Slave Narrative of Isabell Henderson

Interviewer: Mrs. Edith S. Hibbs
Person Interviewed: Isabell Henderson
Location: 1121 Rankin St., Wilmington, North Carolina
Age: 83-84

Story Of Isabell Henderson, Negro

I’ll be 84 years old come August 9. My gran’-daughter can tell you what year it was I was born I don’ ‘member but we has it down in the Bible.

I lived near the “Clock Church” (Jewish Synagogue)[8], 4th and Market. We had a big place there. My gran’mother did the cookin’. My mother did the sewin’. I was jus five years old when the men went away. I guess to the war, I don’ know. Some men came by and conscip’ dem. I don’ know where they went but I guess dey went to war. I was such a little girl I don’t ‘member much. But I does know my Missus was good to me. I used to play with her little boy. I was jes’ one of the family. I played with the little boy around the house’ cause I was never ‘lowed to run the streets. They was good to me. They kept me in clothes, pretty clothes, and good things to eat. Yes’m we was slaves but we had good times.

Interviewer: “What did you eat?”

Isabell: “Oh I don’t ‘member ‘special but I et jes what the family et.”

Maybe my father was killed in the war maybe he run away I don’ know, he jus’ neber come back no mo’.

Yes’m I remember when the soldiers came along and freed us. They went through breakin’ down peoples shops and everything.

My mother married again. She married Edward Robertson. He was good to me. Yes’m he was better to me than my father was. He was a preacher and a painter. My mother died. When my father, (step-father) went off to preach, me and my sister stayed in the house.

I stayed home all my life. I just wasn’t ‘llowed to run around like most girls. I never been out of Wilmington but one year in my life. That year I went to Augusta. No’m I don’t likes to go away. I don’t like the trains, nor the automobiles. But I rides in ’em (meaning the latter).

I remember when the 4th Street bridge was built. I was married over there in St. Stephen’s Church, 5th and Red Cross. Yes M’am my auntie she gib me a big weddin’. I was 22 and my husband was 22 too not quite 23. Not a year older than I was. He was a cooper. Yes Ma’m I had a big weddin’. The church was all decorated with flowers. I had six attendants. Four big ones and two little ones. My husband he had the same number I did four big ones and two little ones. I had on a white dress. Carried flowers. Had carriages and everything. My husband was good to me. I didn’t stay home with my father but about a month. We wanted to go to ourselves.

We went in our own home and stayed there until I got a “sickness.” (She looked shy) I didn’t know what was the matter with me. My father told me I better come home. So I went home to my father and stayed there about two years.

I have had five children. Three are livin’. Two are dead.

I never worked until after he died. He left me with five little children to raise.

He was the only man I ever ‘knowed’ in all my life from girlhood up.

[Footnote 8: The Synagogue has no clock on the exterior, but Isabell persisted with her name of “Clock Church.”]

Henderson, Robertson,

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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