Slave Narrative of Ann Matthews

Person Interviewed: Ann Matthews
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Place of Birth: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Place of Residence: 719 9th Ave. South, Nashville, Tennessee

“I wuz bawn in Murfreesboro on Stones River. I dunno how ole I ez en hit meks me ‘shamed ter tell peeple dat, but mah mammy would hit me in de mouth w’en I’d ax how ole I wuz. She say I wuz jes’ tryin’ ter be grown.”

“Mah mammy’s name wuz Frankie en mah daddy wuz Henry Ken Kannon. Don’ member much ’bout mah mammy ‘cept she wuz a sho’t fat Indian ‘oman wid a turrible tempah. She d’ed, durin’ de war, wid black measles.”

“Mah daddy wuz part Indian en couldn’t talk plain. W’en he go ter de store he’d hab ter put his han’ on w’at he want ter buy. He d’ed eight months ‘fore de Centennial.”

“Our marster en missis wuz Landon en Sweenie Ken Kannon. Dey wuz good ter us, en we had’n good things ter eat.”

“I member de Yankee en Southern soldiers. One day me en mah young missis, en sum chilluns went up ter de road en we se’ed sum Yankee soldiers kumin’, I clum’ed on de fence, de urthurs run ‘way en hid. One ob de soldiers sezs ter me, ‘Lettle girl who wuz dat wid you,’ en I sezs, ‘Hit wuz Miss Puss en sum chilluns.’ He laughed en sezs, ‘You ez brave ain’ you?'”

“Our missis let us go ter chuch. I ‘long ter de chuch ob Christ.”

“I dunno ob but one slave dat got lan’ er nothin’ w’en freedum wuz ‘clared. We didn’t git nuthin at freedum. Mah daddy went back in de woods en built us a saplin house en dobbed hit wid mud. Atter freedum mah daddy went ‘way, en we chilluns staid in dat house in de woods by oursel’s. Dere wuz two weeks we didn’t see a bit ob bre’d. I went up w’at ez called de nine mile cut neah Tullahoma, en axed a ‘oman ef she would let us hab sum bre’d. She gib me sum meat en bre’d, en tole me ter kum back. I went back home en we et sump’in, en I went back ter de ‘oman’s house, she gib me a sack ob flour en a big piece ob midlin’ meat. We wuz skeered, bein’ dere ‘lone so I would set up wile mah br’ers slep’, den I’d sleep in de daytime. One nite sumbody knocked at de do’er en hit wuz mah daddy en he had two sacks ob food, en de urthur chilluns got up en we et a big meal.”

“I useter ‘yer de folks talk ’bout de sta’rs fallin’, but dat happen’ ‘fore I wuz bawn.”

“I didn’t go ter schul, mah daddy wouldin’ let me. Said he needed me in de fiel wors den I needed schul. I wuz allus sassy en stubbun. I run ‘way fum mah daddy en kum ter Nashville. I stayed at a schul on Franklin Pike, run by Mrs. McGathey. I wuz de only cul’ed person dere. Dey wuz good ter me en eve’y Chrismus I would git a big box ob clothes en things.”

“In Manchester de Klu Klux Klan wore big high hats, red handkerchiefs on dere faces en red covers on dere hosses. Dey tuk two niggers out ob jail en hung dem ter a chestnut tree.”

“One nite w’en I wuz gwine wid mah daddy fum de fiel’ home, we met sum ob de K.K.K. en dey said, ‘Ain’t you out late Henry? En who ez dat gal wid you?’ Mah daddy said, ‘We ez gwine home fum wuk, en dis ez mah daughter.’ Dey said, ‘Whar has she bin, we ain’t nebber se’ed her.’ He told dem, ‘I’d bin in Nashville.’ Dey said dey’d be back dat nite but we didn’t see dem.”

“W’en I wuz in Manchester I promus de Lawd I wouldin’ dance. But one nite I wuz on de ball floor, dancin’ fum one end ob de room ter de urthur en sump’in sezs go ter de do’er. I didn’t go right den en ‘gin hit sezs you ez not keepin’ yo promus. I went ter de do’er en you could pick a pin off de groun’ hit wuz so light. In de sky wuz de prettiest thing you ebber se’ed, so many culors, blue, white, green, red en yellow.”

“Since freedum I’se wuked wid diff’ent peeple, cookin’ en keepin’ house. I’se de mammy ob three chilluns. Two ob dem ez ‘way fum ‘yer, en I live ‘yer wid mah daughter.”

“Old songs, I member ez:

Dark wuz de Nite.
I’ll Live wid Gawd Forever, Bye en Bye.
Fum dis Earth I go, Oh Lawd, W’at Will ‘kum ob Me.”

“So yer wan’t me ter tell you de truf? I think de young peeple ez nothin’. Dey think dey ez smaht. Most ob de ex-slaves I’se knowed has cooked en nussed, done laundry wuk; wuked in fiel’s en diff’ent things.”

“I’se neber voted en hab neber paid any ‘tention ter de niggers gittin’ ter vote. Don’t hab any frens in political office. Can’t member any tales er signs.”

“I don’t b’leeve in dese mixed white and black families en hit shouldn’t be ‘lowed.”

“Durin’ slavery de white folks didn’t want de niggahs ter sing en pray, but dey would turn a pot down en meet at de pot in de nite en sing en pray en de white folks wouldn’t ‘yer dem.”

“Ef a slave died de white folks wouldn’t let nobody set up wid de body ‘cept de niggers ob dat plantation, but urthur slaves would slip in atter dark, set up en den slip back ter dere plantation ‘fore day.”

“W’en I useter go ter camp meetin’ dey had big dinnahs en spread hit on de groun’. Dey preached, sung, shouted en eve’ybody had a good time.”

“Fum de camp meetin’s dey would go ter de wharf en baptize. Dey would tie handkerchiefs ‘roun dere haids. W’en dey wuz dipped under de water sum ob dem would kum up shoutin’.”

A Tale

One time de preacher wuz in de river fixin’ ter baptize a man. Eve’ybody wuz singin’ ole time ‘ligion. A ‘oman sung, “I don’ lak dat thing ‘hind you.” Bout dat time de pahson en de udder man se’d an alligator. De parson sezs, “No-By-God I Don’t Either.” He turned de man loose en dey both run ‘way.

Kannon, Matthews,

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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