Slave Narrative of Herndon Bogan

Interviewer: Mary A. Hicks
Person Interviewed: Herndon Bogan
Location: State Prison, Raleigh, North Carolina
Place of Birth: Union County, South Carolina
Age: 76 (?)
Occupation: Houseboy, Night Watch Railroad Tracks

An interview with Herndon Bogan, 76 (?) of State Prison, Raleigh, N. C.

I wus bawned in Union County, South Carolina on de plantation o’ Doctor Bogan, who owned both my mammy Issia, an’ my pap Edwin. Dar wus six o’ us chilluns; Clara, Lula, Joe, Tux, Mack an’ me.

I doan’ member much ’bout slavery days ‘cept dat my white folkses wus good ter us. Dar wus a heap o’ slaves, maybe a hundert an’ fifty. I ‘members dat we wucked hard, but we had plenty ter eat an’ w’ar, eben iffen we did w’ar wood shoes.

I kin barely recolleck ‘fore de war dat I’se seed a heap o’ cocks fightin’ in pits an’ a heap o’ horse racin’. When de marster winned he ‘ud give us niggers a big dinner or a dance, but if he lost, oh!

My daddy wus gived ter de doctor when de doctor wus married an’ dey shore loved each other. One day marster, he comes in an’ he sez dat de Yankees am aimin’ ter try ter take his niggers way from him, but dat dey am gwine ter ketch hell while dey does hit. When he sez dat he starts ter walkin’ de flo’. ‘I’se gwine ter leave yore missus in yore keer, Edwin,’ he sez.

But pa ‘lows, ‘Wid all respec’ fer yore wife sar, she am a Yankee too, an’ I’d ruther go wid you ter de war. Please sar, massa, let me go wid you ter fight dem Yanks.’

At fust massa ‘fuses, den he sez, ‘All right.’ So off dey goes ter de war, massa on a big hoss, an’ my pap on a strong mule ‘long wid de blankets an’ things.

Dey tells me dat ole massa got shot one night, an’ dat pap grabs de gun ‘fore hit hits de earth an’ lets de Yanks have hit.

I ‘members dat dem wus bad days fer South Carolina, we gived all o’ de food ter de soldiers, an’ missus, eben do’ she has got some Yankee folks in de war, l’arns ter eat cabbages an’ kush an’ berries.

I ‘members dat on de day of de surrender, leastways de day dat we hyard ’bout hit, up comes a Yankee an’ axes ter see my missus. I is shakin’, I is dat skeerd, but I bucks up an’ I tells him dat my missus doan want ter see no blue coat.

He grins, an’ tells me ter skedaddle, an’ ’bout den my missus comes out an’ so help me iffen she doan hug dat dratted Yank. Atter awhile I gathers dat he’s her brother, but at fust I ain’t seed no sense in her cryin’ an’ sayin’ ‘thank God’, over an’ over.

Well sar, de massa an’ pap what had gone off mad an’ healthy an’ ridin’ fine beastes comes back walkin’ an’ dey looked sick. Massa am white as cotton, an’ so help me, iffen my pap, who wuz black as sin, ain’t pale too.

Atter a few years I goes ter wuck in Spartanburg as a houseboy, den I gits a job wid de Southern Railroad an’ I goes ter Charlotte ter night-watch de tracks.

I stays dar eighteen years, but one night I kills a white hobo who am tryin’ ter rob me o’ my gol’ watch an’ chain, an’ dey gives me eighteen months. I’se been hyar six already. He wus a white man, an’ jist a boy, an’ I is sorry, but I comes hyar anyhow.

I hyard a ole ‘oman in Charlotte tell onct ’bout witchin’ in slavery times, dar in Mecklenburg County. She wus roun’ ninety, so I reckon she knows. She said dat iffen anybody wanted ter be a witch he would draw a circle on de groun’ jist at de aidge o’ dark an’ git in de circle an’ squat down.

Dar he had ter set an’ talk ter de debil, an’ he mus’ say, ‘I will have nothin’ ter do wid ‘ligion, an’ I wants you ter make me a witch.’ Atter day he mus’ bile a black cat, a bat an’ a bunch of herbs an’ drink de soup, den he wuz really a witch.

When you wanted ter witch somebody, she said dat you could take dat stuff, jist a little bit of hit an’ put hit under dat puson’s doorsteps an’ dey’d be sick.

You could go thru’ de key hole or down de chimney or through de chinks in a log house, an’ you could ride a puson jist lak ridin’ a hoss. Dat puson can keep you outen his house by layin’ de broom ‘fore de do’ an’ puttin’ a pin cushion full of pins side of de bed do’, iffen he’s a mind to.

Dat puson can kill you too, by drawin’ yore pitcher an’ shootin’ hit in de haid or de heart too.

Dar’s a heap o’ ways ter tell fortunes dat she done tol’ me but I’se done forgot now ‘cept coffee groun’s an’ a little of de others. You can’t tell hit wid ’em do’, case hit takes knowin’ how, hit shore does.


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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