Slave Narrative of Lizzie Baker

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Lizzie Baker
Location: 424 Smith Street, Raleigh, North Carolina

I was born de las’ year o’ de surrender an’course I don’t remember seein’ any Yankee soldiers, but I knows a plenty my mother and father tole me. I have neuritis, an’ have been unable to work any fer a year and fer seven years I couldn’t do much.

My mother wus named Teeny McIntire and my father William McIntire. Mammy belonged to Bryant Newkirk in Duplin County. Pap belonged to someone else, I don’t know who.

Dey said dey worked from light till dark, and pap said dey beat him so bad he run away a lot o’ times. Dey said de paterollers come to whare dey wus havin’ prayer meetin’ and beat ’em.

Mammy said sometimes dey were fed well and others dey almost starved. Dey got biscuit once a week on Sunday. Dey said dey went to de white folks’s church. Dey said de preachers tole ’em dey had to obey dere missus and marster. My mammy said she didn’t go to no dances ’cause she wus crippled. Some o’ de help, a colored woman, stole something when she wus hongry. She put it off on mother and missus made mother wear trousers for a year to punish her.

Mammy said dey gave de slaves on de plantation one day Christmas and dat New Years wus when dey sold ’em an’ hired ’em out. All de slaves wus scared ’cause dey didn’t know who would have to go off to be sold or to work in a strange place. Pap tole me ’bout livin’ in de woods and ’bout dey ketchin’ him. I ‘member his owner’s name den, it wus Stanley. He run away so bad dey sold him several times. Pap said one time dey caught him and nearly beat him to death, and jest as soon as he got well and got a good chance he ran away again.

Mammy said when de Yankees come through she wus ‘fraid of ’em. De Yankees tole her not to be ‘fraid of ’em. Dey say to her, ‘Do dey treat you right’, Mammy said ‘Yes sir’, ’cause ole missus wus standin’ dere, an’ she wus ‘fraid not to say yes. Atter de war, de fust year atter de surrender dey moved to James Alderman’s place in Duplin County and stayed dere till I wus a grown gal.

Den we moved to Goldsboro. Father wus a carpenter and he got a lot of dat work. Dat’s what he done in Goldsboro. We come from Goldsboro to Raleigh and we have lived here every since. We moved here about de year o’ de shake and my mother died right here in Raleigh de year o’ de shake. Some of de things mother tole me ’bout slavery, has gone right out of my min’. Jes comes and goes.

I remember pap tellin’ me’ bout stretchin’ vines acrost roads and paths to knock de patterollers off deir horses when dey were tryin’ to ketch slaves. Pap and mammy tole me marster and missus did not ‘low any of de slaves to have a book in deir house. Dat if dey caught a slave wid a book in deir house dey whupped ’em. Dey were keerful not to let ’em learn readin’ and writin’.

Dey sold my sister Lucy and my brother Fred in slavery time, an’ I have never seen ’em in my life. Mother would cry when she was tellin’ me ’bout it. She never seen ’em anymore. I jes’ couldn’t bear to hear her tell it widout cryin’. Dey were carried to Richmond, an’ sold by old marster when dey were chillun.

We tried to get some news of brother and sister. Mother kept ‘quiring ’bout ’em as long as she lived and I have hoped dat I could hear from ’em. Dey are dead long ago I recons, and I guess dare aint no use ever expectin’ to see ’em. Slavery wus bad and Mr. Lincoln did a good thing when he freed de niggers. I caint express my love for Roosevelt. He has saved so many lives. I think he has saved mine. I want to see him face to face. I purely love him and I feel I could do better to see him and tell him so face to face.

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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