Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed.  He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil War.  After the Civil War, Barney Stone was a self-taught teacher at a Black school and then became a preacher.  The interviewer notes that Barney Stone had a “remarkable memory,” which is evident in the excerpt below where Barney Stone recounts multiple examples of his enslaver’s brutal treatment of enslaved people. In this excerpt, Barney Stone recounts how his enslaver sold his sister, mother and brother.  The excerpt ends with Barney Stone  reuniting with his mother and brother. 

*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:

…Master would never sell me because I was regarded as the best young slave on the plantation. Different from many other slaves, I was kept on the plantation from the day I was born until the day I ran away…

Many times, as I have said before, our treatment on our plantation was horrible. When I was just a small boy, I witnessed my sister sold and taken away. One day one of the horses came into the barn and master noticed that she was crippled. He flew into a rage and thought I had hurt the horse, either that, or that I knew who did it. I told him that I did not do it and he demanded that I tell him who did it, if I didn’t. I did not know and when I told him so, he secured a whip tied me to a post and whipped me until I was covered with blood. I begged him, “Master, master, please don’t whip me, I do not know who did it.” He then took out his pocket knife and I would have been killed if Missus (his dear wife) had not made him quit. She untied me and cared for me.

Many has been the time, I have seen my mammy beaten mercilessly and for no good reason. One day, not long before the out-break of the Civil War, a [redacted] buyer came and I witnessed my dear Mammy and my one year old baby brother, sold. I saw her taken away, never to see her again until I found her twenty-seven years later at Clarksburg, Tennessee. My baby brother was with her, but I did not know him until Mammy told me who he was, he had grown into a large man. That was a happy meeting. After those experiences of sixteen long years in Hell, as a slave, I was very bitter against the white man, until after I ran away and joined the Union army.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Barney Stone1847 (91)Robert C. IrvinLemuel Stone
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Noblesville, INKYKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, Violence, Escape, ResistanceFirst Person, Third Person, Whipped, Witness Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Slave Traders, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow, Notable, Spencer County

Stone_B_3

Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed.  He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil War.  After the Civil War, Barney Stone was a self-taught teacher at a Black school and then became a preacher.  The interviewer notes that Barney Stone had a “remarkable memory,” which is evident in the excerpt below where Barney Stone explains the practice of buying and selling enslaved people. 

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].  See more information.
See full document • Visit the Library of Congress to see the original document

Excerpt:

My master was a hard man when he was angry, drinking, or not feeling well, then at times he was kind to us. I was compelled to pick cotton and do other work when I was a very small boy. Master would never sell me because I was regarded as the best young slave on the plantation. Different from many other slaves, I was kept on the plantation from the day I was born until the day I ran away.

Slaves were sold in two ways, sometimes at private sale to a man who went about the Southland buying slaves until he has many in his possession, then he would have a big auction sale and would re-sell them to the highest bidder, much in the same manner as our live-stock [farm animals] are sold now in auction sales… He came to the plantation with a doctor. He would point out two or three slaves which looked good to him and which could be spared by the owner, and would have the doctor examine the slave’s heart. If the doctor pronounced the slave as sound, then the [redacted] buyer would make an offer to the owner and if the amount was satisfactory, the slave was sold. Some large plantation owners, having a large number of slaves, would hold a public auction and dispose of some of them, then he would attend another sale and buy new slaves, this was done sometimes to get better slaves and sometimes to make money on the sale of them.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Barney Stone1847 (91)Robert C. IrvinLemuel Stone
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Noblesville, INKYKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
EconomicsFirst Person, Third Person, Whipped, Witness Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Slave Traders, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow, Notable, Spencer County

Stone_B_2

Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed.  He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil War.  After the Civil War, Barney Stone was a self-taught teacher at a Black school and then became a preacher.  Earlier in the interview, Barney Stone explains how he witnessed his enslaver sell his sister, mother and brother.  He also recounts how his enslaver brutally whipped him, and other examples of cruelty towards enslaved people.  In this excerpt, Barney Stone explains how he joined the Union Army and his experience during 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.
See full document • Visit the Library of Congress to see the original document

Source Description:

… After those experiences of sixteen long years in Hell, as a slave, I was very bitter against the white man, until after I ran away and joined the Union army.

