Slave Narrative of Martha Allen

Interviewer: Mary A. Hicks
Person Interviewed: Martha Allen
Location: 1318 South Person Street, Raleigh, North Carolina
Place of Birth: Craven County NC
Age: 78

Ex-Slave Story

An interview with Martha Allen, 78, of 1318 South Person Street, Raleigh.

I wuz borned in Craven County seventy eight years ago. My pappa wuz named Andrew Bryant an’ my mammy wuz named Harriet. My brothers wuz John Franklin, Alfred, an’ Andrew. I ain’t had no sisters. I reckon dat we is what yo’ call a general mixture case I am part Injun, part white, an’ part nigger.

My mammy belonged ter Tom Edward Gaskin an’ she wuzn’t half fed. De cook nussed de babies while she cooked, so dat de mammies could wuck in de fiel’s, an’ all de mammies done wuz stick de babies in at de kitchen do’ on dere way ter de fiel’s. I’se hyard mammy say dat dey went ter wuck widout breakfast, an’ dat when she put her baby in de kitchen she’d go by de slop bucket an’ drink de slops from a long handled gourd.

De slave driver wuz bad as he could be, an’ de slaves got awful beatin’s.

De young marster sorta wanted my mammy, but she tells him no, so he chunks a lightwood knot an’ hits her on de haid wid it. Dese white mens what had babies by nigger wimmens wuz called ‘Carpet Gitters’. My father’s father wuz one o’ dem.

Yes mam, I’se mixed plenty case my mammy’s grandmaw wuz Cherokee Injun.

I doan know nothin’ ’bout no war, case marster carried us ter Cedar Falls, near Durham an’ dar’s whar we come free.

I ‘members dat de Ku Klux uster go ter de Free Issues houses, strip all de family an’ whup de ole folkses. Den dey dances wid de pretty yaller gals an’ goes ter bed wid dem. Dat’s what de Ku Klux wuz, a bunch of mean mens tryin’ ter hab a good time.

I’se wucked purty hard durin’ my life an’ I done my courtin’ on a steer an’ cart haulin’ wood ter town ter sell. He wuz haulin’ wood too on his wagin, an’ he’d beat me ter town so’s dat he could help me off’n de wagin. I reckon dat dat wuz as good a way as any.

I tries ter be a good christian but I’se got disgusted wid dese young upstart niggers what dances in de chu’ch. Dey says dat dey am truckin’ an’ dat de Bible ain’t forbid hit, but I reckin dat I knows dancin’ whar I sees hit.

Allen, Bryant, Gaskin,

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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