Slave Narrative of Uncle Dave White

Interviewer: Laura L. Middleton
Person Interviewed: Dave White
Location: Charleston, South Carolina

An Old Time Negro

Uncle Dave White, one of the waning tribe lives in a simple homestead down a dusty and wind-swept curved country lane on the out skirt of McClenville, forty miles North of Charleston rests the simple shanty of David White, aged Negro, affectionally known to the Negro and white population for many miles around as “uncle Dave”.

His quiet unadulterated mode of living and his never changing grateful disposition typifies the true Southern Negro of pre-Civil War days; a race that was commonplace and plentiful at one time, but is now almost extinct, having dwindled in the face of more adequate educational facilities.

His homestead, resembling a barn more than a place to live in. To protect the house against the hazardous affects of imperilling winds, long poles are made to prop the somewhat dilapidated shanty.

A visit to his home, one dark and dreary day in late December, found him as usual in the best of spirits. He welcomed the visitors with a cordiality that would rival the meeting of two long lost friends. The front has no main entrance; the main door is around the back. There are conspicuous displays of many ancient burlap bags, heavy laden, hanging from high rafters, which contained corn and peanuts.

“But why not keep them in your barn, Uncle Dave!” one would ask.

“Well, suh, I keep mah co’n and grain nuts in yuh so mak eye can sta’ on ’em,” he replies.

A further inspection of the premises revealed other precautions he had taken against the unwelcomed guests; a crude lock on each door and many other precautionary measures convicted, that he was willing to take no unnecessary chances at having his worldly goods stolen.

His age is truly a matter of conjecture. The more you look at him the more uncertain you become. His droopy carriage and shriveled feature betray you at first sight. The first impression will lead one to believe that he is about one hundred years of age, and later it will appear that he is not that old.

We had known “uncle Dave” for a long time; for years it had been a familiar sight to see him trudging the streets of the town with burlap bags thrown across his shoulders containing such household necessities as grits, salt, sugar, etc., and such articles as the house wives would give him out of sheer sympathy. To every friendly greeting he always had the humble response of “Tank Gawd, my eye is open.”

He is well known throughout the town. One Sunday night a short time ago, while the services of a white church were in progress, distinguishable sounds of Amen were heard at regular intervals coming from the outside. On investigating they discovered that it was “uncle Dave” reverently enjoying the proceedings. Many times he has been seen outside the same church listening to the services.


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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