My name is Harriet. I’m the slave girl who fell in love with her white Master. I was 16 when my first Master, Mr. Hamilton leased me to Mr. Williamson, a businessman. Mr. Williamson wasn’t married but there were rumors that he was courting and soon to be engaged to Miss Scarlett, a beautiful Southern belle.
I saw her and thought she look like the white dolls I used to see Miss Anna and Miss Daisy, Mr. Hamilton’s daughters playing with. Growing up, I didn’t have any dolls. I didn’t have time for play. My parents, brother, sister and I worked from sunrise to sunset six days a week on Mr. Hamilton’s plantation. I liked Sundays because we didn’t work and we sang and danced. I especially liked “patting juba”.
On Sundays, we went to church. I didn’t like going to church, though, because the worship service was conducted by the Master or the Mistress and they were always preaching that the Bible says that Negroes were to be slaves and obedient to their masters because that was God’s will. I couldn’t believe that God would create us just to be slaves to the whites.
I couldn’t read or write but I could talk to God. Every morning and every night, I talked to Him. And I felt that He was listening to me. I asked Him to let me learn how to read and write so that I could read the Bible for myself and see if what the Master and Mistress told us was true.
I got my answer one day when Mr. Williamson visited the plantation. I saw him with the Master and the Mistress, a tall, well-dressed and very handsome man. I was in the field with my family when I was taken to the house and told that the Master had leased me to Mr. Williamson. I left the following morning. I had no idea how long I was going to be away from my family.
Mr. Williamson’s plantation was larger than the Master’s. And the house was large and stately. He lived there with his mother and sister. His father had died years ago of malaria. I was to stay in a log cabin with a widow named Berta and her two daughters, Maisie and Millie. I was to work in the fields like I did on Mr. Hamilton’s plantation.
Soon after I started working for Mr. Williamson, he and I became sexually involved. The first time was one night when he came to the cabin and fetched me. Maisie and Millie were asleep but Berta was still up. She was sitting in front of the fireplace. She didn’t say anything.
He took me to an empty cabin in the woods. I wasn’t afraid although I had never been with a man before. He told me to get undressed and I did. There was a bed in the corner and a fire burning in the fireplace. I lay down on the bed while he removed his clothes.
He stretched out on top of me, his eyes held mine for several minutes and then, he kissed me. I was surprised that he would do that. It felt nice. I kissed him back and that seemed to please and excite him. We kissed for a long time and then he entered me. It hurt and I cried out. “The pain will soon pass,” he whispered. It did. And then, what we were doing started to feel really good.
When we were finished, he withdrew from me and stood up to get dressed. I got up and put on my clothes. “Meet me here tomorrow night,” he said.
“Yes, Massa,” I replied. We left the cabin and I went back to Berta’s. Berta was still up. She looked at me but didn’t say anything. I got the feeling that she knew what had happened between the Master and me.
He and I met at the cabin the following night and every night. One night, after we finished having sex, he asked me if I would like him to teach me how to read and write. I said yes and he began to teach me. He made me promise not to say anything to anyone. I crossed my heart and swore.
Once, I asked him, “Is it true that it’s God’s will for me to be to a slave?”
He shook his head. “It’s not God’s will that any person should be a slave. Slavery is a man made institution. It began in the land of Egypt when the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel. Did you know that the Egyptians were black?”
“Yes. The first slave-holders were black.”
He didn’t just teach me how to read and write using the Bible but he taught me other things like History, Science and Geography. He taught me about life and love. I know it seems strange but I loved him. I didn’t want to return to Mr. Hamilton’s plantation or even to my family. I wanted to stay there on Mr. Williamson’s plantation with him forever. I got my wish.
Before I gave birth to our first child, Mr. Hamilton sold me to Mr. Williamson. Mr. Williamson stopped courting Miss Scarlett so there was no more talk of an engagement. I was no longer the slave girl. He gave me his last name and we lived as husband and wife for the rest of his life. During that time, he taught our children how to read and write like he taught me.
When slavery was abolished, most of the slaves, including Berta and her daughters remained on the plantation while Mr. Williamson’s sister, Della married Mr. Dumas, a Frenchman and moved to Paris with him. As soon as she left, our children and I were moved to the house to live there with Mr. Williamson. Berta did the cooking while I did the cleaning and washing because I was younger. When the other slaves saw that I was still doing chores, they didn’t resent me for being in the house with the Master.
Life on the plantation was better than before. We were free and we had a place to live. We weren’t slaves anymore. We were free to leave but we chose to stay. My life was there on the plantation with Mr. Williamson and our children. We decided that when we died, we would be buried on the plantation, side by side. We didn’t want to be buried in separate cemeteries. In life we are together. We wanted to be together in death too.
This story is fiction but was inspired by the true stories of local businessman Thomas Bell and Mary Hemmings and Mr. Ramey and Kittie Simkins.
Sources: TIME; The New York Times; National Public Radio; Thirteen; Slate;