Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Andrew Boone
Location: Wake County, North Carolina. Harris Farm.
Age: 90 years
Occupation: Worked in show business
I been living in dese backer barns fifteen years. I built this little shelter to cook under. Dey cut me off the WPA cause dey said I wus too ole to work. Dey tole us ole folks we need not put down our walkin’ sticks to git work cause dey jes’ won’t goin’ to put us on.
Well, I had some tomatoes cooked widout any grease for my breakfast. I had a loaf of bread yesterday, but I et it. I ain’t got any check from the ole age pension an’ I have nothin’ to eat an’ I am hongry. I jes’ looks to God. I set down by de road thinkin’ bout how to turn an’ what to do to git a meal, when you cum along. I thanks you fer dis dime. I guess God made you give it to me.
I wus glad to take you down to my livin’ place to give you my story. Dis shelter, an ole tobacco barn, is better dan no home at all. I is a man to myself an’ I enjoy livin’ out here if I could git enough to eat.
Well de big show is coming to town. It’s de Devil’s wurk. Yes sir, it’s de Devil’s wurk. Why dem show folks ken make snakes an’ make ‘em crawl too. Dere wus one in Watson Field in de edge of Raleigh not long ago an’ he made snakes an’ made ‘em crawl too. All shows is de Devil’s wurk.
I never done anything fer myself in all my life. I always wurked fer de Rebels. I stuck right to ‘em. Didn’t have no sense fer doin’ dat I guess.
One time a Rebel saw a Yankee wid one eye, one leg an’ one arm. De Yankee wus beggin’. De Rebel went up to him an’ give him a quarter. Den he backed off an’ jes’ stood a-lookin’ at de Yankee, presently he went back an’ give him anudder quarter, den anudder, den he said, ‘You take dis whole dollar, you is de first Yankee I eber seed trimmed up jes’ to my notion, so take all dis, jes’ take de whole dollar, you is trimmed up to my notion’.
I belonged to Billy Boone in Slavery time. He wus a preacher. He lived on an’ owned a plantation in Northampton County. The plantation wus near woodland. The nearest river to the place wus the Roanoke. My ole missus’ name wus Nancy. When ole marster died I stayed around wid fust one then another of the chilluns, cause marster tole me jes’ fore he died fer me to stay wid any of ‘em I wanted to stay with. All dem ole people done dead an’ gone on.
Niggers had to go through thick an’ thin in slavery time, with rough rations most of de time, wid jes’ enough clothin’ to make out wid. Our houses were built of logs an’ covered wid slabs. Dey wus rived out of blocks of trees about 3-6 and 8ft in length. De chimleys wus built of sticks and mud, den a coat of clay mud daubed over ‘em. De cracks in de slave houses wus daubed wid mud too.
We wurked from sun to sun. If we had a fire in cold weather where we wus wurkin’ marster or de overseer would come an’ put it out. We et frozen meat an’ bread many times in cold weather. After de day’s wurk in de fields wus over we had a task of pickin’ de seed from cotton till we had two ounces of lint or spin two ounces of cotton on a spinnin’ wheel. I spun cotton on a spinnin’ wheel. Dats de way people got clothes in slavery time.
I can’t read an’ write but dey learned us to count. Dey learned us to count dis way. ‘Ought is an’ ought, an’ a figger is a figger, all for de white man an’ nothin’ fer de nigger’. Hain’t you heard people count dat way?
Dey sold slaves jes’ like people sell hosses now. I saw a lot of slaves sold on de auction block. Dey would strip ‘em stark naked. A nigger scarred up or whaled an’ welted up wus considered a bad nigger an’ did not bring much. If his body wus not scarred, he brought a good price. I saw a lot of slaves whupped an’ I was whupped myself. Dey whupped me wid de cat o’ nine tails. It had nine lashes on it. Some of de slaves wus whupped wid a cabbin paddle. Dey had forty holes in’ em an’ when you wus buckled to a barrel dey hit your naked flesh wid de paddle an’ every whur dere wus a hole in de paddle it drawed a blister. When de whuppin’ wid de paddle wus over, dey took de cat o’ nine tails an’ busted de blisters. By dis time de blood sometimes would be runnin’ down dere heels. Den de next thing wus a wash in salt water strong enough to hold up an egg. Slaves wus punished dat way fer runnin’ away an’ sich.
