Interviewer: Mrs. Richard Kolb
Person Interviewed: Wayne Holliday
Location: Aberdeen, Mississippi
Place of Birth: Aberdeen, Mississippi
Date of Birth: 1853
“I was born an’ raised in Aberdeen an’ I’se been a railroad nigger fo’ mos’ of my days. I’se retired now ’cause dey say I too old to work any longer, but shucks, I ain’t half dead yet. I was born in 1853 right here close to whar I live now. My folks b’longed to de Hollidays—you know de grand folks of Miss Maria Evans? An’ we stayed right dere in de lot whar de white folks lived.
“My pa an’ my ma was named Frank an’ Sarah Holliday an’ de Cunel brung dem wid him frum North Car’lina. Dey was lot niggers an’ never worked in de fiel’ or lived in de Quarters. My pa was one of de best carpenters in de country. I was too young to work much but sometime I he’ped him ‘roun’ de house but mos’ of de time, I jes played wid my brudders an’ sisters an’ de white chullun what lived aroun’. We played marbles, ridin’ de stick hoss, an’ play house jes lak de chullun do now days, but I think we had mo’ fun. Dey was fo’teen of us in our family an’ we allus had somebody to play wid. An’ den li’l Marse Ben, he wa’nt much older dan us.
“Our marster’s name was Cunel John Holiday. He got dat title in a war before de slav’ry war. He was too old to fight in dat one, or I spect he’d got another title, lak Gen’ral or somethin’. He an’ Miss Julia—dat was his wife—was mighty good to us an’ so was Marse Tom and Marse Ben, an’ Miss Maria an’ all. When de Cunel fust come to Mississippi he bought a plantation in de prairies an’ lived dere for a while. But later he ‘cided to build him a house in town so he got my pa to he’p him build it an’ it was one of de purtiest houses in Aberdeen. It look jes lak it allus did to me now. Co’se dey is worked on it several times since den, but dey ain’t changed it at all.
“My mammy did de cookin’ for de white folks dere. Dey all thought a lot of her. I never knowed much what slav’ry was ’bout, to tell de truf. De folks never treated us wrong an’ chullun in dem days didn’ get to run aroun’ lak dey do today an’ we didn’ get to hear no gossip ’bout de other niggers. Since we didn’ live in no quarters we didn’ hear nothin. Our folks never said nothin’ ’cause dey was very well satisfied lak dey was. We never hear of no whuppin’s, or runaways either, ’til afte’ de War an’ when we got older.
“I ‘member de War tho’. Marse Tom, he went fust, wid de Van Dorns. He was made a capt’in or somethin’ ’cause he was so brave. He fought long wid de fust an’ was one of de fust to get hit. Dey brung his body all de way from Richmond, or Virginny, I fergit which, and lawzy, if de Cunel an’ de Miss didn’ take on somethin’ awful. Dey sho’ loved dat boy an’ so did all of de niggers. Afte’ dey buried him dey took his sword an’ hung it on de wall of de parlor. I reckin it still dar.
“Marse Ben went afte’ dat. He was jes old ‘nough to go but he went an’ fought jes de same. He come back when de war was over an’ dey was sho’ some rejoicin’.
“Time wa’nt much diffrunt den dan it was ‘fo de War. We stayed on wid our folks for a long time. Den my pa started gettin’ a li’l work here an’ dar an’ purty soon he got all his chullun started out purty well. We all went to de colored school what dey had down whar de railroad crossin’ is now, an’ dat was whar I l’arned to read an’ write. I didn’ marry for a good while an’ den I went to work on de I.C. Railroad. I was fust a coal heaver an’ den a coach porter. I was faithful to my job an’ made good money an’ soon built me a house of my own whar I raised my family. I sent all my chullun to school an’ dey is doin’ well. My wife worked right ‘long wid me. She died ’bout two years ago.
“I’se thankful I ain’t got no sad mem’ries ’bout slav’ry times an’ dat I an’ my folks is done as well as dey have. T’is de work of de Lawd.”
Wayne Holliday, who lived in slavery times, and whose father was a slave, is 84 years old, a dried-up looking Negro of light tan color, approximately 5 feet three inches high and weighing about 130 pounds, he is most active and appears much younger than he really is. He is slightly bent; his kinky hair is intermingled white and gray; and his broad mouth boasts only one visible tooth, a particularly large one in the extreme center of his lower gum.
Wayne has the manner of a Negro of the old South and depicts, in his small way, the gallantry of an age gone by.