Interview Conducted by William Elmer Smith & Cleo Bennett Smith
Vina Moore was born a slave of Mr. Smiley, close to Vicksburg,
Mississippi, in 1845. Her parents died when she was just a child and
she was raised by what she terms as her "white folks".
She seems to have been very fortunate in having a very kind master
and mistress, who kept her until the beginning of the war. She was
then sold to a Mr. Lowery, who sent her with three loads of other
slaves to Texas to keep the Yankees from getting them in
Mississippi. She was the only one of the group that sold when they
were placed for auction on the court house square in Corsicana. She
brought $300.00 in gold. The other slaves all went back to
Mississippi. She was bought by Mr. Van Horn. They were very nice to
her and she was with them when the war ended and stayed on
afterwards as a cook at a small salary.
She married Ike Moore, a porter on the railroad. They had
three children, Anna, Charley, and Ella. All are dead but the
latter, Ella Decker, with whom Aunt Vina lives. She has two
grand-children, one in Corsicana and one in Waxahachie. She and her
husband have been separated for years. She lives with her daughter
on a small pension that she has been drawing for the past few
months. She is crippled up with rheumatism and is not able to wait
on her self very much, but she is a very pleasant person to talk to.
"My name is Vina Moore, I'se born in Vicksburg,
Mississippi in 1845, right on de banks of de rivah. Mah father's
name was Uncle Lury and mah mamma's name was Aunt Lucienda. Dats all
de name I'se ever heard of dem havin. Dey died when I'se small, I
gues bout five er six years ole. Mah white marster and missus took
me ter raise, and I'se glad dey did too, cause dey sure tried ter
raise me up right I had no brothers and sisters, jest me. An auntie
wanted ter take me when mamma died, but I'se sure glad dat they
We lived close ter de rivah where de flat boats went all de
time I'se use ter play down on de rivah and watch de boats. Dem was
happy days in Mississippi, I aint seed none lak dem since I'se come
We had nice servant quarters, not no junk holes lak you'se sees in
Texas. We culured folks has ter live in barns here but didn't back
in Mississippi. We had nice wooden bed steads and plenty of be
covers too. We had a cook stove ter cook on. I helped ter cook fer
mah marster and missus, der name was Smiley. She larned me lots of
things bout cookin. Dey had a nice six room frame house with two bi
porches. Mah grandparents lived on de same plantation but I can't
member much bout dem.
After mah mamma and papa died, I works at mah missus house. I
tends ter de chilluns, tends ter de chickens, make beds, works in de
flower garden, er jest anything der was ter do, and I didn't have
ter be tole twice to do it either.
After mah mamma and papa died, I would jest work mah crazy self ter
death cause dey would brag on me, its too later ter know bettah now
though. Mah white folks was good ter me, dey use ter give me nickels
and dimes when I had done sumpin extry. I allus spends dem fer
candy, popcorn, er pecans, er jest what I wanted ter spend it fer.
Ifen der chilluns had sumpin extry ter eat dey allus save me some
We shore had plenty ter eat, we never wanted fer nuthin. I allus eat
at de white folks house. I wish I had some of dem good vituals now.
We had pork, beef, possum, rabbits, deer, squirrels, birds,
chickens, duck, geese, we had any kind of meat we wanted at any time
of the year. Lordy, yessah we had fish, we live so close ter de
rivah dat we could go der mos any time and get a good mess of fish,
perch, and cats. Dis is de sorriest place I ever done struck in mah
life. I shore loves greens, I guess I lak greens, biled fat meat,
strong tea or coffee and corn bread best of any meal. I don't care
much fer pie and cake, er any sweet fixins but I use ter shore fix
dem though when I was cookin fer de white folks. Sometimes a slave
would have a little garden but not often. Mos time dey jest git
their stuff from de big garden.
We had plenty of gingham dresses of all kinds. Dey had women dat
jest done de weavin and dey made our clothes. Mah missus sometimes
made me dresses, dey was shore nice too. I allus had shoes ter wear
wintah and summer time. Mah feet was allus so tender I couldnt go
barefooted. We had wintah clothes and summer clothes, Sunday
clothes, and everyday clothes. I never did jest wear mah Sunday
clothes jest any time. I allus takes care of mah things, I don't
believe in being so stravagant. De good Lord gives us since nuff ter
know how ter iffen we aims ter have nuthin.
