Slave Narrative of Hal Hutson

Person Interviewed: Hal Hutson
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Galveston, Tennessee
Date of Birth: October 12, 1847
Age: 90

I was born at Galveston, Tennessee, October 12, 1847. There were 11 children: 7 brothers; Andrew, George, Clent, Gilbert, Frank, Mack and Horace; and 3 girls Eosie, Marie and Eancy. We were all Hutsons. Together with my mother and father we worked for the same man whose name was Mr. Barton Brown, but who we all call Master Brown, and sometime.

Master Brown had a good weather-board house, two story, with five or six rooms. They lived pretty well. He had eight children. We lived in one-room log huts. There were a long string of them huts. We slept on the floor like hogs. Girls and boys slept together, jest everybody slept every whar. We never knew what biscuits were! We ate “seconds and shorts” (wheat ground once) for bread. Ate rabbits, possums baked with taters, beans, and been soup. No chicken, fish and the like. My favorite dish now is beans.

Master Brown owned about 36 or 40 slaves, I can’t recall jest now, and about 200 acres of ground. There was very little cotton raised in Galveston, I mean jest some corn. Sometimes we would shuck corn all night. He would not let us raise gardens of our own, but didn’t mind us raising corn and a few other truck vegetables to sell for a little spending change.

I learned to read, write and figger at an early age. Master Brown’s boy and I were the same age you see (14 years old) and he would send me to school to protect his kids, and I would have to sit up there until school was out. So while sitting there I listened to what the white teacher was telling the kids, and caught on how to read, write and figger, but I never let on, ’cause if I was caught trying to read or figger dey would chip me something terrible. After I caught on how to figger the white kids would ask me to teach them. Master Brown would often say: “My God O’mighty, never do for that nigger to learn to figger.”

We weren’t allowed to count change. If we borrowed a fifty-cent piece, we would have to pay back a fifty-cent piece, not five dimes or fifty pennies or ten nickels.

We went barefooted the year round and wore long shirts split on each side. All of us niggers called all the whites “poor white trash.” The overseer was nothing but poor white trash and the meanest man that ever walked on earth. He never did whip me much ‘couse I was kind of a pet. I worked up to the Big House, but he sho’ did whip then others. Why, one day he was beating my mother, and I was too small to say anything, so my big brother heard her crying and came running, picked up a chunk and that overseer stopped a’beating her. The white boy was holding her on the ground and he was whipping her with a long leather whip. They said they couldn’t teach her no sense and she said “I don’t wanna learn no sense.” The overseer’s name was Charlie Clark. One day he whipped a man until he was bloody as a pig ’cause he went to the mill and stayed too long.

The patroller rode all night and iffen we were caught out later than 10:00 o’clock they would beat us, but we would git each other word by sending a man round way late at night. Always take news by night. Of course the Ku Klux Klan didn’t come ’til after the war. They was something like the patrollers. Never beard of no trouble between the black and whites ’cause them niggers were afraid to resist them.

My biggest job was keeping flies off’n the table up at the Big House. When time come to go in for the day we would out up and dance. I can’t remember any of the songs jest now, but we had some that we sung. We danced a whole lots and jest sung “made up” songs.

Old Master would stay-up to hear us come in. Of course Saturday afternoon was a holiday. We didn’t work no holidays. Master gave us one week off for Christmas, and never worked us on Sunday, unless the “or was in the ditch.” When the slaves got sick we had white doctors, and we would wait on each other. Drink dock root tea. mullin tea and fleaweed tea, but we never wore charms.

I think it’s a good thing that slavery’s over. It ought to been over a good while ago. But its going to be slavery all over again if things don’t git better. But I thank God I’ve been a Christian for 70 years, and now is a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church and deacon of the church, and a Christian ’cause the Bible teaches me to be.

That war was a awful thing. I used to pack them soldiers water on my head, and then I worked at Fort Sill and Fort Dewson in Tennessee. Those Yankees came by nights, got behind those rebels, and took their hams, drove horses in the houses, killed their chickens and ate up the rebels food, but the Yanks didn’t bother us niggers.

When freedom cone old Master called us all in from the fields and told us. “All of you niggers are free as frogs now to go wherever you choose. You are your own man now.” We all continued working for him at $5.00 a month. After the crops were gathered the niggers scattered out. Some went North, and we would say when they went North that they had “crossed the water.”

I never married ’till after the war. Married at my mother’s house ’cause my wife’s mother didn’t let us marry at her house, so I sent Jack Perry after her on a hoss and we had a big dinner, and jest got married.

I am the father of nine children, but jest three is living. One is a dentist in Muskogge, Dr. Andrew Hutson. All of the children are pretty well read. We never had schools for niggers until after slavery.

I think Abraham Lincoln was a great man, but I don’t know much about Jeff Davis. Booker T. Washington was a fine man.

Brown, Hutson,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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