At the out-break of the Civil War and when the Northern [Union] army was marching into the Southland, hundreds of male slaves were shot down by the Rebels [Confederates], rather than see them join with the Yankees [Union soldiers]. One day when I learned that the Northern troops were very close to our plantation, I ran away and hid in a culvert [tunnel for water], but was found and I would have been shot – had the Yankee troops not scattered them – and that saved me. I joined the Union army and served one year, eight months and twenty-two days, and fought with them in the battle of Fort Wagnor, and also in the battle of Milikin’s Bend. When I went into the army, I could not read or write. The white soldiers took an interest in me and taught me to write and read, and when the war was over I could write a very good letter. I taught what little I knew to [redacted] children after the War…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Barney Stone1847 (91)Robert C. IrvinLemuel Stone
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Noblesville, INKYKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Literacy, EducationFirst Person, Third Person, Whipped, Witness Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Slave Traders, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow, Notable, Spencer County

Stone_B_1

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviews in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the Federal Writers’ Project that employed Black workers.   

Interviewer Martin Richardson’s introduction notes that he is recording, “Verbatim Interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year-old ex-slave whose early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River, while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he puts it, he guesses he could be called a ‘conductor’ on the underground railway.”  In this first person excerpt, Martin Richardson recounts Arnold Gragston’s account of how he became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. 
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Excerpt:

…Most of the slaves didn’t know when they was born, but I did. You see, I was born on a Christmas morning–it was in 1840; I was a full grown man when I finally got my freedom.

Before I got it, though, I helped a lot of others get theirs. Lord only knows how many; might have been as much as two-three hundred. It was way more than a hundred, I know…

It was because he [Mr. Tabb, the man who enslaved Arnold Gragston] used to let me go around in the day and night so much that I came to be the one who carried the running away slaves over the river. It was funny the way I started it too.

I didn’t have no idea of ever getting mixed up in any sort of business like that until one special night. I hadn’t even thought of rowing across the river myself.

But one night I had gone on another plantation courting, and the old woman whose house I went to told me she had a real pretty girl there who wanted to go across the river and would I take her? I was scared and

backed out in a hurry. But then I saw the girl, and she was such a pretty little thing, brown-skinned and kinda rosy, and looking as scared as I was feeling, so it wasn’t long before I was listening to the old woman tell me when to take her and where to leave her on the other side.

I didn’t have nerve enough to do it that night, though, and I told them to wait for me until tomorrow night. All the next day I kept seeing Mister Tabb laying a rawhide across my back, or shooting me, and kept seeing that scared little brown girl back at the house, looking at me with her big eyes and asking me if I wouldn’t just row her across to Ripley. Me and Mr. Tabb lost, and soon as dust settled that night, I was at the old lady’s house.

I don’t know how I ever rowed the boat across the river the current was strong and I was trembling. I couldn’t see a thing there in the dark, but I felt that girl’s eyes. We didn’t dare to whisper, so I couldn’t tell her how sure I was that Mr. Tabb or some of the others owners would tear me up when they found out what I had done. I just knew they would find out.

I was worried, too, about where to put her out of the boat. I couldn’t ride her across the river all night, and I didn’t know a thing about the other side. I had heard a lot about it from other slaves but I thought it was just about like Mason County, with slaves and masters, overseers and rawhides; and so, I just knew that if I pulled the boat up and went to asking people where to take her I would get a beating or get killed.

I don’t know whether it seemed like a long time or a short time, now–it’s so long ago; I know it was a long time rowing there in the cold and worrying. But it was short, too, ’cause as soon as I did get on the other side the big-eyed, brown-skin girl would be gone. Well, pretty soon I saw a tall light and I remembered what the old lady had told me about looking for that light and rowing to it. I did; and when I got up to it, two men reached down and grabbed her; I started trembling all over again, and praying. Then, one of the men took my arm and I just felt down inside of me that the Lord had got ready for me. ‘You hungry, Boy?’ is what he asked me, and if he hadn’t been holding me I think I would have fallen backward into the river.

