Descripción de editorial
Many requests have been made of me to write something of the story of my life. Until recently I have never given much consideration to these requests, for the reason that I have never thought that I had done enough in the world to warrant anything in the way of an autobiography; and I hope that my life work, by reason of my present age, lies more in the future than in the past. My daughter, Portia, said to me, not long ago: “Papa, do you know that you have never told me much about your early life, and your children want to know more about you.” Then it came upon me as never before that I ought to put something about my life in writing for the sake of my family, if for no other reason.
I will not trouble those who read these lines with any lengthy historical research concerning my ancestry, for I know nothing of my ancestry beyond my mother. My mother was a slave on a plantation near Hale’s Ford, in Franklin County, Virginia, and she was, as I now remember it, the cook for her owners as well as for a large part of the slaves on the plantation. The first time that I got a knowledge of the fact that my mother and I were slaves, was by being awakened by my mother early one morning, while I was sleeping in a bed of rags, on a clay floor of our little cabin. She was kneeling over me, fervently praying as was her custom to do, that some day she and her children might be free. The name of my mother was Jane. She, to me, will always remain the noblest embodiment of womanhood with whom I have come in contact. She was wholly ignorant, as far as books were concerned, and, I presume, never had a book in her hands for two minutes at a time. But the lessons in virtue and thrift which she instilled into me during the short period of my life that she lived will never leave me. Some people blame the Negro for not being more honest, as judged by the Anglo-Saxon’s standard of honesty; but I can recall many times when, after all was dark and still, in the late hours of the night, when her children had been without sufficient food during the day, my mother would awaken us, and we would find that she had gotten from somewhere something in the way of eggs or chickens and had cooked them during the night for us. These eggs and chickens were gotten without my master’s permission or knowledge. Perhaps, by some code of ethics, this would be classed as stealing, but deep down in my heart I can never decide that my mother, under such circumstances, was guilty of theft. Had she acted thus as a free woman she would have been a thief, but not so, in my opinion, as a slave. After our freedom no one was stricter than my mother in teaching and observing the highest rules of integrity.
Who my father was, or is, I have never been able to learn with any degree of certainty. I only know that he was a white man.
As nearly as I can get at the facts, I was born in the year 1858 or 1859. At the time I came into the world no careful registry of births of people of my complexion was kept. My birth place was near Hale’s Ford, in Franklin County, Virginia. It was about as near to Nowhere as any locality gets to be, so far as I can learn. Hale’s Ford, I think, was a town with one house and a postoffice, and my birth place was on a large plantation several miles distant from it.