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Interviewer: Sadie B. Hornsby
Person Interviewed: Anderson Furr
Location: Broad Street, Athens, Georgia
Anderson Furr’s address led the interviewer to a physician’s residence on Broad Street, where she was directed to a small frame house on the rear of the lot. The little three-room cottage has a separate entrance from Pulaski Street. Three stone steps lead from the street to the narrow yard which is enclosed by a low rock coping. Anderson rents only one room and the remainder of the house is occupied by Annie Sims and her husband, George, who works at the Holman Hotel.
Reclining comfortably in a cane-backed chair, with his walking stick conveniently placed across his knees, Anderson was enjoying the shade of a wide spread oak tree in the tidy yard. His costume consisted of a battered old black felt hat, a dingy white shirt, dark gray pants, and scuffed black shoes. Asked if he remembered the days when the North was fighting the South for his freedom, Anderson replied: “‘Member fightin’! Why, Lady! Dey ain’t never stopped fightin’ yit. Folks has been a-fightin’ ever since I come in dis world, and dey will be fightin’ long atter I is gone.
“I dis’members what was de name of de town whar I was borned, but it was in Hall County. Lydia and Earl Strickland was my Ma and Pa. All of deir chillun is daid now ‘cept me and Bob. De others was: Abe, Bill, Jim, and Sarah. Dere ain’t much to tell ’bout what us done dem days, ‘cept play and eat. Dem what was big ‘nough had to wuk.
“Lordy, Miss! It’s lak dis: I is a old Nigger, and I done been here for many years, but dese last few years I sho’ has been a sick man, and now I can’t git things straight in my mind lak dey was den. I knows us lived in log houses what had great big chimblies made out of sticks and mud. Why, dem fireplaces was ’bout eight feet wide, and you could put a whole stick of cord wood on de fire. Us slept on high-up old timey beds what had big posties and instead of springs, dey had stout cords wove ‘cross to hold de mattress. De last time I slept on one of dem sort of beds was when I was a little boy, sleepin’ wid my Ma. Pa and Ma was both field hands. Ma’s mammy was de onliest one of my grandmas I ever seed. Her name was Ca’line and she lived wid Grandpa Abe on another plantation. Ma’s sister, my aunt Ca’line was cook up at our Old Marster’s big house.
“Money? Yessum! Dey gimme a little money now and den for totin’ water to de field, sweepin’ de yards, and a million other things dey used to make me do. De most dey ever gimme was 50 cents. I never spent none of it, but jus’ turned it over to my Ma. Chillun warn’t ‘lowed to spend money den lak dey does now, ’cause dey had evvything dey needed anyhow. Old Marster, he give us plenty somepin t’eat, such as it was. Dere was lots of cornbread, a little meat now and den, collards, whip-poor-will peas and dem unknown peas what was most big as a dime, and black ‘lasses—dat was lallyho.
“Us cotch lots of ‘possums, but mighty few of ‘em us Niggers ever got a chance to eat, or rabbits neither. Dey made Niggers go out and hunt ‘em and de white folks et ‘em. Our mouths would water for some of dat ‘possum but it warn’t often dey let us have none. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout no fishin’ bein’ done dem days. Yessum, slaves had deir own gyardens, and dey better wuk ‘em good if dey wanted any gyarden sass to eat. Cookin’ was done in dem big open fireplaces, mostly in pots and thick iron skillets what had lids on ‘em.
“Boys wore long blue striped shirts in summer and nothin’ else a t’all. Dem shirts was made jus’ lak mother hubbards. Us wore de same thing in winter only dem shirts was made new for winter. By summer dey had done wore thin. When de weather got too cold, Marster give us old coats, what grown folks had done most wore out, and us warn’t none too warm den wid de wind a-sailin’ under our little old shirt tails. Our shoes was rough old brogans what was hard as rocks, and us had to put rags inside ‘em to keep ‘em from rubbin’ de skin off our foots. Us didn’t know what socks and stockin’s was dem.
