|In this first person excerpt, the interviewer documents Callie Williams’ description of daily life for enslaved people. Hiram McLemore enslaved over 300 people, including Callie Wiliams and her family. Since Callie Williams was only four years old when the Civil War ended, she explains that she is retelling stories told to her by her mother Vicey, who she calls “Mammy” in this excerpt.
…My mammy said that they [enslaved people] waked up in the morning when they heard the sweep. That was a piece of iron hanging by a string and it made a loud noise when it was banged with another piece of iron. They had to get up at four o’clock and be at work by sun up. To do this, they almost all the time cooked breakfast the night before.
Pappy was a driver under the overseer, but Mammy said that she stayed at the little nursery cabin and looked after all the little babies. They had a cabin fixed up with homemade cradles and things where they put all the babies. Their mammies would come in from the field at about ten o’clock to nurse them and then later in the day, my mammy would feed the [other children]…
The slaves got rations every Monday night. There would be three pounds of meat and a peck of meal. There was a big garden that all of them worked and they had all the vegetables they needed and there was always plenty of skimmed milk. They cooked the meals on open fireplaces in the big iron ‘spiders’, big pots hanging over the fire from a hook. They’d do the cooking at night and then warm it over the next day if they wanted it that way.
While mammy was tending the babies she had to spin cotton and she was supposed to spin two ’cuts’ a day. Four ’cuts’ was a hard day’s work. What was a cut? You ought to know that! They had a reel and when it had spun three hundred yards it popped. That was a “cut.” When it had been spun, then another woman took it to the loom to make cloth for the slaves. They always took Saturday afternoon to clean up the clothes and cabins, because they always had to start work on Monday morning clean as a pin. If they didn’t, they got whipped for being dirty…
Most of the time the slaves would be too tired to do anything but go to bed at night, but sometimes they would sit around and sing after supper and they would sing and pray on Sunday…
Formerly enslaved person
|Birth Year (Age)
|Approx. 1861 (Unknown)
|Mary A. Poole
|Themes & Keywords
|Economics, Child Care
|Third Person, Dialect, Slave Patrollers, Hired Out