Slave Narrative of Elbert Hunter

Interviewer: Mary A. Hicks
Person Interviewed: Elbert Hunter
Date of Interview: May 19, 1937
Location: Method, North Carolina
Date of Birth: 1844
Age: 93

I wuz borned eight miles from Raleigh on de plantation of Mr. Jacob Hunter in 1844. My parents were Stroud and Lucy an’ my brothers wuz Tom, Jeems an’ Henderson. I had three sisters who wuz named Caroline, Emiline an’ Ann.

Massa Hunter wuz good to us, an’ young Massa Knox wuz good too. My mammy wuz de cook an’ my pappy wuz a field hand. Massa ain’t ‘lowed no patterollers on his place, but one time when he wuzn’t ter home my mammy sent me an’ Caroline ter de nex’ door house fer something an’ de patterollers got us. Dey carried us home an’ ’bout de time dat dey wuz axin’ questions young Massa Knox rid up.

He look dem over an’ he sez, ‘Git off dese premises dis minute, yo’ dad-limb sorry rascals, if us needs yo’ we’ll call yo’. ‘My pappy patterolls dis place hisself.’

Dey left den, an’ we ain’t been bothered wid ’em no more.

I toted water ‘fore de war, minded de sheeps, cows and de geese; an’ I ain’t had many whuppin’s neither. Dar wuz one thing dat massa ain’t ‘low an’ dat wuz drinkin’ ‘mong his niggers.

Dar wuz a ole free issue named Denson who digged ditches fer massa an’ he always brung long his demijohn wid his whiskey. One ebenin’ Missus tells me an’ Caroline ter go ter de low groun’s an’ git up de cows an’ on de way we fin’ ole man Denson’s demijohn half full of whiskey. Caroline sez ter lets take er drink an’ so we does, an’ terreckly I gits wobbly in de knees.

Dis keeps on till I has ter lay down an’ when I wakes up I am at home. Dey says dat Massa Jacob totes me, an’ dat he fusses wid Denson fer leavin’ de whiskey whar I can fin’ it. He give me a talkin’ to, an’ I ain’t neber drunk no more.

When we hyard dat de Yankees wuz comin’ ole massa an’ me takes de cattle an’ hosses way down in de swamp an’ we stays dar wid dem fer seberal days. One day I comes ter de house an’ dar dey am, shootin’ chickens an’ pigs an’ everthing. I’se seed dem cut de hams off’n a live pig or ox an’ go off leavin’ de animal groanin’. De massa had ’em kilt den, but it wuz awful.

Dat night dey went away but de nex’ day a bigger drove come an’ my mammy cooked fer ’em all day long. Dey killed an’ stold ever’thing, an’ at last ole massa went to Raleigh an’ axed fer a gyard. Atter we got de gyard de fuss ceased. One of de officers what spent de night dar lost his pocket book an’ in it wuz seven greenback dollars, de fust I eber seed.

We wuz glad ter be free even do’ we had good white folks. De wuck hours wuz frum daybreak till dark, an’ de wimmens had ter card an’ spin so much eber night. We had our own chickens an’ gyarden an’ little ways of makin’ money, but not so much fun.

We played cat, which wuz like base ball now, only different. De children played a heap but de grown folks wucked hard. De cruelest thing I eber seed wuz in Raleigh atter slavery time, an’ dat wuz a nigger whuppin’.

De pillory wuz whar de co’rthouse am now an’ de sheriff, Mr. Ray whupped dat nigger till he bled.

I neber seed a slave sale, an’ I neber seed much whuppin’s. I larned some long wid de white chilluns, ‘specially how ter spell.

No mam, I doan know nothin’ ’bout witches, but I seed a ghos’. Hit wuz near hyar, an’ hit wuz a animal as big as a yearlin’ wid de look of a dog. I can’t tell you de color of it case I done left frum dar.


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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