Oklahoma Slave Narrative
Mattie LoganThis is a mighty fitting time to be telling about the slave days, for I'm just finished up celebrating my seventy-nine years of being around and the first part of my life was spent on the old John B. Lewis plantation down in old Mississippi. Yes, sir! my birthday is just over. September 1 it was and the year was 1858. Borned on the John B. Lewis plantation just ten mile south of Jackson in the Mississippi country. Rankin County it was. My mother's name was Incinda, and father's name was Levi Miles. My mother was part Indian, for her mother was a half-blood Cherokee Indian from Virginia. There was children a plenty besides me. There was Sally, Julia, Hubbard, Ada, Ira, Anthony, Henry, Amanda, Mary, John, Incinda, Daniel and me, Mattie. That was my family. The master's family was a large one, too. Six children was born to the Master and Mistress. Her name, his first wife, was Jennie, the second and last was named, Louise. The children was, Rebecca, Mollie, Jennie, Susie, Silas, and Begerlan. They kind of leaned to females. My mother belonged to Mistress Jennie who thought a heap of her, and why shouldn't she? Mother nursed all Miss Jennie's children because all of her young ones and my mammy's was born so close together it wasn't no trouble at all for mammy to raise the whole kaboodle of them. I was born about the same time as the baby Jennie. They say I nursed on one breast while that white child, Jennie, pulled away at the other! That was a pretty good idea for the Mistress, for it didn't keep her tied to the place and she could visit around with her friends most any time she wanted 'thout having to worry if the babies would be fed or not. Mammy was the house girl and account of that and because her family was so large, the Mistress fixed up a two room cabin right beck of the Big House and that's where we lived. The cabin had a fireplace in one of the rooms, just like the rest of the slave cabins which was set in a row amay from the Big House. In one room was bunk beds, just plain old two-by-fours with holes bored through the plank so's ropes could be fastened in and across for to hold the corn-aback mattress. My brothers and sisters was allowed to play with the Master's children, but not with the children who belonged to the field Negroes. We just played yard games like marbles and tossing a ball. I don't rightly remember much about games, for there wasn't too much fun in them days even if we did get raised with the Master's family. We wasn't allowed to learn any reading or writing. They say if they catched a slave learning them things they'd pull his finger mails off! I never saw that done, though. Each save cabin had a stone fireplace in the end, just like ours, and over the flames at daybreak was prepared the morning meal. That was the only meal the field negroes had to cook. All the other meals was fixed up by an old man and woman who was too old for field trucking. The peas, the beans, the turnips, the potatoes, all seasoned up with fat meats and sometimes a has bone, was cooked in a big iron kettle and when meal time come they all gathered around the pot for a-plenty of helpings! Corn bread and buttermilk made up the rest of the meal. Ten or fifteen hogs was butchered every fall and the slaves would get the skins and maybe a has bone. That was all, except what was mixed in with the stove. Flour was given out every Sunday morning and if a family run out of that before the next week, well, they was just out that's all! The slaves got small amounts of vegetables from the plantation garden, but they didn't have any gardens of their own. Everybody took what old Master rationed out. Once in a while we had rabbits and fish, but the best dish of all was the 'possum and sweet potatoes baked together over red-hot coals in the fireplace. Now, that was something to eat!
The Lewis plantation was about three hundred acres, with usually fifty slaves working on the place. Master Lewis was a trader. He couldn't sell of our family, for we belonged to Mistress Jennie. Negro girls, the fat once who was kinder pretty, was the most sold. Folks wanted them pretty bad but the Mistress said there wasn't going to be any selling of the girls who was mammy's children. There was no overseer on our place, just the old Master who did all the bossing. He wasn't too mean, but I've seen kin whip Old John. I'd run in the house to get away from the sight, but I could still hear Old John yelling, 'Pray, Master! Oh! Pray, Master!', but I guess that there was more howling than there was hurting at that. My uncle Ed Miles run away to the North and joined with Yankees during the war. He was lucky to get away, for lots of them who tried it was ketched up by the patrollers. I seen some of them once. They had chains fastened around their legs, fastened short, too, just long enough to take a short step. No more running away with them chains anchoring the foots! There wasn't any negro churches close by our plantation. All the slaves who wanted religion was allowed to join the Methodist church because that was the Mistress' church. A doctor was called in when the slaves would get sick. He'd give pills for most all the ailments, but once in a while, like when the children would get the whooping cough, some old negro would try to cure them with home made remedies. The whooping cough cure was by using a land turtle. Cut off his head and drain the blood into a cup. Then take a lump of sugar and dip in the blood, eat the sugar and the coughing was supposed to stop. If it did or not I don't know. And that makes me think about another cure they use to tell about. A cure for mean overseers. And I don't mean kill, just scare him, that's all. They say the dare was tried on an overseer who worked for Silas Stien, who was a slave owner living close by the Levis plantation. It seems like this overseer was of the meanest kind, always whipping the slaves for no reason at all, and the slaves tried to figure out a way to even up with his by chasing him off the place. One of the slaves told how to cure his. Get a King snake and put the snake in the overseer's cabin. Slip the snake in about, no, not about, but just exactly nine o'clock at night. Seems like the time was important, why so. I don't remember now. That's what the slaves did. Put in the snake and out went the overseer. Have no more did he whip the slaves on that plantation because he wasn't working there no more! When he went, when he went, or how he want nobody knows, but they all say he went. That's what counted he was gone! The Yankees didn't come around our plantation during the war. All we heard was, 'They'll kill all the slaves.' and such hearing was a plenty! After the war some man come to the plantation and told the field negroes they was free. But he didn't know about the cabin we lived in and didn't tell my folks nothing about it. They learned about the freedom from the old Master. That was some days after the man left the place. The Master called my mother and father into the Big House and told them they was free. Free like him. But he didn't want my folks to leave and they stayed, stayed there three year after they was free to go anywhere they wanted. The master paid them $200 a month to work for him and that wasn't so much if you stop to figure there was two grown folks and thirteen children who could do plenty of work around the place. But that money paid for an 89-acre farm my folks bought not far from the old plantation and they moves onto it three year after the freedom come. I think Lincoln was a mighty good man, and I think Roosevelt is trying to carry some of the good ideas Lincoln had. Lincoln would have done a heap more if he had lived. The young negroes who are living now are selfish and shiftless. They're not worth two cents and don't have the respect for other folks to get along right. That's what I think. I been married three times, but no children did I have. The first man was Frank Morris, the next was Jim White, and the lest was John Logan. All gone. Dead. From Mississippi I come to Idabel. Oklahoma, in 1909, two year after statehood. I moved to Muskogee in 1910, staying there while the times was good and coming to Tulsa some years ago. I'm pretty old and can't work hard anymore, but I manage to get along. I'm glad to be free and I don't believe I could stand them slavery days now at all. I'm my own boss, get up when I want, go to bed the same way. Nobody to say this or that about what I do. Yes, I'm glad to be free!