Slave Narrative of Emma Blalock

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Emma Blalock
Location: 529 Bannon Avenue, Raleigh, North Carolina
Age: 88

I shore do ‘member de Yankees wid dere blue uniforms wid brass buttons on ’em. I wus too small to work any but I played in de yard wid my oldes’ sister, Katie. She is dead long ago. My mother belonged to ole man John Griffith an’ I belonged to him. His plantation wus down here at Auburn in Wake County. My father wus named Edmund Rand. He belonged to Mr. Nat Rand. He lived in Auburn. De plantations wus not fur apart. Dere wus about twenty-five slaves on de plantation whur mother an’ me stayed.

Marse John used ter take me on his knee an’ sing, ‘Here is de hammer, Shing ding. Gimme de Hammer, shing ding.’ Marster loved de nigger chilluns on his plantation. When de war ended father come an’ lived with us at Marse John’s plantation. Marster John Griffith named me Emmy. My grandfather on my fathers side wus named Harden Rand, an’ grandmother wus named Mason Rand. My grandfather on my mother’s side wus named Antny Griffiths an’ grandmother wus named Nellie.

Our food wus a plenty and well cooked. Marster fed his niggers good. We had plenty of homespun dresses and we got shoes once a year, at Christmas Eve. I ken ‘member it just as good. We got Christmas Holidays an’ a stockin’ full of candy an’ peanuts. Sometimes we got ginger snaps at Christmas. My grandmother cooked’ em. She wus a good cook. My mother’s missus wus Miss Jetsy Griffith and my father’s missus wus Lucy Rand. Dey wus both mighty good women. You know I am ole. I ken ‘member all dem good white folks. Dey give us Fourth July Holidays. Dey come to town on dat day. Dey wore, let me tell you what dey wore, dey wore dotted waist blouses an’ white pants. Dat wus a big day to ever’body, de Fourth of July. Dey begun singing at Auburn an’ sung till dey reached Raleigh. Auburn is nine miles from Raleigh. Dere wus a lot of lemonade. Dey made light bread in big ovens an’ had cheese to eat wid it. Some said just goin’ on de fofe to git lemonade an’ cheese.

In the winter we had a lot of possums to eat an’ a lot of rabbits too. At Christmas time de men hunted and caught plenty game. We barbecued it before de fire. I ‘members seein’ mother an’ grandmother swinging rabbits ‘fore de fire to cook ’em. Dey would turn an’ turn ’em till dey wus done. Dey hung some up in de chimbly an’ dry ’em out an’ keep ’em a long time an’ dat is de reason I won’t eat a rabbit today. No Sir! I won’t eat a rabbit. I seed ’em mess wid ’em so much turned me ‘ginst eatin’ ’em.

I don’t know how much lan’ Marster John owned but, Honey, dat wus some plantation. It reached from Auburn to de Neuse River. Yes Sir, it did, ’cause I been down dere in corn hillin’ time an’ we fished at twelve o’clock in Neuse River. Marster John had overseers. Dere wus six of ’em. Dey rode horses over de fields but I don’t ‘member dere names.

I never seen a slave whupped but dey wus whupped on de plantation an’ I heard de grown folks talkin’ ’bout it. My uncles Nat an’ Bert Griffiths wus both whupped. Uncle Nat would not obey his missus rules an’ she had him whupped. Dey whupped Uncle Bert ’cause he stayed drunk so much. He loved his licker an’ he got drunk an’ cut up bad, den dey whupped him. You could git plenty whiskey den. Twon’t like it is now. No sir, it won’t. Whiskey sold fur ten cents a quart. Most ever’ body drank it but you hardly ever seed a man drunk. Slaves wus not whupped for drinkin’. Dere Marsters give ’em whiskey but dey wus whupped for gittin’ drunk. Dere wus a jail, a kind of stockade built of logs, on de farm to put slaves in when dey wouldn’t mind. I never say any slave put on de block an’ sold, but I saw Aunt Helen Rand cryin’ because her Marster Nat Rand sold her boy, Fab Rand.

No Sir, no readin’ an’ writin’. You had to work. Ha! ha! You let your marster or missus ketch you wid a book. Dat wus a strict rule dat no learnin’ wus to be teached. I can’t read an’ write. If it wus not fur my mother wit don’t know what would become of me. We had prayer meetings around at de slave houses. I ‘member it well. We turned down pots on de inside of de house at de door to keep marster an’ missus from hearin’ de singin’ an’ prayin’. Marster an’ his family lived in de great house an’ de slave quarters wus ’bout two hundred yards away to the back of de great house. Dey wus arranged in rows. When de war ended we all stayed on wid de families Griffiths an’ Rands till dey died, dat is all ‘cept my father an’ me. He lef’ an’ I lef’. I been in Raleigh forty-five years. I married Mack Blalock in Raleigh. He been dead seven years.

My mother had two boys, Antny an’ Wesley. She had four girls, Katie, Grissie, Mary Ella an’ Emma. I had three chilluns, two are livin’ yet. They both live in Raleigh.

We had big suppers an’ dinners at log rollin’s an’ corn shuckin’s in slavery time ha! ha! plenty of corn licker for ever’body, both white an’ black. Ever’body helped himself. Dr. Tom Busbee, one good ole white man, looked after us when we got sick, an’ he could make you well purty quick, ’cause he wus good an’ ’cause he wus sorry fer you. He wus a feelin’ man. Course we took erbs. I tell you what I took. Scurrey grass, chana balls dey wus for worms. Scurrey grass worked you out. Dey give us winter green to clense our blood. We slaves an’ a lot of de white folks drank sassafras tea in de place of coffee. We sweetened it wid brown sugar, honey, or molasses, just what we had in dat line. I think slavery wus a right good thing. Plenty to eat an’ wear.

When you gits a tooth pulled now it costs two dollars, don’t it? Well in slavery time I had a tooth botherin’ me. My mother say, Emma, take dis egg an’ go down to Doctor Busbee an’ give it to him an’ git your tooth pulled. I give him one egg. He took it an’ pulled my tooth. Try dat now, if you wants to an’ see what happens. Yes, slavery wus a purty good thing.

Blalock, Griffith, Rand,

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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