Slave Narrative of Dan Thomas

Person Interviewed: Dan Thomas
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Place of Birth: Memphis, Tennessee
Date of Birth: 1847
Place of Residence: 904 Jefferson Street, Nashville, Tennessee

“I wuz bawn in slavery in 1847 at Memphis, Tennessee en mah marster wuz Deacon Allays. Mah mammy wuz de cook at de big house. Mah mammy d’ed soon atter I wuz bawn, en de Missis had me raised on a bottle. Marster en Missis treatus all dere slaves kindly en plenty ter eat en eve’y one wuz happy. I dunno nuthin ’bout mah daddy er whar he went. I hab no kin in dis worl’. All I eber yeard wuz dat all mah folks kum fum Africa. Mah Missis would tell me dat I mus’ be good en mine en eberbody will lak’ you en ef she d’ed, dey would tek keer ob me. Dat ez w’at dey hab don.”

“I wuked ’round de house ‘tel I wuz ’bout ten y’ars ole en de Marster put me ter wuk in his big whiskey house. W’en I got ’bout 21 y’ars ole, I would go out ter collect bills fum Marster’s customers en hit tuk me ’bout a week ter git all ’round. I wuzn’t ‘lowed ter tek money but had ter git dere checks. I also wuked 18 y’ars as bar tender. Marster en Mistress d’ed ’bout four y’ars ‘fore whiskey went out ob de United States. I stay wid dem ’til dey d’ed.”

“Atter de Marster en Missis d’ed de doctor sezs I would hab ter leave Memphis on ‘count ob my health. I kum ter Nashville en got a job at de “Powder Plant” durin’ de Worl’ War, en stayed dere ’til hit wuz ovuh. I den gets wuk at Foster en Creighton in Nashville ’till dey tole me dat I wuz too ole ter wuk. I makes mah livin’ now by haulin’ slop en pickin’ up things dat de white folks throw in dere trash pile en sum ob hit I sell ter de papah en junk dealers. De white peeple he’p me now also.”

“I se’d dem sell a lot ob slaves in Mississippi, jes’ lak hosses en hogs, one time w’en de Marster en Mistress made a trip down dere. Lots ob times dey made trips ’round de kuntry en dey allus tuk me ‘long. I se’d sum cru’l Marsters dat hitched up dere slaves ter plows en made dem plow lak hosses en mules did.”

“Atter de slaves got dere freedum, dey had ter look atter demselves, so dey would wuk on plantations till dey got so dey could rent a place, lak you rent houses en farms terday. Sum got places whar dey wuk’d fer wages.”

“I voted three times in mah life but lawdy dat wuz a long time ago. I voted fer Teddy Roosevelt en Woodrow Wilson, en mah last vote wuz ’bout two y’ars pas’.”

“Hab no tales handed down by mah peeple. W’en I would try ter git info’mation, atter I got o’ler, all dey would say wuz, “You wuz raised on a bottle en hab no peeple ob you own.”

“Oh mah goodness! Hit jes par’lises me ter see how dem young peeple ez doin’ terday. Lawdy hab mercy but dere ez as much diff’ent fum ole times as day en nite en hit looks lak things hab gone astray. Wuz tole lots ’bout de Ku Klux Klan en how dey would catch en whup de cul’ed peeple, but mah white folks made me stay in en dey neber got me.”

“I member seein’ Andrew Jackson, General Grant en Abraham Lincoln, member seein’ General Andrew Jackson git’in ready fer war by marchin’ his soldiers erroun’. I se’d ‘im ride his big white hoss up en down ter see how dey marched.”

“One song I lack’d best ob all wuz, ‘Mah ole Mammy ez De’d en Gon’,’ ‘Let me Sit B’neath de Willow Tree.’ Don’t member uther songs now.”

Allays, Thomas,

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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