Slave Narrative of Frances Batson

Person Interviewed: Frances Batson
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Place of Birth: Nashville, Tennessee
Place of Residence: 1213 Scovel St., Nashville, Tennessee
Age: 90+

“I dunno jes how ole I ez. I wuz baw’n ‘yer in Nashville, durin’ slabery. I must be way pas’ 90 fer I member de Yankee soldiers well. De chilluns called dem de ‘blue mans.’ Mah white folks wuz named Crockett. Dr. Crockett wuz our marster but I don’t member ‘im mahse’f. He d’ed w’en I wuz small. Mah marster wuz mean ter mah mammy w’en her oler chilluns would run ‘way. Mah oler br’er went ter war wid mah marster. Mah younger br’er run ‘way, dey caught ‘im, tuk ‘im home en whup’d ‘im. He run ‘way en wuz nebber found.”

“We wuzn’t sold but mah mammy went ‘way, en lef’ me en I got up one mawnin’ went ter mah mammy’s room, she wuz gon’. I cried en cried fer her. Mah Missis wouldn’t let me outa’ de house, fer fear I’d try ter find her. Atter freedum mah br’er en a Yankee soldier kum in a waggin en git us. Mah white folks sed, I don’ see why you ez takin’ dez chilluns. Mah brudder said, ‘We ez free now.’ I member one whup’in mah missis gib me. Me en her daughter slipped ‘way ter de river ter fish. We kotch a fish en mah missis had hit cooked fer us but whup’d us fer goin’ ter de river.”

“Whar de Buena Vista schul ez hit useter be a Yankee soldiers Barrick. Eber mawnin’ dey hadder music. We chilluns would go on de hill, (whar the bag mill ez now) en listen ter dem. I member a black hoss de soldiers had, dat ef you called ‘im Jeff Davis he would run you.”

“I member de ole well on Cedar Street, neah de Capitol, en six mules fell in hit. Dat wuz back w’en blackberries wuz growin’ on de Capitol Hill. En Morgan Park wuz called de pleasure gyarden. En hit wuz full ob Yankee soldiers. Atter de war dere wuz so many German peeple ober ‘yer, dat fum Jefferson Street, ter Clay Street, wuz called Dutch town.”

“I wuzn’t bawn w’en de sta’rs fell. We didn’t git nothin’ w’en we wuz freed. Dunno much ’bout de Klu Klux Klan.”

“Mah mammy useter tell me how de white folks would hire de slaves out ter mek money fer de marster en she tole me sum ob de marsters would hide dere slaves ter keep de Yankees fum gittin’ dem.”

“I don’ b’leeve in white en black ma’iages. Mah sistah ma’ied a lite man. I wouldin’ marry one ef hit would turn me ter gold. Dunno nothin’ ’bout votin’, allus tho’t dat wuz fer de men.”

“I can’t think ob any tales er nuthin ’bout ghos’. ‘Cept one ’bout a marster tyin’ a nigger ter a fence en wuz beatin’ ‘im. A Yankee kum ‘long made ‘im untie de nigger en den de nigger beat de white man.”

“Dis young peeples ez tough. I think half ob dem’ll be hung, de way dey throw rocks at ole peoples. Dat’s why I’s crippled now, a white boy hit me wid a rock. I b’long ter de Methodist Chuch.”

“Since freedum I’se hired out, washed en cooked fer diff’ent peeple. De only song I member: ‘Hark Fum de Ground dis Mournful Sound.'”

Batson, Crockett,

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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