“Interview with Sally Ashton” (Date Unknown)


Sally Ashton, a woman born into slavery, tells an interviewer from the Virginia Writers Project her memory of the parties she would attend with other enslaved people, and of the fiddler Louis Cane who provided the music for them to dance to. The bracketed aside that begins the narrative is written by Virginia Writers Project interviewer Susie Byrd. This interview, along with other Virginia Writers Project interviews, offer a composite portrait of interviewees’ self-styled personal stories. Interviewers’ interests, lived experiences, and editing choices, as well as their social relations and expectations shaped their relationship and conversation with the interviewees. Although the interviews aren’t unmediated autobiographies, they are no less authentic and are just as fruitful a source for reconstructing historical experience.



Sally Ashton (b. ca. 1845)

Keswick, Va.

Interviewer: Susie R. C. Byrd

Date of Interview: Unknown

Source: Negro in Virginia, published version, p. 91

[Sally Ashton says that her owner, Charles Hancock, didn’t mind if his slaves danced all night Saturdays.]

We use to git back in de end cabin an’ sing an’ dance by de fiddle till day break. Sho’ had one time, swingin’ dem one piece dresses back an’ forth, an’ de boys crackin’ dey coat-tails in de wind. Nobody never bothered us, not even de patterollers, cause Marsa won’t gwine let ‘em. Ole fiddler was a man named Louis Cane. Chile, he sho’ could strung dat fiddle. Never did do much work, but Marsa use to keep him, ‘cause he use to have him play fo’ de balls in de big house. Marse use to pay him too. We never did pay him, ‘cause we ain’t never had nothin’. But he use to play an’ call de figgers ‘long as dere was anyone on de floor. Chile, when I was a girl guess I’d ruther dance dan eat.

APA Citation:
Ashton, Sally & Byrd, Susie. “Interview with Sally Ashton” (Date Unknown). (2021, May 25). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Ashton, Sally, and Susie Byrd. "“Interview with Sally Ashton” (Date Unknown)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (25 May. 2021). Web. 28 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, August 18
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