O, it was a sad day for me when I was to leave my mother in old Virginia. My mother used to take her children to church every Sunday. But when I came to Louisiana I did not go to church any more. Every body was Catholic where I lived, and I had never seen that sort of religion that has people praying on beads. That was all strange to me.
The older I got the more I thought of my mother's Virginia religion. Sometimes when I was away off in the cane-field at work it seemed I could hear my mother singing the 'Old Ship of Zion. I had plenty to do. Old mistress would make me help in the kitchen on Sundays when I had nothing else to do. Mistress was Catholic, and her church was a good ways off, and she did not go often to church. In rolling season we all worked Sunday and Monday grinding cane. Old marster did not care for Sunday; he made all of us work hard on Sunday as well as any other day when he was pushed up.
In Virginia every body rested and would go to church on Sunday, and it was strange to see every body working on Sunday here. O, how I used to wish to hear some of the old Virginia hymns! He used to sing, 'O where are the Hebrew children? Safe in the promised land. I did not have any body to tell me any thing about repentance, but I always prayed, and the more I would pray the better I would feel. I never would fail to say my prayers, and I just thought if I could get back to my old Virginia home to hear some of my mother's old-time praises it would do my soul good.
But, poor me! I could never go back to my old Virginia home.
American Slaves Tell Their Stories by Octavia V. Rogers Albert - Read Online
She was sold to a man near my marster's plantation. I heard of it, and, thinks I, 'That might be some of my kinsfolks, or somebody that knew my mother. My white folks did not want the 'niggers' to go off on Sundays; but anyhow my old marster let me go sometimes after dinner on Sunday evenings.
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So I went to see who the woman was, and I tell you, my child, when I got in the road going I could not go fast enough, for it just seemed to me that the woman was one of my folks. I walked a while and would run a while. By and by I got there. As I went in the gate I met a man, and I asked him what was the woman's name; he said her name was Jane Lee. I went around to the quarters where all the black people lived, and I found her. I went up to her and said, 'Howdy do, Aunt Jane? I just been out here four years. I am so glad to see you, Aunt Jane. Where did you come from in Virginia?
I have left all of my people in Virginia. Me and Aunt Jane talked and cried that Sunday evening till nearly dark. Aunt Jane said she left her children, and it almost killed her to ever think of them.
She said one was only five years old. Her old marster got in debt, and he sold her to pay his debts. I told her I had left all of my people too, and that I was a poor lone creature to myself when I first came out from Virginia. Aunt Jane asked me did the people have churches here. I told her no; that I had not been in a church since I came here. She had religion, and she was as good a woman as you ever saw. She could read the Bible, and could sing so many pretty hymns. Aunt Jane said it seemed to her she was lost because she could not go to church and hear preaching and singing like she used to hear in Virginia.
She said people didn't care for Sunday in Louisiana.
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I stayed with her till evening. I was afraid old marster would not let me go to see Aunt Jane any more, and when I got in the road, I tell you I did not lose any time. It was dark when I left Aunt Jane; but before I left her house she prayed and sang, and it made me feel glad to hear her pray and sing. It made me think of my old Virginia home and my mother. She sang,.
The Last Slave
All next week it seemed to me I could hear the old Virginia hymn Aunt Jane sung for me that Sunday evening when I was working in the cane-field. But two or three months after that I got a chance to go to see her again. Old marster let me go and stay all day that Sunday. He said we all had made such a good year's work, and he was mighty well pleased with us. But he was not always glad and pleased with us. Sometimes he would get mad about something going wrong on the place, and he would beat every one of us and lock us up in the jail he made for us.
The next time I went to see Aunt Jane we had another happy time. She could read right good in the Bible and hymn-book, and she would read to me one or two hymns at a time. I remember she read to me about Daniel in the lions' den, and about the king having the three Hebrew children cast in the fiery furnace, and when he looked in the flames of fire he saw four men, and one looked like the Son of God.
O, how Aunt Jane used to love to read about the Hebrew children! Aunt Jane's marster would let her come to see me sometimes, but not often. Sometimes she would slip away from her place at night and come to see me anyhow. She would hold prayer-meeting in my house whenever she would come to see me.
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One time, I remember, we all were having a prayer-meeting in my cabin, and marster came up to the door and hollered out, ' You, Charlotte , what's all that fuss in there? I was so afraid old marster would see Aunt Jane. I knew Aunt Jane would have to suffer if her white people knew she was off at night. Marster used to say God was tired of us all hollering to him at night.
I tell you we used to have some good times together praying and singing. He did not want us to pray, but we would have our little prayer-meeting anyhow. Sometimes when we met to hold our meetings we would put a big wash-tub full of water in the middle of the floor to catch the sound of our voices when we sung. When we all sung we would march around and shake each other's hands, and we would sing easy and low, so marster could not hear us. O, how happy I used to be in those meetings, although I was a slave!
I thank the Lord Aunt Jane Lee lived by me.
source She helped me to make my peace with the Lord. O, the day I was converted! It seemed to me it was a paradise here below! It looked like I wanted nothing any more. African Americans tried to take the advantage of establishing homes and jobs in the cities. During the early s free blacks took several steps to establish fulfilling work lives in urban areas. These owners considered whites to be more reliable and educable. This resulted in many blacks performing unskilled labor. Black men worked as stevedores , construction worker , and as cellar-, well- and grave-diggers.
As for black women workers, they worked as servants for white families. Some women were also cooks, seamstresses, basket-makers, midwives, teachers and nurses. Some cities had independent black seamstresses, cooks, basketmakers, confectioners and more. While the African Americans left the thought of slavery behind, they made a priority to reunite with their family and friends. The cause of the Revolutionary War forced many blacks to migrate to the west afterwards, and the scourge of poverty created much difficulty with housing. African Americans competed with the Irish and Germans in jobs and had to share space with them.
While the majority of free blacks lived in poverty, some were able to establish successful businesses that catered to the Black community. Racial discrimination often meant that Blacks were not welcome or would be mistreated in White businesses and other establishments. To counter this, Blacks like James Forten developed their own communities with Black-owned businesses. Black doctors, lawyers and other businessmen were the foundation of the Black middle class. Blacks organized to help strengthen the Black community and continue the fight against slavery.