Confederate Pensioners of Color Day

Aaron Perry Did Not Serve in the 37th NC

The date has been set.  On December 8, Union County, North Carolina will dedicate a privately-funded marker on the Old County Courthouse honoring area slaves who performed various functions for the Confederate army.  This has been a long time coming and many of you have followed this story here at Civil War Memory.  Despite the reference to slaves in this article, the reference to these men as “Confederate Pensioners” does not bode well for an event that supposedly intends to recognize the role and place of slaves in the Confederate war effort.  Both Wary (Weary) Clyburn and Aaron Perry are included in the list of men to be honored and have been discussed on this site at length.

As for the article itself, I would love for someone to explain this sentence to me.

While it’s impossible to know how many of the men willingly followed their masters into war and how many were forced, supporters of the plan called it an appropriate, if overdue, recognition of their service.

What does it mean to willingly follow your master to do anything?

Costumed Civil War re-enactors, national and state leaders of the SCV, and a color guard also will be on hand.

Will that include reenactors, who will play the role of camp servants?  Will the audience get a glimpse into the world of slaves, who accompanied their masters to war or are we going to get the black reenactor in Confederate uniform routine?  Will those attending and the many more who will read the marker later understand that we are talking about slaves?
As I’ve said all along, these men deserve to be recognized, but we should do so with a critical eye toward getting the history right rather than distorting it for our own self-serving reasons.  I look forward to having my fears proven wrong.  Oh, and Earl Ijames will deliver the keynote address.

30 thoughts on “Confederate Pensioners of Color Day

  1. cg

    “impossible to know how many of the men willingly followed their masters into war and how many were forced”–the article

    “Body servants may have had as strong a desire for freedom as other slaves, but their fidelity to particular masters cannot be gainsaid.”–Eugene Genovese

    I think I might use these two quotes in the classroom to illustrate what historical thinking skills and good writing skills can accomplish. They’re saying the same thing about unknowability, but Genovese is so right and the article is so wrong.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      What a great idea. The difference is that Genovese frames his statement within a master-slave dynamic in contrast with the article. The concept of master is meaningless in the article.

      Reply
  2. Connie Chastain

    Maybe the willing ones were like Charlie Aarons, who was interviewed for the Slave Narratives….

    =====
    When the Master’s son John Harris went to war, Charlie went with him as his body guard, and when asked what his duties were, he replied:

    “I looked after Marster John, tended the horses and the tents. I recalls well, Madam, the siege of Vicksburg.”

    The writer then asked him if he wasn’t afraid of the shot and shell all around him.

    “No, Madam,” he replied, “I kept way in the back where the camp was, for I didn’t like to feel the earth trembling ‘neath my feet, but you see, Madam, I loved young Marster John, and he loved me, and I just had to watch over that boy, and he came through all right.”
    =====

    Or like James Gill, who was too young to go fight the Yankees, but was willing to all the same……

    “Ole mars, he would come from Alabama to see ’bout de bizness two an’ three times every year and on some of dem ’casions he would bring Mars Jeff wid him and Mars Jeff, he allus nebber failed to hab somethin’ for me, candy and sich like, and dem times when Mars Jeff come was when we had de fun. Us just run wild playin’ and iffen it was in de summer time we was in de bayou swimmin’ or fishin’ continual but all dem good times ceasted atter a while when de War come and de Yankees started all dere debbilment. Us was Confedrits all de while, leastwise I means my mammy an’ my pappy and me an’ all de res’ of de chillun ’cause ole mars was and *** Mars Jeff would er fit ’em too and me wid him iffen we had been ole enough.***

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      The Slave Narratives are an incredibly rich resource though they must be used with great care.

      You have provided two short excerpts, but have said nothing along the lines of interpretation. How do you interpret these two excerpts within the context of the master – slave relationship? What does it mean to be “willing” in this context?

      Reply
      1. Connie Chastain

        I don’t interpret them. They speak for themselves.

