Slave Narrative of Ellis Ken Kannon

Person Interviewed: Ellis Ken Kannon
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Place of Residence: 318 5th Avenue N., St. Mary’s Church, Nashville, Tennessee

“I dunno jes how ole I ez. I wuz bawn in Tennessee as a slave. Mah mammy kum frum Virginia. Our marster wuz Ken Kannon.”

“Our Mistress wouldn’t let us slaves be whup’d but I member mah daddy tellin’ ’bout de Overseer whuppin’ ‘im en he run ‘way en hid in a log. He tho’t de blood hounds, he heered ’bout a half mile ‘way, on his trail could heer ‘im breathe but de hounds nebber fin’ ‘im. Atter de hounds pas’ on, mah daddy lef’ de log hidin’ place en w’en he got ter a blacksmith shop, he se’ed a white man wid a nigger who had handcuffs on en w’en de white man tuk off de handcuffs, de nigger axed mah daddy whar he wuz gwine en he tole ‘im back ter mah Mistress en de nigger sezs I ez too. Mah daddy slipped ‘way fum ‘im en went home.”

“W’en I wuz a young boy, I didn’t wear nothin’ but a shirt lak all urthur boys en hit wuz a long thing lak a slip dat kum ter our knees. Our Mistress had a big fier place en w’en we would kum in cole she would say ain’t you all cole. (You all was always used in the plural and not singular as some writers have it). W’ile we wuz warmin’ she often played de organ fer us ter heer.”

“I waited on mah Marster ’til he d’ed. Dey let me stay rite wid de body. Mah Mistress, Mammy ob de Marster, wuz in bad health at dat time, en ‘fore we sta’ted ter de graveyard, I put a feather bed in de car’age en got a pitcher ob water ready en ‘fore we git dere she got awful sick.”

“Durin’ slavery de slaves hadder keep quiet en dey would turn a kittle upside down ter keep de white folks ‘yearin dere prayers en chants. W’en a slave wanted ter go ter ‘nother plantation he had ter hab a pass. Ef’ dey disobeyed dey got a whuppin, en ef dey had a pass widout de Marsters signature dey got a whuppin. Ef’n dey had ter hab passes now dere wouldin’ be no meaness.”

“I member de Klu Klux Klan kumin ter mah daddy’s home axin fer water en dey would keep us totin’ water ter dem fer fifteen ter twenty minutes. Dey didn’t whup er hurt any ob us. I also member ‘yearin mah mammy en daddy tellin’ us ’bout de sta’rs fallin’. I member de comet. Hit wuz a big ball en had a long tail.”

“I hab ‘yerd dem tell ’bout Mr. Robertson. He wuz mean ter his slaves en dey sezs dey could see a ball ob fier rollin’ on de fence en w’en dey would git ter de spring, a big white thing lak a dog would crawl under de rock. De slaves wuz natur’ally superstitious en b’leeved in dreams, ole sayings en signs. I hab mahse’f se’ed things dat I ain’t onderstan’. Hab almost seen de things dat (apostle) John seed.”

“Dunno nuthin ’bout any ob de ex-slaves voting er de Nat Turner ‘Bellion.”

“Atter freedum mos’ ob de slaves wuk’d fer dere livin’ jes as I ez. De men in de fiel’s, de ‘omen in de house. I wuk’d at a hotel in McMinnville en one day, I wuz keepin’ de flies off de table wid a brush made frum fine strips ob papah en de string broke en hit fell on de table. One man jumped up grabbed a cheer sayin’ ah’ll knock you down wid dis cheer.”

“De slave ‘pected ter git 40 akers ob land en a mule but nobody eber got hit as fur as I know. We didn’t git nuthin. Our white peeple wuzzent able ter gib us anyting. Eve’ythin’ dey had wuz tuk durin’ de wah. Dey wuz good ter us an stuck wid us en mah peeple stayed wid mah Mistress.”

“Dis young gineratshun ob niggers, I ‘clare dey ez jes ’bout gon’. Dey won’t wuk, all’s stealin’ en mabe wuk long ’nuff ter git a few clothes ter strut ’round in. I may be wrong but dat ez mah hones’ pinion.”

“De songs-I member ez:

De Ole Ship ob Zion.
Do You Think You’ll be Able ter tek me Home.”

“I has bin ‘yer fifteen y’ars en hab wuked onder two Priests en now wukin under de third. Dey hab all bin nice ter me. Hab neber had any trubble wid white peeple en you’d be sprized how good dey ez ter me. Dey don’t treat me lak a nigger.”

“Eber since I got mah freedum en ‘fore I got dis chuch job, I dun all kinds ob odd jobs, waited on tables, pressin’ clothes en anyting else dat kum ‘long, but sum jobs wuz small pay but hit kep me ‘live.”

“Don’t member any slave uprisin’s. Our peeple wuz good ter us.”


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.

Search Military Records - Fold3

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.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top