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Slave Narrative of Bill Austin

Interviewer: Martin Richardson Person Interviewed: Bill Austin Location: Greenwood, Florida Bill Austin – he says his name is NOT Williams – is an ex-slave who gained his freedom because his mistress found it more advantageous to free him than to watch him. Austin lives near Greenwood, Jackson County, Florida, on a small farm that he and his children operate. He says that he does not know his age, does not remember ever having heard it. But he must be pretty old, he says, “cause I was a right smart size when Mistuh Smith went off to fight.” He thinks he may be over a hundred – and he looks it – but he is not sure. Austin was born between Greene and Hancock Counties, on the Oconee River, in Georgia. He uses the names of the counties interchangeably; he cannot be definite as to just which one was his birthplace. “The line between ’em was right there by us,” he says. His father was Jack; for want of a surname of his own he took that of his father and called himself Jack Smith. During a temporary shortage of funds on his master’s part, Jack and Bill’s mother was sold to a planter in the northern part of the state. It was not until long after his emancipation that Bill ever saw either of them again. Bill’s father Jack was regarded as a fairly good carpenter, mason and bricklayer; at times his master would let him do small jobs of repairing a building for neighboring planters. These jobs sometimes netted him hams, bits of cornmeal, cloth for dresses for...

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