Sarah Graves- Eyewitness To History- Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938
Childhood and girlhood memories are vivid to Sarah Frances Shaw Graves, an 87 year old woman whose indomitable courage and steadfast purpose overcame obstacles and made possible the ownership of the 120 acre farm near Skidmore, on R. F. D. #4, where she lives with her bachelor son, Arza Alexander Graves…
Sarah Frances Shaw Graves, Age 87
"I was born March 23, 1850 in Kentucky, somewhere near Louisville. I am goin’ on 88 years right now. (1937). I was brought to Missouri when I was six months old, along with my mama, who was a slave owned by a man named Shaw, who had allotted her to a man named Jimmie Graves, who came to Missouri to live with his daughter Emily Graves Crowdes. I always lived with Emily Crowdes."
The matter of allotment was confusing to the interviewer and Aunt Sally endeavored to explain.
"Yes’m. Allotted? Yes’m. I’m goin’ to explain that, " she replied. "You see there was slave traders in those days, jes’ like you got horse and mule an’ auto traders now. They bought and sold slaves and hired ‘em out. Yes’m, rented ‘em out. Allotted means somethin’ like hired out. But the slave never got no wages. That all went to the master. The man they was allotted to paid the master."
"I was never sold. My mama was sold only once, but she was hired out many times. Yes’m when a slave was allotted, somebody made a down payment and gave a mortgage for the rest. A chattel mortgage… ."
"Allotments made a lot of grief for the slaves," Aunt Sally asserted. "We left my papa in Kentucky, ‘cause he was allotted to another man. My papa never knew where my mama went, an’ my mama never knew where papa went." Aunt Sally paused a moment, then went on bitterly. "They never wanted mama to know, ‘cause they knowed she would never marry so long she knew where he was. Our master wanted her to marry again and raise more children to be slaves. They never wanted mama to know where papa was, an’ she never did," sighed Aunt Sally.
More than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. This online collection is a joint presentation of the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs Divisions of the Library of Congress and includes more than 200 photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division that are now made available to the public for the first time. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html