Monthly Archives: May 2015

Susan Castle on Life After Emancipation


Here is the last segment of Susan Castle’s testimonial for the Federal Writer’s Project. I don’t know about you, but when I reach the end of Susan’s testimonial, I am loathe to part with her.

Here is a forthcoming history of slavery entitled A Short History of Transatlantic Slavery by British/Irish historian Kenneth O. Morgan that looks fascinating. You can pre-order the book prior to its scheduled release, which is November 2015 (same as another book with promise, hmmmm). Here is the description from Amazon:

From 1501, when the first slaves arrived in Hispaniola, until the nineteenth century, some twelve million people were abducted from west Africa and shipped across thousands of miles of ocean – the infamous Middle Passage – to work in the colonies of the New World. Perhaps two million Africans died at sea. Why was slavery so widely condoned, during most of this period, by leading lawyers, religious leaders, politicians and philosophers? How was it that the educated classes of the western world were prepared for so long to accept and promote an institution that would later ages be condemned as barbaric? Exploring these and other questions – and the slave experience on the sugar, rice, coffee and cotton plantations – Kenneth Morgan discusses the rise of a distinctively Creole culture; slave revolts, including the successful revolution in Haiti (1791-1804); and the rise of abolitionism, when the ideas of Montesquieu, Wilberforce, Quakers and others led to the slave trade’s systemic demise. At a time when the menace of human trafficking is of increasing concern worldwide, this timely book reflects on the deeper motivations of slavery as both ideology and merchant institution.

And here are Susan Castle’s final words to us–

“Christmas was somepin’ else. Us sho’ had a good time den. Dey give de chilluns china dollas and dey sont great sacks of apples, oranges, candy, cake, and evvything good out to de quarters. At night endurin’ Christmas us had parties, and dere was allus some N****r ready to pick de banjo. Marse Thomas allus give de slaves a little toddy too, but when dey was havin’ deir fun if dey got too loud he sho’ would call ‘em down. I was allus glad to see Christmas come. On New Year’s Day, de General had big dinners and invited all de high-falutin’ rich folks.

“My mudder went to de corn shuckin’s off on de plantations, but I was too little to go. Yes Ma’am, us sho’ did dance and sing funny songs way back in dem days. Us chillum used to play ‘Miss Mary Jane,’ and us would pet our hands and walk on broom grass. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout charms. Dey used to tell de chillum dat when old folks died dey turned to witches. I ain’t never seed no ghostes, but I sho’ has felt ‘em. Dey made de rabbits jump over my grave and had me feelin’ right cold and clammy. Mudder used to sing to Miss Lucy to git her to sleep, but I don’t ‘member de songs.

“Marster was might good to his slaves when dey got sick. He allus sont for Dr. Crawford Long. He was de doctor for de white folks and Marster had him for de slaves.

“My mudder said she prayed to de Lord to not let N*****s be slaves all deir lifes and sho’ ‘nough de Yankees comed and freed us. Some of de slaves shouted and hollered for joy when Miss Marion called us togedder and said us was free and warn’t slaves no more. Most of ‘em went right out and left ‘er and hired out to make money for deyselfs.

“I stayed on wid my mudder and she stayed on wid Miss Marion. Miss Marion gave her a home on Hull street ‘cause mudder was allus faithful and didn’t never leave her. After Miss Marion died, mudder wukked for Miss Marion’s daughter, Miss Callie Hull, in Atlanta. Den Miss Callie died and mudder come on back to Athens. ‘Bout ten years ago she died.

“I wukked for Mrs. Burns on Jackson Street a long time, but she warn’t no rich lady lak de Cobbs. De last fambly I wukked for was Dr. Hill. I nussed ‘til atter de chillum got too big for dat, and den I done de washin’ til dis misery got in my limbs.”

When asked about marriage customs, she laughed and replied: “I was engaged, but I didn’t marry though, ‘cause my mudder ‘posed me marryin’. I had done got my clothes bought and ready. Mrs. Hull helped me fix my things. My dress was a gray silk what had pearl beads on it and was trimmed in purple.

