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The Slave Narrative Collection
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Joe Ray

Age 83

Muskogee, Oklahoma

My folks was shipped from Africa across the waters and fetched a good price on the slave market at New Orleans where my pappy stayed for a long time helping with the fresh Negroes that come over one the slave boats.

His name was John and my mammy's name was Rhoda. She belonged to Jim Hawkins who had a plantation at Fulton, Arkansas, down in Hempstead County. When she met my pappy old mastet Hawkins sold her to pappy's master, name of Ray, so's dey could stay together.

Dere at Fulton I was born in 1855. I was eight year old when Vicksburg give up to the Yankees and an old slave man dere looked at the lines on my hand and said I was eight year old. My twin sister, Josephine, is still living done in Shreveport, LA., and a brother Charles lives in Tampico, Mexico. Dat's where I want to go for I is afraid the Japs is coming over here and I is too feeble to dodge stray cannon balls.

Some of the slaves was moved around all over the south during the War. Me and pappy was at Vicksburg when the Rebels stuck their swards in the ground and give up. But dem yanks had a terrible time whipping us. The Yank soldiers dug holes in the ground and put in kegs of powder. Den dey blowed up the land down by the river and almost turned the river (Mississippi) around! When the powder blasts go off lots of Rebels was killed and dere wasn't many left to give up when General Grant too the town.

I remember General Grant talking and laughing about the war. He was a fighter, dat man! I eat two-tree meals at the General's place; he took me in one terrible cold night, I was almost froze.

Master Ray sold mammy, me and my twin sister and two brothers to Enoch Smith, and he was the last master we had. Some of my folks stayed with him a long time after they was free, dong washings, ironings and cooking. the boys tend to his horses and work in the fields.

The Smith plantation was called "Seven Mile Square", It was that size and had about 350 slaves most of the time. He was a big trader. His house was made of sawed cedar logs from a close by mill, and the beds are round logs of cedar posts, with rope slats made diamond fashion. When the ropes is drawn up it made a bottom tight as a dollar bill.

The slaves lived in log huts, mostly one room, with a tar roof. Dere was no beds like the haster had. Just a kind of bunk with corn shuckings stuck in a cotton bag for to lay on. After working in the fields all day, sometimes without anything to eat for dinner, the slaves come to the cabins at night, cook their supper of white salt meat and talk awhile before going to sleep. Dey had to get sleep early and get up early; nobody sleep late, even on Sunday.

Dere was two overseers on the place and dey carried a bull whip all the time. Dey didn't whip the girls; the old master pinch their ears if dey get mean and not mind. But I saw a slave man whipped until hes shirt was cut to pieces! dey whipped dem like horese, but the master didn't want dem beat to death. If dey whip dem too hard the old master shake his dead and say, "Dat's to much money to kill!"

My pappy killed an overseer who tried to lash him; dey sent him off to another plantation for a while. Dat's all the punishment he got.

The auction sales brought the master lots of money. One man sold for $1,500. The slaves stand bare to the waist, men and women alike, the buyers feeling of dem to see if dey was solid and looking for scars to see if dey had been mean enough for whippings.

The old master kept his money hidden in two kegs under the stairway. I seen him putting money dere one day and he chased me out of the house. But another Negro found out about it and he stole some of it and run off to Texas. Dey said he bout a farm dere; anyway, dey never got the slave nor the money back, dat's what I know.

Alma Cinda was the mistress' name. Dere was boy name of Joe and a girl name of Athlene. Dat boy was a terror; folks said he was a cattle stealer. One year he come home and died of pneumonia.

The master give each slave family about 4 pounds of fat meats every week, with a quart of molasses, a peck of corn meal and some bran for flour. When dat run out you was just out until Saturday night come around again.

The clothes was all home spun, made of cotton, and when I was a little boy the master give me a pair of red shoes. In dem days I wore a charm for sharp luck. It was a needle with a blue velvet string through the eye, but when I do something mean that charm didn't keep the master's whip off my back.

After freedom one time I worked at the old Peabody hotel in Memphis. Lots of gamblers around dere den; dey come down the river and have some big gambling games. I done some gambling too, but not like dem white folks who paid me a dollar for a cigar after dey have a streak of big winnings.

Dem old south slave girls I love, but not dem northern girls, dere is a difference! I lived with one of them south girls name of Jennie Harris from Mississippi. She leave me for a nappy headed preacher. Den I married Mandy Drew, another Mississippi girl, who leave me for a man with two kinky heads (children). A long time later I see dat man on a river boat and I was fixing to shoot him but dere was too many laws at the boat landing so he got away.

That black as a skillet Mandy give me a boy, Dick Ray, and a girl Jabo who full grown weighted about 400 pounds. Dere was four other wives, but dey're all gone now and I ain't studying nobody now. I is dat old!

Lincoln was a great man, but dis country needs a king.

Folks call me a prophet, because I tell dem things dat comes true. Now I been telling dem dat slavery is coming back and it ain't far away. Mayve dey won't believe it, but slavery is coming soon.

Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03


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