That was my first trip; it took me a long time to get over my scared feeling, but I finally did, and I soon found myself going back across the river, with two and three people, and sometimes a whole boatload. I got so I used to make three and four trips a month…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Arnold Gragston1840 (97)Martin RichardsonJack Tabb
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Eddy, FLFLKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Underground Railroad, Conductor of Underground Railroad, Escape, ResistanceFirst Person, Dialect, Whipped, Slave Patrollers, Notable, Mason County

Gragston_A_3

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviews in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the Federal Writers’ Project that employed Black workers.   

Interviewer Martin Richardson’s introduction notes that he is recording, “Verbatim Interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year-old ex-slave whose early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River, while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he puts it, he guesses he could be called a ‘conductor’ on the underground railway.”  Arnold Gragston estimated that he rowed two or three hundred enslaved people to freedom.  In this excerpt, Arnold Gragston describes how his enslaver treated enslaved people, describing education and marriage practices. 
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Excerpt:

…Mr. Tabb [Arnold Gragston’s enslaver] was a pretty good man. He used to beat us, sure; but not nearly so much as others did, some of his own kin people, even. But he was kinda funny sometimes; he used to have a special slave who didn’t have nothing to do but teach the rest of us–we had about ten on the plantation, and a lot on the other plantations near us–how to read and write and figure. Mr. Tabb liked us to know how to figure. But sometimes when he would send for us and we would be a long time coming, he would ask us where we had been. If we told him we had been learning to read, he would near beat the daylights out of us–after getting somebody to teach us; I think he did some of that so that the other owners wouldn’t say he was spoiling his slaves.

He was funny about us marrying, too. He would let us go a-courting on the other plantations near anytime we liked, if we were good, and if we found somebody we wanted to marry, and she was on a plantation that

belonged to one of his kin folks or a friend, he would swap a slave so that the husband and wife could be together. Sometimes, when he couldn’t do this, he would let a slave work all day on his plantation, and live with his wife at night on her plantation. Some of the other owners was always talking about his spoiling us…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Arnold Gragston1840 (97)Martin RichardsonJack Tabb
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Eddy, FLFLKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Underground Railroad, Conductor of Underground Railroad, Education, Marriage, Family, ViolenceFirst Person, Dialect, Whipped, Slave Patrollers, Notable, Mason County

Gragston_A_2

Arnold Gragston

Unlike most of the interviewers in this collection, the interviewer Martin Richardson was part of the Negro Writers’ Unit in Florida, a subgroup of the Federal Writers’ Project that employed Black workers.   

Interviewer Martin Richardson’s introduction notes that he is recording a, “Verbatim Interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year-old ex-slave whose early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River, while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he puts it, he guesses he could be called a ‘conductor’ on the underground railway…”  

The majority of this remarkable interview is included below as it offers a rare, rich, personal account of a conductor on the Underground Railroad.  This account is accessible to students and documents Arnold Gragston’s actions and also his motivations.  Martin Richardson recounts in the first person Arnold Gragston’s experience as an enslaved person, how he became a conductor, the process of escaping, the attitudes of multiple White enslavers, and finally Arnold Gragston’s own escape.  
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Excerpt:

…Most of the slaves didn’t know when they was born, but I did. You see, I was born on a Christmas morning–it was in 1840; I was a full grown man when I finally got my freedom.

Before I got it, though, I helped a lot of others get theirs. Lord only knows how many; might have been as much as two-three hundred. It was way more than a hundred, I know…

…Mr. Tabb [who enslaved Arnold Gragston] was a pretty good man. He used to beat us, sure; but not nearly so much as others did, some of his own kin people, even. But he was kinda funny sometimes; he used to have a special slave who didn’t have nothing to do but teach the rest of us–we had about ten on the plantation, and a lot on the other plantations near us–how to read and write and figure. Mr. Tabb liked us to know how to figure. But sometimes when he would send for us and we would be a long time coming, he would ask us where we had been. If we told him we had been learning to read, he would near beat the daylights out of us–after getting somebody to teach us; I think he did some of that so that the other owners wouldn’t say he was spoiling his slaves.

