Slave Narrative of Easter Sudie Campbell

Interviewer: Mamie Hanbery
Person Interviewed: Easter Sudie Campbell
Location: Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Place of Residence: Princeton, Caldwell Co., Kentucky
Age: 72
Place of Residence: Webber St., Hopkinsville, Ky

CHRISTIAN CO. (Mamie Hanbery) [HW: Ky 3]

Story of Easter Sudie Campbell, (age about 72, Webber St., Hopkinsville, Ky.)

Born in Princeton, Caldwell Co., Kentucky, her parents were slaves, the property of Will and Martha Grooms of Princeton.

Aunt Easter as she is called has followed the profession of a mid-wife for forty years. She is still active and works at present among the negroes of Hopkinsville.

“Yes, sho, I make my own medicines, humph, dat aint no trouble. I cans cure scrofula wid burdock root and one half spoon of citrate of potash. Jes make a tea of burdock root en add the citrate of potash to hit. Sasafras is good foh de stomach en cleans yer out good. I’se uses yeller percoon root foh de sore eyes.

“Wen I stayed wid Mrs. Porter her chaps would break out mighty bad wid sores in de fall of de year and I’se told Mrs. Porter I’se could core dat so I’se got me some elder berries en made pies out of hit en made her chaps eat hit on dey war soon cored.

“If twont foh de white folks I sho would hev a hard time. My man he jes wen erway en I haint neber seed him ergin en I’se had five chilluns en de white folks hev heped me all dese years. Dese trifling niggers dey wont hepe dey own kind of folks. If youse got de tooth ache I makes a poultice of scrape irish pertatoes en puts hit on de jaw on de side de tooth is aching en dat sho takes de fever out of de tooth. I’se blows terbacco smoke in de ear en dat stops de ear ache.

“Wen I goes on er baby case I jest let nature hev hits way. I’se alays teas de baby de first thing I does is ter blow my breath in de baby’s muff en I spanks it jes a little so hit will cry den I gives hit warm catnip tea so if hit is gwine ter hev de hives dey will break out on hit. I alays hev my own catnip en sheep balls foh sum cases need one kind of tea en sum ernother. I give sink field tea ter foh de colic. Hit is jes good fuh young baby’s stomach. I’se been granning foh nigh unter forty year en I’se only lost two babies, dat war born erlive. One of dese war de white man’s fault, dis baby war born wid de jaundice en I tolds dis white man ter go ter de store en git me sum calomel en he says, “whoeber heard of givin a baby sech truck”, an so dat baby died.

“Of course youse can tell wheder the baby is gwine ter be a boy er girl fore tis born. If de mother carries dat child more on de left en high up dat baby will be a boy en if she carries hit more ter de middle dat will be a girl. Mothers oughter be more careful while carrying dar chilluns not ter git scared of enthing foh dey will sho mark dar babies wid turrible ugly things. I knows once a young wooman war expecting en she goes black-berry hunting en er bull cow wid long horns got after her en she was so scairt dat she threw her hands ober her head en wen dat baby boy war born he hed to nubs on his head jes like horns beginning ter grow so I’se hed her call her doctor en dey cuts dem off. One white wooman I’se waited on like hot choclate en she alays wanted more she neber hed nuff of dat stuff en one day she spills sum on her laig en it jes splotched en burned her en wen dat gal war born she hed a big brown spot on her laig jes like her Mammy’s scar frum de burn. Now you see I noes yer ken mark de babies.

“Dar war a colored wooman once I’se waited on dat hed to help de white folks kill hogs en she neber did like hog liver but de white folks told her ter take one home en fix hit foh her supper. Well she picked dat thing up en started off wid hit en hit made her feel creepy all ober en dat night her baby war born a gal child en de print of er big hog-liver war standing out all ober one side of her face. Dat side of her face is all blue er purplish en jes the shape of a liver. En hits still dar.

“I’se grannied ober three hundred chilluns en I noes wat I’se talking about.

