Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery

By B. A. Botkin | Go to book overview

PART FOUR
A War among the White Folks

The white folks went off to the war. They said they could whup, but the Lord said, "No," and they didn't whup. They went off laughing, and many were soon crying, and many did not come back. The Yankees come through. They took what they wanted, killed the stock, stole the horses, poured out the 'lasses, and cut up a lot of meanness. But most of 'em is dead and gone now. No matter whether they were Southern white folks or Northern white folks, they is dead now.

For the slave, time was divided into "before the war" and "after the war." The "Freedom War" was preluded by strange portents—falling stars, a "great comet," and the "elements all red as blood." These signs of coming doom fitted into the pattern of a divine punishment visited upon the South for the sins of slavery. "I often think that the system of paterollers and bloodhounds did more to bring on the war and the wrath of the Lord than anything else."

Besides the signs in the heavens, there were other indications that slavery was dying and that in the final death agony many thousands on both sides would "wade knee deep in blood and die first." The South itself was divided. Some were for humanizing slavery; others wanted it abolished, like the Reverend Dickey, who was expelled from the church and forced to leave the state for preaching freedom for the slaves. Another preacher, a Baptist, had "been taught that it was all right to have slaves and treat them like he want to, but he been taught it was sinful to go fight and kill to keep them, and he lived up to what he been taught." Miss Lucy's boy "lay out in the woods all time. He say no need in him gitting shot up and killed. He say let the slaves be free."

Similarly, the slaves were divided in their attitude toward the Yankees. Some, in their ignorance and credulousness, had been deceived and intimidated (under threat of punishment or death for giving aid and comfort to the enemy) into fearing the invaders as devils and oppressors, with horns on their head and one eye in the middle of their forehead. Most of the slaves, however, welcomed

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Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Lay My Burden Down - A Folk History of Slavery *
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Table of Contents xv
  • Part One - Mother Wit 1
  • Part Two - Long Remembrance 59
  • Part Three - From Can to Can'T 137
  • Part Four - A War among the White Folks 191
  • Part Five - All I Know about Freedom 221
  • List of Informants and Interviewers 271
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