Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery



Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery

This edition

"Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery" . Ed. Benjamin A. Botkin. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1945. xxi+285 pp.

Other editions, reprints, and translations

• Repr. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1958. xxi+297 pp. ("Sixth impression 1965")
• "Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery". Ed. Benjamin A. Botkin. Foreword Jerrold Hirsch. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1989. xl+297 pp.
• "Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery". Ed. Benjamin A. Botkin. Foreword Jerrold Hirsch. New York: Delta, 1994. xxxiv+317 pp.

Table of contents

I. Mother Wit : 1. Fooling master and catching John : Fooling master ; Catching John ; IT was a possum a while ago ; Pig-ooie, pig ; Malitis ; The boots that wouldn't come off ; I come to tell them I couldn't come ; Master pumpkin ; What the pass said ; Polly parrot ; The terrapin that could talk ; Turn the tray around ; I come from above, where all is love ; Laying down and getting up ; Cussing master ; Joke: putting hand under old mistress' dress -- 2.Tall tales and tall talk : The promised land ; Big corn ; They were men in those days ; Set-down hogs ; Bad man yell -- 3. How come : Why the boll weevil came ; The brown bear and the pickaninny ; Nicodemus and the sycamore tree ; Why partridges can't fly over trees ;The sheep and the goats ; The coon and the dog ; You just can't get away from what the Lord said -- 4. Lincoln and others : Where Lincoln wrote his name ; When Lincoln came down to free us ; Maybe Mr. Lincoln ain't so bad ; What Frederick Douglass said ; Steve Renfroe ; Sam Bass -- 5. Birds and beasts : I'm being took ; Breaking the balk ; The partridge and the fox ; The tortoise and the rabbit ; Fatal imitation ; Barnyard talk ; What the fowl said ; What the birds said ; What the hounds said -- 6. Pastor and flock : What the preacher said ; God got a clean kitchen to put you in ; Two ways of preaching the gospel ; Every kind of fish is caught in a net ; They'd pray ; Master Frank has come through ; Damn poor preacher ; Boots or no boots ; Methodist dogs and Baptist dogs -- 7. The power : A pocket full of conjure things ; Old Bab, the conjure man ; Hoodoo ; The conjure that didn't work ; Cured by prayer ; I know it was a sign ; He is a good god ; The power -- 8. Hants : Blow, Gabriel, blow ; Josh and the lord ; But it was a fast mule ; The phantom rider ; Josh, blow your horn ; Old Joe is over there getting 'simmons and chopping wood ; Renfroe's tree ; The hants of Baskin Lake ; Alex comes home ; But she was afraid ; Ghost talk ; Marse Glenn's money ; The shining shovel ; The petrified man -- 9. Anecdotes :The rooster test ; The stolen colt ; The peddler and the pony ; Hopping John ; The Lord had called him to preach ; The Lord tells me when it's right ; If you do, they will kill me ; Bosom and no shirt ; Master sure made a mess of things that time ; No more hangings ; Losing the baby ; Just like it was her own ; Coldy ; The quilts that pinched ; Indians don't tell ; She prayed for freedom ; The son who married his mother ; But I can kill you ; A barrel of molasses ; Buzzard roost ; Jigging contest ; Snipe hunting ; Red flannel ; Train going to Africa ; Asking our age ; Telling them off --
II. Long remembrance : Millie Evans: north Carolina ; Lee Guidon: South Carolina ; Tines Kendricks: Georgia ;Ben Simpson: Georgia and Texas ;Mariah Robinson: Georgia and Texas ; Nicey Kinney: Georgia ;Cato - : Alabama ;Jenny Proctor: Alabama ; Allen V. Manning: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas ; Joana Draper: Mississippi ; Katie Rowe: Arkansas ; Charley Williams: Louisiana ; Mary Reynolds: Louisiana ; Ellen Betts: Louisiana ; Mary Grayson: Indian Territory -- III. From can to can't : 1. Count the stars through the cracks : A pretty crop of children, I and II ; Old Mistress' Pet ; Turkey buzzard laid me ; Old hog round the bench ; Don't let the sun go down on you ; I didn't know what "sell" meant ; Fanning the flies ; Riding old John backwards ; Barbecue and big meeting ; If all slaves had belonged to white folks like ours ; How to tell the Davis from the Bethea Negroes ; I was her favorite child ; I sometimes wish I could be back on the old place -- 2. Going high, going slow : two sellings that day ; Old man Denman said not to fret ; She never got to keep her babies ; Diana and her baby ; Eliza and the man from New York ; I don't believe in slave traffic ; Foundling ; Stolen and sold, I and II ; He sold him over and over ; Old pinchback ; Rose and Rufus -- 3. Praying to the right man : The lord ruled heaven, but Jim Smith ruled the earth ; He stomped on the body ; We laughed at his funeral ; I said I was glad she was dead ; If I were you and you were me ; The chain and the bell ; Why master had such a mean man working for him ; Ordeal by planting ; Filling a barrel with thimble ; Poor white-trash paterollers ; They