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Slave Narrative of “Prophet” John Henry Kemp

Interviewer: L. Rebecca Baker Person Interviewed: “Prophet” John Henry Kemp Location: Daytona Beach, Florida Age: 80 A long grey beard, a pair of piercing owl-like eyes and large bare feet, mark “Prophet” Kemp among the citizenry of Daytona Beach, Florida. The “Prophet”, christened John Henry–as nearly as he can remember–is an 80 year old ex-slave whose remininiscences of the past, delight all those who can prevail upon him to talk of his early life on the plantation of the section. “Prophet” Kemp does not talk only of the past, however, his conversation turns to the future; he believes himself to be equally competent to talk of the future, and talks more of the latter if permitted. Oketibbeha County, Mississippi was the birthplace of the “Prophet”. The first master he can remember was John Gay, owner of a plantation of some 2,700 acres and over 100 slaves and a heavy drinker. The “Prophet” calls Gay “father”, and becomes very vague when asked if this title is a blood tie or a name of which he is generally known. According to Kemp–Gay was one of the meanest plantation owners in the entire section, and frequently voiced his pride in being able to employ the cruelest overseers that could be found in all Mississippi. Among these were such men as G.T. Turner, Nels T. Thompson, Billy Hole, Andrew Winston and other men with statewide reputations for brutality. When all of the cruelties of one overseer had been felt by the slaves on the Gay plantation and another meaner man’s reputation was heard of on the Gay plantation, the master would delight in...

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