Slave Narrative of Louisa Adams

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Louisa Adams
Location: North Carolina
Place of Birth: Rockingham, Richmond County, North Carolina

My name is Louisa Adams. I wuz bawned in Rockingham, Richmond County, North Carolina. I wuz eight years old when the Yankees come through. I belonged to Marster Tom A. Covington, Sir. My mother wuz named Easter, and my father wuz named Jacob. We were all Covingtons. No Sir, I don’t know whur my mother and father come from. Soloman wuz brother number one, then Luke, Josh, Stephen, Asbury. My sisters were Jane, Frances, Wincy, and I wuz nex’. I ‘members grandmother. She wuz named Lovie Wall. They brought her here from same place. My aunts were named, one wuz named Nicey, and one wuz named Jane. I picked feed for the white folks. They sent many of the chillun to work at the salt mines, where we went to git salt. My brother Soloman wuz sent to the salt mines. Luke looked atter the sheep. He knocked down china berries for ’em. Dad and mammie had their own gardens and hogs. We were compelled to walk about at night to live. We were so hongry we were bound to steal or parish. This trait seems to be handed down from slavery days. Sometimes I thinks dis might be so. Our food wuz bad. Marster worked us hard and gave us nuthin. We had to use what we made in the garden to eat. We also et our hogs. Our clothes were bad, and beds were sorry. We went barefooted in a way. What I mean by that is, that we had shoes part of the time. We got one pair o’ shoes a year. When dey wored out we went barefooted. Sometimes we tied them up with strings, and they were so ragged de tracks looked like bird tracks, where we walked in the road. We lived in log houses daubed with mud. They called ’em the slaves houses. My old daddy partly raised his chilluns on game. He caught rabbits, coons, an’ possums. We would work all day and hunt at night. We had no holidays. They did not give us any fun as I know. I could eat anything I could git. I tell you de truth, slave time wuz slave time wid us. My brother wore his shoes out, and had none all thu winter. His feet cracked open and bled so bad you could track him by the blood. When the Yankees come through, he got shoes.

I wuz married in Rockingham. I don’t ‘member when Mr. Jimmie Covington, a preacher, a white man, married us. I married James Adams who lived on a plantation near Rockingham. I had a nice blue wedding dress. My husband wuz dressed in kinder light clothes, best I rickerlect. It’s been a good long time, since deen [HW: den] tho’.

I sho do ‘member my Marster Tom Covington and his wife too, Emma. Da old man wuz the very nick.[HW correction: Nick] He would take what we made and lowance us, dat is lowance it out to my daddy after he had made it. My father went to Steven Covington, Marster Tom’s brother, and told him about it, and his brother Stephen made him gib father his meat back to us.

My missus wuz kind to me, but Mars. Tom wuz the buger. It wuz a mighty bit plantation. I don’t know how many slaves wuz on it, there were a lot of dem do’. Dere were overseers two of ’em. One wuz named Bob Covington and the other Charles Covington. They were colored men. I rode with them. I rode wid ’em in the carriage sometimes. De carriage had seats dat folded up. Bob wuz overseer in de field, and Charles wuz carriage driver. All de plantation wuz fenced in, dat is all de fields, wid rails; de rails wuz ten feet long. We drawed water wid a sweep and pail. De well wuz in the yard. De mules for the slaves wuz in town, dere were none on the plantation. Dey had ’em in town; dey waked us time de chicken crowed, and we went to work just as soon as we could see how to make a lick wid a hoe.

Lawd, you better not be caught wid a book in yor han’. If you did, you were sold. Dey didn’t ‘low dat. I kin read a little, but I can’t write. I went to school after slavery and learned to read. We didn’t go to school but three or four week a year, and learned to read.

Dere wuz no church on the plantation, and we were not lowed to have prayer meetings. No parties, no candy pullings, nor dances, no sir, not a bit. I ‘member goin’ one time to the white folkses church, no baptizing dat I ‘member. Lawd have mercy, ha! ha! No. De pateroller were on de place at night. You couldn’t travel without a pas.

We got few possums. I have greased my daddy’s back after he had been whupped until his back wuz cut to pieces. He had to work jis the same. When we went to our houses at night, we cooked our suppers at night, et and then went to bed. If fire wuz out or any work needed doin’ around de house we had to work on Sundays. They did not gib us Christmas or any other holidays. We had corn shuckings. I herd ’em talkin’ of cuttin de corn pile right square in two. One wud git on one side, another on the other side and see which out beat. They had brandy at the corn shuckin’ and I herd Sam talkin’ about gittin’ drunk.

I ‘member one ‘oman dying. Her name wuz Caroline Covington. I didn’t go to the grave. But you know they had a little cart used with hosses to carry her to the grave, jist a one horse wagon, jist slipped her in there.

Yes, I ‘member a field song. It wuz ‘Oh! come let us go where pleasure never dies. Great fountain gone over’. Dat’s one uv ’em. We had a good doctor when we got sick. He come to see us. The slaves took herbs dey found in de woods. Dat’s what I do now, Sir. I got some ‘erbs right in my kitchen now.

When the Yankees come through I did not know anything about ’em till they got there. Jist like they were poppin up out of de ground. One of the slaves wuz at his master’s house you know, and he said, ‘The Yankees are in Cheraw, S. C. [HW correction: South Carolina] and the Yankees are in town’. It didn’t sturb me at tall. I wuz not afraid of de Yankees. I ‘member dey went to Miss Emma’s house, and went in de smoke house and emptied every barrel of ‘lasses right in de floor and scattered de cracklings on de floor. I went dere and got some of ’em. Miss Emma wuz my missus. Dey just killed de chickens, hogs too, and old Jeff the dog; they shot him through the thoat. I ‘member how his mouth flew open when dey shot him. One uv ’em went into de tater bank, and we chillun wanted to go out dere. Mother wouldn’t let us. She wuz fraid uv ’em.

Abraham Lincoln freed us by the help of the Lawd, by his help. Slavery wuz owin to who you were with. If you were with some one who wuz good and had some feelin’s for you it did tolerable well; yea, tolerable well.

We left the plantation soon as de surrender. We lef’ right off. We went to goin’ towards Fayetteville, North Carolina. We climbed over fences and were just broke down chillun, feet sore. We had a little meat, corn meal, a tray, and mammy had a tin pan. One night we came to a old house; some one had put wheat straw in it. We staid there, next mornin’, we come back home. Not to Marster’s, but to a white ‘oman named Peggy McClinton, on her plantation. We stayed there a long time. De Yankees took everything dey could, but dey didn’t give us anything to eat. Dey give some of de ‘omen shoes.

I thinks Mr. Roosevelt is a fine man and he do all he can for us.

Adams, Covington, Wall,

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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