Texas Slave Narrative
Gabriel Gilbert was born in slavery on the plantation of Belizare Broussard , in New Iberia Parish, Louisiana. He does not know his age, but appears to be about eighty. He has lived in Beaumont, Texas, for sixteen years. My old massa was Belize Broussard . He was my mama's massa. He had a big leg house what he live in. De places 'tween de legs was fill with dirt. De quarters de slaves live in was make out of dirt. Dey put up posties in de ground and bare holes in de posts and put in pickets 'cross from one post to the other. Den dey build up de sides with mud. De floor and everything was dirt. Dey had a schoolhouse built for de white chillen de some way. De cullud chillen didn't have no school. Dem was warm healthy houses us grew up in. Dey used to raise better men den in dem houses dan now. My pa name was Joseph Gilbert. He old massa was Belleau Prince . I didn't knew what a store was when I was growin' up. Us didn't have store things like now. Us had wooden pan and spoon dem times. I never see no iron plow dem days. Nothin' was iron on de plow 'cept de share. I tell dese youngsters, 'You in hebben now from de time I come up.' When a man die dem days, dey use de ex cart to carry de corpse. Massa have 'bout four hundred acres and lots of slaves. He raise sugar cane. He have a mill and make brown sugar. He raise cotton and corn, too. He have plenty stock on de place. He give us plenty to eat. He was a nice man. He wasn't brutish. He treat he slaves like hisself. I never 'member see him whip nobody. He didn't 'low no ill treatment. All de folks round he place say he niggers ruint and spoiled. De li'l white folks and nigger folks jus' play round like brudder and sister and us all eat at de white table. I slep' in de white folks house, too. My godfather and godmother was rich white folks. I still Cath'lic. I seed sojers but I too li'l to know nothin' 'bout dem. Dey didn't worry me a-tall. I didn't git close to de battle. My mammy weave cloth out cotton and wool. I 'member de loom. It go 'boom-boom-boom.' Dat de shuttle coin' cross. My daddy, he de smart man. I'll never be like him long as I live in dis world. He make shoes. He build house. He de anything. He and my mammy neither one ever been brutalize'. De first work I done was raisin' cotton and sugar cane and sweet and Irish 'taters. I used to cook sugar. I marry on twenty-second of February. My wife was Medora Labor . She been dead thirty-five year now. I never marry no second woman. I love my wife as much I never want nobody else. Us had six chillen, Two am livin'. Goin' back when I a slave, massa have a store. When de priest come dey held church in dat store. Old massa have sev'ral boys. Dey went after some de slave gals. Dey have chillen by dem. Dem gals have dere cabins and dere chillen, what am half white. After while dem boys marry. But dey allus treat dey chillen by de slave womens good. Dey white wife treat dem good, too, most like dey dere own chillen. Old massa have plenty money. Land am only two bits de acre. Some places it cost nothing. Dey did haulin' in ex-carts. A man what had mules had something extra. Us have plenty wild game, wild geese and ducks. Fishin' am mighty good. Dey was 'gaters, too. I seed dem bite a man's arm off. If a slave feelin' bad dey wouldn't make him work. My uncle and my mammy dey never work nothing to speak of. Dey allus have some kind complaint. ain't no tellin' what it gwine be, but you could 'low something ailin' dem! I 'member dey a white man. He had a gif'. I don't care what kind of animal, a dog or a hoss, dat man he work on it and it never leave you or you house. If anybody have toothache or earache he take a brand now nail what ain't never work befo' and work dat round you tooth or ear. Dat break up de toothache or earache right away. He have li'l prayer he say. I don't knew what it was. I's seed ghosties. I talk with dem, too. Sometimes dey like people. Sometimes dey like animal, maybe white dog. I allus feel chilly when dey come round me. I talk with my wife after she dead. She tell me, 'Don't you forgit to pray.' She any dis world corrupt and you got to fight it out.
A rather small man from New Iberia parish, Louisiana, is Gabriel Gilbert , born in slavery on the farm of Belleau Prince . Clothed in garments of dark color and showing soil, he spoke of the early days of his life. In some instances his narration showed information which perhaps came from other sources, but the story depicts much of the environment and activities of slave days and apparently rings true to circumstances.
