Slave Narrative of Scott Martin

Person Interviewed: Scott Martin
Location: Tennessee
Place of Birth: Sumner County TN
Age: 90
Place of Residence: 438 Fifth Ave., No.

“I’se 90 y’ars ole and wuz bawn in slavery in Sumner County, Tennessee and I b’long to Marster Dr. Madison Martin an’ mah Misses Mary. And I wuk’d wid de stock an’ wuz de houseman.”

“I hab neber been in any truble, neber ‘rested en neber bin in jail. I knows how ter behave, but de young peeples ob terday ain’ dun rite en dey don’ ‘mounts ter much. Dar am a few dat am all rite. In de ole days dey wer’ bettuh dan dey ez terday. De white and black ougher not ma’rie.”

“I has voted two times, but I disremembers who I voted fer. Neber hadney frens in office en I nebr met any of de Klu Klux men. I didn’ go out much en I neber wuz kotched w’en I did git out. I heered lots ’bout nigger uprisin’ but dey wuz away off.”

“I b’long ter de Missionary Baptist chuch an’ I useter preach in mah chuch ‘ouse en udders w’en called. Once a y’ar I wud be at de Cumberland Riber wha’f en’ baptiz’ culled peeples all da’. We useter hab camp meetin’ in de ole days en hab good things ter eat en I would preach all day. I went ter schul two sessions en den I went to wuk.”

“I member de fust street kar line that run on East side of Cumberland Riber ter East end ob de ole wood bridge dat de ‘arly settlers build. De kars wer’ pulled by hosses en’ mules. De whites en blacks mixed tergedder en den de law made de whites rid’ in frunt en the blacks in de rearuh. I think dat wuz rite, but sum ob mah race wuz mad ’bout hit. I wuz on a kar one day and mules run’d ‘way en de ole red mule got loose frum de kar en run’d ober a mile ‘fore dey ketched him en dey brot ‘im ba’k en de kar’ pas’ on. I members de ole L & N Railroad on de East side. W’en my folks wud ride de train dey had ‘ter hold me tite or I wuld git ‘way frum dem en run en hide ‘hind sum logs. I wuz scar’et ter ride on de kars.”

“Atter freedum de slaves had’n no truble ter go whar dey wan’. Menny lef’ but menny stay wid der ole marsters. I stay wid my marster tell he d’ed. I den kum an’ lib wid mah daddy on Lebanon Road. Atter dat I libed on Gallatin Road an’ den I kum ter Nashville, an’ wuk wid pic’ and shovel on streets, sewers an’ udder jobs. I heered dem sez dat de slaves wud git lan’, hoss, money er sumpin’ but I neber heerd ob nobody gittin nuthin’. Dere wuz not slave ‘raisings eroun’ whar I wuz.”

“De fallin’ st’ars wuz ‘fore mah time, but I’se heer’d mah daddy tole ’bout hit. I se’d de comet wid hit shinnin’ tail an’ I fust b’leevd sumbody put hit up dere.”

“Good luck sign wuz w’en a stray cat kum ter yo’ house an’ stay dere. Bad luck sign wuz a black kat crossin’ yo’ path in frunt ob yer. Ter ke’p frum havin’ de bad luck yo’ back up pas’ whar hit crossed yer path en den spit an’ yer hab no bad luck.”

“Dem air ships luk nice but dey ez spoke ‘boud in de Holy Bible, dat sum day dere wud be flyin’ things in de air’h an’ I think dat dese things am it. De otomobeels kiver nuder passag’ in de Bible which seze de peeple ‘ll rid’ on de streets widout hosses en mules.”

“Mah fav’rite songs am “I Gwine to Jine de Gideon Band,” and “Keep Yo’ Lits Bunnin’.”

“Ter ole now ter wuk an’ mah haid don’ se’m ter be tergedder an’ I’se gits he’ps frum de Welfare.”


Sumner County TN,

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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