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to look for hen nests, gather eggs and play with the master's three
young boys. There were seven children in the Randolph family, three
young boys, two "missy" girls and two grown sons. Louis would go fishing
and hunting with the three younger boys and otherwise engage with them
in their childish pranks.

He says that his master and mistress were very kind to the slaves and
would never whip them, nor would he allow the "driver" who was a white
man named Barton to do so. Barton lived in a home especially built for
him on the plantation. If the "driver" whipped any of them, all that was
necessary for the slave who had been whipped was to report it to the
master and the "driver" was dismissed, as he was a salaried man.

Plantation Life. The slaves lived in log cabins especially built for
them. They were ceiled and arranged in such a manner as to retain the
heat in winter from the large fireplaces constructed therein.

Just before the dawn of day, the slaves were aroused from their slumber
by a loud blast from a cow-horn that was blown by the "driver" as a
signal to prepare themselves for the fields. The plantation being so
expansive, those who had to go a long distance to the area where they
worked, were taken in wagons, those working nearby walked. They took
their meals along with them and had their breakfast and dinner on the
fields. An hour was allowed for this purpose. The slaves worked while
they sang spirituals to break the monotony of long hours of work. At the
setting of the sun, with their day's work all done, they returned to
their cabins and prepared their evening's meal. Having finished this,
the religious among them would gather at one of the cabin doors and give
thanks to God in the form of long supplications and old fashioned songs.
Many of them being highly emotional would respond in shouts of
hallelujahs sometimes causing the entire group to become "happy"
concluding in shouting and praise to God. The wicked slaves expended
their pent up emotions in song and dance. Gathering at one of the cabin
doors they would sing and dance to the tunes of a fife, banjo or fiddle
that was played by one of their number. Finished with this diversion
they would retire to await the dawn of a new day which indicated more
work. The various plantations had white men employed as "patrols" whose
duties were to see that the slaves remained on their own plantations,
and if they were caught going off without a permit from the master, they
were whipped with a "raw hide" by the "driver." There was an exception
to this rule, however, on Sundays the religious slaves were allowed to
visit other plantations where religious services were being held without
having to go through the matter of having a permit.

Religion. There was a free colored man who was called "Father James
Page," owned by a family of Parkers of Tallahassee. He was freed by them
to go and preach to his own people. He could read and write and would
visit all the plantations in Tallahassee, preaching the gospel. Each
plantation would get a visit from him one Sunday of each month. The
slaves on the Randolph plantation would congregate in one of the cabins
to receive him where he would read the Bible and preach and sing. Many
times the services were punctuated by much shouting from the "happy
ones." At these services the sacrament was served to those who had
accepted Christ, those who had not, and were willing to accept Him were
received and prepared for baptism on the next visit of "Father Page."

On the day of baptism, the candidates were attired in long white flowing
robes, which had been made by one of the slaves. Amidst singing and
praises they marched, being flanked on each side by other believers, to
a pond or lake on the plantation and after the usual ceremony they were
"ducked" into the water. This was a day of much shouting and praying.

Education. The two "missy" girls of the Randolph family were dutiful
each Sunday morning to teach the slaves their catechism or Sunday School
lesson. Aside from this there was no other training.

The War and Freedom. Mr. Napoleon relates that the doctor's two oldest
sons went to the war with the Confederate army, also the white "driver,"
Barton. His place was filled by one of the slaves, named Peter Parker.

At the closing of the war, word was sent around among the slaves that if
they heard the report of a gun, it was the Yankees and that they were

It was in May, in the middle of the day, cotton and corn being planted,
plowing going on, and slaves busily engaged in their usual activities,
when suddenly the loud report of a gun resounded, then could be heard
the slaves crying almost en-masse, "dems de Yankees." Straightway they
dropped the plows, hoes and other farm implements and hurried to their
cabins. They put on their best clothes "to go see the Yankees." Through
the countryside to the town of Tallahassee they went. The roads were
quickly filled with these happy souls. The streets of Tallahassee were
clustered with these jubilant people going here and there to get a
glimpse of the Yankees, their liberators. Napoleon says it was a joyous
and un-forgetable occasion.

