Rose Holman

Rose Holman didn’t mince words when she described her life as a slave to a writer for the Works Progress Administration, a federal program tasked with chronicling the lives of elderly former slaves in the 1930s.
She paints a vivid, yet disturbing picture of what life was like for a young enslaved girl in mid 19th Century America.
“We lived in little log houses dubbed with mud and didn’t have no beds – slept on the ground on pallets. We eat out out of troughs down at Master’s back door and ate with muscle shells for spoons,” she is quoted as saying in thick dialect. (Writers for the WPA commonly quoted ex-slaves in a caricature-like vernacular. The quotes are in Standard English here for clarity and to eliminate the garish exaggerations.)
“My Mama and her sister, Cenie was sold. Mama used to slip back at night and bring us things and the white folks never knowed it. It sure would have went hard with her if they ever caught her.”
Holman, 84 at the time she gave the interview, was born in what was then Choctaw County, now Webster County, in north-central Mississippi. She married Charlie Holman, who took the last name of the family that enslaved him. They had 18 children. She had outlived all but three of them when she gave the WPA interview.

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