Slave Narrative of Ida Henry

Person Interviewed: Ida Henry
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Marshall, Texas
Date of Birth: 1854
Age: 83
Occupation: House Girl

I was born in Marshall, Texas, in 1854. Me mother was named Millie Henderson and me father Silas Hall. Me mother was sold in South Carolina to Mister Hall, who brought her to Texas. Me father was born and raised by Master John Hall. Me mother’s and father’s family consisted of five girls and one boy. My sister’s names were: Margrette, Chalette, Lottie, Gracy and Loyo, and me brother’s name was Dock Howard. I lived with me mother and father in a log house on Master Hall’s plantation. We would be sorry when dark, as de patrollers would walk through de quarters and homes of de slaves all times of night wid pine torch lights to whip de niggers found away from deir home.

At nights when me mother would slip away for a visit to some of de neighbors homes, she would raise up the old plank floor to de log cabin and make pallets on de ground and put us to bed and put the floor back down so dat we couldn’t be seen or found by the patrollers on their stroll around at nights.

My grandmother Lottie would always tell us to not let Master catch you in a lie, and to always tell him de truth.

I was house girl to me Mistress and nursed, cooked, and carried de children to and from school. In summer we girls wore cotton slips and yarn dresses for winter. When I got married I was dress in blue serge and was de third person to marry in it. Wedding dresses was not worn after de wedding in don days by niggers as we was taught by our Mistress dat it was bad luck to wear de wedding dress after marriage. Therefore, ’twas handed down from one generation to the other one.

Me Mistress was sometimes good and sometimes mean. One day de cook was waiting de table and when passing around de potatoes, old Mistress felt of one and as hit wasn’t soft done, she exclaimed to de cook, “What you bring these raw potatoes out here for?” and grab a fork and stuck it in her eye and put hit out. She, de cook, lived about 10 years and died.

Me Mistress was de mother of five children, Crock, Jim, Boss and two girls name, Lea and Annie.

Dese home was a large two-story white house wid de large white posts. As me Master went to de war de old overseer tried himself in meanness over de slaves as seemingly he tried to be important. One day de slaves caught him and one held him whilst another knocked him in de head and killed him.

Master’s plantation was about 300 acres and he had ’bout 160 slaves. Before de slaves killed our, overseer, he would work ’em night and day. De slaves was punished when day didn’t do as much work as de overseer wanted ’em to do.

He would lock ’em in jail some nights without food and kept ’em dere all night, and after whipping ’em de next morning would only give ’em bread and water to work on till noon.

When a slave was hard to catch for punishment dey would make ’em wear ball and chains. De ball was ’bout de size of de head and made of lead.

On Sunday mornings before breakfast our Mistress would call us together, read de Bible and show us pictures of de Devil in de Bible and tell us dat if we was not good and if we would steal and tell lies dat old Satan would git us.

Close to our Master’s plantation lived several families of old “poor white trash” who would steal me Master’s hogs and chickens and come and tell me Mistress dat dey seen some of de slaves knock one of dere hogs in de head. Dis continued up till Master returned from de war and caught de old white trash stealing his hogs. De niggers did at times steal Master’s hogs and chickens, and I would put biscuits and pieces of chicken in a sack under me dress dat hung from me waist, as I waited de table for me Mistress, and later would slip off and eat it as dey never gave de slaves none of dis sort of food.

We had church Sundays and our preacher Rev. Pat Williams would preach and our Master and family and other nearby white neighbors would ofttime attend our services. De patrollers wouldn’t allow de slaves to hold night services, and one night dey caught me mother out praying. Dey stripped her naked and tied her hands together and wid a rope tied to de hand cuffs and threw one and of de rope over a limb and tied de other end to de pommel of a saddle on a horse. As me mother weighed ’bout 200, dey pulled her up so dat her toes could barely touch de ground and whipped her. Dat same night she ran away and stayed over a day and returned.

During de fall months dey would have corn shucking and cotton pickings and would give a prize to de one who would pick de highest amount of cotton or shuck de largest pile of corn. De prize would usually be a suit of clothes or something to wear and which would be given at some later date.

We could only have dances during holidays, but dances was held on other plantations. One night a traveler visiting me Master and wanted his boots shined. So Master gave de boots to one of de slaves to shine and de slave put de boots on and went to a dance and danced so much dat his feet swelled so dat when he returned he could not pull ’em off.

De next morning as de slave did not show up with de boots dey went to look for him and found him lying down trying to pull de boots off. He told his Master dat he had put de boots on to shine ’em and could not pull ’em off. So Master had to go to town and buy de traveler another pair of boots. Before he could run away de slave was beaten wid 500 lashes.

De war dat brought our freedom lasted about two years. Me Master went and carried one of de slaves for a servant. When he returned he seemed a such different man dan he was before de war. He was kind and good and from dat day on he never whipped another slave nor did he allow any of his slaves whipped. Dis time lasted from January to June de 19th when we was set free in de State of Texas.

Lincoln and Davis both died short of promise. I means dat dey both died before dey carried out dere plane and promises for freeing de slaves.

Hall, Henderson, Henry, Howard,

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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