Lucy Chase to Mrs. May, Norfolk, May 25, 1865.



Norfolk, May 25th 1865

Dear Mrs. May;

You see we are Home again once more. The Richmond schools are flourishing finely; but Negro affairs are miserably conducted now; but very soon Col. Brown will take all Virginia into his part of the "Bureau" and then things will go as nearly right as possible:—yet I am confident that the Negro will suffer more the coming year of Peace, than he has during the War :—and no organization can shield him from all the in-justice he will be exposed to from the vengeful Southrons. It is surprising how many ways the F.F.Vs have of venting their spite on the Freedmen; we saw much of it while in Richmond. But the fetters are broken forever! Thank God; And we must be patient in the necessary confusion of the change. I had the satisfaction of lowering rents, restoring property, and adjusting difficultys in several cases, but many colored people have bought property without having taken any papers—and there is no way of getting it back from the whites who have taken it. Bold robberies were of daily occurrence. In broad day light I saw a well dressed Confederate snatch a watch from a colored man, in passing ; and in getting it away, the white man cut the black man's head with something, so that the blood ran freely, and the man was partially stunned—the highwayman ran, and our soldiers wouldn't run after him Several of our men have been shot on guard; and three were killed—and they have reason to fear the Rebs. Our soldiers as well as the Johnnies plunder the houses of the poor blacks continually—so the colored people feel it is neither safe to go out or remain at home. The cry of "murder!" often came up from the hollow below where we lived where are congregated most of the poor of the city—and looking out, we could see the people running from their houses, & the soldiers running down the hillsides in many directions, after the thief who would soon get lost to sight among the houses or hollows.

In one house I went where a woman lived miserably with her large flock of little ones, and "no one to do for em but me missis, an I finds work very hard to get—an I wont beg of Uncle Sam—as long as I can get work." Her house had been most thoroughly searched—even the beds were ripped for greenback—finding nothing of value but a half dollar that was laid away for rent—and many poor women flocked around with tales of their frights and robberies.

The Richmond people colored are far superior to any I have yet encountered, and a very little help of the right kind will advance them in a short time to an independent position. Work and justice is all they ask—and if societies would organize work; they would benefit the race more than any other kind of help.

One early morning I was much surprised by the appearance of Aggie Peters a nice old Auntie from Norfolk—who kissed my hands and wept for joy. "Why Auntie, how did you find me?" said I. "Find you, honey—why there aint a corner of the Earth where you could hide so I couldn't find you dare if I want to look. Ses I to myself one day—I wonder if now Babalons fallen (i.e. Richmond) I can ever get any of my property back to give my children—for 'taint long before I shall go up yonder, (die) an I went up to tell you all about it, and they said they were in Richmond, so I comes right up "—and then she told her story in wonderful language speaking of her wrongs so touchingly—and dwelling on the injustice to the race, as if her moral sense was more aggrieved than herself ; and her eloquence was most touching and remarkable, as with streaming, uplifted eyes & clasped hands she pictured the relations of her race to the North & South—the Lord's purpose in the War—what the North had done for them and what they owed the North.

Though 65 years old Aggie has the best figure in the city, a most dignified bearing and step as elastic as a young girl—with fine manners. "I allers shows my manners and never once forgot." Her perfect faith and love of her Creator kept her cheerful and courageous through everything. A free woman: she was allowed to do business for herself—owning a house—grocery—"hack and span" & donkeys & two keerts (carts) hiring negroes and taking pains to get those who wished to buy their freedom—giving them a part over what they paid their master. She bought her husband and a man who was anxious to get his freedom sooner than he could pay his master & let him work to repay her :—after a visit to the North she was thrown into prison immediately on her re-turn and was examined and cross examined before some "sharp hard looking judges" who wished to know all she saw or heard of the North & her views thereon (I have seen many who had the same experience). She was banished with the threat that would be taken to the whipping post if she returned & kept in jail until sold. The colored man was so faithful in the charge of her property she gave him all he made in the two years after he paid for himself—& with this money he had bought himself. a little place and he had a great name for being a steady, good man with white & black. Without any warning he was taken of off the hack while driving & put into jail, with an order that no man white or black should see him; and carried away in irons the same night for the Southern market; and no one can tell where he is. One of the leading citizens, though pro-slavery, knows the partys and testifys the truthfulness—he tried to see this man knowing him to be so honest and good—and wished to get him out of jail, but the wicked white man who stole him was artful enough to secure his prey by forbidding any mortal to see him ; and hurrying him off.

All of Aggie's property was stolen from her and she is very anxious for justice sake it shall be got back—"give it to the Union when you get it if I am gone—I've got plenty for my small wants—the Lord has been so good to me giving me plenty of work & strength and I've raised my children to do for themselves. When they first threw me in prison I was all down discouraged—thinking whats the use, if a person works hard and always shows their manners & behavior ; and does as clearly as they ken what they ought—and comes to this the same as them that does bad; but presently the Lord shone in the room; and I felt as happy and easy as a baby; & I prayed and sang all night: they come and tried to stop me; I felt I ought to sing praises—but in the morning they tied me to the whipping post to take it out of me : but when I got rested I began again."

I know not what I have written from Richmond to you and what to Miss Stephenson. I sent to "Mrs Denny N.E.F.A. Soc. Leicester" in one of Jeff. Davis's envelopes about twenty bills of sale, I captured in a Negro auction room; and wrote some incidentals on the back of each—for distribution in your society; and one letter to Mrs. May and one to Mr. May from R.

Forgive my poor eyes for such scrawls. With love to Wde and high regard to Mr May and yourself.—S.E.C..

I have a quantity of Confed. money I wish to convert into a flag for the R. schools. Can you suggest a fair or a firm who would buy it—or a curiosity broker? How I wish I could have been at the last A. S. meeting. Shan't you band together for the elevation of the Negro? An Employment Society or something of that nature. Could you get some one to learn where at best advantage could be bought a box of material for straw braiding—and could you suggest some manufacture we could undertake on a small scale in Richmond this Summer or Fall. We shall probably remove to R. ere long. I cannot say when. I would be glad if you could form some scheme of work to suggest to me to undertake in Richmond.


 

 

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