Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Charles W. Dickens
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina (1115 East Lenoir Street)
My name is Charles W. Dickens. I lives at 1115 East Lenoir Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, Wake County. I wuz born August 16, 1861, de year de war started. My mother wuz named Ferebee Dickens. My father wuz named John Dickens. I had nine sisters and brothers. My brothers were named Allen, Douglas, my name [HW: question mark above “my name”], Jake, Johnnie and Jonas. The girls Katie, Matilda Francis, and Emily Dickens.
My grandmother wuz named Charity Dickens. My grandfather wuz Dudley T. Dickens. I do not know where dey came from. No, I don’t think I do. My mother belonged to Washington Scarborough, and so did we chilluns. My father he belonged to Obediah Dickens and missus wuz named Silvia Dickens. Dey lowed mother to go by the name of my father after dey wuz married.
We lived in log houses and we had bunks in ‘em. Master died, but I ‘member missus wuz mighty good to us. We had tolerable fair food, and as fur as I know she wuz good to us in every way. We had good clothing made in a loom, that is de cloth wuz made in de loom. My father lived in Franklin County. My mother lived in Wake County. I ‘member hearin’ father talk about walkin’ so fur to see us. There wuz about one dozen slaves on de plantation. Dere were no hired overseers. Missus done her own bossing. I have heard my father speak about de patterollers, but I never seed none. I heard him say he could not leave the plantation without a strip o’ something.
No, sir, the white folks did not teach us to read and write. My mother and father, no sir, they didn’t have any books of any kind. We went to white folk’s church. My father split slats and made baskets to sell. He said his master let him have all de money he made sellin’ de things he made. He learned a trade. He wuz a carpenter. One of the young masters got after father, so he told me, and he went under de house to keep him from whuppin’ him. When missus come home she wouldn’t let young master whup him. She jist wouldn’t ‘low it.
I ‘members de Yankees comin’ through. When mother heard they were comin’, she took us chillun and carried us down into an ole field, and after that she carried us back to the house. Missus lived in a two-story house. We lived in a little log house in front of missus’ house. My mother had a shoulder of meat and she hid it under a mattress in the house. When the Yankees lef, she looked for it; they had stole the meat and gone. Yes, they stole from us slaves. The road the Yankees wuz travellin’ wuz as thick wid’ em as your fingers. I ‘member their blue clothes, their blue caps. De chickens they were carrying on their horses wuz crowing. Dey wuz driving cows, hogs, and things. Yes sir, ahead of ‘em they come first. The barns and lots were on one side de road dey were trabellin’ on and de houses on de other. Atter many Yankees had passed dey put a bodyguard at de door of de great house, and didn’t ‘low no one to go in dere. I looked down at de Yankees and spit at ‘em. Mother snatched me back, and said, ‘Come back here chile, dey will kill you.’
Dey carried de horses off de plantation and de meat from missus’ smokehouse and buried it. My uncle, Louis Scarborough, stayed wid de horses. He is livin’ yet, he is over a hundred years old. He lives down at Moores Mill, Wake County, near Youngsville. Before de surrender one of de boys and my uncle got to fightin’, one of de Scarborough boys and him. My uncle threw him down. The young Master Scarborough jumped up, and got his knife and cut uncle’s entrails out so uncle had to carry ‘em to de house in his hands. About a year after de war my father carried us to Franklin County. He carried us on a steer cart. Dat’s about all I ‘member about de war.
Abraham Lincoln wuz de man who set us free. I think he wuz a mighty good man. He done so much for de colored race, but what he done was intended through de higher power. I don’t think slavery wuz right.
I think Mr. Roosevelt is a fine man, one of the best presidents in the world. I voted for him, and I would vote for him ag’in. He has done a lot for de people, and is still doin’. He got a lot of sympathy for ‘em. Yas sir, a lot of sympathy for de people.