Slave Narratives

from the Rawick Papers, Series 5
Allen, Parson and Hannah
Madison County, Missouri

Western Historical Manuscripts Collection
University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri

     Of the eight ex-slaves whom the writer visited in Frederickstown,
he found that with one or two exceptions they owned their homes and all
but one receives old age assistance. Their homes are in the north part
of town, where the streets are unpaved, hilly and dusty. The whites and
colored people live next door to each other. The homes usually are right
next to the street. They all are one-story affairs, containing about
four rooms each. Some flowers are blooming in the yard; several fruit
trees are near the house, and in the rear a small garden plot is usually
seen. The Negro children lay about, barefooted but neatly dressed. They
are well mannered and give the interviewer little annoyance, appearing
to be more amused than surprised at the conversation. If given a piece
of money these youngsters usually run to the closest store to spend it.
One boy, however, put his money in a small bank and explained that he
was saving up to buy some kind of a toy. One little Negro girl with big
black eyes laid on the floor behind the stove like a kitten and listened
to everything.

     The interior of these homes are furnished with the necessities. As
a rule there is a double-bed, in the front room, a table, several
chairs, a wood-heating stove, no rug, and a picture or two on the wall.
Parson and Hannah Allen had framed their marriage license and it was
hanging over the bed on the north wall. There were one or two religious
pictures hanging about. In one home was a life-size bust picture of some
colored man. It has a very handsome gold-gilt frame around the imposing
figure. A wood-cook-stove could be seen in every kitchen. The walls and

Allen Hannah and Parson
Page 2

ceilings in most of these homes are in need of repairs. In some of them
the plaster had come off in spots and the laths and rafters were
visible. The ceiling of the front room in Parson Allen's home is made
solely from old planks gathered at random from buildings that were being
wrecked. The floors in most of the homes visited are rough and
unpainted. There is some semblance of screening to keep the flies out.
Invariably the ex-slaves interviewed were without shoes or stockings and
appeared to suffer little embarrassment about the situation. Their feet
appeared sufficiently calloused to withstand ordinary "knocking about"
the house. Possibly the word that could best describe these homes on the
interior is that of "colorlessness". A certain greyness pervades the
whole atmosphere.

     The mental attitude of most of these person was of a high order.
They are optimistic, apparently content, and have adopted a philosophy
of resignation. They talked little about financial worries. Possibly the
old age assistance has overcome that want. One ex-slave, Mrs. Mattie
Lee, was proud of a garden that she had made entirely by herself with a
potato digger; another, Mrs. Jane Thompson, was doing some sort of
sewing. The mothers of most of the small children about the places were
away at work and the ex-slaves, usually the grandmothers, were caring
for the little ones during the day. There was an attitude of physical
comfort and content with the majority. They had apparently all day to
talk and were unhurried by any desire to work about the place.

Interview of Hannah Allen
Interview of Parson Allen