Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Annie Mae Hunt was a steadfast woman who said: ‘I don’t want no man telling me nothin’

I first met Annie Mae Hunt in 1987 when I asked her to sign a copy of her book “I Am Annie Mae”, co-written and edited by Texas historian Ruthe Wingarten. In the book Annie Mae chronicles her life, her parents, grandparents and their lives as slaves. I have selected a few chapters in her book that tells something about the high spirited woman who calls herself Annie Mae.  At the end of the book, Annie Mae, age 68, declares that any man who comes into her life will have to do everything for himself. “I been loose so long till I been set in my ways that I couldn’t do it no more. I just likes to be out. I want to go and come when I get ready. I don’t know man to tell me nothing. I don’t want no man no more.” 

Chapter 1: 

Grandmother remember very well the day the sold her mother

'I Am Annie Mae'
I am Annie Mae Hunt. My name now is Hunt. And my first three children don’t want me to lose “Prosper,” so I kept it. But really my name should be Annie Mae McDade. That’s what I was born. That’s my daddy’s name, George McDade. Annie Mae McDade Prosper Hunt, that’s what is really is.

I were born in 1909 in Washington County on Mill Creek Road, 13 miles out from Brenham near Wesley. I were reared there until I was eight, when my mother moved to Dallas. Five or six years later, it was Depression time and we moved to Navasota, on a plantation where we met a little tragedy. And from then on we went back to Brenham where my grandmother was. 

Well, when I was born, my grandmother was over 60-somthing, 62, 63 years old. But she lived to be 101 years old. And she died in 1947 when I was pregnant with Othella. My grandmother was a very wonderful woman. She told me many a stories about herself and slavery. She was born in South Carolina and her white people was Boozies, and I understand that some of them white people live there now. But she left there, and came to Mt. Pleasant in Texas. When my grandma was moved down to Brenham, Texas in Washington County, I know it was after slavery. Now I don’t know they got down in Washington County. I never could understand how they got there from Mt. Pleasant. At that time it was a long way. But Washington County is where I was born, my mother and them was born and raised there, too. 

My grandmother’s name was Matilda, Matilda Boozie, cause her white people was Boozies, so she was a Boozie. Cause when you were sold, you took whoever bought you, their name. Like, if George Washington bought you, then you were Annie Washington. Her name was Matilda Boozie, but they called her Tildy.

My grandmother was known as a house girl. That means you worked in the house with Old Mistress and they liked you, and you had more than anybody else . . . you had more than any other black slaves. There was another slave named Calvin, was her age. She always slipped him food and stuff.

My grandmother always said she remembered very well the day they sold her mother. I don’t know how old she was, but she was able to work, she was in the house with Old Mistress. And grandmother cried and cried, and Old Mistress hugged her and told her ‘Don’t worry, Tildy. I’ll take care of you.” And she did. She took care of her.

‘Don’t worry, Tildy, I’ll take care of you.’ That’s all Grandma knew. She had sisters and a brother, and she never heard from them no more. When I got to be a grown woman and had all these children, there was a lady lived down in Fayeyetteville, Texas, near where we were, who had the same name that Grandma had, come from there same place—South Carolina. I was my boyfriend’s grandmother. And my grandmother and his grandmother looked just alike. But by them being sold, it was hard for Grandma to go see about her. She always said, ‘I’m going down there and talk to Mrs. Dobb’s mother. But she never did. 

Chapter 2: 

Preachers and paddy rollers—something to control the slaves

My grandmother say when she was growing up during slavery time, they had preachers. The white people would get black men that had a speech, that could talk. Some peoples are born with a speech. If you ain’t got a speech when you’re young, you don’t have none no way.

Well, the white men would put those black men with a speech in a long-tailed coat, white shirt, and black tie, and tell them what to preach about. And those preachers would preach what the white man say they should: ‘Y’all gonna help old mawster do this and he gonna take care of you. The Bible tells you that in there.’

If you run off, you was considered sick. The whites had a bunch of men then, something like the Ku Klux Klans. They called them Paddy Rollers and they would catch you and whup you, and you was afraid. It was something to control the slaves.

They had to have something to control these people, and you wasn’t allowed to go off the farm and visit other people. On certain days you had to have a pass. It was the way of life then. 

