In My Lifetime By: Skylar scott

My name is Hurbert Hegler. I was born April 5, 1850. Much of my life was spent as a slave working in the fields; however; I did find some happiness during my lifetime. I took time during the Southern Literary Renaissance in the 1920's to write a story of my life. This is my way of celebrating the African American culture. I hope you enjoy!

Plantation life was not fair for the African Americans.

Before, the Civil War, I had to work on the plantation. I worked really long hours planting, growing, and harvesting crops. I could not do anything I wanted to do because of slaves codes. Slave codes prevented me from gathering with my African American family without the supervision of white slave owners. I also couldn't learn how to read and write because of slave codes. Slave codes limit the power I had. I wasn't viewed as an equal.

Abraham Lincoln wins the presidential election of 1860.

I was so excited when Abraham Lincoln was elected as president in 1860. Abraham Lincoln repay a "free soil" campaign, which meant that he was against the expansion of slavery. This was good news! I now wouldn't have to worry about anymore of my fellow African Americans being punished for not working hard enough on the fields. South Carolina didn't like that he was elected president because they thought he was going to put an end to slavery altogether. Unfortunately, South Carolina's response was to secede from the Union to keep their tradition of slavery. This was bad news for me because I would still have to be a slave and be treated unfairly.

The Civil War: Firing at Fort Sumpter

On April 12, 1861, the Confederate army in the South opened fire on the Union in the North at Fort Sumpter, which started the Civil War. Some of the slaves that I worked with on the plantation ran away to go fight with the Union Army. The Union Army promised them freedom for helping them in the war. I got caught by my owner when I tried to run away, and he forced me to stay behind and fight with him against the Union Army.

This is the Emancipation Proclamation

As the war progressed, President Lincoln issued an Emancipation Proclamation, which was supposed to have a major effect on South Carolina. The Emancipation Proclamation was intended to free the slaves controlled by the Confederacy. I thought I was finally going to be free, but it didn't quite work out because most slaves were not freed. I started to think that I would be a slave my entire life. I thought I would never be free. The Union Army did end up freeing the slaves that served with them in the army. The slaves I worked with on the plantation finally got their lucky break! How I wished I had been able to escape and help the Union Army!

These are all of the amendments that really helped the slaves.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln put plans in motion for the Recomstruction. The Reconstruction policy added the 13th, 14th, and 15th admendments. It was then that things started looking up for slaves. I was finally a freedmen! The 13th Admendment gave me my freedom. I was able to find my family and build a community with other African Americans. I was able to get an education and become independent. My favorite part of being free was learning to read the Bible. I loved attending the church that my community built and teaching my brothers and sisters about our Lord and Savior! The 14th Admendment protected my political and social rights. I now have equal protection under the law. No more whippings and beatings! I loved socializing in the streets! The 15th Admendment gave me the opportunity to vote. I was so happy to be able to vote and elect those brave men into office that would best serve the needs of all Americans.

This is the Military Reconstruction plan with the military districts.

Abraham Lincoln had the first presidential plan for Reconstruction. I trusted President Lincoln. Part of his presidential plan for Reconstruction was freeing the slaves. In Lincoln's plan, he required 10% of the population to swear allegiance to the United States in order to write a new constitution and send representatives to Congress. He wanted the Civil War to end quickly and he wanted to reunite the Union. It was a sad day in America when President Lincoln was assassinated. I was so afraid that a new president would step up and place African Americans back into slavery. Luckily, Andrew Johnson stepped in as president and pretty much kept Lincoln's plan the same. He ratified the 13th Amendment that made me a freedmen! President Johnson was very strict on southern elite. He made them beg for pardons. The planter elite were not nice to the slaves, but I did not like to see any fellow Americans humiliated. Once President Johnson took over, Congress decided to make their own plan for Reconstruction. Congress' plan further benefited the African Americans. They worked to protect my rights. I was comforted in the fact that I knew someone was looking out for me. Southern states did retaliate with the Reconstruction policy and passed the black codes. They denied my rights for the longest and continued to treat me poorly. As the violence got worse, the Reconstruction policy changed. President Johnson refused to ratify the 14th Amendment, which gave freedmen equal protection under the law. He also refused to extend the Freedmen's Bureau who were helping everyone effected by the war. Radial Republicans took over the seats in Congress in 1866. They passed a congressional plan for Reconstruction that split the Confederacy into five military districts. I was in the second district as a South Carolinian. The army enforced the rules and policies and each district has a military governor. It was getting scary in the South. I was so glad the army was keeping law and order in South Carolina. It made me feel safer from the angry whites.

The Freedmen's Bureau helped many people.

