Southern Spirits: Ghostly Voices from Dixie Land
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Born in Fort Valley, Georgia, 1848

This is an extract from material collected by the United States Government during the 1930s -- probably the Federal Writers' Project. I have been unable to locate the original source of publication and would welcome any help with identification. Notice H. B. Holloway's mention of Cherokee ancestry -- this admixture was quite common among ostensibly African American root work practitioners. Explanatory material appears [in brackets].

Subject: Ex-Slave Stories

[Although this interview was conducted under the guise of collecting ex-slave narratives, Mr. Holloway had not been a slave prior to the Civil War, but rather a tri-racial free person of color.]

This information given by H. B. Holloway (Dad or Pappy)

Place of residence: 1524 Valentine Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Occupation: Old Age Pension, Age 89, "Railroading" draying, etc.

Name of Interviewer: S. S. Taylor

[There is no date given for the interview, but H.B. Holloway was 89 years old at the time, and said that he had been born February 15, 1848, giving us a probable year of 1937.]

"I never lived in the country. I lived in town. But sometimes my father would go into the country to hunt and I would go with him

"I was born in Austin County, Fort Valley, Georgia, 105 miles below Atlanta one way, and by Macon it would be 140 . I was thirteen years old when the war began and seventeen when it ended. I was born the fifteenth day of February, 1848.

"My mother was a nurse and midwife. My father was a finished mechanic. I never had to do any work until after the civil war, but I was just crazy about railroading and want to railroading early. I railroaded all my life. I did some draying too and a lot of concreting too.

"I was born free. There weren't so many free Niggers in Georgia. None that I knew owned ant slaves. I never heared of any owning any slaves. My mother was a full blooded Cherokee woman, and my father was a dark Spaniard. I am the only one out of twelve children that can't talk my mother's language and don't know my father's. I remember the Indian war whoop, and the war dance -- used to do that myself. When they run the Indians out of Georgia into Florida, my mother never did go. She was one hundred seven years old when she died.

"You know, there weren't no marriages like now with Niggers -- just like if you and your wife owned a man and I owned a woman, if your man wanted to marry, he got consent from you and my woman would get consent from me, And then they would marry, and I either got to buy your slave or you got to buy mine. Sometimes the white folks wouldn't want you to marry.

"They didn't force nobody to marry. They might force you to marry if both of you had the same master, but not if they belonged to different masters. They were crazy about slaves that had a lot of children.

"Niggers didn't separate in slave times because they never was married except by word of mouth. There was a lot of old souls that came out of slavery times that lived together and raised children that never was married ( except by word of mouth), just got together. But they made out better and were better husbands and wives and raised better families than they do now.

"Sometimes folks would get separated when the slave traders would sell them, end sometimes families would get separated when their white folks died or would run into debt.

"They had a slave block in Georgia. You see they would go to Virginia and get the people that they would bring across the water -- regular Africans. Sometimes they would refuges [?] them four or five hundred miles before they would get the chance to sell them. Sometimes a woman would have a child in her arms. A man would buy the mother and wouldn't want the child. And them sometimes a woman would holler out: 'Don't sell that pickaninny.' (You know they didn't call colored children nothin' but Pickaninnies then.) 'I want that little pickaninny.' And the mother would go one way and the child would go the other. The mother would be screaming and hollering, and of course, the child wouldn't be saying nothin' because it didn't know what was goin' on.

"They had a sale block in my home (Fort Valley, Georgia), and I used to go and see the Niggers sold often. Some few wasn't worth nothin' at all -- just about a hundred dollars. But they generally ran about five or six hundred dollars. Some of them would bring thousands of dollars. It depended on their looks. The trader would Say , 'Look at those shoulders; look at those muscles.'

"Someone would holler out, 'A thousand dollars.'

"Then another would holler out. 'Fifteen hundred.'

"They went like horses. A fine, built woman would bring a lot of money. A woman that birthed children cost a heep.

"Virginia was where the slaves would be brought first. The slave traders would go there and get them and take them across the country in droves -- just like you take a drove of cattle. They would sell than as they would come to sale blocks. The slaves would be undressed from the shoulders to the waist.

"The slaves lived in log huts on the plantations. Some men would weatherboard them. They didn't put any ceiling in. You could lay back in your bed and see the moon and stars shining through.

"Some got good food and some of the owners would make the Niggers steal their food from other folks. Old Myers Green would make his Niggers steal and he would say, 'If you get caught, I'll kill you.' One or two of them let themselves get caught, and he would whip them. That was to save him from paying for it. They couldn't do anything to you but whip you nohow. But they could make him pay for it.

