Carl Boone

Carl Boone’s parents were both enslaved people who gained their freedom in 1829, and Carl Boone was born a free man in 1850. In this excerpt, the interviewer records an example of an enslaver named Daniel Thompson brutally killing an enslaved person.  In what Carl Boone describes as Daniel Thompson’s “punishment for this terrible deed,” the excerpt goes on to describe the death of Daniel Thomspon’s son. These stories are told to the interviewer by Carl Boone, who is retelling stories he heard from his father. The interviewer notes that he is documenting Carl Boone’s story “word by word.” 
See full document • Visit the Library of Congress to see the original document


…I was born a free man, fifteen years before the close of the Civil War. All the colored folk on plantations and farms around our plantation were slaves and most of them were terribly mistreated by their masters…

The most terrible treatment of any slave, is told by my father in a story of a slave on a neighboring plantation, owned by Daniel Thompson. “After committing a small wrong, Master Thompson became angry, tied his slave to a whipping post and beat him terribly. Mrs. Thompson begged him to quit whipping, saying, ‘you might kill him,’ and the master replied that he aimed to kill him. He then tied the slave behind a horse and dragged him over a fifty acre field until the slave was dead. As a punishment for this terrible deed, master Thompson was compelled to witness the execution of his own son, one year later. The story is as follows:

A neighbor to Mr. Thompson, a slave owner by name of Kay Van Cleve, had been having some trouble with one of his young male slaves, and had promised the slave a whipping. The slave was a powerful man and Mr. Van Cleve was afraid to undertake the job of whipping him alone. He called for help from his neighbors, Daniel Thompson and his son Donald. The slave, while the Thompsons were coming, concealed himself in a horse-stall in the barn and hid a large knife in the manger.

After the arrival of the Thompsons, they and Mr. Van Cleve entered the stall in the barn. Together, the three white men made a grab for the slave, when the slave suddenly made a lunge at the elder Mr. Thompson with the knife, but missed him and stabbed Donald Thompson.

The slave was overpowered and tied, but too late, young Donald was dead.

The slave was tried for murder and sentenced to be hanged. At the time of the hanging, the first and second ropes used broke when the trap was sprung. For a while the executioner considered freeing the slave because of his second failure to hang him, but the law said, “He shall hang by the neck until dead,” and the third attempt was successful.”

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Carl Boone1850 (87)Robert C. IrvinMiley Boone (Carl’s father’s enslaver)
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Anderson, ININMarion County, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Resistance, ViolenceFirst Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Marion County