Slave Narrative of Aunt Laura Bell

Interviewer: Mary A. Hicks
Person Interviewed: Laura Bell
Location: 2 Bragg Street, Raleigh, North Carolina
Age: 73

An interview with Laura Bell, 73 years old, of 2 Bragg Street, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Being informed that Laura Bell was an old slavery Negro, I went immediately to the little two-room shack with its fallen roof and shaky steps. As I approached the shack I noticed that the storm had done great damage to the chaney-berry tree in her yard, fallen limbs litterin’ the ground, which was an inch deep in garbage and water.

The porch was littered with old planks and huge tubs and barrels of stagnant water. There was only room for one chair and in that sat a tall Negro woman clad in burlap bags and in her lap she held a small white flea-bitten dog which growled meaningly.

When I reached the gate, which swings on one rusty hinge, she bade me come in and the Carolina Power and Light Company men, who were at work nearby, laughed as I climbed over the limbs and garbage and finally found room for one foot on the porch and one on the ground.

“I wus borned in Mount Airy de year ‘fore de Yankees come, bein’ de fourth of five chilluns. My mammy an’ daddy Minerva Jane an’ Wesley ‘longed ter Mr. Mack Strickland an’ we lived on his big place near Mount Airy.”

“Mr. Mack wus good ter us, dey said. He give us enough ter eat an’ plenty of time ter weave clothes fer us ter wear. I’ve hearn mammy tell of de corn shuckin’s an’ dances dey had an’ ’bout some whuppin’s too.”

“Marse Mack’s overseer, I doan know his name, wus gwine ter whup my mammy onct, an’ pappy do’ he ain’t neber make no love ter mammy comes up an’ takes de whuppin’ fer her. Atter dat dey cou’ts on Sadday an’ Sunday an’ at all de sociables till dey gits married.”

“I’se hearn her tell’ bout how he axed Marse Mack iffen he could cou’t mammy an’ atter Marse Mack sez he can he axes her ter marry him.”

“She tells him dat she will an’ he had ’em married by de preacher de nex’ time he comes through dat country.”

“I growed up on de farm an’ when I wus twelve years old I met Thomas Bell. My folks said dat I wus too young fer ter keep company so I had ter meet him ‘roun’ an’ about fer seberal years, I think till I wus fifteen.”

“He axed me ter marry him while he wus down on de creek bank a fishin’ an’ I tol’ him yes, but when he starts ter kiss me I tells him dat der’s many a slip twixt de cup an’ de lip an’ so he has ter wait till we gits married.”

“We runned away de nex’ Sadday an’ wus married by a Justice of de Peace in Mount Airy.”

“Love ain’t what hit uster be by a long shot,” de ole woman reflected, “‘Cause dar ain’t many folks what loves all de time. We moved ter Raleigh forty years ago, an’ Tom has been daid seberal years now. We had jest one chile but hit wus borned daid.”

“Chilluns ain’t raised ter be clean lak we wus. I knows dat de house ain’t so clean but I doan feel so much lak doin’ nothin’, I jest went on a visit ’bout seben blocks up de street dis mo’nin’ an’ so I doan feel lak cleanin’ up none.”

I cut the interview short thereby missing more facts, as the odor was anything but pleasant and I was getting tired of standing in that one little spot.

“Thank you for comin'”, she called, and her dog growled again.

Bell, Strickland,

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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