Betty Guwn

Betty Guwn was an enslaved person on a tobacco plantation in Kentucky.  When her enslaver traveled to Mississippi to do business, he hid his money on Betty Guwn so he would not be robbed.  The interviewer begins by narrating background information provided by Betty Guwn. In the second half of the excerpt, the interviewer uses italics to show that Betty Guwn’s own words are being recorded. 
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… [Betty Guwn’s] master was very wealthy. He owned and managed a cotton farm of two thousand acres down in Mississippi, not far from New Orleans. Once a year he spent three months there gathering and marketing his cotton. When he got ready to go there he would call all his slaves about him and give them a chance to volunteer. They had heard awful tales of the slave auction block at New Orleans, and the Master would solemnly promise them that they should not be sold if they went down [to Mississippi] of their own accord. 

[The interviewer used italics to show this part of the interview is in the words of Betty Guwn.] My Mistress called me to her and privately told me that when I was asked that question I should say to him: “I will go”. The Master had to take much money with him and was afraid of robbers. The day they were to start my Mistress took me into a private room and had me remove most of my clothing; she then opened a strong box [safe] and took out a great roll of money in bills; these she strapped to me in tight bundles, arranging them around my waist in the circle of my body. She put plenty of dresses over this belt and when she was through I wore a bustle of money clear around my belt. I made a funny figure, but no one noticed my odd shape because I was a slave and no one expected a slave to “know better”. We always got through safely and I went down with my Mistress every year. Of course my husband stayed at home to see after the family, and took them to the fields when too young to work under the task master, or overseer. Three months was a long time to be separated.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Betty Guwn1832 (105)UnknownUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Muncie, ININCanton, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Third Person, EconomicsFirst Person, Slave Traders, Veteran or Widow