Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Priscilla Mitchell

This narrative account is from a collection of slave narratives collected via the Federal Writers Project 1936-38

Priscilla Mitchells account begins with her stating that she 'wuz oney 7 years old when ah wuz 'mancipated'. The fact she says she was 'oney' seven years old seems to indicate that she may have felt as if her offering on what was like as a slave may not be as important as others. 

She was at least 74 at the time of the writers project and this is known because her date of birth (17/3/1858) had been recorded when she was born into a cotton plantation in Macon County Alabama. This is unusual as for so many other accounts age is made guesswork by the lack of records. In regards to the work she did as a child, Priscillas narrative seems to dismiss the severity of the conditions as she states 'I didn't work so hard, ah wuz too young.'

The direction of Priscillas narrative soon become a little unsettling as she recalls 'I wuz my Massys pet'. No, no he wouldn't hurt me'. The fact that decades on Priscilla still uses the phrase 'pet' (which can be seen to connote a state of being less than human) whilst describing the special relationship between her and her master illustrates how in just seven years of life she learnt that being close to the master entailed a better standing. It is ironic that she describes how when she got in trouble with her mother and her mother would 'go to whip me' she relied on this bond with the master as 'he'd take me up and not let my mother git me.' The fact that whipping was also used by slaves to discipline their children for 'wrong doings' illustrates the learnt behaviours slaves picked up through owners admonishing slaves.

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