The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 9

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 9

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 9

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 9


Josephine Ryles, known to the colored folks around her home at 3505 Avenue I as "Mama Honey", was born a slave in Galveston, Texas. Her mother, Mary Alexander, was the only slave of James Sultry, early Galveston insurance agent. Later they were sold to Tom Snow of Polk County, Texa , and lived there until freed by the Civil War. After e war they returned to Galveston.

"Sure, I'm Josephine Ryles. Only everyone 'round here calls me 'Mama Honey' an' I 'most forgot my name 'til you said it jus' den. Honey, I be glad to tell you all I 'member 'bout slavery but it ain't much for my mind ain't so good no more. Sometime I can't 'Member nothin' at all. I'm too old. I was born in slavery but I don' know when. Me an' dat Gulf got here 'bout de same time I reckon.

Yes'm, I was born in Galveston. James Sultry own us--dat is, he own my mother. She was de only one he had. He had a kind of big place on Church Street. My mother did de house work an' cookin' an' things like dat 'til she was sold in de country. "I wish you could of talk to my mother. She know all 'bout slavery. She come from Nashville, Tennessee, befo' she was sold to Mobile, Alabama, an' den to Texas. Her name was Mary Alexander. My father was name Matt Williams. Mr. Schwoebel own him. He use to belong to Mr. Sultry befo' he sol' him to Mr. Schwoebel in de day time an' come back to his family at Mr. Sultry's at night.

people an' my li'l brother, Charlie Evans, was a water toter in de fields. Don' you know what dat is? He bring a bucket of water 'bout de fields an' give de hands a drink. Jus' a water boy, I guess you call it. Dat was all he did but it kept him busy in de hot weather.

"Plenty of times people run 'way out of de fields. Dey use to work awful hard an' de sun was awful hot, so dey jus' run 'way. De only place dey could go to was de woods an' dey use to hide dere.

Mr. Snow use to keep 'Nigger dogs' to hunt 'em with. Dey was de kind of dogs dat has de big ears. I don' know 'bout 'em. Dey was so bad I never fool 'round 'em. Mr. Snow use to keep 'em chained up 'til one of de field hands run 'way. Den he turn 'em loose to git de scent. Dey kep' on 'til dey found him, an' sometimes dey hurt him. I 'member hearin' dem talk 'bout how dey tore de meat off one of de field hands when dey found him. I was 'fraid of 'em. I never went 'round 'em even when dey was chain.

"Mr. Snow use to whip de fields hands when dey caught 'em from runnin' 'way. I never seen no whippin's an' I don' want to. But mostly dey was 'fraid of de dogs.

"Yes'm, I hear some of 'em say somethin' 'bout jumpin' over de broom an' bein' married dat way, but it ain' true. No'm, dat's jus' a story. I seen a lot of marriages, an' dey was married regular. Dey use to call you in de church an' say matrimony over . . .

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