Interviewer: Lauana Creel
Person Interviewed: Katie Sutton
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Folklore District #5 Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel
“A TRADITION FROM PRE-CIVIL WAR DAYS” KATIE SUTTON, AGED EX-SLAVE Oak street, Evansville, Ind.
“White folks ‘jes naturally different from darkies,” said Aunt Katie Sutton, ex-slave, as she tightened her bonnet strings under her wrinkled chin.
“We’s different in color, in talk and in ligion and beliefs. We’s different in every way and can never be spected to think oe [TR: or?] to live alike.”
“When I was a little gal I lived with my mother in an old log cabin. My mammy was good to me but she had to spend so much of her time at humoring the white babies and taking care of them that she hardly ever got to even sing her own babies to sleep.”
“Ole Missus and Young Missus told the little slave children that the stork brought the white babies to their mothers but that the slave children were all hatched out from buzzards eggs and we believed it was true.”
“Yes, Maam, I believes in evil spirits and that there are many folks that can put spells on you, and if’n you dont believe it you had better be careful for there are folks right here in this town that have the power to bewitch you and then you will never be happy again.”
Aunt Katie declared that the seventh son of a seventh son, or the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter possesses the power to heal diseases and that a child born after the death of its father possesses a strange and unknown power.
While Aunt Katie was talking, a neighbor came in to borrow a shovel from her.
“No, no, indeed I never lends anything to nobody,” she declared. After the new neighbor left, Aunt Katie said, “She jes erbout wanted dat shovel so she could ‘hax’ me. A woman borrowed a poker from my mammy and hexed mammy by bending the poker and mammy got all twisted up wid rhumatis ’twill her uncle straightened de poker and den mammy got as straight as anybody.”
“No, Maam, nobody wginter take anything of mine out’n this house.” Aunt Katie Sutton’s voice was thin and her tune uncertain but she remembered some of the songs she heard in slavery days. One was a lullaby sung by her mother and the song is given on separate pages of this artical.
Three years ago Aunt Katie was called away on her last journey although she had always emmerced the back and front steps of her cottage with chamber lye daily to keep away evil spirits death crept in and demanded the price each of us must pay and Katie answered the call.
Aunt Katie sprinkled salt in the foot prints of departing guests “Dat’s so dey kain leave no illwill behind em and can never come agin ‘thout an invitation,” she explained.
She said she one time planted a tree with a curse and that her worst enemy died that same year.
“Evil spirits creeps around all night long and evil people’s always able to hex you, So, you had best be careful how you talks to strangers. Always spit on a coin before You gives it to a begger and dont pass too close to a hunchbacked person unless you can rub the hump or you will have bad luck as sure as anything.”
Aunt Katie declared a rabbit’s foot only brought good luck if the rabbit had been killed by a cross eyed negro in a country grave yard in the dark of the moon and she said that she believed one of that description could be found only once in a lifetime or possibly a hundred years.
“A Slave Mammy’s Lullaby.”
Sung by Katie Sutton, Ex-slave of Evansville, Indiana.
“A snow white stork flew down from the sky. Rock a bye, my baby bye, To take a baby gal so fair, To young missus, waitin there; When all was quiet as a mouse, In ole massa’s big fine house.
Refrain: Dat little gal was borned rich and free, She’s de sap from out a sugah tree; But you are jes as sweet to me; My little colored chile, Jes lay yo head upon my bres; An res, and res, and res, an res, My little colored chile.
To a cabin in a woodland drear, You’ve come by a mammy’s heart to cheer; In this ole slave’s cabin, Your hands my heart strings grabbin; Jes lay your head upon my bres, Jes snuggle close an res an res; My little colored chile.
Yo daddy ploughs ole massa’s corn, Yo mammy does the cooking; She’ll give dinner to her hungry chile, When nobody is a lookin; Don’t be ashamed, my chile, I beg, Case you was hatched from a buzzard’s egg; My little colored chile.”