Person Interviewed: Jane Sutton
Location: Gulfport, Mississippi
Place of Birth: Simpson County MS
Jane Sutton, ex-slave, is 84 years old. She is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. She is what the Negroes themselves call a “brown-skin.”
“I was born in Simpson County, near old Westville, on a big farm what b’long to Marse Jack Berry. I was 12 years old when de surrender come, so my ole Mis’ say. Her name was ‘Mis Ailsey an’ all us cullud folks call her ‘Ole Mi’s. She an’ Old Marster had twelve chillun: Marthy, ‘Lizabeth, Flavilia, Mary, Jack, Bill, Denson, Pink, Tally, Thomas, Albert, and Frank.
“My pappy’s name was Steve Hutchins. He b’long to de Hutchins what live down near Silver Creek. He jus’ come on Satu’d’y night an’ us don’ see much of ‘im. Us call him ‘dat man.’ Mammy tol’ us to be more ‘spectful to ‘im ’cause he was us daddy, but us aint care nothin’ ’bout ‘im. He aint never brung us no candy or nothin’.
“My mammy was name Lucy Berry. She always go by de white folks name what she live wid. She aint never marry. She had fo’ boys an’ three girls. Dey was name Delia, Sarah, Ella, Nathan, Isom, Anderson, an’ Pleas. She work in de fiel’ an Old Marster say she’s de only woman on de place what could plow lak a man.
“I ‘members my gran’ma, too. Us always call her ‘Granny.’ She say dey stole her back in Virginny an’ brung ‘er to Mississippi an’ sol’ her to Marse Berry. Her name was Hannah. She was my mammy’s Mammy. I don’ ‘member nothin’ ’bout my pappy’s folks ’cause I never seen none of’ em.
“Old Marster was a rich man for dat day. He had a sawmill, a cotton gin, an’ a gris’ mill. Us always had plenty t’eat an’ wear. Dey spun an’ weaved dey own cloth an’ made us clo’es out-a it.
“I can jus’ see de white folk’s house now. It was a big house, nice an’ clean, but twant painted. It had a row o’ rooms ‘cross dis way an’ a-nother row dat way wid a hall between. Dey had plenty o’ rooms for all dem boys an’ gals. Some of ’em was ’bout grown. De quarters[FN: slave quarters] was in de back o’ de house. De cook’s house was closes’ to de Big House, den nex’ was Granny’s house where us stayed. Den come a long row way down to de back fence.
“Dey didn’ have no overseer or driver. Dey was ‘nough o’ dem boys to look after de work an’ Old Marster say he don’ need no overseer to look after his slaves.
“My white folks was all Baptis’ an’ dey made us go to church, too. De church was called de Strong River Church. Dey had big baptisin’s. I ‘members when I joined de church. De white folks preacher baptised us in de creek what run from Marse Berry’s mill pond. I was dressed up in a white lowell slip. When us dress’ up in Sund’y clo’es us had caliker[FN: calico] dresses. Dey sho’ was pretty. I ‘members a dress now dat Old Marster bought for my granny. It was white an’ yaller, an’ it was de prettiest thing I ever seen.
“Us white folks was good to us. Dey warnt always a-beatin’ an’ a-knockin’ us ‘roun’. De truf is you couldn’ fin’ a scar on nary one o’ us. ‘Course, some times dey whup us, but dey didn’ gash us lak some o’ de old marsters did dey Niggers.
“When Old Marster died I didn’ know nothin’ bout him bein’ sick. He took a cramp colic in de night an’ was dead ‘fore mornin’. I hear somebody a-cryin’ at de Big House an’ Granny tol’ us dat Old Marster done die in de night. Dey had a big fun’al an’ all de folks come. De men carried him to de graveyard by de church. Dey didn’ have no hearses dem days. Twant far to de graveyard so dey jus’ toted de coffin to whar dey buried ‘im. Dey put flowers in cups an’ vases on de grave, so’s dey wouldn’ wilt.
“Us was all sorry when Old Marster died, I cried ’cause I said, ‘Now us won’ git no more candy.’ He used to bring us candy whan he went to town. Us’d be lookin’ for ‘im when he come home. He’d say, ‘Whars all my little Niggers?’ Den us’d come a-runnin’ an’ he’d han’ it to us out-a his saddle bags. It was mos’ly good stick candy.