He was funny about us marrying, too. He would let us go a-courting on the other plantations near anytime we liked, if we were good, and if we found somebody we wanted to marry, and she was on a plantation that belonged to one of his kin folks or a friend, he would swap a slave so that the husband and wife could be together. Sometimes, when he couldn’t do this, he would let a slave work all day on his plantation, and live with his wife at night on her plantation. Some of the other owners was always talking about his spoiling us.

He wasn’t a Democrat like the rest of them in the county; he belonged to the ‘know-nothin’ party and he was a real leader in it. He used to always be making speeches, and sometimes his best friends wouldn’t be speaking to him for days at a time.

Mr. Tabb was always especially good to me. He used to let me go all about–I guess he had to; couldn’t get too much work out of me even when he kept me right under his eyes. I learned fast, too, and I think he kinda liked that..’

It was because he used to let me go around in the day and night so much that I came to be the one who carried the running away slaves over the river. It was funny the way I started it too.

I didn’t have no idea of ever getting mixed up in any sort of business like that until one special night. I hadn’t even thought of rowing across the river myself.

But one night I had gone on another plantation courting, and the old woman whose house I went to told me she had a real pretty girl there who wanted to go across the river and would I take her? I was scared and backed out in a hurry. But then I saw the girl, and she was such a pretty little thing, brown-skinned and kinda rosy, and looking as scared as I was feeling, so it wasn’t long before I was listening to the old woman tell me when to take her and where to leave her on the other side.

I didn’t have nerve enough to do it that night, though, and I told them to wait for me until tomorrow night. All the next day I kept seeing Mister Tabb laying a rawhide across my back, or shooting me, and kept seeing that scared little brown girl back at the house, looking at me with her big eyes and asking me if I wouldn’t just row her across to Ripley. Me and Mr. Tabb lost, and soon as dust settled that night, I was at the old lady’s house.

I don’t know how I ever rowed the boat across the river the current was strong and I was trembling. I couldn’t see a thing there in the dark, but I felt that girl’s eyes. We didn’t dare to whisper, so I couldn’t tell her how sure I was that Mr. Tabb or some of the others owners would tear me up when they found out what I had done. I just knew they would find out.

I was worried, too, about where to put her out of the boat. I couldn’t ride her across the river all night, and I didn’t know a thing about the other side. I had heard a lot about it from other slaves but I thought it was just about like Mason County, with slaves and masters, overseers and rawhides; and so, I just knew that if I pulled the boat up and went to asking people where to take her I would get a beating or get killed.

I don’t know whether it seemed like a long time or a short time, now–it’s so long ago; I know it was a long time rowing there in the cold and worrying. But it was short, too, ’cause as soon as I did get on the other side the big-eyed, brown-skin girl would be gone. Well, pretty soon I saw a tall light and I remembered what the old lady had told me about looking for that light and rowing to it. I did; and when I got up to it, two men reached down and grabbed her; I started trembling all over again, and praying. Then, one of the men took my arm and I just felt down inside of me that the Lord had got ready for me. ‘You hungry, Boy?’ is what he asked me, and if he hadn’t been holding me I think I would have fallen backward into the river.

That was my first trip; it took me a long time to get over my scared feeling, but I finally did, and I soon found myself going back across the river, with two and three people, and sometimes a whole boatload. I got so I used to make three and four trips a month.

What did my passengers look like? I can’t tell you any more about it than you can, and you wasn’t there. After that first girl–no, I never did see her again–I never saw my passengers. I would have to be the black nights of the moon when I would carry them, and I would meet them out in the open or in a house without a single light. The only way I knew who they were was to ask them; What you say? And they would answer, Menare. I don’t know what that word meant–it came from the Bible. I only know that that was the password I used, and all of them I took over told it to me before I took them.

I guess you wonder what I did with them after I got them over the river. Well, there in Ripley was a man named Mr. Rankins; I think the rest of his name was John. He had a regular station there on his place for escaping slaves. You see, Ohio was a free state and once they got over the river from Kentucky or Virginia. Mr. Rankins could strut them all around town, and nobody would bother them. The only reason we used to land quietly at night was so that whoever brought them could go back for more, and because we had to be careful that none of the owners had followed us. Every once in a while they would follow a boat and catch their slaves back. Sometimes they would shoot at whoever was trying to save the poor devils.