Chapter 3:   

Tildy, who been messin’ wit you down there

I didn’t know my first uncle, but I’ve always seen his picture, all my life. It’s a lovely picture. They called him Nigger but he was a white man. That’s all he was. Old Young Mawster’s son.

Grandma say that she was near 13 years old, behind the barn tee-teein when Young Mawster come up behind her. She didn’t see him, but he put his hand up under her dress, and said, ‘Lay down, Tildy.’ They called her Tildy, but her actual name was Matilda. And so this thing happened and her stomach began to get big.

One day, Grandma and Old Mistress, they was putting up the clean clothes. Old Mistress had a pair of socks, or two pair, in her hand. She said, ‘Tildy, who been messin with you down there?’ Grandma say ‘Young Mawster.’ Old Mistress ran to her, and crammed these socks in her mouth and say, ‘Don’t you never tell nobody. If you do, I’ll skin you alive.’

Tildy was aleady Old Mistress’ favorite , so when his baby was born, she was certainly their favorite slave. Old Mistress were the grandmother of Tildy’s baby. After Tildy was freed, they gave her this 1500 acres of land down there in Washington County, 14 miles out of the country on account of this illegitimate baby that my grandmother had by this young mawster.  

Chapter 9:   

Indoor plumbing? Are you kidding?

Annie Mae
As time went on, a lot of rich people began to get Delco lights in their houses. They had little sheds build, that motor going all the time. We never had anything like that. My grandpa could have had electricity, cause he had money to do it, but he never did want it. You just didn’t want things then like you do now. You wasn’t used to it.

We used lamps. I got my grandma’s lamp here. Oil went down in there. You had to clean it from time to time. My grandma had certain time that she would clean everything. When she’d get through washing, she’s have lye in the pot, and she said, ‘Get that lamp out of there, y’all, and wash those globes.’ We’d put rocks and soap suds in those lamps, and shake’em. They’d clear up so pretty. Now we got Ajax, but ashes done the same thing. And sand will do the same thing right now.

Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have no indoor water, they had wells out in the yard. They had a bucket on each end of a rope, and they would put one down and draw this bucket up, and this other bucket went down. As time went by, they got a little modern with different types of buckets that wouldn’t break. When the bucket hit the water, it would fill up through a hole in bottom, when you’d draw it up, a plug would sink down in the bottom. They were getting modern then.

Indoor plumbing? Are you kidding? My grandpa and them, we never had a toilet until I was grown and had children out there. We went out in the woods. No, we didn’t have an outhouse either. But as time went by, I guess Grandpa and them got old can couldn’t stoop down no more like they used to. Then they had an outhouse built, a big hole, and you put something down in it to eat up the stuff, and you didn’t have to take it up no more. 

Chapter 11: 

My daddy Stole my mama

My mother’s name was Callie Randon, and my brother had the same name. He was a junior. George McDade, Jr.

My mother met my daddy, George McDade, and he stole my mama. They call it elope now. But at that time Grandma say he stole her. She was about 16 years old. My grandma looked for my daddy and her for three weeks in a wagon with a shotgun laying across her lap. Grandmother was going to shoot him if she found him. And always in our house there was a joke about Grandmother looking for Daddy with a shotgun across her lap. She was going to shoot him for stealing her bay. Yeah, she was mad, but she got over it. 

Chapter 16: 

I don’t take nothin off white folks either

I got married in 1924 to John Robert Prosper, and my mama finally left Navasota. You know, when times got bad down there, these people—the good Negroes, they called them—they all gone cotton pickin and have money when they came back. I mean, the boss had to feed them all year, and so he let them go on cotton pickin and things; and my mama promised him that she as going to come back. But mama told Miss Sally, ‘You ever see me again, you’ll have to come where I am.’ She told me one day, ‘I’ll never come back here.’

On her day out, Mama brought me her machine—a regular sewing machine something like this one here. You know, Old man Morrett tried to get that machine. He come down and told my husband one day, ‘I want that machine Callie brought up here.’ My husband was very quick tempered. He says, ‘No, you can’t get that machine.’ So the old man told my husband he didn’t take nothing off our niggers, and my husband said, ‘I don’t take nothing off white folks either.’ My husband was real high-tempered.

