Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States

By | October 8, 2019

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States

Little is known about Kate Drumgoold’s life outside of the details she provides in her 1898 autobiography. While her date of birth is unknown, multiple sources estimate that she was born in 1858 or 1859. In her narrative, Drumgoold confirms that she was “born in Old Virginia, in or near the Valley, the other side of Petersburg, of slave parents” (p. 4). While Drumgoold was still young, her mother was sold so that her owner could pay a “poor white man” to go to the Civil War in his stead (p. 5). Drumgoold’s mother left a husband, one son, and 17 girls behind; when she returned to her family after Emancipation, she found her husband remarried, her daughters scattered, and her son missing after being sent to fight for the Confederacy. Drumgoold and her mother reunited as much of the family as possible and relocated to Brooklyn, New York. In New York, Drumgoold worked as a domestic, explored her religion, battled significant illnesses, and worked toward obtaining an education. She eventually attended Wayland Seminary in Washington, DC, and continued her studies in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. She spent a number of years fulfilling her dream of being an educator by teaching African Americans. While it appears Drumgoold was forced to relinquish her work due to illness, little is known about the remainder of her life. Her autobiography ends—apparently unfinished—in 1897.

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