A sigh punctuated James’ monologue, and his old face was shadowed by a look of fear.
“Now I gwine tell you the troof. Now that it’s all over I don’t find life so good in my old age, as it was in slavery time when I was chillun down on Marster’s plantation. Then I didn’ have to worry ’bout whar my clothes and my somepin’ to eat was comin’ from or whar I was gwine to sleep. Marster tuk keer of all that. Now I ain’t able for to wuk and make a livin’ and hit’s sho’ moughty hard on this old nigger.”
[TR: Preceding page that would usually contain information regarding the interview was marked ’Placeholder’.]
All of Uncle Alec Bostwick’s people are dead and he lives in his tiny home with a young Negress named Emma Vergal. It was a beautiful April morning when his visitor arrived and while he was cordial enough he seemed very reluctant about talking. However, as one question followed another his interest gradually overcame his hesitancy and he began to unfold his life’s story.
“I wuz born in Morgan County, an’ I warn’t mo’ dan four year old when de War ended so I don’t ricollect nothin’ ’bout slav’ry days. I don’t know much ‘bout my ma, but her name was Martha an’ pa’s name was Jordan Bostwick, I don’t know whar dey come from. When I knowed nothin’ I wuz dar on de plantation. I had three brothers; George, John an’ Reeje, an’ dey’s all dead. I dis’members my sister’s name. Dar warn’t but one gal an’ she died when she wuz little.
“Ain’t much to tell ’bout what wuz done in de quarters. Slaves wuz gyarded all de time jus’ lak Niggers on de chain gang now. De overseer always sot by wid a gun.
“’Bout de beds, Nigger boys didn’t pay no ’tention to sich as dat ’cause all dey keered ’bout wuz a place to sleep but ’peers lak to me dey wuz corded beds, made wid four high posties, put together wid iron pegs, an’ holes what you run de cords thoo’, bored in de sides. De cords wuz made out of b’ar grass woun’ tight together. Dey put straw an’ old quilts on ‘em, an’ called ’em beds.
“Gran’pa Berry wuz too old to wuk in de field so he stayed ‘roun’ de house an’ piddled. He cut up wood, tended to de gyarden an’ yard, an’ bottomed chairs. Gran’ma Liza done de cookin’ an’ nussed de white folkses chilluns.
“I wukked in de field ‘long side da rest of de Niggers, totin’ water an’ sich lak, wid de overseer dar all de time wid dat gun.
“What you talkin’ ‘bout Miss? Us didn’t have no money. Sho’ us didn’t. Dey had to feed us an’ plenty of it, ’cause us couldn’t wuk if dey didn’t feed us good.
“Us et cornbread, sweet ‘tatoes, peas, home-made syrup an’ sich lak. De meat wuz fried sometimes, but mos’ of de time it wuz biled wid de greens. All de somethin’ t’eat wuz cooked in de fireplace. Dey didn’t know what stoves wuz in dem days. Yes Ma’am, us went ‘possum huntin’ at night, an’ us had plenty ’possums too. Dey put sweet ‘tatoes an’ fat meat roun’ ’em, an’ baked ’em in a oven what had eyes on each side of it to put hooks in to take it off de fire wid.