|In the full version of the interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person the cruelty enslavers inflicted on Hannah Davidson and the other enslaved people. Hanna Davidson describes a life of continuous work and repeated whippings. Enslavers Emmette and Susan Meriwether kept Hannah Davidson, her sister, and others enslaved for over twenty one years after they were legally free. In this excerpt, recorded in the first person, Hannah Davidson describes the memories of the Civil War, the fear the KKK instilled in formerly enslaved people, and a contemporary exchange about slavery with a White stranger.
*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted]. See more information.
… It is best not to talk about them. The things that my sister Mary and I suffered were so terrible that people would not believe them. It is best not to have such things in our memory…
My master kept me and my sister Mary twenty-two long years after we were supposed to be free. Work, work, work. I don’t think my sister and I ever went to bed before twelve o’clock at night. We never got a penny. They could have spared it, too; they had enough… We didn’t even know we were free. We had to wash the white people’s feet when they took their shoes off at night–the men and women…
All I know about the Civil War was that it was goin’ on. I heard talk about killing and so on, but I didn’t know anything about it….
I remember when Yankee soldiers came riding through the yard. I was scared and ran away crying. I can see them now. Their swords hung at their sides and their horses walked proud as if they walked on their hind legs. The master was in the field trying to hide his money and guns and things. The soldiers said, ‘We won’t hurt you, child.’ It made me feel wonderful.
What I call the Ku Klux were those people who met at night and if they heard anybody saying you were free, they would take you out at night and whip you. They were the plantation owners. I never saw them ride, but I heard about them and what they did. My master used to tell us he wished he knew who the Ku Kluxers were. But he knew, all right, I used to wait on the table and I heard them talking. ‘Gonna lynch another [redacted] tonight!’
…Well, slavery’s over and I think that’s a grand thing. A white lady recently [in the 1930s] asked me, ‘Don’t you think you were better off under the white people?’ I said ‘What you talkin’ about? The birds of the air have their freedom. I don’t know why she should ask me that anyway…
Formerly enslaved person
|Birth Year (Age)
|1852 (approx. 85)
|Emmette and Susan Meriwether
|Themes & Keywords
|Violence, Civil War, KKK
|Ballard County, First Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Union Troops