“What does I think ‘bout freedom? I think it’s best to be free, ‘cause you can do pretty well as you please. But in slav’ry time, if de N*****s had a-behaved and minded deir Marster and Mist’ess dey wouldn’t have such a hard time. Mr. Jeff Davis ‘posed freedom, but Mr. Abraham Lincoln freed us, and he was all right. Booker Washin’ton was a great man, and done all he knowed how to make somepin’ out of his race.

“De reason I jined de church was dat de Lord converted me. He is our guide. I think people ought to be ‘ligious and do good and let deir lights shine ‘cause dat’s de safest way to go to Heben.”

At the conclusion of the interview Susan asked: “Is dat all you gwine to ax me? Well, I sho’ enjoyed talkin’ to you. I hopes I didn’t talk loud ‘nough for dem other N*****s to hear me, ‘cause if you open your mouth dey sho’ gwine tell it. Yes Ma’am, I’se too old to wuk now and I’se thankful for de old age pension. If it warn’t for dat, since dis misery tuk up wid me, I would be done burnt up, I sho’ would. Good-bye Mist’ess.”


Susan Castle: Thomas Cobb “Had Too Many Slaves To Do Anything Himself”


T. R. R. Cobb’s house in Athens, Georgia. Susan Castle was a slave in this house.

In this segment, Susan tells us more about life as a slave of T. R. R. Cobb in Athens, Georgia. Here she tell us about Cobb’s family, that he sometimes whipped his slaves, and about his funeral after he was killed at the battle of Fredericksburg. Cobb was killed by stray shrapnel near the end of the day’s fighting, but there were rumors that he was shot by his own men out of spite. Susan’s perspective on Cobb’s death is interesting.

Susan was a child in the waning years of slavery, but the work was still hard. We get a sense of the never-ending labors endured by slaves, even from the standpoint of a child slave.


A must-read on the history of slavery from women’s perspective is Deborah Gray White’s Arn’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South. Slave women had to endure the crushing weight of racism, but also had to deal with sexism as well. White’s book was first published in 1985 and the second edition appeared in 1999, but it is a classic work on the subject of women in slavery.

“In summer time us wore checked dresses made wid low waistes and gathered skirts, but in winter de dresses was made out of linsey-woolsey cloth and underclothes was made out of coarse unbleached cloth. Petticoats had bodice tops and de draw’s was made wid waistes too. Us chllun didn’t know when Sunday come. Our clothes warn’t no diffu’nt den from no udder day. Us wore coarse, heavy shoes in winter, but in summer us went splatter bar feets.

“Marse Thomas was jest as good as he could be, what us knowed of ‘im. Miss Marion, my Mist’ess, she won’t as good to us as Marse Thomas, but she was all right too. Dey had a heap of chillum. Deir twin boys died, and de gals was Miss Callie, Miss Sallie, Miss Marion (dey called her Miss Birdie), and Miss Lucy, det Lucy Cobb Institute was named for. My mudder was Miss Lucy’s nuss. Marse Thomas had a big fine melonial (colonial) house on Prince Avenue wid slave quarters in de back yard of his 10-acre lot. He owned ‘most nigh dat whole block ‘long dar.

“Oh! dey had ‘bout a hundred slaves I’m sho’, for dere was a heap of ‘em. De overseer got ‘em up ‘bout five o’clock in de mornin’ and dat breakfast sho’ had better be ready by seben or else somebody gwine to have to pay for it. Dey went to deir cabins ‘bout ten at night. Marse was good, but he would whup us if we didn’t do right. Miss Marion was allus findin’ fault wid some of us.

“Jesse was de carriage driver. Carriages was called phaetons den. Dey had high seats up in front whar de driver sot, and de white folks sot in de carriage below. Jesse went to de War wid Marse Thomas, and was wid him when he was kilt at Fredericksburg, Virginia. I heard ‘em say one of his men shot ‘im by mistake, but I don’t know if dat’s de trufe or not. I do know dey sho’ had a big grand fun’al ‘cause he was a big man and a general in de War.

