Slave Narrative of Alice Douglass

Person Interviewed: Alice Douglass
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Sumner County, Tennessee
Date of Birth: December 22, 1860
Age: 73

I was born December 22, 1880 in Summer County, Tennessee. My mother, I mean mammy, ’cause what did we know ’bout mother and mama. Master and Mistress made dey chillun call all nigger women. “Black Harmy.” Jest as I was saying my mammy was named Millie Elkins and my pappy was named Isaac Garrett. My sisters and brothers was Frank, Susie and Mollie. They is all in Nashville, Tennessee right now. They lived in log houses. I ‘member my grandpappy and when he died. I allus slept in the Big House in a cradle wid white babies.

We all the time wore cotton dresses and we weaved our own cloth. The boys jest wore shirts. Some wore shoes, and I sho’ did. I kin see ’em now as they measured my feets to git my shoes. We had doctors to wait on us iffen we got sick and ailing. We wore asafedida to keep all diseases offen us.

When a nigger man got ready to marry, he go and tell his master that they was a woman on sech and sech a farm that he’d lak to have. Iffen master give his resent, then he go and ask her master and iffen he say yes, well, they jest jump the broomstick. Hens could jest see their wives on Sadday nite.

They laid peoples ‘cross barrels and whupped ’em wid bull whups till the blood come. They’d half feed ’em and niggers’d steal food and cook all night. The things we was forced to do then the whites is doing of their own free will now. You gotta reap jest what you sow ’cause the Good Book says it.

They used to bid niggers off and then load ’em on wagons and take ’em to cotton farms to work. I never seen no cotton till I come heah. Peoples make big miration ’bout girls having babies at 11 years old. And you better have them whitefolks some babies iffen you didn’t wanta be sold. Though a funny thing to me is, iffen a nigger woman had a baby on the boat on the way to the cotton farms, they throwed it in the river. Taking ’em to them cotton farms is jest the reason niggers is so plentiful in the South today.

I ain’t got no education a’tall. In dem days you better not be caught with a newspaper, else you got a beating and your back almost cut off. When niggers got free, whitefolks killed ’em by the carload, ’cause they said it was a nigger uprising. I used to lay on the flo’ with the whitefolks and hear ’em pass. Them patrollers roved trying to ketch niggers without passes to whup ’em. They was sometimes called bush whackers.

We went to white folks’ church. I was a great big girl before we went to cullud church. We’d stay out and play while they worshipped. We jest played marbles – girls, white chillun and all.

The Yankees come thoo’ and took all the meat and everything they could find. They took horses, food and all. Mammy cooked their vittles. One come in our cabin and took a sack of dried fruit with my mammy’s shoes on the top. I tried to make ’em leave mammy’s shoes too but he didn’t.

I stayed in the house with the whitefolks till I was 19. They lak to kept me in there too long. That’s why I’m selfish as I am. Within three weeks after I was out of the house, I married William Douglass. Whitefolks now don’t want you to tech ’em, and I slept with white chillun till I was 19. You kin cook for ’em and put your hands in they vittles and they don’t say nothing, but jest you tech one!

We stayed on, on the place, three or four years and it was right then mammy give us our pappy’s name. We moved from the place to one three or four miles from our master’s place, and mammy cooked there a long time.

Abraham Lincoln gits too much praise. I say, shucks, give God the praise. Lincoln come thoo’ Gallitan, Tennessee and stopped at Hotel Tavern with his wife. They was dressed jest lak tramps and nobody knowed it was him and his wife till he got to the White House and writ back and told ’em to look ‘twixt the leaves in the table where he had set and they sho’ muff found out it was him.

I never mentions Jeff Davis. He ain’t wuff it.

Booker T. Washington was all right in his place. He come here and told these whitefolks jest what he thought. Course he wouldn’t have done that way down South. I declare to God he sho’ told ’em enough. They toted him ’round on their hands. No Jin Crow here then.

I jined the church ’cause I had religion round 60 years ago. People oughta be religious sho’; what for they wanta live in sin and die and go to the Bad Men. To git to Heaven, you sho’ ought to work some. I want a resting place somewhar, ’cause I ain’t got none here. I an a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church, and I help build the first church in Oklahoma City.

I got three boys and three girls. I don’t know nope’s age. I give ’em the best education I could.

Douglass, Elkins, Garrett,

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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