Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Memoir of the Chief Vann House

By Levi Branham, 1852 - 1944

"My master always treated me like I was human being..."

I spent a large portion of my life in the Chief Vann house with my old master, Mr. Edmondson. He had a daughter by the name of Jennie. Jennie had a waitress who was named Tein. Another of his daughters was Sug, whose waitress was Fannie. Another one of his daughters was Georgia whose waitress was Elvie. These were all of the single daughters that Mr. Edmondson had when I was with him, but he had three married daughters whose names were Harriet, Sallie and Sue. Harriet married Bob Anderson, Sue married Street, and Sallie married Dr. Mathis.

One of my young masters was John Edmondson, another, Tom Polk Edmondson. I was Tom Polk's waitman until he went to the Civil war between the North and South. Bill, the youngest, was quite small. All of the waitmen and waitresses stayed in the Edmondson house now known as the Chief Vann house. The room in which we stayed had a fine carpet on which we slept. Mr. Edmondson gave us fine blankets and we surely did sleep warm and comfortable.

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It should be noted that "house slaves" were often treated much better than the far more numerous slaves who worked in the fields. It should also be noted that however "good" a master Mr. Edmondson may have been, he was still a man who regarded other human beings as his property, deprived them of their liberty and extracted uncompensated labor from them, even from small children. Slavery, even in its most benign form, was -- and remains -- a vicious, thoroughly immoral institution and a crime against humanity.

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