“I ‘members de paterollers. Whenever de cullud folks would slip off an’ have dey frolics dout gittin’ a pass from Old Marster de paterollers would come. Lots-a time dey’d come while us was a-dancin’ an’ a-havin’ a big time. Dem paterollers would swarm in de room lak a lot o’ bees. Fore anybody knowed it, dey’d begin grabbing at de mens. If dey didn’ have dey pass wid ’em dey took ’em down in de woods an’ whup ’em for runnin’ off wid out asking dey white folks. Dey didn’ bother de wimnins much. De wimmins mos’ always got away while dey was catchin’ de mens.
“Onct I slipped off wid another gal an’ went to a party dout asking Old Mis’. When dem Night Riders come dat night, de Niggers was a-runnin’ an’ a-dodgin’ an’ a-jumpin’ out-a winders lak dey was scairt to death. I runs too, me an’ dat other gal. I fell down an’ tore my dress, but I warnt studyin’ dat dress. I knows dat dem white folks had dat strap an’ I’s gittin’ ‘way fas’ as I could.
“When Miss ‘Lizabeth got married to Mr. Ras Laird, dey had a big weddin’ an’ all dey folks come to see ’em married. Den dey went to live in Rankin County an’ took me wid ’em. Old Marster had give me to Miss ‘Lizabeth.
“I ‘members when de Yankees come to de house. Us heard dey was comin’, so us hid all de hams an’ shoulders up in de lof’ o’ de Big House. Dey didn’ git much. Dey was so mad dey jus’ tore up some of Old Mis’ clo’es what was in de wardrobe. Us was sho’ scairt of ’em.
“I ‘members dey promise to give de cullud folks all kin’ o’ things. Dey never give ’em nothin’ dat I know’s about. Us was jus’ turnt loose to scratch for us ownse’ves. Us was glad to stay on wid de white folks, ’cause dey was de bes’ frien’s us had. I don’ know nobody what got a thing ‘cept what Old Marster an’ Old Mis’ give ’em.
“After freedom I went back to ‘Old Mis’. I walked all de way back from Rankin County. It was a long way, but I wanted to see Old Mis’ an’ my Mammy an’ my brothers an’ sisters.
“When de surrender come by pappy come to git me. I didn’ wan’-a go. I tol’ ‘im I’s gwine stay wid Old Mis’. So he goes an’ gits de sheriff an’ takes me anyway. I runned away twict an’ come back to Old Mis’. He whupped me de firs’ time, but de nex’ time I hid from him an’ he couldn’ catch me. He went back home an’ ‘lemme ‘lone. Den I went wid my mammy to live wid Marse Tally Berry. He was one of Old Marster’s sons. Dey used to come an’ tell me dat dat old Nigger was gwine kill me if I didn’ come wid him. But I jus’ stayed hid out till he went away.
“I spec’ all my white folks is dead now. I wish I could go back to ’em now. Dey help me. Dey was good to us after de War was over. Dis one would want me to live wid dem, den de other one would want me to live wid dem. Sometimes I quit one an’ go live wid de other one. All of ’em sho’ did treat me good. I’s havin’ a heap harder time now dan I ever had in slav’ry times. I sho’ is.
“Dey raised de young folks better dem days. Dey learnt ’em to work. Dey didn’ min’ work. Today dey don’ care ’bout nothin’ but havin’ a good time. Dey ain’ studyin’ ’bout no hereafter, neither.
“De Relief give me a little somethin’ t’eat an’ wear one time, but dey aint never give me no money. I’s old an’ needy, but I’s trustin’ de Lord an’ de good white folks to he’p me now. All de white folks I used to work for has moved away from town now. I don’ have nobody to look to but my daughter. She looks after me de bes’ she can. Dey is some neighbor wimmins dat comes an’ sets wid me sometimes.
“I’s gittin’ deaf an’ I aint got a tooth lef’ in my head. I’s too feeble to he’p make a livin’, but maybe I’ll git dat Old Age Pension ‘fore I die.”