Slave Narrative of Julia Woodberry

Interviewer: Annie Ruth Davis
Person Interviewed: Julia Woodberry
Date of Interview: November 1937
Location: Marion, South Carolina

“Oh, my God a mercy, child, dat been a time when dat shake come here. I tell you, dat been somethin. I sho remember all bout dat cause I been a grown woman de year dat earthquake come here. Yes, mam, I gwine tell it to you just like I experience it. We had all just been get over wid us supper en little things dat night en I had washed Auntie en Mr. Rowell’s feet for dem to lie down en dere come such a sketch of clouds from over in dat direction dat I never know what to make of it. Auntie en Mr. Rowell never know what to make of it neither. I remember, I run out to help my sister dat been out to de paddlin block en, honey, you ain’ never live to see no black cloud like dat been. I washed a piece through en den I left off en went back in de house en set down by de fire to dry my feet. I set dere awhile en seems like somethin just speak right out de fire, bout dat time, en tell me to move my feet dat I was in bad shape. En, child, it de truth of mercy, dere come a big clog of dirt out dat chimney en drap (drop) right down in de spot whe’ my foot was. I run to Auntie en Mr. Rowell to see could dey tell what dat was, but dey been in just as much darkness as I been. I look up en seems like de loft had lowered itself en could hear a roarin for miles en miles bout dere en could hear de people hollerin every which a way. Yes, mam, could hear dem hollerin miles en on top of miles bout dere. My God, dem people was scared to lie down dat night en such a prayin en a shoutin as everybody do dat night, I ain’ never see de like fore den. Ain’ see de like since den neither. Next mornin, I go to work for de white folks en dey all go off dat mornin en I tell you, I was scared bout to death in dat big house by myself. I remember, I left out de house en been out in de ‘tatoe patch grabblin ‘tatoes right along en when I raise up, dat thing was comin down dat ‘tatoe row just a whirlin en a makin right for me. Yes, mam, I been so scared. I ain’ see whe’ I is grow a bit since de shake. I tell you, I thought it was de Jedgment. Den we hear dere was gwine be another earthquake, but de people get on dey knees en dey stay on dey knees en it never come here dat time. Dat one was in another state, so dey tell me. I hear talk dat all de earth caved in en you could see de people down dere, but couldn’ nobody get dem. Some people say dat been de devil do dat, but I tell dem de devil ain’ had no such power. De Lord been de power dat bring dat shake here, I say.”

“Oh, Lord, de people sho fared better in dat day en time den dey do dese days. Cose dey didn’ have a heap of different kind of trashy things like dey have dese days, but dey had a plenty to eat en a plenty to wear all de time en den everything was better in dem times, too. Now, I speak bout what I know bout. De rations eat better en de cloth wear better, too, in dem days den dey do now. You see, mostly, de people would make dey own provisions at home. White folks would raise abundance of hogs en cows to run all dey big plantation from one year to de other. Wouldn’ never clear out of meat no time cause de stock been let loose to run at large in dem days. De most dat dey bought was dey sugar en dey coffee, but dem what was industrious en smart, dey made most dey victuals at home. Made dey own rice en winnowed it right dere home. Oh, dey had one of dese pestle en mortar to beat it out. Yes, mam, de pestle been big at one end an little at de other end. Den dey would raise turkeys en geese en chickens en dere wasn’ no end to de birds en squirrels en rabbits en fish in dat day en time. Dat is, dem what cared for demselves, dey had all dem things. Cose dere was some den like dere be now dat been too lazy to work en dey hand was empty all de time. I remember, dem poorbuckras would just go bout from one house to another en catch somethin here, dere en yonder.”

“Den de people never wore none of dese kind of clothes like de people wear dese days neither. When a person got a dress den, dey made it demselves en dey made dey own underskirts den, too. You see, all dese underskirts en bloomers like de people does buy dese days, dey didn’ have nothin like dat den. Used to put 10 yard in a dress en 10 yards in a underskirt en would tuck dem clean up to dey waist. En, child, when dey would iron dat dress, it would stand up in de floor just like dere been somebody in it. When I say iron, I talkin bout de people would iron den, too. Yes, mam, when I come along, de people been take time to iron dey garments right. Oh, dey clothes would be just as slick as glass. Won’ a wrinkle nowhe’ bout dem. Another thing, dey used to have dese dove colored linen dusters dat dey would wear over dey dress when dey would ride to church. Den when dey went in de church, dey would pull dem off en put dem on again when dey started home. Dey was made sort of like a coat suit, except dey was a little fuller en would come clean down to de tail of de dress. You see, dey was meant to protect de dress while dey was gwine along de road.”

“De world sho gwine worser dese days, honey. Oh, Lord, de people worser. Yes, mam, dey worser, I say. Dey ain’ got de mother wit. Dey weaker en dey wiser, I say, but dey ain’ got de mother wit. Can’ set down en talk to de people dese days en dey take dat what you got to say in like dey used to. En de people don’ take de time to teach de chillun to know good things like dey used to en dat how-come dey have more time to get in so much of devilment dese days. Yes, mam, de people used to have more chillun en dey raised dem, too. Chillun know more den grown people do dese days, I say. People used to know how to carry demselves en take care of demselves more den dey do now. Seems like, de people more rattlin en brazen den what dey used to be.”

Rowell, Woodberry,

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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