We picked cotton in sacks, I can't membah any of us pickin in
baskets, hit was too much trouble. Master Smiley did not have no gin
he had ter haul hit off ter have it ginned. Hit would allus be late
in de fall when we'd git through pickin cotton and when they'd
finish dey would all throw der sacks up in de air and holler til
everybody in de country would know what was happenin.
I use ter go ter lots of dances. I was what you would call a dancin
fool. But since de good Lord has saved mah soul I see jest how
foolish hit all was. Iffen I'd used mah strength in church work dat
I used goin ter dances I would have been better off. But dances was
nice ter go to den. Dey all acted nice and der was no drinking er
actin up lak dey do here. I aint use ter people actin so silly.
Sometimes people will pass right in front of mah door and don't even
speak ter me and me sittin right here on mah steps. But I jest dip
mah snuff and don't let on lak I sees dem either. Ole Aunt Vina has
has seed better days, when I was able ter work and I had lots of
friends and mah chilluns was good ter me too, but I'se ole now and
in de way and aint got fifty cents and dollars to hand out now lak I
use ter have, but de Lord will be wid me and I guess I can stand it.
In dem days dey allus had big weddins fer de white folks, big
dinnahs, and suppahs, but dey had a preachah to marry de slaves jest
as same as de white folks. De slave boy would git de preachah and
dey would git married in der own cabins. De man allus comes ter live
wid de woman iffen he marries a woman from another plantation, and
de chilluns would belong ter de marster of de woman.
Christmas was a big day fer all of us. Marster Smiley allus gives de
slaves sumpin extry fer Christmas dinnah and allus gives us presents
too. It allus was a fine day fer all of us. De slave chilluns all
believe in Santa Claus and dey would sing bout Santa Claus fer weeks
fore Christmas. Dey marster allus got sumpin fer de chilluns so dey
could believe in Santa Claus. I wish it was back slavery time now.
We had good times den, bettern I'se seed since I'se come ter Texas.
On New Years day we allus had a big dinnah. Marster Smiley allus
made us cook black eyed peas and hog jowls, you know you eat dat on
New Years day and you will have money in your pocket all de year.
Hit will work too, you ought to try hit sometimes. Any how der aint
nuthin better ter eat den dat iffen dey is cooked right and seasoned
up good dey is fine.
And de Foath of July all we done was ter eat and drink. We had
plenty of home made beer, I don't membah dem ever having much
whiskey but dat beer was fine. Marster Smiley would sometime take
enough whiskey ter make us a toddy, fix it so's we wouldn't git
drunk. Dey hardly ever made ice cream, I don't know why we could git
ice any day we wanted hit.
Corn shuckin was a big time too, de marster would make us shuck corn
all day and den we would all eat suppah out in de yard. Us youngins
would all play and dance and have a big time. You don't hear of any
body here doing dat way now, but we enjoyed it in dem days. Dat
playin allus made de corn shuckin easy.
I was allus too busy ter play games, I never did take no stock in
foolishness, hits silly, I believe in hard work. We didnt believe in
charms, rabbits foot and de like. Iffen a black cat crossed in front
of me I wouldn't pay no tenshun to hit. I believe in important
things. I heard people say dat dey seed ghos, but I never did
believe in dem, dey aint no sech things.
I uster have ter tend to de chilluns all de time, and I could git
dem ter sleep bettern den der mama could when I would sing. I'd pat
mah foot and pat dem on de back a little, rock and sing, "Laugh
and play till pappy comes. He'll take good care of baby." Dey
would go right ter sleep.
When de slaves was workin you could hear dem singin fer miles, each
one singin a different song. We was all happy den, we had a good
place ter sleep, plenty to eat, and we allus was singin. De white
folks would stand round and look at us. I guess some of dem jest
wondered why we was so happy.
Some of de slave chilluns was jest lak chilluns of today, allus in
ter sumpin, but I never had time ter git into any meaness. I had too
many important things to see to.
