Slave Narrative of Dorcas Griffeth

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Dorcas Griffeth
Location: 602 E. South Street, North Carolina
Age: 80

You know me every time you sees me don’t you? Who tole you I wus Dorcas Griffith? I seed you up town de other day. Yes, yes, I is old. I is 80 years old. I remember all about dem Yankees. The first biscuit I ever et dey give it to me. I wus big enough to nus de babies when de Yankees came through. Dey carried biscuits on dere horses, I wus jist thinkin’ of my young missus de other day. I belonged to Doctor Clark in Chatham County near Pittsboro. My father wus named Billy Dismith, and my mother wus named Peggy Council. She belonged to the Councils. Father, belonged to the Dismiths and I belonged to the Clarks. Missus wus named Winnie. Dey had tolerable fine food for de white folks, but I did not get any of it. De food dey give us wus mighty nigh nuthin’. Our clothes wus bad and our sleepin’ places wus not nuthin’ at all. We had a hard time. We had a hard time then and we are havin’ a hard time now. We have a house to live in now, and de chinches eat us up almos, and we have nuthin’ to live on now, jist a little from charity. I fares mighty bad. Dey gives me a half peck of meal and a pound o’ meat, a little oat meal, and canned grape juice, a half pound o’ coffee and no sugar or lard and no flour. Dey gives us dat for a week’s eatin’.

De Yankees called de niggers who wus plowin’ de mules when dey came through an’ made ’em bring ’em to ’em an’ dey carried de mules on wid em. De niggers called de Yankees Blue Jackets.

I had two brothers, both older dan me. George de oldest and Jack. Let me see I had four sisters 1, 2, 3, 4; one wus named Annie, one named Rosa, Annie, and Francis and myself Dorcas. All de games I played wus de wurk in de field wid a hoe. Dere wus no playgrounds like we has now. No, no, if you got your work done you done enough. If I could see how to write like you I could do a lot o’ work but I can’t see. I kin write. I got a good education acording to readin’, spellin, and writin’. I kin say de 2nd chapter of Matthey by heart, the 27 chapter of Ezelial by heart, or most of Ezekial by heart.

I learned it since I got free. I went to school in Raleigh to de Washington School. Dey wouldn’t let us have books when I wus a slave. I wus afraid ter be caught wid a book. De patterollers scared us so bad in slavery time and beat so many uv de slaves dat we lef’ de plantation jus’ as soon as we wus free. Dat’s de reason father lef’ de plantation so quick. I also remember de Ku Klux. I wus afraid o’ dem, and I did not think much of ’em. I saw slaves whupped till de blood run down dere backs. Once dey whupped some on de plantation and den put salt on de places and pepper on ’em. I didn’t think nuthin in de world o’ slavery. I think de it wus wrong. I didn’t think a thing o’ slavery.

All my people are dead, and I am unable to work. I haven’t been able to work in six years. I thought Abraham Lincoln wus a good man. He had a good name.

I don’t know much about Mr. Roosevelt but I hopes he will help me, cause I need it mighty bad.

Clark, Dismith, Griffeth,

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

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