Slave Narrative of Tom Rosboro

Interviewer: W. W. Dixon
Person Interviewed: Tom Rosboro
Location: Winnsboro, South Carolina
Age: 79

Ex-Slave 79 Years Old

Tom Rosboro lives with his daughter, Estelle Perry, in a three-room frame house, on Cemetery Street, Winnsboro, S.C. The house stands on a half-acre plot that is used for garden truck. Estelle owns the fee in the house and lot. Tom peddles the truck, eggs, and chickens, in the town and the suburban Winnsboro mill village.

“My pappy was name Tom, just lak I is name Tom. My mammy was name Sarah but they didn’t b’long to de same marster. Pappy b’long to old Marse Eugene McNaul. Mammy b’long to old Marse John Propst. De ownership of de child followed de mammy in them days. Dat throwed me to be a slave of old Marse John Propst.

“My young marsters was name Marse Johnnie, Marse Clark, Marse Floyd, and Marse Wyatt. I had two young misses. Miss Elizabeth marry a McElroy and Miss Mamie marry a Landecker. You know Marse Ernest Propst dat run dat ladies’ garment store and is a member of de Winnsboro Town Council? Yes? Well, dat is one of Marse Floyd Propst chillun.

“I hear mammy say dat daddy’s mistress was name Miss Emma but her mistress and my mistress was name Miss Margaret. My daddy have to have a pass every time he come to see mammy. Sometime they give him a general pass for de year. Sometime him lose de pass and then such a gwine on you never did see de lak. Make more miration (hullabaloo) over it than if they had lost one of de chillun. They was scared de patarollers (patrollers) would come ketch him, and lay de leather whip on his naked back. He wouldn’t dare stay long. Him would go back soon, not on de big road but through de woods and fields, so as not to meet de patarollers.

“Who was my brothers and sisters and where is they? Brother Ben and Sister Mamie is dead and in glory. Dat’s all de chillun mammy had a chance to have, ’cause she was a good woman and would never pay any ‘tention to de men slaves on de Propst place. Her was faithful to pappy through thick and thin, whichever it be.

“I doesn’t ‘member much ’bout de Yankees, though I does ‘members de Ku Klux. They visit pappy’s house after freedom, shake him, and threaten dat, if him didn’t quit listenin’ to them low-down white trash scalawags and carpetbaggers, they would come back and whale de devil out of him, and dat de Klan would take notice of him on ‘lection day.

“When I was ’bout seventeen years old, I come to de Boro (Winnsboro) one Saturday evenin’ and seen a tall willowy gal, black she was but shiny, puttin’ them foots of her’n down on de pavement in a pretty gamecock pullet kind of way, as if to say: ‘Roosters look at me.’ I goes over to Mr. Landecker’s store, de Mr. Landecker dat marry Miss Mamie Propst, and I begs him to give me a cigar. I lights dat cigar and puts out after her. I ketches up wid her just as she was comin’ out of Mr. Sailing Wolfe’s Jew store. I brush up ‘ginst her and say: ‘Excuse me lady.’ Her say: ‘I grants your pardon, Mister. I ‘spects smoke got in your eyes and you didn’t see me.’ I say: ‘Well, de smoke is out of my eyes now and they will never have sight for any other gal but you as long as I live.’ Black as she was, her got red in de face and say: ‘Who is you?’ I say: ‘Tom Rosboro. What might be your name, lovely gal?’ Her say: ‘My name is Mattie Nelson.’ I say: ‘Please to meet you, Sugar Plum.’ Her say: ‘I live down at Simpson’s Turnout. Glad to have you come down to see me sometime.’ After dat us kep’ a meetin’ in Winnsboro, every Saturday, ’til one day us went ’round to Judge Jno. J. Neils’ law office and him married us. Me and Mat have our trials and tribulations and has went up and down de hills in all kind of weather. Us never ceased to bless dat day dat I run into her at Mr. Sailing Wolfe’s store.

“How come I name Rosboro? I just picked it up as a mighty pretty name. Sound better than Propst or McNaul and de Rosboro white folks was big buckra in dat time.

“Us had lots of chillun; raise some and lost some. I have a son, Charlie, dat’s a barber in Washington, D.C. Lucy, a daughter, marry Tank Hill. Nan marry Banks Smith. Estelle marry Jim Perry but her is a widow now. Her bought a house and lot wid de insurance money from Dr. McCants. She has a nice house on Cemetery Street, wid water and ‘lectric lights. Her got four chillun. When my wife die, two years ago, I move in wid Estelle and her four chillun. Her make money by washin’ and ironin’ for de white folks. Me and de chillun picks cotton and ‘tends to de makin’ and de peddlin’ of garden truck and sich lak. Ah, us is a happy family but I ain’t ‘bove usin’ some of dat old age pension money, if I can git it.”

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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