A Part of the Southern Family
The fidelity of black people is attested by many reports during the war, such as when Northern soldiers seized plantation hands to help them locate buried valuables. In front of Hopewell Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church in Chester, South Carolina, is a memorial stone to Robert Hemphill, the slave of Robert Hemphill — both were church members. The stone commemorates the fact that Burwell was hung by Northern soldiers who wanted the location of buried valuables on the plantation. They hung him briefly several times before killing him for refusing to answer, and died rather than be unfaithful to those he loved and served.
Part of the Southern Family
“As the tension between the two races who live side by side in our land seems to be increasing, I am glad to remember my colored friends with sincere appreciation of their merits, their keen sense of humor, and their loyalty. Should these words ever reach the rising generation, I hope it will give them a pleasant picture of the friendly relations between those who served and those who expected service.
The present-day movies and comics present our Negroes as “step-and-fetch-it” or a caricature of a would-be heavy sport. Gone is the real affection that made a white child cling with both arms around his nurse’s neck, or that prompted a gentleman to sit in open court beside an ex-slave being tried for his life.
In a friend’s house stands a gun, an old muzzle-loading gun long enough to reach from here to yonder. During the Civil War a raiding party from the Northern Army carried off a young Negro and the long gun. The boy patiently followed his captors, and then escaped one night to come safely back home to tell his master where the gun had been sold for $1.00. It was quickly rescued and is today a priceless antique in [a residence in] Brevard, North Carolina.
There was little black Liza . . . who sang me to sleep in my infancy, and lived to launder my wedding lingerie and to welcome my son when he entered the University of North Carolina. She and her husband, John Evans, were respected and useful citizens of Chapel Hill all their lives.
My children’s “Mammy” was “Aunt” Rilla McDonald. As a nurse of babies and sick people, her patience and fidelity were beyond praise; the touch of her hands brought comfort and peace. Only a few moments did she need to subdue the most rebellious infant; the very sound of her voice was soothing, and her presence in a sick room brought comfort and security.
Sixty years ago Southern people had not forgotten to call elderly Negroes “Aunt” or “Uncle” and to treat them with the courtesy their innate dignity demanded.
I do not know how many years “Aunt” Bina Ledbetter served Mr. Thomas Leak’s family, but I do know she was as much a part of the family as the mistress she served with unswerving fidelity. “Aunt” Bina was a large, black woman with a mien of commanding dignity and always extremely neat in her dress. “Aunt” Bina once got into a controversy with a tan-colored member of her church, being taunted with the words: “Ef I was as black as you I would keep my mouth shet.” She replied: “Tain’t so much the color that makes the difference between people – it’s the blood!”
(A Rare Pattern, Lucy Phillips Russell, UNC Press, 1957, excerpts pp. 165-167)