Mr. Rankins had a regular station for the slaves. He had a big lighthouse in his yard, about thirty feet high and he kept it burning all night. It always meant freedom for slave if he could get to this light.

Sometimes Mr. Rankins would have twenty or thirty slaves that had run away on his place at the time. It must have cost him a whole lots to keep them and feed them, but I think some of his friends helped him.

Those who wanted to stay around that part of Ohio could stay, but didn’t many of them do it, because there was too much danger that you would be walking along free one night, feel a hand over your mouth, and be back across the river and in slavery again in the morning. And nobody in the world ever got a chance to know as much misery as a slave that had escaped and been caught.

So a whole lot of them went on North to other parts of Ohio, or to New York, Chicago or Canada; Canada was popular then because all of the slaves thought it was the last gate before you got all the way inside of heaven. I don’t think there was much chance for a slave to make a living in Canada, but didn’t many of them come back. They seem like they rather starve up there in the cold than to be back in slavery.

The Army soon started taking a lot of them, too. They could enlist in the Union Army and get good wages, more food than they ever had, and have all the little gals waving at them when they passed. Them blue uniforms was a nice change, too.

No, I never got anything from a single one of the people I carried over the river to freedom. I didn’t want anything; after had made a few trips I got to like it, and even though I could have been free any night myself, I figured I wasn’t getting along so bad so I would stay on Mr. Tabb’s place and help the others get free. I did it for four years.

I don’t know to this day how he never knew what I was doing; I used to take some awful chances, and he knew I must have been up to something; I wouldn’t do much work in the day, would never be in my house at night, and when he would happen to visit the plantation where I had said I was going I wouldn’t be there. Sometimes I think he did know and wanted me to get the slaves away that way so he wouldn’t have to cause hard feelings by freeing them.

I think Mr. Tabb used to talk a lot to Mr. John Fee; Mr. Fee was a man who lived in Kentucky, but Lord! how that man hated slavery! He used to always tell us (we never let our owners see us listening to him, though) that God didn’t intend for some men to be free and some men be in slavery. He used to talk to the owners, too, when they would listen to him, but mostly they hated the sight of John Fee.

In the night, though, he was a different man, for every slave who came through his place going across the river he had a good word, something to eat and some kind of rags, too, if it was cold. He always knew just what to tell you to do if anything went wrong, and sometimes I think he kept slaves there on his place till they could be rowed across the river. Helped us a lot.

I almost ran the business in the ground after I had been carrying the slaves across for nearly four years. It was in 1863, and one night I carried across about twelve on the same night. Somebody must have seen us, because they set out after me as soon as I stepped out of the boat back on the Kentucky side; from that time on they were after me. Sometimes they would almost catch me; I had to run away from Mr. Tabb’s plantation and live in the fields and in the woods. I didn’t know what a bed was from one week to another. I would sleep in a cornfield tonight, up in the branches of a tree tomorrow night, and buried in a haypile the next night; the River, where I had carried so many across myself, was no good to me; it was watched too close.

Finally, I saw that I could never do any more good in Mason County, so I decided to take my freedom, too. I had a wife by this time, and one night we quietly slipped across and headed for Mr. Rankin’s bell and light. It looked like we had to go almost to China to get across that river: I could hear the bell and see the light on Mr. Rankin’s place, but the harder I rowed, the farther away it got, and I knew if I didn’t make it I’d get killed. But finally, I pulled up by the lighthouse, and went on to my freedom–just a few months before all of the slaves got theirs. I didn’t stay in Ripley, though; I wasn’t taking no chances. I went on to Detroit and still live there with most of 10 children and 31 grandchildren.

