Jenny McKee

In this interview, the interviewer recounts the life of Jenny McKee in the third person, referring to her as “Aunt Jenny.”  In this excerpt, the interviewer documents how Jenny McKee was either sold or given away by her step-father to a Black woman, whose husband fought for the Union in the Civil War.   

*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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Excerpt:

 …During the [Civil] War, her mother died with cholera, and after the war, her step-father sold or gave her away to an old [redacted] lady by the name of Tillet, her husband was a captain from the 116th regiment from Manchester [the 116th United States Colored Infantry Regiment was made up of Black soldiers who served under white officers and fought for the Union during the Civil War].

They had no children and so Aunt Jenny was given or sold to Martha Tillet. Aunt Jenny still has the paper that was written with her adoption…the paper was exactly as written below:

White Ranch

September 10, 1866

To Whom it may concern, I, John Redman has this day given my consent that Mrs. Martha Tillet can have my child Jenny Redman to raise and own as her child, that I shall not claim and take her away at any time in the future.

  x

John Redman

his mark

She has a picture in her possession of Captain Tillet in war costume and with his old rifle. After the war the Tillets were sent back to Manchester where he was mustered out, Aunt Jenny being with them. “I stayed with them,” Aunt Jenny said, “until I was married Dec. 14, 1876, to David McKee another soldier of the 116th regiment”. She draws a pension now from his services…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Jenny McKeeUnknown (about 85)UnknownMartha Tillet
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Laurel County, KYKYTX
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Union TroopsFirst Person, Sold, Enslaver Father, Veteran or Widow

McKee_J_1

Nannie Eaves

The interviewer records this interview with Nannie Eaves in the first person.  Both Nannie Eaves and her husband Ben Eaves fathers were their enslavers. Their father’s were brothers, making Nannie and her husband first cousins.  In this excerpt, Nannie Eaves explains this relationship and how it impacted her life while enslaved.  Nannie Eaves also references her husband’s service during the Civil War and slave traders. 
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Excerpt:

…I guess I was about twenty one years old when I was freed. I was never once treated as a slave because my master was my very own Daddy. Ben Eaves, my husband, was a slave and child of George Eaves, my master’s brother. He ran away from his master and Daddy and joins the U.S. [Union] Army during the Secess War [the Civil War] and is now drawing a pension from Uncle Sam. I’m sure glad that he had sense enough to go that way [since his pension provides her with money to survive]…

…We had two slave traders in this town. They were Judge Houston and his son-in-law, Dr. Brady. They gathered up all the slaves that were unruly or that people wanted to trade and housed them in an old barn until they had enough to take to New Orleans on a boat. They traded them down there for work in the cotton fields. 


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Nannie EavesUnknown (91)UnknownWilliam Eaves
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
KYKYKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Slave TradersMcLean County, First Person, Dialect, Enslaver Father, Slave Traders, Veteran or Widow

Eaves_N_1

Easter Sudie Campbell

Easter Sudie Campbell was born near the end of the Civil War.  She describes her many experiences as a free midwife in Kentucky.  Here, she describes several experiences she has had supporting women during pregnancy and while giving birth.
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Excerpt:

When I go on a baby case, I just let nature have its way. I always test the baby, the first thing I do is blow my breath in the baby’s mouth. I spank it just a little so it will cry and I give it warm catnip tea so if it is going to have the hives they will break out on it. I always have my own catnip and sheep balls, for some cases need one kind of tea and some another. I give sink field tea for the colic. It is just good for a young baby’s stomach. I have been granning for nigh under forty years and I only lost two babies that were born alive. One of these was the white man’s fault, this baby was born with the jaundice and I told this white man to go to the store and get me some calomel and he says, whoever heard of giving a baby such truck, and so that baby died.

