Slave Narrative of Mamie Riley

Interviewer: Phoebe Faucette
Person Interviewed: Mamie Riley
Location: Estill, South Carolina


“Aunt Mamie’s” hair is entirely white. She lives in a neat duplex brick house with one of her husband’s relatives, a younger woman who is a cook for a well established family in Estill, S.C. When questioned about the times before the war, she replied:

“Yes’m, I kin tell you ’bout slav’ry time, ’cause I is one myself. I don’ remember how old I is. But I remember when de Yankees come through I bin ’bout so high. (She put her hand out about 3½ feet from the floor.) We lived on Mr. Henry Solomons’ place—a big place. Mr. Henry Solomons had a plenty of people—three rows of house, or four.

“When de Yankees come through Mr. Solomons’ place I wuz right dere. We wuz at our house in de street. I see it all. My ma tell me to run; but I ain’t think they’d hurt me. I see ’em come down de street—all of ’em on horses. Oo—h, dey wuz a heap of ’em! I couldn’t count ’em. My daddy run to de woods—he an’ de other men. Dey ran right to de graveyard. Too mucha bush been dere. You couldn’t see ’em. Stay in de woods three days.

“Dey went to my daddy’s house an’ take all. My daddy ran. My mother an’ my older sister wuz dere. My ma grab a quilt off de bed an’ cover herself all over wid it—head an’ all. And set in a chair dere by de fire. She tell us to git in de bed—but I ain’t git in. And she yell out when she hear ’em comin’: ‘Dere’s de fever in heah!’ Six of ’em come to de door; but dey say dey ain’t goin’ in—dey’ll catch de fever. Den some more come along. Dey say dey gwine in. Dey ain’t gwine to take no fever. Fill two sack of ‘tatoes. White man ask to search all trunk. Dey take two of me Ma’s good dresses out. Say to wrap ‘tatoes in. I start to cryin’ den, an’ dey say, ‘Well, git us some sacks den.’ I knowed where some sacks wuz. I git ’em de sacks. Dey do ’em right. Dey bid ’em goodbye, an’ ax ’em where de man wuz. Dey give me ‘leven or twelve dollars. I wuz little an’ ain’t know. My mother never give it to me.

“I stay right on dere after freedom, until after I married.”

Riley, Solomons,

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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