Slave Narrative of Wiley Childress

Person Interviewed: Wiley Childress
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Age: 83
Place of Birth: 808 Gay St., Nashville, Tennessee

“I’se 83 Y’ars ole en wuz bawn a slave. Mah mammy b’longed ter de Bosley’s en mah daddy b’longed ter de Scales.”

“W’en Miss Jane Boxley ma’ried Marster Jerry Scales, me en mah mammy, br’er en sistah wuz gib ter Miss Jane.”

“Durin’ de war mah Missis tuk mah mammy en us chilluns wid her ter de mount’ins ’till de war wuz gon’. Did’nt see no soldiers. Don’t member now nuthin’ ’bout dem Klu Klux men en don’t member de ole songs er ’bout slaves votin’.”

“Dunno ’bout de young persons, white er black, dey ez all so wild now.”

“W’en we all wuz freed we had nuthin en no place ter go, so dat mah mammy lived wid our Missis five y’ars longer.”

“De only story dat I member mah people tole me ’bout wuz on Fedd, a slave on de next plantation. He wuz a big man en wuz de strongest man neah dat part ob de kuntry. He wouldin’ ‘low nobody ter whup ‘in. De Marster framed ‘im by tellin’ ‘im ter bring his saddle hoss en w’en he kum wid de hoss several men ‘peahrd en tole Fedd dat dey wuz gonna whup ‘im. He struck one ob de mans so hahd dey had ter hab de doctuh. De Marster said let ‘im ‘lone he’s too strong ter be whup’d. I’ll hab ter shoot ‘im. One time Fedd run ‘way en de white men whar he stopped know’d he wuz a good fighter en made a $250.00 bet dat nobody could lick ‘im. A nigger fum de iron wuks fought Fedd en Fedd won. De iron wuks nigger wuz kilt right dere.”

“‘fore Freedum de slaves wuz promused forty acres ob land w’en freed but none eber got hit, en I ‘year’d ob no one gittin’ any money. I dunno nuthin’ ob de slave ‘risin’s, ghostus er dreams, but I member mah folks talkin’ ’bout fallin’ sta’rs en a comet but I don’ member now w’at dey said.”

“I’se wuk’d at a lot ob diff’ent jobs since mah freedum. I wuk’d at de Maxwell House 15 years as store room porter, en hit wuz de only wo’th-while hotel in Nashville at dat time. I wuk’d fuh de City fuh menny y’ars en den I wuk’d fuh Foster & Creighton ’till dey wore me out. I off’n think ob deze diff’nt men dat I wuk’d fuh but dey ez all de’d. De las’ job I had wuz buildin’ fiers en odd jobs fuh a lady up de street. She would gib me food en coal. She ez de’d now.”

“I’se not able ter wuk now en all I has ez a small groc’ey order dat de relief gibs me. Dey keep promisin’ ter gib me de Old Age Pension en I wish dey would hurry hit up.”

Boxley, Childress, Scales,

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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