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Texas Slave Narrative

  Ellen Rogers

Her bare feet twisted with innumerable scars, give evidence of travels over roads which must have been rough and broken. In her youth Ellen Rogers , Orange negress, was one of the lower caste 'fiel' niggers, Even now, a hundred years has failed to erase the memory of her days of slavery in Tennessee and later in Texas. Ellen counts her years at more than 100, yet she is not sure of the exact number. She has a hunted look in her eyes and occasionally stops speaking to stare into space as if listening to the 'Voices from Heaven' which she claims to hear at times. She is thin faced, with short, gray hair, and expressive hands. A soiled string around her skinny ankle recalls the Voodoo ancestry which inspires its protective use against 'Evil Spirits.

I hears voices from Hebben ev'ry day. I don' t'ink I gwinter be yere long. Some of dem voices say, 'Ol' man Austin he bu'nin' (burning) in hell right now cause he was so mean to he niggers.' Den dey say, 'Ol' Mistus Austin she in hell dis minnit cause she was mean to de niggers.' I was raise' in Houston but I was bo'n in Memphis, Tennessee. Ol' man Austin he buy us. I guess I's 'bout a hunnerd year' ol' and maybe mo'. My mudder, Louisa , was sol' from me w'en I's jes' a settin' on de flo' like dat. Daddy, dat Cicero , say he gwinter go 'way and den dey sol' him in N'Yawlins. I was in de house two year'. Res' of de time I wuk in de fiel'. I growed up in a cotton fiel'. I marry w'ile I still wukkin' in de cotton fiel'. My ol'es' son, Elbert Rogers , lib in Huntsville. He ober 80 year' ol' now. Iffen I hadn' been so good I wouldn' be libin' now. I was allus a good woman. Don' you know w'at de Scriptures done say 'bout dat? Marster he hab a sister name Missus Gillis . Dey went to Californy to dig gol'. She owe her brudder some money and lef' me wid him in pawn. She say w'en she gwine 'way she don' know iffen she eber git to sen' de money to git me back but she see me in Hebben. Atter w'ile Mister Austin sol' me to a marster name Hutchins . He git mad w'en freedom come. His las' fo'man, was jes' culled trash. W'en freedom come he say, 'I got nuthin' for you to do. I want you to tell all de niggers to come.' W'en dey come he tell dem, 'I want you to know you free. De Yankees done tu'n you free. Us kaint he'p ourse'fs." De Yankees come 'roun' to see dat dey tu'n de niggers free. De Yankees hab orders to kill from de cradle up iffen dey didn' tu'n us loose.  Dey uster dribe niggers like cattle and put dem in big house like w'er dey mek coffee. Den people could go dere and buy anyt'ing dey want, a maid, or house gal, or fiel' han' or anyt'ing. Dey whip me once to bre'k me up from lovin' a man. Ol' man Solomon he whip me. Dey already hab anuder man pick out for me. I jes' wouldn' eben look at dat uder man no matter how much dey whip and slash so at las' dey 'low me hab my way for once and I git de man I want. Dat was Rogers . I allus was smart. Iffen we hadn' got free I 'spect I been dead 'long time ago. Ol' man Hutchins he hire a man to come out and preach to us at de camp groun'. Dey uster sing along like dis: 'We will cross de ribber of Jordan, So happy, so happy. We will cross de ribber of Jordan, So happy in de Lawd. O, who will come and go wid me, So happy, so happy. O, who will come and go wid me, So happy in de Lawd. De clo's us wo' in slav'ry time was mek outn' bought cotton duckin' call Lowell's. De ol' folks wo' red russet shoes mek outn' rawhide. Slaves lib in log houses and de w'ite folks lib in frame house. De log house had de chink' fill up wid mud. I 'member w'ite folks say he stole culled folks 'cross de ocean. De marster he raise up chillen to sell jes' like he raise hawgs. One mean culled man run 'way cross de ribber. Lots of culled folks run 'way befo' freedom come. Lots of dem dig holes in de groun' and de ribber bank and side of de hills to lib in. De fiel' us hab to wuk in was big's dis town. Us stay in de fiel' all day and wash and cook for ourse'fs w'en we git in. Ol' Uncle 'Lijah was a sorter nigger preacher on de place. He hafter lower he voice w'en he preach so w'ite folks won't hear him. Iffen dey hear him and t'ink de niggers was habbin' a meetin' dey come and mek him stop. De niggers say, 'Gwinter Hebbin, gwinter Hebben, gwinter meet you dere.' Lots of de culled people git converted at dem meetin' in slav'ry time. De sojers, o-o-o-o-o- we was scare of any of dem. One come to de cabin one night and push me in de face. I git so scare I git out and run hide in de bresh 'til dey go 'way. Ol' man Austin kep' med'cines for us w'en us git sick. Dey gib us lobelia and salts and t'ings like dat. Dey gib some kin'er med'cine like meal mix up wid water, and some like dus'. Dey hab a black woman to git 'zammined and den iffen he t'ink you sick 'nuf he sen' for de doctor. One time I was sick and go to de marster. He look at me and say, 'You ain' sick. Gwan, gwan. I wouldn' gib two bit for you, you's jes' sulkin'. W'en me and my folks wanter git marry we tell de marster. He say, 'Tek dem and go marry dem, Solomon .' Ol' Solomon was a ol' man, sorter preacher like and he marry de niggers on de place. He proclaimed to be a Christian and tuk a li'l book and us git marry. He was a black man near a hunnerd year' ol'. Den us go home. All de bed us hab to sleep on was a pallet us mek on de flo' befo' de fireplace. De black people scare me at fus'. I was raise by w'ite folks. De black han's from de fiel' dey stare at me. Dey did dat to all de niggers w'at wuk 'roun' de w'ite folks. Atter freedom come us hab to wuk 'roun' for de w'ite folks to git sump'n' to eat. I went to Huntsville to try to fin' my people. I neber fin' none of de folks. None lef' now cep'n' Ellen and her chillen and God.