“Interview with Susan Broaddus” (Date Unknown)


Susan Broaddus, a woman born into slavery, tells an interviewer from the Virginia Writers Project a memory about how she helped thwart her enslavers’ attempt to sell two enslaved men from her community. The editors of Weevils in the Wheat inserted comments in this transcription. Their bracketed comments have been included below. 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.



Susan Broaddus (b. 1849)

Massaponax, Va.

Interviewer: Marietta Silver

Date of interview: Unknown

Source: Negro in Virginia, published version, p. 44

[The final two sentences, which were not included in the published version, are from the MS version, draft no. 1, chap. 4, p. 22.—Ed.]

Was servin’ gal fo’ Missus. Used to have to stan’ behin’ her at de table an’ reach her de salt an’ syrup an’ anything else she called fo’. Ole Marsa would spell out real fas’ anything he don’t want me to know ‘bout. One day Marsa was fit to be tied, he was in setch a bad mood. Was ravin’ ‘bout de crops, an’ taxes, an’ de triflin’ niggers he got to feed. “Gonna sell ‘em, I swear fo’ Christ, I gonna sell ‘em,” he says. Den ole Missus ask which ones he gonna sell an’ tell him quick to spell it. Den he spell out G-A-B-E, and R-U-F-U-S. ‘Course I stood dere without battin’ an eye, an’ makin’ believe I didn’t even hear him, but I was packin’ dem letters up in my haid all de time. An’ soon’s I finished dishes I rushed down to my father an’ say ‘em to him jus’ like Marsa say ‘em. Father say quiet-like: “Gabe and Rufus,” an’ tol’ me to go on back to de house an’ say I ain’t been out. De next day Gabe and Rufus was gone—dey had run away. Marsa nearly died, got to cussin’ and ravin’ so he took sick. Missus went to town an’ tol’ de sheriff, but dey never could fin’ dose two

— page 56 —

slaves. Was gone to free land. An’ I spec’ dey wondered many times how dem niggers knew dey was goin’ to be sol’.

APA Citation:
Broaddus, Susan & Silver, Marietta. “Interview with Susan Broaddus” (Date Unknown). (2021, May 25). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Broaddus, Susan, and Marietta Silver. "“Interview with Susan Broaddus” (Date Unknown)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (25 May. 2021). Web. 13 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2021, August 18
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