The bigger ones don’t care so much about hearing it now, but the little ones never get tired of hearing how their grandpa brought Emancipation to loads of slaves he could touch and feel, but never could see…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Arnold Gragston1840 (97)Martin RichardsonJack Tabb
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Eddy, FLFLKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Underground Railroad, Conductor of Underground Railroad, Resistance, Education, Escape, Violence, MarriageFirst Person, Dialect, Whipped, Slave Patrollers, Notable, Mason County

Gragston_A_1

Armstead Barrett

The interviewer chose to record this interview as a first person narrative. In this excerpt, Armstead Barrett describes how his enslaver treated enslaved people.  Students may need help navigating the seeming inconsistencies in this excerpt, as Armstead Barrett states that the “master was good to us,” while also noting that his enslaver was making money selling enslaved people and did not provide enslaved people with basic necessities like clothing.  Armstead Barrett then goes on to recount how two enslaved people were brutally treated by an overseer, who they later killed.
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Excerpt:

…Old master had a doctor for us when we were sick. We were too valuable. Just like the fat beef, master was good to us. Master would go to other states and get men and women and child slaves and bring them back to sell, because he was a speculator [a person who bought and sold enslaved people to make money]. He’d make them wash up good and then sell them.

Most time we went naked. Just have on one shirt or no shirt at all…

I remember a owner had some slaves and the overseer had it in for two of them. He’d whip them near every day, and they did all they could to please him.  So one day he comes to the field and calls one of them slaves, and that slave drops his hoe and goes over and grabs that overseer. Then the other slave cut that overseer’s head right slap off and threw it down one of the rows. The owner he fools around and sells them two slaves for $800.00 each and that is all the punishment them two slaves ever got.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Armstead Barrett1847 (Unknown)UnknownStafford Barrett
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
TXTXHuntsville, TX
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Overseer, Resistance, Violence, EconomicsFirst Person, Dialect, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Slave Traders, 

Barrett_A_1

Annie B Boyd

Boyd_A_1

Interviewee Formerly enslaved personBirth Year (Age)InterviewerWPA VolunteerEnslaver’s Name
Annie B Boyd1851 (Unknown)Mamie HanberryCharles Cammack, Newton Catlett
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Christian County, KYKYGordonsville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Violence, ChildcareFirst Person, Dialect, Whipped, Sold, Hired Out, Christian County

Source Description:

In this first person narrative, Annie B Boyd describes how cruelly her enslavers treated her.  
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… My mother and I were put on the block in front of the Courthouse in Hopkinsville and sold to Mr. Newt. Catlett and we brought $500.00…[My enslavers] weren’t good to me. My master was a good man but my missus was no good woman. She used to box my ears, stick pins in me and tie me to the cedar chest and whoop me as long as she wanted. Oh, how I did hate that woman.

…I was a nurse in slave time and I carried the [enslaver’s] children all over the house and one day I had the children upstairs and my missus called me and I went to see what she wanted and while I was gone, the baby got hold of Indian Turnip [a plant that causes temporary health problems if eaten raw] and had bit it by the time I got back there. I called my missus and she came and made me eat the rest of the turnip and my face and all swelled up and my eyes were closed for days. After nursing the baby and tending to the other children all day and night, when I put the baby to bed, I had to knit two rounds every night and would be sleepy and my missus would reach over and jab a pin in me to keep me awake. Now that’s what I call a mean woman…

Albert Todd

In this first person narrative, Albert Todd describes the cruelty he witnessed and experienced as an enslaved person, including how his enslaver fed him only once a day and punished him for stealing food.  Albert Todd also recounts how he remained a slave for years after he was technically free.  

*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:

…Our missus was good to us, but one white man neighbor got a new set of [redacted] every year. He would say if they didn’t die, there wasn’t any good work left in them after they worked for him for a year. He always cut off one of their ears so if they ran away he’d know them.  

My clothes were a long shirt, made out of a meal sack. That’s all I wore in those days. I was a slave for three years after the others were freed because I didn’t know anything about being free. A Mrs.Gibbs got a hold of me and made me her slave. She was a cruel old woman and she didn’t have any mercy on me. She gave me one sausage and one biscuit in the morning and nothing else all day. One day she was gone and I stole some biscuits.  She comes back and says, ’Did you take them biscuits?’ She tells me if I tell the truth she won’t punish me, but she knocks me down and beats me till I don’t know anything. But after a while, her house burned and she burned up in it.  But before that, I was going to run away… 


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Albert ToddUnknown (Unknown)Unknown Capt. Hudson
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
San Antonio, TXTXRussellville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Hunger, ViolenceFirst Person, Dialect, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Logan County

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