“The white chillen tries teach me to read and write but I didn’ larn much, ‘cause I allus workin’. Mother was workin’ in the house, and she cooked too. She say she used to hide in the chimney corner and listen to what the white folks say. When freedom was ‘clared, marster wouldn’ tell ‘em, but mother she hear him tellin’ mistus that the slaves was free but they didn’ know it and he’s not gwineter tell ‘em till he makes another crop or two. When mother hear that she say she slip out the chimney corner and crack her heels together four times and shouts, ‘I’s free, I’s free.’ Then she runs to the field, ‘gainst marster’s will and tol’ all the other slaves and they quit work. Then she run away and in the night she slip into a big ravine near the house and have them bring me to her. Marster, he come out with his gun and shot at mother but she run down the ravine and gits away with me.”
TEMPIE CUMMINS, who was born at Brookeland, Texas. At the time of her interview (between 1936 and 1938) she lived in Jasper, Texas.
Excerpt from the Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, Texas Narratives, Part 1; Work Projects Administration, Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938
Source: American Memory, Library of Congress