        And the notion that the narratives must be used with great care — you see that caveat most when the interviewees give a positive view of their lives in slavery or their masters (which many of them do — I read that something like 80 percent spoke positively of their old masters, but I don’t have the time or inclination to independently verify that). E.g., they were just kids when they were slaves and they were interviewed when they were old and their memories not as reliable; they were interviewed during the Great Depression when times were hard, and that may have made the past look good by comparison; they were just saying what they thought their white interviewers wanted to hear…. Yet a good number of the interviewees do not speak positively of slavery or their masters, and you rarely see anyone issue the same caveats for them; their descriptions, memories, etc., are assumed to be accurate… At least, that has been my observation.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          I don’t interpret them. They speak for themselves.

          That is an essential difference between you and any responsible historian. No source speaks for itself.

          I read that something like 80 percent spoke positively of their old masters, but I don’t have the time or inclination to independently verify that).

          You don’t seem to have the inclination to verify much of anything when it comes to interpreting the past. Responsible historians issue this caveat in reference to all of the interviews. You are absolutely right that many of the participants were very young when interviewed.

          Finally, you still have not answered my question. What does friendship or any bond of affection mean in the context of slavery. I have never suggested that such bonds did not exist, but I do believe we need to make some attempt to explain it.

          Reply
          1. Ken Noe

            I still recommend John Blassingame’s essay “Using the Testimony of Ex-Slaves: Approaches and Problems,” Journal of Southern History 41 (1975): 473-92. You know this Kevin, but other readers might not be aware that those interviewed often were led to believe that a pension would follow a good interview. Interviewers sometimes came from the most powerful local white families who also owned sharecroppers’ land. There’s the ‘next plantation phenomenon’–our masters were good but the ones down the road were evil and let me tell you how. And as we know now from originals in Washington, interviewers sometimes inserted the dialect after the fact. The narratives are crucial because we have so little from the slaves’ point of view, but you’re right they they require “great care” when used.

            Reply
            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Thanks for the recommendation, Ken.

              I also highly recommend Weevils in the Wheat, which focuses specifically on Virginia’s ex-slaves and includes a very handy introduction on the WPA narratives and things to keep in mind when reading.

              Reply
  3. Jimmy Dick

    Recall the results of the Federal Writer’s Project (FWP) from the Depression era when the histories of former slaves were collected. The answers varied widely and there were cases where the same person gave two entirely different versions of the same story to two different people. A lot depended on the interviewer, their race, their technique, and especially their proximity to the people being interviewed. The end result was a mixed bag of interviews which really raised more questions than answers in my opinion. It did show that these types of narratives are not fully reliable and are just like every other source out there; they have to be examined for what they are.
    It is extremely important to recall when interviews of former slaves were made. For black men and women living in the Jim Crow South, it was very possible that an interview that reflected badly on the ancestors of local whites could bring down retaliation. Lynchings of blacks occurred and were well documented. The people being interviewed were well acquainted with injustice.
    While I’m sure there were former slaves who had positive feelings about their days in bondage, the record seems to indicate otherwise. Bear in mind we have to treat the record with care because of the way it was compiled.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You’ve raised some of the issues that need to be acknowledged when working with these interviews.

      The answers varied widely and there were cases where the same person gave two entirely different versions of the same story to two different people.

      I use one of these examples in my class.

      Reply
  4. Alan Skerrett

    [em]While it’s impossible to know how many of the men willingly followed their masters into war and how many were forced, supporters of the plan called it an appropriate, if overdue, recognition of their service.[/em]

    I guess that by the same token, it’s impossible to know how many millions of slaves lived in bondage simply to please their masters, as opposed to doing so because they were forced to do so. I mean, why do people just assume was involuntary?

    Reply
    1. Connie Chastain

      I did a lot more reading about the war, slavery, etc., when I was in my early twenties, and I have forgotten a lot of it, including the source for this, but I recall someone writing about two women after the war, one an ex-mistress, the other her ex-slave, who lived with the ex-mistress and did at least some of the same work she’d done as a house servant before emancipation. The two women evidently had a very close friendship. Someone asked the ex-slave why she stayed when she was free to go, and she said, “Some bonds are stronger than slavery…” I want to say this was related by Harnett Kane in one of his books, but I really don’t remember for sure where I read it.

      Reply
      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        You still haven’t explained what the bond of friendship means in the context of slavery. Many former slaves continued to do work for former masters for any number of reasons.

