Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race relations on a New South plantation

On the family plantation, Durr's grandmother turned management of the household over to Easter, a freed slave woman. She even had the ability to punish the white children. Later in the interview, Durr describes what happens to Easter after her grandmother's death.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

The person that I remember best was Old Easter. She was a black woman who had been a slave. You asked what happened after the Reconstruction, they all said that the slaves never would leave or else they came back and when I was a child, the whole back yard was still full of these slave cabins that werefull of old men and old women who had been slaves and still lived on the plantation. You see, they were scared of freedom maybe. I don't imagine they had any money, I suppose they may have gotten a little bit, but they still were there and were fed. I remember sitting in their laps. I think that this was one reason that it was hard for me to swallow the prevailing theory about blacks being so inferior. Because as I recall, certainly in the case of Easter, she ran the plantation . . . she was a little sharp black woman who wore white aprons and dresses and a white starched bandana on her head, she ran the plantation. She wore the keys. You couldn't get a cookie unless you asked Easter. She put the food out for every meal and I'm sure that she even planned the meals. She may have asked my grandmother about some things, but She was in charge of everything and she was always in charge of us children. We did exactly what she told us to do. She had a very great dignity. One thing that I always remember about her was that she never laughed. I think that a sense of humor is very hard on a dictator because she was always dignified and autocratic. She couldn't punish us, I mean by any physical punishment, but she could punish us by saying, "You're not going to get your morning cookie." We used to have cookies in the middle of the morning or lemonade in the middle of the afternoon. But she was absolutely the law and there was no appeal. Neither to your mother or your grandmother or whomever you complained to about Easter. That was just too bad, because they always thought that Easter knew best and she really did. She was a very wise woman and she really was a woman of tremendous achievements, because she ran that whole place.