Slave Narrative of Nancy Washington

Interviewer: Annie Ruth Davis
Person Interviewed: Nancy Washington
Date of Interview: May 1937
Location: Marion, South Carolina
Age: 104

Ex-Slave, 104 years

“Come in child. Jes set right dere in dat chair whey I c’n be mindful uv yuh cause I ain’ hear but sorta hard lak dese days. I jes come in outer de field whey I been chopping ’round uh little wid me hoe, but eve’t’ing is grow so black ‘fore me eye dat I t’ink I better rest meself uh little. I tries to help Sam (her son) aw I c’n, but I ain’ mucha ‘count no more. I 104 year old en I ain’ gwinna be heah much longer. Me mark done strak (strike) me right dere dis a’ternoon. Dat been jes de way my ole mammy waz call.”

“Does yah know whey dat place call Ash Pole? Dat whey I wuz raise up when I b’long to Massa Giles Evanson. He wuz uh good ole fellow. I ain’ know wha’ it wuz to ge’ no bad treatment by my white people. Dey tell me some uv de colored peoples lib mighty rough in dat day en time but I ne’er know nuthin ’bout dat. I ‘member dey is spank we chillun wid shingle but dey ne’er didn’t hit my mudder.”

“My Massa ne’er hab so mucha colored peoples lak some uv dem udder white folks hab. Jes hab my mudder en eight head uv we chillun. Hab ‘nough to gi’e eve’yone uv he daughter uh servant apiece when dey ge’ marry. Ne’er hab nuthin but women colored peoples. My Massa say he ain’ wan’ no man colored peoples.”

“De preacher Ford, wha’ use’er lib right up dere in town, papa hab uh big ole plantation wha’ been jes lak uh little town. He hab hundred colored peoples en dey is hab eve’t’ing dere. Hab dey preachin’ right dere on de plantation en aw dat.”

“Coase my white folks hab uh nice plantation en dey keep uh nice house aw de time. I wuz de house girl dere en de one wha’ dey’ud hab to wait on de Missus. Dey’ud carry me eve’ywhey dey go. Al’ays know how I wuz faring. My Missus wuz big en independent lak. Talk lak she mad aw de time, but she warnt. She ne’er wear no cotton ’bout dere no time. Hab her silk on eve’y day en dem long yellow ear bob dat’ud be tetchin right long side she shoulder. I al’ays look a’ter de Missus en she chillun. Wash dey feet en comb dey hair en put de chillun to bed. But child, some white folks is queer ’bout t’ings. Dey watch yuh gwine ’bout yuh work en den dey’ll wan’ yuh to do sumptin fa dem. De ole man take me ‘way from helping de Missus en send me out to plow corn en drap peas. I wuz shame too cause I ne’er lak fa he to treat my Missus dat uh way.”

“De peoples ne’er didn’t cook in no stove den neither. Dey hab big ole round dirt ubben (oven) to cook dey ration in. Dey make dey ubben outer white clay en hadder build uh shelter over it cause dey’ud cook outer in de yard. Dey ne’er cook but jes twice uh week. Cook on Wednesday en den ne’er cook no more till Saturday. I ‘member de big ole ham dat dey cook en de tatoes en so mucha bread. Jes hab ‘bundance aw de time. I got uh piece uv de ole slavery time ubben heah now. I ge’ it outer en show it to yuh. Dis is one uv de leads (lids) en dey’ud put uh chain en hook on dere en hang it up in de fireplace. Dat de way dey cook dey ration. O Lawd, ef I could ge’ back to my ole home whey I could look in en see jes one more time, jes one more time, child.”

“I wuz jes uh girl when de Yankees come t’rough dere. Dey look jes lak uh big blue cloud comin’ down dat road en we chillun wuz scared uv em. Dat land ’round ’bout dere wuz full uv dem Yankees marchin’ en gwine on. Dey ne’er bother my white folks but in some uv de places dey jes ruint eve’t’ing. Burnt up en tore down aw ’bout dere.”

“Yuh ain’ ne’er see nobody weave no cloth nowadays. In de winter dey use’er al’ays put woolen on de little chillun to keep em from getting burnt up. Peoples wuz easy to cotch uh fire in dat time. Dey hab plenty uv sheep den en dis jes ’bout de time uv de year dat dey shear de sheep. Al’ays’ud shear de sheep in de month uv May. Dey is make aw kinder nice cloth den. I c’n charge en spin en make any kinder streak yuh wan’. Coase my mudder use’er weave de jeanes cloth en blanketing.”

“Dey use’er hab some uv dem corn-shucking ’bout dere but I ne’er take no part in none uv dat. A’ter freedom declare, us pull boxes en dip turpentine. Dat wha’ wuz in de style den.”

“I won’ but ’bout 16 when I marry en I hab uh nice wedding. Marry right dere in my Massa yard en hab white swass dress to wear. I marry uh settled man offen uh rich man plantation en dey ne’er wan’ me to marry, but dey ne’er say nuthin ‘gainst it. Dey hab good manners den en manners de t’ing dat carry peoples t’rough anyt’ing, child.”

Evanson, Washington,

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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