Betty Guwn

Betty Guwn was an enslaved person on a tobacco plantation in Kentucky.  The interviewer begins by narrating background information provided by Betty Guwn about how enslavers negotiated the marriage of enslaved people. In the second half of the excerpt, the interviewer uses italics to show that Betty Guwn’s own words are being recorded.  In this portion of the excerpt, Betty Guwn recounts how her husband fought for the Union during the Civil War and her emancipation.  
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Source Description:

Mrs. Betty Guwn was born March 25, 1832, as a slave on a tobacco plantation, near Canton, Kentucky. It was a large plantation whose second largest product was corn. She was married while quite young by the slave method which was a form of union customary between the white masters. If the contracting parties were of different plantations the masters of the two estates bargained and the one sold his rights to the one on whose plantation they would live. Her master bought her husband, brought him and set them up in a shack. Betty was the personal attendant of the Mistress. The home was a large Colonial mansion and her duties were many and responsible. However, when her house duties were caught up her mistress sent her immediately to the fields. Discipline was quite stern there and she was “lined up” [to be beaten or whipped] with the others on several occasions…

[The interviewer used italics to show this part of the interview is in the words of Betty Guwn.]  When the Civil War came on there was great excitement among us slaves. We were watched sharply, especially soldier timber [enslaved people likely to be selected for fighting] for either army. My husband ran away early and helped [Union General] Grant to take Fort Donaldson. He said he would free himself, which he did; but when we were finally set free all our family prepared to leave, the Master begged us to stay and offered us five pounds of meal and two pounds of pork jowl each week if we would stay and work. We all went to Burgard, Kentucky, to live. At that time I was about 34 years old…

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, Civil War, Marriage, Family, EconomicsFirst Person, Slave Traders, Veteran or Widow