Slaves -- North Carolina -- Biography. Slaves' writings, American -- North Carolina. Why ought slavery be abolished? Because it is incurable injustice. Why is injustice to remain for a single hour? It is not improbable that some of the proper names in the following pages are incorrectly spelled. Could it published, it would make a deep sensation in every quarter. He was compelled to buy his freedom three times over! He has since bought his wife, and one or two of his children; and before going, to England will first go to New Orleans, to purchase some of his other children if he can find them, who are still held in captivity.
His benevolence, affection, kindness of heart, and elasticity of spirit are truly remarkable.
He has a good head, a fine countenance, and a great spirit, notwithstanding his education has been obtained in the horrible school of slavery. Just get him to tell you his narrative, and if you happen to have an Anti-slavery Meeting, let him tell his tale to a British audience. It will be amply sufficient with those who are acquainted with the abolitionists of the United States, for me to name General Fessenden, and Nathan Winslow, Esq. Sewall, Esqs. Being, satisfied, by these indubitable vouchers, of Moses Grandy's title to credit, I listened to his artless tale with entire confidence, and with a feeling of interest which all will participate, who peruse the following pages.
Considering, his Narrative calculated to promote a more extensive knowledge of the workings of American slavery, and that its Page vi sale might contribute to the object which engages so entirely the mind of Moses, namely, the redemption of those who are in bonds, belonging to his family, I resolved to commit it to the press, as nearly as possible in the language of Moses himself. I have carefully abstained from casting in a single reflection or animadversion of my own. I leave the touching story of the self- liberated captive to speak for itself; and the wish of my heart will be gratified, and my humble effort on his behalf be richly rewarded, if this little book be the means of obtaining for my coloured brother the assistance which he seeks, or of increasing the zeal of those who are associated for the purpose of "breaking every yoke, and setting the oppressed free.
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I believe I am fifty-six years old. Slaves seldom know exactly how old they are: neither they nor their masters set down the time of a birth; the slaves, because they are not allowed to write or read; and the masters, because they only care to know what slaves belong to them. The master, Billy Grandy, whose slave I was born, was a hard-drinking man: he sold away many slaves. I remember four sisters and four brothers; my mother had more children, but they were dead or sold away before I can remember.
I was the youngest. I remember Page 8 well my mother often hid us all in the woods, to prevent master selling us. When we wanted water, she sought for it in any hole or puddle formed by falling trees or otherwise: it was often full of tadpoles and insects: she strained it, and gave it round to each of us in the hollow of her hand. After a time the master would send word to her to come in, promising, he would not sell us.
But at length persons came who agreed to give the prices he set on us. His wife, with much to be done, prevailed on him not to sell me; but he sold my brother, who was a little boy. My mother, frantic with grief, resisted their taking her child away: she was beaten and held down : she fainted; and when she came to herself, her boy was gone. She made much outcry, for which the master tied her up to a peach tree in the yard, and flogged her. Another of my brothers was sold to Mr.
Tyler, Dewan's Neck, Pasquotank County; this man very much ill-treated many coloured boys. One very cold day he sent my brother Page 9 out, naked and hungry, to find a yoke of steers: the boy returned without finding them, when his master flogged him, and sent him out again; a white lady who lived near, gave him food, and advised him to try again: he did so, but it seems again without success.
He piled up a heap of leaves, and laid himself down in them, and died there. He was found through a flock of turkey buzzards hovering over him; these birds had pulled his eyes out. My young master and I used to play together; there was but two days' difference in our ages. My old master always said he would give me to him.
When he died, all the coloured people were divided amongst his children, and I fell to young master; his name was James Grandy. I was then about eight years old. When I became old enough to be taken away from my mother and put to field-work, I was hired out for the year, by auction, at the Court House, every January; this is the common practice with respect to slaves belonging to persons who are under age. This continued till my master and myself were twenty-one years old. Kemp, who used me pretty Well; he gave me plenty to eat and sufficient clothing.
The next was old Jemmy Coates, a severe man. Because I could not learn his way of hilling corn, he flogged me naked with a severe whip made of a very tough sapling; this lapped round me at each stroke, the point of it at last entered my belly and broke off; leaving an inch and a-half outside. I was not aware of it until on going to work again it hurt my side very much, when on looking down I saw it sticking, out of my body: I pulled it out and the blood spouted after it.
