Interviewer: Pearl House
Person Interviewed: Sophia Word
Date of Birth: February 2, 1837
The following story of slave days is the exact words of one who had the bitter experience of slavery. Sophia Word, who is now ninety-nine years of age, born February 2, 1837. She tells me she was in bondage for nineteen years and nine months. I shall repeat just as she told the story:
“I wuz here in time of Mexican War and seed ’em get up volunteers to go. They wuz dressed in brown and band played ‘Our Hunting Shirts are Fringed with Doe and away We march to Mexico’.
“My grandmother came straight from Africa and wuz auctioned off and bought by William Reide Father. When he died William Reides inherited my mother. Mother married a Bates and had ten of us children.
“Our Master didn’t auction off his slaves as the other masters would for he was a better master than most of them. When he started to sale one of us he would go out and talk to the old slave trader like he wuz g’wine to sale a cow or sometin and then he would come back to git the slave he wanted. This wuz the way my mothers’ brother and sister wuz sold. When the other masters at other places sold a slave they put the slave on the auction block and the slave trader had a long whop that he hit them with to see if they could jump around and wuz strong. The largest and brought the money.
“I wuz a slave nineteen yeahs and nine months but somehow or nuther I didn’t belong to a real mean pet of people. The white folks said I was the meanest nigger that ever wuz. One day my Mistress Lyndia called fer me to come in the house, but no, I wouldn’t go. She walks out and says she is Gwine make me go. So she takes and drags me in the house. Then I grabs that white woman, when she turned her back, and shook her until she begged for mercy. When the master comes in, I wuz given a terrible beating with a whip but I did’nt care fer I give the mistress a good’un too.
“We lived off to the back of the masters house in a little log cabin, that had one winder in the side. We lived tobly well and didn’t starve fer we had enough to eat but we didn’t have as good as the master and mistress had. We would slip in the house after the master and mistress wuz sleeping and cook to suit ourselves and cook what we wanted.
“The Mistress had an old parrot and one day I wuz in the kitchen making cookies, and I decided I wanted some of them so I tooks me out some and put them on a chair and when I did this the mistress entered the door, I picks up a cushion and throws over the pile of cookies on the chair and mistress cane near the chair and the old parrot cries out, Mistress burn, Mistress burn, then the mistress looks under the cushion and she had me whupped but the next day I killed the parrot, and she often wondered who or what killed the bird.
“I’ve seen whole pigs roasted before open fire place and when it wuz done we would put a nice red apple in its mouth and the big white folks company that come would eat of this delicious dish. Sometimes we had to bake pies for a week to supply the company that wuz invited to our masters and mistresses house. They served elaborate dinners and hundreds of guest were invited.
“My master wuzn’t as mean as most masters. Hugh White was so mean to his slaves that I know of two gals that killt themselfs. One nigger gal sudie wuz found across the bed with a pen knife in her hand. He whipped another nigger gal most to death fer fergiting to put onions in the stew. The next day she went down to the river and fer nine days they searched fer her and her body finally washed upon the shore. The master could never live in that house again as when he would go to sleep he would see the nigger standing over his bed. Then he moved to Richmond and there he stayed until a little later when he hung himself.
“Our clothes wuz made from cotton and linsey. Cotton wuz used in the summer and linsey fer the winter. Sometimes our clothes wuz yeller checked and most time red. Our stockings wuz made of coarse yarn fer winter to wear with coarse shoes. We had high topped shoes fer Sunday.
“I’ve seed ten thousand of the Union Soldiers and a great many of the rebel soldiers. The Rebel soldiers would take everything they could get their hands on but I never did know of the Union Soldier taking anything. The rebels have stole my masters cows and horses and we would have to hide the meat in a box and bury it in the ground.”