The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
We strongly recommend that you read the information below from the Library of Congress explaining the language used in these interviews.
George G. King
Age 83 Yrs
"Prayers for sale----Prayers for sale----" Uncle George Chants in sing-song fashion as he roams around Tulsa's Greenwood Negro district, pockets filled with prayer appears that are soiled and dirty with constant handling.
But they are potent, Uncle George tells those who fear the coning of some trouble, disaster or just ordinary misery, and there's a special prayer for each and every trouble, including one to keep away the bill collector when the young folks forget to make payments on the radio, the furniture, the car, or the Spring outfit purchased months ago from the credit clothier.
It's all in the Bible and the Bible is his workshop, 'cause folks don't know how to pray.
He's might old, is Uncle George King, and he'll tell you that he was born on two-hundred acres of Hell, but the whitefolks called it Samuel Roll's plantation, six miles N.E. of Lexington, south Carolina.
Kinder small for a plantation, Uncle George explains, but plenty room for that devil overseer to lay on the lash, and plenty room for the old she devil Mistress to whip his mammy 'til she was just a piece of living raw meat!
The old Master talked hard words, but the Mistress whipped. Lots of difference, and Uncle George ought to know, 'cause he's felt the lash layed on pretty heavy when he was no older then kindergarten children of today.
The Mistress owned the slaves and they couldn't be sold without her say so. That's the reason George was never sold, but the Master once tried to sell him 'cause the beatings was breaking him down. Old Mistress said "No," and used it for an excuse to whip his Mammy. Uncle George remembers that, too.
They crossed her wrists and tied them with a stout cord. They made her bend over so that her arms was sticking back between her legs and fastened the arms with a stick so's she couldn't straighten up.
He saw the Mistress pull his Mammy's clothes over her head so's the lash would reach the skin. He saw the overseer lay on the whip with hide busting blows that left her laying, all a shiver, on the ground, like a wounded animal dying from the chase.
He saw the Mistress walk away, laughing, while his Mammy screamed and groaned, the old Master stand there looking sad and wretched, like he could feel the blows on Mamma's bared back and legs as much as she.
The Mistress was a great believer in the power of punishment, and Uncle George remembers the old log cabin jail built before the War, right on the plantation, where runaway slaves were stowed away till they would promise to behave themselves.
The old jail was full up during most of the War. Three runaway slaves were still chained to it's floor when the Master gave word the Negroes were free.
They were Prince, Sanovey his wife, and Henry, who were caught and whipped by the patrollers, and then brought back to the plantation for another beating before being locked in jail.
The Mistress ordered them chained, and the overseer would come every morning with the same question: "Will you niggers promise not to run away no more?"
But they wouldn't promise. One at a time the overseer would loosen the chains, and lead them from the jail to cut them with powerful blows from the lash, then drag them back to be chained until the nest day when more lickings were given 'cause they wouldn't promise.
The jail was emptied on the day Master roll called together all the men, women and children to tell them they wasn't slaves no more. Uncle George tells it this way:
"The Master he says we are all free, but it don't mean we is white. And it don't mean we is equal. Just equal for to work and earn our own living and not depend on him for no more teats and cloths."
Food was scarce before the War; it was worse after the shooting and killing was over, and Uncle George says; "There wasn't no corn bread, no bacon, just trash eating trash, like when General Sherman marched down through the country taking everything the soldiers could lug away, and burning all along the way.
"Wasn't nothing to eat after he march by. Darkies search 'round the barns, maybe find some grains of corn in the manure, and they'd parch the grains, nothing else to eat, except sometimes at night Mammy would skit out and steal scraps from the Master's house for the children.
She had lots of hungry mouths, too. They was seven of us then, six boys and a girl, Eliza. The boys was Wesley, Simeon, Moses, Peter, William and Me, George. This pappy's name was Griffin.
But they was other pappy's, Mammy told him, when Eva was born long before any of us, and Laura come next, but from a white daddy. Mammy lost them when she was sold around on the markets.
The Klan they done lots of riding around the country. One night they come down to the old slave quarters where the cabins is all squared round each other, and called everybody outdoors. They's looking for two women.
They picks 'em out of the crowd right quick and say they been with white men. Says their children is by white men, and they're going to get whipped so's they'll remember to stay with their own kind. The women kick and scream, but the mens grab them and roll them over a barrel and let fly with the whip.
It was a long time after the Civil War that Uncle George got his first schooling or attended regular church meetings. Like he says:
"Getting up at four o'clock in the morning, hoeing in the fields all day, doing chores when they come in from the fields, and then piddling with the weaver till nine or ten every night, it just didn't leave no time for reading and such, even if we was allowed to."
And religion, that come later too, for during the old plantation days Uncle George's white folks didn't think a Negro needed religion, there wasn't a Heave for Negroes anyhow.
Finally, thought, the Master gave them right to hold meetings on the plantation, and old Peter Coon was the preacher. The overseer was there with guards to keep the negroes from getting to much riled up when old Peter started talking about Paul or some of the things in the Old Testament. That's all he would talk about; nothing 'bout Jesus, just Paul and the Old Testament.
His Mammy went to every meeting. Like he says; "She knew them good things was good for her children and she told us about the Bible."
Like his old Mammy, Uncle George is a firm believer in the power of the word. "Prayers are Saving!: Uncle George says, "But they's lots of folks don't know how to pray."
That's why he has prayers for sale, and he knows they are never failing, "If you tack 'em up on the wall and say 'em over and over every day they's sure to be answered."
Contributed by M. Dawson, May 2002