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Friday, September 30, 2016

Slave Narratives from Williamson County - In their own words . . .

Between 1928-1933, two historically African American colleges, Fisk University and Southern University, began collecting oral histories of formerly enslaved people. Some of these interviews were transcribed on manual typewriters in the 1930s and then published in The Unwritten History of Slavery (1968).

Later, in the 1930s the federal government as part of the WPA's Federal Writers Project hired writers to interview former slaves. Interviewers, both white and African American, traveled seventeen states interviewing about 2,500 people and took 500 photographs. The interviews were organized by state and published in 1941 as the Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States. Many of the WPA interviewers attempted to transcribe the dialect in which interviewees spoke - which can make reading them sometimes difficult. The Fisk and WPA interviews were compiled into a multi-volume set that was republished in the 1970s.

Recently another group of interviews conducted by researchers with Southern University have come to light; most of the subjects lived in Texas but a few had ties to Tennessee.

Of all these interviews I have found a few people who identify themselves as having been enslaved in Williamson County. I have transcribed them here below. They contain remarkable details about life here as slaves - what they ate, their work, family relationships, their treatment by masters, and other descriptions that help paint a fuller picture of the life slaves in Williamson County lived in the period before the Civil War.

All My Bosses Were N*****-Traders -This Chapter appears in the Fisk compilation beginning on page 129. I believe that the unidentified male slave is Freeman (Cruthers) Thomas, a veteran of the US Colored Troops, - whom I have previously written about.

"I wasn't very old when the Civil War began. I had just turned into my sixteen year. I remember when the Yankees come to this town. My old boss hit me that morning' and he didn't know the Yankees were in town, and when he found it out he come back begin' me to stay with him, and said he was sorry. We were livin' one and a half miles from the depot. All my bosses were n*****-traders till they married, and then they settled down. I've seen them sell women away from little children, and women would be crying' and they'd slap 'em about cryin'.

They had guards at the church meetings, waiting for you to come out, to see if you had a pass. Those that had 'em would come out and the others would run away. They had padderollers after night. They came to mass's one night and I was there. They took me out to whip me, and he said "Lay down there right close, so my rig' won't be in the sun," He had a broad strap and he whipped me fourteen licks. He was counting and I was counting, and at the fourteenth lick I was up. He said, "How come you run?" and I said, "I didn't know your voice, mass. If I had, I wouldn't of run."

When I went to the War I was turning seventeen. I was in the Battle of Nashville, when we whipped old Hood. I went to see my mistress on my furlough, and she was glad to see me. She said, "You remember when you were sick and I had to bring you to the house to nurse you?" and I told her, "Yes'm, I remember," And she said, "And now you are fighting me!" I said, "No'm, I ain't fighting you, I'm fighting to get free."

(Slave Droves) Yes'm I've seen droves of 'em come through, all chained together. And I laughed; I didn't know no better. I belonged to Jim Caruthers. He was a good man, and he had about one hundred darkies. I was just a little motherless child, kicked and knocked about. Yes, I know Betty (Mrs. Lowe). The firs year I was hired out sh was not big enough to wait on the table. The first man I was hired out to was her master. I was nearly sixteen, and she was just a little thing, but she looks older than I do now. Her father died during the War. He was in the hospital when I was. Miles German was her father. He belonged to the same man as my father.

When I was on the farm I was not big enough to do much. I could chop cotton, but I was quit young. I was sick once and Dr. Clifford said, "Let him eat anything he wants, 'cause he can't be raised." Master told old missus if she could raise mesh could have me, and she took me in the house with her and nursed me till I got well.

My old boss never would have his hands up before day. If he had an overseer the twas bad the slaves would run away so's he'd have to get another one. They wouldn't suffer it. He wouldn't sell none of them that he raised; bu the just wouldn't give them no meat at night. He would expect you to steal what you got at night. If he would read of a reward being out for something that was stolen, he would come around tell us, and say, "If I catch any of it there, damn you, I'll kill you."

We had beef soup, cabbage, beans and things like that for dinner. Of course we had meat and bread for breakfast; but you could go in the cellar and get all the meal you wanted. We stole so many chickens that if a chicken would see a darker he'd run right straight to the house. I always wanted some boots and one old lady said, "If you'll kill me a pig I'll get you a boot." I give her three or four pigs, but I never did get no boots. Oh, yes, long in the fall he'd give his drakes shoes, and he'd have 'em half soled once a year. We'd get a coat every other year, and he'd give you a fun suit and two pair of pants that winter. And he'd give you two course cotton shirts to carry you through the winter. Little children wore what their parents put on 'em.

Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, The Story of My Life (Hartford, 1897), p. 337
They'd have to shuck corn at night when they'd come from the field. There was so many of them on our place it wouldn't take 'em no later than ten o'clock to get through. I've been to many a corn shucking at night, five miles from here. There was a crowd from Big Harper and a crowd from Little Harper, and after we got through the shucking they'd give us whiskey, and there'd be plenty of fighting, and the Little Harper white folks would take up for their darkies and the Big Harper white folks would do the same. I used to think them was the best times. They had some kind of biscuit mixed with sweet potatoes and I thought it was the best eating. They would have a big dance, too, and often after the dance they would go to fighting. Sometimes they would have a dance and would turn the pot down to keep the white folks from catching 'em. The padderollers would come there and couldn't find nobody, but they would go away and stay about an hour, and when they come back they'd be pretty sure to catch some.

Slavery was not such a bad time for me. I was young and my mother and father died when I was real young. We'd play marbles and run rabbits, and there was always eighty or ninety little chilled on our place. They had an old woman there to look after them - one that had broke down. When company would come, they would put clothes on them and march them up to the house so they could see his little n******. We was feared to go ou pro the house. I 'member once he built a house for young master and he said he was gonna let the darkies have a dance there, and they thought he was sure 'tough; but he didn't so they decided to have a dance anyhow. It was a moonlight night, and they had had this big dance in the field, and the padderollers come and caught one man and threw him right on me, and he come and got me and said "God damn you" and keep this hand right in my collar and her doe and took me home to master. He told master that he had told me that if I would tell who all was there he wouldn't whip me, but if I didn't he would whip me all day light, and you ought to heard me telling! It was around the time when the n****** was rising, and they asked me did I hear them shooting? "Did you see any guns?" And I said, "No, I didn't see no guns, but I heard them shooting." I hadn't heard a thing, but I knowed what they wanted to hear, so I said I did. They caught Tom Hodge, too, and he had to tell. I couldn't go to none of the parties after that. The n****** would kick me out if they saw me; they wouldn't have me there.

I’ve seen ‘em handcuffed long as from here to the fence out there, women screaming and hollering about leaving their children. Yes, I’ve seen many a one (runaway slaves) and darkies would help ‘em round. The Mississippi n*****s in our camp used to get to talking, and they told once about a man named Bullens, who had hounds trained to catch the n*****s, and they would tree you and carry you back. They say that when anybody would come for the hounds to run a n*****, the hounds say, “Our Father, I’ve got a heavenly home up yonder, hallelujah, hallelujah.”

My sister was carried away from me, and I went to see her, ‘reckly after the War. I thought she was dead after that visit, but I met a tramp one day and he said he was from Sheffield, Alabama. I told him I used to have a sister there, and he asked me what was her name, and I told him and he said, “saw her yesterday.” I said, “You’re lying; she’s been dead for years,” But he told me all about them and told it so straight, and how many chillen she had, and everything, that I went to see her, and she was 98 years old, and we a sure ‘nough meeting. She was so glad to see me, and she told everybody, “That’s my youngest brother.” My sister that’s living now stays up on Locklayer in Nashville. She’s 84. Clay Farmer lives in that same neighborhood, too. We was boys together. Yes, his marster was a very nice old man; one of his men married a sister of mine, but he was unruly and they had to sell him to Mississippi. Yes, he would fight, fight white and colored, too. Yes, I know Mrs. Glass; ‘course she was a slave; slaves don’t give as much trouble as the young folks do now. I got two sons, and they never give me any trouble. One is in St. Louis, working in the Post Office and the other is at the Andrew Jackson Building in Nashville. My daughter lives in my other house on the highway. I have buried many a man out in that cemetery on the Murfreesboro Pike. We had so many to bury a day, and we had to wait ‘till the wagon would bring ‘em in, and then we would put ‘em on our shoulders and take him and bury him; you could hear men cussing and saying, “Somebody’s got my man,” They would hide him and go off to see the girls, and then come back going to bury hi late that night, and somebody would steal him and bury him. I wouldn’t do that now.

