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trying ordeal that I was forced to endure I ever heard of one slave relative doing as a slave boy, however, was the wearing for another. On several occasions when of a flax shirt. In the portion of Virginia I was being forced to wear a new flax where I lived it was common to use flax shirt, he generously agreed to put it on in as part of the clothing for the slaves. my stead and wear it for several days, till That part of the flax from which our cloth- it was “broken in.” Until I had grown ing was made was largely the refuse, which to be quite a youth this single garment of course was the cheapest and roughest was all that I wore. part. I can scarcely imagine any torture, One may get the idea, from what I have except, perhaps, the pulling of a tooth, said, that there was bitter feeling towards that is equal to that caused by putting on the white people on the part of my race, a new flax shirt for the first time. It is because of the fact that most of the white almost equal to the feeling that one would population was away fighting in a war experience if he had a dozen or more which would result in keeping the negro chestnut burrs, or a hundred small pin- in slavery if the South was successful. points, in contact with his flesh. Even to In the case of the slaves on our place this this day I can recall accurately the tor- was not true, and it was not true of any tures that I underwent when putting on large proportion of the slave population one of these garments. The fact that my in the South where the negro was treated flesh was soft and tender added to the with anything like decency. During the pain. But I had no choice. I had to Civil War one of my young masters was wear the flax shirt or none, and had it killed, and two were severely wounded. I been left to me to choose, I should have recall the feeling of sorrow which existed chosen to wear no covering. In connec- among the slaves when they heard of the tion with the flax shirt, my brother John, death of “Mars' Billy.” It was no sham who is several years older than I am, per- sorrow, but real. Some of the slaves had formed one of the most generous acts that nursed “ Mars' Billy ;” others had played
ENTRANCE TO COAL-MINE IN WHICH BOOKER WASHINGTON WORKED AS A BOY
Drawn by G. Alden Peirson with him when he was a child. “ Mars' found to be true that there are few inBilly” had begged for mercy in the case stances, either in slavery or freedom, in of others when the overseer or master which a member of my race has been was thrashing them. The sorrow in the known to betray a specific trust. slave quarter was only second to that in As a rule, not only did the members of the “big house." When the two young my race entertain no feelings of bitterness masters were brought home wounded, the against the whites before and during the sympathy of the slaves was shown in war, but there are many instances of many ways. They were just as anxious negroes tenderly caring for their former to assist in the nursing as the family rela- masters and mistresses who for some reatives of the wounded. Some of the slaves son have become poor and dependent would even beg for the privilege of sitting since the war. I know of instances where up at night to nurse their wounded mas the former masters of slaves have for ters. This tenderness and sympathy on years been supplied with money by their the part of those held in bondage was a former slaves to keep them from sufferresult of their kindly and generous nature. ing. I have known of still other cases in In order to defend and protect the women which the former slaves have assisted in and children who were left on the planta- the education of the descendants of their tions when the white males went to war, former owners. I know of a case on a the slaves would have laid down their large plantation in the South in which a lives. The slave who was selected to young white man, the son of the former sleep in the “big house” during the owner of the estate, has become so reabsence of the males was considered to duced in purse and self-control by reason have the place of honor. Any one at- of drink that he is a pitiable creature, and tempting to harm “ young Mistress” or yet, notwithstanding the poverty of the “old Mistress” during the night would colored people themselves on this plantahave had to cross the dead body of the tion, they have for years supplied this slave to do so. I do not know how many young white man with the necessities of have noticed it, but I think that it will be life. One sends him a little coffee or
HOUSE IN MALDEN IN WHICH MR. WASHINGTON, AFTER LEAVING HAMPTON, TAUGHT HI:
Drawn by G. Alden Peirson. sugar, another a little meat, and so on. Proclamation freed him from any obliga Nothing that the colored people possess tion to his master, this black man walker is too good for the son of “old Mars' the greater portion of the distance bac! Tom,” who will perhaps never be per- to where his old master lived in Virginia mitted to suffer while any remain on the and placed the last dollar, with interest place who knew directly or indirectly of in his hands. In talking to me about this old Mars' Tom."
