John Rudd

John Rudd lived with his mother and brothers on a plantation in Kentucky.  John’s enslaver sold one of his brothers, byt John, his mother and other siblings stayed together after the enslaver sold them all when he was a child.  In this excerpt, he describes the barrel used to tie the enslaved to in order to whip them, and a grisly example of several enslaved persons getting badly whipped.  One of them was a good friend of his, who then ran away and was found 3 days later hanging inside a barn, possibly a suicide.

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].  See more information.
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John had only been at the Moore home a few months when he witnessed several slaves being badly beaten. Henry Moore kept a white overseer and several white men were employed to whip slaves. A large barrel stood near the slave quarters and the little boy discovered that the barrel was a whipping post. The slaves would be strapped across the side of the barrel and two strong men would wield the cat of nine tails until blood flowed from gashed flesh, and the cries and prayers of the unfortunate culprits availed them nothing until the strength of the floggers became exhausted.

One day, when several Negroes had just recovered from an unusual amount of chastisement, the little Negro, John Rudd, was playing in the front yard of the Moore’s house when he heard a soft voice calling him. He knew the voice belonged to Shell Moore, one of his best friends at the Moore estate. Shell had been among those severely beaten and little John had been grieving over his misfortunes. 

“Shell had been in the habit of whittling out whistles for me and petting of me”, said the now aged negro. “I went to see what he wanted with me and he said ‘Goodbye Johnnie, you’ll never see Shellie alive after today.’” Shell made his way toward the cornfield but the little [redacted] boy, watching him go, did not realize what situation confronted him. That night the master announced that Shell had run away again and the slaves were started searching fields and woods but Shell’s body was found three days later by Rhoder McQuirk, dangling from a rafter of Moore’s corn crib where the unhappy [redacted] had hanged himself with a leather halter.

“Shell was a splendid worker and was well worth a thousand dollars. If he had been fairly treated he would have been happy and glad to repay kindness by toil. Master Henry would have been better to all of us, only Mistress Jane was always riling him up”, declared John Rudd as he sat in his rocking chair under a shade tree.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
John Rudd1854 (83)Lauana CreelBenjamin SimmsHenry and Jane Moore
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Evansville, INIndianaSpringfield, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, violenceThird person, witnessed extreme cruelty, whipped


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