When de slaves got sick marster Smiley, would have a doctor iffen
dey was bad enough. Sometimes when dey jest had a little ailment, we
would make a tea of peppergrass. It was a good medicine. Sometimes
we used bitter weeds ter make a tea. But iffen dey got very sick dey
would have a doctor, dey didn't wait til dey was most dead and don
act lak dey cared what happened ter dem.
Yessah, I'se know lots of slaves dat runned off ter de nawth, dey
would hunt for dem jest lak horses er mules and dey mos allus ketch
dem. Sometimes dey didn't find dem and when dey didn't dey was jest
more cranky wid de slaves at home. I run away, once, dey was gonna
whip me, so I run away and climbed up in de top of a china berry
tree, and de limbs was so thick dey coulnt find me in de leaves. Dey
hunted fer me a long time and after hit begins ter git dark I was
skeared sos I slips back ter de house, de ole missus was so glad ter
see me dat she didn't whip me. Sometimes when de slaves runned off
dey shore would ship dem.
Slaves had ter ask der marster and missus ever time dey went ter
anuther plantation ter visit. De marster would tell dem when ter go
and when ter come back and dey bettah do jest dat too. Dey didn't
carry news much, oh some big mouth nigger was allus shootin off his
mouth, but generally dey didnt tell much.
Sometimes de slaves would play dominoes, cards, and sometimes have
little parties. Not noisey messes lak dey have dis day in time. Dey
had ter behave dem selves er dey was tole ter go home and not ter
come back any more. Dey had ter go ter bed early sos dey could git
up early ter git in the field. Dey work Satiday evenin jest de same
as any other day. Satiday mornin was an extra busy fer de ones dat
work in de kitchen cause mos every Sunday dey had a big dinnah and
late Sunday evenin suppahs. We'd clean chickens, ducks, and bake
cakes and pies and everything else.
One thing I can membah, plain bout de war was me takin de white
chilluns to town ter see de parade of de soldiers. Dey would drill
right close ter our plantation and we would go out ter watch dem, we
allus enjoyed dat. Mah marster did not send anything ter eat er any
money ter de soldiers, but mah auntie use ter weave cloth ter send
ter make clothes out of. Us slaves all liked de yankees, dey never
did do nuthin ter us.
A little after de war commenced, marster Smiley sold me ter marster
Lowery, and he sent three wagon loads of niggers ter Texas ter keep
de yankees from gittin us. I was de only one dat sold. Dey had de
acution on de court house square in Corsicana. A Mr. Van Horn bought
me fer $300.00. Dey had a nice home in Corsicana. When de war was
over and we got our freedom, Mr. Van Horn acted awful nice ter me,
he said if I would stay and do de cookin he would pay me a small
salary and buy mah clothes. I stayed der quite a while.
And den I played de dickens, I married a railroad man by the name of
Isaac Moore. He was a porter on de railroad. We had a nice weddin
jest lak white folks. We had three chilluns, Anna, Charley, and
Ella. Den we separated, I jest couldnt put up wid sech a feller. I
aint heard from him in years and I dont want ter unless he would
send me some money. Anna and Charley have been dead three years, I
aint got no chilluns but mah baby. I have two grandsons and one
grand daughter. One grandson and daughter live in Waxahachie, and I
live wid mah daughter and de other grandson. Ella keeps house fer de
I has often heard of de Ku Klux, but I dont know nuthin bout dem.
You know niggers aint supposed ter know anything lak dat.
I never did vote. I aint even interested. What do I care bout votin,
one man is bout good as another.
I gits mah livin now from a little penshun. I don't know how much I
git, mah grandson allus cashes mah check and I cant read nohow. He
gits me what I'se sposed ter have.
Dis younger generation aint fit fer nuthin but ter run round fer a
big time. Chilluns now days jest raise dem selves. We was taught ter
say "Yas Sah" and yes'm, and I never did say
"what" in mah life. And we never did have ter be tole
twice ter do anything either lak dey do now. Tell me de youngins
aint goin ter de devil in a big way. But Aunt Vina is gonna live
right and be ready ter meet mah chilluns dat are gone on iffen dey
had lived maybe I wouldn't be treated lak I am now, but de good Lord
will be wid me and I will endure until the calls me home.