The July Journal
The year 1860 — Today be the first day of July Miss Ellie give me this book to write in. She say her Papa, Master Johnson, buy her six of them. I be learning and reading and writing for three years now. Miss Ellie she been learning me. But now she say Master Johnson sending her to England or somewhere. So she give me this book and tell me to write something every day. She call it a journal. She say she gonna keep one too and when she get back it will be fun to read what each other has wrote. She leave tomorrow. I gonna miss her. She the only white friend I got.
Miss Ellie gone. I cry when she leave. Nobody see me cause I hide in the wood shed. Papa say he gonna miss her too cause she always smiling. Papa say that make him smile too. Papa he the hardest working nigga Master Johnson got. I hear him say that one day to the overseer Mr. Pines. Mr. Pines he don’t like Papa none to much. He say papa act like like white sometimes. He say papa think to much for a nigga. Master Johnson he be looking at me funny for bout a year now. Momma say for me to stay out of his sight. Momma say he be taking too many black chiles to his house at nite. She say papa tell her so. I ask Miss Ellie bout it last summer. She say she don’t want to talk bout it.
Today I sad. Mr. Pines he come and take papa’s sister May and her two girls. He say he gonna sell them in town. He say Master Johnson need money. Jim, that May’s man, he cry all day. He say sometimes he gonna kill Master Johnson. Papa tell him to be careful what he say for one of them house niggas tell Master Johnson what they hear. Jim say he don’t care. He say he gonna run away and find May and his two girls and go up north, but someday he gonna come back and kill Master Johnson sure nuff.
Everybody real busy today getting ready for the big party Master Johnson give every year on this day. White people come from miles around. A couple of years ago I ask papa what they come for. He say for the free food and drink. Papa he not know what I mean. So I ask Miss Ellie, she say to celabrate independence day. I still not sure what that mean. It nite time now. Mamma say I can burn the candle to write cause papa out. Master Johnson, he always have papa tend to the horses everytime a lot of people come. Mamma say for me not to let any white people see me write cause they not want niggas to learn such things. I ask her why. She just say cause they don’t, that all and you get your papa in trouble if they find out. Papa say he glad I smart girl, but just be careful that all.
Jim gone. Mr. Pines he mad as can be. He say he gonna wip the hide off Jim when he find him. Mr. Pines and bout four other white mans with guns take the dogs and went looking for Jim, they come back bout dark. Mr. Pines he madder than when he left. He say May and her two girls gone from town too, I hear Master Johnson tell him to hang the dam nigga when he find him. Papa he worry, Jim papa’s good friend. Papa say he sure hope ole Jim make it up north with May and her two girls. Papa say they be all rite if they get to Ohio. I ask papa where that at. He just say north, girl. Papa say niggas in the north be free. He say maybe someday he take me and mama go north too. I worry now too. I fraid they mite hang papa if he try.
Everybody sad, Jim dead, they kill him with their guns. May and two girls beat up pretty bad. They back in town now. I not want to write no more today.
Master Johnson he look at me real hard today. I scared and take off running. I hear him laugh as I run away. I tell mamma bout it. She not say nothing but I know she worry too. I decide today that I never let Miss Ellie read my journal. When she come back I tell her I loosed it. Papa go to town today with Mr. Pines to pick up supplies. He say on the road to town he see a big black man hung from a tree with a sign pin on him and he ask Mr. Pines what sign say. He say Mr. Pines tell him it say runaway slaves beware. Papa say if he ever run away they have to shoot him like they do ole Jim cause he not want to be hung in no tree for people to look at. I worry about papa more everyday. He talk bout how the niggas up north are free all the time now.
Miss Ellie been gone a week now. I sure do miss her. Next week my birthday, I be 15. Last year Miss Ellie have a fine cake baked for me and she give me a book too. It named Leaves of Grass, it filled with poems, a man named Whitman write them. She tell me to never let Master Johnson know I got it. I was so happy, I probably the only black girl in the whole country who have her own book. I read from it to mamma and papa sometimes. Papa say I be the only black he know that can read and write. He say he real proud of me. Me and mamma had to work in Master Johnson’s orchard today. He came out and sit and watch us bout a hour. Mamma say maybe papa got good idea bout going up north. That make me fraid even more. That the first time I hear mamma say anything bout going north.
