Slave Narrative of Manda Walker

Interviewer: W. W. Dixon
Person Interviewed: Manda Walker
Location: Winnsboro, South Carolina
Age: 80

Manda Walker lives with her son-in-law, Albert Cooper, in a three-room frame cottage in Winnsboro, S.C. Albert’s first wife was her daughter, Sallie. Five of their children and Albert’s second wife, Sadie, occupy the house with Albert and Manda.

“Does you know where Horse Crick (Creek) branch is, and where Wateree Crick is? Ever been ‘long de public road ‘tween them water courses? Well, on de sunrise side of dat road, up on a hill, was where my slavery time marster live.

“I was born in de yard, back of de white folks’ house, in a little log house wid a dirt floor and a stick and mud chimney to one end of de house. My marster was name Marse Tom Rowe and my mistress name Missy Jane Rowe. They de ones dat tell me, long time ago, dat I was born befo’ de war, in 1857. Deir chillun was Miss Mary and Miss Miami.

“I no work much ’til de end of de war. Then I pick cotton and peas and shell corn and peas. Most of de time I play and sometime be maid to my young misses. Both growed into pretty buxom ladies. Miss Miami was a handsome buxom woman; her marry Marse Tom Johnson and live, after de war, near Wateree Church.

“My pappy name Jeff and b’long to Marse Joe Woodward. He live on a plantation ‘cross de other side of Wateree Crick. My mammy name Phoebe. Pappy have to git a pass to come to see mammy, befo’ de war. Sometime dat crick git up over de bank and I, to dis day, ‘members one time pappy come in all wet and drenched wid water. Him had made de mule swim de crick. Him stayed over his leave dat was writ on de pass. Patarollers (patrollers) come ask for de pass. They say: ‘De time done out, nigger.’ Pappy try to explain but they pay no ‘tention to him. Tied him up, pulled down his breeches, and whupped him right befo’ mammy and us chillun. I shudder, to dis day, to think of it. Marse Tom and Miss Jane heard de hollerin’ of us all and come to de place they was whuppin’ him and beg them, in de name of God, to stop, dat de crick was still up and dangerous to cross, and dat they would make it all right wid pappy’s marster. They say of pappy: ‘Jeff swim ‘cross, let him git de mule and swim back.’ They make pappy git on de mule and follow him down to de crick and watch him swim dat swif’ muddly crick to de other side. I often think dat de system of patarollers and bloodhounds did more to bring on de war and de wrath of de Lord than anything else. Why de good white folks put up wid them poor white trash patarollers I never can see or understand. You never see classy white buckra men a paterrollin’. It was always some low-down white men, dat never owned a nigger in deir life, doin’ de patarollin’ and a strippin’ de clothes off men, lak pappy, right befo’ de wives and chillun and beatin’ de blood out of him. No, sir, good white men never dirty deir hands and souls in sich work of de devil as dat.

“Mammy had nine chillun. All dead ‘cept Oliver. Him still down dere wid de Duke Power Company people, I think. When I come sixteen years old, lak all gals dat age, I commence to think ’bout de boys, and de boys, I ‘spects, commence to take notice of me. You look lak you is surprised I say dat. You is just puttin’ on. Old and solemn as you is, a settin’ dere a writin’, I bets a whole lot of de same foolishness have run through your head lak it run through Jerry’s, when he took to goin’ wid me, back in 1873. Now ain’t it so?

“Us chillun felt de pivations (privations) of de war. Us went in rags and was often hungry. Food got scarce wid de white folks, so much had to be given up for de army. De white folks have to give up coffee and tea. De slaves just eat corn-bread, mush, ‘taters and buttermilk. Even de peas was commanded for de army. Us git meat just once a week, and then a mighty little of dat. I never got a whuppin’ and mammy never did git a whuppin’.

“Us all went to Wateree Presbyterian Church on Sunday to hear Mr. Douglas preach. Had two sermons and a picnic dinner on de ground ‘tween de sermons. Dat was a great day for de slaves. What de white folks lef’ on de ground de slaves had a right to, and us sure enjoy de remains and bless de Lord for it. Main things he preached and prayed for, was a success in de end of de war, so mammy would explain to us when us ‘semble ’round de fireside befo’ us go to bed. Her sure was a Christian and make us all kneel down and say two prayers befo’ us git in bed. De last one was:

‘Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray de Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die befo’ I wake,
I pray de Lord my soul to take.
Bless pappy, bless mammy,
Bless marster, bless missie,
And bless me. Amen!’

“Wheeler’s men was just as hard and wolfish as de Yankees. They say de Yankees was close behind them and they just as well take things as to leave all for de Yankees. ‘Spect dat was true, for de Yankees come nex’ day and took de rest of de hog meat, flour, and cows. Had us to run down and ketch de chickens for them. They search de house for money, watches, rings, and silverware. Took everything they found, but they didn’t set de house afire. Dere was just ’bout five of them prowlin’ ’round ‘way from de main army, a foragin’, they say.

“When Miss Margaret marry, old marster sold out and leave de county. Us move to Mr. Wade Rawls’ and work for him from 1876 to Jerry’s death. Is I told you dat I marry Jerry? Well, I picked out Jerry Walker from a baker’s dozen of boys, hot footin’ it ’bout mammy’s door step, and us never had a cross word all our lives. Us had nine chillun. Us moved ’round from pillar to post, always needy but always happy. Seem lak us never could save anything on his $7.06 a month and a peck of meal and three pounds of meat a week.

“When de chillun come on, us try rentin’ a farm and got our supplies on a crop lien, twenty-five percent on de cash price of de supplies and paid in cotton in de fall. After de last bale was sold, every year, him come home wid de same sick smile and de same sad tale: ‘Well, Mandy, as usual, I settled up and it was—’Naught is naught and figger is a figger, all for de white man and none for de nigger.’

“De grave and de resurrection will put everything all right, but I have a instinct dat God’ll make it all right over and up yonder and dat all our ‘flictions will, in de long run, turn out to our ‘ternal welfare and happiness.”

Cooper, Rowe, Walker, Woodward,

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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