Of course you can tell whether the baby is going to be a boy or girl before he is born. If the mother carries that child more on the left and high up, that baby will be a boy; and if she carries it more to the middle, that will be a girl. Mothers ought to be more careful while carrying their children not to get scared of anything, for they will sure mark their babies with terrible ugly things. I know once a young woman was expecting and she went blackberry hunting and a bull cow with long horns got after her and she was so scared that she threw her hands over her head.  And when that baby boy was born he had two nubs on his head just like horns beginning to grow. So I had her call her doctor and they cut them off. One white woman I waited on liked hot chocolate and she always wanted more, she never had enough of that stuff, and one day she spills some on her leg and it just splotched and burned her and when that gal was born, she had a big brown spot on her leg just like her mammy’s scar from the burn. Now you see, I know you can mark the babies.

There was a colored woman once I waited on that had to help the white folks kill hogs and she never did like hog liver but the white folks told her to take one home and fix it for her supper. Well, she picked that thing up and started off with it and it made her feel creepy all over.  And that night her baby was born, a gal child, and the print of a big hog-liver was standing out all over one side of her face.  That side of her face is all blue and purplish and just the shape of a liver. And it’s still there.

I grannied over three hundred children and I know what I’m talking about.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Easter Sudie CampbellUnknown (72)Mamie HanberryWill Grooms
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Christian County, KYKentuckyKentucky
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Gender/Gender roles, Family, EqualityFirst Person, Dialect, Enslaver Father

Campbell_E_1

Easter Sudie Campbell

Easter Sudie Campbell was born near the end of the Civil War.  She describes her many experiences as a free midwife in Kentucky.  Here, she discusses her belief in ghosts and specific experiences she has had.

*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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Excerpt:

Sure there are ghosts. One night as I was going home from work, the tallest man I ever saw followed me with the prettiest white shirt on, and then he passed me and waited at the corner.  I was feeling creepy and wanted to run but just couldn’t get my legs to move. When I got to the corner where he was, I said ‘Good Evening’ and I saw him plain as day and he did not speak and just disappeared right before my eyes.

…Once I had a dream, I knew I near about saw it. I always did cook every night a pot of beans on the fire for the children to eat next day while I was at work, and Lizzie, my daughter, used to get up in the night and get her some beans and eat them.  And this dream was so real that I couldn’t tell if it was Lizzie or not, but this woman just glided by my bed and went afore the fire and stood there, then she just went twixt my bed and went by the wall. I just knew when I woke up that my child was sick that lived away from home and wanted my son to take me to see her. He said he would go himself and see, so he went, and when he came back he had a headache, and afore morning that [redacted] was dead. So you see, that was the sign of the dream. I was just warned in the dream and didn’t have sense enough to know it.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Easter Sudie CampbellUnknown (72)Mamie HanberryWill Grooms
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Christian County, KYKentuckyKentucky
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ReligionFirst Person, Dialect, Enslaver Father

Campbell_E_2

Edd Shirley

Edd Shirley was enslaved and sold to several enslavers in his life.  In the excerpt below, he describes the different treatment the enslaved were given based on their masters.  Specifically, he recalls several examples of violence against the enslaved.

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [people].  See more information.
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Excerpt:

I am 97 years old and am still working as a janitor and supporting my family. My father was a white man and my mother was a colored lady. I was owned three different times, or rather was sold to three different families. I was first owned by the Waldens; then I was sold to a man by the name of Jackson, of Glasgow, Kentucky. Then my father, of this county, bought me.

I have had many slave experiences. Some slaves were treated good, and some were treated awful bad by the white people; but most of them were treated good if they would do what their master told them to do.

I once saw a light colored gal tied to the rafters of a barn, and her master whipped her until blood ran down her back and made a large pool on the ground. And I have seen n***o men tied to stakes drove in the ground and whipped because they would not mind their master; but most white folks were better to their slaves and treated them better than they are now. After their work in the fields was finished on Saturday, they would have parties and have a good time. Some old n***o man would play the banjo while the young people would dance and sing. The white folks would set around and watch; and would sometimes join in and dance and sing.