I never got ‘rested bit once. And that was om the War. We all got in a contest as to whether I would want a n***** or a white man to arrest me; I said I don’t want no n***** to arrest me ‘cause it made him too biggity, and one of the n***** officers told to take me to a guard house ‘cause I said, “Damn a n***** officer.” They started after me but I went running to the Captain and told him what had happened. He said to the officer, “You told him to spend his opinion, didn’t you? Well, you are not going to take him nowhere.” We used to do all kind of tricks in the army, and once a man got shot at a trick. There was a young boy in the picket line, and they made it up to scare that boy, so they went up and the boy shot and hollered at the same time, and it shot that man right in the mouth and the ball came out through his jaw just done by foolishness. I went out one night to Squire Henderson’s to get some apples and a Colonel turned the corner on me. He was with some girls and he passed on a little, but then he said to me, “Did you get permission?” and I said, “No,” so he made me double quick back for about half a mile. He said to the Captain, “There’s that prisoner out yonder,” and the Captain and him et dinner and then he (Captain) come and let me out (guard house). He asked me if I didn’t think that we had had ‘nough of Squire Henderson’s apples and I told him, “Yes, but when I joined the army I went to get some medicine for Squire Henderson’s wife and he said he would give me some apples for it, and I was just going to get them, and if he hadn’t given them to me I wasn’t gonna take ‘em.” That Captain was my friend. I wanted a furlough, and they all said, “You know he ain’t gonna let you go, and we got wives and chillen and can’t go,” but he let me and I come on home. I went in the name of Caruthers then.

The first battle the colored ever got into was Fort Pillow; they buried some of ‘em (colored soldiers) alive. Then when they went to Mobile, Alabama, they would just shoot ‘em down, and they would just say that he broke to run and they had to shoot him to keep him from getting away. They’d do that any time they got afraid that they would run into the Yankees and they would take the n***** prisoners from them. I saw ‘em hanging the Rebels right there in the penitentiary during the War. They tried to hang everyone that was in that battle, for the way they done the colored soldiers . I saw ‘em captured just as barefooted, and it was snow on the ground. I’ve been right to the bridge where I was a guard.

Some of ‘em treated ‘em mighty tough and some pretty well. The Hodges were good feeders; Bill Matthews was, too. I know a man Bill Matthews undertook to whip him, and he wouldn’t let him do it, so the white men were all there in droves to whip him, and he just fought ‘em till they shot him down and killed him. Sure, they would kill a n*****; he’s no more’n a wolf.

Yes’m, they’d preach your funeral. I can just recollect when my mother died and the funeral was preached right over there by Farmer’s Bluff. We had some n***** preachers but they would say, “Obey your mistress and marster.” They didn’t know nothing else to say. The white preacher would tell you what you had to do, too. If you had prayer meeting you would have it on the sly. We’d sing old time hymns then, but you youngsters have done away with them now. Yes, mam, I’ve heard them pray for freedom. I thought it was foolishness then, but the old time folks always felt they was to be free. It must haved been something ‘vealed unto ‘em. Back there if they’d catch you writing they would break yo if they had to cut off your finger, and still they knew they would be free. It must hve been ‘vealed to ‘em.

Betty’s mother, she broke and run and carried her daughters with her, but they caught her. I saw it, ‘cause I was working right there. I don’t reckon Betty ever seed her father to know him, but I knowed him. I was in there wounded and he was in there wounded he died from it. When the Yankees got near Nashville, the n*****s started running to ‘em.

I wasn’t big enough to court; I had to slip. I knowed the road she’d come, and I could slip off and meet her sometimes, but we had to dodge the old folks ‘cause they would whip me sho’. I’d walk a little piece with her, but I didn’t’ know what to say. Young folks then wasn’t like they are now. If I was at some old folks, house and started cutting up they would whip me, and when they’d see my mother they’d tell her and she would whip me again. But you just hit somebody’s child now and they’ll have you in court. I would just ask her (girl) what was the news, and I thought I doing big courting then; I would brag to the boys about it.

I’d been better off if I’d bought in the country. I married when I was 21 years old, and I didn’t owe but seven dollars on my place. I always wanted a home and a gun, and I got both of them, but my boy took my gun when they had the riot in St. Louis, and I never did buy another one.

