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Slave Narrative of William M. Quinn

Interviewer: Henry Jackson
Person Interviewed: William M. Quinn
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Place of Birth: Hardin County, Kentucky
Place of Residence: 431 Bright Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers’ Project of the W.P.A. District #6 Marion County Harry Jackson

WILLIAM M. QUINN (EX-SLAVE) 431 Bright Street, Indianapolis, Ind.

William M. Quinn, 431 Bright street, was a slave up to ten years of age-“when the soldiers come back home, and the war was over, and we wasn’t slaves anymore”. Mr. Quinn was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, on a farm belonging to Steve Stone. He and a brother and his mother were slaves of “Old Master Stone”, but his father was owned by another man, Mr. Quinn, who had an adjoining farm. When they were all freed, they took the surname of Quinn.

Mr. Quinn said that they were what was called “gift slaves”. They were never to be sold from the Stone farm and were given to Stone’s daughter as a gift with that understanding. He said that his “Old master paid him and his brother ten cents a day for cutting down corn and shucking it.”

It was very unusual for a slave to receive any money whatsoever for working. He said that his master had a son about his age, and the son and he and his brother worked around the farm together, and “Master Stone” gave all three of them ten cents a day when they worked. Sometimes they wouldn’t, they would play instead. And whenever “Master Stone” would catch them playing when they ought to have been at work, he would whip them-“and that meant his own boy would get a licking too.”

“Old Master Stone was a good man to all us colored folks, we loved him. He wasn’t one of those mean devils that was always beating up his slaves like some of the rest of them.” He had a colored overseer and one day this overseer ran off and hid for two days “cause he whipped one of old Mas’ Stone’s slaves and he heard that Mas’ Stone was mad and he didn’t like it.”

“We didn’t know that we were slaves, hardly. Well, my brother and I didn’t know anyhow ’cause we were too young to know, but we knew that we had been when we got older.”

“After emancipation we stayed at the Stone family for some time, ’cause they were good to us and we had no place to go.” Mr. Quinn meant by emancipation that his master freed his slaves, and, as he said, “emancipated them a year before Lincoln did.”

Mr. Quinn said that his father was not freed when his mother and he and his brother were freed, because his father’s master “didn’t think the North would win the war.” Stone’s slaves fared well and ate good food and “his own children didn’t treat us like we were slaves.” He said some of the slaves on surrounding plantations and farms had it “awful hard and bad.” Some times slaves would run away during the night, and he said that “we would give them something to eat.” He said his mother did the cooking for the Stone family and that she was good to runaway slaves.

Submitted September 9, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

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