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Interviewer: Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby
Person Interviewed: Easter Brown
Location: Athens, Georgia
“Aunt” Easter Brown, 78 years old, was sweeping chips into a basket out in front of her cabin. “Go right in honey, I’se comin’ soon as I git some chips for my fire. Does I lak to talk ’bout when I wuz a chile? I sho does. I warn’t but 4 years old when de war wuz over, but I knows all ’bout it.”
“I wuz born in Floyd County sometime in October. My pa wuz Erwin and my ma wuz Liza Lorie. I don’t know whar dey come from, but I knows dey wuz from way down de country somewhars. Dere wuz six of us chilluns. All of us wuz sold. Yessum, I wuz sold too. My oldest brother wuz named Jim. I don’t riccolec’ de others, dey wuz all sold off to diffunt parts of de country, and us never heared from ‘em no more. My brother, my pa and me wuz sold on de block in Rome, Georgia. Marster Frank Glenn buyed me. I wuz so little dat when dey bid me off, dey had to hold me up so folkses could see me. I don’t ‘member my real ma and pa, and I called Marster ‘pa’ an’ Mist’ess ‘ma’, ’til I wuz ’bout ‘leven years old.
“I don’t know much ’bout slave quarters, or what dey had in ‘em, ’cause I wuz raised in de house wid de white folkses. I does know beds in de quarters wuz lak shelves. Holes wuz bored in de side of de house, two in de wall and de floor, and poles runnin’ from de wall and de floor, fastened together wid pegs; on ‘em dey put planks, and cross de foot of de bed dey put a plank to hold de straw and keep de little ‘uns from fallin’ out.
“What did us have to eat? Lordy mussy! Mist’ess! us had everything. Summertime dere wuz beans, cabbage, squashes, irish ‘tatoes, roas’en ears, ‘matoes, cucumbers, cornbread, and fat meat, but de Nigger boys, dey wuz plum fools ’bout hog head. In winter dey et sweet ‘tatoes, collards, turnips and sich, but I et lak de white folkses. I sho does lak ‘possums and rabbits. Yessum, some of de slaves had gyardens, some of ‘em sholy did.
“No’m, us Niggers never wore no clothes in summer, I means us little ‘uns. In de winter us wore cotton clothes, but us went barefoots. My uncle Sam and some of de other Niggers went ’bout wid dey foots popped open from de cold. Marster had 110 slaves on his plantation.
“Mist’ess wuz good to me. Pa begged her to buy me, ’cause she wuz his young Mist’ess and he knowed she would be good to me, but Marster wuz real cruel. He’d beat his hoss down on his knees and he kilt one of ‘em. He whupped de Niggers when dey didn’t do right. Niggers is lak dis; dey wuz brought to dis here land wild as bucks, and dey is lak chicken roosters in a pen. You just have to make ‘em ‘have deyselves. Its lak dat now; if dey’d ‘have deyselves, white folkses would let ‘em be.
“Dere warn’t no jails in dem days. Dey had a gyuard house what dey whupped ‘em in, and Mondays and Tuesdays wuz set aside for de whuppin’s, when de Niggers what had done wrong got so many lashes, ‘cordin’ to what devilment dey had been doin’. De overseer didn’t do de whuppin’, Marster done dat. Dem patterrollers wuz sompin else. Mankind! If dey ketched a Nigger out atter dark widout no pass dey’d most nigh tear de hide offen his back.
“I’ll tell you what dat overseer done one night. Some enemy of Marster’s sot fire to de big frame house whar him and Mist’ess and de chillun lived. De overseer seed it burnin’, and run and clam up de tree what wuz close to de house, went in de window and got Marster’s two little gals out dat burnin’ house ‘fore you could say scat. Dat sho fixed de overseer wid old Marster. Atter dat Marster give him a nice house to live in but Marster’s fine old house sho wuz burnt to de ground.
“De cyarriage driver wuz uncle Sam. He drove de chillun to school, tuk Marster and Mist’ess to church, and done de wuk ’round de house; such as, totin’ in wood, keepin’ de yards and waitin’ on de cook. No’m us slaves didn’t go to church; de Niggers wuz so wore out on Sundays, dey wuz glad to stay home and rest up, ’cause de overseer had ‘em up way ‘fore day and wuked ‘em ’til long atter dark. On Saddays dey had to wash deir clothes and git ready for de next week. Some slaves might a had special things give to ‘em on Christmas and New Years Day, but not on Marster’s plantation; dey rested up a day and dat wuz all. I heared tell dey had Christmas fixin’s and doin’s on other plantations, but not on Marse Frank’s place. All corn shuckin’s, cotton pickin’s, log rollin’s, and de lak was when de boss made ‘em do it, an’ den dere sho warn’t no extra sompin t’eat.
“De onliest game I ever played wuz to take my doll made out of a stick wid a rag on it and play under a tree. When I wuz big ‘nough to wuk, all I done wuz to help de cook in de kitchen and play wid old Mist’ess’ baby.
“Some of de Niggers runned away. Webster, Hagar, Atney, an’ Jane runned away a little while ‘fore freedom. Old Marster didn’t try to git ‘em back, ’cause ’bout dat time de war wuz over. Marster and Mist’ess sho looked atter de Niggers when dey got sick for dey knowed dat if a Nigger died dat much property wuz lost. Yessum, dey had a doctor sometime, but de most dey done wuz give ‘em hoarhound, yellow root and tansy. When a baby wuz cuttin’ teeth, dey biled ground ivy and give ‘em.
“Louisa, de cook wuz married in de front yard. All I ‘members ’bout it wuz dat all de Niggers gathered in de yard, Louisa had on a white dress; de white folkses sho fixed Louisa up, ’cause she wuz deir cook.
“Jus’ lemme tell you ’bout my weddin’ I buyed myself a dress and had it laid out on de bed, den some triflin’, no ‘count Nigger wench tuk and stole it ‘fore I had a chance to git married in it. I had done buyed dat dress for two pupposes; fust to git married in it, and second to be buried in. I stayed on wid Old Miss ’til I got ’bout grown and den I drifted to Athens. When I married my fust husband, Charlie Montgomery, I wuz wukkin’ for Mrs. W.R. Booth, and us married in her dinin’ room. Charlie died out and I married James Hoshier. Us had one baby. Hit wuz a boy. James an’ our boy is both daid now and I’se all by myself.
“What de slaves done when dey wuz told dat dey wuz free? I wuz too little to know what dey meant by freedom, but Old Marster called de overseer and told him to ring de bell for de Niggers to come to de big house. He told ‘em dey wuz free devils and dey could go whar dey pleased and do what dey pleased—dey could stay wid him if dey wanted to. Some stayed wid Old Marster and some went away. I never seed no yankee sojers. I heared tell of ‘em comin’ but I never seed none of ‘em.
“No’m I don’t know nothin’ ’bout Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington or Jefferson Davis. I didn’t try to ketch on to any of ‘em. As for slavery days; some of de Niggers ought to be free and some oughtn’t to be. I don’t know nuttin much ’bout it. I had a good time den, and I gits on pretty good now.
“How come I jined de church? Well I felt lak it wuz time for me to live better and git ready for a home in de next world. Chile you sho has axed me a pile of questions, and I has sho ‘joyed tellin’ you what I knowed.”