Sarah Frances Shaw Graves

Sarah Frances Shaw Graves’ enslaver moved her from Kentucky to Missouri at a young age.  In this excerpt, she gives details about what it’s like to be whipped by an enslaver.  She then tells a story of how she was blamed for something one of the enslaver’s children did, and was nearly whipped twice for this.
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Yes ma’am. Some masters were good and some were bad. My mama’s master whipped his slaves for pastime. My master was not so bad as some were to their slaves. I’ve had many a whipping, some I deserved, and some I got for being blamed for doing things the master’s children did. My master whipped his slaves with a cat-o’-nine-tails. He’d say to me, ’You ain’t had a currying down for some time. Come here!!!’ Then he whipped me with the cat. The cat was made of nine strips of leather fastened onto the end of a whip. Lots of times when he hit me, the cat left nine stripes of blood on my back. Yes ma’am . . .

. . . I belong to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and I ain’t never cussed but once in my life, and that was one time I nearly got two whippings for something I didn’t do. Some of the master’s kin folks had a wedding, and we walked to the church, and somebody kicked dust on the bride’s clothes, and I got blamed but I never kicked it. The master’s daughter Puss, she kicked it. Ole mistress she whipped me. Yes ma’am, she whipped me. It was the worst whipping I ever got. The worst whipping in my whole life, and I still got the marks on my body. Yes ma’am. I have them yet.  When the master came home, he was going to whip me again, and I got mad and told him it was a lie, and if Puss said I kicked dust on the white folks she was a DAMNED LYIN’ DEVIL. He took the switch and gave Puss a whipping for telling a lie. Yes ma’am. That’s the only time I ever cussed in my life.  Yes ma’am, and that’s about all I know about slavery and folks’ ways hereabouts. 

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Sarah Frances Shaw Graves1850 (87)UnknownJimmie Shaw
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Skidmore, MOMissouriLouisville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ViolenceFirst person, whipped