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

“Honey, my white folks been well-to-do peoples. Dey ain’ been no poor white trash. Dey hab ‘stonishing blood in dey vein. I been b’long to Massa Sam Stevenson wha’ lib right down dere ‘cross Ole Smith Swamp. Dey ain’ hab no chillun dey own, but dey is raise uh poor white girl dere, Betty. Dey gi’e (give) she eve’yt’ing she ha’e en dey school she too.”

“De ole man, he mind ain’ been zactly right when he die. Dey say he bury some o’ he money down dere on he place jes ‘fore he die. Coase I dunno nuthin ’bout it, but dats wha’ dey tell me. Dey say dey never is find dat money a’ter he been dead. Reckon it dere yet, I dunno. Peoples use’er aw de time be plough up kegs en box full o’ money en va’uables wha’ de well-to-do folks been hide dere.”

“De white peoples use’er bury dey silver en dey money en aw dey va’uables late on uh evenin’ er early on uh mornin’ when de Yankees come ’bout. De Yankees ‘stroy aw us white peoples va’uables wha’ dey is see. Um——dem Yankees sho’ was ‘structive whey dey is went.”

“My ole mammy been Sally Stevenson ‘fore she marry en den she wuz Sally Bowens. My ole Missus take she ‘way from her mammy when she wuz jes uh little small girl en never wouldn’t ‘low her go in de colored settlement no more. She been raise up in de white folks house to be de house girl. Never didn’t work none tall outside. She sleep on uh pallet right down by de Missus bed. She sleep dere so she kin keep de Missus kivver (cover) up aw t’rough de night. My mammy ain’ never do nuthin but been de house girl. My Missus larnt (learned) she how to cut en sew so she been good uh seamstress is dere wuz anywhey. She help de Missus make aw de plantation clothes en dere ain’ never been no better washer en ironer no whey den my ole mammy wuz.”

“When I wuz uh little small girl, us lib right dere in my ole Missus yard. Dey le’ us chillun play aw us wanna den. Never did hadder do none hard work tall. My Massa is some uh time send we chillun in de field to scare de crow offen de corn. Ain’ never been no hoe hand in me life. When dey send we to scare de crow ‘way, we is go in de field when fuss (first) sun up en we is stay dere aw day. Coase we is come to de house when 12 o’clock come en ge’ we sumptin uh eat. Dese white folks ’round here don’ hab no chillun to scare de crow offen dey corn nowadays. Dey has aw kind o’ ole stick sot (set) ’bout in de field wid ole pant en coat flying ’bout on dem to scare de crow ‘way. Dere be plenty crow ’bout nowadays too. I hears em hollerin aw ’bout in dis sky ’round ’bout here.”

“I ‘member when I use’er nu’se de white folks baby. I al’ays did lub to nu’se de babies, but I didn’t never lub to nu’se no ug’y baby. I lub to hab uh pretty baby to nu’se. Didn’t lak no boy baby neither. Don’ lak boy baby nohow. Lubbed little girl baby. Lubbed to take de little girls en dress em up in dey pretty clothes en carry dem out under de trees to ‘muse dem whey dere wuz plenty peoples ’bout to see em. Mammy al’ays ‘ud fuss at me ’bout puttin’ on dey best clothes, but I ain’ never do lak dese nu’se do nowadays. I take care o’ my babies, didn’t never ‘low em wallow in de dirt lak yunnah see dese nu’se do ’bout here dese day en time.”

“I ‘members one time I been nu’se little boy baby en I is larnt he hair to curl jes uz pretty. I bresh he hair eve’y morning en twist it ’round me finger en he is had pretty curl uz dere wuz anywhey. Never lak de Missus to cut my baby hair off neither when I had larnt it to curl.”

“I been lub to wash little baby clothes too. I is primp em up so nice. Never did put no starch much in em. I do me best on em en when I ge’ t’rough, dey been look too nice to le’ de child muss up.”

“Honey, I can’ stand no chillun fuss ’round me no more dese days. Don’ hab no chillun fuss ’round me peaceful little place. I tell aw me chillun en grandchillun en great-grandchillun dat I can’ stand no chillun fuss ’round me no more. My Sammie, he marry three times en I ax him why he wanna marry so many time. I ain’ never see no man I is wan’ since my ole man die.”

“I ain’ wha’ I use’er to be, child. I ain’ able to do nuthin more now but dem little bit o’ clothes wha’ Miss Betty hab. Coase she clothes ain’ hard to wash. Miss Betty mighty clean, honey, she mighty clean. She don’ strip she bed but eve’y udder week en den de sheet ain’ dirty one speck. She does wash she self eve’y day en de sheet don’ ge’ de crease out dem from one time dey wash till de next. I say I gwinna wash Miss Betty clothes jes uz long uz de Massa’ll le’ me em.”

Bowens, Sparrow, Stevenson,

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

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