My colored grandfather lived to be 115 years old, and at that age he was never sick in his life. One day he picked up the water bucket to go to the spring, and as he was on his way back he dropped dead.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Edd ShirleyUnknown (97)Lenneth JonesWalden
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Monroe County, KYKentuckyunknown
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ViolenceFirst person, witnessed extreme cruelty, sold (self or family), enslaver father

Shirley_E_1

Amy Elizabeth Patterson

Amy Elizabeth Patterson was born into enslavement, where her mother served as a personal maid and wet nurse for the enslaver’s children.  This third person narrative retells Patterson’s experiences as the daughter of an enslaver’s maid, as well as her mother’s experiences giving birth to and raising children for her enslavers.
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Excerpt:

Louisa Street, the mother of Amy Elizabeth Patterson, was a housemaid at the Street home and her firstborn daughter was fair with gold-brown hair and amber eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Street always promised Louisa they would never sell her as they did not want to part with the child, so Louisa was given a small cabin near the master’s house. The mistress had a child near the age of the little mulatto and Louisa was a wet nurse for both children as well as a maid to Mrs. Street. Two years after the birth of Amy Elizabeth, Louisa became the mother of twin daughters, Fannie and Martha Street, then John Street decided to sell all his slaves as he contemplated moving into another territory.

The slaves were auctioned to the highest bidder and Louisa and the twins were bought by a man living near Cadiz but Mr. Street refused to sell Amy Elizabeth. She showed promise of growing into an excellent housemaid and seamstress and was already a splendid playmate and nurse to the little Street boy and girl. So Louisa lost her child but such grief was shown by both mother and child that the mother was unable to perform her tasks and the child cried continually. Then Mr. Street consented to sell the little girl to the mother’s new master.

Louisa Street became the mother of seventeen children. Three were almost white. Amy Elizabeth was the daughter of John Street and half-sister of his children by his lawful wife. Mrs. Street knew the facts and respected Louisa and her child and, says grandmother Patterson, “That was the greatest crime ever visited on the United States. It was worse than the cruelty of the overseers, worse than hunger, for many slaves were well fed and well cared for; but when a father can sell his own child, humiliate his own daughter by auctioning her on the slave block, what good could be expected where such practices were allowed?”


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Amy Elizabeth Patterson1850 (87)Lauana CreelJohn Street
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Vanderburgh County, INIndianaKentucky
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Gender/gender roles, familyThird person, Sold (self or family), Enslaver father, slave traders

Patterson_A_1

George Fordman

Enslaved from birth, George Fordman was not Black, but part indigenous and part white.  George Fordman explains to his interviewer how he came to be enslaved in a tragic history that begins with White people forcibly driving his indigenous ancestors from their home in Indiana in 1838.  After his ancestors walked all the way to Alabama, the George family “automatically” enslaved them, even though they were not Black.  

In the full interview (see link below) George Fordman describes the “dark trail” of his childhood, in which the reader learns that George Fordman’s enslaver was his father and his grandfather.  

In this first person excerpt, the interviewer records George Fordman’s description of the funeral of Mistress Hester Lam, who had enslaved George Fordman and his family.  Mistress Hester Lam emancipated the family five years before the Civil War. Due to the incestuous rape committed by her son, Hester Lam was George Fordman’s paternal grandmother and great-grandmother. 
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Excerpt:

… It was customary to conduct a funeral differently than it is conducted now, he said. I remember I was only six years old when old Mistress Hester Lam  passed on to her eternal rest. She was kept out of her grave several days in order to allow time for the relatives, friends and ex-slaves to be notified of her death.

The house and yard were full of grieving friends. Finally the lengthy procession started to the graveyard. Within the Georges’ parlors there had been Bible passages read, prayers offered up and hymns sung, now the casket was placed in a wagon drawn by two horses. The casket was covered with flowers while the family and friends rode in ox carts, horse-drawn wagons, horseback, and with still many on foot they made their way towards the river.

