Slave Narrative of Susan Dale Sanders

Interviewer: Byer York
Person Interviewed: Susan Dale Sanders
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Place of Birth: Spencer County KY
Place of Residence: #1 Dupree Alley, Louisville, Kentucky

The following is a story of Mrs. Susan Dale Sanders, #1 Dupree Alley, between Breckinridge and Lampton Sts., Louisville, an old Negro Slave mammy, and of her life, as she related it.

“I lived near Taylorsville, Kentucky, in Spencer County, nearly all my life, ‘cept the last fo’ or five yea’s I’se been livin’ here. I was bo’n there in a log cabin, it was made of logs, and it was chinked with clay and rock. My Mammy, was raised from a baby by her master, Rueben Dale. He was a good ole Master, and was alway’s good to my Mammy. Master Dale owned a big farm and had big fields of co’n an’ tobacco, and we raised everything we had to eat. Ole master Dale was a good ole baptist, had lots of good ole time relig’n. Ruben Dale had lots of slaves, and every family had its own cabin. As he raised my Mammy as a slave from a baby, she thought there was none livin’ bett’r than her master Dale.

The next fa’m close to the Masters, was owned by a man, Colonel Jack Allen, and he had a big fa’m and owned lots of slaves. And Mammy was allowed to marry one of the Allen slaves, and my father’s name was Will Allen. You see the slaves had the same name as the Master’s, as he owned ’em. My Mammy had seven children and we all grow’d up on our Master Dales fa’m. My father had to stay at his master’s, Col. Jack Allen’s and wo’k in the fields all day, but at night he would come to my mammy’s cabin and stay all night, and go back to his master’s, Col. Allen’s fields the next mon’in. Yes, I grow’d up in slavery times. I used to carry tubs of clothes down to the old spring house, there was plenty of water, and I’se washed all the clothes there. Me and my sisters used to wash and sing and we had a good time. I can’t remember much of the ole song’s its been so long ago.

I had two brothers, and they jined the war and fought in the army. One was named Harry and ‘tother Peter. Mammy wo’ked hard, done all the cookin’ but ole Master Dale was so good to all of us children we did’t mind it. I’se was a mischevious gal when I was grow’in up. I’se would get a lickin’ most every-day. I’se alway’s like to fight the ot’er children, and I would say, “Mammy she hit me”, but I was bad and I’se got my whipp’n. On my masters fa’m we killed a lot of hogs for our meat, had a big trough, that we cut the meat up in, and put the hams and shoulders together, and the middles together, then put ’em down in salt for about six weeks, and then hang them up in the smoke-house and smoke ’em with hickory chips. And leave them all the time till we used ’em up. We had a apple house we used to fill every fall with the best apples. The ole master sho’ had a apple fa’m. Inside of the house there was a big hole in the ground, dug deep, and we use to fill it full of apples, then cover it over with a straw, and O Lawd, we would have apples all wint’r when the snow lies deep on the ground; sure I wish them old days back.

Some of the other old Masters, who had lots of slaves on fa’ms close by, was so mean to the slaves they owned. They wo’ked the women and men both in the fields and the children too, and when the ole Master thought they was’n’t do’n’ ‘nuf wo’k, he would take his men and strip off their shirts, and lash them with cow-hide whips until you could see the blood run down them poor niggers backs.

The Nigger traders would come through and buy up a lot of men, and women slaves, and get a big drove of them and take them further south to work in the fields, leavin their babies. I’se never can forget. I know’d some mean ole masters.

Our ole master Dale that raised my Mammy and her family never was hard or mean like that. He would let us go to church, have parties and dances. One of the ole salves would come to our cabin with his fiddle and we’d dance.

After I’se grow’d up, I’se wo’ked for Mrs. Susan Lovell, that was the ole masters married daughter. She lived down the road from his fa’m. She was good to me! You see I was named after Susan Lovell. It was while I was wo’kin’ fo’ her when the war ended. She told me I was free after the war was over. I got happy and sung but I didn’t know for a long time, what to be free was, so after the war she hired me and I stayed on doin’ all the cookin’ and washin’ and all the work, and I was hired to her for four dollars a month. After the war was over my father died. And it wasn’t long after that, I Married Wm. Sanders and we had six children. I got a Government pension, as my husband was in the army during the Civil War and he was wounded in the body, but he lived a long time after the war was ended.

In the ole days we used to sing and go to church, sing the ole time religion, and when we danced we sung: “Who’s been here since I’se been gone, Ah, that gal with the blue dress on.”

I’se still believes in lots of good and bad luck signs, but forget most of ’em, “But if you drap a knife, on the floor someone is sure to come to see you, and if you dream of money that is good luck.” “To sneeze at the table is bad luck, to sneeze when away from the table good luck.” “If you dream of the stars is bad luck.”

Allen, Dale, Lovell, Sanders,

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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