And so we were so afraid that this white man Morrett was going to come out there and do something to my husband, but my husband went around and told Mr. Steve Moore about it. My husband worked for this white man named Steve Moore, and Morrett didn’t bother Steve Moore. Steve Moore must have had some kind of words to say about it, because that Old Man Morrett never tried to say anything about this machine no more.

That was a terrible time. There was this old woman up there in Navasota, Aunt Mehalia Jackson—I married in her family after this happened. And she had wanted to tell Mama she knew these white men were going to come for her, but she had to live there, and she didn’t know what Mama may say. Aunt Mehalia couldn’t afford to say nothing. They may whip Mama, and make Mama say who told.

Later my sister Dora married, and this Old Man Morrett came at my sister one time and took her off and kept her five to six hours. He had sex with her; raped her. That’s all it was, because she wasn’t willing. Oh, my sister like to went into hysterics. She never did get over that. It makes me cry to think about it. Sad. Sad.

Now Dora had a husband at that time, Buck. Buck was Miss Two-T’s brother. And Old Man Morrett come to their house one night, sent Bud Jones in after Buck. Two-T’s mama said there were eating supper, and old Bud Jones come in and asked for Buck, and picked up Buck, and Buck ain’t been seen since. They never did know what happened to Buck. That kind of stuff. My sister never got married again. That the truth. This can be verified. It’s people living know this—Buck’s mother’s dead, but his stepdaddy’s still livin.

Old Man Morrett, he like to rape black women. He went with Miss Joanna, Bud Jones’ wife, and Bud knew it. Morrett made Bud leave home, so he could go to bed with Bd’s wife. Miss Joanna got pregnant, and she told my mama, say she didn’t know if the baby was going to be white or black. 

Chapter 18: 

I had my first baby at fifteen and my last at forty five

I was pregnant 13 times in all, and now I have six children. I had my first baby, Ester Mae, when I was almost 16, and my last one, Leona Louise, when I was 45. I was going to be 16 the 29th of August, and Ester was born on the 18. About two years till I had the second child which I lost between Dorothy Lou. And I had a child which I lost between Dorothy Lou and the next one, Doris Minola. Miss Glann, a midwife in Navasota, delivered all three.

I lost three kids. Two of them died in birth, the other lived to be two months. Having him, birthin him, was hard enough, and then a child lives to be two months old. That’s hard. I woke up one morning about three o’clock and he was dead, still dead, strangled to death.

I miscarried four times; they didn’t get to be babies. Some of the pregnancies was only three or four months. I gave birth to nine children. Six are still alive. Pregnant 13 times, that hard on a woman, too. You don’t realize it.

I nursed all my babies except two. My little boy, George, my fourth baby, was born in 1941. George was delivered by the doctors from Baylor Hospital. They came to my home. Well, they done that all the time. The pregnant women went to the clinic, and the doctors knew just about what time you were going to deliver. They had you on the agenda, waitin for you. Sometimes they’d be with one woman. Leave that one, go on to another one. That’s what they used to do. Everything was getting pretty modern then, but I nursed George. He was a big little boy, and he would say, ‘Come on, Mama, let’s go home. I want some tit.’ That’s what he used to tell me. He was just one year old.

He was the only one I had, seven months old, could talk like a natural man. You know, says words: ‘bread’; we hand some twins across the street, Dorothy and Doris, and he’s just say, ‘two Doris. ‘Mama’. ‘Papa.’ ‘Bread’ said as plain as day. He was smart as a whip. Always been smart. He’s smart right today.

His name is George Washington Darden. Born January 14, 1941. And Othella Ann Hunt, she was born August 18, 1947. And then Leona Louise Hunt, she was born November 19, 1953. And that’s it. She’s my baby now.

I Am Annie Mae was adapted for a musical in collaboration with Naomi Carrier of Houston, Texas, and co-author the book, Ruth Winegarten. The musical opened at Austin's St. Edwards University in 1987. The show was sponsored by the noted "Women and Their Work", also located in Austin.

***To read more about the late Annie Mae Hunt, read her book I Am Annie Mae, which can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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