would. I runned de cyards for Mrs. Armell lots of times for I liked ‘im, and he wuz a fine man. I runned de cyards for ‘im one time ‘fore he went to de World’s Fair, and de cyards run bright, and his trip wuz a good one jus’ lak I tole ‘im it would be.

“All de old white folks dat I wuz raised up wid, de Hills from Washin’ton, Wilkes, is gone now, ‘cept I think one of de gals is wukin’ at de capitol in Atlanta, but she done married now and I don’t ‘member her name.”

Alice excused herself to answer a knock at the door. Upon her return she said: “Dat wuz one of my white chillun. I wukked for ’em so long and one of ’em comes by every now an’ den to see if I needs sompin’. Her ma done had a new picture of herself took and wanted me to see it. Dey sho’ is good to me.”

Alice doesn’t charge for “running the cards.” She says she doesn’t have a license, and is very thankful for anything that visitors may care to give her. She will not run the cards on Sunday. “Dat’s bad luck,” she said. “Come back some day when tain’t Sunday, and I’ll see whats in de cyards for you!”

Bradley, Grisham, Hill, Rayle,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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