If you wus out widout a pass dey would shore git you. De paterollers shore looked after you. Dey would come to de house at night to see who wus there. If you wus out of place, dey would wear you out.
Sam Joyner, a slave, belonged to marster. He wus runnin’ from de paterollers an’ he fell in a ole well. De pateroller went after marster. Marster tole’ em to git ole Sam out an’ whup him jes’ as much as dey wanted to. Dey got him out of de well an’ he wus all wet an’ muddy. Sam began takin’ off his shoes, den he took off his pants an’ got in his shirt tail. Marster, he say, ‘What you takin’ off you clothes fer Sam?’ Sam, he say, ‘Marster, you know you all can’t whup dis nigger right over all dese wet clothes.’ Den Sam lit out. He run so fas’ he nearly flew. De paterollers got on dere hosses an’ run him but dey could not ketch him. He got away. Marster got Sam’s clothes an’ carried ‘em to de house. Sam slipped up next morning put his clothes on an’ marster said no more about it.
I wus a great big boy when de Yankees come through. I wus drivin’ a two mule team an’ doin’ other wurk on de farm. I drove a two hoss wagon when dey carried slaves to market. I went to a lot of different places.
My marster wus a preacher, Billy Boone. He sold an’ bought niggers. He had fifty or more. He wurked the grown niggers in two squads. My father wus named Isham Boone and my mother wus Sarah Boone. Marster Boone whupped wid de cobbin paddle an’ de cat o’ nine tails an’ used the salt bath an’ dat wus ‘nough. Plenty besides him whupped dat way.
Marster had one son, named Solomon, an’ two girls, Elsie an’ Alice. My mother had four children, three boys an’ one girl. The boys were named Sam, Walter and Andrew, dats me, an’ de girl wus Cherry.
My father had several children cause he had several women besides mother. Mollie and Lila Lassiter, two sisters, were also his women. Dese women wus given to him an’ no udder man wus allowed to have anything to do wid ‘em. Mollie an’ Lila both had chilluns by him. Dere names wus Jim, Mollie, Liza, Rosa, Pete an’ I can’t remember no more of ‘em.
De Yankees took jes’ what dey wanted an’ nothin’ stopped ‘em, cause de surrender had come. Before de surrender de slave owners begun to scatter de slaves ’bout from place to place to keep de Yankees from gittin’ ‘em. If de Yankees took a place de slaves nearby wus moved to a place further off.
All I done wus fer de Rebels. I wus wid ‘em an’ I jes’ done what I wus tole. I wus afraid of de Yankees ’cause de Rebels had told us dat de Yankees would kill us. Dey tole us dat de Yankees would bore holes in our shoulders an’ wurk us to carts. Dey tole us we would be treated a lot worser den dey wus treating us. Well, de Yankees got here but they treated us fine. Den a story went round an’ round dat de marster would have to give de slaves a mule an’ a year’s provisions an’ some lan’, about forty acres, but dat was not so. Dey nebber did give us anything. When de war ended an’ we wus tole we wus free, we stayed on wid marster cause we had nothin’ an’ nowhere to go.
We moved about from farm to farm. Mother died an’ father married Maria Edwards after de surrender. He did not live wid any of his other slave wives dat I knows of.
I have wurked as a han’ on de farm most of de time since de surrender and daddy worked most of de time as a han’, but he had gardens an’ patches most everywhere he wurked. I wurked in New York City for fifteen years with Crawford and Banhay in de show business. I advertised for ‘em. I dressed in a white suit, white shirt, an’ white straw hat, and wore tan shoes. I had to be a purty boy. I had to have my shoes shined twice a day. I lived at 18 Manilla Lane, New York City. It is between McDougall Street and 6th Avenue. I married Clara Taylor in New York City. We had two children. The oldest one lives in New York. The other died an’ is buried in Raleigh.
In slavery time they kept you down an’ you had to wurk, now I can’t wurk, an’ I am still down. Not allowed to wurk an’ still down. It’s all hard, slavery and freedom, both bad when you can’t eat. The ole bees makes de honey comb, the young bee makes de honey, niggers makes de cotton an’ corn an’ de white folks gets de money. Dis wus de case in Slavery time an’ its de case now. De nigger do mos’ de hard wurk on de farms now, and de white folks still git de money dat de nigger’s labor makes.