The Slave Narrative Collection
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We strongly recommend that you read the information below from the Library of Congress explaining the language used in these interviews.
George Washington Claridy
305 N. E. First Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I was bo'n in Centerpoint, Howard county, Arkansas, October 5, 1853, so dey tell me; dat's all I know's 'cep' what dey tell me for the truth.
Well, it's kinda surprise for someone to come around to talk to me. I never gits to talk to anybody much; folks don't care nothing bout me; dey all calls me de drunkard, gambler, horse thief and murderer. I'se been practically all dem thing too. I'se been a wicked man ever since my first wife died. I confessed religion in 1863 and lived like a gentleman until de death of my wife; den I felt lak everything I had was gone so I jes started getting drunk, gambling and raising hell. I'se never fooled with any woman to mount to nothin since my wife died; I jes get drunk, gamble and forgot bout de women. I've made lots o'money gambling and selling whiskey. I've seed de time when I would write a check for five thousnad dollrs any day. Cose I ain't got nothin' now. Jes lak I made it I let it get easy from me, jes dat quick. I got in jail once about some whiskey. I has a fellow to build me a barn right dere on dat corner, 1st and Central, and underneath dat barn I had him to build a place for me to hide my whiskey. I done good business for a long time den I decided to have me a house build so got dis same fellow dat built de barn to figger wide me on de house. Well, he knew I had plenty money so he tried to skin me, so I got a nudder fellow and he figured de house three hundred dollar cheaper. Well, I let him build it for me. NOw here's what happened: dat other low down rat, jes cause I wouldn't let him skin me out o' my money he went to the sheriff's office and told him about dis place he build for me to keep my whiskey. Well, de sheriff come out dere and began to look round fo de stuff and when he found de place, it was locked in. He told me to unlock it and he would tare de place up, pore out de whiskey, and let me go. Cose you know I was lak most niggers would be wid a little money; I cussed him out, told him dat was my place and he better not put his darn hand on it. He didn't say a word; he jes went back got some mo fellows and dey come dere, broke dat place open and carried away seven hundred and seventy-five dollars worth of whiskey for me. Well dey put me in jail and I stayed dere one hundred and fifteen days. I cost me a lot o'money to keep from going to the penitentiary. I have old Norman Pruitt nigh five thousand dollars to git me out of it.
Ah! kid, I tell yo I am George Washington Ckaridy; I'se been into a little o' everything; I know de ropes. Cose dey call me a murderer, but I ain't never killed nobody. Dey jes put dat on to it case I'se such a wicked fellow. I ain't no count now. I jes drag around; I don't ask nobody fo nothin. I ain't never asked anybody for a dime in my life. I gits a little $21.50 check from de pension folks each month and I makes dat last me.
Now you want me to tell you somethin' about slavery times; sorry I got away from you in de beginning but I jes lak to tell folks de kind o' lie I've lived. Well, my father and mother was named Cats and Clarenda Claridy. Dey come from south Carolina, I don't know what place; all I know is jes South Carolina. I have two brothers and two sisters; cose one brother and one sister is jes half brother and sister to me, case after my pa went to de war and never did come back, my mother had dese two kids by another man. Now James and Ann Claridy was my whole brother and sister, and John and Arena was my half brother and sister. I don't know what their las name is case I never did know what the follow's name was my mother married the second time.
We were good livers on platation, ole Master laked us a lot. He let us live in de best house on de plantation. I was as good as a lot o dese little shacks you see over here now. De beds was alright; cose we slept on straw mattresses but that didn't make no diffunce to us; dey slept might fine.
Well, I don't recollect nothin' bout my grandmother, only a little dat my grandfather told me. Now, I know a lot about him cose we stayed on with ole Master for six months after freedom, den we started to working on halves for a nudder fellow down there in Arkansas, We started our hopeing dat we would soon be able to buy us a farm of our own, so we began saving every dime we could git our hands on, and we did dat for eight years, den my granpa got down wid de rheumatism. Dere was a old lady in dat country dat was a good doctor fo dat kind stuff; so we sent for her. She came over dere and doctored on my grandpa and it seemed to have done lots o'good; so after dat, we would send for her every two or three days, and he kept on getting better and better. Now we jes kept our money in a sack hanging on de wall and every time she came, I would git de sack off of de wall, pay her and put it back. So finally, one day after Pa had got up enough to walk and thought he could make it alright from then on, we decided we would go out and git the old lady some vegetables to take home wid her. While we were gone, I be-dog-gone if that old lady didn't git that sack and we haven't seen or heard from her sence. We had purty near a thousand dollars in that sack too.
Well I'll tell you how I feel bout religion. Now I jined the church once, but I soon found out dat most o'de folks in dere didn't have religion, even de preacher. De biggest thing they want is money. Since I'se found dat out de only thing I do is read my Bible every day and try to treat my fellow man right; cose I tell you I don't believe in dis here singing and shouting on Sunday and raising de devil wid yo neighbor on Monday.
I neber did no nothing about Abraham Lincoln, Jeff Davis and dem fellows. I jes beard bout 'em. Cose dey was mighty big men from what I could hear.
Well, I'll tell we lived might good in slavery time days, dat is, our family did, but even at dat price, I would hate to have to go over it again; yes sir I sho' would.
Contributed by M. Dawson, July 2002