Excerpts from the Texas Slave Narratives
Digital History ID 3658
There were 5,000 slaves in Texas at the time of the Texas Revolution in 1836. In 1845, at the time of annexation, there were 30,000; by 1860, the census found 182,566 slaves, over 30 percent of Texas’s total population.
Andy Anderson was born into slavery in Williamson County, Texas
“Massa Haley owned my folks and about 12 other families of...[slaves]. I’s born in 1843 and that makes me 94 years old and 18 when de war starts. I’s had experience during dat time.”
“I’s gwine ‘splain how it as managed on Massa Haley’s plantation. It as sort of like de small town ‘cause everything we use is made right there. There as de shoemaker and he is de tanner and make de leather from de hides. Don Massa has ‘bout a thousand sheep and he gits de wool, and de…[slave] cards and spins and weaves it, and dat makes all de clothes. Den Massa have de cattle and such purvide de milk and de butter and beef meat for eatin. Den Massa have de turkey and chickens and de hawgs and de bees. With all that, us never was hungry.”
“De plantation as planted in cotton, mostly with corn and de wheat a little, cause Massa don’t need much of dem. He never sell nothin’ but de cotton.”
Source: George P. Rawick, ed. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, Vol. 4: Texas Narratives, Parts I and II, (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1941), p. 14.
Sarah Ashley, who was born in Mississippi was sold in New Orleans and sent to a cotton plantation in Texas.
“I used to have to pick cotton and sometime pick 300 pound and tote it a mile to de cotton house. Some pick 300 to 800 pound cotton and have to tote de bag de whole mile to de gin. If fen dey didn’t dey wory dey git whip till dey have blister on ‘em. De iffen dey didn’t do it, de man on a hoss goes down de rows and whip with a paddle make with holes in it and bu’s de blisters. I never git whip, ‘cause I allus git my 300 pound. Us have to go early to do dat, when de horn goes early, befo’ daylight. Us have to take de victuals in de bucket to de field.” Source: Rawick, 34-35
Minerva Bendy who was born in Henry County, Alabama was later moved to Texas.
“I’s jus’ ‘bout five years old when us make de trip to Texas. Us come right near Woodville and make the plantation. It a big place and dey raise corn and cotton and cane. We makes our own sugar and has many as six kettle of de furnace at one time. Dey raise dey tobacco, too. I’m sick and de old man he say he mak me tobacco medicine and day dry de leafts and make dem sweet like sugar and feed me candy.” Source: Rawick, 68-69
Green Cumby was born into slavery in Henderson, Texas. “Durin' slavery I had purty rough times. My grandfather, Tater Cumby , was cullud overseer for forty slaves and he called us at four in de mornin' and we worked from sun to sun. Most of de time we worked on Sunday, too "De white overseers whupped us with straps when we didn't do right. I seed niggers in chains lots of times, 'cause there wasn't no jails and they jus' chained 'em to trees. Another, to suction 'em at de market places. De women would be carryin' l'il ones in dere arms and at night dey bed 'em down jus' like cattle right on de ground 'side of de road. Lots of l'il chillun was sold 'way from de mammy when dey seven or eight, or even smaller. Dat's why us cullud folks don't know our kinfolks to dis day.”
"De best times was when de corn shuckin' was at hand. Den you didn't have to bother with no pass to leave de plantation, and de patter rolls didn't bother you. If de patter rolls cotch you without de pass any other time, you better wish you dead, 'cause you would have yourself some trouble. But de corn shuckin', dat was de gran' times. All de marsters and dere black boys from plantations from miles 'round would be dere. Den when we got de corn pile high as dis house, de table was spread out under de shade. All de boys dat 'long to old marster would take him on de packsaddle 'round de house, den dey bring him to de table and sit by he side; den all de boys dat 'long to Marster Bevan from another plantation take him on de packsaddle 'round and 'round de house, allus singin' and dancin', den dey puts him at de other side de table, and dey all do de same till everybody at de table, den dey have de feast.”
"We mos'ly lived on corn pone and salt bacon de marster give us. We didn't have no gardens ourselves, 'cause we wouldn't have time to work in dem. We worked all day in de fields and den was so tired we couldn't do nothin' more. My mammy doctored us when we was feelin' bad and she'd take dogfenley, a yaller lookin' weed, and brew tea, and it driv de chills and de fever out of us. Sometimes she put horse mint on de pallet with us to make us sweat and driv de fever 'way. For breakfast she'd make us sass'fras tea, to clear our blood. My marster and his two step-sons goes to de war. De marster was a big gen'ral on de southern side. I didn't know what dey fightin' 'bout for a long time, den I heered it 'bout freedom and I felt like it be Heaven here on earth to git freedom, 'spite de fac' I allus had de good marster. He was good to us, but you knows dat ain't de same as bein' free.”
“Texas Slave Narrative: Green Cumby,” [http://genealogy.rootsweb.com], June 20, 2003.
Copyright 2021 Digital History