This narrative follows the excerpts of Fountain Hughes, interviewed by Hermond Norwood, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 1949. Narrative texts derived from American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology.
Hughes: My name is Fountain Hughes. I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. My grandfather belong to Thomas Jefferson. My grandfather was a hundred an' fifteen years ol' when he died. An' now I am one hundred an', an' one year old.
Norwood: You talk about how old you are Uncle Fountain. Do you, how far back do you
Hughes: I remember. Well I'll tell you, uh. Things come to me in spells, you know. I remember things, uh, more when I'm laying down than I do when I'm standing or when I'm walking around. Now in my boy days, why, uh, boys lived quite different from the way they live now. But boys wasn' as mean as they are now either. Boys lived to, they had a good time. The masters di, didn' treat them bad. An' they was always satisfied. They never wore no shoes until they was twelve or thirteen years old. An' now people put on shoes on babies you know, when they're two year, when they month old. I be, I don' know how ol' they are. Put shoes on babies. Jus' as soon as you see them out in the street they got shoes on. I tol' a woman the other day, I said, "I never had no shoes till I was thirteen years old." She say, "Well but you bruise your feet all up, an' stump your toes." I say, "Yes, many time I've stump my toes, an' blood run out them. That didn' make them buy me no shoes." An' I been, oh, oh you wore a dress like a woman till I was, I [be-believe] ten, twelve, thirteen years old.
Norwood: So you wore a dress.
Hughes: Yes. I didn' wear -no pants, an' of course didn' make. boys' pants. Boys wore dresses. Now only womens wearing the dresses an' the boys is going with the, with the womens wearing the pants now an' the boys wearing the dresses. Still, [laughs]
Norwood: Who did you work for Uncle Fountain when ... ?
Hughes: Who'd I work for?
Hughes: When I, you mean when I was slave?
Norwood: Yeah, when you were a slave. Who did you work for?
Hughes: Well, I belonged to, uh, B., when I was a slave. My mother belonged to B. But my, uh, but, uh, we, uh, was all slave children. An' after, soon after when we found out that we was free, why then we was, uh, bound out to different people. [names of people] an'all such people as that. An' we would run away, an' wouldn' stay with them. Why then we'd jus' go an' stay anywhere we could. Lay out a night in underwear. We had no home, you know. We was jus' turned out like a lot of cattle. You know how they turn cattle out in a pasture? Well after freedom, you know, colored people didn' have nothing. Colored people didn'have no beds when they was slaves. We always slep' on the floor, pallet here, and a pallet there. Jus' like, uh, lot of, uh, wild people, we didn', we didn' know nothing. Didn' allow you to look at no book. An' there was some free-born colored people, why they had a little education, but there was very few of them, where we was. An' they all had uh, what you call, I might call it now, uh, jail centers, was jus' the same as we was in jail. Now I couldn' go from here across the street, or I couldn' go through nobody's house out I have a note, or something from my master. An' if I had that pass, that was what we call a pass, if I had that pass, I could go wherever he sent me. An' I'd have to be back, you know, when, uh. Whoever he sent me to, they, they'd give me another pass an' I'd bring that back so as to show how long I'd been gone. We couldn' go out an' stay a hour or two hours or something like. They send you. Now, say for instance I'd go out here to S.'s place. I'd have to walk. An' I would have to be back maybe in a hour. Maybe they'd give me hour. I don' know jus' how long they'd give me. But they'd give me a note so there wouldn' nobody interfere with me, an' tell who I belong to. An' when I come back, why I carry it to my master an' give that to him, that'd be all right. But I couldn'jus' walk away like the people does now, you know. It was what they call, we were slaves. We belonged to people. They'd sell us like they sell horses an' cows an' hogs an' all like that. Have a auction bench, an' they'd put you on, up on the bench an' bid on you jus' same as you bidding on cattle you know.
Norwood: Was that in Charlotte that you were a slave?
Norwood: Was that in Charlotte or Charlottesville?
Hughes: That was in Charlottesville.
Norwood: Charlottesville, Virginia.
Hughes: Selling women, selling men. All that. Then if they had any bad ones, they'd sell them to the nigger traders, what they calltd the nigger traders. An' they'd ship them down south, an' sell them down south. But, uh, otherwise if you was a good, good person they wouldn' sell you. But if you was bad an' mean an' they didn' want to beat you an' knock you aroun', they'd sell you what to the, what was call the nigger trader. They'd have a regular, have a sale every month, you know, at the court house. An' then they'd sell you, an' get two hundred dollar, hundred dollar, five hundred dollar.
Now, if, uh, if my master wanted sen' me, he never say, You couldn' get a horse an' ride. You walk, you know, you walk. An' you be barefooted an' col'. That didn' make no difference. You wasn' no more than a dog to some of them in them days. You wasn' treated as good as they treat dogs now.
Hughes: Me? Which I'd rather be? You know what I'd rather do? If I thought, had any idea, that I'd ever be a slave again, I'd take a gun an' jus' end it all right away. Because you're nothing but a dog. You're not a thing but a dog.
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