“Some of de slaves on Marse Thomas’ place knowed how to read. Aunt Vic was one of de readers what read de Bible. But most of de Niggers didn’t have sense enough to learn so dey didn’t bother wid ‘em. Dey had a church way downtown for de slaves. It was called Landon’s Chapel for Rev. Landon, a white man what preached dar. Us went to Sunday School too. Aunt Vic read de Bible sometimes den. When us jined de chu’ch dey sung: “Amazing Grace How Sweet de Sound.”

“Marse Thomas had lots of slaves to die, and dey was buried in de colored folks cemetery what was on de river back of de Lucas place. I used to know what dey sung at fun’als way back yonder, but I can’t bring it to mind now.

“No Ma’am, none of Marse Thomas’ N*****s ever run away to de Nawth. He was good to his N*****s. Seems like to me I ‘memberrs dem patterrollers run some of Marse Thomas’ N*****s down and whupped ‘em and put ‘em in jail. Old Marse had to git ‘em out when dey didn’t show up at roll call next mornin’.

“Marse Thomas allus put a man or de overseer on a hoss or a mule when he wanted to send news anywhar. He was a big an and had too many slaves to do anything himse’f.

“I ‘spect dey done den lak dey does now, slipped ‘round and got in devilment atter de day’s wuk was done. Marse Thomas was allus havin’ swell elegant doin’s at de big house. De slaves what was house servants didn’t have no time off only atter dinner on Sundays.”

American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion Available for Pre-Order


Head over to the InterVarsity Press website and order your copy now. Click here or on the book’s image to the right! Looks like there’s a 20% discount going on.

This is pretty exciting! Can’t believe that it will soon be in print and on the shelves! Release date is November 1.

Crèvecoeur and Du Bois on Being an American

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J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813) and W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) are two figures who wrote extensively on the meaning of American identity. True, Crèvecoeur and Du Bois are products of two different historical and ethnic contexts. Their experiences and backgrounds were entirely different. But these thinkers’ considerations on American identity are worth examining alongside one another.

Head over to Then and Now to read some thoughts I put together on Crèvecoeur and Du Bois on being an American. Here is a taste:

First, some similarities: both recognized the promise of America. Crevecoeur saw the freedom of living on the frontier, the freedom from constraints, and the vast potential of the land, and exulted. Du Bois saw the hope in freedom from slavery after the war, which was a dream of centuries that was finally realized. He also saw hope in that new political rights, particularly the ballot, could be claimed by African Americans for the first time. And he also saw that African Americans had new access to the land, like the land in south Georgia, the “Egypt of the Confederacy,” as well as its potential. 

For both authors, the American promise was unfulfilled. Crevecoeur’s James—reflecting Crevecoeur’s own experience—is harried out of the land by war, thus losing his farm and his freedom. Du Bois writes about poor black farmers in Dougherty County, Georgia, languishing under crushing debt, exhausted soil, and the legacy of the degradations of racism and slavery. 

Both Crevecoeur and Du Bois understood that the idea of being an American was not neat and tidy. America offered freedom, hope, and opportunity in theory. But Crevecoeur could certainly affirm Du Bois’ statement in Souls, that “America is not another word for Opportunity to all her sons.”

Still, there are critical differences between these two American thinkers, aside from the obvious gulf between their cultural and historical circumstances. The most important difference is anthropological. Crevecoeur’s placid and optimistic perspective as a gentleman farmer on the American frontier, free from traditional constraints, is vexed and disrupted by the coming of war. American promise is denied him by external circumstances. Absent those unfortunate circumstances however, Crevecoeur may well have secured that promise of fruitful labor and a fulfilled life. 

Guest Post from Sarah Etter, 8th Grade Author, on C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma


Sarah Etter with her editors, Ned Bustard and Greg Thornbury

Sarah Etter is a dear, dear friend of mine. Actually, I’ve known her all of her life. She is the daughter of one of my very best friends, Bruce Etter, who faithful readers of TBYFA will remember recently included me in some interviews for a history series. He interviewed me on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and also hosted a roundtable discussion with John Fea and me on whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation.