This morning Mr. Pines come round and say Master Johnson want everybody to gather in front of his house. He say Master Johnson got something to say that he want everybody to hear. I ask mamma where papa at? She say she not know. When me and mamma get there everybody standing round, but I not see papa no wheres. I really start to worry, but then I see papa come out of the barn. He come up and put his arms round me and mamma and we both smile. I ask him where he been? He say tending the horse, girl. He ask what me and mamma smiling so big for? Mamma say we just glad to see him that all. When Master Johnson come out from the house, he got two other white mans with him that I never see before. Master Johnson he say theres been a lot of talk bout the niggas up north and such. How they be free and that they be getting paid for working. He say the only reason the white people up north want you free is so you can work in their factories. He say these two mens just come from up north and they gonna be nice a nuff to take the time to tell you bout them free niggas. The oldest man, he say they not got no place to live, that most of them sleep in the streets or in the woods. He say that the niggas up north are a starving to death. He say they have to work all day and sometimes all nite too. He say the little money they get for working, the white man cheat em out of. He say he talked to a group of niggas that was a living in the woods and they tell him that they was planning to come back south for winter cause they was fraid of freezen to death if they stay. The other white man, he say you sure are lucky to have this fine gentleman here to look after your needs. He say you all got a place to live and got plenty to eat and that more than most of them free niggas got up north, lie say you all not have a care in the world cept for helping out round here. He say the owners of them factories up north been sending people down here to try and trick you into running off up north so they can get you to work, in their factories. He say it be your duty to tell this fine gentleman here, he point to Master Johnson, if you hear anybody talking bout up north. I feel papa’s hand tighten on my shoulder when he say that. I look up at papa, but he not say nothing, he just smile at me and wink.
Last nite after I go to bed I hear papa telling mamma that Master Johnson must think all niggas is dumb as rocks. He say he was up in the hayloft when those two white mans come riding in bout day lite. He say he hear them brag to Mr. Pines bout how they be getting rich just riding round the south lying to a bunch of cotton picking niggas bout the free niggas up north. Mr. Pines he laugh and say mean tell me that you boys never been up north at all? Papa he say he hear them all laugh and one say hell no what we want to go up there for? Today I hear papa tell Mr. Pines that he sure nuff hope that none of them free niggas from up north not come down here asking Master Johnson if they can come to work for him cause Master Johnson already gots his hands full looking after the needs of all these cotton picking niggas. Mr. Pines he stop dead in his tracks when he hear papa say that. He turn around and look at papa and papa say dont that be the truth of it though Mr. Pines? And papa give him a big ole smile. Mr. Pines he not know what to say he just shake his head and walk away.
Today Mr. Pines, he come up to me and mamma when we working in he field and he tell me Master Johnson want me up at the house. I look at mamma, she look at Mr. Pines and say what for he want her bout? Mr. Pines he say he not know and it not be mamma’s place to ask questions anyways. I really scared. I just stand there and Mr. Pines he tell me to get along on up there for he throw me over his horse and carry me. I start thinking on the way to the house bout running off and hiding in the woods, but I scared I get pappa in trouble. I go round to the back door and old Zeb, that one of Master Johnson’s house niggas, he asks me what I wants? I tell him Master Johnson send for me. He say glory be child, you papa sure nuff not gonna like this none. Then he tell me to wait and he go get Master Johnson. When Master Johnson come, he say come on in here girl. I keep my head down and my eyes on the floor. He say most of his niggas getting old, too old to do all the work round here. He say most of them worked for his daddy, for he passed on. He say he feel it be bout time to get some new help round here. He say he want me to start working in the house first thing tomorrow. I not know what I pose to say so I just stands there. He say that be all girl, you can leave now and if you see Mr. Pines on your way back to the fields you tell him I want to see him, you hear? I say yes sir and I walk out of that house as fast as my legs can carry me. When I get back to where mamma at she just look at me and then she say, well girl you gonna tell me what he want or do I has to drag it out of you. Everybody standing round waiting to hear what I got to say cause they all hear Mr. Pines tell me that Master Johnson want to see me. Mamma look round and see them all galking and she say, you niggas not got nothing better to do than to stand round. They all start acting like they working and when me and mamma alone, she say well child what he want? I tell her then bout what he say. She not say nothing, she just start pulling weeds and looking up towards the house.
