We are not sure if the photo in this book is actually Annie L. Burton or one of the other writers included in the volume. The woman pictured on the cover may just be an actress, but let’s assume she looks like Burton because her story is totally compelling and invites discussion.
For us, it was encountered for the first time in years on Margaret Busby’s definitive set African girls. After identifying the traits of many of the pre-Revolutionary people who lived in the Northeast, we felt it was time to balance geography and venture south again. Narratives of slave women And Burton’s story is a media portal.
Busby’s Brief Synopsis provides an engaging introduction about Burton, noting that she was born into slavery around 1860. “Her father was a white man from Liverpool, England,” Busby begins, “and she was freed in infancy by the Union Army. She moved north in 1879 She was one of the first black immigrants there from the southern United States during the post-Civil War era.
“First as a laundress,” Busby continued, “and later as a cook, she supported herself successfully in Boston and New York. Taking responsibility for raising her nephew, she moved to Georgia, eventually becoming a restaurateur in Jacksonville, Florida, and later in Boston, where she saw Her nephew is in college. She married Samuel Burton in 1888.” Burton Published Memories of childhood slavery In 1909, and the extract below is from her opening chapters, where she begins to recall a happy life on the farm.
“The memory of my happy, care-free childhood on the farm, with my little fellows, white and black, is often with me. Neither master nor mistress nor neighbors had time to give us a clue, for the great Civil War was raging. That great event in American history was a matter of Quite outside our childish interests. Of course we heard our elders discuss the various events of the great struggle, but it meant nothing to us. On the farm there were ten white children and fourteen colored children. We spent our days wandering from farm to farm, without knowing or caring What happens in the great world beyond our little world. Planting time and harvest time were happy days for us. How many times at harvest time farmers discovered stalks of corn missing from the ends of rows, and blamed it on crows! We were called “little fairy devils.” To sweet potatoes And peanuts and sugarcane, we helped ourselves too.
“These unmarried slaves were giving food from the big house, and about half past eleven they were sending the older children with food to the workmen in the fields. Of course, I went on, and before we got to the fields we had almost eaten the food. When the workmen got home they complained , and we were whipped. The slaves had their allowance every night two of molasses, meat, cornmeal, and a kind of flour called ‘shoveling’ or ‘short.’ This allowance might be taken away before the next Monday night, in which case the slaves would steal pigs and chickens. Then comes the flogging function.The master himself never flogged his slaves.He left that to the overseer.
“We children did not have dinner, and only a small piece of bread or something like that in the morning. Our dishes consisted of one wooden bowl, and conch shells were our spoons. This bowl served about fifteen children, and often dogs, ducks and peacocks dipped in it Sometimes we had milk and bread in our pot, and sometimes vegetables or bones. Our clothes were little cotton slips with short sleeves. I never knew what shoes were until I was old enough to earn them myself. If a man and woman wished to marry, an arrangement would be arranged Saturday night party among the slaves.
The marriage ceremony consisted of the pair jumping over a stick. If no children were born within a year or so, the wife was sold. On New Year’s Day, if there was any debt or mortgage on the plantation, the extra slaves would be taken to Clayton and sold at the courthouse. In this way the families were separated. When they were recruited for war, we were allowed to go to Clayton to see the soldiers. I remember, at the start of the war, two colored men were hanged at Clayton. One, the Tsar’s King, for killing a hound and biting an honorable ear. the other, Dabney Madison, for killing his master. Dabney Madison’s master was shot by a man named Houston, who was infatuated with Madison’s mistress, and who hired Madison to make bullets for him. Houston fled after the deed, and the blame fell on Dabney Madison, as he had been his master’s only slave and mistress. The clothes of the two victims were hung on two pine trees, untouched by any colored person. Ever since I was growing up, I’ve seen the skeleton of one of these guys in the doctor’s office in Clayton.
After the men were hanged, the bones were laid in an old abandoned house. The one who looked after the bones would put them in the sun in bright weather, and come home when it rained. At last the bones were gone, though the chests which contained them remained.
Once, when they were building sheds on the farm, one of the old boys got a little brandy and offered the children a drink, just enough to make us drink. Four doctors were sent, but no one could tell what happened to us, except that they thought we had eaten something poisonous. They wanted to give us some castor oil, but we refused to take it, because we thought the oil was made from the bones of dead men whom we had seen. Finally, we got talking about the big white boy who gave us brandy, and the mystery was cleared up.”