Sarah is thirteen years old, and finishing up her eighth grade year as a student at Wilson Hill Academy where her father serves as head of school. What is really special about Sarah is that she is a contributor to Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who, edited by Gregory Thornbury and Ned Bustard. She is one of the most impressive students I’ve ever seen–truly. She is the only eighth grader I’ve ever known to contribute to a work edited by such towering figures as Thornbury and Bustard. I am honored to share this essay that she wrote especially for us here at the blog.

bigger on the inside cover

Sarah writes about C. S. Lewis’ famous Trilemma, but she gives us a fresh and very interesting perspective on it. Here’s Sarah–read and enjoy.

The enchanted world of Narnia has brought charm to the world since 1950. It is a world of silver seas, growing lampposts, and valiant mice. C.S. Lewis’ story has impacted the world internationally, selling over 100 million copies in 47 different languages. Outside of literature, Lewis was also a world-renowned Christian philosopher, writing dozens of theology books on ultimate issues, arguing from a Christian perspective. In Mere Christianity, he explained his famous theory, the “Trilemma”, which states that when it comes to answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” we have three choices: Jesus is a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord. Later on, the idea of “Legend” became a fourth “L” option.

The Chronicles of Narnia are well-known for their powerful Christian allegories. They are clear, fresh, evident, and enjoyable. Lewis clearly meant to communicate deep theological meanings. One example has to do with three main villains of Narnia. A closer look reveals that these notorious bad guys resemble the three views of Lewis’ Trilemma. Whether or not Lewis intended such a connection is not clear, but Jadis, Miraz, and The Emerald Witch correlate with Liar, Legend, Lunatic.

In what is likely the most famous Narnia story, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, we watch Aslan, (an allegorical figure representing Jesus), die for Edmund. This has become one of the most famous allegory to the crucifixion and substitutionary atonement in all of children’s literature. However, maybe The White Witch represents more than just Satan. In The Magician’s Nephew, we learn The White Witch’s (Jadis) back story and character. One of the most revealing scenes in this area is Narnia’s birth, where Aslan’s sacred voice creates a blooming life to an infant Narnia. As Digory and Polly look on Aslan with humbled and perplexed eyes, Jadis is repulsed. She throws her lamppost at Aslan’s head in an act of defiance, loathing the life and magic that Aslan is performing. Later on in the book at the garden, she declares that Digory has a false view of Aslan. Jadis is essentially saying that Aslan is a liar. It’s very common today to divide ourselves up into those who believe Jesus existed and those who don’t. Lewis says that is not legitimate. He says that out there, in the world, there are people who wouldn’t doubt Jesus’ existence for a second. A man named Jesus walked the earth? That’s right. But he was a liar. Son of Mary? Sure. Son of God? Certainly not. Jadis wants to plant doubts in Digory’s mind about who Aslan truly is. She seeks to plant thoughts into the back of his mind and toys with his desires. What has Aslan ever done for you? What about your mother? She is pinning deceit onto Aslan. People like Jadis want to turn us against God, and it is often difficult not to listen to them. But, as all heretics do, Jadis makes a mistake when she tries to turn Digory against Polly.

The Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Emerald Witch, the malicious Queen of the Underland, is the villain who makes all of us cringe at the sound of her name in The Silver Chair. Though she appears less often than Miraz or Jadis, her impact on Narnia is just as powerful. Sly, cunning, and gorgeous, she very much reminds us of Jadis. But just as compelling as her character is the theological meaning embedded in her character. When Eustace and Jill boldly claim their belief in Aslan, the witch shuts them down, declaring this as lunacy. Aslan is not a lion; that is insanity. Jesus was not the Son of God, that is madness. We know this is not true. But Eustace, our great hero, whose skin was torn from him by Aslan’s own paw, whose dirt and monstrosity were washed away, who treaded the Silver Sea and touched the end of the world, to this heresy he succumbs. He collapses. Not by physical force, just by a pretty face and some sweet sounding spell and he is useless. What a depressing depiction of how easily we break. The Lady of the Green Kirtle claims Aslan is essentially a lunatic, and Eustace falls right at her feet. It’s not just in Narnia that Christians are confronted with this view, and it’s just as life threatening here as it was for Eustace and Jill.