When papa come home mamma start to tell him bout what happen, but he all ready know bout it. Mamma ask what we gonna do? Papa he not say nothing for long time. Then he say we not he free niggas like them thats up north. He say Master Johnson can work us where he want and we not have no say bout such things. He say he not like it much hut nothing he can do rite now. Then he turn to me and he say girl, Master Johnson and me been knowing each other all our lives. He say we both born rite here on this place and grow up together rite here. He say Master Johnson know me well nuff to know that if he bring any harm to you or your mamma, I kill him dead, sure as his papa be hurled up there under them trees. Papa then tell me and mamma to sit down cause he got something he want us to hear. Papa he say that he be talking with Zeb who work up in Master Johnson’s house and Zeb say he know a man who help us get up north if we be wanting to go. Mamma she not say nothing but then she nod her head real slow and say she think it be best. Papa he nod his head too and look at me, I just say when? He say Zeb tell him it be bout a week for we can leave if we interested. Mamma say a week? Papa say she be all rite for a week, Zeb say he look after her and help keep her out of Master Johnson’s way. Mamma she worry, she just drop her eyes to the floor like I do when I worry. Papa he take hold of my hand and say you be just fine girl. I still scared but I try to smile at papa and I tell him I be all rite.
Last nite mamma help me gather up a few things that I be needing, cause when you a house nigga you gotta live in one of the little rooms in Master Johnson’ s house down stairs. Papa he walk with me over to the house this morning. We see Master Johnson riding towards town. he not say nothing, he just smile at papa and me and keep on riding. Zeb he there waiting at the back door when we get there. He tell papa that I gonna be working in the kitchen with his wife Anna and that I be sleeping in the room rite next to theirs. He say it use to be Mary’s oldest girl’s room. Papa he say to Zeb, you take real good care of my girl. Zeb he say she be all rite. Zeb show me my room and then take me in the kitchen. Everybody smiling and ask how I be. Anna she say she bet I miss Miss Ellie. She say you two sure gave me fits when you was just young’ens. I smile then cause I remember all the times Anna had to run us up out of the kitchen. She always acted like she was madder than an ole wet hen but she always had plenty of cookies or cakes set out and I always thought it funny that she never come in and ketch us till we eat our fill. Miss Ellie’s mamma die of the fever when Miss Ellie only three years old and Anna look after her ever since. So I know Anna miss her too, even if she not say so. Everybody real nice to me today. Master Johnson he stay gone all day.
I get surprised today. Zeb he knock on my door and say, girl you gonna sleep all day? I look out my window and see the sun all ready high in the sky. I hurry up and get washed up and rush to the kitchen. Mama and papa standing there and I say what you doing here? Papa pull a package from behind his back and say Happy Birthday. mamma come over to me and hug me and then everybody start hugging me and patting me on the back. i so happy. I done forgot all bout today being my birthday. Papa he hand me my present and say open it girl. I have a lot of trouble with all the strings papa got tied round the brown wrapping paper but I finally get it open and I not believe my eyes, it a brand new blue dress. I say, oh papa it beautiful and I throw my arms round him and squeeze him real hard. Anna have a big cake baked for me and it even have a candle on it. Today be one of the best days of my life.
Last nite I decide to walk down to see mamma arid papa and as soon as I set out I hear voices so I step into the shadows so nobody see me. It Master Johnson and Mr. Pines. Master Johnson he say sure as hell there gonna be a war you mark my words. Mr. Pines he say he not think it come down to that. Master Johnson say he heard in town yesterday that South Carolina was getting ready to quit the Union. Mr. Pines say the hell they will. Master Johnson say why not. Mr. Pines he stop walking and look at Master Johnson and say they just better not try, hells fire that would start a war for sure. Master Johnson say now what in tarnation have I been saying. They went into the house and so I set out to go see mamma and papa as fast as I can run. When I tell papa, he say if war do come it be best for us to be up north instead of here. Mamma nod her head and say sooner the better. Papa ask ste if I be all rite up there in that house? I tell him I be just fine but I sure nuff miss him and mamma. He pat my hand und say for me to just stay close to Zeb and Anna and we wont be gone for long.
