|Alex and Elizabeth Smith were enslaved on separate farms, owned by relatives in close proximity to each other. This excerpt describes their different experiences during enslavement, and their early life after gaining freedom.
On the Peter Stubblefield plantation, the slaves were treated very well and had plenty to eat, while on the Robert Stubblefield plantation Mr. Smith went hungry many times, and said, “Often, I would see a dog with a bit of bread, and I would have been willing to take it from him if I had not been afraid the dog would bite me.”
Mrs. Smith was named after Elizabeth Stubblefield, a relative of Peter Stubblefield. As a child of five years or less, Elizabeth had to spin “long reels five cuts a day,” pick seed from cotton, and cockle burrs from wool, and perform the duties of a house girl.
Unlike the chores of Elizabeth, Mr. Smith had to chop wood, carry water, chop weeds, care for cows, pick bugs from tobacco plants. This little boy had to go barefoot both summer and winter and remembers the cracking of ice under his bare feet.
The day the mistress and master came and told the slaves they were free to go anyplace they desired, Mrs. Smith’s mother told her later that she was glad to be free but she had no place to go or any money to go with. Many of the slaves would not leave and she never witnessed such crying as went on. Later Mrs. Smith was paid for working. She worked in the fields for “vittles” and clothes. A few years later she nursed children for twenty-five cents a week and “vittles,” but after a time she received fifty cents a week, board, and two dresses. She married Mr. Smith at the age of twenty.
Formerly enslaved person
|Birth Year (Age)
|Alex and Elizabeth Smith
|Robert and Peter Stubblefield
|South Bend, IN
|Themes & Keywords
|Family, Emancipation, Economics,