        Reply
      2. Alan Skerrett

        Connie,

        I would never say that it was impossible for a slave and a slave owner to have a close and affectionate relationship. I am certain that many of them had such a relationship.

        But the question was, “how many millions of slaves lived in bondage simply to please their masters, as opposed to doing so because they were forced to do so?” Your anecdote does not address that question.

        Regardless of any particular slave’s relationship with any particular slave owner, I would ask: given a choice between treated either as a slave or a free white person (and having all of the rights, opportunities, privileges, liberties, and status associated with being a free white person at the time), which treatment would 90% of the people, white or black, wish to have?

        Reply
  5. Brad

    I have a hard time believing that any significant amount of people would voluntarily submit to bondage — and I’m not just referring to African-Americans — to please their enslavers.

    Reply
  6. James Harrigan

    I find Connie Chastain’s point of view opaque at best. Does any informed observer doubt that some slaves had warm personal feelings for their masters, and that some masters treated their slaves with kindness and humanity?

    But cherry-picked anecdotes don’t teach us much about the past (or as we statisticians say, “the plural of anecdote is not data”). Thinking people don’t abhor Southern slavery just because it offends our modern sensibilities, we abhor it because of the overwhelming evidence that it was an inhumane system for the people subjected to it.

    What people like Connie seem to have trouble understanding is that a human relationship that has the feature that one person can sell the other to a third party is fundamentally unequal and distorted, no matter how the people involved cope with it on a day to day basis. In other words: the warmth of some master-slave relationships does not make ANY master-slave relationship any less deplorable.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Connie has already said that she is not interested in history. The approach of plucking selected quotes out of the historical record without any context and then suggesting that they “speak for themselves” betrays a very limited understanding of the historical process. Five weeks into a new semester and my high school students would find that to be absurd.

      Reply
    2. Connie Chastain

      Mr. Harrigan, the question was not about the deplorability of slavery. It was about the impossibility of knowing how many of the men willingly followed their masters into war and how many were forced, Obviously, the anecdotes I posted do not address numbers or percentages of those who went willingly and those who were forced, but they do illustrate that willingness … and provide a clue why they were willing to follow their masters into war.

      Reply
      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        You still haven’t said one word about what it means for a slave to follow his master “willingly.” One of the reasons why any reasonable person would agree that slavery is deplorable is because it renders the very idea of choice/decision potentially vacuous. You threw out two quotes without any explanation or context. Do us all a favor and explain why you posted them and what they tell you about the slave – master relationship.

        Reply
  7. Connie Chastain

    I have not said I’m not interested in history. I have said there are things I’m more interested in than history, but that’s not the same thing.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You’ve demonstrated your inability and/or unwillingness to engage in anything resembling historical thought on this site and others.

      Reply
      1. Connie Chastain

        As I said, I’m more interested in other things, and some of those other things are what I’ve demonstrated a willingness to discuss.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Yes, I have heard you say this a number of times and yet that doesn’t prevent you from pretending to engage in a discussion about history. In the end, this sounds like nothing more than an excuse not to have to follow up your points. Most people now understand that it likely has to do with your inability to say anything substantial as opposed to competing interests.

          Reply
          1. Connie Chastain

            You speak for most people — you know what they understand? Fascinating.

            Basically, you’ve asked me to interpret the master-slave relationship for the purpose, in this instance, of differentiating between slaves who willingly went to war with their masters, and those who were forced to go.

            It seems to me that the “master-slave relationship” you’re asking about is an impersonal, disembodied construct created for the purpose of not having to recognize individuals, but to classify people into groups, all within each group being the same.This construct is superimposed onto every master and every slave, so that their thoughts, feelings, actions, etc., are made to conform to the construct.

            You’re asking me to superimpose this construct on masters and slaves who went to war together, and tell you the result. The reason I can’t do that is because it attempts to oversimplify the the complexity of humans and their relationships. There were all kinds of masters, all kinds of slaves, and to me, that means the master-slave relationship between master John and slave Jim might be very different from the relationship between master William and slave Pete. Master John and master William may have been very different individuals, just as slave Jim and slave Pete may have been very different individuals.

