African-Americans reminisce about work
"E. W. Evans, Brick Layer & Plasterer"
Collected by Geneva Tonsill
"I said I wuz born a slave but I wuz too young to know much about slavery. I wuz the property of the Hill family from 1855 to 1865, when freedom wuz declared and they said we wuz free.
"My master had four sons, three of them went to the army. Legree Hill, the youngest son, went to the war at the age of eighteen years. He wuz killed in the Kennesaw mountains. His mother seemed sad over his going because he was too young and ran off and went. A sharpshooter killed him. His father went for him. He wuz buried in the Yankee line, wrapped in a blanket. He had some of the money he had when he wuz killed, on him. He wuz dressed like a Yankee, in their uniform. Of course, nothing much wuz said about it, as I 'member, cause he wasn't supposed to be a Yankee at all. He wuz fighting against the Yankees. When he wuz so stirred up to go to the war he told his mother that he wanted to go because he wanted to bring Lincoln's head back and he wuz going after his head. He didn't get to come back. Another son, Clarence, a calvaryman, wuz the oldest son. He had two horses shot out from under him but he escaped himself.
"I left Madison and went to Athens, Georgia. I learned the trade of brick masonry and plasterin'. I moved to Athens on the second of April in 1877. I went there to work for a contractor, Nasus McGinty. I stayed in Athens from April, 1877, until August in 1880. I then moved to Atlanta. This wuz the beginning of life for me in Atlanta. I have been here ever since, working at my trade, except for short intervals I went out to work, out of town.
"I built this house in 1887 and moved in the same year on December 27. At first it had only two rooms but I've added to it until now we have ten or twelve rooms. My house now is somewhat larger than Colonel Hill's house where the family lived who owned us as slaves.
"I have worked at my trade until I got too old to work. Of course, now I do a little piddling 'round, nothin' much though, for you can see I'm a old man and can't do much.
"I helped build Stone Hall and the Work Shop on the Atlanta University campus. It is now used by the Morris Brown College since they changed to the Atlanta University System. I worked with Alex Hamilton and Son in the year 1888 in the building trade. I had a lot of building in College Park in the Military School. I wuz never idle, as there wuzn't so many brick layers and plasterers at that time. I kept quite busy. I did brick work on the Y. M. C. A. building, under Alex Hamilton. No, I don't recall any special handicap or discrimination in my building, except in the early eighties, when there wuz but few Negroes working as brick layers and plasters, I experienced somewhat a handicap being colored. This wuz when buildin' wuz low and I worked under a white contractor. No matter how good a Negro wuz he wuz the last to be hired and then he wuz given some minor job. I saw that even if a Negro wuz a better brick layer, all the white workers wuz given the first jobs and after they wuz all supplied, then the Negro workers got what wuz left."
Full text (Library of Congress/American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940).