Now, you see, my father was a free man.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
William Scott: Ex-Slave Story, 401 Church St., 77 years old.
My name is William Scott. I live at 401 Church Street, Raleigh, North Carolina. I wuz born 1860, March 31st. I wuz free born. My father wuz William Scott. I wuz named after my father. My mother wuz Cynthia Scott. She wuz a Scott before she wuz married to my father. She wuz born free. As far back as I can learn on my mother’s side they were always free.
My mother and father always told me my grandfather wuz born of a white woman. My grandfather wuz named Elisha Scott. I have forgot her name. If I heard her name called I have forgot it. My grandfather on my mother’s side wuz a Waverly. I can’t tell you all about dese white folks, but some of ’em, when they died, left their property to mulattoes, or half-breed children, and several of them are living in this community now. I can tell you exactly where they are, and where they got their property. Some of them are over half white. They were by a Negro woman who wuz a mulatto and a white man. Dey air so near white you can’t tell them from white folks. This condition has existed as long ago as I have any recollection, and it still exists, but there are not as many children according to the relations as used to be.
Free Negroes were not allowed to go on the plantations much. Now you see my father wuz a free man. We lived right here in town. My father wuz a ditcher and slave gitter. One night the man he worked for got up a crowd and come to whup him and take his money away from him. He had paid father off that day. Dat night dey come an’ got him an’ blindfolded him. He moved the blindfold from over his eyes and run an’ got away from ’em. He never did go back no more to the man he had been workin’ for. I wuz a little boy, but I heard pappy tell it. Dat wuz tereckly after de surrender. Pappy saw the man he had been workin’ for when he slipped the blindfold off his face, and he knowed him.
I wuz a boy when the Yankees came to Raleigh. They came in on the Fayetteville Road. They stopped and quartered at the edge of the town. I remember they had a guardhouse to put the Yankees in who disobeyed. Later on they came in from the east and quartered at the old Soldiers Home right in there, but not in the buildings. There were no houses there when the Yankees came. They had some houses there. They built ’em. They stayed there a good while until all the Yankees left. When the Yankees first came in they camped over near Dix Hill, when they come into town you hardly knew where they come from. They were jist like blue birds. They jist covered the face of the earth. They came to our house and took our sumpin’ to eat. Yes sir, they took our sumpin’ to eat from us Negroes. My daddy didn’t like deir takin’ our rations so he went to de officer and tole him what his men had done, and the officers had sumpin’ to eat sent over there.
My mammy cooked some fur de officers too. Dey had a lot of crackers. Dey called ’em hard tack. The officers brought a lot of ’em over dere. We lived near the Confederate trenches jist below the Fayetteville Crossin’ on Fayetteville Street. The breastworks were right near our house.
I know when the colored men farmed on share craps, dey were given jist enough to live on, and when a white man worked a mule until he wuz worn out he would sell him to de colored man. De colored man would sometime buy ‘im a old buggy; den he wuz called rich. People went to church den on steer carts, that is colored folks, most uv ’em. De only man I wurked for along den who wud gib me biscuit through de week wuz a man named June Goodwin. The others would give us biscuit on Sundays, and I made up my mind den when I got to be a man to eat jist as many biscuits as I wanted; and I have done jist dat.
My mammy used to hire me out to de white folks. I worked and made jist enough to eat and hardly enough clothes to wear to church until I wuz a man. I worked many a day and had only one herrin’ and a piece of bread for dinner. You know what a herrin’ fish is? ‘Twon’t becase I throwed my money away, twas cause we didn’t git it, nuther to save up. When we farmed share crap dey took all we made. In de fall we would have to split cord wood to live through de winter.
I will tell you now how I got my start off now, I am going to use dis man’s name. I went to work for a man name George Whitaker. I drive a wagon for him. He ‘lowed me all de waste wood for my own use. This wuz wood dat would not sell good on de market. I hauled it over home. I worked for him till he died, en his wife lowed me a little side crap. I made this crap, took de money I got for it, and built a little storehouse. I disremember how long I worked fer Mis’ Hannah Whitaker. Den I quit work for her and went to work for myself. I owns dat little storehouse yit, de one I worked wid Mis’ Hannah Whitaker, en from dat I bought me a nudder home.
When de Yankees come to Raleigh dere wuz a building dey called de Governor’s Palace, it stood whur de Auditorium now stands. Right back o’ where de courthouse now stands wuz a jail and a gallows an’ a whuppin’ pos’ all dere together. I know when dey built de Penitentiary dey hauled poles from Johnston County. Dey called dem Johnston County poles. Dey hauled em in on trains. Dis post office wuz not built den. De post office den wuz built of plank set up an’ down.
I remember seeing a man hung down at de jail. His name wuz Mills. He wuz a white man. When he got on de scaffold he said, ‘What you gwine to do to me do it quick and be done wid it’.
I think Abraham Lincoln done the colored man a heap of good. If it hadn’t been for Mr. Roosevelt there are many livin’ today who would have parished to death. There are plenty of people walkin’ about now who would have been dead if Mr. Roosevelt had not helped them. The only chance I had to hold my home wuz a chance given me through him. At my age, I cannot make much at work, but through things he helped me, and I is holding my own.
From Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves (1841).
In the 1850 census of Raleigh, Wake County: Alfred Wavy, 25, Kazina, 38, Lewis H. Wavy, 2, and Syntha H. Scott, 14. But: in Camp Creek, Rutherford County: William Scott, 25, Cynda, 17, Rufus, 16, Wesley, 15, and Mary Scott, 6 months.
In the 1860 census of Alamance County: Wm. Scott, 24, fireman, wife Synthia, 23, and children May J., 3, Saml, 1, and Jane, 2 months.
William Scott. Died 14 June 1945, Raleigh, Wake County. Resided 601 Church St. Colored. Widower. Laborer. Born 5 Aug 1852 in Wake County to William Scott and Senthia Scott. Buried Mount Hope, Raleigh. Informant, Pinkie Hall.