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Slave Narrative of Arnold Gragston

Interviewer: Martin Richardson Person Interviewed: Arnold Gragston Location: Eatonville, Florida Age: 97 (Verbatim interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year old ex-slave whose early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River, while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he put it, he guessed he could be called a ‘conductor’ on the underground railway, only we didn’t call it that then. I don’t know as we called it anything – we just knew there was a lot of slaves always a-wantin’ to get free, and I had to help ’em.”) “Most of the slaves didn’t know when they was born, but I did. You see, I was born on a Christmas mornin’ – it was in 1840; I was a full grown man when I finally got my freedom.” “Before I got it, though, I helped a lot of others get theirs. Lawd only knows how many; might have been as much as two-three hundred. It was ‘way more than a hundred, I know. “But that all came after I was a young man – ‘grown’ enough to know a pretty girl when I saw one, and to go chasing after her, too. I was born on a plantation that b’long to Mr. Jack Tabb in Mason County, just across the river in Kentucky.” “Mr. Tabb was a pretty good man. He used to beat us, sure; but not nearly so much as others did, some of his own kin people, even. But he was kinda funny sometimes; he used to have a special slave who didn’t have nothin’ to do but teach the rest of us –...

Slave Narrative of Mary Minus Biddie

Person Interviewed: Mary Minus Biddie Location: Eatonville, Florida Age: 100 Slave Customs Mary Minus Biddie, age one hundred five was born in Pensacola, Florida, 1833 and raised in Columbia County. She is married, and has several children. For her age she is exceptionally active, being able to wash and do her house work. With optimism she looks forward to many more years of life. Her health is excellent. Having spent thirty-two years of her life as a slave she relates vividly some of her experiences. Her master Lancaster Jamison was a very kind man and never mistreated his slaves. He was a man of mediocre means, and instead of having a large plantation as was usual in those days, he ran a boarding house, the revenue there from furnishing him substance for a livelihood. He had a small farm from which fresh produce was obtained to supply the needs of his lodgers. Mary’s family were his only slaves. The family consisted of her mother, father, brother and a sister. The children called the old master “Fa” and their father “Pappy.” The master never resented this appellation, and took it in good humor. Many travelers stopped at his boarding house. Mary’s mother did the cooking, her father “tanded” the farm, and Mary, her brother and sister, did chores about the place. There was a large one-room house built in the yard in which the family lived. Her father had a separate garden in which he raised his own produce, also a smoke house where the family meats were kept. Meats were smoked in order to preserve them. During the day...

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