Billy Slaughter

The interviewer’s perspective and opinions are evident throughout this interview, including the interviewers use of a variety of derogatory terms to refer to Billy Slaughter.  Students should be reminded of the context of the WPA interviews, and consider the impact of the interviewer on the written interview.  In this excerpt, the interviewer records Billy Slaughter’s opinions about President Lincoln and 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:

…[Billy Slaughter’s] real hero was Abraham Lincoln. He plans another pilgrimage to the Lincoln Farm to look again at the cabin in which his Emancipator was born. He asked me if I read history very much. I assured him that I read it to some extent… In the beginning of the War, the Negroes who enlisted in the Union Army were given freedom, also the wives, and the children who were not married.

… Not all [redacted] who wanted to join the Union forces were able to do so because of the strict watchfulness of their masters. The slaves were made to fight in the southern [Confederate] army whether they wanted to or not. This lessened the number of free [redacted] in the Northern army. As a result, Lincoln decided to free all [redacted]… This was the [redacted] story of the conditions that brought about the Emancipation Proclamation. Freeing the [redacted] was brought about during the Civil War but it was not the reason that the war was fought, was the unusual opinion of this [redacted]… [Billy Slaughter’s father joined the Union Army.] Uncle Billy’s father and mother and their children who were not married were given freedom. The old slave has kept the papers that were drawn up for this act.

The [redacted] explained that the [redacted]soldiers never fought in any decisive battles. There must always be someone to clean and polish the harness, care for the horses, dig ditches, and construct parapets…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Billy Slaughter1858 (Unknown)Beulah Van MeterLincoln
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Jeffersonville, ININHodgenville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Lincoln, EmancipationThird Person, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow, 

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Bert Mayfield

The interviewer chose to record this interview with Bert Mayfield in the first person.  In the excerpt, Bert Mayfield tells the story of an enslaved person who escaped, but was later enslaved again.  The excerpt concludes with Bert Mayfield’s thought on emancipation and Lincoln. 
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Excerpt:

…There was no slave jail on the Stone place, and I never saw a slave sold or auctioned off. I was told that one of our slaves ran off and was gone for three years. Some white person wrote him to come home that he was free. He was making his own way in Ohio and stopped in Lexington, Kentucky for breakfast; while there he was asked to show his Pass papers which he did, but they were forged so he was arrested. Investigators soon found that his owner was Mr. Stone who did not wish to sell him and sent for him to come home…[Mr. Stone sent a White man to bring the enslaved man back to the plantation] … but instead he sold him to a southern slave trader… 

I received the first news of freedom joyfully. I went to old man Onstott’s to live. I lived there two or three years. I think Abe Lincoln a great man. He did not believe in slavery and would have paid the southern people for their slaves if he had lived…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Bert Mayfield1852 (Unknown)Eliza IsonSmith Stone
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Garrard County, KYKYBryantsville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Garrard County, Lincoln, First Person, Resistance, Slave Trader, Emancipation

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Anna Toll Smith

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts the life of Anna Smith in the third person.  Anna Smith was married and had a young daughter when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In this excerpt, the interviewer describes Anna Smith’s memories of life as an enslaved person before and during the Civil War.  The excerpt ends with Anna Smith describing her emancipation.   

*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:

… Mrs. Smith remembers her father who died at the age of 117 years.  Her oldest brother was 50 when he joined the confederate army. Three other brothers were sent to the front [to fight in the Civil War]. One was an ambulance attendant, one belonged to the cavalry, one an orderly seargeant [sic] and the other joined the infantry. All were killed in action. Anna Smith’s husband later joined the war and was reported killed.  

When she became old enough for service she was taken into the “Big House” of her master, where she served as kitchen helper, cook, and later a nurse, taking care of her mistress’ second child.  She learned her A.B.C.’s by listening to the tutor teaching the children of Judge Toll…

Many instances during those terrible war days are fresh in her mind: men and boys, in pairs and groups passing the “big house” on their way to the recruiting station on the public square, later going back in squads and companies to fight; Yankee soldiers raiding the plantation, taking corn and hay or whatever could be used by the northern army; and continual apprehension [worry] for the menfolk at the front.  She remembers the baying of blood hounds [barking of dogs] at night along the Ohio River, trying to follow the scent of escaping [redacted] and the crack of firearms as white people, employed by the plantation owners attempted to halt the [redacted] in their efforts to cross the Ohio River into Ohio [where they would be free] or to join the Federal [Union] army…

When President Lincoln issued his proclamation freeing the slaves, and the news reached the plantation, she went to her master to learn if she was free. On learning it was true she returned to her parents who were living on another plantation…   


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Anna Toll Smith1835 (101 or 102)Geo. H. ConnJudge Toll
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Summit County, OHOHHenderson, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Education, Emancipation, Lincoln, EconomicsThird Person, Veteran or Widow, Slave Patrollers, Henderson County

Smith_An_1