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I was a slave

Enslaved Families

Compiled by Donna Wyant Howell | 2/15/2013, noon
In the 1930s, thousands of formerly enslaved African-American elders dictated their full life stories during interviews conducted by the US ...

Louis Cain: On Sunday, the men went to see their wives or sweethearts [on neighboring plantations].

Immediately after Emancipation, some couples who had jumped the broom decided to become married legally.

Lily Perry (NC): Me an’ Robert was raised up together [on the same plantation]. I loved him from de time I was borned. He proposes to me an’ he do it dis way: “Honey Gal, I knows dat you doan [don’t] love me so powerful much, but will you try ter do hit fer me?” We was married right away. We lived poor, dat I knows, but we was too happy in ourselves to worry ‘bout such things an’ de like.

I WAS A SLAVE: Slave Breeding

Mary Ingram (TX): De master, he tell who can get married an’ who can’t. Him select de large an’ prolific womens, an’ de large man, an’ use such fo’ de breeder an’ de father of de women’s children. De womens dat am selected am not allowed to marry. De children dat am bo’n dat way don’ know any father. De womens have nothin’ to says ‘bout de arrangement. If she am large an’ well-formed, deys forced her wid de breeder. Why don’ we refuse? Shucks, man, you don’ know what you says. De rawhide whip keeps you from refusin’. I’s know ‘cause I’s see de young girls cryin’ an’ deys gits whipped because deys stubborn. De old women advise de girls dat it was no use to refuse. Dat it jus’ makes it worse fo’ dem. Dat deys git de whippin’ an’ have to do de same. Now, wasn’t dat awful to treat humans dat way?

Zack Herndon (SC): Marse Zack never bred no slaves ... He [said] dat God never intent fer no souls to be bred as if dey was cattle, and he never practice no such.

Katie Darling: Massa ... just put ‘em together. What he want am the stock.

Carrie Davis (AL): If master wanted to mix his stock of slaves with a strong stock on ‘nother plantation, dey would do de men an’ women just like horses.

Zeno John: When de marsters see a good big slave, sometime dey buy him for a breeder.

Elige Davison: Massa ... wouldn’t let me have jus’ one woman. I have ‘bout fifteen and I don’t know how many children.

Julia Malone: He [father] was used fo’ de father to sev’ral womens on de place. My mammy was a big women. Look at me. I’m six foot four.

Martha Jackson (AL): My aunt was a breeder woman and brought a child ev’y twelve months jus’ like a cow bringin’ in a calf. She say dat what make her more valuable to her old master.

Willie Williams: De master was anxious to raise good, big slaves, de kind what am able to do lots of work and sell for a heap of money.

Hilliard Yellerday (NC): A slave girl was expected to have children as soon as she became a woman. Some of them had children at the age of twelve and thirteen years old. Negro men six feet tall went to some of these children.

Lulu Wilson: They must have pleased the white folks what wanted niggers to breed like livestock ‘cause my mother birthed nineteen children.

John Smith (NC): My master ... started out with two woman slaves and raised 300 slaves. One was called Short Peggy and the other was called Long Peggy. Long Peggy had 25 children. Just think of dat, raisin’ 300 slaves by starting with two womans.

Thomas Johns (TX): If de man and de woman refuse to be together, dey would get whipped hard, maybe whipped to death. Of course, hard whippin’ made a slave hard to sell ... because slave buyers would make him strip naked and look him over for whip marks and other blemishes, jus’ like dey would a horse [to determine if they were hard to manage]. Of course, even if whip marks did damage de sale of a slave, dey done it ‘cause dey figured, “Kill a mule, buy another; kill a slave, breed another.”

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