Slave Narrative of Sam Rawls

Interviewer: G. Leland Summer
Person Interviewed: Sam Rawls
Date of Interview: June 9, 1937
Location: Newberry, South Carolina
Place of Birth: Lexington County, SC
Date of Birth: 1835

Stories From Ex-Slaves

“I was born in 1835 in Lexington County, S.C. I know I was 12 years old de last year of de war. I belonged to John Hiller in Lexington County, near Columbia, S.C. Old Marse Hiller was strict to his slaves, wasn’t mean, but often whipped ’em. I thought it was all right then. When de Yankees come through burning, killing and stealing stock, I was in marse’s yard. Dey come up whar de boss was standing, told him dere was going to be a battle, grabbed him and hit him. Dey burned his house, stole de stock, and one Yankee stuck his sword to my breast and said fer me to come wid him or he would kill me. O’ course I went along. Dey took me as fer as Broad River, on t’other side o’ Chapin; then turned me loose and told me to run fast or they would shoot me. I went fast and found my way back home by watching de sun. Dey told me to not go back to dat old man.

“De slaves never learnt to read and write. If any o’ dem was caught trying to learn to read or write, dey was whipped bad. I kotched on to what de white chilluns said, and learnt by myself to say de alphabet.

“We went to de white churches atter de war, and set in de gallery. Den de niggers set up a ‘brush harbor’ church fer demselves. We went to school at de church, and atter school was out in de atternoon, we had preaching.

“Befo’ freedom come, de patrollers was strong dere, and whipped any niggers dey kotched out without a pass; wouldn’t let dem go to church without a pass.

“Lots of hunting round dere, dey hunted rabbits, squirrels, foxes and ‘possums. Dey fished like dey do now.

“De white folks had old brick ovens away from de house, and wide fireplaces in de kitchens. Dey cooked many things on Saturdays, to last several days. Saturday afternoons, we had off to catch up on washing and other things we wanted to do.

“I ‘member de Ku Klux and de Red Shirts, but don’t ‘member anything dey did dere.

“We had corn-shuckings and cotton pickings, when de white people would have everybody to come and help. Us niggers would help. Dey had big suppers afterwards.

“We had plenty to eat from de garden of de boss, a big garden dat furnished all de slaves. Den de boss killed hogs and had other things to eat. Most o’ de things raised in de garden, was potatoes, turnips, collards and peas.

“Some of us had witches. One old woman was a witch, and she rode me one night. I couldn’t get up one night, had a ketching of my breath and couldn’t rise up. She held me down. In dem days, was lots o’ fevers with de folks. Dey cured ’em and other sickness wid teas from root herbs and barks.

“Abraham Lincoln was a good man. He said you folks ought to let dem niggers loose and let dem go to work. He come wid his two men, Grant and Sherman, and captured de slave bosses. Jeff Davis was one o’ de forerunners of de war. Don’t know much about him. Booker T. Washington is a good man. Think he is in office fer a good purpose. I been married four times, Was young man when I married first time. Gussie Gallman, my last wife, is living wid me.”

Gallman, Hiller, Rawls,

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

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