“Marse Earl Strickland owned us. Miss Sarah was his old ‘oman and dey was sho’ mighty good to deir slaves. White folks was heap better folks den dan dey is now anyhow. Now-a-days dey will knock you up right now, and won’t be long ’bout it. I can’t git up no ricollections ’bout ‘em havin’ no chillun a t’all. Seems lak I know for sho’ dey didn’t have none. Dey never had no fine house neither; jus’ a plain common house wid a chimbly at both ends.
“Oh, Lord! Marster never had no overseer; no car’iage driver neither; didn’t even have no car’iage yit. He did have a surrey what he hitched mules to and driv for hisself. Warn’t no hoss on dat plantation, nothin’ ‘cept mules.
“How big was dat plantation? Good Granny! it was so big I never did git all de way over it, and dere must a been 15 or 20 slaves. Old Marster got us up ’bout sunrise and fetched us in at sundown. He was all time knockin’ on his Niggers ’bout somepin. He ‘lowed dey didn’t do dis, or dat, or somepin else right—he allus had to have some ‘scuse to knock ‘em ’round.”
A little Negro boy, possibly five years old, came up to Anderson with a peach in his hand and said: “Look, Uncle Anderson, C.T. done gimme dis peach what he stole off dat dar wagon.” The old man reached out his hand. “Boy, you gimme dat peach,” he commanded. “You knows I lak peaches. Give it to me, I say. I do declar’, nigger chillun jus’ got to steal anyhow. Run git yourself ‘nother peach off dat wagon, but don’t you let dat man see you git it. Put dat peach under your shirt ’til you gits in dis yard, and if you leave dis yard ‘gain I’ll buss your haid wide open. Does you hear me, Boy?
“What was dat you was a-axin’ ’bout jails, Miss? Yessum, us had ‘em. Niggers would git too rowdy-lak, drinkin’ liquor and fightin’, and dat was when de white folks slapped ‘em in de gyardhouse, widout a bite to eat. Gyardhouses is called jails dese days. I’se lak my Ma. I’se a fighter. Ma would jump on anybody what looked at her twice. De onliest time I ever got in de gyardhouse was a long time atter de end of de big War. A man owed me some money, and when I axed him for it, he got mad and knocked me down. I got right up and knocked him out, and right den and dar I was sont to de gyardhouse.
“Good Lord, Miss! Slave folks warn’t ‘lowed no time for to larn readin’ and writin’. Deir time was all tuk up in de field at wuk. Slaves went to de white folks’ church, but one thing sho’ dey couldn’t read de Bible for deirselfs and couldn’t write none. Jus’ to tell de truth, I didn’t take in what dey sung at church, but I ain’t forgot dem baptizin’s. I’se been to so many of ‘em. Evvybody went in dem days. Dere warn’t no place in de church houses for to be ducked dem days, so de white folks had a pool dug out by de branch for de baptizin’s, and white folks and slaves was ducked in de same pool of water. White folks went in fust and den de Niggers. Evvybody what come dar sung a song ’bout ‘My Sins has all been Washed Away, and I is White as Snow.’
“Slave fun’rels was mournful sights, for sho’. Dem home-made coffins was made out of pine planks, and dey warn’t painted or lined or nothin’. And slave coffins warn’t no diffunt from de ones de white folks used. Our Marster sot aside a spot in his own buryin’ grounds for de slaves’ graveyard. When dey was a-buryin’ folks dey sung a song what went somepin lak dis: ‘Oh, Lord! Us takes ‘em to de Graveyard, Never to fetch ‘em Back.’
“If slaves did run off to de North, I never heared nothin’ ’bout it. Oh, Lord! I jus’ can’t talk ’bout dem patterollers, for it looked lak all de white folks tried to jine up wid ‘em. How dey did beat up us pore Niggers! Us had to git a pass for dis and a pass for dat, and dere jus’ warn’t nothin’ us could do widout dem patterollers a-beatin’ us up. Dey beat you wid a cowhide lash what cut a gash in your back evvy time it struck you. Yessum, white folks and Niggers was all time quar’ellin’ and fightin’.