            It seems that for you, the roles (as defined by the construct) pre-exist and define. Masters are masters first, human beings second, all that makes them human is subordinate to being a master, and all masters are the same. Slaves are slaves first, human beings second, all that makes them human is subordinate to being a slave, and all slaves are the same. To me, all people are individual human beings first, and whatever roles they have in life are subordinate to their humanity and individuality. One thing that strikes me about the slave narratives is the individuality of the interviewees. They were all slaves at one time, they were all interviewed by a rather cut and dried methodology, but still their individual personalities clearly come through.

            Re: going to war, we can apply the master-slave relationship construct to people when we have no information about what they were like as individuals, but whether the construct is an accurate description of them, we have no way of knowing. Apparently, there is the notion that this construct should serve as some kind of barrier to acknowledging the service of slaves to the Confederate military, or to their masters serving in the Confederate military. Some people agree with that notion, some don’t.

            Reply
            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Basically, you’ve asked me to interpret the master-slave relationship for the purpose, in this instance, of differentiating between slaves who willingly went to war with their masters, and those who were forced to go.

              I am simply asking for your understanding of the meaning of other-regarding emotions in the context of the master-slaver relationship. This is something that I have very difficult time understanding and I doubt I will ever come to terms with it.

              It seems to me that the “master-slave relationship” you’re asking about is an impersonal, disembodied construct created for the purpose of not having to recognize individuals, but to classify people into groups, all within each group being the same.This construct is superimposed onto every master and every slave, so that their thoughts, feelings, actions, etc., are made to conform to the construct.

              So, in your view what would you have us do with the legal basis of the relationship? Ignore it entirely? Are you seriously suggesting that a relationship enforced legally and sanctioned on religious grounds ought not to enter our interpretation of the evidence? If this is the case then we simply disagree as to what we are looking at.

              It seems that for you, the roles (as defined by the construct) pre-exist and define. Masters are masters first, human beings second, all that makes them human is subordinate to being a master, and all masters are the same. Slaves are slaves first, human beings second, all that makes them human is subordinate to being a slave, and all slaves are the same. To me, all people are individual human beings first, and whatever roles they have in life are subordinate to their humanity and individuality.

              Not at all. Both master and slave (whites and blacks generally) learned the roles that defined their relationship both in close proximity to one another and in society generally. No doubt behavior and expectations varied widely depending on a host of factors.

              Apparently, there is the notion that this construct should serve as some kind of barrier to acknowledging the service of slaves to the Confederate military, or to their masters serving in the Confederate military. Some people agree with that notion, some don’t.

              White Southerners themselves acknowledged this as a barrier.

              Reply
  8. Jimmy Dick

    This whole thing makes me recall the tales of the East Germans that died trying to leave East Germany at the Berlin Wall and other places on the frontier. You can easily throw in the Vietnamese boat people, Cubans, Soviets, etc. Look at how many cases of documented evidence exist describing how people risked death and some died along the way to escape the totalitarian governments during the Cold War. Compare that with the cases of the people that willingly left the West to live in communist dominated countries.
    Now go back to the Antebellum years of the United States. Is there documented evidence of free blacks willingly leaving freedom to go south and be slaves? Good luck with that. If you find any evidence of that, compare it with the documented cases of those slaves who risked everything to escape to the North and freedom.
    If slavery was such a benign situation then why did so many flee and none willingly enter into bondage in the South? Don’t bring up the garbage about abolitionists spreading lies to the slaves. That’s a myth. Isn’t it odd that under a Fugitive Slave Act had to be created and enforced in order to force escaped slaves to return to the South using military force to do so? The concept of slavery as a benign institituion fails on every level of examination except that of mythology.

    Reply
  9. Al Mackey

    Connie’s been told about the problem with the WPA narratives over and over, and she’s even been exposed to Blassingame’s essay. She has a preferred vision of the old south and ignores or tries to invalidate anything that interferes with that preferred vision. When shown she’s got nothing backing her preferred vision she starts playing word games.

    She’s already seen this example:

    Here are two interviews conducted with former slaves for the WPA
    Slave Narratives Project.