"They used homemade clothes made out of homemade cotton cloth. They would spin the cotton to a thread. When they would get so many broaches of it, they would make it into cloth. A broach was just a lot of thread wound around a stick. They would take it to the wheel and make the cloth. Them women used to have tasks: -- spinning, weaving, dressmaking, and so on. Sometimes they would have five and six spinning wheels running before they would get to the weaving.

"I don't know who made the clothes. But you know them Niggers made them. They used to learn some slaves how to do some things, -- the right way. Jus' like they learned themselves. There was plenty of nice seamstresses. The white folks used to make them make clothes for their children. The white folks wouldn't do nothin'. They wouldn't even turn down the bed to get in it.

"Colored folks in slavery times didn't know how old they was. When you would buy a drove of darkies, you would go by what they would tell you , but they didn't know how old they was. Some of those Niggers they bought from Africa wouldn't take nothin' neither.

"They would say: 'Me goin' do what you say do, but me ain't goin' to get no whipping'. And when they whipped them, there was trouble.

"The masters kept records of ages of those born in their care. Some of them did. Some of them didn't keep nothin'. Just' like people nowadays. Raised them like pigs and hogs. Jus' didn't care.

"There used to be plenty of colored folk fiddlers. Dancing, candy pulling, quilting, -- that was about the only fun they would have. Corn shucking, too. They used to enjoy that. They would get on top of that pile and start singing -- the white folks used to like that -- sometimes they would shuck corn all night long. And they would sing and eat too.

"They had what they called the old-fashioned cotillion dance -- partners -- head, foot, and two sides -- four men and four women -- each man danced with his partner. Music by the fiddlers. I used to dance that.

"At the quilting, they'd get down and quilt. The boys and young men would be there too and they would thread the needles and laugh and talk with the girls, and the women would gossip.

"The masters would go there too and look at them and see what they'd do and how they'd do and make then do. They would do that at the candy pullin' too, and anything else.

"The candy pulling -- there they'd cook the candy and a man and a girl would pull candy together. Look to me like they enjoyed the corn shucking as much as they did anything else.

"They'd give time to cellibrate Christmas time. They'd dance and so on like that. But they worked them from dawn New Year's day to Christmas Eve night the next year. The good white people would give them a pig and have them make merry. They'd make merry over it like we do now. That's where it all come from.

"I seen a many a run away slave. I've seen the hounds catch them too. You could hear the hounds all hours of the night. Some Nigger was gone. Some of them would run away from the field. And some of them would slip out at night.

"I used to mock them hounds. The first hound would say 'Whoo-oo-oo, He-e-e-e he-e-e-e-e L-o-o-o-oes.' The others would say, 'Put 'im up. Put 'im up. Put 'im up. Put 'im up. Put 'im up.' My mother would laugh at me. The lead-hound howled, and the catch dog wouldn't say nothin' but you could hear the sound of his feet. The lead hound didn't catch the Nigger, but he would just follow him. When he caught up with him, he would step aside and let the catch dog get him if he wasn't treed.

"The pateroles were for Niggers just like police and sheriffs ware for white folks. They were just poor white folks. When a Nigger was out from the plantation at night, he had to have a pass. If the pateroles seen him, they would stop him and ask for his pass. If'n he didn't have it, he'd mos' likely get a beating. I was free and didn't have no pass. Sometimes they would stop me, but I never had no trouble with 'em. I was a boy then, and everybody knowed me.

"Men like Colonel Troutman, Major Holmes, and Preacher Russell -- Thomas Russell -- they didn't whip their Niggers and didn't allow no one else to whip them. They had a little guardhouse on the plantation and they would lock them up in it. You'd better not hit one of their Niggers. They'd take a pole or something and run you ragged.

"White folks was cruel in slavery times. You see I was free and could go where I wanted too, and I see'd a lot. Old Myer Green would take a Nigger and tie his feet to one side of a railroad track and tie his hands to the other side, and whip him till the blood ran. Then he would take him down to the smoke house and rub him down with lard and red pepper. 'Rub plenty in,' he would say, 'Don't let him spoil.'

"Then I have seen them take up a ten-rail fence and set it down on a Nigger's neck and whip him. If he would r'ar and twist and try to jump up, he would break his neck.