Master Johnson sent for me today. He waiting in this room filled with books. He sitting behind a big desk when I come in, He tell to sit down in a chair that was on the other side of the desk from him. I real scared. I keep my eyes on the floor, lie say he been hearing some rite nice things bout me and he glad I be doing such a nice job for him. I look up at him then and he smile and say your papa be a good worker too. He start looking at me all over and I get scared again and look back down at floor. He say I always reward my niggas who do good work for me, that’s why your papa takes care of my animals instead of working in the fields with most of my other niggas. He say starting tomorrow I gonna be his upstairs maid. Then he say theres ways that you can earn special favors from me, but we shall talk about that later. I don’t say nothing. He tell me that be all and I leave as fast as I can get out of there. I go rite in the kitchen and ask Anna where Zeb be? She say he went out to the root cellar. So I go out and find him. After I tell him what Master Johnson say, he look pretty mad. He say child if your papa find out what Master Johnson planning, your papa try to kill him for sure. He say in three more days you all be on your way up north. He say it be up to me to stay out of Master Johnson’s way for those three days. He say he try to help me much as he can. Then he say, you think you be able to do it girl? I say I try but I pretty scared. He say just remember girl in three days you, your mamma and papa will be on your way up north where you gonna be free. But if your papa kill Master Johnson they gonna hang him and you and your mamma too maybe. I say I understand and go back in the house. I not know what tomorrow will bring but I must be brave for mamma and papa.
Today while I cleaning in one of the bedrooms that Master Johnson have for guests, he come in and say I doing a fine job like he knew I would. Then he put his hand on my titty. I push his hand away and tell him if my papa ever find out he do that he kill him. He just laugh and say if your papa was to try something as fool hearted as that girl, I would have to have him and your mamma hung. He say as I told you yesterday there are ways you can earn special favors, but there are also ways that you can cause your mamma and papa a lot of grief. He say now it would be a down rite shame for me to have Mr. Pines tie your papa up to the wipping post and peel some of the hide off his back just cause his girl not nice to me. Now that would be a shame cause I like your papa. I not say nothing. I just look at the floor cause I even too scared to try and run. He put his hand on my titty again. This time I just let him cause I fraid he do what he say to papa. He say thats better girl, and then he put his other hand up under my dress and start feeling round down there. I start to cry then. He say you gonna work out just fine girl. Then he stick his finger inside inside me and it hurt real bad. I all most cry out in pain but I too fraid. He slide his finger in and out several times and then he say well I be damned. I feel something wet running down my leg and he say you is a virgin, well I be damned. He tell me to take off my dress and lay on the bed. He say it be time for him to make a woman out of me. Just as I start to do as he say I hear Zeb call out for Master Johnson and he be saying that a man from town by the name of Mr. Harden here to see him. I hear Zeb coming up the stairs and he be calling out again. Master Johnson tell me not to say a word to nobody, cause if I do he will make it mighty hard on papa. After he leave I pull my dress up to see what it be that is wet on my leg, it blood. I start to cry again. Master Johnson leave with that man from town and stay gone all day. I not know what I gonna do tomorrow. I fraid to tell anyone what happen.
Early this morning before day lite, papa come to my room. He wake me up and when I see him I throw my arms round him. He say we be leaving in two more days. He ask me if I be all rite. I tell him everything fine. He say you sure girl? I tell him not to worry I be just fine. Later when I upstairs doing my work, Master Johnson come up to me and pat my bottom. He say girl I got to go into town again today and probably not be back till tonite. He say when you see me come home you get your self up stairs to my bedroom, you hear? Cause we gonna have ourselves one hell of a time tonite. Then he kiss me, rite on the mouth too. I see him when he come back. He so drunk he can hardly get off his horse. Mr. Pines help him in the house and help him upstairs. I not gonna go to his room like he say. I hope he fall a sleep and not come down here for me. Tomorrow I tell him I came to his room like he say but he asleep so I leave.
