Today is the completion of Mr. Dorsey’s story.
“When the slaves left the fields, they returned to their cabins and after preparing and eating of their evening meal they gathered around a cabin to sing and moan songs seasoned with African melody. Then to the tune of an old fiddle they danced a dance called the ‘Green Corn Dance’ and ‘Cut the Pigeon wing.’ Sometimes the young men on the plantation would slip away to visit a girl on another plantation. If they were caught by the ‘Patrols’ while on these visits they would be lashed on the bare backs as a penalty for this offense.
“A whipping post was used for this purpose. As soon as one slave was whipped, he was given the whip to whip his brother slave. Very often the lashes would bring blood very soon from the already lacerated skin, but this did not stop the lashing until one had received their due number of lashes.
“Occasionally the slaves were ordered to church to hear a white minister, they were seated in the front pews of the master's church, while the whites sat in the rear. The minister's admonition to them to honor their masters and mistresses, and to have no other God but them, as ‘we cannot see the other God, but you can see your master and mistress.’ After the services the driver's wife who could read and write a little would tell them that what the minister said ‘was all lies.’
“Douglas says that he will never forget when he was a lad 14 years of age, when one evening he was told to go and tell the driver to have all the slaves come up to the house; soon the entire host of about 85 slaves were gathered there all sitting around on stumps, some standing. The colonel's son was visibly moved as he told them they were free. Saying they could go anywhere they wanted to for he had no more to do with them, or that they could remain with him and have half of what was raised on the plantation.
“The slaves were happy at this news, as they had hardly been aware that there had been a war going on. None of them accepted the offer of the colonel to remain, as they were only too glad to leave the cruelties of the Matair (“Mattair”, EM) plantation.
“Dorsey's father got a job with Judge Carraway of Suwannee where he worked for one year. He later homesteaded 40 acres of land that he received from the government and began farming. Dorsey's father died in Suwannee County, Florida when Douglas was a young man and then he and his mother moved to Arlington, Florida. His mother died several years ago at a ripe old age.
“Douglas Dorsey, aged but with a clear mind lives with his daughter in Spring Glen.”
As mentioned in the first article I wrote about him, Mr. Dorsey was interviewed by the Federal Writers’ Project in 1937. It was none too soon, as time was running out for the aged former slave. Douglas Dorsey died on April 12, 1938, and was buried beside his wife Millie (who had died in 1933) in the Arlington Community Cemetery in Jacksonville.
And thus we remember a sad chapter in not only Suwannee County’s history, but the history of the United States and much of the world.
Join me next week as we delve into more of our history, however unpleasant it may be at times.
Eric Musgrove can be reached at email@example.com or 386-362-0564.