    The first interview was conducted by Jessie Butler

    [begin quote]
    On July 6th, I interviewed Susan Hamlin, ex-slave, at 17 Henrietta
    street, Charleston, S.C. She was sitting just inside of the front
    door, on a step leading up to the porch, and upon hearing me inquire
    for her she assumed that I was from the Welfare office, from which
    she had received aid prior to its closing. I did not correct this
    impression. and at no time did she suspect that the object of my
    visit was to get the story of her experience as a slave. During our
    conversation she mentioned her age. “Why that’s very interesting,
    Susan,” I told her, “If you are that old you probably remember the
    Civil War and slavery days.” “Yes, Ma’am, I been a slave myself,”
    she said, and told me the following story:

    “I kin remember some things like it was yesterday, but I is 104
    years old now, and age is starting to get me, I can’t remember
    everything like I use to. I getting old, old. You know I is old when
    I been a grown woman when the Civil War broke out. I was hired out
    then, to a Mr. McDonald, who lived on Atlantic Street, and I
    remembers when de first shot was fired, and the shells went right
    over the city. I got seven dollars a month for looking after
    children, not taking them out, you understand, just minding them. I
    did not got the money, Mausa got it.” “Don’t you think that was
    fair?” I asked. “If you were fed and clothed by him, shouldn’t he be
    paid for your work?” “Course it been fair,” she answered, “I belong
    to him and he got to be get something to take care of me.”

    “My name before I was married was Susan Calder, but I married a man
    name Hamlin. I belonged to Mr. Edward Fuller, he was president of
    the First National Bank. He was a good man to his people till de
    Lord took him. Mr. Fuller got his slaves by marriage. He married
    Miss Mikell, a lady what lived on Edisto Island, who was a slave
    owner, and we lived on Edisto on a plantation. I don’t remember de
    name cause when Mr. Fuller got to be president of de bank we come to
    Charleston to live. He sell out the plantation and say them (the
    slaves) that want to come to Charleston with him could come and them
    what wants to stay can stay on the island with his wife’s people. We
    had our choice. Some is come and some is stay, but my ma and us
    children come with Mr. Fuller.

    We lived on St. Philip street. The house still there, good as ever.
    I go ’round there to see it all de time the cistern still there too,
    where we used to sit ’round and drink the cold water, and eat, and
    talk and laugh. Mr. Fuller have lots of servants and the ones he
    didn’t need hisself he hired out. The slaves had rooms in the back,
    the ones with children had two rooms and them that didn’t have any
    children had one room, not to cook in but to sleep in. They all
    cooked and ate downstairs in the hall that they had for the colored
    people. I don’t know about slavery but I know all the slavery I know
    about, and the people was good to me. Mr. Fuller was a good man and
    his wife’s people been grand people, all good to their slaves. Seem
    like Mr. Fuller just git his slaves so he could be good to dem. He
    made all the little colored chillen love him. If you don’t believe
    they loved him what they all cry, and scream, and holler for when
    dey hear he dead? ‘Oh, Mausa dead my Mausa dead, what I going to do,
    my Mausa dead.’ Dey tell dem t’aint no use to cry, dat can’t bring
    him back, but de chillen keep on crying. We used to call him Mausa
    Eddie but he named Mr. Edward Fuller, and he sure was a good man.

    “A man come here about a month ago, say he from de Government, and
    dey send him to find out ’bout slavery. I give him most a book, and
    what he give me? A dime. He ask me all kind of questions. He ask me
    dis and he ask me dat, didn’t de white people do dis and did dey do
    dat but Mr. Fuller was a good man, he was sure good to me and all
    his people, dey all like him, God bless him, he in de ground now but
    I ain’t going to let nobody lie on him. You know he good when even
    the little chillen cry and holler when he dead. I tell you dey
    couldn’t just fix us up any kind of way when we going to Sunday
    School. We had to be dressed nice, if you pass him and you ain’t
    dress to suit him he send you right back and say tell your ma to see
    dat you dress right. Dey couldn’t send you out in de cold barefoot
    neither. I ‘member one day my ma want to send me wid some milk for
    her sister-in-law what live ’round de corner. I fuss cause it cold
    and say ‘how you going to send me out wid no shoe, and it cold?’
    Mausa hear how I talkin and turn he back and laugh, den he call to
    my ma to gone in de house and find shoe to put on my feet and don’t
    let him see me barefoot again in cold weather.”