In Prince Caspian, we read of Miraz’s ancestors, the Telmarines, who invaded Narnia in year 1998, the last year of the Dark Age, the first year of the Telmarine Age. This was 983 years after the Pevensies left Narnia in 1015. In approximately 2263, Miraz killed his brother, Caspian IX and took the throne, and then in 2303 attempted murder on his nephew, Caspian X. Miraz thinks his greatest strength is rationality. Miraz mocks the fairytales of Old Narnia. This sounds strangely close to the part of the Trilemma that others added later on. “Legend” represents the people who think that Jesus never existed. This is clearly the view Miraz has of Aslan. These people are everywhere in our world today. Just look at Miraz, he, the great Telmarine king, he, who laughs in the face of legends, he, who is rational and intelligent. He cares nothing for Narnia, but forbids anyone around him to speak of it. He firmly denies the existence of the kings and queens of old, and yet is hesitant to duel Peter. He declares it all as legend, which matters not, he doesn’t care for it all, and yet the very name of Aslan makes his blood boil. In our society, and Lewis’ as well, people claim God is dead.They are skeptical of God’s existence, but God still infuriates them. Miraz is a picture of those who claim Jesus is a legend.

Lewis depicts these heretics as witches, tyrants, and snakes, each one attacking Aslan with a different weapon. It would be unwise to take that depiction for granted. In Aslan’s story, these people are villains, and line up too well with Lewis’ opposing beliefs against Jesus. Of course, there is one more category Lewis believed in that I have not spoken of. Now that we have observed the violent Jadis, the dictatorial Miraz, and the cruel-hearted Emerald Witch, there is one more. And while the first three have been constant in our time and in Lewis’ day as well, in the fictional realm and the real realm, this one is more eternal, more impenetrable, and more triumphant than any of the others. While Jadis is slain, and Miraz is killed, and the Emerald Witch is slaughtered, this one stands tall and vibrant, and remains victorious when all others fail. And when the earth shatters and the stars rain down from the heavens, when all others recoil in fear, they will not falter. These are they who believe in that Jesus is Lord and not a liar, not a lunatic, and not a legend.

Susan Castle’s Testimonial of Her Life as a Slave


Susan Castle with her son and the Hull children

I hope you enjoyed reading Anna Parkes’ testimonial about her life as recorded in the Federal Writer’s Project. Again, my purpose in including her testimonial is, in some small way, to allow her voice to be heard once again. As wonderful a project as “Born in Slavery” was as undertaken by the government in the 1930s, it would be easy for these testimonials to be buried in the archive and neglected. Since I have a personal connection to Anna Parkes and Susan Castle, I feel a sense of responsibility to not only hear their voices, but to introduce them to the world in which I live.

Let’s now hear from Susan Castle. She and her family served my great-great-great grandfather, T. R. R. Cobb in Athens, Georgia. Let me offer a heads-up as we prepare to read her words: she frequently uses the n-word to describe herself and other black people. I thought about editing it out, but was loathe to do so because these are Susan’s words, and they are in a very real sense, sacred. We just need to bear in mind that this word was much more accepted in the time and context. We can also read the word and be reminded of the many ways in which African Americans were degraded as a race by slavery and by virulent racism during this period.

The picture above was taken at the turn of the twentieth century. As you’ll see in Susan’s testimonial, she continued on with the Hull family after the war. Susan is standing with her little boy on the left with the Hull children. My grandmother’s mother, Sally Hull, is among the children.


1257 W. Hancock Ave.
Athens, Georgia

Written by:    Sadie B. Hornsby
Edited by:      Sarah H. Hall
Athens and
John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers’ Project
Augusta, Georgia


Ex-Slave—Age 78

On a beautiful morning in April, the interviewer found Susan sitting in the door of her cabin. When asked if she would like to talk about the old plantation days, she replied: “Yes Ma’am, I don’t mind tellin’ what I know, but for dat I done forgot I sho’ ain’t gwine make nothin’ up. For one thing, I ain’t never lived on no plantation. I was a house servant in town.” She added: “Do you mind me axin’ you one favor?” Consent was given and she continued: “Dat is, please don’t call me Aunt Susan; it makes me feel lak I was a hundred years old.