The wound festered, and discharged very much at the time, and hurt me for years after. In being hired out, sometimes the slave gets a good home, and sometimes a bad one: when he gets a good one, he dreads to see January come; when he has a bad one, the year seems five times as long as it is. I was next with Mr. Enoch Sawyer of Camden county: my business was to keep ferry, and do other odd work.
It was cruel Page 11 living; we had not near enough of either victuals or clothes; I was half-starved for half my time. I have often ground the husks of Indian corn over again in a hand-mill, for the chance of getting something to eat out of it, which the former grinding had left. In severe frosts, I was compelled to go into the fields and woods to work, with my naked feet cracked and bleeding from extreme cold: to warm them, I used to rouse an ox or hog, and stand on the place where it had lain. I was at that place three years, and very long years they seemed to me. The trick by which he kept me so long was this: -- the Court House was but a mile off; on hiring day, he prevented me from going till he went himself and bid for me.
On the last occasion, he was detained for a little while by other business, so I ran as quickly as I could, and got hired before he came up. I had plenty to eat and plenty of clothes. I was so Page 12 overjoyed at the change, that I then thought I would not have left the place to go to heaven. Next year I was hired by Mr. John Micheau of the same county, who married my young mistress, one of the daughters of Mr.
Grandy, and sister to my present owner.
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This master gave us very few clothes, and but little to eat; I was almost naked. One day he came into the field, and asked why no more work was done.
The older people were afraid of him; so I said that the reason was, we were so hungry, we could not work. He went home and told the mistress to give us plenty to eat, and at dinner time we had plenty. We came out shouting for joy, and went to work with delight.
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From that time, we had food enough, and he soon found that he had a great deal more work done. The field was quite alive with the people striving who should do most. He hired me for another year. He was a great gambler; He kept me up five nights together, without sleep night or day, to wait on the gambling table. I was standing in the corner of the room, nodding for want of sleep, Page 13 when he took up the shovel, and beat me with it: he dislocated my shoulder, and sprained my wrist, and broke the shovel over me.
Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy; Late a Slave in the United States of America.
I ran away, and got another person to hire me. This person was Mr. Richard Furley, who after that hired me at the Court House every year, till my master came of age. He gave me a pass to work for myself, ; so I obtained work by the piece where I could, and paid him out of my earnings what we had agreed on; I maintained myself on the rest, and saved what I could.
The Secret Religion of the Slaves
In this way I was not liable to be flogged and ill-used. He paid seventy, eighty, or ninety dollars a year for me, and I paid him twenty or thirty dollars a year more than that. When my master came of age, he took all his coloured people to himself. Seeing that I was industrious and persevering, and had obtained plenty of work, he made me pay him almost twice as much as I had paid Mr. At that time, the English blockaded the Chesapeake, which made it necessary to send merchandize from Norfolk to Elizabeth city by the Grand Canal, so that it might get Page 14 to sea by Pamlico Sound and Ocracock Inlet, I took some canal boats on shares; Mr.
Grice, who married my other young mistress, was the owner of them. I gave him one-half of all I received for freight: out of the other half, I had to victual and man the boats, and all over that expense was my own profit. Some time before this, my brother Benjamin returned from the West Indies, where he had been two years with his master's vessel. I was very glad to hear of it, and got leave to go see him.
While I was sitting with his wife and him, his wife's master came and asked him to fetch a can of water: he did so, and carried it into the store. While I was waiting for him and wondering at his being so long away, I heard the heavy blows of a hammer: after a little while I was alarmed, and went to see what was going on. I looked into the store, and saw my brother lying on his back on the floor, and Mr. Williams, who had bought him, driving staples over his wrists and ankles; an iron bar was afterwards put across his breast, which was also held down by staples.
Page 15 I asked what he had been doing, and was told that he had done nothing amiss, but that his master had failed, and he was sold towards paying the debts. He lay in that state all that night; next day he was taken to jail, and I never saw him again. This is the usual treatment under such circumstances. I had to go by my mother's next morning, but I feared to tell her what had happened to my brother: I got a boy to go and tell her. She was blind and very old, and was living in a little hut, in the woods, after the usual manner of old worn- out slaves: she was unable to go to my brother before he was taken away, and grieved after him greatly.
It was some time after this, that I married a slave belonging to Mr. Enoch Sawyer, who had been so hard a master to me.
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