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The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project

Martha Ann Ratliff

Age - Unknown

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I was born in Cotton Plant, Mississippi. I don't know how old I am but I suppose I'm nearly a hundred. Mother was named Celia. Her first husband was named George Moore and the second was named Jesse Ratliff. Dere was four children by Moore and none by Ratliff. I marred Riley Ratliff after freedom. I got two children living and four dead. I now life wid Ella Luster, and Richard Ratliff, my son, is in Perry.

My mother was de mother of four children, names as following, Frank Moore, only brother, and three sisters, Ruth Moore, George Ann Moore and Martha Ann Moore and me. During slavery my parents lived in our Master's back yard as me and mother did the cooking for my Mastet and de slaves as dey all ate in the kitchen.

Our beds was made of wood and the mattresses wove on a loom by the slaves. In winter we wore jean underskirts made of wool and cotten top dresses. In summer we wore thin cotton goods. Master was a tailor and he would cut out de cloth himself for his slaves' clothing and de women did de sewing.

As a slave, I stayed in de house and wit on my Mistress, kept house clean and killed flies in de house with pea-fowl tails and at meal time I had to fan de flies off de table. As my Master and family would eat so long, I would sometime go to sleep fanning flies and let my fan fall and if dere was company my Mistress would whip or slap me when dey was gone.

I never earned or had any money as a slave. We got everything else dey thought we needed but money. Slaves hunted but dey never ate rabbits or possums till after freedom. There wasn't no gardens but Master's. My Master was named Master Riddle. He had two children one boy and a girl. I can't think of de boy's name but de girl was named Atsia. They lived in a frame house but slaves lived in log houses in the quarters.

The overseers were not allowed to whip or treat slaves mean, but if dey needed whipping Master would do it hisself. My Master was kind to his slaves. He said de slaves couldn't work if dey was sore from beatings. But other white Masters around, some of them was mean.

The plantation was big one and salves all stayed in de quarters and went to work without any bells or horns. My Master raised all his slaves after he bought his first ones. Dey had to go and clan up and wash on Saturdays and go to church on Sundays. We went to the white's church and sat in the back of the church and were allowed to join and be baptized by de white preacher after de white folks was baptized. I don't know how many slaves he had but he had heap of 'em. I saw slaves auctioned or sold but my Master didn't buy or sell any. None of us was taught to read or write.

My father was a fiddler and some nights he would slip off to play for dances as well as for me. he would slip off at other times and as he never would get a pass and when patrollers would git at him, he would outrun them most of de time. They would sometime catch him and whip him. When I would sometimes be with hi, he would gel me on his back and run.

My Master would give us a week for Christmas and the slaves would frolic and go to dances.

Cornshucking and quilting would be done at de same time. De men would shuck corn while the women do de quilting. When you wanted to get married you would have to tell your Master and if it was al right wid him he would tell you and if he objected you couldn't marry dat person.

We didn't know anything 'bout voo-dooing till after freedom. We had one de habit of wearing asafetida 'round de neck to keep from being sick.

When the news come dat we was free, Master called us together and told us dat wee was free, yet most of us still stayed. He told us also dat he like all of us and dat when he died he wanted de niggers to come to de burial which they all thought was near around.

Our Master was so good to us dat even after freedom, when he heard of some of us being sick he would come to see us and bring us something.

Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03

2018 OKGenWeb

updated 01/10/2016

Linda Simpson, State Coordinator
Mel Owings, Assistant Coordinator