Slave Narrative of Julia Woodberry

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

“Come in, child. Dis ain’ nobody talkin to you from behind dat door, but Julia Woodberry. De door unlatch, just turn de handle en come right in here whe’ you can warm yourself by de stove. I tell my daughter for her to take de sick child en walk over dere en make Aun’ Liney a visit, while I wipe round bout dis stove a little speck. Cose I ain’ able to scour none much, but seems like dis old stove does keep everything so nasty up dat I can’ let things bout it get too worser. No, child, I tell dese chillun I done seen most all my scourin days, but I think bout I would do this little job for Alexa dis mornin en let her put her mind to dat child. I say, if I able, I loves to wipe up cause it such a satisfaction. It just like dis, dere ain’ nothin gwine shine dat floor en make it smell like I want it to, but soap en water. I don’ like dese old stoves nohow. I ain’ been raise to dem cause when I come up, de olden people didn’ think nothin bout puttin no stoves to dey fireplaces. Oh, dey would have dese big old open fireplaces en would have de grandest kind of fires. My Lord, child, dere wouldn’ never be no nastiness bout dey fireplace cause de people never didn’ burn no coal in dem days. Slavery people been burn dese great big oak logs en dey would make de finest kind of fires, I say. Yes, mam, I been raise up de slavery way en dat how-come I don’ want to be noways departin from it.”

“Oh, dat was my granddaughter dat had de straw fever. Yes, mam, look like she mendin right smart since she been settin up. De straw fever, dat what I calls it, but I hear people say it de hay fever. De doctor, he just say it de fever, but from de way he give de pills, it point to de straw fever. Cose dat what we termed it, but like I tell you, some calls it de hay fever. I ain’ never hear talk of dat kind of fever till dese late years. Yes, mam, she had a little cold en cough some, but not much. You see, when she first took down, she took wid a blindness en a pain in de stomach at de school en couldn’ say nothin. De doctor say de fever was bout broke on her den. You see, she had de pain en, I say, dat a sign de misery broke on her. But dat child, she lay dere on dat bed three weeks en she been mighty weak, mighty weak from de fever. No, mam, she ain’ have de fever all de time, but dere would come a slow fever dat would rise on her every night en eat up what strength she had caught durin de day. Cose she ain’ never been hearty cause she been havin dis fever long bout two years. No, mam, she been test for de T.B.’s in de school dis last year en dey say dat she never had none of dat. Alexa say she gwine let her get dem shots in time next year. All de school chillun took dem last year. Dey tell me dat be to keep diseases down in school. Cose I don’ know nothin bout it cause I been raise de slavery way en dat won’ de talk den.

“My mother, she was a freeborn woman. She come from off de sea beach in our own country. Her people was dese Chee Indians en she didn’ have no ways like dese other people bout here. Now, I talkin out of her. Ain’ talkin out of nobody else, but her. She told me she was born on de sea beach en her parents was Chee Indians. Dat what she told us chillun. Say, when dey stole her en her brother John, dey come dere in dese big old covered wagons en dey stuffed dem way back up in dere en carried dem off. Oh, she say, she was a big girl when dey run her down en caught her. Like I tell you, I talkin out of her. Her en her brother John was out playin one day, near their sea beach home, en first thing dey know, dere come one of dem big old covered wagons dere. Say, dey never know what to think till dey see dis white man gettin down off de wagon en start makin for dem en dey get scared cause dey been learn white man won’ no friend. Say, dey broke en run, but de man come right after dem en grabbed dem up wid his hands en stuffed dem way back up in de covered wagon en drove off. She say, she was runnin hard as she could from de man. I remember, I heard my mother speak bout dat she didn’ reckon her mother ever knew whe’ dey went. She say, dey cried en cried, but dat never do no good. No, mam, de lawyer Phillips stole her. He didn’ buy her cause she told me dey brought dem right on to his home en put dem out dere. Her en her brother John were made house servants in de big house en dey went from one to de other in de Phillips’ family till after freedom come here. Ma, she say dat she fared good en dey didn’ ill treat her no time, but wouldn’ never allow dem to get out de family no more durin slavery days. No, mam, she never didn’ have no hard time comin up. Cose she had to put de white people chillun to bed at night en den she could go to parties cross Catfish much as she wanted to, but she would have to be back in time to cook dat breakfast next mornin. You see, dey was house servants en dey stayed right dere in de lawyer Phillips’ house all de time. Been raise right down dere in dat grove of cedars cross from de jail.”

“Well, she didn’ say bout dat. No, mam, she didn’ have no word bout whe’ if she liked de white folks livin or no when she first come dere. You know, when you in Rome, you has to do as Rome do. Reckon dat de way de poor creature took it. No, child, she didn’ tell us nothin bout her home no more den dat she was born a Chee Indian. Yes, mam, my blessed old mother told me dat a thousand times.”

“My God, my God, child, I couldn’ never forget my old mother’s face. She bore a round countenance all de time wid dese high cheek bones en straight hair. I talkin out of her now. Yes, mam, can see Ma face dere fore my eyes right now. It de blessed truth, my old mother didn’ have no common ways bout her nowhe’. I don’ know whe’ it true or no, but de people used to say I took after my mother. I recollects, when I would be workin round de white folks, dey would ax me how-come I been have dem kind of way bout me what was different from de other colored people. You know, de Indians, dey got curious ways. My mother, she wouldn’ never take a thing from nobody en she was sharp to pick a fight. Yes, mam, she was quick as dat. (Slaps her hands together.) Been fast gettin insulted. Anybody make her mad, she would leave away from dem en dey wouldn’ see her no more in a month or two. Hear boss say dat she was quick tempered.”

“Well, child, dat bout all I can know to speak bout dis mornin. You see, some days I can get my ‘membrance back better den I can on another day. I say, I gwine get my mind fixed up wid a heap to tell you de next time you come here en if you ain’ come back, I gwine try en get round dere to your house. God bless you, honey.”

Phillips, 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.

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top