Slave Narrative of James Wiggins

Person Interviewed: James Wiggins
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Place of Birth: Anne Arundel County MD
Date of Birth: 1850-1851
Place of Residence: 625 Barre St.

Reference: Personal interview with James Wiggins, ex-slave, at his home, 625 Barre St.

“I was born in Anne Arundel County, on a farm near West River about 1850 or 1851, I do not know which. I do not know my father or mother. Peter Brooks, one of the oldest colored men in the county, told me that my father’s name was Wiggins. He said that he was one of the Revells’ slaves. He acquired my father at an auction sale held in Baltimore at a high price from a trader who had an office on Pratt Street about 1845. He was given a wife by Mr. Revell and as a result of this union I was born. My father was a carpenter by trade, he was hired out to different farmers by Mr. Revell to repair and build barns, fences and houses. I have been told that my father could read and write. Once he was charged with writing passes for some slaves in the county, as a result of this he was given 15 lashes by the sheriff of the county, immediately afterwards he ran away, went to Philadelphia, where he died while working to save money to purchase mother’s freedom, through a white Baptist minister in Baltimore.

“I was called “Gingerbread” by the Revells. They reared me until I reached the age of about nine or ten years old. My duty was to put logs on the fireplaces in the Revells’ house and work around the house. I remember well when I was taken to Annapolis, how I used to dance in the stores for men and women, they would give me pennies and three cent pieces, all of which was given to me by the Revells. They bought me shoes and clothes with the money collected.

“Mr. Revell died in 1861 or 62. The sheriff and men came from Annapolis, sold the slaves, stock and other chattels. I was purchased by a Mr. Mayland, who kept a store in Annapolis. I was sold by him to a slave trader to be shipped to Georgia. I was brought to Baltimore, and was jailed in a small house on Paca near Lombard. The trader was buying other slaves to make a load. I escaped through the aid of a German shoemaker, who sold shoes to owners for slaves.

“The German shoeman had a covered wagon, I was put in the wagon covered by boxes, taken to a house on South Sharp Street and there kept until a Mr. George Stone took me to Frederick City where I stayed until 1863, when Mr. Stone, a member of the Lutheran church, had me christened giving me the name of James Wiggins. This is how I got the name of Wiggins, after my father, instead of Gingerbread, through the investigation and the information given by Mr. Brooks.

“You know the Revells are well known in Anne Arundel County, consisting of a large family, each family a large property owner. I can’t say how many acres were owned by Jim Revell, he was a general farmer having a few slaves, you see I was a small boy. I can’t answer all the questions you want.

“There were a great many people in Anne Arundel who did not believe in slavery and many free colored people. These conditions caused conflicts between the free colored who many times were charged with aiding the slaves and the whites who were not favorably impressed with slavery and the others who believed in slavery. As a result, the patrollers were numerous. I remember of seeing Jim Revell coming home very much battered and beaten up as a result of an encounter with a number of free people and white people and those who were members of the patrollers.

“As a child I was very fond of dancing, especially the jig and buck. I made money as I stated before, I played children’s plays of that time, top, marbles and another game we called skinny. Skinny was a game played on trees and grape vines.

“As a boy I was very healthy, I never had a doctor until I was over 50 years old. I don’t know anything about the medical treatment of that day, you never need medicine unless you are ailing and I never ailed.”

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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