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Growing Up in Slavery

Meet Fannie Moore, who was born a slave in South Carolina in 1849. She told her story in 1937 at the age of 88.

Slave Owners

Nowadays when I hear folks growling and grumbling about not having this and that I just think what would they done if they be brought up on the Moore plantation. The Moore plantation belong to Master Jim Moore, in Moore, South Carolina. The Moores had own the same plantation and the same [slaves] and their children for years back. When Master Jim’s pappy die he leave the whole thing to Master Jim, if he take care of his mammy. [Master Jim’s mammy] sure was a rip-jack. She say [slaves] didn’t need nothing to eat. They just like animals, not like other folks. She whip me, many time with a cow hide, till I was black and blue.

Master Jim’s wife was Mary Anderson. She was the sweetest woman I ever saw. She was always good to every [slave] on the plantation… She never talk mean. Just smile that sweet smile and talk in the softest tone. And when she laugh, she sound just like the little stream back of the spring house gurgling past the rocks. And her hair all white and curly, I can remember her always.

The Plantation

Master Jim own the biggest plantation in the whole country. Just thousands acres of land. And the old Tiger River a running right through the middle of the plantation. One side of the river stood the big house, where the white folks live and on the other side stood the quarters. The big house was a pretty thing all painted white, a standing in a patch of oak trees. I can’t remember how many rooms in that house but powerful many…

The quarters just long row of cabins daubed with dirt. Ever one in the family live in one big room. In one end was a big fireplace. This had to heat the cabin and do the cooking too. We cooked in a big pot hung on a rod over the fire and bake the corn pone [cornbread] in the ashes or else put it in the skillet and cover the lid with coals. We always have plenty wood to keep us warm. That is if we have time to get it out of the woods.

Family and Work

My granny she cook for us children while our mammy away in the field. There wasn’t much cooking to do. Just make corn pone and bring in the milk. She have big wooden bowl with enough wooden spoons to go round. She put the milk in the bowl and break it up. Then she put the bowl in the middle of the floor and all the children grab a spoon.

My mammy she work in the field all day and piece and quilt all night. Then she have to spin enough thread to make four cuts for the white folks every night. Why sometimes I never go to bed. Have to hold the light for her to see by. She have to piece quilts for the white folks too…

I never see how my mammy stand such hard work. She stand up for her children though. The old overseer he hate my mammy, cause she fight him for beating her children. Why she get more whippings for that then anything else. She have twelve children. I remember I see the three oldest stand in the snow up to their knees to split rails, while the overseer stand off an’ grin…

My pappy he was a blacksmith. He shoe all the horses on the plantation. He work so hard he have no time to go to the field. His name was Stephen Moore…He was sold to the Moores, and his mammy too. She was brought over from Africa. She never could speak plain. All her life she been a slave. White folks never recognize them any more than if they was a dog.

Keeping Control of Slaves

It was a terrible sight to see the speculators come to de plantation. They would go through the fields and buy the slaves they wanted. Master Jim never sell pappy or mammy or any of their children. He always like pappy. When the speculator come all the slaves start shaking. No one know who is a going. Then sometimes they take them and sell them on the block…

The [slaves] always have to get pass to go anywhere off the plantation. They get the pass from the master or the missus. Then when the paddyrollers [slave catchers] come they had to show de pass to them, if you had no pass they strip you and beat you.

None of the [slaves] have any learning, was never allowed to as much as pick up a piece of paper. My daddy slip and get a Webster book and then he take it out in the field and he learn to read. The white folks afraid to let the children learn anything. They afraid they get too smart and be harder to manage. They never let them know anything about anything. Never have any church. If you go you set in the back of the white folks church. But the [slaves] slip off and pray and hold prayer-meeting in the woods then they turn down a big wash pot and prop it up with a stick to drown out the sound of the singing…

Daily Life and Culture

Back in those time they wasn’t no way to put away fruit and things for winter like they is today. In the fall of the year it certainly was a busy time. We peel bushels of apples and peaches to dry…The way they done they peel the peaches and cut them up. Then they put a layer of peaches in a crock then a layer of sugar then another layer of peaches until the crock was full. Then they seal the jar by putting a cloth over the top then a layer of paste then another cloth then another layer of paste. They keep they meat about the same way folks do today except they had to smoke it more since salt was so scarce back in that day…They string up long strings of beans and let them dry and cook them with fatback in the winter.

Folks back then never hear tell of all the ailments de folks have now. They was no doctors. Just use roots and bark for teas of all kinds. My old granny used make tea out of dogwood bark and give it to us children when we have a cold, else she make a tea out of wild cherry bark, pennyroil, or hoarhound. My goodness but they was bitter. We do most anything to get out a taking the tea, but it was no use granny just get you by the collar hold your nose and you just swallow it or get strangled…For stomach ache she give us snake root. Sometime she make tea, other time she just cut it up in little pieces and make you eat one or two of them. When you have fever she wrap you up in cabbage leaves or ginsang leaves, this made the fever go. When the fever got too bad she takes the hoofs off the hog that had been killed and parch them in the ashes and then she beat them up and make a tea. This was de most trouble of all.

Civil War and Emancipation

The year before the war started Master Jim died…I hate to see Master Jim go, he not such a bad man. After he die his boys, Tom and Andrew take charge of the plantation. They think they run things different from they daddy, but they just get started when de war come. Master Tom and Master Andrew both have to go. My pappy he go long with them to do their cooking. My pappy say that some day he run four or five miles with the Yankees behind him afore he can stop to do any cooking. Then when he stop he cook with the bullets a falling all round the kettles…

After the war pappy go back to work on the plantation. He make his own crop, on the plantation…He sure was happy that he was free. Mammy she shout for joy and say her prayers were answered…

In Fannie’s Shoes

Now imagine yourself in Fannie’s shoes when she was a child.

  • What are some of the hardest things about being a slave?
  • Describe your family. What do they do? What do you respect about them?
  • Describe the plantation where you live. How is your house different from your masterís?