Sylvia Watkins is an ex-slave. She is 91 years old and was born in Bedford County, Virginia. Her mistress’s name was Emily Hatchet. Emily had two daughters who were twins, Mittie and Bettie. She has 9 brothers and sisters. Her mom and two of her sisters were sold and dragged to Alabama and she hasn’t heard from them since. She stayed to live with her dad after she was freed because his master gave him crops and animals and land. She was married twice. She lived with her first husband, Jimm Ferguson, for 20 years and then he died. She lived with her second husband, George Watkins, for 8 years and he died two years before the article was written. She had no children of her own. She always wanted to adopt but her first husband didn’t want to. Her second husband came home with a baby and said he adopted it and she clearly saw that the baby looked like him but he denied it. She says it has been hard taking care of him alone after George died.
I think the most powerful memory she has that shaped her experience as a slave was her childhood and how well (compared to others) her mistress treated her. When she talks about her actual slave days she only has good memories. The only time she mentioned that her mistress whipped her, she said that she deserved it. She says that she and her siblings had good clothes and her mistress let them sit at the table to eat until “our stomachs full.” She wishes she could go back to those days because they had such great food. Her mistress even let her play hide and seek and other games when she and her siblings finished working. Her work life consisted of working in the fields, making food, and making clothes. She learned how to knit and sew because of this.
She was treated pretty good. She had her moments where her mistress was kind of trifling. They didn’t let her read or write. They didn’t want the slaves to be educated. Her mistress also promised her and her siblings some goods if they stayed with her for a year, after the slaves were freed. They agreed and after that year her mistress didn’t give her anything. She wasted a year. There wasn’t any specific times where she mentions resisting but she says she fought a lot and because of that her mistress would whip her.
She said she was with her young mistress, so one of the twins, when one of them got married. She also said that one of her young mistresses was blind before she died and she would visit her once a year. Her mistress would always bring things to her to take to the house. She would call her, her “little nig” which kind of sounds like a term of endearment mixed in with some racism. I think she liked one of her young mistresses. It sounds like they kind of had a relationship. Maybe they played hide and seek together when they were younger.
Victoria Perry was from Spartanburg, South Carolina. She was eight years old when the African American, people including herself, were set free in 1865 by the Yankee Generals and soldiers. Victoria Perry’s Master was Bert Mabin who owned a farm near Newberry. Her Master kept the slaves ages written down in a big Bible, but Victoria never dared to ask for her master for her age. Once she was freed, her mother told Victoria to say she was eight years old.
While she was a young slaved girl she would be awoken every night by her mother’s prayers and cries. Her mother would cry because she was always being beaten by their master, Bert Mabin. Victoria would witness when her mother would be whipped on her back until blood would come out. Bert Mabin was extremely violent and so Victoria would always try getting out of her master’s sight and show no emotion in front of him including when her mother would be beaten. Bert Mabin would not only beat her mother but every slave at once when one slave will get him mad. In her eyes her master was a cruel man. Victoria knew her father was a white man who worked as an overseer at the farm but had no relationship with him.
Finally, in 1865 a Yankee general with his soldiers came to the farm and freed all the African American slaves. All the slaves including her mother rejoiced with joy in how Lord heard her prayers. Once freed, work was very scarce. Her mother got a job at a plantation, but later along the way Victoria ended up in Spartanburg. She married a man named Tom Perry, but ended up widowed. In 1937, she calculated she was eighty years old when she wrote this paper.
Yasmin Alvizures History 275 Fall 2014
Lula Jackson lived to be about 79 years old in Alabama, Russell County on a place called Sand Ridge near Georgia. She was a slave after the war who started off as half-a-hand and later on when she was recognized she was hired as a whole hand. She worked in a farm for a few years then was transferred to another farm where she met her first husband. Unfortunately her first and second husband died which resulted her into being single and poor for a lot of years. Within the year that she lost her first and second husband she went through a phase where she could not support herself. She had to beg for food, she was getting to old to work, and she was not getting paid the same amount she started with. There came a point where welfare helped her financially, however they questioned how she got the money to pay for the application since she was stating that she did not have any money. Eventually, they agreed to help her pay for a few of her appliances, however it was not enough to pay for her rent.
Growing up she went through a similar situation since she was one of the nineteen children her mother, Bertha Williams had. Although they did not all come from her father, Fred Williams, she considered them as family so she had to stay home and take care of all of them. Since she had a huge responsibility, school was not an option and neither was learning English. When she was finally had the opportunity to receive some sort of education, she was whipped at least once a day and a lot of the times was because she was standing up for others. However, the little education that she received eventually helped her find a job. Working as a half-a-hand slave was her first job away from home, however as mentioned above that job did not help her or her family out in the long run.
Since both her husbands died that became her powerful force because she realized that no one would be able to help her financially. While the income that was brought home from two people it escalated to become a one person household income. Her family could not help her, let alone her parents. At this point in time she realized that slavery was not like before since her master treated her differently. Her master was now stricter and did not want her around because she was not able to work as fast as before. New people would eventually come and take her spot which was not what she wanted or needed at the moment.