Mamma come to see me early today. She say papa tell her he talk with Zeb and Zeb say it all fixed for us to leave the day after tomorrow. I tell her papa already tell me. She say she know. Then she smile and say she just want to know if I be all rite. I tell her I be just fine. She say she be glad when we leave to go north. I ask her if she be fraid that we get caught. She say child, I be fraid but I be more fraid for you if we stay. Then she say your papa he a good man and where ever or what ever he want to do I want be with him. She say your papa a smart man too, so you not worry none to much bout us getting caught. She hug me and tell me it be time for her to go and then she tell me to stay out of Master Johnsons site as much as I can. I tell her not to worry cause I sure nuff gonna to that. Zeb tell me that Master Johnson be sick. He say he carry his meal up to him at noon and the food he carry up this morning not even touched. Master Johnson stay in his room all day today. I see him ride out toward town bout sunset. Maybe he gonna go get drunk again. Maybe he not bother me tonite if he do. Maybe he not come back tonite at all.
Master Johnson dead. Papa kill him with a pitch fork. Master Johnson he come home last nite real drunk. He come to my room and tell me to get my black behind upstairs to his room. I tell him I not go. He slap me in the face and drag me out from my room. Zeb he hear what happen arid come out of his room and tell Master Johnson to please let me be cause he drunk and not know what he doing. Master Johnson just laugh. He say for Zeb to go on back in his room if he know what good for him. He got my arm twisted behind my back so I not run and he say if I give him any more trouble he gonna break it. He force me upstairs to his room and push me on to his bed. Then he tell me to take off my nite gown. I real scared so I do what lie say. He just stand there and look at me for a while, then he take his clothes off. I see his thing, it real big and all swelled up and ugly. I beg him. I say please Master Johnson let me go please, and I start crying. He just laugh and say child after we done tonite you he coming round knocking on my bedroom door and begging me to do it to you again, he sit on the bed and start rubbing his hand on my belly and then on my titties. I say please Master Johnson let me be. He put his hand between my legs and start rubbing me down there. Then he stick his finger inside me and start moving it up and down like he did before. I just lay there and cry, lie tell me to shut up but I so scared I not able to stop crying. Then he slap my face real hard and yell at me to stop crying. I scream cause I know he gonna kill me. He hit me again with his fist. I feel the blood come out of my nose, and mouth and I scream again. Bout this time papa run into the room with a pitch fork and just as Master Johnson turn to see who it be, papa stick him right in the neck with the pitch fork. I not remember nothing else cause I faint. We hiding in a old white woman’s root cellar rite now. Papa say Zeb tell him a man be here tonite to help us. Mamma say papa carry me in his arms all nite long. I ask her where we be? She say she not sure but we run all nite threw the woods. She ask if I be all rite? I tell her I just scared that all. She say she scared too, cause they hang all of us for sure if they find us. Mamma get my things out from my room for we leave. I glad she bring a long my book and journal.
Last nite just as our candle burn out a man come. He say Zeb tell him bout what happen. He say he glad papa kill Master Johnson cause now he not be bothering no more black chiles. He say he got a boat hid bout three miles from here and he gonna take us a good ways up the river to place near Greenwood. He say that be as far as he go, but papa can take the boat on up to Phillip. He say a white man named Bill Codder waiting for us at the last bend on the left bank, just for we see the town. He tell papa, if you see the lites of the town you done went too far, so turn round and go back. Papa say he understand and tell the man to thank the old white woman for letting us stay in her root cellar. The man say no need to cause she glad to help. He say she not be all white. He say her mamma’s mamma was a slave but none of these white people round here know bout it cause when she come down here from North Carolina over fifty years ago she was married to a frenchman and he claim she be part Indian. We travel on the river bout all nite. The white man Bill Codder he there waiting for us.
