Oklahoma Slave Narrative
Josie JordanI was born right in the middle of the war on the Mark Lowery plantation at Sparta, in White County, Tennessee, so I don't know anything much about then slave days except what my mammy told me long years ago. 'Course I mean the Civil War, for to us colored folks they just wasn't no other war as meanful as that one. My mother she come from Vinginia when a little girl, but never nobody tells me where at my pappy is from. His name was David Lowery when I was born, but I guess he had plenty other names, for like my mammy he was sold lots of times.
Salina was my mammy's name, and she belonged to a Mister Clark, who sold her and pappy to Mark Lowery 'cause she was a fighting, It wasn't her fault 'cause she was a fighter. The master who owned her before Mister Clark was one of them white mens who was always whipping and beating his slaves and mammy couldn't stand it no more. That's the way she tells me about it. She just figured she would be better off dead and out of her misery as to be whipped all the time, so one day the master claimed they was something wrong with her work and started to raise his whip, but mammy fought back and when the ruckus was over the Master was laying still on the ground and folks thought he was deed, he got such a heavy beating. Mammy says he don't die and right after that she was sold to Mister Clark I been telling you about. And mammy was full of misery for a long time after she was carried to Mark Lowery's plantation where at I was born during of the war. She had two children while belonging to Mister Clark and he wouldn't let then go with mammy and pappy. That's what caused her misery. Pappy tried to ease her mind but she jest kept a 'crying for her babies, Ann and Beuben, till Mister Lowery got Clark to leave them visit with her once a month. Mammy always says that Mark Lowery was a good master. But he'd heard things about mammy before he got her and I reckon was curious to know if they was all true. Mammy says he found out mighty quick they was. It was mammy's second day on the plantation and Mark Lowery acted like he was going to whip her for something she'd done or hadn't, but mammy knocked him plumb through the open cellar door. He wasn't hurt, not even had for many says he climbed out the cellar a'laughing, saying he was only fooling to see if she would fight. But mammy's troubles wasn't over then, for Mark Lowery he got himself a new young wife (his first wife was dead), and mammy was round of the house most of the time after that. Right away they had trouble. The Mistress was trying to make mammy hurry up with the work and she hit mammy with the broom stick. Mammy's mule temper boiled up all over the kitchen and the Master had to stop the fighting. He wouldn't whip mammy for her part in the trouble, so the Mistress she sent word to her father and brothers and they come to Mister Lowery's place. They was going to whip mammy, they was good and mad. Master was good and mad, too, and he warned 'em home. mule-headed woman. "Whip your own slaves." He told them. "Mine have to work and if they're beat up they can't do a days work. Go on home I'll the care of this." And they left. My folls didn't have no fool troubles at Mark Lowery's like they did comewheres else. I remember Lawny told me about one meter who almost staved his slaves. Miphty stingy I reckon he was. Some of them slaves was so poorly this they ribs would kinder rustle against each other like corn stalks a-drying in the lot winds. But they gets even one hog-hilling time, and it was finny two, dey said. They was seven hogs, fat and ready for fall hog-killing time. Just the day before old master told off they were to be killed something happened to all them porkers. One of the field boys found them and come a-tolling the master: "The hogs is all died, now they won't be any meets for the winter. Then the master cots to where at the hose is laying, they's a lot of Negroes standing round looking sorrow-eyed at the wasted meat. The master asks: "What's the illness with 'em?" "Malitis." They tell him, and they acts like they don't want to touch the hogs. Master says to dress them anyway for they ain't no more meat on the place. He says to keep all the meat for the slave families, but that's because he's afraid to eat it hisself account of the hogs' got malitis. "Don't you-all know what is malitis? Marry would ask the chillren when she was telling of the seven fat hogs and seventy lean slaves. And she would laugh, remembering how they fooled the old master so's to get all them good meats. "One of the strongest Negroes got up early in the morning. Mammy would explain, 'long 'fore the rising horn called the slaves from their cabins. He skitted to the hog pen with a heavy mallet in his hand. When he tapped Mister Hog 'tween the eyes with that mallet 'malitis' set in mighty quick, but it was a uncommon 'disease', even with hungry Negroes around all the time." Mammy had me three sisters and a brother while on the Lowery plantation. They was fine, Aldie, Alice and Lincoln. It was a long time after the war and we was all freed before we left old Master Lowery. Stayed right there where we was at home, working in the fields, living in the same old cabins, just like before the war. Never did have no big troubles after the war, except one time the Ku Klux Klan broke up a church meeting and whipped some of the Negroes. The preacher was telling about the Bible days when the Klan rode up. They was all masked up and everybody crawled under the benches when they shouted: "We'll make you damn niggers wish you wasn't free!" And they just about did. The preacher got the worst whipping, blood was running from his nose and mouth and care, and they left him laying on the floor. They whip'ed the women just like the men, but Mammy and the girls wasn't touched none and we run all the way back to the cabin. Leyed down with all our clothes on and tried to sleep. but we's too scairt to close our eyes. Mammy reckoned old Master Lowery was a-riding with the Klan that night, else we'd got a flogging too. We first moved about a mile from Master Lowery's place and ever week we'd ask mammy if we children could go see old Master and she'd say: "Yes, if you-all are good niggers." The old Master was always glad to see us children and he would give us candy and apples and treat us mighty fine. The old plantations gone. the old Masters gone. the old slaves is gone, and I'll be a going some of these days. too. for I been here a mighty long time and they ain't nobody needs no now 'cause I is too old for any good.