Alice Houston

Alice relates her slave day experiences as follows:

"I was jes' a little chile when dat Civil War broke out and I's had de bes' white folks in de world. My ole[Pg 160] mistress she train me for her house girl and nurse maid. Dat's whar I's gits so many good ideas fer nursin'.

"My mother's name was Mariah Watkins an' my father was named Henry Watkins. He would go out in de woods on Sat'day nights and ketch 'possums and bring dem home and bake 'em wid taters. Dat was de best eatin' we had. Course we had good food all de time but we jes' like dat 'possum best.

"My marster, he only have four families and he had a big garden fer all of us. We had our huts at de back of de farm. Dey was made out of logs and de cracks daubbed up wid mud. Dey was clean and comfortable though, and we had good beds.

"When we was jes' little kids ole marster he ketch us a stealin' watermelons and he say, 'Git! Git! Git! And when we runs and stoops over to crawl through de crack of de fence he sho' give us a big spank. Den we runs off cryin' and lookin' back like.

"Ole marster, he had lots of hogs and cows and chickens and I can jes' taste dat clabber milk now. Ole miss, she have a big dishpan full of clabber and she tells de girl to set dat down out in de yard and she say, 'Give all dem chillun a spoon now and let dem eat dat.' When we all git 'round dat pan we sho' would lick dat clabber up.

"We had straight slips made out of white lowell what was wove on dat ole spinnin' wheel. Den dey make jeans for de men's breeches and dye it wid copperas and some of de[Pg 161] cloth dey dye wid sumac berries and hit was sho' purty too.

"Ole miss, she make soda out of a certain kind of weed and dey makes coffee out of dried sweet taters.

"My marster he didn' have no over-seer. He say his slaves had to be treated right. He never 'lowed none of his slaves to be sold 'way from their folks. I's nev'r, nev'r seen any slaves in chains but I's hear talk of dem chains.

"My white folks, dey tries to teach us to read and spell and write some and after ole marster move into town he lets us go to a real school. That's how come I can read so many docto' books you see.

"We goes to church wid our white folks at dem camp meetin's and oh Lawdy! Yes, mam, we all sho' did shout. Sometimes we jined de church too.

"We washed our clothes on Sat'day and danced dat night.

"On Christmas and New Year we would have all de good things old marster and ole missus had and when any of de white folks marry or die dey sho' carry on big. Weddin's and funerals, dem was de biggest times.

"When we gits sick, ole marster he have de docto' right now. He sho' was good 'bout dat. Ole miss she make us wear a piece of lead 'round our necks fer de malaria and to keeps our nose from bleedin' and all of us wore some asafoetida 'round our necks to keep off contagion.

"When de war close ole marster calls up all de slaves and he say, 'You's all free people now, jes' same as I is, and you can go or stay,' and we all wants to stay 'cause[Pg 162] wasn't nothin' we knowed how to do only what ole marster tells us. He say he let us work de land and give us half of what we make, and we all stayed on several years until he died. We stayed with Miss Watkins, and here I is an ole nigga, still adoin' good in dis world, a-tellin' de white folks how to take care of de chilluns."[Pg 163]