Mary Thompson Austin Texas 1937
Mary Thompson was born a slave in Danton Alabama around 1850. Her mother was Viney Askew and her father was Wesley Jones (he took the surname of his former “master”).
They "belonged to" Green Askew, a Georgian. She was 15 when she was freed. When her family was in slavery, Viney was a good cook and was chosen to cook in the master’s house. (Mary says that Viney made “salt risin’ bread”).
The slaves lived in cabins near the master’s house and some of the slaves had children by the master. After a day in the field, women would come home and cook and clean in their own houses and then just go to bed, they were so exhausted. Their only “fun” was at Christmas time when they would get “eggnog and such” from the master. And on the 4th of July, the field work was done and they would get several days off. They were given “pits of barbeque and pies and cakes” to eat. They’d sing but she didn’t remember any of the songs.
Following is an excerpt of her narrative: “When we was sick de marster would sen' for de doctor and we made teas outta herbs and sich. Alabama was full of chills and fevers in dam days and we drunk catnip tea for fevers and blue and white sage. Calamus root, looks like an onion, was good for de chillens' colic. My mistress' niece had a big plantation and she had a place whar she had de slaves whopped. She had a reg'lar whoppin' post. My marster jes' had a large cowhide whoop. Yes, I got a whoppin' more'n once. Sev'ral times marster took hold my ears and bumped my head 'gainst de wall. But gen'rally dey was good to me. We wasn't 'lowed no whiskey, 'less we was sick. De poor white folks was good to us, better'n rich folks. Dey'd give us a quarter now'n den. I can 'member how de slaves was fattened like hawgs and den marched to town and 'round and auctioned off like cattle.”
Mary lived at 1104 East Avenue, Austin, Texas when this photo was taken.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
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