Slave Narrative of Hector Smith

Interviewer: Annie Ruth Davis
Person Interviewed: Hector Smith
Date of Interview: July 1937
Location: Marion County, South Carolina
Age: 79

“I born down here in Wahee Neck. Easter Avant, dat was my mammy en my father name Hector Smith. Coase I ain’ never see him cause he die fore I was born, but dat what dey tell me. Dat was a pretty rough time wid de people den. I don’ recollect so much bout de times back dere cause in dat day en time chillun didn’ have de heap of knowledge dey have dis day en time, but I remembers seein de Yankees en de people gwine to de war. Oh, dat was a tough time cause dey use de whip in dem days. Oh, yes’um, my Massa whip my gran’mammy wid a leather strap. You see she had a knack of gwine off for some cause or another en meetin de boat what run up en down dat big Pee Dee river en bring fertilizer en all kind of goods to de peoples. Massa Randall had told her not to go nowhe’ bout dat boat, but some people is sorta high strung like en dey go off anyhow no matter bout de whip. Oh, yes’um, he sho whip her like he didn’ have no soul to save.”

“I couldn’ tell you nothin bout how many slaves Massa Randall Davis had, but I know dat he had a right smart of them. I know it cause he had so many field hands dey didn’ none of em never have to work every day in de field. Oh, dey just knock bout our Massa house en see after de stock en such things as dat what time dey didn’ have to work in de field.”

“You knows when a thing happen so long back dere, it does vanish from a person’s remembrance some of de time en den it’ll wander back to you when you ain’ thinkin bout it. I does recollect dat dere wasn’ nothin much more for de colored peoples in dat day en time den what dey got to eat en de clothes dey had to wear. My Massa give everyone of he colored family a peck of meal en a quart of syrup en so much of meat every week en ‘low em all to have a garden of dey own. Oh, dey work dey garden by de moonshine en fore light good in de mornin cause dey had to turn dey hand to dey Massa work when daylight come here. I tellin you corn bread was sweet to me in dat day en time as pound cake ever been. Wasn’ never noways pickin’ en choosin bout nothin. Oh, I forget bout all dem possums en rabbits dat eat right smart in dem days. Use to catch em when dey had swells of de water en dey come out de woods to hunt dry land. It just like dis, dey couldn’ conceal demselves in de open fields en dat how-come we catch em so easy. Run em down wid de dogs en make em take to de water. Dat how we catch em. Dat sho was sweet eatin in dem days.”

“Den we had a log house to stay in what never had but just one room en de furniture we had was worser den de house. Us beds was made wid four stumps for de corners dat had boards lay cross em to put de mattress on. Some of de colored peoples had bag mattress stuff wid hay en de others had homespun mattress what was stuff wid dis here gray moss you see in de woods. En I remembers all bout when de peoples had to cook in de fireplace cause dere wasn’ much stoves in circulation in dat day en time.”

“Well, I don’ know so much bout dem things peoples call ghost, but I know dat I has seen things. I knows once long time back I was gwine long de road late on a evenin drivin me ox what I had hitch up to de cart en a ghost or somethin or another cause dat cart wheel to go right in de ditch. Well, de ox, he pull en he pull, but wid all me help, he couldn’ never pull dat cart out. I ax some of dem people bout dere what dey reckon dat was en dey say all dey know to compare it to was a hant or a ghost. No ‘mam, didn’ see it, just hear it cause it come right to my back en knocked. It had been rainin en soon as it quit, de moon shine out bright as ever was day en dat when de hant turn de cart loose.”

“De next thing I see was one time when me en another fellow was sleepin in de swamp. I couldn’ tell whe’ de moon rise den en when I come to my senses, dere was one of dem things just a danglin in de air like dese things show people have. Some people say dat was a ghost.”

“Oh, de peoples didn’ never worry bout no doctor den. Dey doctor was in de field in dat day en time. I gwine tell you just like I know it, all de older peoples use to get de herbs out de old fields for dey remedies. My Massa en my Missus was de ones what doctor mostly in dem times. Use to get old field ringdom, what smell like dis here mint, en boil dat en let it steep. Dat what was good to sweat a fever en cold out you. Den dere was life everlastin tea dat was good for a bad cold en cherry bark what would make de blood so bitter no fever never couldn’ stand it. Dem what had de rheumatism had to take dat lion’s tongue or what some peoples calls wintergreen tea en some of de time, dey take pine top en mix wid de herbs to make a complete cure. Oh, dey make it bad as dey could so as to weaken de case. Another thing dat been good for de rheumatism was dat red oak bark dat dey use to bathe de limbs wid. Willow tea was somethin good for chill en fever en catnip en sage tea was de thing for babies.”

“It like I tell you de colored peoples never get no learnin but what little dey catch from de plantation men in dem night schools. Oh, dey give everyone of us a slate en slate pencil en we study dere in de quarter in de night time by de light of de fire. Studied dem Blue Back Websters. Dat was de text we know bout den.”

“I tell you de truth I live so much in darkness den dat I think dat time was bout good as dis time. Didn’ know no better sense den. I tell you just like I been know it, de peoples was coward like in dem days. Couldn’ never pluck up no ambition to do a heap of things de people do dis day en time. Dat how-come I rather live in dis go round.”

Davis, Smith,

Marion County SC,

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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