At the time of his interview, Fountain Hughes was sure of one strong conviction: he would rather kill himself than be a slave again.
Hughes was 101 at the time of this interview on Voices from the Days of Slavery but his perspectives and memories of the days of slavery were as sharp as a smile.
His family had lived as slaves, including his grandfather who belonged to President Thomas Jefferson.
“If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun and just end it all right away. Because you’re nothing but a dog. You’re not a thing but a dog. Night never come out, you had nothing to do,” he shared with Hermond Norwood on June 11, 1949, at Baltimore, Maryland.
Hughes, a former slave, was born on May 10, 1848, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He said that his grandfather, who was a slave of Jefferson, lived up to the age of 115.
In the nearly 30 minutes-long audio interview, he bares out all the details of his life as a slave, his experiences and struggles of growing up as a young boy to a slave mother and a father who was killed at war.
“Children wasn’t, couldn’t spend money when I come along. In fact, when I come along, young men, young men couldn’t spend no money until they was twenty-one years old. And then you was twenty-one, why then you could spend your money. But if you wasn’t twenty-one, you couldn’t spend no money. I couldn’t take, I couldn’t spend ten cents if somebody give it to me. Because they’d say, ‘Well, he might have stole it.”
Hughes died in 1957 at the age of 109.
Listen to the full audio below, as you explore the life of a former slave and how he varied the life of his prime years and the generation in which he died.