Rias Body had twelve brothers, eight of whom were “big buck Niggers,” and older than himself. The planters and “patarolers” accorded these “big Niggers” unusual privileges—to the end that he estimates that they “wuz de daddies uv least a hunnert head o’ chillun in Harris County before de war broke out.” Some of these children were “scattered” over a wide area.
Sin, according to Rias Body, who voices the sentiment of the great majority of aged Negroes, is that, or everything, which one does and says “not in the name of the Master”. The holy command, “Whatever ye do, do it in My name,” is subjected to some very unorthodox interpretations by many members of the colored race. Indeed, by their peculiar interpretation of this command, it is established that “two clean sheets can’t smut”, which means that a devout man and woman may indulge in the primal passion without committing sin.
The old man rather boasts of the fact that he received a number of whippings when a slave: says he now knows that he deserved them, “an thout ’em”, he would have no doubt “been hung ’fore he wuz thutty years ole.”
Among the very old slaves whom he knew as a boy were quite a few whom the Negroes looked up to, respected, and feared as witches, wizzards, and magic-workers. These either brought their “learnin” with them from Africa or absorbed it from their immediate African forebears. Mentally, these people wern’t brilliant, but highly sensitized, and Rias gave “all sich” as wide a berth as opportunity permitted him, though he knows “dat dey had secret doins an carrying-ons”. In truth, had the Southern Whites not curbed the mumbo-jumboism of his people, he is of the opinion that it would not now be safe to step “out his doe at night”.
Incidentally, Rias Body is more fond of rabbit than any other meat “in de wurrul”, and says that he could—if he were able to get them—eat three rabbits a day, 365 days in the year, and two for breakfast on Christmas morning. He also states that pork, though killed in the hottest of July weather, will not spoil if it is packed down in shucked corn-on-the-cob. This he learned in slavery days when, as a “run-away”, he “knocked a shoat in the head” one summer and tried it—proving it.
Mrs. Sarah H. Hall
Federal Writers’ Project
Miss Maude Barragan
“It never was the same on our plantation atter we done laid Mistess away,” said James Bolton, 85 year old mulatto ex-slave. “I ain’t never forget when Mistess died—she had been so good to every nigger on our plantation. When we got sick, Mistess allus had us tended to. The niggers on our plantation all walked to church to hear her funeral sermon and then walked to the graveyard to the buryin’.”