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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Annie Bell Williams Cheatham, March 21, 1995. Interview Q-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Ex-slaves "sing on the pot" even after emancipation

Cheatham recalls her father talking about "praying on the pot" in the years just after he was released from slavery in North Carolina. Earlier in the interview she talks about how the freed slaves, now sharecroppers, formed a community in which they helped each other build barns and supported each other in various ways. Here, she talks about how they kept their religious faith and how the traditions of slavery times—keeping prayer quiet so as not to cause punishment for failing to work—persisted after emancipation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Annie Bell Williams Cheatham, March 21, 1995. Interview Q-0015. 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

ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
No, never hear him say about them going to church. But he said they used to turn pots [unclear] and they would get down on their knees, around the pot, and catch the sound, you know.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
'Cause that keeps it down.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
Yeah.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
Oh, with all the sound, everybody getting praying, sing on the pot.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
That's right.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
And that noise goes into the pot, and the sound don't go out.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
That's what he said, he said it was done, I done it a many, he said, Lord, he started crying, he said I did it a many of times.