I tells ya right off... I is a Slave... but some day I be free!!!
I lives in Kentucky. I was born here and now I am grow'd. I pick cotton with others from day til night. I don't pick as much as I used to. Master says I'm gettin' old. He's gonna sells me. Says he be lucky if'in he can gets 25 dollars for me. I can tell by the sound of his voice that aint a lot. He's gonna sells my man too and keeps ma children. I won't sees them ever again. I'm sad to leave them... I don't even git to say good-bye.
Master lines a bunch of us up and a white man comes to sees us. I stands with my eyes to the ground. I don't says a word. The man bickers with my master and then pays him 35 dollars each for us and we is pushed into a wagon. I looks at my man he has his eyes to the floor too. He is an old man with wrinkles and weary bones. I don't knows if we be together when we is sold. He looks at me and gives me a crooked smile then looks back at the floor.
A long time later we is all dusty and afraid. We don't know whats to expect. This is the first time away from my masters' plantation and I don't want to be here. Master was pretty good to us. I had a shack, my man, my children, food, water... I was safe there. We was lucky. I've heard tell of other slave masters' that aint so nice. I shiver at the tales I has heard. All I can hope and pray is that my new master keeps my man and me together.
The wagon stops and we is all lined up against a fence at the end of a long road leading to a house. It is a hot day and the sun hurts my eyes. I keeps my head down when the white man is near. I don't want no beating. He yells at us to keeps our heads down. He tells us all we are dirty scum. He lines the men on one side and us women on the other. I can't see my mans. He is at the end. The white man is looking at him and telling him he is worthless. He aint worthless... he's just a little old likes me. The man walks down the line and says something bad about everyone he sees. He gets to me and he sees I aint young. No more birthin' in me. He says I will probably work in the field tils I dies.
The white man tells us we has been sold to a wealthy man. I thinks to myself... "What makes someone wealthy?"
We is allowed to clean ourselves to look good for our new master. I looks for my man. I gives him a smile. The white man is met by another white man. I hears them talkin'. They shakes hands and introduce themselves. The other white man’s name is George. The white mans who drove us here says he is called John. He says he has not met the wealthy man so's he don't know what the wealthy man looks like. He says he was told to buy some slaves for his plantation and he will collects his fee when we is delivered. He says he is gonna try and gets 75 dollars each for us.
The two men push us into a tent. There is an old black lady there and she tells us to do as the new master says and we won't be whipped. The new master comes in the tent. He is tall and skinny. He wears a suit of fine cloth and a tall hat on his head. The white man, John, makes us gets up on a box and turns around to show ourselves to the new master. He says we aint worth much. John says we is worth more than 75 dollars a piece. Says we still has lots of good years in us to work the field. Our new master says he will pay 100 dollars each for us and not a penny more. John agrees, they shakes hands and tells new master he will meet him up at the house and theys can have a drink and he can collects his payment. The new master agrees.
John leaves the tent all excited over the sale. He is smiling and talking to George as the two men makes it into the house.
New master looks at us. He tells us we aint gonna be slaves no more. I don't know whats to think. This must be a trick. He says we is gonna be free! I don't know what free is, but if it means I don't have to work the cotton fields no more then I want to be free. He says he is not our new master.... says the new master is being held up in town. New master will be here soon so we must all leave quickly. The old woman says she will stay. No one will think she had anything to do with the escapes.
We are all lead quickly down the road. We meets up with a black man. He says his name is Joseph. He tells us some secrets and about an underground railroad. He says we is to be careful who we talks to. Only speak to the "conductor." Says we is all goin' ta "Heaven." Heaven is Canada and way up north to freedom. There is no slaves in Canada. All people is free no matter what color their skin. I like the sound of Canada. We is on our ways ta Heaven.
We walk for days n days. I is all muddy and cold. We eats berries and I even kills me a squirrel for me and my mans to eat. He is not well. My mans may not make it to Heaven. I pays attention to our lessons. We is taught how to find north by looking for moss on dead trees. "Moss grows on the north side of a dead tree." I'll remember that. We also follow the river north. We sings a song as we go.
Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children,
Wade in the water
God's a-going to trouble the water.