When the Randolph slaves returned to their plantation, Dr. Randolph told
them that they were free, and if they wanted to go away, they could, and
if not, they could remain with him and he would give them half of what
was raised on the farms. Some of them left, however, some remained,
having no place to go, they decided it was best to remain until the
crops came off, thus earning enough to help them in their new venture in
home seeking. Those slaves who were too old and not physically able to
work, remained on the plantation and were cared for by Dr. Randolph
until their death.

Napoleon's father, Scipio, got a transfer from the government to his
former master, Colonel Sammis of Arlington, and there he lived for
awhile. He soon got employment with a Mr. Hatee of the town and after
earning enough money, bought a tract of land from him there and farmed.
There his family lived and increased. Louis being the oldest of the
children obtained odd jobs with the various settlers, among them being
Governor Reid of Florida who lived in South Jacksonville. Governor Reid
raised cattle for market and Napoleon's job was to bring them across the
Saint Johns River on a litter to Jacksonville, where they were

Louis Napoleon is now aged and infirm, his father and mother having died
many years ago. He now lives with one of his younger brothers who has a
fair sized orange grove on the south side of Jacksonville. He retains
the property that his father first bought after freedom and on which
they lived in Arlington. His hair white and he is bent with age and ill
health but his mental faculties are exceptionally keen for one of his
age. He proudly tells you that his master was good to his "niggers" and
cannot recall but one time that he saw him whip one of them and that
when one tried to run away to the Yankees. Only memories of a kind
master in his days of servitude remain with him as he recalls the dark
days of slavery.


Personal interview with Louis Napoleon, South Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
December 5, 1936


In her own vernacular, Margrett Nickerson was "born to William A. Carr,
on his plantation near Jackson, Leon County, many years ago."

When questioned concerning her life on this plantation, she continues:
"Now honey, its been so long ago, I don' 'member ev'ything, but I will
tell you whut I kin as near right as possible; I kin 'member five uf
Marse Carr's chillun; Florida, Susan, 'Lijah, Willie and Tom; cose Carr
never 'lowed us to have a piece uf paper in our hands."

"Mr. Kilgo was de fust overseer I 'member; I was big enough to tote meat
an' stuff frum de smokehouse to de kitchen and to tote water in and git
wood for granny to cook de dinner and fur de sucklers who nu'sed de
babies, an' I carried dinners back to de hands."

"On dis plantation dere was 'bout a hunnerd head; cookin' was done in de
fireplace in iron pots and de meals was plenty of peas, greens,
cornbread burnt co'n for coffee - often de marster bought some coffee fur
us; we got water frum de open well. Jes 'fore de big gun fiahed dey
fotched my pa frum de bay whar he was makin' salt; he had heerd dam say
'de Yankees is coming and wuz so glad."

"Dere wuz rice, cotton, co'n, tater fields to be tended to and cowhides
to be tanned, thread to be spinned, and thread wuz made into ropes for
plow lines."

"Ole Marse Carr fed us, but he did not care what an' whar, jes so you
made dat money and when yo' made five and six bales o' cotton, said:
'Yo' ain don' nuthin'."

"When de big gun fiahed on a Sattidy me and Cabe and Minnie Howard wuz
settin' up co'n fur de plowers to come 'long and put dirt to 'em; Carr
read de free papers to us on Sunday and de co'n and cotton had to be
tended to - he tole us he wuz goin' to gi' us de net proceeds (here she
chuckles), what turned out to be de co'n and cotton stalks. Den he asked
dem whut would stay wid him to step off on de right and dem dat wuz
leavin' to step off on da left."

"My pa made soap frum ashes when cleaning new ground - he took a hopper
to put de ashes in, made a little stool side de house put de ashes in
and po'red water on it to drip; at night after gittin' off frum work
he'd put in de grease and make de soap - I made it sometime and I make it
now, myself."

"My step-pa useter make shoes frum cowhides fur de farm han's on de
plantation and fur eve'body on de plantation 'cept ole Marse and his
fambly; dey's wuz diffunt, fine."

"My grandma wus Pheobie Austin - my mother wuz name Rachel Jackson and my
pa wus name Edmund Jackson; my mother and uncle Robert and Joe wus stol'
frum Virginia and fetched here. I don' know no niggers dat 'listed in de
war; I don' 'member much 'bout de war only when de started talking 'bout
drillin' men fur de war, Joe Sanders was a lieutenant. Marse Carr's
sons, Tom and Willie went to de war."