My ol' marster was Belizare Broussard . He was my mother's marster. He had a big log house what he live in. De places in between de logs was fill wid dirt. De quarters where de slaves live was make out'n dirt. Dey put up pos's in de groun' and bo' (bore) holes in de pos's and put in pickets 'cross from one pos' to the other. Den dey buil' up de sides wid mud. De flo' and eb'ryt'ing was dirt. Dey had a school house buil' for de white chillen de same way. De cullud chillen didn' had no school. Dem was warm healthy houses us grow up in. Dey uster raise better men den in dem houses dan dey does now. My pa' name was Joseph Gilbert . His ol' marster was Belleau Prince . I didn' know what a sto' was when I was growin' up. Us d. in' had sto' t'ings like dey hab now. Dey had wooden pan and wooden spoon dem times. I neber see no plow of iron dem days. Dey wasn't nuttin' iron 'bout dem plows in dem days 'cep'n' de shares. All de res' was mek outen wood. I tell dese youngsters, 'You in hebben now from de time I come up.' Why when a man die' in dem day, when dey bury him dey use a ox-cart to carry de corpse at de fun'rel. Dey didn' hab no buggy sixty year' ago from now. You tell people de changes in de worl' from dem time? dey ain't gwine to b'lieve you. Cose, I was jis' a chile den and didn' hafter do no rig'lar wuk. I jis' done li'l erran's 'roun'. De chillen den warn't wil' like dey is now. Marster he had 'bout 400 acres in de place, and 'bout fifteen slaves. He uster raise sugar cane. He had a mill and mek brown sugar. He raise lots of cotton and co'n, too. Den dey raise all kinder veg'table to eat. He hab plenty of stock on de place, too. He give us plenty to eat. He was a nice man. He warn't brutish. He neber beat he slaves but he treat' 'em like hisse'f. I neber 'member see him whip nobody on de place. He didn' 'low no ill treatment. De folks 'roun' de place uster say his niggers was ruin' and sp'iled. De li'l white folks and nigger chillen uster jis' play 'roun' like brudder and sister. Us all eat at de white table. Sometime' us boys hab fights and us fight de white boys and niggers jis' de same. But dey's a big diff'rence 'tween de whites and de cullud folks now. I was raise' right in de house wid de white folks. Yes, sir, dey raise me. I sleep in de white folks houses, too. I was raise' in de Cath'lic Chu'ch and I uster tek communion wid de white folks. My godfather and godmother dey was rich white folks. I still Cath'lic. I see sojers but I too li'l to know nuttin' 'bout 'em. Dey didn' worry me 'tall. I uster hear de folks talkin'. I seen 'em buil'in' forts but I didn' pay no 'tenshun to dat eider. I heerd 'em say dey was a battle and de big folks was runnin' 'way. I go dere, I didn' know no better. Dat was de nex' day. I didn' see no dead folks. I seen big bombs dere and I uster run up and down and play on 'em and set on 'em. All de clo's us use den was home-make clo's. Dat was my mammy' wuk. She weave clo'f outen cotton and wool. I 'member de loom. It go boom-boom-boom-boom. Dat was de shuttle goin' cross.
