In My Lifetime By: Caleb Alford

Diary Entry #1:

I was born into slavery during the time of the Antebellum South, in the year of 1853. I’m not completely sure what my name is, as I was never given one. I just turned 6 years old, and recently started work inside of the plantation house and fields. I continue to watch my own mother and father be forcefully beat out in the harsh conditions of the plantation while our owners sat back and did nothing. I kept hearing, during the coming year, about the election of 1860 and how my owner and some of his friends strongly hated one of the northern candidates. His name was Abraham Lincoln, and he was against slavery. I saw this election as hope for us slaves to finally have some freedom. There are now things called “Slave Codes.” I'm not entirely sure what they are, but master says they are the law. My mother and father say that they are nothing but another way to restrict what slaves can or cannot do. Either way, life is extremely hard during this time and I hope they start to look up soon.

My early life.

Diary Entry #2

The year is currently 1860, a few months after my last entry, and things may be starting to look up for us slaves. I heard of the election and how that northerner, Abraham Lincoln, won. Our plantation master and some of his white friends are extremely furious about the election. They said that he may abolish slavery as a whole, and give us blacks some rights and freedoms. My mother and father have also told me about how they have heard of South Carolina and some other states talk of seceding from the United States if he wins, so that this will never happen. This really frightens me because if this happens, we may never have anything except this poor, awful, life.

Diary Entry #3:

Oh dear! My family and I are very scared as the year is now 1861 and some states have seceded from the United States to form their own country, the Confederate States of America. We have also received word that the United States’ army, the Union, is going to invade the South.

It has been a few days, and shots have been fired not too far away from us. The Union fired the first shots of what our master has called, The American Civil War, at Fort Sumter. My family and the other slaves are not sure what will happen as time goes on.

The year is 1862, and the Civil War is starting to come to get progressively worse! Some of the other slaves on the plantation have been killed, and our master has been sent off to fight while his wife tends to the plantation. Some slaves tried to run away and were killed, but I heard that the Union were able to rescue some also.

Diary Entry #4:

The year is now 1863, and Abraham Lincoln has issued an “Emancipation Proclamation” and declared all slaves free! However, South Carolina has not followed these orders. We, slaves, are being told that if we try to escape we will be killed. Most of us, however, have chosen to stay here because we have nowhere else to go. The Civil War is still continuing, but we are praying that everything will be ok for us.

Diary Entry #5:

IT IS OVER! The Civil War has ended! Slaves are now free with the help of the 13th Amendment, but most of us have chose to stay on the plantation because we have nowhere else to go. All slaves have also been given rights and citizenship with the 14th Amendment! And males have even been given the Right to Vote with the 15th amendment! The Union has also started to help the South with “Reconstruction.” They are trying to help the destroyed South rebuild after the war.

Diary Entry #6:

Over the coming years after Reconstruction, the South has refused to help out with Reconstruction. Abraham Lincoln had a plan that allowed the Southern States to rejoin the United States with only 10% of the population’s agreement. That was, until he was sadly assassinated. President Johnson, however, had a similar plan to help the South. He only asked the same as Lincoln, but the South must ask for a pardon, and ratify the 13th amendment.

It has been a few months, and Congress has come out with a reconstruction plan of their own. They split up the South into 5 Military Districts which are heavily guarded by Union Soldiers.

Diary Entry #7:

An organization of people have come to help us blacks who are uneducated, and those who are illiterate. They are called the Freedman's Bureau. Us blacks are called Freedmen after the war. They set up a local Bureau close to our plantation, where my mother, father, and I go almost everyday of the week. A group of white people came by on horses and started shooting at the Bureau. There have also been these people called Carpetbaggers, who have come from the north to help us freedmen. I’ve heard my former master speak of these people called Scalawags. They are white southerners who support the Northern Republicans.

Diary Entry #8:

A new State Constitution has been enforced! The Constitution was added this year, called the State Constitution of 1865! It enforced the 14th and 15th amendments into our state and gave us freedmen more rights, and gave all black men the right to vote! The whites, however, are scaring us into not being able to vote. They threaten us with being killed and tortured. This constitution has also set up the environment for new “Black Codes,” which is the new way to disenfranchise freedmen; and started enforcing them.

Another State Constitution has been added! It has been named the Constitution of 1868 On the bright side, it has also set up plenty of schools for the Freedmen and poor whites.

