Slave Narrative of Mary B. Dempsey

Interviewer: Betty Lugabell
Person Interviewed: Mary Belle Dempsey
Location: Ohio
Age: 87

Folklore: Ex-Slaves Paulding Co., District 10

MARY BELLE DEMPSEY Ex-Slave, 87 years

“I was only two years old when my family moved here, from Wilford county, Kentucky. ‘Course I don’t remember anything of our slave days, but my mother told me all about it.”

“My mother and father were named Sidney Jane and William Booker. I had one brother named George William Booker.”

“The man who owned my father and mother was a good man.” He was good to them and never ‘bused them. He had quite a large plantation and owned 26 slaves. Each slave family had a house of their own and the women of each family prepared the meals, in their cabins. These cabins were warm and in good shape.”

“The master farmed his land and the men folks helped in the fields but the women took care of their homes.”

“We had our churches, too. Sometimes the white folks would try to cause trouble when the negroes were holding their meetings, then a night the men of the church would place chunks and matches on the white folks gate post. In the morning the white folks would find them and know that it was a warning if they din’t quit causing trouble their buildings would be burned.”

“There was a farm that joined my parents’ master’s place and the owner was about ready to sell the mother slave with her five small children. The children carried on so much because they were to be separated that the mistress bought them back although she had very little money to spare.”

“I don’t know any more slave stories, but now I am getting old, and I know that I do not have long to live, but I’m not sorry, I am, ready to go. I have lived as the Lord wants us to live and I know that when I die I shall join many of my friends and relatives in the Lord’s place. Religion is the finest thing on earth. It is the one and only thing that matters.”

Booker, Dempsey, Jane,

Wilford County KY,

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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