If They Whipped Me, Ah’d Kill ‘Em

Published:July 17, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

From the Ohio Writers’ Program Photograph Collection:

Photograph of Richard Toler, an ex-slave who lived at 515 Poplar Street, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. He was born on Henry Toler’s plantation in Lynchburg, Campbell County, Virginia around 1837. This photograph was taken on June 17, 1937 by the Federal Writers’ Project photographer in District 12.

And this is from Toler’s oral history, taken and transcribed by Ruth Thompson:

They nevah mistreated me, neithah. They’s a whipping the slaves all the time, but ah run away all the time. And I jus’ tell them—if they whipped me, ah’d kill ’em, and ah nevah did get a whippin’. If ah thought one was comin’ to me, Ah’d hide in the woods; then they’d send aftah me and they say, “Come, on back,—we won’t whip you.” But they killed some of the niggahs, whipped ’em to death. Ah guess they killed three or fo’ on Tolah’s place while ah was there.

“I sho’ is glad,” he told Thompson, “I ain’t no slave no moah.”