We spend all day riding with two other men who go north too, in a prison wagon. Bill Codder he say it the safest way in the world for us to travel. He take us rite through town. I hear him tell a man he taking us back up to Tennessee, where we done ran off from. He laugh and say that big buck there, and he point at papa, give me a run for my money, but when he seen I found his women folk he come a running back. He say that young one she be a hell cat. He say I had to punch her rite in the face and knock her down for she scratched my eyes out. The man who he talking to look at’ me and I remember my face still all swelled up where Master Johnson hit me with his fist so I put my hand to my lips and he start laughing and say what did the big buck do when he saw that Bill? Bill say not much for I had a gun on him by the time he got there. Papa he not trust Bill none I can tell. Mamma say she hope he not trick us. I not sure what to think. Papa say we still heading north. Bill see me write in my book when we stop to rest the horses. He say now thats the damnest thing I ever saw. He ask where I learn to write? I tell him a white girl name Ellie teach me. He say he all ways wanted to learn bout reading and writing but never could find the time to, then he tell me to be sure not to let no one else see me. I tell him I be careful. Papa ask the other two mens that riding with us where they from. The oldest one say they run off from a plantation in Greene County near Leekeville. He say they brothers and been traveling with Bill now for bout a week. He say Bill good man. He say Bill help a lot of slaves go north. Papa ask him why Bill he helping niggas that done run off? He say Bill use to make his money hunting down slaves that run off but one time Bill was tracking a nigga down in Georgia threw the swamps and he get bit by a big old cotton mouth and the slave who he was tracking see what happen and he come to Bill and cut Bills leg open where the snake done bit him and suck all the poison Out with his mouth. He stay with Bill for three days then help Bill back to town where he have his wagon and horses. Ever since then Bill help niggas who run off get up north. Papa go over to where Bill watering the horses and he ask him how long it before we get to Memphis?
Bill say if we push real hard we be in Batesville tonite and should make Memphis by tomorrow nite. I ask papa where Memphis be? He say in Tennessee. He tell me that if everything go rite we be in Ohio bout ten days from now. He say Bill gonna take us far as Memphis but then he not know what gonna happen. Bill hear him and come over and say he know a man in Memphis that will help us a long the way so no need for papa to fret any. Bill ask papa if he mite be able to drive the team for a while. Papa say he be glad to. Bill tell him he gonna have to put leg irons on him while he drive and he hand papa a black eye patch and tell him to put it on. Papa just look at him and Bill say if we was to get stopped a long the way he want papa to play deaf and dumb. Papa just nod his head and smile then. I don’t understand what going on but me and mamma both laugh when papa put that eye patch on. He sure look silly.
Just before we reach Batesville, five men on horses stop us. They look us over real good. They say they looking for a big buck who killed a white man down in Holes County. They say he gots two women with him. Bill say he not heard anything bout that but he sure be on the look out for them. Bill tell them that the four niggas he got locked up in the wagon was caught down in Florida. He say they all from the same family and the man that own them up in Tennessee is paying him to hall them back. He say this one here is my nigga and nod his head toward papa. He say been with me bout three years now. He not able to hear nor talk and is blind in one eye, but he sure knows how to handle a team. They all laugh when Bill say that and then one of the mans say if you run in to these niggas we looking for, there be a reward of one thousand dollars for the buck, dead or alive and two hundred for the women. They start to ride away then one of them turn his horse round and come back. He ask Bill, did you say these niggas was from Tennessee? Bill say that I did. The man say and did I hear you say they was caught down in Florida? Bill say that’s rite too. The man scratch his head and say now if they be from Tennessee it be kinda strange that they was caught in Florida. He say seems to me that they was headed in the wrong direction. Bill say now I was wondering bout that myself and I ask them why they went to Florida instead of going north – seems that their grandpa was quite a storyteller. He done got most of them niggas round Memphis thinking that if they can get to Florida they can steal them a boat and paddle back to Africa. Now if that not be the damnest thing I ever heard. They all start laughing again and then they ride off. After they a good ways off, Bill say to papa that’s cause it the damnest lie I ever told. We all laugh then too.
Papa say by tonite we be in Tennessee. I can hardly wait to see what it look like. I never been no place cept Mississippi. Fact is papa and mamma never been no place else either. Papa say Bill tell him last nite that a man he know in Memphis gots a big river boat and he take us up the Mississippi clear to a place called Evansville, Kentucky. Papa say this man name Captain John and he got a sister in Evansville who help us get to Cincinnati. Papa say that be in Ohio, girl, and we be free there. The oldest of the two brothers he hear what papa say and he say they’s going to Illinois. He say Illinois be the closest free state. Papa say that it be, , but we got someone in Ohio who gonna help us get a new start. Later, l ask papa who we got in Ohio that gonna help us? He say Zeb gots a brother in Cincinnati. Zeb say his brother George been free for bout four years now, and he work on the river for a man name Big Jim Pauls. Zeb say his brother be rite proud to help us get a start. I ask papa why if
Zeb got a brother in Cincinnati, wily lie not run off and go there? Papa say Zeb too old girl. Zeb be happy doing what he doing.
