George Thompson

In this excerpt, the interviewer records George Thompson’s memories of enslavement in the first person.  After describing how enslaved people were named, George Thompson explains how despite wanting to learn how to read, his enslaver used violence to prevent him from learning.  
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…I [George Thompson] was quite a small boy when our family, which included an older sister, was sold to Ed. Thompson in Metcalfe Co. Kentucky, who owned about 50 other slaves, and as was the custom then we were given the name of our new master, “Thompson”.

I was hardly twelve years old when slavery was abolished, yet I can remember at this late date most of the happenings as they existed at that time.

I was so young and inexperienced when freed I remained on the Thompson plantation for four years after the war and worked for my board [shelter] and clothes as coach boy and any other odd jobs around the plantation.

I have no education, I can neither read nor write, as a slave I was not allowed to have books. On Sundays, I would go into the woods and gather ginseng which I would sell to the doctors for from 10¢ to 15¢ a pound, and with this money, I would buy a book that was called the Blue Back Speller. Our master would not allow us to have any books and when we were lucky enough to own a book we would have to keep it hidden, for if our master would find us with a book he would whip us and take the book from us. After receiving three severe whippings I gave up and never again tried for any learning, and to this day I can neither read nor write…

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
George Thompson1854 (approx. 83)William R. MaysManfred Furgeson, Ed Thompson
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Johnson County, ININHart, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Education, Literacy, Emancipation, ViolenceMetcalf County, Hart County, Monroe County, First Person, Whipped, Sold, Slave Patrollers