‘Course I seen ‘em marry. We had one to marry right at my boss’ front gate. The preacher married them there. They would always give ‘em a kind of supper and big dance. They wouldn’t marry ‘less they could have a dance. Some of them say they don’t see why I vote for the Yankees; they say they didn’t do nothing for me, but I tell ‘em the Yankees done ‘nough when they set me free. I had two sisters and they were sent off, and there was three brothers. My sisters were given to my young mistress when she married.

Yes, but there wasn’t but one family of half-white chillen on our place. The old lady would be meaner to them than she was to the black ones. Some of them was marster’s chillen and old mistress would not have one of them for a house servant. She would get one right black and wouldn’t have noen of them in there looking as white as her.

I’ve seen ‘em buck and gag ‘em; they’d tie your hands here and put a stick there and then roll you about and whip you. The biggest whipping I ever got was from the old women (slaves). Marster would shake my ears, but he seldom would hit me.

(Colored preachers) Old Brother Bill Perkins, Peter Stynes, Uncle Tom Bell – he was the leading preacher; he’s a mulatto. Some of ‘em learned to read in the books; white folks would let ‘em preach. I saw a preacher in Mississippi carry on a revival and he had persuaded the white man’s son to go, and he professed and they would let him have meetings any time, ‘cause that white man’s son professed under him.

Interview with Naisy Reece - Naisy was living at 710 Overton Street in Nashville at the time of her interview by the WPA workers in the 1930s. It appears on pp 64-65 of the Volume 16 of the Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project. She would have been born around 1857. The interview was conducted by Della Yoe,

"I wuz bawn in slavery, in Williamson County, guess I'se 'bout 80 y'ars ole. Think I wuz fou' w'en de wah started."  "Mah mammy en daddy wuz Mary en Ennock Brown." 

"Mah missis en marster wuz Polly en Randall Brown."

"Dunno ob any ob our fam'ly bein' sold. W'en freedum wuz declar' we wuz tu'n loose wid nothin'. Mah daddy tuk us down in de kuntry, raised crops en made us wuk in de fiel'."

"I'se cooked a leetle fer urther peeple, but mos' ob mah wuk has bin laundry. I didn't go ter schul much. I dunno w'at ter say 'bout de younger gineratshun; dere ez sich a diff'unce now ter w'at hit wuz w'en I wuz a girl. Dunno any tales dat I useter 'year."

"Didn't see any Klu Klux Klan, but I alluz got skeered en hid w'en we'd 'year dey wuz kumin'. I 'long ter de Baptist Church. I neber went ter menny camp-meetin's, but went ter a lot ob baptizins."

"Mammy tole us how de sta'rs fell en how skeered eberybody got. I saw de long tail comet."

Signs: "Good luck ter git up 'fore day-lite ef'n youer gwin sum place er start sum wuk." "Bad luck ter sweep flo' atter dark en sweep de dirt out."

Songs: "I Couldn't Hear Anybody Pray." "Ole Time 'Ligion." "Cross De Riber Jordan."

"I'se neber voted, en hab neber had any frens in office. Neber knowed nothin' 'bout de slave mart er de 'structshun days."

Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 15, Tennessee, Batson-Young. 1936. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mesn150/. (Accessed September 28, 2016.)


Interview with Pricilla Gray at her home at 807 Ewing Ave. Nashville, Tenn. Pricilla's interview appears on pages 24-26 of the WPA Slave Narratives compilation.

I think I'se 107 Y'ars ole. Wuz bawn in Williamson County 'fore de Civil wah. Guess de reason I hab libed so long wuz cose I tuk good keer ob mahself en wore warm clo'es en still do, w'ar mah yarn pettycoats now. Hab had good health all mah life. Hab tuk very lettle medicine en de wust sickness I eber had wuz small-pox. I'se bin a widah 'bout 70 years.

Mah mammy d'ed w'en I wuz young but mah daddy libed ter be 103 y'ars ole. I nebber went ter schul a day in mah life, ma'ied 'fore freedum en w'en I got free, had ter wuk all de time ter mek a libin' fer mah two chillen. One libes in California en I lives wid de uther, tergedder wid mah great, great, grandson, five y'ars ole, in Nashville.

