Slave Narrative of Mary Wright

Interviewer: Mamie Hanberry
Person Interviewed: Mary Wright
Location: Kentucky
Place of Birth: Gracey, Kentucky
Date of Birth: August 1, 1865
Place of Residence: 204 W. Fourth St.

“I was born at Gracey, Kentucky on Mr. James Colemans far, in a log cabin wid a dirt floor en a stick chimney.

“Folks uster weat wat dey calls a “Polanaise”. Hid wat kinder like a wrapper made of calico made wid tight in de waist en wide in de bottom. Den I’ve remembers de basque waist on de over skirts dese war made real tight waists wid a point in de back en ober de stomach. De skirt wer real full dem a skirt ober dis ter de knees wid a big pucker on de hips.”

“My Mammy bound me out to Miss Puss Graham ter learn ter work, foh my vittals en cloes. Miss Puss gave me a pair of red morocco shoes en I was made so happy, I’se neber fohgot dese shoes.

“I heard my Mammy talk of “De Nigger Risin”. De Klu Klux uster stick de niggers head on er stake alongside de Cadiz road en dar de buzzards would eat them till nuthin’ was left but de bones. Dar war a sign on dis stake dat said “Look out Nigger You are next”. Us chilluns would not go far way from dat cabin. I’se tells you dat is so. I jes knowed dat dis Ku Klux would do dat to us sho if weuns had been catched.

“I remember wen Hopkinsville had jest a few stores en ole jew by name of Shyer bought bones an iron en rags. Once us chilluns found some bones on de creek bank en took dem things and wanted ter sell dem to Mr. Shyer en he said ‘take dem things way dey stink, dey aint cured up yet. Bury dem things den bring dem back to me. Us Chilluns bed a hard time gittin home cause we stunk so bad.’

“I remember wen we uster hev big time quilting on dem days we sho had a big time fore we start in de morning wid a water melon feast, den weuns quilt erwhile den a big dinner war spread out den after dinner we’d quilt in the evening den supper and a big dance dat night, wid de banjo a humming en us niggers a dancing, “Oh, Lawdy wat good days dem war.”

“Wen we were young we uster hev parties called “Dideoos”, de banjo would play en den de girls would line up on one side of de cabin en de boys on de tother side while the folks war a clappin en er playing why de boys en girls wuld choose dar parrners den weuns sing:

“Ole Brer Rabbit, Shake it, shake it, How I love you, Shake it, shake it. I’d ruther play dat game dan to eat.”

“We uster tap maple trees en hev big gathering foh ter make maple sugar dat war while I lived at Gracey.

“De stage coach day war big days, wen de stage coach war a comin thru why us little niggers would try ter keep up wid de horses en run erlong side de coach en sometimes a man or woman would drop us a penny den dar was sho a scramble.”

“I remember wen we uster wash cloes wid a paddle. You wet dese cloes en put soft soap in dem, the soap war made outer ash lye en grease den dese cloes war spread on a smooth stump an beat wid paddles till dey war clean. Den come de wooden wash board, hit war jes a piece of wood wid rough places or ridges chiseled in hit. Wen we uster wash quilts we uster cyt a nikasses varrek ubter eb dat made de tub deb my Mammy would put water in dese tubs den soft soap de quilts den us chilluns would git in de tubs in our Bare foots en tromp de dirt out.”

“We uster use grease lamps, dese war made outer iron, wid a piece of cotton rope down in de grease on dis jes send out a puny smelly light. Dem de brass lamp came erlong hit war a little lamp wid a wich wid a handle in er stem, no burner or nuthin hit burned coaloil but had no chimney.”

“Hee, Hee, Hee, I remember arbout a story Mary Beard told ter me erbout a slave woman dat war foolish. Her Massa couldn’t git no body ter buy her, hee, hee, hee, so he dresses her up nice en buys her a thimble en gives her a piece of cloth ter sew on. It war right here in Hopkinsville in front of de court house dat de block war en he sold dis woman as a “sewing slave”, en her war foolish en couldn’t take er right stitch en she sho brought a good price en wen her new Massa found out she war foolish he sho war mad. He tried ter sell her but pshaw he bought something he couldn’t git rid of, Hee, Hee.”

“Dese ole nigger slave traders uster so my Mammy said, steal de niggers from one Massa and dey would leave at night en stay in “Campbells Cave” den dey would take dese niggers wid a promise of freedom to Clarksville, Tenn., sell dem again on “Mr. Dunk Morr’s” slave market. Sometimes dese niggers if dey got a new Massa dat war mean would run erway en come back tar dar ole Massas.”

“Yes I believe you can be hauted, I aint neber seed one tho but I’se heard dem en I jest git creepy en I no’s dey is around.”

“Cos dreams come tru, I dont remember one now but if I’se had one ergin I will try ter remember en tells you.”

“No I aint neber seed a ghost. I feels dem sometimes en I jis shot my eyes en pray de “Good Lawd” ter send dat ghost away.”

“If youse find a horse shoe er put eber de door you will sho has good luck.”

“Thirteen has always been my lucky number. Dats follish ter thing ‘Thirteen is unlucky’. Seben is lucky ter me ter. I always win when I think of a seben.”

“Of cos now if youse breakes a mirror you cant keep from having bad luck. Nuthin you do will keep you from hit.”

“Sho is bad luck ter meet a cross-eyed pusson er blue gummed niggers is pizen cause if one bites you youse will sho ter die.”

“My Mammy sho did hev a big wedding my Pappys Massa ask my Mammy Massa foh her en den my Mammy Massa give her a big infair dat cost him $200.00 wid de bridal supper en all.”

“Dey uster do niggers pretty bad erbout dat funerals. Wen a nigger did die why de rest of de niggers hed ter work en one nigger made de box whiler ernother nigger dug de grave en the nigger war jes civered up en den on de Fourth Sunday in August ebery year all de colored folks would take a basket dinner ter de church en each family dat had buried a nigger would pay de preacher ter preach the sermon foh dat darkie dat died. We ate dinner en supper at de church en sometimes the funeral foh some fo de darkies wouldn’t git preached till next August. We went to dis funeral why we had big time talking wid our neighbors en of de dead.”

“Dogs howling meand bad luck if he howls under de house why someone is goin ter die.”

“If er owl come around de house on holler a death will happen in de family fore de next day.”

“I remembers I wat a sitting in de house en er peckerwood war a pecking on de house ‘Pure bad luck.'”

“I was working once foh Mrs. Shelton wen a little wren kept trying ter git in de house an I kep a shosin hit arway wen he got in somehow jes as soon as hit did Mrs. Shelton called me en I had a telegram from Chicago my neice war dead. She by dat I nos dat am bad luck. I dont like wrens any how.”

“Wenn a cow loses hits cud, jes giv hit an old dirty dish rag en den de cow will ding her cud again.”

“Sometimes a cow gits sich en lay down en if you will fell her tail on de end it is all soft, ‘Dat cow hot holler tail, en less you split dat tail en fill de holler wid salt den bind hit up dat cow will sholy die.'”

“I asked Mary if she was superstitious and she said ‘no, cos niggers are edicatted dese days en dey don believe in all dat tom-foolery. Dey neber would benn so foolish if de white folks did not tell us all dat rot.'” Mary neither reads or writes and is not superstitious according to her admission. What do you think of it. I am afraid that I do not agree with. M.D.H.)

Coleman, Graham, Wright,

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

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