"One night, when me and my mother was coming from town, my mother had a demijohn of whiskey. They (the pateroles) tried to take it. And she smashed a paling off the fence and nearly beat them poor white trash to death. My mother was a good woman, strong as any man. I was sitting on the demijohn. I was a little fellow then. They didn't do nothin' to her neither, 'cause they knew what old Colonel Troutman would do.

"I can carry you to Columbus, Georgia. There was ten mulatto Niggers born there and you would think they were all white; but they were all colored. They were slaves, but their master was their Daddy.

"I'll tell you somethin'. W. H. Riley and Henry Miller, -- You know them don't you? -- they are blood brothers, -- had the some mother and the same father. Riley's grandfather was a white man named Miller. Miller got mad at his son, Riley's father, and sold him to a white man, Riley. Riley took the name of his father's second master. After freedom, Henry and Josephine took the name of Miller, their real grandfather. They said , 'Miller had never done anything' for them.

"I was looking right in Lincoln's mouth when he said, 'The colored man is turned loose without anything. I am going to give a dollar a day to every Negro born before emancipation until his death, -- a pension of a dollar a day.' That's the reason they killed him. But they sure didn't get it. It's going to be an awful thing up yonder when they hold a judgment over the way that things was done down here.

"When the war was declared over, Abraham Lincoln came South and went to the capitol (of Atlanta), and there was so many people to meet him he went up to the tower instead of in the State House. He said, 'I did everything I could to keep out of war. Many of you agreed to turn the Negroes loose, but Jeff Davis said that he would made in blood up to his neck before he would do it.'

"He asked for all of the Confederate money to be brought up there. And when it was brought, he called for the oldest colored man around. He said, 'Now, is you the oldest.' The man said, 'Yes Sir.' Then he threw him one of those little boxes of matches and told him to set [it on fire?].

"Then he said, 'I am going to disfranchise every one of you (the white folks) , and it will be ten years before you can even vote or get back into the Union.'

"Grant was the one that killed the Republican party. We ain't had but three real Republican presidents since the war -- Garfield, McKinley, and Teddy Roosevelt. They killed Garfield, and they killed McKinley, and they tried to kill Teddy Roosevelt. Well, they asked Grant if they could make state constitutions. Grant said, 'Yes, if they didn't conflict with the national constitution.' But they did conflict and Grant didn't do nothin' about it.

"Northern teachers ware sent down here after the war and they charged a dollar a month until the state set up schools. Some of the Niggers learned enough in the six months school to teach, and some white persons taught.

"In slave times, they didn't have any schools for Niggers. Niggers better not be caught with a book. If he were caught with a book they beat him to death nearly. Niggers used to get hold of this Webster 's Blue Back Book and the white folks would catch them and take them away.

"They didn't allow no free Niggers to go to school either in slave times.

"I used to see Niggers in Georgia share cropping. Nigger work all the year. Christmas eve night they would be going back to the plantation singing -- done lost everything -- sitting on the wagon singing:

'Sho' pity Lawd forgive
That ar' pentant rebel live.'
"Then they would have to get clothes and food against the next year's crop. Then you'd see 'em on the wagon again driving back to the plantation loaded down with provisions, singing:
'Lawd revive us agin
All our increase comes from thee.'
"I used to study how them people could live. They didn't give but ten dollars a month for common labor. They didn't give anything to the share cropper. They took all of it. They said he spent it, borrowed it, and on like that.

"Some that didn't know any better didn't want to be free. Especially them that had hard taskmasters. When the Nigger was turned loose, sho nuff, some of them didn't have a good shirt to their back. The master hated to lose them so bad, he wouldn't give them anything.

"But for twenty-five years after slave times, there ain't no race of people ever traveled as fast as the Nigger did. But when the young ones come up, they are the ones what killed the thing. An old white man said: 'We thought if you folks kept it up we or you one would have to leave this country. But when the young ones came on, and began begrudging one another this and that and working against one another, then we saw you would never make a nation.'

"I have been in big riots. I was in the Atlanta riots in 1891. We lost about forty men, and I don't know how many the white folks lost, but they said it was about a hundred. I used to live there. I came here in 1892.

"We had a riot there when the KKK was raising so much Cain, The first Ku Klux wore some kind of hat that went over the man's heed and shoulders and had greet big red eyes in it. They broke open my house one night to whip me.

"I was working as a foreman in the shops. One night as I was going home, some men stopped and said 'Who are you?' I answered. 'H. B. Holloway.' Then they said, 'Well, we'll be over to your house tonight to whip you.'

