Slave Narrative of Reuben Rosborough

Interviewer: W. W. Dixon
Person Interviewed: Reuben Rosborough
Location: Ridgeway, South Carolina
Age: 82

“No sir, I can ‘member nothin’ ’bout de State of Verginny, where pappy said us was born. He told me, when I was ’bout two years old he and mammy Kitty was took from somewhar in dat state to Richmond, wid de understandin’ to sell us as a family, and to give a man name Johnson, de preference. He say de trader couldn’t find de man Johnson, and sold us to my marster, John Rosborough. My pappy name William, my brothers, Tom and Willie and my sisters, Mary and Alice.

“My marster was a kind and tender man to slaves. You see a man love hosses and animals? Well, dat’s de way he love us, though maybe in bigger portion, I ‘low. Marster John never marry. Set down dere dat he was good enough to buy my old gran’ mammy Mary, though she never could do much work.

“Us knowed dat our gran’pappy was a white man back in Verginny, but dat was her secret, dat she kept locked in her breast and carried it wid her to de grave. You say I’s very light color myself? So I is, so was she, so was pappy. Ease your mind, us had none of de white Rosborough in us. Us come on one side from de F.F.V’s. I’s proud of dat, and you can put down dere dat deres no poor white trash blood in dese old veins, too.

“De last part of de war I worked some in de field, but not enough to hurt. My Marster was a Presbyterian, b’longed to Aimwell Church. Two or three acres in cemetery dere now, but they done move de church into de town of Ridgeway.

“Money was not worshipped then like it is now. Not much use of it. Marster raised all we eat and made all we wear right dere on de place, ’bout five miles north of Ridgeway.

“I guess Marster John had forty slaves. Us live in two-story log house wid plank floor. Marster John die, us ‘scend to his brother Robert and his wife Mistress Mary. I played wid her chillun. Logan was one and Janie the other. My marster and mistress was good to me. I use to drive de mules to de cotton gin. All I had to do was to set on de long beam and crack my whip every now and then, and de mules would go ’round and ’round. Dere was three hundred and seventy-six acres in dat place. I own part of it today. I b’longs to Good Hope Church. I sure believes in de Lord, and dat His mercies is from everlastin’ to everlastin’ to them dat fears Him.

“‘Member but little ’bout de war for freedom, ‘cept dat some of de slaves of marster was sent to de front to use pick and shovel to throw up breast works, and things of dat nature. My pappy was de foreman and stayed at home, carry on whilst Marster Robert go.

“‘Deed I recollects ’bout de Yankees. They come and ask my pappy, de foreman, where was de mules and hosses hid out? Pappy say he don’t know, he didn’t carry them off. They find out a boy dat knowed; make him tell, and they went and got de mules and hosses. They took everything and left.

“Doctor Scott was our doctor. Dere was in them days lots of rattlesnakes; had to be keerful of them. Then us hear lots and had lots of chills and fever. They found de remedy, but they was way off ’bout what make them come on you. Some ‘low it was de miasma dat de devil bring ’round you from de swamp and settle ’round your face whilst you sleep, and soon as he git you to snore you sniffed it to your liver, lights and gall, then dat make bile, and then you was wid de chills a comin’ every other day and de fever all de day. Marster Doctor Hayne done find out dat de skeeter bring de fever and de chills, and funny, he ‘low dat it is de female skeeter bite dat does de business. You believe dat? I didn’t at first, ’til old Doctor Lindor tell me dat it was no harder to believe than dat all disease come into de world when a female bite a apple in de garden of Eden.

“I think Mr. Lincoln was raised up by de Lord, just like Moses, to free a ‘culiar people. I think Mr. Roosevelt is de Joshua dat come after him. No president has done as much for de poor of both races as de one now president. God bless him and ‘stain him in his visions and work to bring de kingdom of heaven into and upon de earth.”


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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