    When de war start going good and de shell fly over Charleston he
    take all us up to Aiken for protection. Talk ’bout marching through
    Georgia, dey sure march through Aiken, soldiers was everywhere.

    “My ma had six children, three boys and three girls, but I de only
    one left, all my white people and all de colored people gone, not a
    soul left but me. I ain’t been sick in 25 years. I is near my church
    and I don’t miss service any Sunday, night or morning. I kin walk
    wherever I please, I kin walk to de battery if I want to. The
    Welfare use to help me but dey shut down now, I can’t find out if
    dey going to open again or not. Miss (Mrs.) Buist and Miss Pringle,
    dey help me when I can go there but all my own dead.”

    “Were most of the masters kind?” I asked. “Well you know,” she
    answered, “times den was just like dey is now, some was kind and
    some was mean; heaps of wickedness went on just de same as now. All
    my people was good people. I see some wickedness and I hear ’bout
    all kinds of t’ings but you don’t know whether it was lie or not.
    Mr. Fuller been a Christian man.

    “do you think it would have been better if the negroes had never
    left africa?” Was the next question I asked. “No Ma’am,”
    (emphatically) dem heathen didn’t have no religion. I tell you how I
    t’ink it is. The Lord made t’ree nations, the white, the red and the
    black, and put dem in different places on de earth where dey was to
    stay. Dose black ignoramuses in Africa forgot God, and didn’t have
    no religion and God blessed and prospered the white people dat did
    remember Him and sent dem to teach de black people even if dey have
    to grab dem and bring dem into bondage till dey learned some sense.
    The Indians forgot God and dey had to be taught better so dey land
    was taken away from dem. God sure bless and prosper de white people
    and He put de red and de black people under dem so dey could teach
    dem and bring dem into sense wid God. Dey had to get dere brains
    right, and honor God, and learn uprightness wid God cause ain’t He
    make you, and ain’t His Son redeem you and save you wid His precious
    blood. You kin plan all de wickedness you want and pull hard as you
    choose but when the Lord mek up His mind you is to change, He can
    change you dat quick (snapping her fingers) and easy. You got to
    believe on Him if it tek bondage to bring you to your knees.”

    You know I is got converted. I been in Big Bethel (church) on my
    knees praying under one of de preachers. I see a great, big, dark
    pack on my back, and it had me all bent over and my shoulders drawn
    down, all hunch up. I look up and I see de glory, I see a big
    beautiful light, a great light, and in de middle is de Sabior,
    hanging so (extending her arms) just like He died. Den I gone to
    praying good, and I can feel de sheckles (shackles) loose up and
    moving and de pack fall off. I don’t know where it went to, I see de
    angels in de Heaven, and hear dem say ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ I
    scream and fell off so. (Swoon.) When I come to dey has laid me out
    straight an I know I is converted cause you can’t see no such sight
    and go on like you is before. I know I is still a sinner but I
    believe in de power of God an I trust his Holy name. Den dey put me
    wid de seekers but I know I is already saved.”

    “Did they take good care of the slaves when their babies were born?”
    she was asked. “If you want chickens for fat (to fatten) you got to
    feed dem,” she said with a smile, “and if you want people to work
    dey got to be strong, you got to feed dem and take care of dem too.
    If dey can’t work it come out of your pocket. Lots of wickedness
    gone on in dem days, just as it do now, some good, some mean, black
    and white, it just dere nature, if dey good dey going to be kind to
    everybody, if dey mean dey going to be mean to everybody. Sometimes
    chillen was sold away from dey parents. De Mausa would come and
    say “Where Jennie,” tell um to put clothes on dat baby, I want um.
    He sell de baby and de ma scream and holler, you know how dey carry
    on. Geneally (generally) dey sold it when de ma wasn’t dere. Mr.
    Fuller didn’t sell none of us, we stay wid our ma’s till we grown. I
    stay wid my ma till she dead.

    “You know I is mix blood, my grandfather bin a white man and my
    grandmother a mulatto. She been marry to a black so dat how I get
    fix like I is. I got both blood, so how I going to quarrel wid
    either side?”

