Slave Narrative of Perry Lewis

Interviewer: Rogers
Person Interviewed: Perry Lewis
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Place of Birth: Kent Island, MD
Age: 86
Place of Residence: 1124 E. Lexington St., Baltimore, Maryland

Reference: Personal interview with Perry Lewis, ex-slave, at his home, 1124 E. Lexington St., Baltimore.

“I was born on Kent Island, Md. about 86 years ago. My father’s name was Henry and mother’s Louise. I had one brother John, who was killed in the Civil War at the Deep Bottom, one sister as I can remember. My father was a freeman and my mother a slave, owned by Thomas Tolson, who owned a small farm on which I was born in a log cabin, with two rooms, one up and one down.

“As you know the mother was the owner of the children that she brought into the world. Mother being a slave made me a slave. She cooked and worked on the farm, ate whatever was in the farmhouse and did her share of work to keep and maintain the Tolsons. They being poor, not having a large place or a number of slaves to increase their wealth, made them little above the free colored people and with no knowledge, they could not teach me or any one else to read.

“You know the Eastern Shore of Maryland was in the most productive slave territory and where farming was done on a large scale; and in that part of Maryland where there were many poor people and many of whom were employed as overseers, you naturally heard of patrollers and we had them and many of them. I have heard that patrollers were on Kent Island and the colored people would go out in the country on the roads, create a disturbance to attract the patrollers’ attention. They would tie ropes and grape vines across the roads, so when the patrollers would come to the scene of the disturbance on horseback and at full tilt, they would be throwing those who would come in contact with the rope or vine off the horse; sometimes badly injuring the riders. This would create hatred between the slaves, the free people, the patrollers and other white people who were concerned.

“In my childhood days I played marbles, this was the only game I remember playing. As I was on a small farm, we did not come in contact much with other children, and heard no children’s songs. I therefore do not recall the songs we sang.

“I do not remember being sick but I have heard mother say, when she or her children were sick, the white doctor who attended the Tolsons treated us and the only herbs I can recall were life-everlasting boneset and woodditney, from each of which a tea could be made.

“This is about all I can recall.”

Lewis, Tolson,

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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