Slave Narrative of Mom Genia Woodberry

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Interviewer: Annie Ruth Davis
Person Interviewed: Genia Woodberry
Date of Interview: June 1937
Location: Britton’s Neck, South Carolina
Age: 89

“Glad to see yunnah. Who dese udder wid yah? Who yuh? Lawd, I glad to see yunnah. I nu’se aw Miss Susan fust chillun. Ne’er nu’se dem las’uns. Sicily been yo’ mamma nu’se. Nu’se Massa Ben Gause child fust en den I nu’se four head uv Miss Susan chillun a’ter she marry Massa Jim Stevenson. Sleep right dere wid dem chillun aw de time. Miss Susan ne’er didn’t suckle none uv dem chillun. I tell yunnah dis much, Massa Jim Stevenson was good to aw uv his colored people en Miss Susan wuz good to me. I sho’ born right down yonner to Massa Ben Gause plantation. Gade Caesar en Mary Gause wuz my parents. Yas’um, I is glad to see dese chillun cause yuh know whey white folks hab feeling fa yah, it sho’ make yuh hab feeling fa dey chillun. I ole now en I can’ ‘member eve’yt’ing but I ain’ ne’er forge’ wha’ good times dem wuz.”

“My Lawd! Yas, my Lawd, de peoples lib well dere to Massa Jim Stevenson plantation. De white folks hab big house dere wid eve’yt’ing ’bout it jes lak uh town. I couldn’t tell yunnah how many colored peoples dey hab dere but I know dis, I hear em say dere wuz more den two hundred uv em dat lib in de quarter. Dey house wuz in uh field offen to itself dere on de plantation en wuz strung aw up en down in two long row lak. Dey wuz set up in good libin’ den.”

“Coase I ain’ lib dere in de quarter wid de udder colored peoples a’ter I ge’ big ‘nough to be nu’se girl, but I know how dey fare dere. My Massa hab uh smoke house full uv meat en uh barn full uv corn aw de time en eve’y Friday a’ternoon aw de colored peoples hadder do wuz to go dere to de big house en ge’ dey share uv meat en ‘lasses en corn to las’ em de whole week. Ne’er hadder worry nuthin ’bout it tall. Dey hab dey gristmill right dere whey dey grind dat corn eve’y week. Yah ain’ ne’er see no sech barn en heap uv meat dese days uz dey hab den. Dem hog killin’ days wuz big times fa dem plantation peoples. It jes lak I tellin’ yunnah my Massa gi’e he colored peoples mos’ eve’t’ing dey hab en den he ‘low eve’y family to hab uh acre uv land uv dey own to plant. Hadder work dat crop in de night. Make light wid fat light’ud stump wha’ to see by. Dat crop wha’ dey buy dey Sunday clothes wid. Ne’er hadder hunt no clothes but dey Sunday clothes cause dey hab seamstress right dere on de plantation to make aw us udder clothes. Miss Susan larnt Aun’ Cynthia en Starrah en Tenna to cut en sew dere to de big house en a’ter dat dey ne’er do nuthin but make de plantation clothes.”

“Aw de colored peoples dere to Miss Susan plantation hab dey certain business to go ’bout eve’y day en dey ne’er didn’t shirk dat neither. Miss Susan ain’ ‘low fa no slack way ’round whey she was. Dere been Yaneyki wha’ hadder jes wait on Miss Susan; Becky, de house girl; Aun’ Hannah, de one wha’ cook in de big house; Aun’ Dicey, wha’ al’ays clean up de white folks kitchen; en Sanco, de house boy. Den I wuz de nu’se dere fa dem chillun. Ne’er lak it but I ha’e it to do. Hadder stay right dere to de big house aw de time. Miss Susan ne’er wouldn’t ‘low me take dem chillun ‘way offen no whey en eve’ybody hadder be mindful uv wha’ dey say ‘fore dem chillun too. I ‘member dat big ole joggling board dere on de front piazza dat I use’er ge’ de chillun to sleep on eve’y evenin’. I be dere singin’ one uv dem baby song to de child en it make me hu’t lak in me bosom to be wid my ole mammy back up dere in de quarter. Coase I ain’ le’ nobody know dat. Dere ain’ nobody ne’er been no better den Miss Susan wuz to me. It jes lak dis, I wuz jes uh child den en yah know it uh child happiness to be raise up wid dey mammy.”