The Freedmen’s Bureau was a godsend! This government agency helped everyone that was affected by the war, even the freedmen. I received medical care from them after being hit by a bullet while serving in the war. Without their medical attention, I would not have been able to walk again. The Freedmen’s Bureau also provided me with clothing. They educated me and protected me from the hostile whites. The Freedmen’s Bureau created over 1,000 schools in the South. I was so thankful that my children had a safe place to go and they could learn how to read and write. We not only had to fear the planter elite, but we also had to fear the small farmers. Because of our freedom, the small farmers had to compete socially and economically against the freedmen. The small farmers retaliated by joining terrorist groups. We started calling the small farmers scalawags. I was very upset with the scalawags for making us feel even more inferior. It always felt like the South would take one step forward, then two steps back. It was frustrating! Many Northerners began to move to the South after the war. My son had a Northern teacher. She taught him how to read and write really well. I was very thankful for her! Other Northerners took jobs in the South as missionaries and entrepreneurs. These Northerners were called carpetbaggers. Many people in the South did not like them because they were greedy and coming to the South for fortune. Many carpetbaggers joined the Republican government, and led the government along with the freedmen and scalawags.

The Constitution of South Carolina.

In 1865, South Carolina wrote a new state government. It was a difficult time for African Americans, because the white society would not accept the freedom of the slaves. They even refused to ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments. I was sad that my family and I wouldn’t get the equal rights and opportunity to vote that we were hoping for. Luckily, the military governor required them to write a new state constitution. This constitution was called the Constitution of 1868. Most of the whites in South Carolina boycotted the writing of the Constitution of 1868. More than half of the delegates writing the new constitution were African Americans. I served as a delegate that helped write the Constitution of 1868. With my help, African Americans were allowed to vote and hold office. I decided not to run for office because I was still fearful for my life. I worked hard to protect myself and my family from the hostile whites. I did begin to exercise my right to vote after the Constitution of 1868.

This is Wade Hampton.

The Reconstruction ended in South Carolina with violence. After the Constitution of 1868, the majority of freedmen held public office. The whites were willing to use violence to win back the office. A former Confederate general, Wade Hampton, used intimidation and fraud to win governor of South Carolina in 1876. Wade Hampton took control of South Carolina and the white Democratic rule was back. African Americans were left to fend for themselves. Life was so unfair. I had to watch every step that I took. Terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the Red Shirts, and the Riflemen crowded the streets. These groups formed because federal troops had withdrawn from South Carolina. A member of the KKK pushed me up against a wall one day to intimidate me. He told me that I wasn’t a true American and that I didn’t deserve to live in America. I just let the KKK member vent and eventually he let me go claiming that he would kill me if he saw me again. It was a miracle that I never ran into that gentleman again. I felt sorry for him. He had to put me down to make himself feel better. The KKK was supposed to keep African Americans in place politically, socially, and economically. The terrorist groups led so much violence in South Carolina that I decided to stay away from public places as much as possible. Many of my friends died at the hands of the KKK, the Red Shirts, and the Riflemen.

This is Ben Tillman.

Ben Tillman was a Populist elected into office in 1890. He was elected with the support of poor white farmers. The poor white farmers were drawn to him because he was a great speaker and had wonderful political skills. Ben Tillman made life more difficult for the African Americans in 1895. He and his followers, the Tillmanites, created a new constitution, the Constitution of 1895, to replace the Constitution of 1868. The Constitution of 1895 did not allow anyone to vote that couldn’t read and interpret the United States Constitution. Voters also had to pay a poll tax six months before each election. I could read but I didn’t make enough money to pay to vote six months in advance. Not much time had passed since I was given the right to vote, and now I was back to square one. I couldn’t help make a difference in South Carolina with the regulations set forth by Ben Tillman. To make matters worse, Ben Tillman soon disenfranchised the African Americans. I wouldn’t be able to vote now even if I did scrounge up enough money to pay six months in advance for my vote. I decided to protest along with some of my other African American brothers and sisters. Protesting just made the violence worse and the state government did not change. I decided to keep quiet to prevent any of the Tillmanites from taking out their frustrations on me. Ben Tillman supported the building of an agricultural college that he called Clemson after Thomas Green Clemson who donated the property. Because African Americans weren’t allowed to attend the same school as whites, South Carolina State was created for the African Americans. Both Clemson and South Carolina State encouraged farmers to grow new crops and a lot of different crops rather than just cotton. I attended South Carolina State for a bit. Our funding wasn’t near as good as that of Clemson, but I learned some new techniques on how to manage my crops, which improved my harvest. I didn’t like any of the policies enforced by Tillman until Clemson and South Carolina State came along. These agricultural schools did help improve the economy of South Carolina.

This is when all the groups came together and made the Populist Party.

The Grange was the first social organization developed in South Carolina to help with the isolation of farm life. Farmers also organized the Farmers’ Alliance in the 1880’s to try to gain more money. Because of segregation, two Farmers’ Alliances were established in South Carolina, a white Farmers’ Alliance and a Colored Farmers’ Alliance. I was a member of the Colored Farmers’ Alliance. Farmers’ Alliances all over the country united to form the Populist Party. The farmers tried to team up with the industrial workers and push for eight hour workdays. The farmers and industrial workers also attempted to limit immigration. I worked long hours so I supported the push for the eight hour workdays. I also supported placing a limit on immigration, because the population in South Carolina was growing too large.

An example of segregation.

