Cover image for Weren't no good times : personal accounts of slavery in Alabama
Weren't no good times : personal accounts of slavery in Alabama
Williams, Randall, 1951-
Publication Information:
Winston-Salem, N.C. : John F. Blair, [2004]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 191 pages ; 19 cm.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E445.A3 W47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E445.A3 W47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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From 1936 to 1938, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP), a part of the New Deal's Works Progress Administration, hired writers, editors, and researchers to interview as many former slaves as they could find and document their lives during slavery. More than 2,000 former slaves in 17 states were interviewed. With Weren't No Good Times, John F. Blair, Publisher, continues its Real Voices, Real History(tm) series with selections from 46 of the 125 interviews now archived in the Libraryof Congress that were earmarked as interviews with Alabama slaves. Also included is an excerpt from Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom, a memoir written by Louis Hughes. This selection reveals a different aspect of the Alabama slavery experience, because Hughes was hired out by his master to work at the Confederate salt works during the Civil War. Alabama was a frontier state. From the beginning, its economy was built on cotton and slavery. That its laws were fashioned to accommodate both becomes obvious when related through the experiences of Alabama's slaves. A year after it obtained statehood, Alabama had a slave population of 41,879, as compared to 85,451 whites and 571 free blacks. By 1860, the slave population had swelled to 435,080, while there were 536,271 whites and 2,690 free blacks. When emancipation came to the slaves, Alabama's slave owners lost an estimated $200 million of capital. These narratives will help readers understand slavery by hearing the voices of the people who lived it.

Author Notes

Horace Randall Williams describes himself as "among the last of Alabamians - black or white - who have memories of picking cotton by hand not for a few minutes to see how it felt but because I needed the few dollars I would get for a day's hard labor under a hot sun," an experience he says helped him recognize the cadences and dialect in the slave narratives. An Alabama native, he was the founder and, for many years, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Klanwatch Project. He is the co-founder and editor of NewSouth Books in Montgomery, Alabama.

Table of Contents

Nicey Pugh (Prichard)Anthony Abercrombie (Perry County)Angie Garrett (Gainesville)Georgia Mitchell (Eufaula)Pulling Frock Coattail and Frank Gill (Mobile)Mary Ella Grandberry (Sheffield)Charles Hayes (Mayeville)Lizzie Hill (Eufaula)Jake Green (Coatopa)Cornelia Robinson (Opelika)Annie Stanton (Mobile)George Strickland (Opelika)William Henry "Bill" Towns (Tuscumbia)Adeline Hodges (Mobile)Caroline Holland (Montgomery)Abraham Jones (Village Springs)Emma Jones (Opelika)Dellie Lewis (Washington County)Josh Horn (Livingston)Isam Morgan (Mobile)George Young (Livingston)Mary Rice (Eufaula)Nannie Bradfield (Uniontown)George Dillard (Eutaw)Rufus Dirt (Birmingham)Katherine Eppes (Uniontown)Martha Bradley (Mount Meigs)Walter Calloway (Birmingham)Ella Dilliard (Mobile)Cheney Cross (Evergreen)Amy Chapman (Livingston)Henry Cheatam (Marysville)Allen Sims (Lee County)John Smith (Uniontown)Theodore Fontaine Stewart (Eufaula)George Taylor (Mobile)Elizabeth Thomas (Montgomery)Mollie Tillman (Uniontown)Stepney Underwood (Lowndes County)Emma Crockett (Sumter County)Mandy McCullough Cosby (Anniston)Sara Colquitt (Opelika)Clara Davis (Monroe County)Matilda Pugh Daniel (Eufaula)Carrie Davis (Lee County)Louis Hughes (Tombigbee Salt Works)
Introductionp. xiii
I Ain't Never Been a Slavep. 3
Old Joe Can Keep His Two Bitsp. 7
Mules Be Eatin', and Niggers Be Eatin'p. 11
They Planted the Silver in the Fieldp. 16
Escapes Whippingp. 18
Today's Folks Don't Know Nothin'p. 25
Sho I Believes in Spiritsp. 34
I Runned Most of the Wayp. 37
A Conjure What Didn't Workp. 39
The Yankees Was a Harricanep. 43
We Et Like Li'l Pigsp. 46
Cornshuckin' Was the Greates' Thingp. 49
This Was That Long Agop. 52
Hongry for Punkin Piep. 62
I Had Many Mastersp. 66
The Patriarch Abraham Saw the Stars Fallp. 70
How to Make Em "Teethe Easy"p. 73
Cures and "Cunjer"p. 76
Chasing Guinea Jim, the Runaway Slavep. 81
Massa Had a Way of Looking at Youp. 87
Peter Had No Keys Ceptin' His'np. 92
These Uppity Niggersp. 98
What I Keer About Bein' Free?p. 100
I Loved to Pick That Boxp. 102
I Would Talk a Lot for a Dimep. 104
Cabins As Far As You Could Seep. 107
In Slavery Timep. 110
Ole Joe Had Real 'Ligionp. 113
White Hen Is Heaps of Companyp. 117
Gittin' My Pensionp. 119
The Overseer's Meanp. 128
I Heard Lincoln Set Us Freep. 133
Sometime an Old Nigger Diep. 139
Mad Bout Somep'n So They Had a Warp. 143
Us Gwine Walk Them Gold Streetsp. 147
Chillun Was Mannerablep. 150
Hid Things They Ain't Never Foundp. 155
I Warn't No Common Slavep. 157
The Court Jesterp. 160
I Can't Read No Writin'p. 163
They Called Us McCullough's Free Niggersp. 166
She Can Just Remember Her Husband's Namep. 169
Homesick for Old Scenesp. 172
Wed in the White Folks' Parlorp. 175
Plantation Punishmentp. 178
Wealth in the Bodies and Souls of Men Was Slipping Awayp. 182