Slave Narrative of George W. Harris

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: George W. Harris
Location: 604 E Cabarrus Street, Raleigh, North Carolina
Date of Birth: November 25, 1855
Age: 82

Hey, don’t go ‘roun’ dat post gitting it ‘tween you and me, it’s bad luck. Don’t you know it’s bad luck? Don’t want no more bad luck den what I’se already got. My name is George Harris. I wuz born November 25, 82 years ago. I have been living in the City of Raleigh onto 52 years. I belonged to John Andrews. He died about de time I wuz born. His wife Betsy wuz my missus and his son John wuz my marster.

Deir plantation wuz in Jones County. Dere were about er dozen slaves on de plantation. We had plenty o’ food in slavery days during my boyhood days, plenty of good sound food. We didn’t have ‘xactly plenty o’ clothes, and our places ter sleep needed things, we were in need often in these things. We were treated kindly, and no one abused us. We had as good owners as there were in Jones County; they looked out for us. They let us have patches to tend and gave us what we made. We did not have much money. We had no church on the plantation, but there wuz one on Marster’s brother’s plantation next ter his plantation.

We had suppers an’ socials, generally gatherings for eatin’, socials jist to git together an’ eat. We had a lot o’ game ter eat, such as possums, coons, rabbits and birds.

De plantation wuz fenced in wid rails about 10 ft. in length split from pine trees. De cattle, hogs an’ hosses run out on de free range. The hosses ran on free range when de crap wuz laid by. There wuz an ole mare dat led de hosses. She led ’em an’ when she come home at night dey followed her.

De first work I done wuz drappin’ tater sprouts, drappin’ corn, thinnin’ out corn and roundin’ up corn an’ mindin’ the crows out of de field. Dey did not teach us to read an’ write, but my father could read, and he read de hymn book and Testament to us sometimes. I do not remember ever goin’ to church durin’ slavery days.

I have never seen a slave whipped and none ever ran away to the North from our plantation.

When I wuz a boy we chillun played marbles, prison base, blind fold and tag, hide an’ seek. Dey gave us Christmas holidays, an’ 4th of July, an’ lay-by time. Dey also called dis time “crap hillin’ time.” Most o’ de time when we got sick our mother doctored us with herbs which she had in de garden. When we had side plurisy, what dey calls pneumonia now, dey sent fer a doctor. Doctor Hines treated us.

We lived near Trenton. When de Yankees took New Bern, our marster had us out in de woods in Jones County mindin’ hosses an’ takin’ care o’ things he had hid there. We got afraid and ran away to New Bern in Craven County. We all went in a gang and walked. De Yankees took us at Deep Gully ten miles dis side o’ New Bern an’ carried us inside de lines. Dey asked us questions and put us all in jail. Dey put my father ter cookin’ at de jail and give us boys work ‘roun’ de yard. Dey put de others at work at de horse stables and houses.

De smallpox and yaller fever caught us dere and killed us by de hundreds. Thirteen doctors died dere in one day. Jist ‘fore Gen. Lee surrendered dey carried us to Petersburg, Va., and I waited on Major Emory and de others worked fer de Yankees. When de surrender came we went back home to Craven County, next to Jones County, and went to farmin’. Sumpin’ to eat could not hardly be found. De second year atter de war we went back to old marster’s plantation. He wuz glad ter see us, we all et dinner wid him. We looked over de place. I looked over de little log cabin where I wuz born. Some of de boys who had been slaves, farmed wid old marster, but I worked at my trade. I wuz a brick moulder. Yes, a brick maker.

My mother was named Jennie Andrews and my father was Quash Harris. My father belonged to de Harris family on de nex’ plantation in Jones County. Atter de surrender we all went in his name. We changed from Andrews to Harris. I do not recollect my grandmother and grandfather. I can’t recollect them.

Marster told us directly after dey declared war dat he expected we would all soon be free. De majority of de slaves did not want to be free. Dey were stirred up. Dey didn’t want it to be. Dey didn’t want no fightin’. Dey didn’t know.

I married Mary Boylan first, of Johnston County, at Wilsons Mills, Jan. 4, 1878. Here is de family record. Ole marster made me copies after de war, and I copied dis. George Harris was married the year 1878, January the 4th. George Harris was born the year 1855 November the 25th.

I had five brothers, but they are all dead, fur as I know: John Nathan, Louis, David, Jefferson, Donald and my name George. My sisters, Mary Ann, Sara, Lucy, Penny, Emaline, Lizzie, Nancy, Leah and one I can’t remember. Dats all.

I thought Abraham Lincoln wuz a great man. I remember him well. I think he done de best he knowed how to settle de country. Mr. Roosevelt is a smart man. He is doing de best he can. I think he is goin’ to help de country.

Andrews, Boylan, Harris,

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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