Will Oats

Will Oats grew up enslaved to a wealthy plantation owner.  This excerpt describes the plantation, including how holidays and spare time were spent.  The excerpt finishes by describing how his family made a living after emancipation.
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When the slaves would disobey their master while working, they were punished in some way, but there was no jail. They didn’t know how to read or write, and they had no church to attend. All they had to do when not at work was to talk to the older folks. On Christmas morning they would usually have a little extra to eat and maybe a stick of candy. On New Year’s Day their work went on just the same as on any other day.

As a boy, Will loved to play marbles, which was about the most interesting game they had to play. Of course, they could play outside, as all children do now, when they had spare time.

At that time there were few doctors and when the slaves would get hurt or sick; They were usually looked after by the master or by their overseer.

After the war had closed, Will’s grandmother walked from Monticello to Camp Nelson to get her free papers and her children. They were all very happy, but they were wondering what they were going to do without a home, work, or money. But after Will and his mother and grandmother got their freedom, the grandmother bought a little land and a house and they all went there to live. Of course, they worked for other people and raised a great deal of what they ate. Will lived there until he grew older and went out for himself, and later moved to Mercer County where he lives now.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Will Oats1854 (84)Hazel CinnamonLewis Oats
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Mercer County, KYKentuckyWayne County, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, EmancipationThird person