Jim Crow Laws were incorporated into the Constitution of 1895 making segregation part of the law. White children and African American children weren’t allowed to attend the same school. Jim Crow Laws affected everyday life for African Americans. Terrorists groups such as the KKK continued to use violence to prevent African Americans from participating in the society. It was difficult for me to complete my day to day tasks because I wasn’t allowed into white pubic places. One of my good friends, Homer Plessy, decided to test the law by sitting in a whites-only train car. Plessy was 7/8 white and 1/8 African American. He was asked to move and when he refused, he was arrested. Plessy stated his case in the Supreme Court claiming that the Separate Car Act in Louisiana violated the 14th Amendment. The Plessy vs. Ferguson court case ruled in favor of “separate but equal.” I was so proud of Plessy for standing up for what he believed in. I wish I would have been as brave as him. If more African Americans had stood up like he did, then we may have been given more rights.

This is where the 1886 earthquake hit.

A large earthquake passed through Summerville, South Carolina destroying much of Charleston in 1886. I was growing a wide variety of crops that year. My whole harvest was destroyed. I also lost my home. It was a tough time for me and my family. We didn’t have crops to sell for money to build a new home. After this natural disaster, the city of Charleston decided to update construction practices, disaster preparedness, and scientific study. After recovering from the earthquake, a series of hurricanes in 1893 destroyed rice fields. We were no longer able to grow Carolina Gold after these hurricanes. It was a shame. I loved growing rice and I loved eating it.

This is our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901. He supported the Progressive Movement and wanted to reform corrupt government, end monopolistic practices of Big Business, improve the conditions of the industrial working class, and address the issue of immigrants. South Carolina wasn’t worried about the national level issues. They made disenfranchising African Americans a reform. I was at the point where I thought I would never have rights. South Carolina progressives were concerned about child labor, fair treatment for workers, temperance, women’s rights, and improving education.

This is the sinking of the Lusitania.

Although the United States stated they were neutral in World War I, our country ended up having to join the war when Britain and Germany attacked an American non-warship called the Lusitania using unrestricted submarine warfare. Another reason the United States joined World War I was because Germany used the Zimmerman Telegram to convince Mexico to attack the USA to get their Texas lands back. I was so glad the war didn’t last long after the USA got involved. South Carolina had already suffered so much damage from previous wars. The war did somewhat bring the whites and African Americans together, which made me happy. Although we remained segregated, the war brought a surge of patriotism. I didn’t serve in the military during World War I, but instead I did my part by conserving gasoline and food. It felt good to be needed not only by the African Americans but the whites as well.

This is what the roaring 1920's were like.

In the 1920’s during World War I, prohibition went into effect. Many people in South Carolina did not abide by this law and more crime started taking place. I protected my family by keeping them away from town. I abided by these laws. The African Americans did get a reprieve from the violence of the KKK during this time. The KKK focused their energy on the individuals that were violating the prohibition law. It was nice to get a break from them targeting not only my family but all African Americans with violence. I could rest easy. Daily life in the 1920’s got interesting with the advancements in technology. South Carolina’s first radio station went on air in Charleston in the 1920’s. My family and I now had entertainment in our home. Movies also started being made at this time. Movies and radios nationalized our culture. Our society was able to hear the same music and information. Most of the mass media made me feel more connected to the society. I was, however, very upset when I saw the movie, “Birth of a New Nation,” as it portrayed the KKK as heroes and African Americans as villains. This resulted in a bigger surge of racism. The KKK became a national organization because of the movie. I was fearful that the power that their organization acquired would cause serious consequences for African Americans. Although we had mass media, there were still some that thought South Carolina did not have a culture. To make sure South Carolina had a culture, the Southern Literary Renaissance was born. Southern culture started thriving with the Southern Literary Renaissance. I especially enjoyed the writings of Porgy. I decided to move my family to the North during the 1920’s to escape the violence and segregation in the South. After settling in the North, the Harlem Renaissance started. I found a passion for jazz music during this time. I was able to share my talent of jazz with the Northerners. I didn’t have to hide in the North. I was able to participate in society and enjoy life. Besides music, the Harlem Renaissance celebrated fiction works, poetry, dance, and art.

This is when the Stock Market Crash happened and everyone panicked because they didn't have any money.

The happiness the USA found in culture was halted with the arrival of the Great Depression. The stock market crash of 1929 was devastating. America’s economy was in shambles. Many of the wealthy lost all of their money, lots of farms were lost due to bankruptcy, and people lost homes and jobs. African Americans were discriminated against once more. White men looked at me like I was going to take their job. Times were tough, but I was able to keep my job and support my family on the little I had. Drought and dust storms made the Great Depression even worse. It destroyed the farms and forced farmers and their families to leave the farms.

These are African Americans learning to read and write.

As you can see, my life was full of ups and downs. I endured a lot living in the South as a slave working in the fields. I celebrated a lot through jazz music while living in the North during the Harlem Renaissance. Life was not easy. It was always full of challenges. I lived for the happy moments. I hope my story has inspired you to do great things during your lifetime.

This is my works cited page.

"The Great Depression Facts, Information & Worksheets | School Resource." KidsKonnect. N.p., 13 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 Mar. 2017. <>.

That is the end of my story!

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