"We didn' had no doctors, only de grannies; we mos'ly used hippecat
(ipecac) fur medicine."

"As I said, Kilgo was de fust overseer I ricollec', then Sanders wuz
nex' and Joe Sanders after him; John C. Haywood came in after Sanders
and when de big gun fiahed old man Brockington wus dere. I never saw a
nigger sold, but dey carried dem frum our house and I never seen 'em no

"We had church wid de white preachers and dey tole us to mind our
masters and missus and we would be saved; if not, dey said we wouldn'.
Dey never tole us nothin' 'bout Jesus. On Sunday after workin' hard all
de week dey would lay down to sleep and be so tired; soon ez yo' git
sleep, de overseer would come an' wake you up an' make you go to

"When de big gun fiahed old man Carr had six sacks uf confederate money
whut he wuz carrying wid him to Athens Georgia an' all de time if any uf
us gals whar he wuz an' ax him 'Marse please gi us some money' (here she
raises her voice to a high, pitiful tone) he says' I aint got a cent'
and right den he would have a chis so full it would take a whol' passle
uv slaves to move it. He had plenty corn, taters, pum'kins, hogs, cows
ev'ything, but he didn' gi us nuthin but strong plain close and plenty
to eat; we slept in ole common beds and my pa made up little cribs and
put hay in dem fur de chillun."

"Now ef you wanted to keep in wid Marster Carr don' drap you shoes in de
field an' leave 'em - he'd beat you; you mus' tote you' shoes frum one
field to de tother, didn' a dog ud be bettern you. He'd say 'You
gun-haided devil, drappin' you' shoes and eve'thin' over de field'."

"Now jes lis'en, I wanna tell you all I kin, but I wants to tell it
right; wait now, I don' wanna make no mistakes and I don' wanna lie on
nobody - I ain' mad now and I know taint no use to lie, I takin' my time.
I done prayed an' got all de malice out o' my heart and I ain' gonna
tell no lie fer um and I ain' gonna tell no lie on um. I ain' never seed
no slaves sold by Marster Carr, he wuz allus tellin' me he wuz gonna
sell me but he never did - he sold my pa's fust wife though."

"Dere wuz Uncle George Bull, he could read and write and, chile, de
white folks didn't lak no nigger whut could read and write. Carr's wife
Miss Jane useter teach us Sunday School but she did not 'low us to tech
a book wid us hands. So dey useter jes take uncle George Bull and beat
him fur nothin; dey would beat him and take him to de lake and put him
on a log and shev him in de lake, but he always swimmed out. When dey
didn' do dat dey would beat him tel de blood run outen him and den trow
him in de ditch in de field and kivver him up wid dirt, head and years
and den stick a stick up at his haid. I wuz a water toter and had stood
and seen um do him dat way more'n once and I stood and looked at um tel
dey went 'way to de other rows and den I grabbed de dirt ofen him and
he'd bresh de dirt off and say 'tank yo', git his hoe and go on back to
work. Dey beat him lak dat and he didn' do a thin' to git dat sort uf

"I had a sister name Lytie Holly who didn' stand back on non' uv em;
when dey'd git behin' her, she'd git behin' dem; she wuz dat stubbo'n
and when dey would beat her she wouldn' holler and jes take it and go
on. I got some whuppin's wid strops but I wanter tell you why I am
cripple today:

"I had to tote tater vines on my haid, me and Fred' rick and de han's
would be a callin fur em all over de field but you know honey, de two uv
us could' git to all uvum at once, so Joe Sanders would hurry us up by
beatin' us with strops and sticks and run us all over de tater ridge; he
cripple us both up and den we couldn' git to all uv em. At night my pa
would try to fix me up cose I had to go back to work nex' day. I never
walked straight frum dat day to dis and I have to set here in dis chair
now, but I don' feel mad none now. I feels good and wants to go to
he'ven - I ain' gonna tel no lie on white nor black cose taint no use."

"Some uv de slaves run away, lots uv um. Some would be cot and when dey
ketched em dey put bells on em; fust dey would put a iron ban' 'round
dey neck and anuder one 'round de waist and rivet um tegether down de
back; de bell would hang on de ban' round de neck so dat it would ring
when de slave walked and den dey wouldn' git 'way. Some uv dem wore dese
bells three and four mont'n and when dey time wuz up dey would take em
off 'em. Jake Overstreet, George Bull, John Green, Ruben Golder, Jim
Bradley and a hos' uv others wore dem bells. Dis is whut I know, not
whut somebody else say. I seen dis myself. En missus, when de big gun
fiahed, de runerway slaves comed out de woods frum all directions. We
wuz in de field when it fiahed, but I 'members dey wuz all very glad."