    SOURCE: Interview with Susan Hamlin, 17 Henrietta Street

    NOTE * Susan lives with a mulatto family of the better type. The
    name is Hamlin not Hamilton, and her name prior to her marriage was
    Calder not Collins. I paid particular attention to this and had them
    spell the names for me. I would judge Susan to be in the late
    nineties but she is wonderfully well preserved. She now claims to be
    104 years old.
    [end quote]

    ——————————————————————–

    The second interview was conducted by Augustus Ladson.

    [begin quote]
    I’m a hund’ed an’ one years old now, son. De only one livin’ in my
    crowd frum de days I wuz a slave. Mr. Fuller, my master, who was
    president of the Firs’ National Bank, owned the fambly of us except
    my father. There were eight men an’ women with five girls an’ six
    boys workin’ for him. Most o’ them wus hired out. De house in which
    we stayed is still dere with de sisterns an’ slave quarters. I
    always go to see de old home which is on St. Phillip Street.

    My ma had t’ree boys an’ t’ree girls who did well at their work.
    Hope Mikell, my eldest brodder, an’ James wus de shoemaker. William
    Fuller, son of our Master, wus de bricklayer. Margurite an’
    Catharine wus de maids an’ look as de children.

    My pa b’long to a man on Edisto Island. Frum what he said, his
    master was very mean. Pa real name wus Adam Collins but he took his
    master’ name; he wus de coachman. Pa did supin one day en his master
    whipped him. De next day which wus Monday, pa carry him ’bout four
    miles frum home in de woods an’ give him de same ‘mount of lickin’
    he wus given on Sunday. He tied him to a tree an’ unhitched de horse
    so it couldn’t git tie-up an’ kill e self. Pa den gone to de landin’
    an’ cetch a boat dat wus comin’ to Charleston wood fa’m products. He
    (was) permitted by his master to go to town on errands, which helped
    him to go on de boat without bein’ question’. W’en he got here he
    gone on de water-front an’ ax for a job on a ship so he could git to
    de North. He got de job an’ sail’ wood de ship. Dey search de island
    up an’ down for him wood houndogs en w’en it wus t’ought he wus
    drowned, ’cause dey track him to de river, did dey give up. One of
    his master’ friend gone to New York en went in a store w’ere pa wus
    employed as a clerk. He recognize’ pa is easy is pa recognize’ him.
    He gone back home an’ tell pa master who know den dat pa wusn’t
    comin’ back an’ before he died he sign’ papers dat pa wus free. Pa’
    ma wus dead an’ he come down to bury her by de permission of his
    master’ son who had promised no ha’m would come to him, but dey wus’
    fixin’ plans to keep him, so he went to de Work House an’ ax to be
    sold ’cause any slave could see e self if e could git to de Work
    House. But it wus on record down dere so dey couldn’t sell ‘im an’
    told him his master’ people couldn’t hold him a slave.

    People den use to do de same t’ings dey do now. Some marry an’ some
    live together jus’ like now. One t’ing, no minister nebber say in
    readin’ de matrimony “let no man put asounder” ’cause a couple would
    be married tonight an’ tomorrow one would be taken away en be sold.
    All slaves wus married in dere master house, in de livin’ room where
    slaves an’ dere missus an’ mossa wus to witness de ceremony. Brides
    use to wear some of de finest dress an’ if dey could afford it, have
    de best kind of furniture. Y our master nor your missus objected to
    good t’ings.

    I’ll always ‘member Clory, de washer. She wus very high-tempered.
    She was a mulatto with beautiful hair she could sit on; Clory didn’t
    take foolishness frum anybody. One day our missus gone in de laundry
    an’ find fault with de clothes. Clory didn’t do a t’ing but pick her
    up bodily an’ throw ‘er out de door. Dey had to sen’ fur a
    doctor ’cause she pregnant an’ less than two hours de baby wus bo’n.
    Afta dat she begged to be sold ur she didn’t [want] to kill missus,
    but our master ain’t nebber want to sell his slaves. But dat didn’t
    keep Clory frum gittin’ a brutal whippin’. Dey whip’ ‘er until dere
    wusn’t a white spot on her body. Dat wus de worst I ebber see a
    human bein’ got sucha beatin’. I t’ought she wus goin’ to die, but
    she got well an’ didn’t get any better but meaner until our master
    decide it wus bes’ to rent her out. She willingly agree’ since she
    wusn’t ’round missus. She hated an’ detest’ both of them an’ all de
    fambly.