Mah fust marster en missis wuz Amos en Sophia Holland en he made a will dat we slaves wuz all ter be kep' among de fam'ly en I wuz heired fum one fam'ly ter 'nother. Wuz owned under de "will" by Haddas Holland, Missis Mary Haddock en den Missis Synthia Ma'ied Sam Pointer en I libed wid her 'til freedum wuz 'cleared.

Mah fust mistress had three looms en we had ter mek clothes fer ev'ery one on de plan'ashun. I wuz taught ter weav', card, spin en 'nit en ter wuk in de fiel's. I wuz 'feared ob de terbacker wums at fust but Aunt Frankie went 'long by me en showed me how ter pull de wum's head off. Hab housed terbacker till 9 o'clock at nite. Our marster whupped us w'en we needed hit. I got menny a whuppin'.

Marster Amos wuz a great hunter en had lots ob dogs en me en mah cousin had de job ob cookin' dog food en feedin' de dogs. One day de marster went huntin' en lef three dogs in de pen fer us her feed. One ob de dogs licked out ob de pan en we got a bunch ob switches en started wearin' de dogs out. We thought de marster wuz miles 'way w'en he walked up on us. He finished wearin' de bunch ob switches out on us. Dat wuz a whuppin' I'll nebber fergit.

W'en I wuz heired ter Missis Synthis, I wuked in de fiel's 'til she started ter raise chillens en den I wuz kep in de house ter see atter dem. Missis had a lot ob cradles en dey kep two 'omen in dat room takin' keer ob de babies en lettle chillens 'longin' ter dere slaves. Soon as de chillens, wuz seven y'ars ole, dey started dem ter 'nitty'.

Marster Sam Pointer, husband of Missis Synthis, wus a good man en he wuz good ter us en he fed en clothed us good. We wore yarn hoods, sha'ls, en pantletts which wuz 'nit things dat kum fum yo shoe tops ter 'bove yo knees.

De marster wuz also a 'ligious man en he let us go ter chuch. He willed land fer a culled chuch at Thompson Station. I 'longs ter de foot washin' Baptist, called de Free Will Baptist. De marster bought mah husband William Gray en I ma'ied 'im were.

W'en de Civil wah wuz startin' dere wuz soldiers an tents eve'ywhar. I had ter 'nit socks en he'ps mek soldiers coats en durin' de wah, de marster sent 100 ob us down in Georgia ter keep de Yankees fum gittin' us en we camped out durin' de whole three years.

I member de Klu Klux. One nite a bunch ob us went out, dey got atter us. We waded a big crik en hid in de bushes ter keep dem fum gittin' us.

Hab gon' ter lots ob camp-meetin's. Dey'd hab lots ob good things ter eat en fed eberbody. Dey'd hab big baptizin's down at de Cumberland Riber and menny things.

W'en freed, our white folks didn't gib us nuthin'. We got 'way en hired out fer an'thin' we could git. Nebber knowed ob any plantashuns [TR: illegible; possibly "men"] be divided. D'ant member 'bout slave 'risings en n******s voting en wuz not ole er'nuff ter member de sta'rs fallin'. Songs we use'ter sing wuz, "On Jordan's Bank I Stand en Cast a Wistful Eye en Lak Drops ob Sweat, Lak Blood Run Down, I Shed mah Tears."

I try not ter think 'bout de ole times. Hit's bin so long ago so I don' member any tales now.

I'se had a lot ob good times in mah day. Our white folks would let us hab "bran dances" an we'd hab a big time. I has nebber voted en I think dat ez a man's wuk. Don't b'leeve in signs, I hab allus tho't whut ez gwine ter be will be, en de only way ter be ez de rite way.

Eber since slavery I'se cooked fer peeple. I cooked fer Mr. Lea Dillon fifteen y'ars. Wuked at de Union Depot fer y'ars. Five y'ars fer Dr. Douglas at his Infirmary en I cooked fer en raised Mrs Grady's baby. Hab wuked fer diff'ent folks ovuh town ter mek mah livin'. I ain't bin able ter wuk fer eight y'ars. Dunno how much I weigh now, I hab lost so much. (she weighs now at least 250 pounds).

All de ex-slaves I know hab wuked at diff'ent jobs lak I has.

Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 15, Tennessee, Batson-Young. 1936. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mesn150/. (Accessed September 28, 2016.)


