Slave Narrative of Chaney Hews

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Chaney Hews
Location: 104 Cotton Street, Raleigh, North Carolina
Age: 60

My age, best of my recollection, is about eighty years. I was ’bout eight years ole when de Yankees come through. Chillun in dem days wus not paid much mind like dey is now. White chillun nor nigger chillun wus not spiled by tenshun.

I got enough to eat to live on an’ dat wus ’bout all I keered ’bout. Des so I could git a little to eat and could play all de time. I stayed outen de way of de grown folks. No, chillun wus not noticed like dey is now.

I heard de grown folks talkin’ ’bout de Yankees. De niggers called ’em blue jackets. Den one mornin’, almost ‘fore I knowed it, de yard wus full of ’em. Dey tried to ride de hosses in de house, dey caught de chickens, killed de shoats and took de horses an’ anything else dey wanted. Dey give de nigger hardtack an’ pickled meat. I ‘members eating some of de meat, I didn’t like.

We had reasonably good food, clothin’, and warm log houses wid stick an’ dirt chimleys. De houses wus warm enough all de time in winter, and dey didn’t leak in rainy weather neither.

Dere wus a lot of slaves an’ marster an’ missus wus good to father an’ mother. When dey had a cornshuckin’ we slaves had a good time, plenty to eat, whiskey for de grown folks and a rastlin’ match after de corn wus shucked. A nigger dat shucked a red ear of corn got a extra drink of whiskey. Dat wus de custom in dem days.

No prayermeetings wus allowed on de plantation but we went to Salem to white folks church and also to white folks church at Cary.

Dey whupped mother ’cause she tried to learn to read, no books wus allowed. Mother said dat if de blue jackets had not come sooner or later I would have got de lash.

Mother belonged to Sam Atkins who owned a plantation about ten miles down de Ramkatte Road in Wake County. Father belonged to Turner Utley and father wus named Jacob Utley and mother wus named Lucy Utley. My maiden name wus Chaney Utley. Dey wurked from sun to sun on de plantation.

When de surrender come father an’ mother come to town an’ stayed about a year an’ den went back to ole marster’s plantation. Dey wus fed a long time on hardtack and pickled meat, by de Yankees, while in town. Dey stayed a long time wid ole marster when dey got back. Mother wus his cook. Rats got after mother in town an’ she went back to marsters an’ tole him ’bout it an’ tole him she had come back home, dat she wus fraid to stay in town an’ marster jes’ laughted an’ tole us all to come right in. He tole mother to go an’ cook us all sumptin to eat an’ she did. We wus all glad to git back home.

I wus too little to wurk much but I played a lot an’ swept yards. We drank water outen gourds an’ marster would tell me to bring him a gourd full of cool water when he wus settin’ in his arm chair on de porch. I thought big of waitin’ on marster, yes, dat I did.

Dere wus fourteen of us in family, father, mother an’ twelve chilluns. Dere is three of us livin’, two of de boys an’ me.

Slavery wus a good thing from what I knows ’bout it. While I liked de Yankees wid dere purty clothes, I didn’t like de way dey took marster’s stuff an’ I tole ’em so. Mother made me hush. Dey took chickens, meat, hogs an’ horses.

We finally left ole marster’s plantation an’ moved Jes’ a little way over on another plantation. Mother an’ father died there.

I married Sam Hews in Wake County when I wus fifteen years old. I had no children. After we wus married we stayed on de farm a year or two den we moved to Raleigh. We have wurked for white folks ever since, an’ I am still wurkin’ for ’em now all I am able. I washes an’ irons clothes. Sometimes I can’t wash, I ain’t able, but I does de bes’ I can. De white folks is still good to me an’ I likes’ em.

Atkins, Hews, Utley,

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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