A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

  Robert Burns

I's born Agefield, Tennessee, south of Nashville. I's born de last of March 1856. Me father was name Anthony Owens and mother's name Catherine Owens. They was Tennessee born. During slavery. I's a child. Never worked, just played around. Our beds was made of straw. Me grand parents belonged to Master Montgomery Bell. He was so rich he set free about 75 of his slaves and sent dem to Liberia. He also set de remainder of about 225 Negroes free dat he kept.  After his death his son-in-law enslaved dem again by breaking de will of his father-in-law  During Slavery dar was a white man in Mississippi dat made his living catching runaway slaves. One Negro slave, one night killed 75 hounds wid a side blade after dey had run him down and got away again and de never did git dis slave. Another slave would always run away and when dey would git at him he knew of a pond wid a hollow tree growing a distance from the banks where he could run and jump into this pond of water and swim to this old tree and go up in its hollow and the dogs would run up to de edge of dis pond and stand dare and bark and de hunters would come dar and couldn't see nuthin and leave.  We wore white cotton shirts and pants and shirts only during summer dat was weaved right dare on de plantation. I never seed any under-wear until I was bout 12 years of age. We all wore hats made from wheat straw. Dare was no shoes for de slaves a-tall. In winter de women would tie dar feet up in rags.  I got married me first time near Florence, Alabama. I's 25 years old. I paid $1.50 for me license and if you wanted to divorce it would cost 50 cents.  Isaac Curkendoll was me Master. His house was white a frame building. He owned five or six farms, viz; in Tennessee, Mississippi and owned about 300 slaves on the place where I was. I don't know how many slaves on de other plantation dare was as many as 150 Negro children in the quarters. Dare was so many wolves in Tennessee dat dey would, at nights fight. One night dey ran a Negro slave up a tree and kept him up dare all night. Dey howled and howled and more wolves came dat it seemed to be about a hundred. Dey dog all night at de roots of dis tree till nearly day when dey dug it down and when de tree felled it frightened de wolves and dey ran away and de slave den come home and told his Master de wolves had caused him to be out all night.  De slaves would be whipped each evening, if dey failed to pick 300 lbs. of cotton. One day de overseer tied a Negro woman to a tree and let de body part of clothing down and he sat down in a chair and whipped her for one hour.  My Master would put slave in a callabose at nights to be whipped de next morning. He always limited de lashes to 500. After whipping dem he would rub pepper and salt on dare backs,  where whipped, and lay dem before de fire until blistered and den take a cat and hold de cat and make him claw de blisters to burst them.  I had eight children by me first wife. De second time I married a half Indian and white woman. Dare was 11 children born to her.  Me Master was so mean he didn't allow any church. Four or five slaves succeeded in running away and went north to de free states. De patrollers was plentiful and if dey would catch you out at nights wid out a pass dey would whip um unmercifully eben if you was caught visiting within de quarters. Sometime de slaves would be out at nights and de slaves would be out at nights and de patrollers would be looking for dem de slaves would lye down in de dark and grunt like a hog and de patrollers would go on thinking dem to be hogs.He said, when a slave man wanted to marry his Master would never object to a big tall nigger like you as dey preferred big tall slaves as dey was strong and would bring more money when sold.  De white preachers who would call dem selves preaching to de slaves would only preach to de niggers about being good, obedient and work good and hard for dare Master. He would preach and tell de nigger dat dey didn't have any souls, and that niggers didn't go to heaven. Only white people had souls and went to heaven. He told dem dat niggers had no more souls than dogs, and dey couldn't go to heaven any more than could a dog.
De slaves would use rag-weed tea for bowels complaint, boneset-weeds for chills, and Sampson-snake-root for chills. Dey wore anjillico roots around de neck to keep down diseases.  De Slaves would all try to git dem a black cat and cook him and when done take de cooked cat to a stream of water and pour into stream and de bone dat would come to de top of de water and float up stream would be de one de slave would git to carry in his pocket for good luck to give him luck, keep Master from whipping him and many other things.  During Civil War de Yankees come to me Master's plantation and killed up me Master's chickens, hogs, cattle and told us to help ourselves.  Our Master ran off so dat de Yankees couldn't find him and when he returned he was mad and whipped de slaves because he thought dey told de Yankees where to find his hogs and cattle, etc.  We all thought Abraham Lincoln was our God, but we had to keep it a secret as our Master did not like him as he was trying to set us free. We had to pretend, to him, dat we liked Jefferson Davis, to our Master as he pretended to us dat Davis was de niggers friend, and dat he, Davis was going to set dem free and give each nigger family 40 acres and a mule.  Now, dat slavery is over I wish and hope dat God would treat all dem slave owners as dey did us when dey get in hell.