Slavery and the Making of AmericaPicture of the first black U.S. Senator and representatives
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Freedom & Emancipation
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight Imagining Freedom Personal Narratives Original Docs
Personal Narratives Freedom & Emancipation
Photo of Wallace Quarterman
Photo of Wallace Quarterman
Credit: Library of Congress
'The people then throws their hoe then. They throwed away they hoe.' - Wallace Quarterman
to the audio recording of this interview.
Personal Narratives
Wallace Quarterman
Interviewee: Wallace Quarterman
Interviewer: Zora Neale Hurston [with Alan Lomax]

ZHN: After they said you can go free, then what did you do? Did you run on off the plantation that day? Did you leave the plantation that day after they told you to go free?

WQ: That day master promised so, to give we forty dollars a month in pay. The [lot (?)] said the boys said they ain't want it. They rather go free you know.

ZHN: Uhmm.

WQ: Well, of course, why I have them pay us, you understand? I get along with them you know. He brought out the big pot, you know. [loud thumb]

ZHN: Yeah.

WQ: And ah, after they, after this place closed down, sword down they just make them, sword down, and they just lay down their sword, and squash them down. You go in Hawkinsville and you see all the swords down now--

ZHN: [Yeah (?)].

WQ: --in the ground. And after the sword was down the tension, in the South tension. And after the South tension then they play. Yeah. Play they. [he thumbs a washtub base and sings]

Kingdom Coming
One foot one way.
One foot the other way.
One foot all around.
Couldn't cut a figure.
And he couldn't go halfway around.
Old master run aw-a-a-a-a-y.
And set them darkies free.
For you must be think thy kingdom a coming in the hour of jubilee.

WQ: So we had a big breaking up right there, you know, after it. That's right.

WQ: Yeah, yeah. And that, the people then throws away their hoe then. They throwed away they hoe, and, and they call we all up, you know and, and give we all freedom because we are just as much as free as them. Now you understand. But the Yankees saying we must go back to the South they'll help we. Well they didn't. Of course there was so much doubt, and [it seems to me (?)] I, they would have done more, but it so much doubt in the way. They couldn't because the colored people sure [been (?)] poor, and some white people sure [went (?)] poor too. You understand and they rather help them than, uh, help we. I satisfied so far, for the Lord has done for me, I come through, through all the, been up and downs through the ??? .

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) sponsored a federal project dedicated to chronicling the experience of slavery as remembered by former slaves and their descendants. Their stories were recorded and transcribed, and this site presents dozens of select sound recordings and hundreds of transcriptions from the interviews. Beyond the content of the interviews, little to no biographical information is available on the individuals whose interviews appear here.

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