“I was borned in Clarke County, March 7, 1860; I believes dat’s what dey say. Mudder was named Fannie and Pappy’s name was Willis. Us chillum called ‘im Pappy lak he was de onliest one in de world. He fust belonged to Marse Maxwell of Savannah, Georgia. I was so little I disremembers how Pappy came by de name of Castle. In all de seben of us chillum, I didn’t have but one brudder, and his name was Johnny. My five sisters was Mary, Louvenia, Rosa, Fannie, and Sarah. All I ‘members ‘bout us chilluns was dat us played lak chilluns will do.

“In de quarters us had old timey beds and cheers, but I’ll tell you whar I slept most times. Hit was on a cot right at de foot of Mist’ess’ bed. I stayed at de big house most of de time at night, and ‘fore bedtime I sot close by Mist’ess on a foot stool she had special for me.

“All I recollects ‘bout my gran’ma was she belonged to General Thomas R. R. Cobb, and us called ‘im Marse Thomas. Gran’ma Susan wouldn’t do right so Marse Thomas sold her on de block.

“Us had evvything good to eat. Marse Thomas was a rich man and fed ‘is Niggers well. Dey cooked in a big open fireplace and biled greens and some of de udder vitals in a great big pot what swung on a rack. Meat, fish and chickens was fried in a griddle iron what was sot on a flat topped trivet wid slits to let de fire thoo. Dey called it a trivet ‘cause it sot on three legs and hot coals was raked up under it. Hoe cakes made out of cornmeal and wheat flour sho’ was good cooked on dat griddle. ‘Tatoes was roasted in de ashes, and dey cooked break what dey called ash cake in de ashes. Pound cake, fruit cake, light bread and biscuits was baked in a great big round pot, only dey warn’t as deep as de pots dey biled in; dese was called ovens. Makes me hongry to think ‘bout all dem good vitals now.

“Oh! Yes Ma’am, us had plenty ‘possums. Pappy used to cotch so many sometimes he jest put ‘em in a box and let us eat ‘em when us got ready. ‘Possums tasted better atter dey was put up in a box and fattened a while. Us didn’t have many rabbits; dey warn’t as much in style den as dey is now, and de style of eatin’ ‘possums lak dey done in slav’ry times, dat is ‘bout over. Dey eats ‘em some yet, but it ain’t stylish no mo’. Us chillum used to go fishin’ in Moore’s Branch; one would stand on one side of de branch wid a stick, and one on de udder side would roust de fishes out. When dey come to de top and jump up, us would hit ‘em on de head, and de grown folks would cook ‘em. Dere warn’t but one gyarden, but dat had plenty in it for evvybody.

Anna Parkes on a Visit from the KKK and Life After the War


In this last installment from Anna Parkes, we hear her speak about her life after the Civil War and Emancipation.

Another important book that you will want to return to again and again is Gustave de Beaumont’s Marie, Or, Slavery in the United States. I wrote about this classic work by Alexis de Tocqueville’s traveling companion here and at Then and Now. Beaumont meant Marie to be read as a companion piece to Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, but his work was not translated until 1958, almost 100 years after Democracy was made available in English. Beaumont’s work is so important because he recognized that white racism against blacks was the mother of slavery, and thus, the real stain on the American character.

Now, here’s the last part of Anna’s testimonial:

“I done been studyin’ ‘bout de war times, and I ‘members dat Ole Marster wuz mighty troubled ‘bout his Negroes when he heared a big crowd of Yankee sojers wuz comin’ to Athens. Folkses done been sayin’ de Yankees would pick out de bes’ Negroes and take ‘em ‘way wid ‘em, and dere wuz a heap of talk ‘bout do scandalous way dem Yankee sojers been treatin’ Negro ‘omans and gals. ‘Fore dey got here, Ole Marster sent mos’ of his bes’ Negroes to Augusta to git ‘em out of danger f’um de Fed’rals. How some ever de Negroes dat he kept wid’ ‘im won’t bothered none, kaze dem Fed’rals ‘spected de Jedge and didn’t do no harm ‘round his place.

