Slave Narrative of Prince Smith

Interviewer: Augusta Ladson
Person Interviewed: Prince Smith
Location: Wadmalaw, South Carolina

Experiences Of An Ex-Slave On Wardmalaw Island

Massa Wus Kind to Slaves

Prince Smith, a man who is said to be over a hundred years of age, has lived on Wardmalaw Island practically all of his life. His experiences during slavery are very interesting and true to life. An interview with him revealed the following:

“I was bo’n an’ raise’ on dis island and was only frum here when de Civil War had begun. W’en Fort Sumter wus fired on mossa carried seventy of us to Greenville, South Ca’lina on account of its montanous sections, which was believed would have prevented the Yankees invasion in regard to their hide-out.” We stayed een Greenville nearly four years. Durin’ dat time mossa planted his fa’m an’ we wurk as if we wus right here.

“The Yankees had gunboats,” he continued, “but dey didn’ help dem atoll fur dey couldn’ make any a’tack dat dis place is so unsuited fur water battles. But forest’ battles wus fight on Beaufort Island and Port Royale. We een Greenville didn’ know enyt’ing ’bout whut wus goin’ on except what wus brought to us collud people by dose who wus sent to da town. Mossa didn’ tell us eny ting. Fur almos’ four ‘ears we stayed een Greenville w’en suddenly one Chuesday mornin’ bright an’ early, Sheridan came into Greenville on horse backs en’ order ebery body to sarrendar. Colonels an’ Gen’rals came een de city widout de firin’ of a gun. We stayed dere ’til harvestin’ time by de orders of Master Osland Bailey who saw to it dat we wus given money as a share fur our wurk.

“Mossa’s custom at de end of de week wus to give a dry peck o’ corn which you had to grin’ on Sat’day ebenin’ w’en his wurk wus done. Only on Chris’mus he killed en give a piece o’ meat. De driber did de distribution o’ de ration. All young men wus given four quarts o’ corn a week, while de grown men wus given six quarts. All of us could plant as much lan’ as we wuld fur our own use. We could raise fowls. My master wus a gentleman, he treat all his slaves good. My fadder an’ me wus his favorite.

“Some o’ de slaves had to wurk on Sunday to finish dere week’s wurk. If dey didn’ de dribber who wus a Negro would give a lashin’ varyin’ frum fifteen to twenty five chops. Only high-class massas had Negro dribbters, de crackers had white overseers.

“Like odder slaves had to hide frum dere mastas to hab meetin’, us could hab ours any night we want to even widout his consent. When masta went to town any o’ his slaves could ax him to buy t’ings for dem een Cha’leston. When Jews en peddlers came with clothes an’ gunger to sell, we as chillun would go to him an’ ax fur money to buy whut we want.

“He had about four hund’ed acres of land which he divided in two half by a fence. One ‘ear he would plant one an’ let de cattles pasture on de oder. We could also raise hogs ‘long wood his but had to change pasture w’en he did. De people on his plantation didn’ hab any need to steal from him fur he didn’ ‘low us to want fur any thing.

“Dere wus three kinds of days wurk on de plantation: One is de whole tas’, meanin’ a whole han’ or a person een his prime. He wus given two tas’ fur dis day’s wurk. A tas’ carried frum twenty four to twenty five rows which wus thirty-five feet long en twenty five feet wide. De shree fourth han’ wus given one whole tas’ which consists of twelve rows. All de young chillun wus included in dis group. De half han’ was de old slaves who did a half tas’ for dere day’s work. When it was time to pick cotton, de shree fourth han’ had to pick thirty pound’ an’ de half han’ twenty fur dere day’s wurk. Dose who attended to the gin only include de three fourth han’.

“Massa had shree kinds o’ punishment fur dose who disobeyed him. One wus de sweatbox. It wus made de height of de person an’ no larger. Jus’ large ‘nough so de person woodn’ hab to be squeezed in. De box is nailed an’ een summer is put een de hot sun; een de winter it is put in de coldest, dampest place. De next is de Stock. Wood is nailed on floor with de person lyin’ on his back wid hans an’ feet tied wood a heavy weight on de chest. De shird is de Bilboa. You are place on a high scaffold fur so many hours an’ if you don’ try to keep a level head, you’ll fall an you will surely hurt yourself if your neck isn’t broken. Most o’ de time dey were put dere so dey could break dere necks.”

Bailey, Smith,

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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