Slave Narrative – Lucius Abernathey Interview

Published By:
Lamont Jack Pearley

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Administration, later renamed Work Projects Administration (WPA). At the conclusion of the Slave Narrative project, a set of edited transcripts was assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. In 2000-2001, with major support from the Citigroup Foundation, the Library digitized the narratives from the microfilm edition and scanned from the originals 500 photographs, including more than 200 that had never been microfilmed or made publicly available. This online collection is a joint presentation of the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs divisions of the Library of Congress.

30369 #727
Interviewer Latt McKinney
Person Interviewed Lucius Abernathy. Marvall. Arkansas
Age 85
“I was borned in de ‘streme aorf part of Mississippi nigh de Tennessee
line* You nought say dat it was ’bout straddle of de state line and it
wasn’t no great piece from where us llbed to Moscow what was de station on de
ole Memfis en Charston Railroad* My white folks was de Abernathys* Ton
neber do hear *bout many folks wid dat name these times, leastwise not ober
in die state, but dere sure used to be heap of dea Abernathys back hone where
I llbed and I spect dat mebbe some dere yit en cose it’s bound to be some of
the young uns lef* dar still, but de ole uns, Mars Luoh en dam, dey is all
“Mars Luch* he was my young boss* Though he name was Lucian us all
called him Luch and dat was who I is named for* Ole mars, he was name Will
and dat was Mars Luch’s pa and my ole miss, she name Miss Cynthia and young
miss, her name Miss Ellen* Ole mars an’ ole miss, dey Just had de two
chillun, Mars luch and Miss Ellen; dat is what libed to be grown* Mars
Luch, he ’bout two year older dan me and Miss Ellen, she ’bout two year
older dan Mars luch* Miss Ellen, she married er gentman from Virginny and
went dar to lib and Mars Luch, he married Miss Fannie Keith*
“Miss Iannis’s folks, dey libed right nigh us on de »j’ining place
and dem was my ole man’s peoples* Yas sah, boss, dat ole man you see
settin’ right dar now in dat chere* She was Ella Keith, data zaekly what
her named when us married and aha named far Miss Fannie’s ma* Sat she was*

Us meher did leave our folkses eben atter de far ober and de niggers git dey
freedom* yit an9 still a heap of de niggers did leave dey mars
and a heap
of dem didn9 an9 us stayed on en farmed de Ian9 jus1 like us been doin ‘eept
dey gib us a contract for part de crop an9 sell us our grub f gainst us part
of de crop and take dey money outen us part of de cotton in de fall just like
de bizhess is done yit and I reckon dat sea de startin9 of de sharecrop dat
is still goinv on*
sQoon atter Mars Luch good and grown a1 Mm an Miss Fannie done
married* ole mars and ole miss, dey bofe died and Mars luck say he gwine sell
out an lebe a cause de Ian gittin so poor and wore out and it takin three
anf more acres to make a bale and he tell us all dat when we wind up de crop
dat fall and say, You boys mebbe can stay on wid whoever I sell out to er if
not den you can fin9 you homes wid some one close if you wants to do dat«f
And den he says dat he gwine fin’ him some good Ian’ mebbe in Arkansas down
de riber from MemfIs* Mighty nigh all de ole famblys lef de place when Mars
Luch sole it out*
“My pappy and my mamay* day went to Memfis and me wid 9em# I was
growed by den and was fixinf to marry ilia just es soon es I could fin’ a
good home« I was a country nigger en liked de farm an’ en cose wasnf t
satisfied in town, so twasnt long ‘fore I heered ’bout hanfs beein needed
down de riber In Mississippi and data where I went en stayed for two years
and boss* I sure was struck wid dat Ian9 ahat you could mate a bale to a acre
on an I just knowed dat I was gwine git rich in a hurry an’ so I writ er
letter to Blla en her peoples tellin dem bout de rich Ian9 and ‘vising dem
to come down dere where I was and I was wantin’ to marry Ilia dem* Boss*
and you know what, ’twasn’t long afore I gits er letter back an9 de letter
says dat Blla an9 her peoples is doan de riber in Arkansas from Msmfis
at BLedeoe wld Mars Inch ah Hiss Banal* where Mars Iaieh had done moved aim
aa’ Uisa Fannie to a big plantation day had hornet down flora*
“Bat was a funny thing now dat happaaad aa* SLedsoe, it waa right
‘cross da riber from where I was aa had been for two years an* just soon as I
git dat letter I ‘range aid a nigger to take ma ‘cross de riber in er skift
to da plaatatioa where day all waa aad ’bout fast folkses dat I aea ia Ella
aa* her peoples aa lota of da famblys from da ola home place back ia Tennessee
aa* I aura was proud to aae Mars Lash aa Hiss Fannie* Say had built dam*
selres a fiaa house at a p’iat dat waa sorter like a knoll where da water
don’ git whan da riber coma out oa da laa* ia case of oberflow aad up de rode
’bout half mile from he house* Mara Inch had da store en da gia* Dey had de
boys den, dat ia Mara Xmeh aad Miss Fannie did, aad de soya was named Claude
an* Clarence attar Miss Female* a two bruddera*
“Dam was da finest boys dat oae eter did see* At dat time Claude, he
’bout two year old aad Clarence, he ’bout four er mabbe little less* Ilia,
she worked ia de house eookiag for Kiss Fannie aa* auasla* de ehillua aad aha
plumb erasy *bout de ehillua an* dey juat as satisfied wld her as dey was wid
dare mama aad Ella thought more dam ehillua daa aha did anybody* She Just
crazy ’bout dam boys* Mara Lach, he gibe me job right ‘way sort flunkying
for him aad hostliag at de lot aa* barn and ‘twaan’t long daa ‘fore Ella aad
ma, ua git married an* libs ia a cabin dat Mars Lach had built ia de back of
de big house*
“Us git ‘long fine for more daa a year aad Mars lach, he raise plenty
cotton aa* at times us ud take trip up to Mamfis oa de boat, oa de Phil Allia
what was *bout de finelet boat on de riber ia dam daya aad de oae dat most
frequent put ia at us landia* wid de freight for Mara Luoh aad dea he most
giaally seat he aettea aa’ seed to Mamfis oa die same Phil Allia*