“In Augusta, I stayed on Greene Street wid a white lady named Mrs. Broome. No Ma’am, I nebber done no wuk. I jes’ played and frolicked, and had a good time wid Mrs. Broome’s babies. She sho’ wuz good to me. Ma, she wukked for a Negro ‘oman named Mrs. Kemp, and lived in de house wid her.

“Ole Marster, sent for us atter de war wuz over, and us wuz mighty proud to git back home. Times had done changed when we got back. Mos’ of Ole Marster’s money wuz gone, and he couldn’t take keer of so many Negroes, so Ma moved over dear de gun fact’ry and started takin’ in washin’.

“De wust bother Negroes had dem days wuz findin’ a place to live. Houses had to be built for ‘em, and dey won’t no money to build ‘em wid.

“One night, jes’ atter I got in bed, some mens come walkin’ right in Ma’s house widout knockin’. I jerked de kivver up over my head quick, and tried to hide. One of de mens axed Ma who she wuz. Ma knowed his voice, so she said: ‘You knows me Mister Blank,’ (She called him by his sho’ nuff name). ‘I’m Liza Lumpkin, and you knows I used to b’long to Jedge Lumpkin.’ De udders jes’ laughed at him and said: ‘Boy, she knows you, so you better not say nuffin’ else.’ Den anudder man axed Ma how she wuz makin’ a livin’. Ma knowed his voice too, and she called him by name and tole him us wuz takin’ a washin’ and livin’ all right. Dey laughed at him too, and den anudder one axed her sompin’ and she called his name when she answered him too. Den de leader say, ‘Boys, us better git out of here. These here hoods and robes ain’t doin’ a bit of good here. She knows ev’ry one of us and can tell our names.’ Den dey went out laughin’ fit to kill, and dat wuz de onliest time de Ku Kluxers ever wuz at our house, leastways us s’posed dey wuz Ku Kluxers.

“I don’t ‘member much ‘bout no wuk atter freedom ‘ceppin’ de wash tub. Ma larned me how to wash and iron. She said: ‘Some day I’ll be gone f’um dis world, and you won’t know nuffin’ ‘bout takin’ keer of yo’self, lessen you larn right now.’ I wuz mighty proud when I could do up a weeks washin’ and take it back to my white folkses and git sho’ ‘nuff money for my wuk. I felt like I wuz a grown ‘oman den. It wuz in dis same yard dat Ma larned me to wash. At fust Ma rented dis place. There wuz another house here den. Us saved our washin’ money and bought de place, and dis is de last of three houses on dis spot. Evvy cent spent on dis place wuz made by takin’ in washin’ and de most of it wuz made washin’ for Mister Eddie Lumpkin’s family.

“Heaps of udder Negroes wuz smart like Ma, and dey got along all right. Dese days de young folkses don’t try so hard. Things come lots easier for ‘em, and dey got lots better chances dan us had, but dey don’t pay no ‘tention to nuffin’ but spendin’ all dey got, evvy day. Boys is wuss’en gals. Long time ago I done give all I got to my daughter. She takes keer of me. Effen de roof leaks, she has it looked atter. She wuks and meks our livin’. I didn’t want nobody to show up here atter I die and take nuffin’ away f’um her.

“I ain’ never had no hard times. I allus been treated good and had a good livin’. Course de rheumatiz done got me right bad, but I is still able to git about and tend to de house while my gal is off at wuk. I wanted to wash today, but I couldn’t find no soap. My gal done hid de soap, kaze she say I’se too old to do my own washin’ and she wanter wash my clo’es herse’f.”

In parting, the old woman said rather apologetically, “I couldn’t tell you ‘bout no sho’ ‘nuff hard times. Atter de War I wukked hard, but I ain’t never had no hard times.”