Slave Narrative of “Uncle” Bill Young

Person Interviewed: Bill Young
Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina

Seated on the front steps of his house, holding a walking cane and talking to another old colored man from Georgia, who was visiting his children living there, the writer found “Uncle” Bill Young. He readily replied that he had lived in slavery days, that he was 83 years old, and he said that he and Sam were talking about old times.

He was owned by Dave Jeter at Santuc, S.C.; though he was just a boy at the time his mother was a slave. He used to mind his “Missus” more than anybody else, as he stayed around the house more than anywhere else. His job, with the other boys, both white and black, was to round up the milk cows late every afternoon. The milk cows had to be brought up, milked and put up for the night; but the other cows and calves used to stay in the woods all night long. Some times they would be a mile away from the house, but the boys would not mind getting them home, for they played so much together as they slowly drove the cows in.

When asked if he got plenty to eat in slavery days, he replied that he had plenty, “a heap more than I get today to eat”. As a slave, he said he ate every day that the white folks ate, that he was always treated kindly, and his missus would not let anybody whip him; though he had seen other slaves tied and whipped with a bull-whip. He said he had seen the blood come from some of the slaves as they were whipped across the bare back. He said he had seen the men slaves stand perfectly naked and take a beating. He also said that he never had a whipping and that his “Missus” wouldn’t let his own mother whip him. She would say, “Don’t tech that boy, as he is my Nigger.” She told him one day that he was free, but he stayed right on there with her and worked for wages. He got $6.00 a month, all his rations, and a place to stay.

“Uncle” Bill said there was some humor at times when a slave was to be whipped. His hands and feet tied together, the slave would be laid across a rail fence, feet dangling on one side and head on the other side; then the master would give the slave a push or shove and he would fall heavily on the ground on his head. Not being able to use his feet or his hands, the slave’s efforts to catch himself before he hit the ground was something funny. “That was funny to us Niggers looking at it, but not funny to the Nigger tied up so.”

He said some Yankee soldiers came by the house at times, but they never bothered anybody on the place. “Of-course they would take something to eat, but they never bothered anybody.”

After working for Dave Jeter for many years, he moved up to Jonesville, where he married. He lived in or near Jonesville for about thirty years, then he moved with his son, who was a barber, to Spartanburg, and has been here thirteen years.

“I never knew anything about rent ’til I got here. I always had a house to live in, raised my own feed and got my wood off the place. So when I got to Spartanburg I learned what rent was. I just quit work two years ago when I had high blood pressure; and now I ain’t able to work. Do you see that Nigger across the street, going to work somebody’s garden? Well, if I didn’t have high blood pressure, I’d be just as good to work as him.”

“Yes sir, with my peck of meal, my three pounds of meat each week and my $6.00 a month wages, I had more to eat than I gets now.”

Jeter, Young,

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top