Diary Entry #9:

The year is now 1879, and Wade Hampton has become the new South Carolina State Governor. He is a very bad person, but many of white South Carolinians love him. He helped with the removal of Northern Soldiers in the South. He helped with the Redeemers, a group who wanted to restore the South to its pre-Civil War age. He also was a leader of the KKK. They are a terrorist group that kill many freedman. Many of my former slave friends have already been struck, and I’m scared for my life. As long as I don’t vote, or be politically active I should be fine, however. Other extremely terrifying terrorist groups that have risen are the Redshirts and the Riflemen.

Diary Entry #10:

Yet another awful governor has been elected in South Carolina. His name is Ben Tillman. He is loved very much by most other racist, white elites in South Carolina. He even has a name for his followers, the Tillmanites. He also amended the State Constitution of 1895, which established segregation in South Carolina. Ben Tillman has also established the college Clemson, an all white agricultural college. SC State, however, is a college for all freedmen. Ben Tillman has basically ruined any rights that Freedmen had through disenfranchisement, segregation, etc.

Diary Entry #11:

It is now 1896, and a new organization has come about. The Grange; an organization to help bring all farm families together. The Grange helped to promote all SC Farmers, black or white. Another organization called the White and Colored Farmer’s Alliances has risen also. They are a combination of both Black/Colored, and White farmers who worked together. The Populist Party is a new “political party” that has risen. This party wa often called the “People’s Party,” and was formed from angry farmers across the nation and eventually merged with the Democratic Party.

Diary Entry #12:

More and more ways to disenfranchise and diminish our rights are being put into place. Almost everything is segregated, there is a white-better-side, and colored-worse-side. The whites always get the best of everything, which isn’t fair at all! We are human too! There are also these things called “Jim Crow Laws.” They were laws that enforced segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks in the South. There has been a recent major Supreme Court Case decision. Plessy v. Ferguson, was ruled that all men were created “Separate but equal.” The KKK are still also a major threat in South Carolina, and killings are reported or witnessed almost every other day it feels like.

Diary Entry #13:

Not too long ago, a horrible disaster hit! A hurricane slammed Charleston and destroyed much of the city and its agriculture; but now an even worse disaster has hit!

A terrible earthquake has struck Charleston in the year 1893. Almost the entire city was destroyed, and the cash crop of rice has been “killed.” My home was destroyed in the earthquake, so I had to move a little North to a small town in the Horry County area.

Diary Entry #14:

The Progressive Movement has recently become a major movement in the United States Government. They wanted to remove and reform the corrupt and bad in the US Government. They wanted to abolish child labor, wanted to have women’s suffrage, and prohibition-ban of alcohol. They believed that alcohol was a major contributing factor to the problems in the government, so many have started acts of Temperance-non consumption of alcohol.

The new president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, has helped majorly with the Progressive Movement. He pushed many laws such as prohibition, to help make the US Government a non-corrupt system.

Diary Entry #15:

A so called, “Great War” has begun. Countries from mainly Europe, and Russia, are fighting in a huge war. The United States, however, is in a time of “neutrality.” We are not going to try to get involved into the war. Germany, however, did recently sink a British ship, with american passengers, using Unrestricted Submarine Warfare. Germany promised not to do it again.

A few months have passed, but the US Government recently intercepted a note from Germany to Mexico called the Zimmerman Telegram. The note was from Germany telling Mexico to attack the US in exchange for land. Germany has also begun using Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, once again.

The US has now declared war on Germany in the year of 1917. They have also released the Sedition Acts, where it is illegal to speak out against the war.

Diary Entry #16:

The year is 1924, and a new law of Prohibition has begun. Alcohol consumption, brewing, or distributing is illegal in the United States. A movie has also been released called, “Birth of a Nation,” where the KKK is seen as a heroic figure. African American culture has been rising tremendously across the country. It has been commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance in the North, and in the South as, the Southern Literary Renaissance. There have also been many amazing technologies invented. Radios, movies, and even automobiles have been invented! Only the rich elite are able to get ahold of those, though.

Diary Entry #17:

There has been many advancements in all areas during the 1920’s, but the year is now 1929, and the Stock Market has crashed! What is currently being known as the Great Depression has begun.

Diary Entry #18:

This may be my final entry. I’m writing this in hopes that someone will find this and have inside knowledge of a common Black Man’s life from the worst time in American History, to the one of the best. The Ku Klux Klan has raided and killed many homes belonging to colored people on my street, and set fire to their homes also. I’m afraid that I may be next. I’m hiding this in a locked away place so that they may not be able to find this journal. Oh Dear! I’m afraid they are here! They are beating down my door as I am writing this. Farewell.

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