Slave Narrative of Aunt Mary Williams

Interviewer: F. S. DuPre
Person Interviewed: Mary Williams
Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina

Aunt Mary Williams stated she remembered slavery times, for she was a girl large enough to walk four miles to go to work “while slavery was on”. She said Mr. Alfred Brown used to own her mother, but she was raised by Mrs. Margaret Taylor who used to live where the oil mill is now, below Arkwright Mills. Her father was owned by Mr. Simpson Bobo and drove his horse for him. She stated she was a good hoe-hand, but didn’t pick cotton, as Mr. Brown didn’t raise any cotton, just raised something to eat.

She said her master was a kind man, didn’t allow any “paterollers” on his place, yet she had seen other slaves on other plantations with bloody backs and arms from the whippings they got. When asked why they were whipped, she replied, “Just because their masters could whip them; they owned them and could do what they wanted to them”. Her master didn’t allow any whipping on his place. One time he kept a slave from another plantation who was fleeing the “paterollers” on his place and in his own house until he was set free.

“I’se got the looking glasses and the thimble my great-grandmother used to use when she worked. She was a good weaver and a good sewer. She made a man an overcoat once, but didn’t get but $1.25 for it; she made a pair of men’s breeches and got fifty cents for making them. They didn’t get nothing for making clothes in those days”.

She remembered when the Yankee soldiers came into Spartanburg. She said they took all they could get, stole something to eat, just went into the stores and took liquor and handed it out drink by drink to the other soldiers. Aunt Mary stated she saw Abe Lincoln when he came through Spartanburg; said he was armed himself and had soldiers all around him. He told the colored folks who seemed scared of him that he wasn’t going to hurt anybody, not to be scared of him. (Here she must have confused Lincoln with some one else, probably Colonel Palmer, who commanded a detachment in pursuit of Jefferson Davis, which stopped over-night in Spartanburg in April, 1865. FK.)

Bobo, Brown, Taylor, Williams,

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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