Joe Mayes

In this interview, recorded in the first person, Joe Mayes shares his memories of emancipation, noting that the man who enslaved his family sold them even though they were free.  The excerpt ends with Joe Mayes describing how his mother’s life was harder after she was freed.  Teachers may need to help students navigate this comparison, noting that it is a criticism of the treatment of Blacks after the Civil War rather than praise for life as an enslaved person. 
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…I [Joe Mayes] was born a slave… I never will forget the man came and told Mother she was free. She cooked. She never worked in the field until after freedom. In a few days, another man come and made them leave. They couldn’t hold them in Kentucky. The owners give her provisions, meat, molasses, etc. They give her her clothes. She had four children and I was her youngest. The two oldest were girls. Father was dead. I don’t remember him…

Another thing I remember: Frank Hayes sold mother to Isaac Tremble after she was free. She didn’t know she was free. Neither did Isaac Tremble. I don’t know whether Frank Mayes was honest or not. The part I remember was that us boys stood on the block and never was parted from her. We had to leave our sisters [who were sold to other enslavers]…

All our family got together after we found out we had been freed…

The owners were pretty good to Mother to be slavery. She had clothes and enough to eat all the time…Mother was glad to be free but for a long time, her life was harder…  

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Joe MayesUnknown (Unknown)Irene RobertsonFrank Mayes, Isaac Trimble
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Madison, ARARKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Emancipation, Family, Sold