Reminiscences of three former slaves

June 20, 1999

From interviews in Baltimore with former slaves, recorded by Works Progress Administration interviewers in 1930s and 1940s:

The Rev. Silas Jackson, on the cruelty of a master:

My master was named Tom Ashbie. A meaner man was never born in Virginia -- brutal, wicked and hard. He always carried a cowhide with him. If he saw anyone doing something that did not suit his taste, he would have the slave tied to a tree, man or woman, and then would cowhide the victim until he got tired, or sometimes the slave would faint.

James Calhart James, on life as the son of his white owner:

My father's name was Franklin Pearce Randolph of Virginia, a descendant of the Randolphs of Virginia who migrated to South Carolina and located near Fort Sumter. My mother's name was Lottie Virginia James, daughter of an Indian and a slave woman, born on the Rapidan River in Virginia in 1823 or '24, I do not know which; she was a woman of fine features and very light in complexion with beautiful, long black hair. She was the private maid of Mrs. Randolph until she died, and then continued as housekeeper for her master. I was born on the Randolphs' plantation Aug. 23, 1846. I was half-brother to the children of the Randolphs, four in number. After I was born, mother and I lived in the servants' quarters of the big house enjoying many pleasures that the other slaves did not: eating and sleeping in the big house, playing and associating with my half-brothers and -sisters. There were three girls and one boy. They treated me fairly good at first or when I was small or until they realized their father was my father, then they hated me."

James Wiggins, on being sold to a slave trader and making his escape:

I was born in Anne Arundel County, on a farm near West River, about 1850 or 1851. I do not know my father or mother. Mr. Revell died in 1861 or '62. The sheriff and men came from Annapolis, sold the slaves, stock and other chattels. I was purchased by a Mr. Mayland, who kept a store in Annapolis. I was sold by him to a slave trader to be shipped to Georgia. I was brought to Baltimore and was jailed in a small house on Paca near Lombard. The trader was buying other slaves to make a load. I escaped through the aid of a German shoemaker, who sold shoes to owners for slaves. The German shoeman had a covered wagon. I was put in the wagon covered by boxes, taken to a house on South Sharp Street and there kept until a Mr. George Stone took me to Frederick City where I stayed until 1863.

Pub Date: 6/20/99

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