Slave Narrative of Jenny McKee

Interviewer: Perry Larkey
Person Interviewed: Jenny McKee
Location: London, Kentucky
Age: (about) 85

Mrs. Jenny McKee, of color, who lives just North of London can tell many interesting things of her life.

“Aunt Jenny” as she is called, is about eighty-five years of age, and says she thinks she is older than that as she can remember many things of the slave days. She tells of the old “masters” home and the negro shacks all in a row behind the home. She has a scar on her forehead received when she was pushed by one of the other little slaves, upon a marble mantle place and received a deep wound in her head.

The old negro lady slaves would sit in the door way of their little shacks and play with pieces of string, not knowing what else to do to pass off the time. They were never restless for they knew no other life than slavery.

Aunt Jenny McKee was born in Texas though she doesn’t know what town she was born in. She remembers when her mother was sold into the hands of another slave owner, the name of the place was White Ranch Louisiana. Her mother married again, and this time she went by the name of Redman, her mother’s second husband was named John Redman, and Aunt Jenny altho her real name was Jenny Garden, carried the name of Redman until she was married to McKee.

During the War her mother died with cholera, and after the war her step-father sold or gave her away to an old Negro lady by the name of Tillet, her Husband was a captain from the 116th regiment from Manchester.

They had no children and so Aunt Jenny was given or sold to Martha Tillet. Aunt Jenny still has the paper that was written with her adoption by Mrs. Martha Tillet and John Redman, the paper was exactly as written below:

White Ranch September 10, 1866

To Whom it may concern, I, John Redman has this day given my consent that Mrs. Martha Tillet can have my child Jenny Redman to raise and own as her child, that I shall not claim and take her away at any time in the future.

x John Redman his mark She has a picture in her possession of Captain Tillet in war costume and with his old rifle. After the war the Tillets were sent back to Manchester where he was mustered out, Aunt Jenny being with them. “I stayed with them” Aunt Jenny said, “until I was married Dec. 14, 1876, to David McKee another soldier of the 116th regiment”. She draws a pension now from his services.

David McKee was a slave under John McKee, father of the late John McKee of this place. He was finally sold to a man by the name of Meriah Jackson. “David’s masters were good to him” said Jenny “he learned to be a black smith under them”.

Aunt Jenny has the history of the 116th regiment, U.S.C. Infantry. Tillet was captain in this regiment and David McKee a soldier then was a lot of soldiers in this regiment from here. Tom Griffin being one, a slave who died a few years ago. The history was printed in 1866 and this particular copy was presented to Captain Tillet, and bears his signature.

The first deed to be put on record in the Laurel County court was between Media Bledsoe of Garrad County of the first part and Daniel Garrard of Clay County of the second part. Being 4800 acres of land lying in Knox County on Laurel River and being that part of 16000 acres of land patented in the name of John Watts. One thousand dollars was the sum paid for this land. This is on record in Deed Book “A”, page 1. Date of September 30, 1824.

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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