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Excerpt: Coming to the new state

"My mother's husband, who was the stepfather of my brother John and myself, did not belong to the same owners as did my mother.  In fact, he seldom came to our plantation.  I remember seeing him there perhaps once a year, that being about Christmas time.  In some way, during the war, by running away and following the Federal soldiers, it seems, he found his way into the new state of West Virginia.  As soon as freedom was declared, he sent for my mother to come to the Kanawha Valley, in West Virginia.  What little clothing and few household goods we had were placed in a cart, but the children walked the greater portion of the distance, which was several hundred miles.
  "I do not think any of us ever had been very far from the plantation, and the taking of a long journey into another state was quite an event.  The parting from our former owners and the members of our own race on the plantation was a serious occasion... We were several weeks making the trip, and most of the time we slept in the open air and did our cooking over a log fire out of doors.  One night I recall that we camped near an abandoned log cabin, and my mother decided to build a fire in that for cooking, and afterward to make a 'pallet' on the floor for our sleeping.  Just as the fire had gotten well statrted a large black snake fully a yard and a half long dropped down the chimney and ran out on the floor.  Of course we at once abandoned that cabin.  Finally we reached our destination-a little town called Malden, which is about five miles from Charleston, the present capital of the state."

Source: Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901).


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