Sophia Word

Sophia word spent the first nearly 20 years of her life enslaved.  In this excerpt, she tells several stories of extreme cruelty and their results.  The first is an example of her being whipped for trying to take food from the kitchen of her enslaver.  The next set of stories describes the cruelty of a neighboring enslaver and the suicides of the enslaved that resulted from this treatment.
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The mistress had an old parrot and one day I was in the kitchen making cookies. I decided I wanted some of them, so I took me out some and put them on a chair, and when I did this the mistress entered the door.  I picked up a cushion and threw it over the pile of cookies on the chair. Mistress came near the chair and the old parrot cries out, ‘Mistress burn, Mistress burn’, then the mistress looked under the cushion and she had me whipped.  But the next day I killed the parrot, and she often wondered who or what killed the bird.

My master wasn’t as mean as most masters. Hugh White was so mean to his slaves, that I know of two gals that killed themselves. One n***** gal, Sudie, was found across the bed with a pen knife in her hand. He whipped another N***** gal most to death for forgetting to put onions in the stew. The next day she went down to the river and for nine days they searched for her and her body finally washed upon the shore. The master could never live in that house again as when he would go to sleep he would see the n***** standing over his bed. Then he moved to Richmond and there he stayed until a little later when he hung himself.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Sophia Word1937 (99)Pearl HouseWilliam Reid
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Clay County, KYKentuckyUnknown
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, violenceFirst person, dialect, witnessed extreme cruelty