think too high of themselves ; The last time I saw master ; How that suit you? ; I'll whip you with chicken stew ; He didn't allow nobody to hit them a lick ; He gloried in their spunk ; When I got back to master Haley ; I'd rather see those marks on my own shoulders -- 4. The slave's chance : She rode off on a cow ; Little Joe made a song ; No overseer ever downed her ; She chopped this man to a bloody death ; She pulled up the stump ; No more overseers after that, I and II ; The red-bone hound ; A white man's chance ; Gone to the woods ; They lived in a cave seven years ; Uncle Isom ; Guinea Jim ; Jane had big ideas ; They didn't get Lucy or her quarter ; Why Aunt Adeline hung herself ; Buy yourself free ; He bought himself ; The bell and the light ; Bird in the air ; Saved -- IV. A war among the white folks :1. They made us sing "Dixie" :Back before breakfast, I and II ; You can get yourn here ; Leonard Allen ; The crack in the wall ; A wonderful consideration ; I wished I never run off ; We were confederates -- 2. We've come to set you free : Blue veins on their bellies ; Yankees have horns ; Father did a bold thing ; When daddy locked master in the smokehouse ; Apples for the Yankees, stock for the master ; Mother and the Yankee soldier ; All right in their place ; Miss Mary's feather bed ; Sherman's men, I and II ; Aggravating the Yankees ; Such a good time ; The Yankees hung master twice ; Why didn't you bring the meat with you? ; She cooked for the Yankees ; Those white folks had to run away ; How father got his money ; Grandma and the Yankee soldiers ; I just said that to the wrong person ; We're fighting to free you, I, II, III, and IV ; Praise to the Yankees ; The prettiest sight I ever saw ; I love the Yankee --
V. All I know about freedom : 1. How freedom came : Like freedom was a place ; From bloody flag to white ; They got what they expected ; He cleaned his guns on my dress tail ; You better hush ; They learned better ; Yes'm ; Freedom of peaches ; They threw their sticks away ; They danced all night ; There ain't no ants biting her today ; It's not recorded ; They told the Yankees "yes" He made us work several months after that ; Drums of freedom ; Papa went off -- 2. The breaking-up and after : They knew what he meant ; Over half of them were gone ; When Christmas came ; What's mine is mine ; You all go on away ; The devil and hell ; She ain't got us back yet ; Old mistress kept the cotton ; All bent over ; Master lived a week or two ; He took the smallpox ; He cussed till he died ; Master gets worse ; The news killed her dead ; You got to look after me ; Death of a plantation, I and II ; He couldn't help crying ; I feel like I am theirs ; Freedom wasn't no difference ; Bang! ; Close measuring ; We have white folks' eats ; He sold his five boys ; They just expected freedom ; Then came the calm ; I got along hard after I was freed ; Reconstruction was a mighty hard pull ; Who was freed by the war? ; Freedmen's bureau ; I got my money, too ; After freedom ; That was my freedom ; Toby and Govie ; Running away ; Peonage, I and II ; Carrying on with free labor ; How we got away from old man bias ; He was poor and he hated negroes ; Devils and good people walked the road -- 3. The equalization war : Jordan had a hard time ; Ku Klux, I , II, and III ; Your old house ain't no good ; Praying Jim Jesus ; The doctor's "grave" Get rid of the grass ; Ku Klux and carpetbaggers ; End of the Ku Kluxes ; They kept the negroes from voting ; Vote as I damn please ; My daddy was in office -- 4. I take freedom : It's this way ; Anybody who says that is telling a lie ; A better day ; That's how I feel ; You can't blame them for this ; More his own say ; Poor folk - white and black ; I hope to see a million years to come.

Reviews and notices of anthology

• n/a

Commentary on anthology

• "a sampling of the riches of the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers' Project" (Kinnamon 1997: 480).
• "In the 1930's, the last decade when many men and women who were born under slavery and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.still lived, the New Deal's Federal Writing Project made an extraordinary and important decision. It sent interviewers to ask these African-American survivors : What does it mean to be free? Even more, how does it feel? "Does I remember much 'bout slavery times? Well, there is no way for me to disremember unless I die." B.A. Botkin compiled nearly three hundred of these narratives to create a rich, unvarnished portrait of lives lived half slave, half free. In it, people who experienced the seasonal rhythms of plantation life . . .who were eyewitnesses to Lincoln, Douglas, and Tubman . . .who had their conciousness shaped by bondage . . .and who felt the anguish of the lash have their memories brought to life again. Their voices reach out across the decades and teach us what they know -- our history and our legacy in their telling of an indelible truth." (WorldCat, 1989 ed.)

Cited in

Kinnamon 1997: 480]

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