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.”