Interview Conducted by William Elmer Smith & Cleo Bennett
SARAH BENJAKIN, 82, was born a slave of the Gilbert family,
in Clavin Parish, Louisiana., In 1867 she married Cal Benjamin and they settled
in Corsicana, Texas, where Sarah now lives.
"I is Sarah Benjamin and is 82 year old, 'cause my mammy
told me I's born in 1855 in Clavin Parish in Louisiana. Ear name was Fannie and
my pappy's name was Jack Callahan. There was jus' three of us chillen and I's do
"Marse Gilbert was tol'able good to we'uns, and give us
plenty to eat. He had a smokehouse big as a church and it was full, and in de
big kitchen we all et, chillen and all. De grown folks et first and den de
chillen. Did we have plenty of possum and fish by de barrels full! All dis was
cooked in de racks over de fireplace and it were good.
"Our clothes was all homespun and de shoes made by de
shoemaker. Old marse wanted all us to go to church and if dey didn't have shoes
dey have something like de moccasin.
"I don't know how many slaves there was, but it was a
lot, maybe 60 or 70. Dey worked hard every day 'cept Sunday. Iffen they was had
they night git whuppin's, but not too hard, not to de block. Iffen dey was still
bad, dey puts chains on dem and puts den in de stocks, 'cause there wasn't no
Once when I's little, marse stripped me stark modern naked
and puts me on do block, but he wouldn't sell me, 'cause he was bid only $350.00
and he say no. 'cause I was good and fat.
"Dey didn't larn us nothin' and iffen you did larn to
write, you better keep it to yourse'f, 'cause some slaves Cot de thumb or finger
cut off for larnin' to write. When de slaves come in from de fields dey didn't
larn nothin', they jus' go to bed. 'lessen de moonshine nights come and dey
could work in de tobacco patch. De marster give each one de little tobacco patch
and iffen he raised more'n he could use he could sell it.
"On Christmas we all has de week vacation and maybe de
dance. We allus have de gran' dinner on dat day, and no whuppin's. But dey
couldn't leave de plantation without de pass, even on-Christmas.
"De women had to run de gin in de daytime and de man at
night. Dey fed de old gin from baskets and my mommy fed from doze baskets all
day with de high fever and died dat night. She wouldn't tell de marster she
sick. for fear she have to take do quinine.
"De day we was freed, de slaves jus' scattered. 'cepting
me. Missy Gilbert says I wasn't no slave no more but I had to stay and he'p her
for my board 'till I's grown. I stayed 'till I was 'bout 15, den I runs away and
marries Cal Benjamin, and we comes to Texas. Cal and me has six chillen, but he
died 'fore dey was grown.
WPA Slave Narrative Project, Texas Narratives, Volume 16, Part 1
Federal Writer's Project, United States Work Projects Administration (USWPA);
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress