Slave Narrative of Mom Jessie Sparrow

Interviewer: Annie Ruth Davis
Person Interviewed: Jessie Sparrow
Date of Interview: May 1937
Location: Marion, South Carolina
Age: 83

“I dunno, child, I don’ ‘member nuthin more den I tell yuh de udder time. Is yuh been to see Maggie Black yet? I dunno how old she, but I know she been here. No, child, Maggie ain’ dead. She lib right down dere next Bethel Church. She move ‘way from Miss Mullins house when Gus die. Coase I ain’ ne’er been in she house a’ter she move dere, but dey say she hab uh mighty restful place dere. Dat wha’ dey tell me. Maggie oughta could tell yuh aw ’bout dem times. I ain’ know nuthin more to tell yuh. Don’ tell yuh aw I know.”

“Who my mammy wuz? My mammy been Sallie Stevenson ‘fore she marry en den a’ter she marry, she waz Sallie Bowens. Don’ know whey dey ge’ de Bowens from cause my pa been b’long to be uh Evans. Dat how come Miss Betty know so much ’bout me. She say we mighty nigh de same age. Coase I don’ never ‘spute Miss Betty word, but I don’ t’ink so.”

“No, child, I dunno. Dunno how many chillun my mammy is hab. Dey aw been die sech uh long time dat I don’ forgot. Coase George, de carpenter, my brother. He been train up by uh good carpenter man en Henry, wha’ paint aw dese house ’bout here, b’long to be annuder one uv we. It jes lak ’bout my own chillun, I ain’ ‘member how many dey wuz. I know dere ’bout t’ree uv dem bigguns dead, but aw dem babies, Lawd, I ain’ ‘member how many dere wuz. Can’ never recollect nuthin ’bout how many dere been come here.”

“My mammy been de house girl in my white folks house. She marry when she ain’ but 13 year old. Dat wha’ she tell me. She say she marry to ge’ outer de big house. Dat how come she to marry so soon. Say de white folks take she way from she mammy when she won’ but uh little small girl en make she sleep right dere on uh pallet in de Missus room aw de time ‘fore she marry. Coase a’ter she marry, she been de house girl right on but she never stay in de Missus house when night come. Us chillun ain’ been ‘low to stay in de big house. Dey hab uh room put on de kitchen fa my mammy en she family to lib in. We chillun stay right dere in de yard whey my mammy could look a’ter us in en ’round. My mammy hadder stay ’bout my ole Missus aw de day en help she cut en sew de plantation clothes en wash en iron. Den she hadder help make quilts outer aw de scrap dat been left o’er a’ter de garment was cut out.”

“Us chillun been fed from de table right dere in de Missus kitchen en some uv de time my mammy ‘ud bring us sumptin to eat, wha’ wuz cook in de Missus kitchen, en le’ us eat it in she room. Dey’ud gi’e us hominy en milk en meat fa us break’ast. My white folks hadder uh lot uv cows en dey’ud gi’e us chillun plenty milk en clabber to eat. We is hab milk en clabber eve’y day en dey is gi’e us plenty meat to eat, so dey is dat. Child, I ain’ know no slack eatin’ ’round my ole Missus. Some uv de time we hab hoecake en den annuder time dey’ud gi’e us obben (oven) bread. Dey cook eve’yt’ing on de fireplace in dem days, eve’t’ing. Jes hab rods put ‘cross de fireplace in de kitchen wid pot hang on it. Dat whey dey cook us ration. Dey’ud gi’e us t’ings lak peas en collards en meat fa we dinner. Den dey’ud gi’e us uh big bowl uv corn bread en clabber late in de evenin’ cause jes lak I is call to yuh jes now, dey is use milk right smart in dem days. I lak eve’yt’ing wha’ dey is hab to eat den. Dey never eat lak dese peoples eats nowadays. I won’ larnt to lak aw kind uv t’ing. Dey use’er cook poke salad wha’ been season wid meat. Don’ yuh know wha’ dat? Poke salad is come up jes lak dose weed out dere en dey is cut de top offen dem en take aw de hard part outer em en den dey is boil em uh long time wid meat. Dey is eat right good too. Don’ lak spinach en aw dat sumptin en don’ lak celery neither. Don’ lak butter put in nuthin I eats. I laks me squash fried down brown lak wid grease in de pan. I laks me beets wid uh little vinegay on em en season wid some sugar sprinkle on em. Don’ lak em jes wid nuthin but uh little salt en butter smear aw o’er dem lak some uv dese peoples ’bout here eat em nowadays.”

“Yas’um, we use’er eat plenty uv em possum. Eve’y one dey is ketch, us parent cook it. Us eat aw kinder wild animal den sech uz coon, possum, rabbit, squirrel en aw dat. Hab plenty uv fish in dem days too. Hab pond right next de white folks house en is ketch aw de fish dere dat we is wan’. Some uv de time dey’ud fry em en den some uv de time dey’ud make uh stew. Dey’ud put uh little salt en onion en grease in de stew en anyt’ing dey been ge’ hold uv.”

“Massa Sam been hab uh heap uv colored peoples ‘sides we, but dey lib up on de hill in de quarters. My Missus, she see to it she self dat dey hab good bed wha’ to sleep on en plenty sumptin uh eat. She docker (doctor) em when dey ge’ sick too en she be mighty anxious ef dey sick mucha. Us hab good clothes en shoes den too. Coase de peoples’ud wear more clothes den, en dey’ud put on more undey shirt in de winter den dey wear in de summer. My white folks’ud make de plantation clothes outer gingham en jeanes cloth mostly. Dat jeanes cloth be wha’ dey make little coat en pant outer. Dat sumptin jes lak homespun.”

“No, child, dey ain’ ne’er gi’e us no money den. Never need no money den. My Massa been provide eve’t’ing us hab, honey, eve’yt’ing. We ain’ lak fa nuthin den. We chillun ain’ been big ‘nough to do nuthin but scare de crow offen de corn en some uv de time my ole Missus’ud hab we chillun sweepin’ outer in de yard when she be out dere wid us.”

“Yas’um, honey, my white folks al’ays’ud see dat dey colored peoples’ud go to chu’ch (church) eve’y Sunday. We hadder walk dere to de white big Methodist Chu’ch up de road en sot en de gallery. Yas’um de white folks is stay down en we is go up. Ef we chillun never go, my ole Missus’ud teach us de catechism right dere in de back yard. Hadder wash us face en hand en come dere to she. Yas’um, I ‘members dat aw right.”

“My white folks’ud ride to chu’ch in dey big ole carriage en dey driver’ud hab dey big black hosses bresh jes uz shiny. I forge’ de driver name. Dey hab uh pair uv dem black hosses wha’ been match hosses en dey is look jes lak. En den one day de ole Yankees is come t’rough dere en dey is carry one uv dem ‘way. A’ter dat dey hadder use one uv de plantation hoss in de place uv dis carriage hoss. De Missus’ud al’ays take my mammy in de carriage wid she too. Never left her home, so she tell me. Jes stuff she down dere ‘tween de seats somewhey.”

Bowens, Sparrow, Stevenson,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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