Parthena Rollins

In this interview, which the interviewer records in the third person, Parthena Rollins recounts numerous stories of enslavers brutally murdering enslaved people.  Teachers should note this excerpt contains imagery of brutal violence, and may not be suitable for some students. 

*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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…Mrs. Parthena Rollins was born in Scott County, Kentucky, in 1853, a slave of Ed Duvalle, who was always very kind to all of his slaves, never whipping any of the adults, but often whipped the children to correct them, never beating them. They all had to work, but never overworked, and always had plenty to eat.

She remembers so many slaves, who were not as fortunate as they were.

Once when the “[redacted] traders” came through, there was a girl, the mother of a young baby; the traders wanted the girl, but would not buy her because she had the child. Her owner took her away, took the baby from her, and beat it to death right before the mother’s eyes, then brought the girl back to the sale without the baby, and she was bought immediately.

Her new master was so pleased to get such a strong girl who could work so well and so fast.

The thoughts of the cruel way of putting her baby to death preyed on her mind to such an extent, she developed epilepsy. This angered her new master, and he sent her back to her old master and forced him to refund the money he had paid for her.

Another slave had displeased his master for some reason, he was taken to the barn and killed and was buried right in the barn. No one knew of this until they were set free, as the slaves who knew about it were afraid to tell for fear of the same fate befalling on them.

Parthena also remembers slaves being beaten until their backs were blistered. The overseers would then open the blisters and sprinkle salt and pepper in the open blisters, so their backs would smart and hurt all the more.

Many times, slaves would be beaten to death, thrown into sinkholes, and left for the buzzards to swarm and feast on their bodies.

So many of the slaves she knew were half-fed and half-clothed, and treated so cruelly, that it “would make your hair stand on ends.”…

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Parthena Rollins1853 (84)Anna PritchettEd Duvalle
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Marion County, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ViolenceScott County, Third Person, Whipped, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Slave Traders


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