Patsy Jane Bland

Almost 107 at the time she was interviewed, the interviewer notes that Patsy Jane Bland remembered a great deal about life as an enslaved person.  Patsy Jane Bland was sold twice as an enslaved person and had four children when the Civil War began.  In this excerpt, recorded in the third person, the interviewer recounts Patsy Jane Bland’s education, memories of a white wedding, and emancipation. 
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…She [Patsy Jane Bland] had to work, too, for life was not all play and she recalls sitting at the feet of her little mistress and learning to spell out her letters until the mother of the white child decided that she was getting too smart and she had to stop, until she was married to her last and fourth husband, who taught her some more… 

[Patsy Jane Bland remembers a wedding of white people at the enslaver’s home.] The wedding preparations began days in advance with the saving of chickens and eggs and butter. The liveliest egg-beating, butter creaming, raisin stoning, sugar pounding, cake icing, coconut scraping, and grating, Jelly straining, silver cleaning, egg frothing, floor rubbing, pastry making, ruffle crimping, tarlatan smoothing, trunk moving time you ever saw, and the peeping at the bride with her long veil and train, and the guests the whole army of slaves turned out to help.

Aunt Patsy remembers the night before the wedding when they all gathered in the quarter to sing every song they knew over and over again, celebrating the leaving of the bride for Virginia and how Young Miss died soon after her big wedding and was buried in her bridal dress…

Already the mother of four when the Civil War began, Patsy remembered seeing soldiers, and “because they were scared,” the slaves ran from them and hid out. She remembered the day all the blacks on her plantation were set free. There was shouting and crying; there was joy and sadness. She said many blacks did not want to leave the plantation to go out into a world of which they knew nothing. Patsy, though, gathered her four children around her, and with her husband, who was named Wilson, left the plantation. When the fieldworker asked if she was happier free, Patsy looked off into the distance and said, “Free? Is anybody ever free? Isn’t everybody you know a slave to someone or something or other?”

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Patsy Jane Bland1830 (106)Anna Bowles WileyWilliam Kettering, Charles Morgan, John Boyle
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Terre Haute, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Education, Marriage (Whites), EmancipationShelby County, Third Person, Whipped, Sold, Veteran or Widow, 


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