|Amy Elizabeth Patterson was born into enslavement, where her mother served as a personal maid and wet nurse for the enslaver’s children. This third person narrative retells Patterson’s experiences as the daughter of an enslaver’s maid, as well as her mother’s experiences giving birth to and raising children for her enslavers.
Louisa Street, the mother of Amy Elizabeth Patterson, was a housemaid at the Street home and her firstborn daughter was fair with gold-brown hair and amber eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Street always promised Louisa they would never sell her as they did not want to part with the child, so Louisa was given a small cabin near the master’s house. The mistress had a child near the age of the little mulatto and Louisa was a wet nurse for both children as well as a maid to Mrs. Street. Two years after the birth of Amy Elizabeth, Louisa became the mother of twin daughters, Fannie and Martha Street, then John Street decided to sell all his slaves as he contemplated moving into another territory.
The slaves were auctioned to the highest bidder and Louisa and the twins were bought by a man living near Cadiz but Mr. Street refused to sell Amy Elizabeth. She showed promise of growing into an excellent housemaid and seamstress and was already a splendid playmate and nurse to the little Street boy and girl. So Louisa lost her child but such grief was shown by both mother and child that the mother was unable to perform her tasks and the child cried continually. Then Mr. Street consented to sell the little girl to the mother’s new master.
Louisa Street became the mother of seventeen children. Three were almost white. Amy Elizabeth was the daughter of John Street and half-sister of his children by his lawful wife. Mrs. Street knew the facts and respected Louisa and her child and, says grandmother Patterson, “That was the greatest crime ever visited on the United States. It was worse than the cruelty of the overseers, worse than hunger, for many slaves were well fed and well cared for; but when a father can sell his own child, humiliate his own daughter by auctioning her on the slave block, what good could be expected where such practices were allowed?”
Formerly enslaved person
|Birth Year (Age)
|Amy Elizabeth Patterson
|Vanderburgh County, IN
|Themes & Keywords
|Gender/gender roles, family
|Third person, Sold (self or family), Enslaver father, slave traders