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Works Progress Administration Interview with

Julius Nelson, Former Slave of Anson County, NC

Interview taken by WPA worker, Mary A. Hicks.

Name: Julius Nelson
Age: 77 (born about 1860)
Birth Place: Anson County
Residence State: North Carolina
Interview Location: State Prison, Raleigh, North Carolina
Father's name: Alex
Father - Places Lived: Anson County
Mother's name: Ann
Mother - Places Lived: Anson Co
Owner's Name: Nelson

Date of interview: c.1936-1938



            An interview with Julius Nelson, 77 of State Prison, Raleigh, N.C.


            “I doan ‘member no slavery, of course, so ‘taint no use ter ax me no questions.  I does not dat my mammy  wus named Ann an’ my pappy wus named Alex.  Day ‘longed ter a Mr. Nelson in Anson County.  Dare wus ‘leben o’ us youngins but dey am all daid now ‘cept me.

            “I doan reckon dat I is but roun’ sebenty, case I wus jist five years old at de close o’ de war.  What’s dat, I’m sebenty seben?  Lan’ how de time do fly!

            “Anyhow I jist barely does ‘member how de ho’n blowed ‘fore de light o’ de day an’ how we got up an’ had our breakfast an’ when de ho’n blowed at sunrise we went ter de fiel’s in a gallop.  At dinner time de plantation bell rung an’ we’d fly fer home. 

            “one big fat nigger ‘oman cooked de dinner fer us fifty or sixty slaves an’ in er hour or so we’d go back  ter de fiel’s fermo’ wuck.  I ses us, but I means dem  what could wuck.  I did pull weeds an’ pick up apples, an’ dem things.

            “Dese dinners hyar ‘min’s me o’ de plantation dinners somehow.  Maybe case it am ‘bout de same quality.  Great big pots o’ turnip salet, collards, peas, beans, cabbages, potatoes or other vege’ables, an’ a oben full o’ sweet ‘taters in de winter.  Dar wus a heap o’ pies in de summertime, an’ honey, an’ ‘lasses, an’ lasses cake in de winter time.  Dar wus big pones o’ co’n bread all de year roun’ an’ whole sides o’ meat, an’ on New years’ Day hogshead an’ peas.

            “Fur supper we gine’ly had pot licker, lef’ from dinner, ‘taters maybe an’ some sweetnin’. Der wus ash cake fur supper an’ breakfas’ most o’ de time an’ hominy, which de marster had grown himself.  De smart nigger et a heap o’ possum an’ coons, dar bein’ plenty o’ dem an’ rabbits an’ squirrels in abundance.

            “Did yo’ eber eat any kush?  Well dat wus made outin meal, onions, salt, pepper, grease an’ water.  Hit made a good supper dish.  Sometimes in de heat of de day marster let us pick blackberries on de hedgerow fer our supper. We little ‘uns often picks de berries, an’ den we have a big pan pie fer supper.

            “On holidays we sometimes had chicken pie an’ ham an’ a lot o’ other food.  Dem wus de happy times, ‘specially on Christmas mornin’ when we all goes ter de big house ter celebrate an’ ter git ouor gif’s.  Dey give us clothes, food, an’ fruit.  One Christmas we had a big tub of candy, I reckolicts.

            “ ‘Bout twict a year we had a sociable when de niggers from de neighborin’ plantations ‘ud be invited an’ dey’d come wid deir banjoes an’ fiddles an’ we’d dance, all o’ us, an’ have a swell time.

            “We litte’uns ‘ud play fox-on-de-wall, tag, mulberry bush, drap handkerchief, stealin’ sticks an’ a whole heap of others dat I disremembers right now.

            “We shucked our co’n on rainy days mostly, but de marster lets us have one big co’n shuckin’ eber’ year an’ de person what fin’s a red year can kiss who dey pleases.  Hit was gran’ times dat we had den.

            “We also had regular weddin’ wid a preacher an’ all de fixin’s an’ de marster usually give us a big supper case he knowed dat he wuz gwine ter soon habe more slaves from de union.

            “Iffen de Yankees comed ter our part o’ de country I don’t ‘member seein’ dem but I does know dat de Ku Kluxes done give us a heap of trouble

            “I’se libed a long time, ‘specially de fifteen years dat I’se spent hyar, but I knows how ter treat white folkses, an’ I knows dat de wuck an’ de healthy rations dat de niggers got ‘fore de war am why dey am stronger dan de young niggers o’ dis day.”



Source Information U.S., Interviews with Former Slaves, 1936-1938 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc.


Original data:

A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, 1936–1938. Vol. 1-17. Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration microfilm publication SCM 000 320, SCM 000 321, SCM 000 322, SCM 000 323, SCM 000 325, 5 rolls. Library of Congress, Washington D.C.




This page created February 3, 2011 by Julie Hampton Ganis