Slave Narrative of Pauline Worth

Interviewer: Annie Ruth Davis
Person Interviewed: Pauline Worth
Date of Interview: September 1937
Location: Marion, South Carolina
Date of Birth: November 1
Age: 79

“Yes’um, I know I been here in slavery time, but wasn’ large enough to do nothin in dat day en time. I reach 79 de first day of November. To be certain dat how old I is, Miss Betty Evans give me my direct age here de other day. She know who I am cause I was raise near bout in de same yard dat she was raise in. Mr. Telathy Henry family was my white folks. Yes’um, I was raise right here in dis town. Ain’ never been nowhere else but Marion.”

“I was small den, but I remembers my old Missus. I sho remembers her all right. My old boss, he died. I can’ remember nothin much bout dem times only I recollects when my old Missus used to get after me en whip me, I would run under de house. Didn’ want to sweep de yard en dat how-come she get after me wid a switch. I was small den en she was tryin to learn me.”

“No, child, I didn’ live on no plantation. Didn’ have no quarter for de slaves dere. My white folks live in town en dey just have my mother en her chillun en another old man. He stayed in de kitchen en would work de garden en go off on errands for de Missus. My mother en we chillun stayed in a little small one room house in de yard en he stayed in de kitchen. I wasn’ large enough to do nothin much den only as like I tell you, my old Missus tried to learn me to sweep de yard.”

“I was small den, child, but I got along all right cause we ate in de white folks kitchen. Oh, no’um, dey cook in de chimney long bout de time I come up. No’um, didn’ see no stoves nowhe’ when I come up. I remembers we had greens like collards en bread en potatoes to eat sometimes, but say remember all what we had to eat, I couldn’ never think bout to do dat. I just knows dat I remembers old Missus provide good livin for us all de time. Wouldn’ let nobody suffer for nothin be dat she know bout it. Old Missus used to give us every speck de clothes we had to wear too dat was made out dis here homemade homespun cloth. You see my mother was de cook dere. Old Massa used to keep dry goods store en de first I know bout it, she get de cloth out de store to make us clothes. Den after de old head died, old Missus commence to buy cloth from somebody in de country cause people weave dey cloth right dere on dey own plantation in dat day en time. Had dese here loom en spinning wheel. I remembers old Missus would take out big bolt of cloth en cut out us garments wid her own hands. Den she would call us dere en make us try dem on en mine wouldn’ never be nothin troublesome nowhe’ bout it. I remembers I used to hear my Missus, when she be readin de paper speak bout Abraham Lincoln en Jefferson Davis, but I was small den en never paid no much attention to it. Only cared bout my new homespun dress wid de pockets shinin right in de front part. My Lord, child, I been de proudest like of dem pockets.”

“I hear de older people say de Yankees come en say de Yankees was here, but I was small den. Dey didn’ do nothin bout dere dat I know of. I was small en I didn’ know. Didn’ hear de older peoples say nothin bout it neither.”

“Oh, we went to de white peoples service to dat big Methodist church right up dere in dis town what was tore down long time ago. Walked dere to dat church every Sunday en set up in de gallery. Dat whe’ all de slaves had place to sit. De only thing I could remember bout gwine to church dere was what I hear dem say. Dey say, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, etc.’ Dat all I remembers bout gwine to church dere. Everything I remembers. Don’ know as I could tell you dat, but I hear my mother repeat it so much when she come home en be teachin us our prayer. Den Missus teach us de same thing till we get large enough to learn de Lord’s Prayer. No’mam, white folks didn’ teach us no learnin in dat day en time. Didn’ hear bout no books only dese almanacs. When de white folks throw dem out, dey allow us to pick dem up to play wid. Dat all de books we know bout.”

“Lord, child, dat was somethin. Dat was sho a time when dat shake come here. I remembers de ground be shakin en all de people was hollerin. Yes’um, I was scared. Scared of dat noise it was makin cause I didn’ know but dat it might been gwine destroy me. I was hollerin en everybody round in de neighborhood was hollerin. Didn’ nobody know what to think it was. Well, I tell you I thought it must a been de Jedgment comin. Thought it must a been somethin like dat.”

“I don’ know nothin bout dat. It just like dis, I heard people speak bout conjurin, but nobody never has talked to me nothin concernin no conjurin. My mother wouldn’ allow nobody to talk dat kind of speech to us. No, I ain’ never seen none of dem things people say is ghost. No, ain’ seen none dat I remembers. My husband died en I was right in de room wid him en I ain’ see a thing. Never thought bout nothin like dat. Thought when dey gone, dey was gone. When I was able to work, I didn’ have no time to bother wid dem things. Didn’ have no time to take up wid nothin like dat. I de one dat used to cook dere to Miss Eloise Bethea’s mamma. Dis here de one dey call Pauline.”

“I tell you my old Missus was good to us, child, good to us all de time. Come bout en doctor us herself when we get sick. Wouldn’ trust nobody else to give us no medicine. I remember she give us castor oil en little salts for some ailments. Didn’ give us nothin more den dat only a little sage or catnip sometimes. Dat what was good for colds.”

“I don’ know, child. I can’ tell which de worser days den or dese times. I know one thing, dey dances now more den dey used to. I don’ go bout much, but I can tell you what I hear talk bout. I don’ know as de people any worser dese days, but I hear talk bout more dances. Dat bout all. Coase de peoples used to dance bout, but dey didn’ have dese dance halls like dey have now. Didn’ have none of dem kind of rousin places den. De peoples didn’ have chance to dance in dat day en time only as dey have a quiltin en cornshuckin on a night. Den dey just dance bout in old Massa yard en bout de kitchen. Oh, dey have dem quiltin at night en would play en go on in de kitchen. Turn plate en different little things like dat. I don’ know how dey do it, but I remembers I hear dem talkin somethin bout turnin plate. Wasn’ big enough to explain nothin bout what dey meant. I just knows dey would do dat en try to make some kind of motion like.”

“Honey, didn’ never hear my parents tell bout no stories. My mother wasn’ de kind to bother wid no stories like dat. She tried to always be a Christian en she never would allow us to tarnish us souls wid nothin like dat. She raise us in de way she want us to turn out to be. All dese people bout here livin too fast to pay attention to raisin dey chillun dese days. Just livin too fast to do anything dat be lastin like. Dat how-come dere be so much destructiveness bout dese days.”

Evans, Worth,

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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