Person Interviewed: Mary Scott, DeValls Bluff or Biscoe

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

"I said if ever I seed you agin I'd show you dis here scar on my head. See here [a puffed-out, black, rusty, not quite round place, where no hair grew]. Dat dar what my young mistress put on me when I was a chile. Dock Hardy hired me. He was rich and married a pore gal. It went to her head. He was good to me. She was mean. She had him whoop me a time or two for nothin'. They had two little babies, I stayed round wid. I loved em. I churned, brought in all the wood mighty near, brought bout all the water from the spring. Master Dock be coming horseback from Franklin, Tennessee. I knowed bout time I take the babies to meet him. He'd wait at a big stump we could climb on his horse, take the baby in front and us up behind him, and put us off on the back piazza at the house. I wrapped up the churn and quit. She ax me what I quit churnin' for. I say the butter come. She say it ain't had time. I say it ready to take up anyhow. She got so mad she throwed a stick of stove wood, hit me on my head. I run out crying, the blood streamin' down. I started to the spring, come back and got the water bucket. I got me some water and brought back a fresh bucket full. I washed my head in cool water where it was bleedin'. It bled all way back. She say, 'Where you been?' I say I been to the spring, brought some cool water to the babies. I give em some I told her. When I got water I always give them some. She took the bucket, made me go wid her, poured the water out in the path under a shade tree, and made me take 'nother bucketful home. I thought she was so mean; I didn't know what she was doing that about. Got to the house she put me on a clean chemisette. I slipped off down to the feed house, lay down, my head on the cotton seeds, and went to sleep.
"When Master Dock come he woke me up, wanted to know why I didn't meet him. He seen that blood. Went on to the house. He ask her what done my head that way. She say, 'She went to the spring, fell down, spilled the water, and hurt it on a rock.' I told him that wasn't so—not so! I told him all bout it. He told her she ought to be 'shamed treat good little nigger chap mean. He was so sorry for me. She didn't care. They had been goin' to old missis house every week. It was three weeks 'fo she would go. I got to see my mama, 'fo she died.
"Old Mistress Emily was a doctor woman. Dock told her, 'Mama, Scrubbs jumps and screams bout a hour late every evening wid her head.' When it got late it hurt and I screamed and jump up and down. Mistress Emily come got me in her arms, put me to sleep. When I woke up Dock and Kitty gone home with the babies. I cried bout being from the babies; I loved em, never been away from em 'fo. She got three maggots and says, 'Scrubbs, see what I got out your little head.' Mama had died then. She say, 'Your mama would want me to keep you here wid me.' She kept me till it healed up. Them maggots big as a sage broom straw. We swept the floor wid sage straw tied together then. Mistress Emily kept me a month with her and doctored my head every day. I slept on a pallet and on a little bed she had in the room. When I went back to Kitty's she wasn't as mean to me as she been—but mean nough then.
"My mama named Amy Hardy. She had five boys, three girls. She died with a young baby. I reckon they had different papas. I was my papa's only chile. They all said that. Bout a month after I went to Dock and Kitty's, it was surrender. He (the little Negro girl's father) come, stayed all night, and took me wid him to live. Dock wanted me to stay; I love Dock and the children. Every year till a few years ago my head get sore and run. We tried all kinds medicine on it. Don't know what cured it.
"The week 'fo I left there I had a task to make a cut of thread every night, a reel. When I heard papa was coming to git me, I put cotton bats under the reels and kivered em up. Good thing papa got me—Kitty would killed me when she went to spin next week. She been so mean why I done that way.
"They never sold any of our set but some on the place was sold. The mothers grieve and grieve over their children bein' sold. Some white folks let their slaves have preachin', some wouldn't. We had a bush arbor and set on big logs. Children set round on the ground. 'Fo freedom I never went to preachin'. I kept Kitty's babies so she went. Mothers didn't see their children much after they was sold.
"Fo freedom they would turn a wash pot upside-down at the door and have singin' and prayer meetin'. The pot would take up the noise. They done that when they danced too. I don't know how they found out the iron pot would take up the noise. They had plenty of em settin' round in them days. Somebody found it out and passed it on."
Link - Project Gutenberg, Slave Narratives: Arkansas Narratives Arkansas Narratives, Part 6