Interviewer: Albert Strope
Person Interviewed: Rev. H. H. Edmunds
Location: Elkhart, Indiana
Place of Birth: Lynchburg, Virginia
Date of Birth: 1859
Place of Residence: 403 West Hickory Street Elkhart, Indiana
Albert Strope, Field Worker Federal Writers’ Project St. Joseph County-District #1 Mishawaka, Indiana
EX-SLAVE REV. H.H. EDMUNDS 403 West Hickory Street Elkhart, Indiana
Rev. H.H. Edmunds has resided at 403 West Hickory Street in Elkhart for the past ten years. Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1859, he lived there for several years. Later he was taken to Mississippi by his master, and finally to Nashville, Tennessee, where he lived until his removal to Elkhart.
Mr. Edmunds is very religious, and for many years has served his people as a minister of the Gospel. He feels deeply that the religion of today has greatly changed from the “old time religion.” In slavery days, the colored people were so subjugated and uneducated that he claims they were especially susceptible to religion, and poured out their religious feelings in the so-called negro spirituals. Mr. Edmunds is convinced that the superstitions of the colored people and their belief in ghosts and gobblins is due to the fact that their emotions were worked upon by slave drivers to keep them in subjugation. Oftentimes white people dressed as ghosts, frightened the colored people into doing many things under protest. The “ghosts” were feared far more than the slave-drivers.
The War of the Rebellion is not remembered by Mr. Edmunds, but he clearly remembers the period following the war known as the Reconstruction Period. The Negroes were very happy when they learned they were free as a result of the war. A few took advantage of their freedom immediately, but many, not knowing what else to do, remained with their former masters. Some remained on the plantations five years after they were free. Gradually they learned to care for themselves, often through instructions received from their former masters, and then they were glad to start out in the world for themselves. Of course, there were exceptions, for the slaves who had been abused by cruel masters were only too glad to leave their former homes.
The following reminiscense is told by Mr. Edmunds:
“As a boy, I worked in Virginia for my master, a Mr. Farmer[TR:?]. He had two sons who served as bosses on the farm. An elder sister was the head boss. After the war was over, the sister called the colored people together and told them that they were no longer slaves, that they might leave if they wished.
“The slaves had been watering cucumbers which had been planted around barrels filled with soil. Holes had been bored in the barrels, and when water was poured in the barrels, it gradually seeped out through the holes thus watering the cucumbers.
“After the speech, one son told the slaves to resume their work. Since I was free, I refused to do so, and as a result, I received a terrible kicking. I mentally resolved to get even some day. Years afterward, I went to the home of this man for the express purpose of seeking revenge. However, I was received so kindly, and treated so well, that all thoughts of vengeance vanished. For years after, my former boss and I visited each other in our own homes.”
Mr. Edmunds states that the Negro people prefer to be referred to as colored people, and deeply resent the name “nigger.”