Last nite we make it to Memphis. Bill take us to a farm where he know it be safe for us to hide till he find Captain John. The man whose farm we hidLng on name Oaks. Bill say this man Oaks once own a big plantation down in Georgia and have over a hundred slaves. Then one nite Oaks say Jesus come to him and tell him that theres only one true master of men and if Oaks not repent his sins and serve the true master he would burn in hell fires forever. Bill say Oaks been serving God and helping anyone who need helping ever since. Bill in town now looking for Captain John and he say he going to get some papers fixed up on us. Maybe by tomorrow we all be heading north on Captain John’s boat. The man Oaks he come out to the barn and read to us from the Bible bout a man name Moses and how Moses led his people out of bondage. Oaks say they was slaves too. He say because they had faith in God, God helped them be free. He say if we have faith, God help us too. He tell us to all pray to God. I ask God to keep us all safe and help us get to Ohio.
Bill not come back last nite. We all scared something happen to him. Oaks he scared too, he say Bill not ever stay gone all nite before. He say if Bill not back for nite fall he going to town to find out what he can. Mamma say she think if Bill not bac soon we should head out up north on foot. Papa say we wait for a while, but if Bill not here tomorrow then we leave. Bill not back yet. The man Oaks he leave for town a little while ago. Papa say he not like it. He say we going to spend tonite in the woods. The two brothers they say they going to stay rite where they at. Papa try to talk them into hiding in the woods with us, but they say no, they going to stay here in the barn. We started to leave but then we here horses coming. It be Bill and Oaks. Papa was smiling cause he hear Bill trying to sing and Bill he so drunk healmost fall off his horse. Papa say Bill must of had himself a time in town. Bill and Oaks come in the barn and Bill say everything just fine. He say him and Captain John get a little drunk but everything all set. We leave tomorrow. He tell the two brothers that after he get us on the boat he and Oaks will be taking them on up the river a ways where they will be able to cross over into Illinois without anyone seeing them.
When we get to the boat Bill give Captain John some papers. He tell papa the papers say Captain John own us, but they just for in case anybody check to see if we legal or not. I gonna miss Bill he nice man. Papa say Bill one of the best mens he ever know. Mamma say she hope all white inens as good as Bill in Cincinnati. Papa say he not think too many like Bill round, black or white. Captain John he sorta quiet 1 ike. lie not say anything to us. I hear him tell another man that we be stopping at Tiptonville tomorrow to put on wood. Papa he work with two other black mens in a room filled with wood. He say he a stoker. I ask him what that mean? He say he gots to keep the fire going so the ship have plenty of steam to run on. I ask him how the ship run on steam? He say he not know yet but he going to find out. Me and mamma we work in the kitchen. When we first start down the river I look back and see three men on horses talking with Bill. One of them look a lot like Mr. Pines. I not say nothing to papa yet.
Last nite I tell papa about the three men I see talking with Bill. Papa not say anything for a long time, then he ask me what the horse look like that the man who look like Mr. Pines was riding? I tell him it was a big black horse with white on its face. Papa ask me if this horse look like he wearing three white socks on his feet? I say I not sure but I think so. Papa say he gonna talk to Captain John first thing this morning. Tonite when papa come in he say he tell Captain John bout me seeing the man who look like Mr. Pines and tell him that if it be Mr. Pines he be causing us trouble for sure. Papa say Captain John tell him not to worry. He say maybe it be a good idea if we not stop at Tiptonville for wood, that maybe it be best if we stop further on up the river on the Illinois side. Papa say maybe it good idea that we get off there and make our way to Cincinnati best we can on land. But Captain John tell him he not think that a good idea. He tell papa that even though Illinois a free state there still be men there that would just love to find a run away slave family. He say they bring us back across the river and sell us sure nuff. Papa say Captain John tell him that when we get to Evansville where his sister live she will not only help us get to Cincinnati, but will also give us everything we need to help us get a new start, including papers that give us new names and say that we are free.
The July Journal was found in a wooded area just outside the town of Cincinnati, Ohio by a hunter on August 3, 1860.