CHILDRESS-L ArchivesArchiver > CHILDRESS > 2000-07 > 0964256168
From: "Childress" <>
Subject: [Childress Research] Slave Narrative Part 5, Millie Manuel
Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2000 01:56:08 -0700
Slave Narrative of Millie Manuel
State: Texas Interviewee: Manuel, Millie
Millie Manuel is an old ex-slave who "would rather trust a rattler than a
white man" and who believes that "the Good Shepherd will give the best white
man a heaben that is hotter than the worstest nigger's hell." She was born a
slave on a ranch "borderin' the Salado, a pace out of San Antonio." Her
parents were slaves and also the property of "some folks named Childers."
Judging from her appearance and events within the scope of her memory, she
is about ninety years old.
Hearing of Millie Manuel's vow never to speak to a white man, "dis side or
de t'other of de Judgment Gate," a research worker felt none too sanguine in
calling on her at the Cactus Cafe, a Negro saloon and restaurant. The saloon
was crowded with customers celebrating the knock-out of Braddock by the new
world champion, Joe Lewis, and the interviewer would have postponed his call
had he not secured a glimpse of Millie.
She was the embodiment of peace, frail and thin with a kind expression on
her wrinkled old face. She sat against the far wall of the room with her
hands serenely folded in her lap. A vacant chair was beside her, and the
caller slid into it and spoke:
"Millie, I have been told that you had a lovely voice when you were a girl,
and I wonder if you will be kind enough to tell ..."
"Who dun tol' yo'? I don't believe nobody tol' yo'! You get away from me
Her voice was angry and very loud. Instantly a whole room full of brown eyes
were focused on Millie -- Millie, who had broken her vow and was talking to
a white man.
Then there was a rush forward to Millie's defense, with the bar-keep and the
colored woman's daughter elbowing their way through a gathering black
semicircle. Much explaining was necessary on the part of the interviewer,
and it was some little time before Millie, under protest, let fall a few
scattering bits of information:
She was born on the Salado Creek "a pace (six miles) out of San Antone"; her
masters, "the Childers," owned three slaves, herself and her mother and
father, and she was "whipped all of de time."
"What do you mean -- spanked?"
"Spanked nothin'! I got beat most to death. I got put up again' a post and
layed onto with a cowhide the size of dat." She made a two inch circle with
her thumb and finger. "Many's the time I drops -- I thought I was dead."
"Why did they whip you?"
"Jes 'cose they could, I guess. They're all dead now and I's a-livin' and
waitin' for Glory; and when I go I won't be seein' any of them. And the Lord
has spared me and he didn't spare them - They is gone where the Good Shepard
has sent them to be slaves for the devil ...
"Christmas and biscuits? We never had any. We didn't have food of no
account -- no meat or nothin', just milk, and we would get a-hold of a egg
once in a while. Us and the hogs got what milk they couldn't eat. We never
had nothin' that was happy."
"Do you remember what kind of houses you lived in?"
"Sure. We had timber rail house. No beds in it. We slep' on the floor on a
pallet. We didn't have no chair and we didn't have no mirror. I didn't knowd
what I looked like 'til I was free."
"What did you think when you first saw yourself in a mirror? Were you
surprised to learn what you looked like?"
"Yes, sir, I was right well surprised," said Millie, with coy embarrassment.
"Did anybody beside yourself discover you were nice to look at, Millie?"
"I 'spose they did," she tittered. "James Manuel. I's married him. He was a
soldier. He was out on the frontier. He was under Major Davis and Major
Compton and Major Geedes. I visits him at Fort Stockton and at Fort Davis.
After a little bit, he comes back to San Antonio and gets a job with the
"No, sir, I don' 'member any songs. But I used to do a right smart bit of
singing, but not till I gets free. Then we used to sing. We didn't have no
church. We would gather at one anothers' houses and pray and sing. All
night, sometimes, we would pray and sing...
"Clothes? What you mean? When we got free? ... Oh we didn't have no clothes
before we got free, except what my mother makes on a loom out of cotton. I
didn't knowd what shoes was on my own feet. I used to see white chillens
with shoes and stockings and I wanted shoes and stockings. I 'members I got
a pair of shoes and stockings when I was free. They was give to me. They was
new, the stockings was."
"Who gave them to you Millie, a white or a black?"
"Yes," admitted Millie reluctantly, "a white. Some whites is good maybe."
And then Millie added with an heroic effort to be just, "Some of the time
white chillens was kind to me."
Millie was softening, and the interviewer thought that it was a proper time
to approach the subject of having her pose for a photograph.
"What!" she called angrily, "me get my picture taken and get arrested? No, I
won't have no picture taken ... No, I don't care what yo' say. I wouldn't
trust a white man no more than a rattler. I was given unto suffer. I got
betrayed. And I aint goin' to trust yo' to take my picture, or no white
And so the interview came to an end without a photograph and without a "good
bye" or "call again" from Millie Manuel.
|[Childress Research] Slave Narrative Part 5, Millie Manuel by "Childress" <>|