When we reached the river there were many canoes busy putting the people across, besides the ferry boat was in use to ferry vehicles over the stream. The ex-slaves were crying and praying and telling how good granny had been to all of them and explaining how they knew she had gone straight to Heaven, because she was so kind—and a Christian. There were not nearly enough boats to take the crowd across if they crossed back and forth all day, so my mother, Eliza, improvised a boat or ‘gunnel’, as the craft was called, by placing a wooden soap box on top of a long pole, then she pulled off her shoes and, taking two of us small children in her arms, she paddled with her feet and put us safely across the stream…

At the burying ground a great crowd had assembled from the neighborhood across the river and there were more songs and prayers and much weeping. The casket was let down into the grave without the lid being put on and everybody walked up and looked into the grave at the face of the dead woman. They called it the ‘last look’ and everybody dropped flowers on Mistress Hester as they passed by. A man then went down and nailed on the lid and the earth was thrown in with shovels. The ex-slaves filled in the grave, taking turns with the shovel. Some of the men had worked at the smelting furnaces so long that their hands were twisted and hardened from contact with the heat. Their shoulders were warped and their bodies twisted but they were strong as iron men from their years of toil. When the funeral was over mother put us across the river on the gunnel and we went home, all missing Mistress Hester.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
George FordmanUnknown (Unknown)Lauana CreelFord George
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Evansville, ININAL or KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, FuneralTrigg County, First Person, Enslaver Father, Notable

Fordman_G_3

George Fordman

Enslaved from birth, George Fordman was not Black, but part indigenous and part white.  George Fordman explains to his interviewer how he came to be enslaved in a tragic history that begins with White people forcibly driving his indigenous ancestors from their home in Indiana in 1838.  After his ancestors walked all the way to Alabama, the George family “automatically” enslaved them, even though they were not Black.  

In the full interview (see link below) George Fordman describes the “dark trail” of his childhood, in which the reader learns that George Fordman’s enslaver was his father and his grandfather.  

In this first person excerpt, the interviewer records how George Fordman was emancipated and how he came to be called George Fordman. 
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Excerpt:

Note: Mistress Lorainne enslaved George Fordsman.  Her husband was Ford George, who was dead at the time of the events described.  Ford George incestuously raped Eliza, an enslaved person who was also Ford George’s daughter. The person being interviewed is the child of Eliza and Ford George.    

… [Ford George’s mother] named me Ford George, in derision, but remained my friend. She was never angry with my mother. She knew a slave had to submit to her master and besides Eliza did not know she was Master Ford George’s daughter.

… Five years before the outbreak of the Civil War [the enslaver] Mistress Hester called all the slaves together and gave us our freedom….

[George Fordman’s grandmother continued to work for the George family, and George Fordman remained on the George plantation. Several years later, when the Civil War was over,] the Freedmen started teaching school in Kentucky the census taker called to enlist me as a pupil. ‘What do you call this child?’ he asked Mistress Lorainne. ‘We call him the Little Captain because he carried himself like a soldier,’ said Mistress Lorainne. ‘He is the son of my husband and a slave woman but we are rearing him.’ Mistress Lorainne told the stranger that I had been named Ford George in derision and he suggested she list me in the census as George Fordsman, which she did, but she never allowed me to attend the Freedmen’s School, desiring to keep me with her own children and let me be taught at home. My mother [Eliza]’s half brother, Patent George allowed his name to be reversed to George Patent when he enlisted in the Union Service at the outbreak of the Civil War.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
George FordmanUnknown (Unknown)Lauana CreelFord George
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Evansville, ININAL or KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Education, Emancipation, Family, ViolenceTrigg County, First Person, Enslaver Father, Notable

Fordman_G_2

George Fordman

Enslaved from birth, George Fordman was not Black, but part indigenous and part white.  George Fordman explains to his interviewer how he came to be enslaved in a tragic history that begins with White people forcibly driving his indigenous ancestors from their home in Indiana in 1838.  After his ancestors walked all the way to Alabama, the George family “automatically” enslaved them, even though they were not Black.    In this excerpt the interviewer recounts the words of George Fordman as he describes the “dark trail” of his childhood, in which the reader learns that George Fordman’s enslaver was his father and his grandfather.  At several points in the interview, the interviewer inserts their own narrative and conclusions. 