"After de war, we worked but we got pay fur it."

"Ole man Pierce and others would call some kin' of a perlitical
(political) meetin' but I could never understan' whut dey wuz talkin'
'bout. We didn' had no kin' uv schools and all I knows but dem is dat I
sent my chillums in Leon and Gadsden Counties."

"I had lots uv sisters and brothers but I can't 'member de names of none
by Lytie, Mary, Patsy and Ella; my brothers, is Edmond and Cornelius
Jackson. Cornelius is livin' now somewhere I think but I don' never see

"When de big gun fiahed I was a young missy totin' cotton to de scales
at de ginhouse; ef de ginhouse wuz close by, you had to tote de cotton
to it, but ef it wuz fur 'way wagins ud come to de fields and weigh it
up and take it to de ginhouse. I was still livin' near Lake Jackson and
we went to Abram Bailey's place near Tallahassee. Carr turned us out
without nuthin and Bailey gi'd us his hammoc' and we went dere fur a
home. Fust we cut down saplin's fur we didn' had no house, and took de
tops uv pines and put on de top; den we put dirt on top uv dese saplin's
and slep' under dem. When de rain would come, it would wash all de dirt
right down in our face and we'd hafter buil' us a house all over ag'in.
We didn' had no body to buil' a house fur us, cose pa was gone and ma
jes had us gals and we cut de saplin's fer de man who would buil' de
house fer us. We live on Bailey's place a long time and fin'lly buil' us
a log cabin and den we went frum dis cabin to Gadsden County to a place
name Concord and dere I stay tel I come here 'fore de fiah."

"I had twelve chillun but right now missus, I can only 'member dese
names: Robert, 'Lijah, Edward, Cornelius, Littie, Rachel and Sophie."

"I was converted in Leon County and after freedom I joined de Methodist
church and my membership is now in Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in
Jacksonville, Florida."

"My fust husban was Nelson Walker and de las' one was name Dave
Nickerson. I don' think I was 20 years old when de big gun fiahed, but I
was more' 17 - I reckon I wuz a little older den Flossie May (a niece who
is 17 years of age) is now." (1)

Mrs. Nickerson, according to her information must be about 89 or 90
years of age, sees without glasses having never used them; she does not
read or write but speaks in a convincing manner. She has most of her
teeth and a splendid appetite. She spends her time sitting in a
wheel-chair sewing on quilts. She has several quilts that she has
pieced, some from very small scraps which she has cut without the use of
any particular pattern. She has a full head of beautiful snowy white
hair and has the use of her limbs, except her legs, and is able to do
most things for herself. (2)

She lives with her daughter at 1600 Myrtle Avenue, Jacksonville,


1. Personal interview with Margrett Nickerson, 1600 Myrtle Avenue,
Jacksonville, Florida

2. Sophia Nickerson Starke, 1600 Myrtle Avenue, daughter of Margrett
Nickerson, Jacksonville, Florida

[TR: References moved from beginning of interview.]

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin, Field Worker
Monticello, Florida
November 10, 1936


Douglas Parish was born in Monticello, Florida, May 7, 1850, to Charles
and Fannie Parish, slaves of Jim Parish. Fannie had been bought from a
family by the name of Palmer to be a "breeder", that is a bearer of
strong children who could bring high prices at the slave markets. A
"breeder" always fared better than the majority of female slaves, and
Fannie Parish was no exception. All she had to do was raise children.
Charles Parish labored in the cotton fields, the chief product of the
Parish plantation.

As a small boy Douglas used to spend his time shooting marbles, playing
ball, racing and wrestling with the other boys. The marbles were made
from lumps of clay hardened in the fireplace. He was a very good runner,
and as it was a custom in those days for one plantation owner to match
his "nigger" against that of his neighbor, he was a favorite with Parish
because he seldom failed to win the race. Parish trained his runners by
having them race to the boundary of his plantation and back again. He
would reward the winner with a jack-knife or a bag of marbles.