“I jus’ said, boss’ dat us git ‘long fine for more dan a year and us all
mighty happy till Hiss Fannie took siek an’ died an* it mighty nigh killed Mars
Luch and all of us and Mars Luch, he jus* droop for weeks till us git anxious
*bout him but atter tfliile he git better and seem like mehhe he gwine git ober
he sadness but he neber mis like he used to be afore Miss Fannie died*
*Atter Miss Fannie gone, Mars Luch, he say, *XUa, you an* Luch ma*
mobe in de big house an* make you a bed in de room where de boys sleep*
so*s you can look atter *em good, * cause lots nights I gwine be out late at
de gin an* store an* I knows you gwine take plumb good care of dem ehillun#*
An* so us fixed us bed in de big house an* de boys, day sleeped right dar in
dat room on dere bed where us could take eare of fam*
*Dat went on for *bout two years an* den Mars Luch, he *gun to get in
bad health an* jus* wasted down like and den one night when he at de store
he took down bad and day laid him down on de bed in de back room where he
would sleep on sich nights dat he didn* come hems when he was so busy an* he
soxrt a nigger on a mule for me to come up dar en* I went In he room an* Mars
Luch, he say, *Lissen, Luch, you is been a good faithful nigger an* Ilia too,
an* I is gonna die tonight and Z wants you to send er letter to Miss Kllen in
Virginny atter I is daid en tell her to come an* git de boys f cause she is all
de kin peoples dat day habe lef* now cepn coae you en* Ilia an* it mougjht be
some time afore she gits here so you all take good en faithful care dem till
she f rives an* tell her she habe to see dat all de bizness wind up and take
de boys back wid her an* keep dem till day is growed ef
fella boss, us done jus* like Mars Luch tell us to do an* us sure feel
sorry for dam two little boys* Day jus* *bout five an* seben year old den
end day sure loved dere pa; day was plumb crazy *bout Mars Luch and him *bout
dam too*
• ‘Bout two weeks from time dat Hers Imeh daid, Kiss KUen cone on de
boat one night an* she stayed soae days windia1 up de blsness and den she
lef* an1 take de boys ‘way wid her back to Ylrginny where she llbed Ua
sure did hate to ‘part from dem enillun* Dat,
s seen nigh on to sixty
years ago but us neber forgit dem boys an* us will allus lobe dem Dey
used to sen* us presents an* sieh every Christmas for seberal years and den
us started movin’ ,bout an’ X reckon dey don’ know where we*s at now I
sure would like to see dem boys ag’ln* I beteha I’d know dem right today
Mebbe I wouldn’t, it’s been so long sines I seen ’em| but shucks, I know
dat dey would know me*”

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