“Hee! Hee! Hee! One day dar war a circus in Hopkinsville en er black wooman I’se war ergoing ter wait on war on de street to watch foh de parade en wid de bands er playing en de wild varmits en things dis woman give birth ter dat girl chile on de corner of Webber and Seventh St. Dat gal sho got er funny name ‘Es-pe-cu-liar’. (I did not get the drift of the story so I asked her what was so funny about the name. Of course it is a name I have never heard before so the following is what the girls Mother said about it to Aunt Easter. M.D. Hanbery)

“Well the gals Mammy thought hit war jes peculiar dat, dat happened wen she war er looking at the parade. (So this woman Especuliar is still in Hopkinsville and her story is known in quite a few of the older circles.)

“Yah! Yah! I sho remember how de ole folks uster dress. De women wore hop skirts en de men wore tight breeches. De night gowns war made on er yoke aufull full en big long sleeves wid a cuff at de hand en a deep hem at de bottom of de gown, dese gowns war made of domestic en wen dey war washed en starched en ironed dey wur be so stiff dey could stand erlone.” De men en de women both wore night caps. If de gown war a dress up gown why dey war home made knit en crochet lace in de front en lots en lots of tucks some of dem had deep ruffles on dem at the bottom.

“Wen my Pappy kum home from de war, he war on de “Govmint” side he brung a pistol back wid him dat shot a ball dey hed caps on hit en used dese in de war. De Ku Klux jum after him one night en he got three of dem wid dis pistol, nobody eber knowed who got dose Kluxes.


“Sho dar is ghosts. One night es I war going home from work de tallest man I eber seed followed me wid de prettiest white shirt on en den he passed me, en waited at de corner I war a feeling creepy en wanter run but jes couldn’t git my laigs ter move en wen I’se git ter de corner war he war I said ‘Good Ebening’ en I seed him plain es day en de did not speak en jes disappeared right fore my eyes.

“Den ergin I went ter de fish pond one day fishing en cotched two or three big fish wen I went home thot I’d go back dat night en I begun to dig sum fishing worms en my boss he saw me en axed, ‘Wot I doing’. I told him I war ergoing ter de pond ter fish dat night. He said ‘don you go ter dat pond ternight Easter foh if you does something will run you erway.’ I jes laughed at him en dat night I en my boy wese goes ter de pond en as we war er standing in dar quiet like we heared something squeeching like er new saddle en er horses er trotting. We listened en waited wen something wen inter dat pond right twixt us liker er ball er fire. Weums sho did leave dar an de next morning my boss axed me if we cotched enthing en we told him wot we saw en he said he knowed weums would be run erway foh he war run erway hisself.

“Course dar is hainted houses dese haints in dese places jes wont leave you erlone. Wen I’se war er living in Princeton, Uncle Lige my Mammy’s brother en I’se moved in er cabin one Christmas day en war ergoing ter stay dar en dat night we war er setting bore de fire en de fire light war es bright as day, wen I looks up at de wall foh I hears er scratching noise en dar war er big white cat on de wall wid all he’s hair standing on dat cat jos jumps from wall ter de nother en Uncle Lige en me jes open dat cabin door en started ter de tother cabins on de place en we deed dat thing dat war bigger den eny cat I eber seed jes come thru dat door in de air en hit de front gate, dis gate hed er iron weight on hit so hit would stay shot en dis thing hit at de top den wen erway. No I neber seed whar hit went. Dis gate jes banged en banged all night. We could heat from de tother cabin. Uncle Liga en me moved erway next day en other people moved in dis cabin en dey saw de same thing en nobody would stay dar. Dem some time after dis diz cabin war torn down.

“Once I hed a dream I knowed I ner bout saw hit. I alays did cook ebery night er pot er beans on de fire foh de chilluns ter eat next day while I war at work en Lizzie my daughter uster git up in de night en git her some beans en eat dem en dis dream war so real dat I couldn’t tell if hit war Lizzie er no but dis wooman jes glided by my bed en went afore de fire en stood dar den she jes went twixt my bed en went by de wall. I jes knowed wen I woke up dat my child was sick dat lived erway from home en wanted my son ter take me ter see her. He said he would go hisself en see so he wen en wen he come back he hed a headache en fore morning dat nigger war dead. So you see dat war de sign of da dream. I war jes warned in de dream en didn’t hev sense nuff ter know hit.”

Campbell, Grooms,

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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