Just to be first was an honor in itself, for the fastest runner
represented his master in the Fourth of July races when runners from all
over the country competed for top honors, and the winner earned a bag of
silver for his master. If Parish didn't win the prize, he was hard to
get along with for several days, but gradually he would accept his
defeat with resolution. Prizes in less important races ranged from a
pair of fighting cocks to a slave, depending upon the seriousness of the

Douglas' first job was picking cotton seed from the cotton. When he was
about 12 years of age, he became the stable boy, and soon learned about
the care and grooming of horses from an old slave who had charge of the
Parish stables. He was also required to keep the buggies, surreys, and
spring-wagons clean. The buggies were light four-wheeled carriages drawn
by one horse. The surreys were covered four-wheeled carriages, open at
the sides, but having curtains that may be rolled down. He liked this
job very much because it gave him an opportunity to ride on the horses,
the desire of all the boys on the plantation. They had to be content
with chopping wood, running errands, cleaning up the plantation, and
similar tasks. Because of his knowledge of horses, Douglas was permitted
to travel to the coast with his boss and other slaves for the purpose of
securing salt from the sea water. It was cheaper to secure salt by this
method than it was to purchase it otherwise.

Life in slavery was not all bad, according to Douglas. Parish fed his
slaves well, gave them comfortable quarters in which to live, looked
after them when they were sick, and worked them very moderately. The
food was cooked in the fireplace in large iron pots, pans and ovens. The
slaves had greens, potatoes, corn, rice, meat, peas, and corn bread to
eat. Occasionally the corn bread was replaced by flour bread. The slaves
drank an imitation coffee made from parched corn or meal. Since there
was no ice to preserve the left-over food, only enough for each meal was

Parish seldom punished his slaves, and never did he permit his overseer
to do so. If the slaves failed to do their work, they were reported to
him. He would warn them and show his black whip which was usually
sufficient. He had seen overseers beat slaves to death, and he did not
want to risk losing the money he had invested in his. After his death,
his son managed the plantation in much the same manner as his father.

But the war was destined to make the Parishes lose all their slaves by
giving them their freedom. Even though they were free to go, many of the
slaves elected to remain with their mistress who had always been kind to
them. The war swept away much of the money which her husband had left
her; and although she would liked to have kept all of her slaves, she
found it impossible to do so. She allowed the real old slaves to remain
on the premises and kept a few of the younger ones to work about the
plantation. Douglas and his parents were among those who remained on the
plantation. His father was a skilled bricklayer and carpenter, and he
was employed to make repairs to the property. His mother cooked for the

Many of the Negroes migrated North, and they wrote back stories of the
"new country" where "de white folks let you do jes as you please." These
stories influenced a great number of other Negroes to go North and begin
life anew as servants, waiters, laborers and cooks. The Negroes who
remained in the South were forced to make their own living. At the end
of the war, foods and commodities had gone up to prices that were
impossible for the Negro to pay. Ham, for example, cost 40¢ and 50¢ a
pound; lard was 25¢; cotton was two dollars a bushel.

Douglas' father taught him all that he knew about carpentry and
bricklaying, and the two were in demand to repair, remodel, or build
houses for the white people. Although he never attended school, Charles
Parish could calculate very rapidly the number of bricks that it would
take to build a house. After the establishing of schools by the
Freedmen's Bureau, Douglas' father made him go, but he did not like the
confinement of school and soon dropped out. The teachers for the most
part, were white, who were concerned only with teaching the ex-slaves
reading, writing, and arithmetic. The few colored teachers went into
the community in an effort to elevate the standards of living. They went
into the churches where they were certain to reach the greatest number
of people and spoke to them of their mission. The Negro teachers were
cordially received by the ex-slaves who were glad to welcome some
"Yankee niggers" into their midst.

Whereas the white teachers did not bother with the Negroes except in the
classroom, other white men came who showed a decided interest in them.
They were called "carpetbaggers" because of the type of traveling bag
which they usually carried, and this term later became synonymous with
"political adventurer." These men sought to advance their political
schemes by getting the Negroes to vote for certain men who would be
favorable to them. They bought the Negro votes or put a Negro in some
unimportant office to obtain the goodwill of the ex-slaves. They used
the ignorant colored minister to further their plans, and he was their
willing tool. The Negro's unwise use of his ballot plunged the South
further and further into debt and as a result the South was compelled to

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