“Den de colored peoples lib mighty peaceful lak dere in de quarter cause dey ne’er hadder worry ’bout how nuthin come. My Massa see dat dey hab decent libin’ aw de time en ‘bundance uv eve’t’ing dey need. Hadder keep ’round ’bout dey premises clean up eve’whey. I tellin’ yuh, child, my white folks wuz ‘ticular uv dey colored peoples when dey wuz sick. Dey hab big ole me’icine book dat dey take down when one uv dem ge’ sick en see could dey find wha’ wuz good fa dey ailment. Den Miss Susan’ud send in de woods en ge’ wha’ it say mix up fa de remedy en make de me’icine right dere to de big house. Miss Susan’ud al’ays doctor de plantation peoples en carry em nice basket uv t’ing eve’y time dey wuz sick. Effen Miss Susan t’ink dey hab mucha co’plaint, den dey’ud send fa de plantation doctor ’bout dere. Annuder t’ing dey ne’er didn’t ‘low de colored girls to work none tall ‘fore dey wuz shape lak uh ‘oman cause dey ‘fraid dat might strain dey ne’ves.”

“Aw de colored peoples wha’ ne’er hab no work to do ’bout de big house wuz field hand en dey hadder ge’ up at de fust crow uv de cock in de morning en go up to de big house en see wha’ dey wan’ em to do dat day. Coase dey eat dey break’ast ‘fore dey leab de quarter. Effen de sun look lak it wuz gwinna shine, de o’erseer’ud send em in de field to work en dey’ud stay in de field aw day till sun up in de evenin’. Carry dey basket uv victual en pot ‘long wid em en cook right dere in de field. Jes put dey peas en bacon in de pot en build up big fire ’bout it close whey dey wuz workin’ cause eve’y now en den dey hadder push de fire to de pot. Den some uv de day dey’ud go in de tatoe patch en dig tatoe en roast em in de coals. Effen it wuz uh rainy day, dey ne’er go in de field. Shuck corn dat day. Dat wuz how dey done.”

“Aw dem wha’ work right dere to de big house al’ays wuz fed from Miss Susan table to de kitchen. Dere wuz Gran’mudder Phoebe who hadder look a’ter eve’t’ing ’bout Miss Susan dairy. De plantation peoples’ud bring dey gourd eve’y morning en leab it dere to de dairy fa Gran’mudder Phoebe to hab fill wid clabber fa em to carry home in de evenin’. Den when Gran’mudder Phoebe wuz finish wid aw de churning, she use’er pour wha’ clabber wuz left o’er in uh big ole wooden tray under uh tree dere close to de dairy en call aw dem little plantation chillun dere whey she wuz. She gi’e eve’yone uv em uh iron spoon en le’ em eat jes uz mucha dat clabber uz dey c’n hold. A’ter dat she clean up eve’yt’ing ’bout de dairy en den she go to de big house en ge’ her dinner. Gran’mudder Phoebe say she could set down en eat wid sati’faction den cause she know she wuz t’rough wid wha’ been her portion uv work dat day.”

“Den dere wuz Patience wha’ work to de loom house. She help do aw de weaving fa de plantation. Weave aw t’rough de winter en aw t’rough de summer. She make aw kinder uv pretty streak in de cloth outer de yarn dat dey dye right dere on de plantation wid t’ing dat dey ge’ outer de woods lak walnut wha’ make brown, en cedar en sweet gum wha’ make purple. Den dey make de blue cloth outer dat t’ing dat dey raise right dere on de plantation call indigo. Dere some uv dat indigo dat does grow up dere on de Sand Hills dis day en time but ain’ nobody ne’er worry ’bout it no more.”

“Jes uh little way from de loom house wuz de shoe house whey Uncle Lon’on hadder make shoe aw de day. I ‘member dey is make aw de plantation shoe dere. Make em outer cow hide wha’ dey hadder tan fust. Jes put de cow hide in uh trough en kiver it aw o’er wid oak en water en le’ it soak till de hair come offen it. Den dey take it outer dat en beat it ‘cross uh log hard uz dey c’n till dey ge’ it right soft lak. A’ter dat ley out de shoe lak dey wan’ it en sew it up wid dem long hair wha’ dey ge’ outer de hosses neck. Dat jes de way dey make aw we shoe den.”

“Minus en Chrissus Gause hab job dere to de gin house. Dey’ud jes put de cotton in dat gin en de seed go one way en de lent go de udder way. Minus hadder feed de gin en dem udder helper hadder hand de cotton. Den Bacchus hadder work de screw dat press de bale togedder. Yunnah chillun ain’ ne’er see nuthin lak dat dese days. Dem hosses pull dat t’ing round en round en dat screw ge’ tighter en tighter. Turn out pretty uh bale uv cotton us yunnah e’er hear ’bout in no time tall. My Lawd, I ‘member dey is hab bale uv cotton pile up aw ’bout dat gin house.”

“En dey is hab dey own blacksmith shop dere on de place down to de place call de big water. Aw dem peoples from plantation aw ’bout come dere fa Fortune to mend dey plow en t’ing lak dat.”

