Slave Narrative of Lewis Bonner

Person Interviewed: Lewis Bonner
Location: 507 N. Durland, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: 1850
Age: 87

I was born 7 miles north of Palostine, Texas on Hatt Swanson ‘s place in 1850, but I kin not remember’ the date. My mistress was name Celia Swanson. My mistress was so good to me till I jest loved her.

My family and all slaves on our place was treated good. Mighty few floggings went on round and about. Master was the overseer over his darkies and didn’t use no other’n. I waited table and churned in the Big House.

I ate at the table with my mistress and her family and nothing was evah said. We ate bacon, greens, Irish potatoes and such as we git now. Aunt Chaddy was the cook and nurse for all the chillun on the place.

We used to hear slaves on de other places hollering from whippings, but master never whipped his niggers ‘less they lied. Sometimes slaves from other places would run off and come to our place. Master would take them back and tell the slave-holders how to treat them so dey wouldn’t run off again.

Mistress had a little stool for me in the big house, and if I got sleepy, she put me on the foot of her bed and I stayed there til morning, got up washed my face and hands and got ready to wait on the table.

There was four or five hundred slaves on our place. One morning during slavery, my father killed 18 white men and ran away. They said he was lazy and whipped him, and he just killed all of ’em he could, which was 18 of ’em. He stayed away 3 years without being found. He come back and killed 7 before they could kill him. When he was on the place he jest made bluing.

My mother worked in the field and weaved cloth. Shirts dat she male lasted 10 months, even if wore and washed and ironed every day. Pants could not be ripped with two men pulling on dem with all their sight. You talking ’bout clothes, there was come clothes then. Clothes code now just don’t come up to them near abouts.

Doing of slavery, we had the best church, lots better than today. I am a Baytiet from hand to fest, yes sir, yes sir. Jest couldn’t be nothing else. In the first place, I wouldn’t even try.

I knows when the war started and ended. I tell you it was some war. When it was all over, the Yankees come through singing, You may die poor but you won’t die a slave.

When the War was over, waster told as that we could go out and take care of the crops already planted and plant the ones that need planting ’cause we knowed all ’bout the place and we would go halvers. We stayed on 3 years after slavery. We got a little money, but we got room and board and didn’t have to work too hard. It was enough difference to tell you was no slaves any more.

After slavery and when I was old enough I got married. I married a gel that was a daughter of her master. He wanted to own her, but she sho’ didn’t return it. He kept up with her till he died and sent her money jest all the time. Before he died, he put her name in his will and told his oldest son to be sure and keep up with her. The son was sure true to his promise, for till she died, she was forever hearing from him or he would visit us, even after we moved to Oklahoma from Texas.

Our chillun and grandchillun will git her part since she is gone. She was sure a good wife and for no reason did I take the second look at no woman. That was love, which don’t live no more in our hearts.

I make a few pennies selling fish worms and doing a little yard work and raising vegetables. Not much money in circulation. When I gets my old age pension, it will make things a little mite better. I guess the time will be soon.

Tain’t nothing but bad treatment that takes people die young and I ain’t had none.

Bonner, Swanson,

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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