"I said, 'We growed up together and you couldn't whip me then. How you 'spect to do it now? You might kill me, but you can't beat me.'

"And one of them said, 'Well, we'll be over to see you at eleven thirty tonight, and we are going to beat you.'

"I went on home and told my wife what had happened. She was afraid and wanted me to leave and take her and the children with her.

"But I said, 'No, you just take the little children and go in the bedroom and stay there.'

"She did. I had three sons that were grown up, between twenty and twenty-eight years old, and I had a Winchester, a shotgun, and a pistol. I gave the Winchester to the oldest, the shotgun to the next, and the pistol to the youngest. I took my ax for myself. I stationed the boys at the far end of the room -- away from the door.

"The oldest said, 'Papa, let's kill them.'

"I said, 'No, You just stand there and do nothing till I tell you. When they break in, I'll knock the first one in the head with the ax. But don't you do nothin' till I tell you.'

"After a while, we heared a noise outside, and I took my stand beside the door. Then they gave a rush, and battered the door down. A man with a gray hood on jumped inside. I hit him side the head with the flat of the ax, and he fell down across the door.

"Then the others rushed up, and the boys cut loose with all three of the guns, and such another uproar you never heard. They high-tailed it down the street, and the boys took right after them, shooting at their legs. The Winchester shot sixteen times, and the pistol shot six, and the boy with the shotgun was shooting and breaking down and reloading and shooting again as fast as he could.

"I went outside and whistled for the boys to come back. They come. They would always obey me. I told them to carry the man I had hit out. He was still lying there. Through all the fuss and uproar, he had been lying there across the doorway. Carried him out, and threw him on the sidewalk. My eldest son said the man said, 'Holloway, don't hit me no more.'

"I didn't, but if I had known who he was then, I would have gone out and cut his throat. He was old Colonel Troutman's son. There was just two hours difference in our birth. Me and him both nursed from the same breast. We grew up together and were never separated until we were thirteen (at the beginning of the war). Many people thought we were brothers. I had fought for him and he had fought for me. When he wasn't at my house, I was at his, and his father partly raised me. That's the reason I don't trust white people.

"We had a big dog that everyone was scared of. We always kept him chained up. I unchained the dog, and took the boys and we went out in the woods. It was cold; so we made a fire under a tall sapling.

"Near daylight, I said, 'The dog sees something, but we can't see what it is.' The eldest son said, 'Pappy, if you get astride the dog, and look the way he's looking, you can see what he sees.'

"I got astride him and looked, and finally way off through the trees and the branches and leaves, I saw six men riding through the woods on horseback. I took the guns sway from the boys and put the pistol and shotgun under the leaves at my feet. I made the boys separate and hide in the brush at a good distance from me and from each other. I made the dog lie down beside me. Then I waited.

"When the men came near me and were about to pass on looking for me, I hailed them. I told them to stop right where they ware or I'd drop them in their tracks. It was Colonel Troutman and five other of the old men from town out hunting me.

"Colonel Troutman said, 'We just wanted to talk to you, Holloway.'

"I said, 'Stand right where your are and talk.'

"After some talk, I let them come up slowly to a short distance from me. The up shot of the whole thing was that they wanted me to go back to town with them to 'talk' over the matter. They allowed I hadn't done nothin' wrong. But Colonel Troutman's man was hurt bad, and some of the young man in the mob had had their legs broke. And they were all young men from the town, boys that knew me and were friendly to me in the daytime. Still they wanted me to go to town in their charge, and I knew I wouldn't have a chance if I did that. Finally I told Colonel Troutman, that I was going home to see my wife that evening, and that if he wanted to talk to me, he could come over there and talk.

"When they left, I sent the boys along home and told them to tell my wife. That night when I got home, Colonel Troutman was in the house talking to my wife. I went in quietly. He said that they said I had forty Niggers hid in the house that night. I told him that there wasn't anybody there but me and my family, and that all the damage that was done I done myself. He said that, well, he didn't blame me; that even if it was his son, they broke in on me and I had a right to defend my family, and that none of the old heads was going to do anything about it. He said I was a good man and had never given anybody any trouble and that there wasn't any excuse for anybody comin' stirrin' up trouble with me. And that was the end of it.

