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.”