Location: Tallahassee Florida

Slave Narrative of Florida Clayton

Interviewer: Rachel A. Austin Person Interviewed: Florida Clayton Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 82 The life of Florida Clayton is interesting in that it illustrates the miscegenation prevalent during the days of slavery. Interesting also is the fact that Florida was not a slave even though she was a product of those turbulent days. Many years before her birth – March 1, 1854 – Florida’s great grandfather, a white man, came to Tallahassee, Florida from Washington, District of Columbia, with his children whom he had by his Negro slave. On coming to Florida, he set all of his children free except one boy, Amos, who was sold to a Major Ward. For what reason this was done, no one knew. Florida, named for the state in which she was born, was one of seven children born to Charlotte Morris (Colored) whose father was a white man and David Clayton (White). Florida, in a retrogressive mood, can recall the “nigger hunters” and “nigger stealers” of her childhood days. Mr. Nimrod and Mr. Shehee, both white, specialized in catching runaway slaves with their trained bloodhounds. Her parents always warned her and her brothers and sisters to go in someone’s yard whenever they saw these men with their dogs lest the ferocious animals tear them to pieces. In regards to the “nigger stealers,” Florida tells of a covered wagon which used to come...

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Slave Narrative of Margrett Nickerson

Interviewer: Rachel A. Austin Person Interviewed: Margrett Nickerson Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 89-90 In her own vernacular, Margrett Nickerson was “born to William A. Carr, on his plantation near Jackson, Leon County, many years ago.” When questioned concerning her life on this plantation, she continues: “Now honey, it’s been so long ago, I don’ ‘meber ev’ything, but I will tell you whut I kin as near right as possible; I kin ‘member five uf Marse Carr’s chillun; Florida, Susan, ‘Lijah, Willie and Tom; cose Carr never ‘lowed us to have a piece of paper in our hands.” “Mr. Kilgo was de fust overseer I ‘member; I was big enough to tote meat an’ stuff frum de smokehouse to de kitchen and to tote water in and git wood for granny to cook de dinner and fur de sucklers who nu’sed de babies, an’ I carried dinners back to de hands.” “On dis plantation dere was ’bout a hunnerd head; cookin’ was done in de fireplace in iron pots and de meals was plenty of pea, greens, cornbread burnt co’n for coffee – often de marster bought some coffee fur us; we got water frum de open well. Jes ‘fore de big fun fiahed dey fotched my pa frum de bay whar he was makin’ salt; he had heard dem say ‘de Yankees is coming and wuz so glad.” “Dere...

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Slave Narrative of Luke Towns

Interviewer: Rachel A. Austin Person Interviewed: Luke Towns Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 100+(?) A Centenarian Luke Towns, a centenarian, now residing at 1335 West Eighth Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was the ninth child born to Maria and Like Towns, slaves, December 34, 1835, in a village in Tolberton County, Georgia. Mr. Town’s parents were owned by Governor Towns, whose name was taken by all the children born on the plantation; he states that he was placed on the public blocks for sale, and was purchased by a Mr. Mormon. At the marriage of Mr. Mormon’s daughter, Sarah, according to custom, he was given to this daughter as a wedding present, and thus became the slave and took the name of the Gulleys and lived with them until he became a young man at Smithville, Georgia, in Lee County. His chief work was that of carrying water, wood and working around the house when a youngster; often, he states he would hide in the woods to keep from working. Because his mother was a child-bearing woman, she did not know the hard labors of slavery, but had a small patch of cotton and a garden near the house to care for. “All of the others worked hard,” said he “but had kind masters who fed them well.” When asked if his mother were a christian, he replied “why yes: indeed she...

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Slave Narrative of Shack Thomas

Interviewer: Martin Richardson Person Interviewed: Shack Thomas Location: South Jacksonville, Florida Age: 102 Shack Thomas, Centenarian Beady-eyed, grey-whiskered, black little Shack Thomas sits in the sun in front of his hut on the Old Saint Augustine Road about three miles south of Jacksonville, 102 years old and full of humorous reminiscences about most of those years. To his frequent visitors he relates tales of his past, disjointedly sometimes but with a remarkable clearness and conviction. The old ex-slave does not remember the exact time of his birth, except that it was in the year 1834, “the day after the end of the Indian War.” He does not recall which of the Indian wars, but says that it was while there were still many Indians in West Florida who were very hard for him to understand when he got big enough to talk, to them. He was born, he says on “a great big place that b’longed to Mister Jim Campbell; I don’t know just exactly how big, but there was a lot of us working on it when I was a little fellow.” The place was evidently one of the plantations near Tallahassee; Thomas remembers that as soon as he was large enough he helped his parents and others raise “corn, peanuts, a little bit of cotton and potatoes. Squash just grew wild in the woods; we used to...

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Slave Narrative of Willis Williams

Interviewer: Viola B. Muse Person Interviewed: Willis Williams Location: Jacksonville, Florida Occupation: Carpenter, Mail Clerk Willis Williams of 1025 Iverson Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was born at Tallahassee, Florida, September 15, 1856. He was the son of Ransom and Wilhemina Williams, who belonged during the period of slavery to Thomas Heyward, a rich merchant of Tallahassee. Willis does not know the names of his paternal grandparents but remembers his maternal grandmother was Rachel Fitzgiles, who came down to visit the family after the Civil War. Thomas Heyward, the master, owned a plantation out in the country from Tallahassee and kept slaves out there; he also owned a fine home in the city as well as a large grocery store and produce house. Willis mother, Wilhemina, was the cook at the town house and his father, Williams, did carpentry and other light work around the place. He does not remember how his father learned the trade, but presumes that Mr. Heyward put him under a white carpenter until he had learned. The first he remembers of his father was that he did carpentry work. At the time Willis was born and during his early life, even rich people like Mr. Heyward did not have cook stoves. They knew nothing of such. The only means of cooking was by fireplace, which, as he remembers, was wide with an iron rod across it....

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Slave Narrative of Rev. Squires Jackson

Interviewer: Samuel Johnson Person Interviewed: Rev. Squires Jackson Location: Jacksonville, Florida Occupation: Bricklayer, Preacher Lying comfortably in a bed encased with white sheets, Rev. Squires Jackson, former slave and minister of the gospel living at 706 Third Street cheerfully related the story of his life. Born in a weather-beaten shanty in Madison, Fla. September 14, 1841 of a large family, he moved to Jacksonville at the age of three with the “Master” and his mother. Very devoted to his mother, he would follow her into the cotton field as she picked or hoed cotton, urged by the thrashing of the overseer’s lash. His master, a prominent political figure of that time was very kind to his slaves, but would not permit them to read and write. Relating an incident after having learned to read and write, one day as he was reading a newspaper, the master walked upon him unexpectedly and demanded to know what he was doing with a newspaper. He immediately turned the paper upside down and declared “Confederates done won the war.” The master laughed and walked away without punishing him. It la interesting to know that slaves on this plantation were not allowed to sing when they were at work, but with all the vigilance of the overseers, nothing could stop those silent songs of labor and prayers for freedom. On Sundays the boys on...

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