Teachers may need to warn students before reading that this excerpt refers to an enslaver incestuously raping an enslaved person.  The excerpt also references an enslaver’s death.  
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Excerpt:

…As Eliza George, daughter of [enslaver] Ford George and [indigneous enslaved person] Courtney Hawk, grew into young womanhood the young master Ford George went more often to social functions. He was admired for his skill with firearms and for his horsemanship. While Courtney and his child remained at the plantation Ford enjoyed the companionship of the beautiful women of the vicinity. At last he brought home the beautiful Loraine, his young bride. Courtney was stoical as only an Indian can be. She showed no hurt but helped Mistress Hester and Mistress Loraine with the housework.

Here George Fortman paused to let his blinded eyes look back into the long ago. Then he again continued with his story of the dark trail.

Mistress Loraine became mother of two sons and a daughter and the big white two-story house… [in Kentucky] became a place of laughter and happy occasions, so my mother told me many times.

Suddenly sorrow settled down over the home and the laughter turned into wailing, for Ford George’s body was found pierced through the heart and the… [half white, half indigenous] Eliza, was nowhere to be found.

The young master’s body lay in state for many days. Friends and neighbors came bringing flowers. His mother, bowed with grief, looked on the still face of her son and understood—understood why death had come and why Eliza had gone away.

The beautiful home on the Cumberland river with its more than 600 acres of productive land was put into the hands of an administrator of estates to be readjusted in the interest of the George heirs. It was only then Mistress Hester went to Aunt Lucy and demanded of her to tell where Eliza could be found.

‘She has gone to Alabama, Ole Mistus’, said Aunt Lucy, ‘Eliza was scared to stay here.’ A party of searchers were sent out to look for Eliza. They found her secreted in a canebrake in the lowlands of Alabama nursing her baby boy at her breast. They took Eliza and the baby back to Kentucky. I am that baby, that child of unsatisfactory birth.

The face of George Fortman registered sorrow and pain, it had been hard for him to retell the story of the dark road to strange ears.

My white uncles had told Mistress Hester that if Eliza brought me back they were going to build a fire and put me in it, my birth was so unsatisfactory to all of them, but Mistress Hester always did what she believed was right and I was brought up by my own mother.

We lived in a cabin at the slave quarters and mother worked in the broom cane. Mistress Hester named me Ford George, in derision, but remained my friend. She was never angry with my mother. She knew a slave had to submit to her master and besides Eliza did not know she was Master Ford George’s daughter..

[The following is the conclusion of the interviewer:] The truth had been told at last. The master was both the father of Eliza and the father of Eliza’s son…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
George FordmanUnknown (Unknown)Lauana CreelFord George
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Evansville, ININAL or KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, Violence, Resistance, EscapeTrigg County, First Person, Enslaver Father, Notable

Fordman_G_1

Celia Henderson

Celia Henderson moved from Louisville, Kentucky to Natchez, Mississippi when her enslaved mother was sold to pay off the enslaver’s debt.  In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Celia Henderson’s memories about religion in the first person.  

*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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Excerpt:

…Never no church for colored people does I remember in Natchez. One time There was a drought, and the water we hauled from way over to the river. Now that was down right work, hauling that water. There was an old man, he was powerful in prayer, and gathered the darkies under a big tree, and we all kneeled down while he prayed for the poor beasts what needs good clean water for to drink. That was a pretty sight, that church meeting under the big tree. I always remember that, and how that day he found a spring with his old cane, just like a miracle after prayer. It was a pretty sight to see my cows and all the cattle trotting for that water. The men dug out a round pond for the water to run up into, out of the spring, and it was good water that wouldn’t make the beasts sick, and we-all was sure happy.

…I was baptized by a white minister in Louisville, and I’ve been a Baptist for sixty years now. Yes ma’am. There are plenty of colored churches in Louisville now, but when I was young, the white folks had to see to it that we [enslaved people] were Baptised and knew Bible verses and hymns. There weren’t smart [redacted] preachers like Reverend Williams … and there ain’t so many now…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Celia Henderson Unknown (Unknown)Miriam LoganGrohagen
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Lebanon, OHOHHardin County, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ReligionHardin County, First Person, Dialect, Enslaver Father, Slave Traders

Henderson_C_2