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Slave Narrative of Mrs. Hockaday

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Interviewer: Archie Koritz
Person Interviewed: Mrs. Hockaday
Location: Gary, Indiana
Place of Residence: 2591 Madison Street, Gary, Indiana

Archie Koritz, Field Worker Federal Writers’ Project Porter County-District #1 Valparaiso, Indiana

EX-SLAVES MRS. HOCKADAY 2581 Madison Street Gary, Indiana

Mrs. Hockaday is the daughter of an ex-slave and like so many others does not care to discuss the dark side of slavery and the cruel treatment that some of them received.

After the Civil War the slaves who for the most part were unskilled and ignorant, found it very difficult to adjust themselves to their new life as free persons. Formerly, they lived on the land of their masters and although compelled to work long hours, their food and lodging were provided for them. After their emancipation, this life was changed. They were free and had to think for themselves and make a living. Times for the negro then was much the same as during the depression. Several of the slaves started out to secure jobs, but all found it difficult to adjust themselves to the new life and difficult to secure employment. Many came back to their old owners and many were afraid to leave and continued on much as before.

The north set up stores or relief stations where the negro who was unable to secure employment could obtain food and shelter. Mrs. Hockaday says it was the same as conditions have been the last few years.

About all the negro was skilled at was servant work and when they came north, they encountered the same difficulties as several of the colored folks who, driven by the terrible living conditions in the south four years ago, came to Gary. Arriving here they believed they were capable of servant work. However they were not accustomed to modern appliances and found it very difficult to adjust themselves. It was the same after the Emancipation.

Many owners were kind and religious and had schools for their slaves, where they could learn to read and write. These slaves were more successful in securing employment.

Although the negro loved the Bible most of all books, and were mostly Methodists and Baptists, their different religious beliefs is caused by the slave owners having churches for the slaves. Whatever church the master belonged to, the slaves belonged to, and continued in the same church after the war.

Since slaves took the name of their owners, children in the same family would have different names. Mr. Hockaday’s father and his brothers and sisters all had different names. On the plantation they were called “Jones’ Jim,” “Brown’s Jones,” etc. Many on being freed left their old homes and adopted any name that they took a fancy to. One slave that Mrs. Hockaday remembers took the name of Green Johnson and says he often remarked that he surely was green to adopt such a name. His grandson in Gary is an exact double for Clark Gable, except he is brown, and Gable is white.

Many slave owners gave their slaves small tracts of land which they could tend after working hours. Anything raised belonged to them and they could even sell the products and the money was theirs. Many slaves were able to save enough from these tracts to purchase their freedom long before the Emancipation.

Another condition that confronted the negro in the north was that they were not understood like they were by the southern people. In the south they were trusted and considered trustworthy by their owners. Even during the Civil War, they were trusted with the family jewels, silver, etc., when the northern army came marching by, whereas in the north, even though they freed the slaves, they would not trust them. For that reason, many of the slaves did not like the northern people and remained or returned to the southern plantations.

The slave owners thought that slavery was right and nothing was wrong about selling and buying human beings if they were colored, much as a person would purchase a horse or automobile today. The owners who whipped their slaves usually stripped them to the waist and lashed them with a long leather whip, commonly called a blacksnake.

Mrs. Hockaday is a large, pleasant, middle-aged woman and does not like to discuss the cruel side of slavery and only recalls in a general way what she had heard old slaves discuss.

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