Abner Jordan, interviewed by Daisy Whaley at his home in Durham County, North Carolina, WPA Slave Narrative Project, North Carolina Narratives, Volume 11 Part 2, Federal Writers' Project, United States Work Projects Administration (USWPA); Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Accessed via Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936–1938, American Memory, Library of Congress.
Abner Jordan, Ex-slave, 95 years.
"I wus bawn about 1832 an' I wus bawn at Staggsville, Marse paul Cameron's place. I belonged to Marse Paul. My pappy's name wus Obed an' my mammy wus Ella Jordan an' dey wus thirteen chillun on our family.
It sounds like Jordan worked in close proximity to members of the Cameron family. Mr. Jordan apparently played with Bennehan Cameron, the son of the plantation owner. Children born into slavery were generally not put to work until they were large enough to contribute to the plantation economy. As a result, they were somewhat insulated from the realities of slavery and often played with white children on the plantation where they lived, eventually learning the roles that they would be expected to play as adults.. I waited on him. Young Mrse Benny run away an' 'listed in de war, but Marse Paul done went an' brung him back kaze he wus too young to go and fight de Yankees.
Mr. Jordan says that Paul Cameron had five thousand slaves. Very few plantations, however, had anywhere near that many slaves — only about a quarter of white Southerners owned slaves, and only 12 percent of slaveholders owned more than twenty slaves. According to Peter Kolchin's American Slavery, 1619-1877, just 0.6 percent of slaves in the upper South were held in groups of more than 199. (Kolchin, p. 243.) So we know that Mr. Jordan's experience, while it was an experience shared by many slaves who lived on large plantations, was exceptional in some ways.. When he meet dem in de road he wouldn' know dem an' when he ased dem who dey wus an' who dey belonged to, dey' tell him dey belonged to Marse Paul Cameron an' den he would say dat wus all right for dem to go right on.
We know that Mr. Jordan's father was a skilled craftsman and a foreman, which probably gave him a special position on the plantation. Slave artisans often worked more closely with whites and sometimes were permitted to earn money by taking on freelance work in the surrounding community. Their work was challenging, but they were often spared the hard, physical, sunup to sundown labor of field hands. Because they worked in close proximity to whites, they may have received some advantages such as access to better food and clothing and personal favors of their masters, but they could also be watched more closely and, being in constant contact with whites, they could also bear the brunt of the master's anger or frustration. After emancipation, these skilled laborers had the advantage of knowing a valuable trade that they could continue to practice as free men and women.. Dey couldn' leave de plantation without Marse say dey could.
definitionWhen de war come de Yankees come to de house an' axed my mammy whare de folks done hid de silver an' gol', an' dey say dey gwine to kill mammy if she didn' tell dem. But mammy say she didn' know whare dey put it, an' dey would jus' have to kill her for she didn' know an' wouldn' lie to keep dem from hurting her.
De sojers stole seven or eight of de ho'ses an' foun' de meat an' stole dat, but dey didn' burn none off de buildin's nor hurt any of us slaves.
My pappy an' his family stayed wid Marse Paul five years after de surrender den we moved to Hillsboro an' I's always lived 'roun' dese parts. We know that Mr. Jordan never left the South and remained near to the plantation where he lived as a child. As a result, we know that he must have experienced life under the racism of Jim Crow.. North Carolina is good enough for me."