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‘But Oh Lord, I Likes My Freedom’ – The Short Narrative of Eda Harper

Eda Harper was born a slave in Mississippi. During a short interview with a worker from the Federal Writers Project in 1937, she shared a few of her remembrances. Discussed are her hatred for the song “Dixie,” as well as how she learned of her freedom come the end of the war.

What follows is her own words:

Now what you want with me? I was born in Mississippi. I come here tollerable young. I’se ninety-three now.

My old master was mean to us. We used to watch for him to come in the big gate, then we run and hide. He used to come to the quarters and make us children sing. He made us sing “Dixie.” Sometimes he make us sing half a day. Seems like “Dixie” his main song. I tell you, I don’t like it now. But have mercy! He make us sing it. Seems like all the white folks like “Dixie.” I’se glad when he went away to war.

But they sued to feed you. Heap better meat than you get now. I tell you they had things to eat in them days.

I remember when the soldiers was coming through and running the white folks both ways. Lord, child – you don’t know nothing! We used to hide in the cistern. One time when the Yankees come in a rush, my brother and me hide in the feather bed.

When the war ended, a white man came to the field and tell my mother-in-law she free as he is. She dropped her hoe and dance up to the turn road and dance right up into old master’s parlor. She went so fast a bird could have sat on her dress tail. That was in June. That night she sent and got all the neighbors and they danced all night long.

Book of sheet music from 1892. Published by Charles E. Brown & Co. – Boston.

I never went to school a day in my life. I wish I could read, but there ain’t no use wishing for spilt milk.

How long I been in Arkansas? Let me see how many children I had since I been in Arkansas. Let me see – I got four children with me and I’se the mother of ten.

Yes’m I sure has worked hard. I worked in the field and cooked and washed and ironed. But oh Lord I likes my freedom.

I couldn’t tell you what I think of this present generation. They is just like a horse on the battlefield – white and black. They say ‘Grandma, you just an old fogy.”

To read the original manuscript, please visit this link.

For more information on my own process for handling slave narratives, see this.

Eric
Eric has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, he wrote the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, which published daily for nearly five years. Wishing to continue the exploration, following the Charleston murders in 2015, and the activism around removing the Confederate Battle Flag, he decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.
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