EX-SLAVE STORY AS TOLD BY MILLIE MARKHAM OF 615 ST. JOSEPH ST., DURHAM, N.C.
I was never a slave. Although I was born somewhere about 1855, I was not born in slavery, but my father was. I’m afraid this story will be more about my father and mother than it will be about myself.
My mother was a white woman. Her name was Tempie James. She lived on her father’s big plantation on the Roanoke River at Rich Square, North Carolina. Her father owned acres of land and many slaves. His stables were the best anywhere around; they were filled with horses, and the head coachman was named Squire James. Squire was a good looking, well behaved Negro who had a white father. He was tall and light colored. Tempie James fell in love with this Negro coachman. Nobody knows how long they had been in love before Tempie’s father found it out, but when he did he locked Tempie in her room. For days he and Miss Charlottie, his wife, raved, begged and pleaded, but Tempie just said she loved Squire. ‘Why will you act so?’ Miss Charlottie was crying. ‘Haven’t we done everything for you and given you everything you wanted?’
Tempie shook her head and said: ‘You haven’t given me Squire. He’s all I do want.’
Then it was that in the dark of the night Mr. James sent Squire away; he sent him to another state and sold him.
But Tempie found it out. She took what money she could find and ran away. She went to the owner of Squire and bought him, then she set him free and changed his name to Walden, Squire Walden. But then it was against the law for a white woman to marry a Negro unless they had a strain of Negro blood, so Tempie cut Squire’s finger and drained out some blood. She mixed this with some whiskey and drank it, then she got on the stand and swore she had Negro blood in her, so they were married. She never went back home and her people disowned her.
Tempie James Walden, my mother, was a beautiful woman. She was tall and fair with long light hair. She had fifteen children, seven boys and eight girls, and all of them lived to be old enough to see their great-grandchildren. I am the youngest and only one living now. Most of us came back to North Carolina. Two of my sisters married and came back to Rich Square to live. They lived not far from the James plantation on Roanoke River. Once when we were children my sister and I were visiting in Rich Square. One day we went out to pick huckleberries. A woman came riding down the road on a horse. She was a tall woman in a long grey riding habit. She had grey hair and grey eyes. She stopped and looked at us. ‘My,’ she said, ‘whose pretty little girls are you?’
‘We’re Squire Walden’s children,’ I said.
She looked at me so long and hard that I thought she was going to hit me with her whip, but she didn’t, she hit the horse. He jumped and ran so fast I thought she was going to fall off, but she went around the curve and I never saw her again. I never knew until later that she was Mis’ Charlottie James, my grandmother.
I don’t know anything about slavery times, for I was born free of free parents and raised on my father’s own plantation. I’ve been living in Durham over sixty-five years.
From Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves (1841).
Squire Walden married Tempy James on 28 March 1832 in Halifax County. John Keemer was bondsman, and clerk of court J.H. Harwell witnessed.
In the 1850 census of Northampton County: Squire Walden, 38, laborer, wife Temperance, 34, and children Samuel, 14, William, 13, Amanda, 12, Martha, 11, James, 9, Hester, 8, Peyton, 5, and Whitman, 1, plus William Walden, 78, farmer. All born in NC, except the elder William, who was born in Virginia. All were described as mulatto.