First-person accounts of slavery were told through interviews that happened in Horry County in the 1930s through “Born in Slavery,” a part of the Federal Writers’ Project.
Hundreds of narratives were collected from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In Horry County, these interviews were conducted in Brittons Neck, Conway and the Murrells Inlet area, with others being closeby in Georgetown and Marion counties, according to the collection that can be found at the Library of Congress.
Many of the interviewees are referred to as former slaves, and in the 1930s some of those interviewed were 100 years old.
Louisa Gause, who was in her 70s when interviewed on Dec. 2, 1937, in the Brittons Neck area, shared life growing up with her Pa Cudjo, who was a former slave.
“I been born down yonder to old man Wash [Washington] Woodberry’s plantation,” she said. “Pa Cudjo, he been keep my age in de Bible en he tell me dat I come here de first year of freedom. … My mammy, she been drown right down dere in de Pee Dee river, fore I get big enough to make motion en talk what I know. Dat how-come it be dat Pa Cudjo raise me.”
Gause said the water was high, but her mother was determined to cross the river to check on Gause’s grandmother, who had come down with a fever.
Pa Cudjo took Gause and her mother on the boat, but the boat took on water due to the rough conditions. Gause said two men on a boat caught her a ways down the river and brought her back to Pa Cudjo.
“Pa Cudjo say, when he see me, he been so happy, he pray en he cuss,” she remembers. “Say, he thank de Lord for savin me en he thank de devil for lettin me loose.
“Yes, mam, I tell you, I been raise up a motherless child right dere wid Pa Cudjo en I been take de storm many a day,” Gause said. “I say, if you is determine to do through wid a thing, God knows, you can make it.”
Gause recalls stories Pa Cudjo shared about the plantation he lived on and the owner mistreating those who were enslaved. She graphically described the treatment and constant fear.
“Oh, de colored people never had no liberty, not one speck, in slavery time,” she said.
“I tell you, it was rough en though in dem times. Dey would beat you bout to death.
“My grandfather en my grandmother, dey die wid scars on dem dat de white folks put dere.”
During that time, she said those who were enslaved attended church with white people, but could not publicly pray or worship.
“Yes, mam, I been dere to de Old Neck Church many a day,” she said. “In dat day en time, when de preacher would stand up to preach, he would talk to de white folks en de colored folks right dere together. But when de colored people would get converted in dem days, dey never been allowed to praise de Lord wid dey mouth. Had to pray in dey sleeve in dem days.”
Gause said if her Pa Cudjo had been alive during the interview, he would have had many more stories to tell.
“Cose I never come here what dey call a slavery child, but I been hear slavery people speak dey mind plenty times,” Gause said.
Without these first-hand stories, we would not know the grueling struggles – yet strength – of those who former slaves, and all that they overcame.
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