“When slaves got in from de fields dey et deir somepin t’eat and went to bed. Dey didn’t have to wuk on Saddays atter dinnertime. When our old Marster turned us loose, he turned us loose; and when he wuked us, us sho’ was wuked. De young folks had deir big times on Sadday nights. Dey danced and frolicked ’round sort of lak dey does now. Evvybody went to de meetin’ house on Sunday, and dere’s whar Niggers had a good time a-courtin’.
“Christmas was de time when old Marster let us do pretty much as us pleased. Us had all kinds of good things t’eat, and atter us drunk a lot of liquor it warn’t long ‘fore dere was a Nigger fight goin’ on. Yessum, us had cornshuckin’s, cotton pickin’s, quiltin’s, log rollin’s, and all sich as dat. Wid plenty t’eat and good liquor to drink on hand, Niggers would shuck corn or pick cotton all night. It was de big eats and lots of liquor dat made slaves lak dem things.
“Little slave boys played wid sun-baked marbles, made of mud, and old rag balls, what was sho’ a heap diffunt from what chilluns thinks dey has got to have dese days ‘fore dey kin have a good time.
“Marster had mighty good keer tuk of his slaves when dey got sick. Dere warn’t many doctors dem days. Dey jus’ used home-made medicines, mostly teas made out of yarbs (herbs). I jus’ can’t git up no ricollection of what yarbs dey did put in dem teas. I does ‘member dat chillun had to live wid bags of assfiddy (asafetida) ’round deir necks to keep off ailments. Ma give me and Bob, each one, a block of dat assfiddy for good luck. I throwed my block ‘way a few years ago, and I ain’t had nothin’ but bad luck ever since. Dat’s why I can’t git up de things you wants to know ’bout. My mind jus’ don’t wuk right no more.
“Dem yankees was on de go all de time. One of ‘em come to old Marster’s house and axed one of my uncles to go off wid him. Uncle was old and skeered and he thought de yankees might kill him or somepin lak dat. When de War was done over, old Marster told us ’bout how things was. He said us was free and would have to do de best us could for ourselfs. Dem was happy days for Niggers. Dey sho’ didn’t take no more foolishment off of white folks atter dat, and dey don’t pay ‘em no mind now. Niggers got so bad atter dey got deir freedom dat de Ku Kluxers come ’round and made ‘em be’have deirselfs. One of dem Kluxers come to our house and set down and talked to us ’bout how us ought to act, and how us was goin’ to have to do, if us ‘spected to live and do well. Us allus thought it was our own old Marster, all dressed up in dem white robes wid his face kivvered up, and a-talkin’ in a strange, put-on lak, voice. None of Marster’s Niggers never left him for ’bout two or three years. Dere warn’t no way for Niggers to buy no land ’til atter dey could make and save up some money. Marster jus’ paid up his Niggers once a year, at de end of crap time. It warn’t long atter de War was over ‘fore dere was some few schools for Niggers scattered ’round ’bout.
“When did I git married? Lordy, Miss! Such things de giverment do want to know ’bout pore old Niggers! It warn’t ’til ten years atter us was freed, dat me and Martha Freeman got married up together. Dat was one sho’ ‘nough fine weddin’ what Miss Sallie Morton and our other white friends give us. Dey give us evvything us had at dat big old feast. Dere was three tables full, one for de white folks, and two for de Niggers, and dem tables was jus’ loaded down wid good things. Willie and Ida was de onliest chillun me and Martha had, and dey never lived to git grown. Martha died out and den I married up wid Mamie White. Us didn’t have no chillun and Mamie’s daid now. Dey’s all daid ‘cept me.
“I thinks it was a good thing Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis did set us free, and I sho hopes de giverment won’t never fetch slavery back no more.
“I never will forgit de day I jined up wid Morton’s Baptist Church. I had done helped my Pa build it from a brush arbor to a sho’ ‘nough church house. De reason I jined up was ’cause de Marster had done changed me from nature to Grace. I thinks evvybody ought to jine up in de church ’cause it’s de Lord’s will.
“Miss, I done told you all I knows and I’se a sick man, so go ‘long wid you and let me take my rest.”