George Scruggs

In this excerpt, the interviewer records George Scruggs memories in the first person.  The interviewer first recounts George Scruggs’ work as an enslaved person for two different enslavers, then a time he feared he was going to be sold.  Teachers may need to help students critically examine George Scruggs statement that his enslaver “was sure good to me” given that the enslaver whipped him when he chose to go barefoot.

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].  See more information.
See full document • Visit the Library of Congress to see the original document


…I was a slave before the war. My boss, the man that I belonged to, was Ole Man Vol Scruggs. He was a racehorse man. He had a [redacted] boy for every horse those days and a white man for every horse, too. I was born right here in Murray. My boss carried me away from here. I thought a heap of him and he though a heap of me. I’d rub the legs of the horses and ride them around to give them exercise. I was just a small boy when my boss carried me away from Murray. My boss carried me to Lexington. I stayed with Ole Man Scruggs a long time. I just don’t know how long… He then hired me to work for a doctor in Lexington. My job was to clean up his office and when he went out in the country, he took me along to open the gates. I had to scour knives and forks and ole brass candlesticks. That’s been a long time ago, I’m telling you, white man [George Scruggs is referring to the interviewer]. While I was sweeping the doctor’s office one day I saw droves of [redacted] folks going by with two white men riding in front, two riding in the middle, and two riding behind. The [redacted] folks were walking, going down town to be sold. When I first saw them coming I got scared and started to run but the white man said, “Stop, boy, we are not going to hurt you.” I stayed with that boss doctor for something like a year, and then went back to my Ole Boss. I’d been up there with him yet but he kept telling me I was free. But I didn’t know what he meant by such talk…My Old Boss was sure good to me, white man. I sure do love him yet. Why, he never would allow me to go barefooted, because he was afraid I’d stick thorns in my feet, and if he even caught me barefooted, he sure would make my back tell it [the enslaver would whip George Scruggs]. … I now live in one mile of the house where I was born. 

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
George ScruggsUnknown (100)L. CherryVol Scruggs, Finch Scruggs
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Calloway County, KYKYMurray, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Violence, Slave TradeCalloway County, First Person, Dialect