Before and After Freedom: Lowcountry Narratives and Folklore

Before and After Freedom: Lowcountry Narratives and Folklore

by Nancy Rhyne


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In the late 1930s the Writer's Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) began an undertaking to document the history and folklore of South Carolina as told by surviving slaves and their decedents. What was produced over the five-and-half-year project was an extensive collection-thousands of written pages-of African American folklore that had been passed down through generations and, until then, had never before been collected and published.

Before and After Freedom is a collection of authentic Lowcountry folklore as directly told to the WPA field workers and captured through their written reports. Southern author Nancy Rhyne has assembled a cross section of writing that gives the reader an understanding of the stories and superstitions embraced by generations of former slaves and their families. Along with WPA reports, Rhyne also has added stories from personal interviews and detailed research. From former slaves to Charleston's social elite and the state's first governors, this is a diverse collection of tales, but all of them reveal a character and nature that is true to the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781540203915
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 10/01/2005
Pages: 98
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Spirits of Hagley

It was in the summer of 1918 that I underwent an experience that was destined to change my life. I didn't have a shadow of a doubt that spirits make an earthly appearance now and then.

I never remember having any fear of supernatural beings and like most people, I thought that spirits were merely products of an over-wrought imagination. The things I saw that summer demonstrated very plainly that I was wrong.

At the time, I was engaged in carrying passengers between Pawleys Island and the ferry landing at Hagley Plantation, on the Waccamaw Neck. I used a large automobile and made the trip several times a day. Often, a party of young people who were working in Georgetown would hire a gasoline launch after the ferry had made its last trip, and I would meet them at Hagley at 11:00 pm.

Reaching the ferry landing about a quarter to eleven, I thought I would stretch out on a piece of old canvas on the wharf and get a little rest before the boat arrived from the city. The moon was shining brightly, flooding the landscape with a soft glow and every object was plainly visible. The scene was a peaceful one, and a few minutes after I had made myself comfortable I fell asleep.

The dream that came to me that night was so vivid that I can remember every detail. I was standing with a crowd of people in front of the little church and it seemed that we were waiting for the bride and groom to emerge from the front door. Everyone was dressed in clothing of the Civil War period. I got the impression that peace had just been declared. Suddenly the bridal party appeared on the porch. The bride was a striking brunette, and the groom handsome blond.

The crowd rushed for theporch. A man dressed in a Confederate uniform dashed up to the clearing astride a horse that evidently had been running for hours. The figure dismounted and ran towards the place where the bride and groom were standing. When he reached the couple, the bride uttered a little cry and said, "It is too late. I have just married another." She said she waited three years and believed he had been killed in battle. The stranger said to the groom, "Well, I will fade out of the picture. It is the best solution." The groom answered, "No, if anyone must fade, I will be that one."

The soldier made for the wharf, followed by the bride and groom. When he reached the end of the pier, he jumped in and disappeared. Without a moment's hesitation, the bride followed him, and then the groom.

I rubbed my eyes and looked about the pier. The church and the people had disappeared. I got up and turned around and noticed a couple standing nearby. They resembled the bride and groom.

I believed someone was playing a trick on me. I said politely, "Who are you? If you are waiting to go to Pawleys I have an automobile nearby."

The couple turned around and walked slowly away. I had scarcely collected my wits when a motorboat arrived. The passengers I was waiting for were on board. "Hello," someone said. I tried to hide my agitation. "You look as though you just saw a ghost," he added. I told him I had seen two of them but we must get on our way to the beach.

Later on in the season, on another moonlight night, I made my customary trip to Hagley to meet a special boat, which was due at midnight. The vessel arrived and my guests comfortably seated in my car. As I sped toward the seashore, two figures stepped into the road. One was a brunette bride and the other a blond groom. I stopped the car so suddenly that my guests were thrown about. I collected myself and drove on.

When we reached the beach, the girl beside me turned to me and said, "Eugene, I know why you stopped so suddenly. A man and a woman were in the road."

I told her I had seen them and barely missed hitting them.

Eugene F. LaBruce,

As told to C.S. Murray, WPA field worker. Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Table of Contents

Living in Heaven12
An Accident of God12
The Mere-Maid (Mermaid)13
A Hiding Place13
Buh Patridge and Buh Rabbit14
Sheep Heads and Dumpling14
Tricky Rabbit and Buh Gator15
My Father and the Whiskey16
Buh Rabbit and Buh Guinea16
The Balloon17
Parson Glennie18
Maussa was a Little Boy19
That Would Be the Difference20
Buh Rabbit Tricks Buh Gator21
Buh Wolf22
Brookgreen Snakes22
Caesar's Cure23
Beauregard's Method of Eating Fish24
No One Died on Edingsville Beach24
The Beautiful Lady on the Ship25
The Tar Baby26
Mom Cinchy27
Freedom on Sandy Island28
The Spirits of Hagley29
Sassafras Tea31
Mr. Allston's Boyhood32
Riding the Sheep33
After We Moved to Summerville33
Buh Cooter and Buh Deer34
A Faithful Servant34
The Circumnavigator35
The Last Rice Crop35
What Judge Samuel H. Wilds Said to Samuel Slater on the Murder of His Own Slave36
Judge Wilds's Famous Sentence37
A Woman on Her Feet39
The Bronze Tablet41
The Denmark Vesey Insurrection41
The Stono Insurrection43
Blockade Running During the Civil War43
Vanderbilt Buys the Last Alston Plantation48
De Flagg Storm50
The Horse Racing Aristocracy51
The Criminals Who Were Never Hanged52
Money on the Grave53
Questions and Answers with Aunt Liza55
Living With The Ghost of Aunt Sissy56
The Sea Monkey58
Once Upon A Time When Charleston was the Capital60
The Governor Who Rebuilt Charles Town61
The Mace62
Governor Sails with Another Man's Wife63
All Modern Conveniences63
A Most Romantic Royal Governor64
Mr. Waterson's Legacy64
Daughter of a Sea Captain65
The Secret of Brick House Plantation67
Poinsettia Named for Lowcountryman69
Murder at the Ten Mile House70
The Great Sea Turtle71
The Gift73
The Disappearance of Theodosia Burr75
Bullice Wine and Snakes80
The Governor and the Pirates80
Sandy Claw and Uncle Sam86
The Mail Boat86
Hiding from the Yankees87
The Man Who Could See Ghosts88
The Slave Who Witnessed History88
Never Had Time To Play Games90
Aunt Hetty Was Something Else90
Funerals Were At Night91
I Stopped Shaking Hands and Kissing92
About the Author96

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