Joseph Mosley

Joseph Mosley lived in enslavement from 1853 until Emancipation.  In this excerpt, he describes the conditions of working with no shoes, few clothes, and very little food.  He then describes his experience with Emancipation, which included being given his first pair of shoes.
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Joseph’s father was the shoemaker for all the farmhands and all adult workers. He would start in September making shoes for the year. First the shoes for the folks in the house, then the workers.

No slave child ever wore shoes, summer or winter.

The father, mother, and all the children were slaves in the same family, but not in the same house. Some with the daughters, some with the sons, and so on. No one brother or sister would be allowed to visit with the others.

After the death of Tim Moseley, little Joseph was given to a daughter. He was seven years old; he had to pick up chips, tend the cows, and do small jobs around the house; he wore no clothing except a shirt.

Little Joseph did not see his mother after he was taken to the home of the daughter until he was set free at the age of 13.

The master was very unkind to the slaves; they sometimes would have nothing to eat and would eat from the garbage.

On Christmas morning Joseph was told he could go see his mother; he did not know he was free, and couldn’t understand why he was given the first suit of clothes he had ever owned and a pair of shoes. He dressed in his new finery and was started out on his six-mile journey to his mother.

He was so proud of his new shoes; after he had gotten out of sight, he stopped and took his shoes off as he did not want them dirty before his mother had seen them, and walked the rest of the way in his bare feet.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Joseph Mosley1853Anna PritchettTim Mosley
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Indianapolis, INIndianaHopkinsville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, EmancipationFirst person