    W’en any slave wus whipped all de other slaves wus made to watch. I
    see women hung frum de ceilin’ of buildin’s an’ whipped with only
    supin tied ’round her lower part of de body, until w’en dey wus
    taken down, dere wusn’t breath in de body. I had some terribly bad
    experiences.

    Yankees use to come t’rough de streets, especially de Big Market,
    huntin’ those who want to go to de “free country” as dey call’ it. M
    en an’ women wus always missin’ an’ nobody could give ‘count of dere
    disappearance. De men wus train’ up North fur sojus.

    De white race is so brazen. Dey come here an’ run de Indians frum
    dere own lan’, but dey couldn’t make dem slaves ’cause dey wouldn’t
    stan’ for it. Indians use to git up in trees an’ shoot dem with
    poison arrow. W’en dey couldn’t make dem slaves den dey gone to
    Africa an’ bring dere black brother and sister. Dey say ‘mong
    themselves, “we gwine mix dem up en make ourselves king. Dats de
    only way we’d git even with de Indians.”

    All time, night an’ day, you could hear men an’ women screamin’ to
    de tip of dere voices as either ma, pa, sister, or brother wus take
    without any warnin’ an’ sell. Some time mother who had only one
    chile wus separated fur life. People wus always dyin’ frum a broken
    heart.

    One night a couple married an’ de next mornin’ de boss sell de wife.
    De gal ma got in in de street an’ cursed de white woman fur all she
    could find. She said: “dat damn white, pale-face bastard sell my
    daughter who jus’ married las’ night,” an’ other ti’ings. The white
    man tresten’ her to call de police if she didn’t stop, but de collud
    woman said: “hit me or call de police. I redder die dan to stan’ dis
    any longer.” De police took her to de Work House by de white woman
    orders an’ what became of ‘er, I never hear.

    W’en de war began we wus taken to Aiken, South Ca’lina w’ere we
    stay’ until de Yankees come t’rough. We could see balls sailin’
    t’rough de air w’en Sherman wus comin’. Bumbs h it trees in our
    yard. W’en de freedom gun wus fired, I wus on my ‘nees scrubbin’.
    Dey tell me I wus free but I didn’t b’lieve it.

    In de days of slavery woman wus jus’ given time ‘nough to deliver
    dere babies. Dey deliver de baby ’bout eight in de mornin’ an’
    twelve had to be back to work.

    I wus a member of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for 67
    years. Big Zion, across de street wus my church before den an’
    before Old Bethel w’en I lived on de other end of town.

    Sence Lincoln shook hands with his assasin who at de same time shoot
    him, frum dat day I stop shakin’ hands, even in de church, an’ you
    know how long dat wus. I don’t b’lieve in kissin’ neider fur all
    carry dere meannesses. De Master wus betrayed by one of his bosom
    frien’ with a kiss.
    [end quote]

    It’s the same person giving two different interviews to two different interviewers. The two stories, while the basic facts are the same, are very different. Notice especially the rosy picture of slavery in the first one contrasted with the more realistic picture in the second one, and notice how the interviewer in the first one steers the conversation.

    At the end of his article, Blassingame says, “Uncritical use of the interviews will lead almost inevitably to a simplistic and distorted view of the plantation as a paternalistic institution where the chief feature of life was mutual love and respect between masters and slaves.” [p. 490] That’s exactly what Connie wants.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Al,

      This is the one that I use in class. Connie has made it clear that she isn’t interested in serious historical analysis.

      Reply
  10. Connie Chastain

    Well, whether I’m interested or not depends a great deal on the motive for the serious historical analysis. Also, I do not automatically reject a more organic historical knowledge/analysis (for example, information passed down through family generations, letters, notes in family Bibles, and such). Who issued the decree that only university-educated historians can understand and impart history, using only the methods they approve of? Human beings — usually the self-same university educated historians — not some higher, all-knowing super-human oracle…

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      If you spent as much time as you do harping on “university-educated historians” you might actually find the space to say something constructive. I can see this thread has ended its usefulness. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Reply

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