Slave Narrative of Anderson Whitted

Interviewer: Emily Hobson
Person Interviewed: Anderson Whitted
Location: Rockville, Indiana
Place of Birth: Orange County, North Carolina
Age: 88

Special Assignment Emily Hobson Dist. #3 Parke County


Mr. Whitted will be 89 years old next month October 1937. He was born in Orange County, North Carolina. His mother took care of the white children so her nine children were very well treated. The master was a Doctor. The family were Hickory Quakers and did not believe in mistreating their slaves, always providing them with plenty to eat, and clothing to wear to church on Sunday. Despite a law that prohibited books to Negroes, his family had a Bible, and an elementary spelling book. Mr. Whitted’s father belonged to his master’s half-brother and lived fourteen miles away. He was allowed a horse to go see them every two weeks. The father could read, and spell very well so would teach them on his visits. Mr. Whitted learned to read the Bible first, then in later years has learned to read other things. It was the custom for the master to search the negro huts, but Mr. Whitted’s master never did.

The Doctor often took Mr. Whitted’s grandmother with him to help care for the sick. When the war broke out the Master’s son joined the southern forces. The son was wounded. The Doctor and Mr. Whitted’s grandmother went for the boy. On the way home the Doctor died but the grandmother got the boy home and nursed him back to health. Life for the Negroes was different after the son began running the place, he was not good to them. Mr. Whitted was then 16 years old, and the older brother was the overseer. The negroes had been allowed a share of the crop but the new master refused them anything to live on. In that region the wheat was harvested the middle of June. There was a big crop that year but the entire family was turned out before the harvest, with nothing. Mr. Whitted left his older brother with his mother and the children sitting by the road, while he ran the 14 miles for his father to find out what to do. The father borrowed two teams and wagons, rented a house in the edge of town, and moved the family in.

The slaves were freed about that time, and for the first time in their lives they were free, and the entire family together. The father went to the governor for food. The government was allowing hard tack and pickled beef for the negroes. They received their allotment, and were well satisfied with hard tack because they were free. In telling about the pickled beef he says he never has seen any beef since that looked like it; he believed that it was horse meat. The father started working in a mill in 1865. He was soon bringing home food stuff from there, and in time they had a crop on their little place.

The older brother worked in the mornings and went to a Quaker Normal School in the afternoon. Pres. Harrison gave him an appointment in the revenue department, then as he grew older he was transferred to the post office department. He was retired on a pension at the age of 75. He is still living in Washington, D.C., and is now 97 years old.

During the war Mr. Whitted ran away, going 12 miles to the camp of the northern soldiers where he stayed two weeks. They gave him a horse to ride, and sent him gathering fuel through the woods for them. Those were the happiest days he had ever known-his first freedom.

Mr. Whitted was never sold, but he often saw processions go past after a sale, the wagon loaded with provisions first, then the slaves tied together following. They often took the babies away from their mothers, and sold them. Some old woman, too old to work, would then care for the little ones until they were old enough to work. At six years old they were put to work thinning corn, worming the tobacco, and pulling weeds. At seven they were taught to use a hoe. At 16 they were full hands, working along with the older men.

In April 1880 Mr. Whitted left Orange County, it was so very rough it was hard to make a living. He just started out in search of a better place, leaving his wife and seven children there. In November he sent for them, he was working at the brick yards in Rockville. They were finishing the court house. He was so anxious to make a living he often did as much as two men. One child was born here. His wife died soon after coming to Rockville. He stayed single for three years, but found he could not care for his family and married again. His second wife died a number of years ago. He now spends the winters with his three living daughters, and during the summer months, a daughter comes to Rockville to enjoy his home.

Mr. Whitted’s uncle belonged to a mean master. The slaves worked hard all day, then were chained together at night. The uncle ran away in the early part of the war, and after two years broke through the lines, and joined the northern army, going back after emancipation.


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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