Slave Narrative of Nancy Gardner
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Person Interviewed: Nancy Gardner
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Franklin, Tennessee
Date of Birth: 1858
Well, to tell you de truth I don’t know my age, but I was born in 1858, in Franklin, Tennessee. How, you can figger for yourself and tell how old I is. I is de daughter of Prophet and Callie Isaiah, and dey was natives of Tennessee. Dere was three of us children, two boys and myself. I’m de only girl. My brothers names was Prophet and Billie Isaiah. I don’t ‘member much about dem as we was separated when I was seven years old. I’ll never forget when me, my ma and my auntie had to leave my pa and brothers. It is jest as clear in my mind now as it was den, and dat’s been about seventy years ago.
Oh God! I tall you it was awful dat day when old Jeff Davis had a bunch of us sent to Memphis to be sold. I can see old Major Clifton now. He was a big nigger trader you know. Well, dey took us on up dere to Memphis and we was sold jest like cattle. Dey sold me and ma together and dey sold pa and de boys together. Dey was sent to Mississippi and we was sent to Alabama. My pa, O how my ma was grieved to death about him! She didn’t live long after dat. She didn’t live long enough to be set free. Poor ma, she died a slave, but she is saved though. I know she is, and I’ll be wid her some day.
It was thirty years before my pa knew if we was still living. Finally in some way he heard dat I was still alive, and he began writing me. Course I was grown and married den and me and my husband had moved to Missouri. Well, my pa started out to see me and on his way he was drowned in do Missouri River, and I never saw him alive after we was sold in Memphis.
I can’t tell you much ’bout work during de slave days ’cause you see I was jest a baby you might say when de war broke out. I do remember our Master’s name though, it was Dr. Perkins, and he was a good Master. Ma and pa sure hated to have to leave him, he was so good to dem. He was a rich man, and had a big fine house and thousands of acres of land. He was good to his niggers too. We had a good house too, better dan some of dese houses I see folks living in now. Course Dr. Perkins niggers had to work, but dey didn’t mind ’cause he would let dem have little patches of dey own such as ‘tatoes, corn, cotton and garden. Jest a little, you know. He couldn’t let den have much, there was so many on Dr. Perkins plantation.
I don’t remember seeing anybody sick in slavery time. You see I was jest a kid and dere’s a lot of things I can’t remember.
I am a Christian. I jined de church nigh on seventy years ago and when I say dat, I don’t mean I jest jined de church. I mean I gave myself up to de Heavenly Father, and I’ve been gwine straight down de line for Him ever since. You know in dem days, we didn’t get religion like young folks do now. Young folks today jest find de church and den call theyselves Christians, but they aint.
I remember jest as well when I was converted. One day I was thinking ’bout a sermon de preacher had preached and a voice spoke to me and said, “De Holy Ghost is over your head. Accept it!” Right dan I got down on my knees and prayed to God dat I might understand dat voice, and God Almighty in a vision told me dat I should find de church. I could hardly wait for de next service so I could find it, and when I was in de water getting my baptisement, dat same voice spoke and said, “Now you have accepted don’t turn back ’cause I will be wid you always!” O you don’t know nothing ’bout dat kind of religion!
I ‘member one night shortly after I jined de church I was laying in bed and dere was a vine tied ’round my waist and dat vine extended into de elements. O my God! I can see it now! I looked up dat vine and away in de elements I could see my Divine Master and he spoke to me and said, “When you get in trouble shake dis vine: I’m your Master and I will hear your cry.
I knowed old Jeff Davis good. Why I was jest as close to him as I am to dat table. I’ve talked wid him too. I reckon I do know dat scoundrel! Why, he didn’t want de niggers to be free! He was known as a mean old rascal all over de South.
Abraham Lincoln! Now you is talking ’bout de niggers friend! Why dat was de best man God ever let tramp de earth! Everybody was mighty sad when poor old Abraham was ‘sassinated, ’cause he did a mighty good deed for de colored race before he left dis world.
I wasn’t here long during slavery, but I saw enough of it to know it was mighty hard going for most of de niggers dan, and young folks wouldn’t stand for dat kind of treatment now. I know most of the young folks would be killed, but they jest wouldn’t stand for it. I would hate to have to go through wid my little share of it again.