Slave Narrative of Sarah Harris

Interviewer: Mary A. Hicks
Person Interviewed: Sarah Harris
Date of Interview: May 19, 1937
Location: North Carolina
Date of Birth: April 1861
Age: 76

Sarah Harris is my name. I wuz borned April 1861, on the plantation of Master John William Walton. My father wuz name Frank Walton and my mother wuz name Flora Walton. My brothers wuz name Lang and Johnny. My sisters: Hannah, Mary, Ellen, Violet and Annie. My grandmother wuz name Ellen Walton. She wuz 104 years old when she died. My mother wuz 103 years old when she died; she has been dead 3 years. She died in October, 3 years this pas’ October.

I ‘member seeing the Yankees. I wuz not afraid of ’em, I thought dey were the prettiest blue mens I had ever seed. I can see how de chickens and guineas flew and run from ’em. De Yankees killed ’em and give part of ’em to the colored folks. Most of de white folks had run off and hid.

I can’t read and write. I nebber had no chance.

De Yankees had their camps along the Fayetteville road.

Dey called us Dinah, Sam, and other names.

Dey later had de place dey call de bureau. When we left de white folks we had nothing to eat. De niggers wait there at de bureau and they give ’em hard tack, white potatoes, and saltpeter meat. Our white folks give us good things to eat, and I cried every day at 12 o’clock to go home. Yes, I wanted to go back to my white folks; they were good to us. I would say, ‘papa le’s go home, I want to go home. I don’t like this sumptin’ to eat.’ He would say, ‘Don’t cry, honey, le’s stay here, dey will sen’ you to school.’

We had nothing to eat ‘cept what de Yankees give us. But Mr. Bill Crawford give my father and mother work. Yes, he wuz a Southern man, one o’ our white folks. Daddy wuz his butcher. My mother wuz his cook. We were turned out when dey freed us with no homes and nuthin’. Master said he wuz sorry he didn’t give us niggers part of his lan’.

While I wuz big enough to work I worked for Porter Steadman. I got 25 cent a week and board. We had a good home then. I just shouted when I got dat 25 cent, and I just run. I couldn’t run fas’ anuff to git to my mother to give dat money to her. My father died, and my mother bought a home. She got her first money to buy de home by working for de man who give her work after de surrender. The first money she saved to put on de home wuz a dime. Some weeks she only saved 5 cents. Lan’ sold fur $10 a acre den.

Just after de war de white and colored children played together. Dey had a tent in our neighborhood. I wuz de cook for de white chilluns parties. We played together fer a long time after de war.

I married Silas Cooper of Norfolk Va. He worked in the Navy yard. I wuz married in Raleigh. I had a church wedding.

I think Abraham Lincoln wuz a great man. He would cure or kill. But I like my ole master. The Lord put it into Abraham Lincoln to do as he done. The Lord knowed he would be killed.

I think slavery wuz wrong. I have a horror of being a slave. You see all dis lan’ aroun’ here. It belongs to colored folks. Dey were cut off wid nothin’, but dey is strugglin’ an’ dey are comin’ on fast. De Bible say dat de bottom rail will be on top, and it is comin’ to pass. Sometime de colored race will git up. De Bible say so.

I think Mr. Roosevelt is one of the greatest mans in de world. He wants to help everybody.

I doan think much of Mr. Jeff Davis. Dey used to sing songs uv hanging him to a apple tree. Dey say he libed a long time atter de war dressed like a ‘oman, he wuz so skeered.

Cooper, Harris, Walton,

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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