“Yas’um, plantation peoples hadder go dere to de Ole Neck Chu’ch eve’y Sunday. I hear em say dat wuz uh Methodist Chu’ch. Aw dem well to do folks hab dey own pew up dere in de front uv de chu’ch wha dey set on eve’y Sunday. Dey seat wuz painted pretty lak uh bedstead en den de poor peoples set in de middle uv de chu’ch in de yellow kind uv seat. Aw de colored peoples hadder set in de blue seat in de back uv de chu’ch. Peoples ne’er rank togedder den lak yah see de peoples rank togedder dese days. Miss Susan Stevenson en Miss Harriett Woodberry en Miss Maggie McWhite wuz de ones wha’ pull togedder den. Know dey chillun time dey hit dat chu’ch door. C’n tell em by dey skin. My blessed, chillun, dere wuz sech uh diffe’ence.”

“Dat Ole Neck Chu’ch de same chu’ch wha’ yunnah see stand two mile up dat road. Dem peoples oughtna hadder move dat chu’ch neither cause it been dere long time ‘fore dey come heah. Ain’ been right to do dat. Dem wha’ put dat chu’ch dere bury right dere in dat cemetery right ’bout whey dey chu’ch wuz en dem udder peoples ain’ hab no right to take dey chu’ch ‘way a’ter dey been gone.”

“De peoples ne’er hab no cars lak dese peoples hab ’bout heah now. My white folks hab carriage en two big ole white hosses wha’ to ride to se’vice en whey dey wanna go den. Coase dey ne’er go aw de time lak dese peoples does dis day en time. Lawd, dem hosses could pull dat carriage too. Dey wuz name Selam en Prince. My Massa en Missus hab seat in de back uv de carriage en I hadder set up dere ‘tween dem en de driver en nu’se dem chillun. Isaac wuz Miss Susan driver en he hab seat aw uv he own on de front whey he could mind de hosses. My Lawd, I ‘member how I did use’er lub to set up dere in Miss Susan carriage.”

“Dese peoples dese days don’ know nuthin ’bout dem times den. I ‘member how dey use’er sell de colored peoples offen to annuder plantation some uv de time. Man come dere to buy my Gran’mudder a’ter Massa Ben Gause die en tell her to open she mouth so he c’n ‘xamine her teeth. Say she say, ‘I won’ do it.’ Wanna know effen dey wuz sound ‘fore he buy her. Dat de way dey do when dey sell hosses.”

“I ‘member when dem Yankees come ’bout dere too. Hear Massa Jim Stevenson say dey mus’ herry en hide dey va’uables cause de Yankees wuz comin’ t’rough dere en sweep em out. Dey bury dey silver en dey gold watch in de graveyard up in de Beech Field. (De Beech Field wuz de place whey de Indian use’er camp long time ago cause de peoples use’er find aw kinder bead en arrow head wha’ dey left dere.) Den Miss Susan put trunk full uv her nice t’ing to de colored peoples house. Ain’ been ‘fraid de Yankees bother em dere. Didn’t no Yankees come no whey ’bout dere till a’ter freedom ‘clare en den two uv em come dere en stay right dere to de big house. Dey come to ‘vide outer de corn. Hab pile uv corn sot aw ’bout de born (barn) dere wid name uv de colored peoples stick ’bout in eve’y pile.”

“Yas’um, I ‘member dat aw right. Marry in March dere to my pa house. Us ne’er left Massa Jim Stevenson plantation a’ter freedom ‘clare. Ne’er wanna hunt no better libin’ den we hab dere. My Lawd, dere sho’ wuz big doing ’bout dere when I go’ hitch up to Joe Woodberry. Pa kill uh shoat en dey bake cake en hab aw kinder ration cook up. I hab pretty dress make outer white swiss muslin wha’ I marry in en aw dem peoples wuz dress up dat evenin’. Dat wuz pretty uh sight uz dere e’er wuz when dey ge’ to blowing dat cane en knockin’ dem stick en dey aw wuz uh jiggin’ ’bout.”

“Chillun, seem lak aw de good time gone from heah now. Peoples sho’ gotta scuffle fa wha’ dey hab dis day en time en den effen dey ge’ it, dere ain’ no sati’faction no whey ’bout it. T’ing ain’ gwinna do nobody no good effen dey gotta worry dey head so mucha ’bout whey de next comin’ from.”

“Good day, honey. Come back ‘g’in. Yunnah white en I black, but I lub yuh.”



MLA Source Citation:

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 6 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/black-genealogy/slave-narrative-of-mom-genia-woodberry.htm - Last updated on Sep 4th, 2012


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