The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
Age 75 Years
I was born right in the middle of the War on the Mark Lawery plantation at Sparta, in White County, Tennessee, so I don't know anything much about them days except what my mammy told me long years ago. "Course I mean the Civil war, for us colored folks they jest wasn't no other was as mean as that one.
My mother she come from Virginia when a little girl, but never nobody tells me where at my pappy is from. His name was David Lowery when I was born, but I guess he had plenty other names, for like my mammy he was old lots of times.
Salina was my mammy's name, and she belonged to a Mister Clark, who sold her and pappy to Mark Lowery 'cause she was a fighting, mule-headed woman.
It wasn't her fault 'cause she was a fighter. The Master who owned her before Mister Clark was one of them white mens who was always whippig and beating his slaves and mammy couldn't stand it no more.
That's the way she tells me about it. She just figured she would be better off dead and out of her misery as to be whipped all the time, so one day the master claimed they was something wrong with her work and started to raise his whip, but mammy fought back and when the ruckus was over the Master was laying still on the ground and folks thought he was dead, he got such a heavy beating.
Mammy says he don't die and right after that she was sold to Mister Clark I been telling you about. And mammy was full of misery for a long time after she was carried to Mark Lowery's plantation where I was born during the war.
She had two children while belonging to mister Clark and he wouldn't let them go with mammy and pappy. That's what caused her misery. Pappy tried to ease her mind but she jest kept a'crying for her babies, Ann and Reuban, till Master Lowery got Clark to leave them visit with her once a month.
Mammy always says that Mark Lowery was a good master. But he'd heard things about mammy before he got her and I reckon was curious to know if they was all true. Mammy says he found out might quick they was.
It was mammy's second day on the platation and Mark Lowery acted like he was going ot whip her for something she'd done or hadn't, but mammy knocked him plumb through the open cellar door. He wasn't hurt, not even mad, for mammy says he climbed out the cellar a'laughing, saying he was only fooling to see if she would fight.
But mammy's troubles wasn't over then, for Mark Lowery he got hisself a new young wife, and mammy was round of the house most of the time after that.
Right away they had trouble. The Mistress was tying to make mammy hurry up with the work and she hit mammy with the broom stick. Mammy's mule temper boiled up all over the kitchen and the Master had to stop the fighting.
He wouldn't whip mammy for her part in the trouble, so the Mistress she sent word to her father and brothers and they come to Mister Lowery's place.
They was going to whip mammy, they was good and mad. Master was good and mad, too, and he warned 'em home.
"Whip your own slaves." He told them. "Mine have to work and if they're beat up they can't do a day's work. Get home, I'll take care of this." And they left.
My folks didn't have no food troubles at Mark Lowery's like they did somewheres else. I remember mammy told me about one master who almost starved his slaves. Might stingy I reckon he was.
Some of them slaves was so poorly thin they ribs would kinder rustle agains each other like corn stalks a-drying in thehot winds. But they gets even one hog-killing time, and it was funny too, mammy said.
The was seven hogs, fat and ready for fall hog-kiling time. Jest the day before old Master told off they was to be killed something happened to all them porkers. One of the field boys found them and come a-telling the Master: "The hogs is all died, now they won't be any meats for the winter."
When the Master gets to where the hogs is laying, they's a lot of Negroes stand round looking sorrow-eyed at the wasted meat. The Master asks: "Wjat's the illness with 'em?"
"Malitis," They tell him, and they acts like they don't want to touch the hogs. Master says to dress them anyways for they ain't no more meat on the place.
He says to keep all the meat for the slave families, but that's because he's afraid to eat it hisself account of the hog's got malitis.
"Don't yoy-all know what is Malitis?" Mammy would ask the children when she was telling of the seven fat hogs and seventy lean slaves. And she would laugh, remembering who fooled, the old master, so's go get all them good meats.
"One of the strongest Negros got up early in the morning." Mammy would explain, "long 'fore the rising horn called the slaves from their cabins. He skitted to the hog pen with a heave mallet in his and. When he tapped Mister Hog 'tween the eyes with the malet 'malitis' set in might quick, but it was a uncommon 'disease,' even with hungry Negroes around all the time."
There was a public road going by the plantation and lots of Yankees rode along the road after the War was over on their way home. Sometime during the War a rebel bushwhacker, man by the name of Champ Ferguson, was captured, but what happened to him I was never told.
Some of the slaves was pretty anxious for freedom. they'd run away, or try to, to the North. Sometimes the Rebs would dress up in Yankee cloths and come around the fields talking with the slaves, telling them to run away and they would tell them there wasn't any use in working like they did, tell them anything to make them want to leave.
And what happened when the slaves would sneak away. I'll tell you. the Rebs killed him! sometimes he'd be found shot dead a little ways in the woods, then sometimes he'd be whipped and die from the beating.
Mother told about how they tried to get my father in on of the traps. He wouldn't listen to them. Said he was going to stay with the Master, do his work right and wouldn't ever talk about running away. The Rebs cussed him for a fool Negro, but father told them it was the fools what tried to get away!
It was a long time after the War and we was all freed before we left old Master Lowery. Stayed right there where we was at home, working in the fields, living in the same old cabins, just like before the War. Never did have no big troubles after the war, except one time the Ku Klux Klan broke up a church meeting and whipped some of the Negroes.
The preacher was telling about the Bible days when the Klan rod up. They was all masked up and everybody crawled under the benches when the shouted: "We'll make you damn niggers wish you wasn't free!"
And they just about did. The preacher got the worst whipping, blood was running from his nose and mouth and ears, and they left him laying on the floor.
They whipped the women just like the men, but Mammy and the girls wasn't touched none and we run all the way back to the cabin. Layed down with all our cloths on and tried to sleep, but we's too scairt to close our eyes.
Mammy reckoned old Master Lowery was a riding with the Klan that night, else we'd got a flogging too.
We first moved about a mile from Master Lowery's place and ever week we'd ask mammy if we children could go to see old Master and she'd say: "Yes, if you-all are good niggers." The old Master was always glad to see us children and he would give us candy and apples and treat us might find.
In 1882, I was married to James Jordan down in Tennessee. He is dead now and three of the seven children are dad, too. All their names were, Frank, Mary Liza, Peter, Lowery, Daisy, Bennie, Hattie. the ones living are just farming around, one in Oklahoma and three in California. I moved to Guthrie in 1900, and come to Tulsa some years after that, but can't remember the exact date.
The old plantation's gone, the old master's gone, the old slaves is gone, and I'll be going some of these days, too, for I been her a might long time and they ain't nobody need me now 'cause I is to old for any good.
Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03