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Slave Narrative of James Childress

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Interviewer: Lauana Creel
Person Interviewed: James Childress
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Place of Birth: Nashville, Tennessee
Date of Birth: 1860
Place of Residence: 312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana

Ex-Slave stories District #5 Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel

JAMES CHILDRESS’ STORY 312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana

From an interview with James Childress and from John Bell both living at 312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana.

Known as Uncle Jimmy by the many children that cluster about the aged man never tiring of his stories of “When I was chile.”

“When I was a chile my daddy and mamma was slaves and I was a slave,” so begins many recounted tales of the long ago.

Born at Nashville, Tennessee in the year 1860, Uncle Jimmie remembers the Civil War with the exciting events as related to his own family and the family of James Childress, his master. He remembers sorrow expressed in parting tears when “Uncle Johnie and Uncle Bob started to war.” He recalls happy days when the beautiful valley of the Cumberland was abloom with wild flowers and fertile acres were carpeted with blue grass.

“A beautiful view could always be enjoyed from the hillsides and there were many pretty homes belonging to the rich citizens. Slaves kept the lawns smooth and tended the flowers for miles around Nashville, when I was a child,” said Uncle Jimmie.

Uncle Jimmie Childress has no knowledge of his master’s having practiced cruelty towards any slave. “We was all well fed, well clothed and lived in good cabins. I never got a cross word from Mars John in my life,” he declared. “When the slaves got their freedom they rejoiced staying up many nights to sing, dance and enjoy themselves, although they still depended on old Mars John for food and bed, they felt too excited to work in the fields or care for the stock. They hated to leave their homes but Mr. Childress told them to go out and make homes for themselves.”

“Mother got work as a housekeeper and kept us all together. Uncle Bob got home from the War and we lived well enough. I have lived at Evansville since 1881, have worked for a good many men and John Bell will tell you I have had only friends in the city of Evansville.”

Uncle Jimmie recalls how the slaves always prayed to God for freedom and the negro preachers always preached about the day when the slaves would be no longer slaves but free and happy.

“My people loved God, they sang sacred songs, ‘Swing Low Sweet Charriot’ was one of the best songs they knew”. Here uncle Jimmie sang a stanza of the song and said it related to God’s setting the negroes free.

“The negroes at Mr. Childress’ place were allowed to learn as much as they could. Several of the young men could read and write. Our master was a good man and did no harm to anybody.”

James Childress is a black man, small of stature, with crisp wooly dark hair. He is glad he is not mulatto but a thorough blooded negro.

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