A Mixed Bag

Black History Month
Source: Private Collection

The family of Maum Agnes (seated), a former Ball slave. When this photograph was taken in about 1920, they were among the last sharecroppers on the Ball plantation of Quenby.

I remember reading in the book that when the Union troops were coming through towards Charleston, some of the people took it as a divine retribution... it seemed as though this was the hand of God coming down on them. Do you think that those people were seeing, that any of those people saw, in that, vindication of all the claims that they'd heard from the abolitionists? Everything they'd heard that slavery was wrong. Do you think that they were recognizing that then, or that they were just in fear for their lives?

I think it was a bit of both. The Balls were, and remain, God-fearing, church-going people, and some of the women, especially, wrote in their diaries about God's will in the defeat that was bearing down on them, and it may have crossed their minds at that time, but only at that time, that the family had been on a doomed path. But it may not, because they didn't exactly say that. What they thought was that the defeat was God's will. I suspect that they had no warm feelings toward the abolitionists at any time. The abolitionists started to agitate in the 1820s and they didn't stop until the spring of 1865, when it was all finished, and at no time did anyone in the Ball family write anything down that was nice, referring to the abolitionists.

After the Civil War, I think that the Ball's probably said to themselves, well, this was a bad social arrangement and it's good that it's finished. They probably said that to themselves. But, on the other hand, some didn't. Some said, gosh, the good old days, you know? Whatever happened to those good old Christmas Days when we would hand out gifts of ham to the slaves and they would dance around and sing our names in praise. Whatever happened to those days?

It was a mixed bag. I mean, this family was big, and in any given generation there would be ten families who were slave owners, and within each of those families there were people who were more or less intelligent, more or less cruel, more or less sympathetic towards black people.

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