A Mississippi Slave Narrative Summary
Charlie Davenport reckoned he was 100 years old when he did his interview with the Federal Writers’ Project worker in 1937. He was not sure because “all my white folks is gone”. Slave narratives provide only a glimpse into what life was like for slaves before and after being set free. Mr. Davenport provides details that are believable, but he tells one story that cannot be true.
“I reckon I was ‘ bout fifteen when hones’ Abe Lincoln what called hisse’f a rail-splitter come here to talk wid us. He went all th’ough de country jus’ a-ranti’ an’ a-preachin’ ‘bout us bein’ his black brothers.”
Charlie lived his entire life in Natchez, Miss. and Lincoln did visit Natchez, but it was in 1828. A quick search provides in no indication of Lincoln being in Natchez around 1852 when Charlie would have been about 15 years old.
Mr. Davenport describes his childhood with a mixture of pleasant and terrifying experiences. He was spanked with a stick by the overseer after the overseer’s daughter provoked him and the overseer saw his response. “He trained his pasty-faced gal to tattle on us N — — rs. She got a heap of folks whipped.” This also resulted in him going to the fields at a young age. Like many slave narratives, Charlie describes the overseer in a much worse light than the master.
Charlie’s father joined the Union army during the war and Charlie “stayed on de plantation an’ put in a crop”. He said his father worked harder than slaves on the plantation. He describes a horrifying scene that took place right before the Union army arrived. They were destroying all the cotton supplies, so the Union army did not get the use of it. They set huge piles on fire. A little girl was playing in one before it was lit. It caught fire and by the time she was pulled out she was burned badly. She only lived another five minutes.