the man told me that he knew that he I have said that there are few instances did not have to pay the debt, but tha of a member of my race betraying a spe- he had given his word to his master, and cific trust. One of the best illustrations his word he had never broken. He fel of this which I know of is in the case of that he could not enjoy his freedom til an ex-slave from Virginia whom I met he had fulfilled his promise. not long ago in a little town in the State From some things that I have said one of Ohio. I found that this man had made may get the idea that some of the slaves a contract with his master, two or three did not want freedom. This is not true, years previous to the Emancipation Proc- I have never seen one who did not want lamation, to the effect that the slave was to be free, or one who would return to to be permitted to buy himself, by paying slavery. so much per year for his body, and while I pity from the bottom of my heart any he was paying for himself he was to be nation or body of people that is so unpermitted to labor where and for whom he fortunate as to get entangled in the net pleased. Finding that he could secure of slavery. I have long since ceased to better wages in Ohio, he went there. cherish any spirit of bitterness against When freedom came, he was still in debt the Southern white people on account of to his master some three hundred dollars. the enslavement of my race. No one Notwithstanding that the Emancipation section of our country was wholly responsible for its introduction, and, besides, it as missionaries to enlighten those who was recognized and protected for years remained in the fatherland. This I say, by the General Government. Having not to justify slavery—on the other hand, once got its tentacles fastened on to the I condemn it as an institution, as we all economic and social life of the Republic, know that in America it was established it was no easy matter for the country to for selfish and financial reasons, and not relieve itself of the institution. Then, from a missionary motive—but to call at. when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or tention to a fact, and to show how Proviracial feeling, and look facts in the face, dence so often uses men and institutions we must acknowledge that, notwithstand- to accomplish a purpose. When persons
ing the cruelty and moral wrong of slav- ask me in these days how, in the midst ery, the ten million negroes inhabiting of what sometimes seem hopelessly disthis country, who themselves or whose couraging conditions, I can have such ancestors went through the school of faith in the future of my race in this American slavery, are in a stronger and country, I remind them of the wilderness more hopeful condition, materially, intel through which, and out of which, a good lectually, morally, and religiously, than is Providence has already led us. true of an equal number of black people Ever since I have been old enough to in any other portion of the globe. This think for myself, I have entertained the is so to such an extent that negroes in idea that, notwithstanding the cruel wrongs this country, who themselves or whose inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly forefathers went through the school of as much out of slavery as the white man slavery, are constantly returning to Africa did. The hurtful influences of the institution were not by any means confined to there was a waste of food and other mate the negro. This was fully illustrated by rials which was sad. When freedom came the life upon our own plantation. The the slaves were almost as well fitted t whole machinery of slavery was so con- begin life anew as the master, except in structed as to cause labor, as a rule, to be the matter of book-learning and owner looked upon as a badge of degradation, ship of property. The slave-owner anı of inferiority. Hence labor was some- his sons had mastered no special.industry thing that both races on the slave planta- They unconsciously had imbibed the feel tion sought to escape. The slave system ing that manual labor was not the prope on our place, in a large measure, took the thing for them. On the other hand, th spirit of self-reliance and self-help out of slaves, in many cases, had mastered som the white people. My old master had handicraft, and none were ashamed, ani many boys and girls, but not one, so far few unwilling, to labor. as I know, ever mastered a single trade Finally the war closed, and the day o or special line of productive industry. freedom came. It was a momentous and The girls were not taught to cook, sew, eventful day to all upon our plantation or to take care of the house. All of this We had been expecting it. Freedom wa was left to the slaves. The slaves, of in the air, and had been for months course, had little personal interest in the Deserting soldiers returning to their home life of the plantation, and their ignorance were to be seen every day. Others who prevented them from learning how to do had been discharged, or whose regiment: things in the most improved and thorough had been paroled, were constantly passing manner. As a result of the system, fences near our place. The “grape-vine tele were out of repair, gates were hanging graph” was kept busy night and day half off the hinges, doors creaked, win- The news and mutterings of great event: dow-panes were out, plastering had fallen were swiftly carried from one plantatior but was not replaced, weeds grew in the to another. In the fear of “ Yankee" inva yard. As a rule, there was food for sions, the silverware and other valuable: whites and blacks, but inside the house, were taken from the "big house," buried ir and on the dining-room table, there was the woods, and guarded by trusted slaves wanting that delicacy and refinement of Woe be to any one who would have at touch and finish which can make a home tempted to disturb the buried treasure the most convenient, comfortable, and The slaves would give the Yankee soldiers attractive place in the world. Withal food, drink, clothing—anything but that