Interviewer: Daisy Whaley
Person Interviewed: Cy Hart
Location: Durham, North Carolina
Ephram Hart was my pappy and my mammy’s name was Nellie. He belonged to Marse Ephram Hart. One day Marse Hart took some of his niggers to de slave market an’ my pappy was took along too. When he was put on de block an’ sold Marse Paul Cameron bought him. Den Marse Hart felt so sorry to think he done let my pappy be sold dat he tried to buy him back from Marse Paul, an’ offered him more den Marse Paul paid for him. But Marse Paul said, “No, Suh. I done bought him an’ I want det nigger myself an’ I am goin’ take him home wid me to Snow Hill farm.”
Pappy married my mammy an’ raised a family on Marse Paul’s plantation. We had to be eight years ole before we ‘gun to work. I tended de chickens an’ turkeys an’ sech. I helped tend de other stock too as I growed older, an’ do anythin’ else dat I was tole to do. When I got bigger I helped den wid de thrashin’ de wheat an’ I helped dem push de straw to de stack.
We had what wuz den called a ‘groun’ hog. It wuz a cylinder shaped contraption. We put de wheat straw an all in it an’ knock de grain loose from de straw. Den we took de pitchforks an’ tossed de straw up an’ about, an’ dat let de wheat go to de bottom on a big cloth. Den we fan de wheat, to get de dust an’ dirt out, an’ we had big curtains hung ‘roun’ de cloth whar de wheat lay, so de wheat wouldn’ get all scattered, on de groun’. Dis wheat was sacked an’ when wanted ‘twus took to de mill an’ groun’ into flour. De flour wuz made into white bread an’ de corn wuz groun’ into meal an’ grits.
When de war started der wuz some bad times. One day some of Wheeler’s men come an’ dey tried to take what dey wanted, but Marge Paul had de silver money another things hid. Dey wanted us niggers to tell dem whar everythin’ wuz, but we said we didn’ know nuthin’. Marse Paul wuz hid in de woods wid de horses an’ some of de other stock.
Den Wheeler’s men saw de Yankees comin’ an’ dey run away. De Yankees chased dem to de bridge an’ dey done some fightin’ an’ one or two of Wheeler’s men wuz killed an’ de rest got away.
Den de captain of de Yankees come to Mammy’s cabin an’ axed her whar de meat house an’ flour an’ sech at. She tole him dat Pappy had de keys to go an’ ax him. “Ax him nothin’”, de captain said. He called some of his mens an’ dey broke down de door to de meat house. Den dey trowed out plenty of dose hams an’ dey tole Mammy to cook dem somethin’ to eat and plenty of it. Mammy fried plenty of dat ham an’ made lots of bread an’ fixed dem coffee. How dey did eat! Dey wuz jus’ as nice as dey could be to Mammy an’ when dey wuz through, dey tole Mammy dat she could have de rest, an’ de captain gave her some money an’ he tole her dat she wuz free, dat we didn’ belong to Marse Paul no longer. Dey didn’ do any harm to de place. Dey wuz jus’ looking for somethin’ to eat. Den dey left.
We didn’ leave Marse Paul but stayed on an’ lived wid him for many years. I lived wid Marse Paul ’til he died an’ he done selected eight of us niggers to tote his coffin to de chapel, an’ de buryin’ groun’. He said, “I want dese niggers to carry my body to de chapel an’ de grave when I die.” We did. It wuz a lood [HW correction: load] I would have been glad had der been two or four more to help tote Marse Paul for he sho wuz heavy. After everythin’ wuz ready we lifted him up an’ toted him to de chapel an’ we sat down on de floor, on each side of de coffin, while de preacher preached de funeral sermon. We didn’ make any fuss while sittin’ dere on de floor, but we sho wuz full of grief to see our dear ole Marse Paul lying dere dead.