[Here begins a narrative of a curing ceremony for the spiritual affliction known as "Live Things In You." Note that, as stated above. Mr. Holloway was tri-racial: most hoodoo accounts of "Live Things" seem to have been collected from black people with some Native ancestry; both the condition itself and the curing ceremonies for it can be found in ethnographical works on Native American beliefs. ]

"My wife was sick, down. couldn't do nothin'. Someone got to telling her about Cain Robertson. Cain Robertson was a hoodoo doctor in Georgia. They there wasn't nothin' Cain couldn't do. She says, "Go and see Cain and have him come up here."

"I says, 'There ain't no use to send for Cain. Cain ain't coming up here because they say he is a 'two-head' Nigger (They called all them hoodoo men 'two-head' Niggers; I don't know why they called them two-head) and you know he knows the white folks will put him in jail if he comes to town.

"But she says, 'You go and get him.'

"So I went.

"I left him at the house and when I came back in, he said, 'I looked at your wife and she had one of them spells while I was there. I'm afraid to tackle this thing because she has been poisoned and its been goin' on a long time. And if she dies, they'll say I killed her and they already don't like me and lookin' for an excuse to do somethin' to me.'

"My wife overheard him and says, 'You go on, you got to do somethin'.'

"So he made me go to town and get a pint of corn whiskey. When I brought it back, he drunk a half of it at one gulp, and I started to knock him down. I'd thought he'd get drunk with my wife lying there sick.

"Then he said, 'I'll have to see your wife's stomack.' Then he scratched it, and put three little horns on the place he scratched. Then he took another drink of whiskey and waited about ten minutes. When he took them off her stomack, they were full of blood. He put them in the basin in some water and sprinkled some powder on them, and in about ten minutes more, he made me get them and they were full of clear water and there was a lot of little things that looked like wiggle tails swimming around in it.

"He told me when my wife got well to walk in a certain direction a certain distance and the woman that caused all the trouble would come to my house and start a fuss with me.

"I said, 'Can't you put this same thing back on her?'

"He said, 'Yes, but it would kill my hand.' He meant that he had a curing hand and that if he made anybody sick or killed them, all his power to cure would go from him.

[The term " curing hand" is ambiguous; it could refer to the practitioner's literal hand, from which his healing power flows, but it might just as easily refer to his "hand" -- that is, his mojo bag, or trick bag. To "kill a hand" is the common term for rendering a conjure bag spiritually and magically null and void.]

"I showed the stuff he took out of my wife's stomach to old Doc Matthews and he said, 'You can get anything into a person by putting it in them. He asked me how I found out about it, and how it was taken out, and who did it.

"I told him all about it, and he said, 'I'm going to see that that Nigger practices anywhere in this town he wants to and nobody bothers him.' And he did.

"The young Niggers ain't got as much sense as the old ones had, -- those that were born before the war. One thing, they don't read enough. They don't know history. I can't understand them. Looks like to me they had a mighty good chance; but it looks like the more they get the worse they are. Looks like to me their parents didn't teach them right -- or somethin'. Young ladies -- I look at them every day of my life -- coarse, swearing, running with bootleggers, and running the hoodlums down, smoking, going half-naked, and so on. They don't care what they do or nothing.

"My brother was in Collodiusville, Georgia, the last time I heard from him. That is in Monroe County, or Upton County, -- I don't know what county it's in. I know he is there if he is living because he owns a home there.

"William always lived in Macon but he is deed. Bud, -- I don't know where he is. Milton, Irving, and Zekiel, I don't know whare they are. I used to keep up with them regular. But we ain't written to each other in a long time.

"The last time I heard from Mahala and Laura, their husbands were bricklayers and they were living in Atlanta, I think. They went some other place where there was plenty of work. I think it was to Cleveland, Ohio. There's Josephine, Mandy, and little Mary -- five sisters and seven brothers.

[The name Mahala is quite notable in Cherokee and Melungeon genealogies and very rare otherwise; H. B. Holloway's sister would have been Mahala Holloway before marriage.]

"Outside of William, Crawford, and Milton, I haven't seen none of them since fifty years. I haven't seen Zekiel since the year of the surrender."

This material is reprinted from

UNKNOWN -- presumably Arkansas ex-slave narratives.
Interviewer's name S.S. Taylor.
Any further information would be greatly appreciated.
I am guessing that this came from a collection with a title much like this:

Arkansas Narratives.
Ex-Slave Stories Prepared by the Federal Writers' Project
of the Works Progress Administration
for the State of Arkansas

Another electronic copy can be found at

Aframerindian Slave Narratives

which was the source for this version, which i have edited and annotated.

is copyright © 2004 by catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

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