My daddy he was a smart man. I'll neber be like him long as I live in dis worl'. He mek shoes, he buil' house, he do anyt'ing. My daddy and my ma neider one eber been brutalize'. I 'member de time when de Klu Klux uster hang people. Dem people was uncivilize' den. Dey thought dere warn't no hereafter. Dey was jis' ign'ant people. Dey not nice people like my ol' marster. De fus' wuk I uster did was raisin' cotton and sugar cane, and sweet and Irish 'taters. I uster cook sugar. I's a well experienced han' 'bout sugar and cotton. I marry on de twenty secon' of Feb'rery. I was lackin' jis' 'zackly one mont' of bein' twenty-one year' ol'. My wife was Medora Labor . She been dead thirty-five year' now. I neber marry no secon' wife. I love my wife so much I neber had no idee to git anybody else. Us had six chillen. Dey's two of 'em livin'. One of de boys lef' here twenty year' ago and I ain't neber hear from him. I been livin' here in Beaumont sixteen year'. Dey didn' had no chu'ch on de place. De pries' he uster come 'roun'. He come see my mammy when she sick in de bed. My godfather he come too. My godfather' name was Darcey Prince . Marster had a sto'. When de pries' come 'roun' dey hol' chu'ch in de sto' 'cause dat was a good place. Dey didn' had no chu'ch house on de place. Sometime' de pries' come once a mont', sometime' once in t'ree month's. Dey had somebody to teach us right and wrong. My daddy's pa was a ol' man in dem time. He was a white man name Bonnet . Ol' marster had seb'rel boys. Dey went 'roun' after some of de slave gals on de place. Dey raise seb'rel chillen by 'em. Dem gals had dere cabins where dey and dey famblys live. Atter while dem white boys git marry and raise a fambly by dey wifes. But dey allus treat dey chillen by de slave wimmens good, and dey white wife treat' 'em good too, mos' jis' like dey was dey own. In dem times dey git plenty of lan' at two bits a acre. Ol' marster he hab plenty of money. And lan' didn' cos' plenty of money like it do now. Dey was some places where dey didn' pay nuttin' for de lan' dey jis' had it recorded and it was dey own atter. I 'member good when people jis' inclose a t'ousan' acres for jis $100,000. Dey uster do dey haulin' in ox-carts for years. A man what had mules had sumpin' extry. Dey was jis' plenty of game, and lots of wil' geese and ducks, and mighty good fishin'. Dey was 'gators, too, and folks hafter be careful. I seen 'gators bite a man's arm off. He hab he han' in de water and fus' t'ing he know de 'gator was under de water right dere and bit he arm plum off. My folks sho' try to raise me right. Iffen I do wrong I don' hab nobody to blame but myse'f. De cullud folks didn' git no schoolin' and lots of de whites didn' neider. De white folks hafter be plenty well off to git edication for dey chillen. Dem what was rich dey sont dey chillen to Geo'gy and Alabama to git edicate. I ain't had none. Some of the cullud folks could sign dey name, though. Ol' marster didn' had no overseer. He sons help him run de place. But dey didn' bodder de han's. Sometime dey see a gal and go off in de woods wid her and leave de han's to de dey wuk by deyse'fs. Iffen a slave was feelin' bad dey wouldn' mek him wuk.
My uncle and my mammy dey neber wuk nuttin' to tell of. Dey allus hab some kinder complaint. Ain't no tellin' what it gwine to be, but you could 'low sumpin' was a-ailin' 'em. Dey uster been witch doctors plenty, but I dunno how or what dey done. Some of 'em do a whole lot do' (though). Sometime dey mek you sick, sometime dey mek you git kill or die. Yessir, dey uster be lots of dat but look like dat 'mos' all done away wid now. I 'member back home dey was a white man. He had dat kinder gif'. I don' care what kind of animal you had, a dog or a hoss. Dat man he wuk on de animal and it neber would leave you or yo' house. Any time anybody hab toofache or yearache he tek a bran' new nail what ain't neber wuk befo' and he wuk dat 'roun' yo' toof or year (ear) and dat break up de toofache or yearache right now. He hab a li'l prayer he say but I dunno what it was. He neber tell nobody what it way he say. One mawnin' I had a toofache what been bodderin' me sumpin' awful and dat man he pass by. Us call him and he come dere. I tell him I got a mis'ry in my toof. He say, 'Is you got a new nail, a bran' new one what ain't neber been use'? I tell him, 'Yes.' He say, 'Git it and bring it here.' So I done it. Den he say, 'Bring me a hammer.' Den he shake he han's 'roun' some kinder way and put de nail in de groun' and drive it down wid t'ree hit, plum' down in de groun' and when he done dat de toofache done gone. Sometime' he put he finger on a pusson's jaw. I's seed ghos'es and I talk wid 'em too. Sometime de ghos'es he come like people and sometime he come like a animal, mebby a white dog. I allus feel chilly when dey come 'roun' me. One time I see a man wid no head 'tall walkin' in front of me. Den 'nudder time I see t'ree men walkin side by side down de street and ain't none of 'em had no head. I talk wid my own wife atter she dead. She tell me, 'Don' you fergit to pray.' She say dis worl' is corrupted and you got to fight it out.
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