Testimony of Mrs. Violet Keeling, 1883

Citation Information:  “Testimony of Mrs. Violet Keeling, 1883,” Senate Report No. 579, 48th Cong., 1st Sess.; testimony dated February 18, 1884.

[Mrs. Keeling was from Danville, Virginia]

Question: Do you know whether your husband voted at that election?

Answer: Yes, sir; I know whether he voted. He didn’t vote.

Question: Why didn’t he vote, if you know?

Answer: I will tell you the reason he didn’t vote. I didn’t want to trust him at the ballot-box, because life was better to him than the ballot-box, and I thought it was best for him to stay at home and save his life. My husband didn’t even have a pocket-knife, I had a little pen-knife and I took that. He didn’t even have a pocket-knife, and I thought it was best to take that even going to my work.

Question: In other words, he was afraid to go to vote?

Answer: Yes, sir; and I was afraid to go to work.

Question: Didn’t I understand you to say that you staid away from your work on election day?

Answer: Yes, sir; I staid at home that day.

Question: Was there a general fear among the colored people that this trouble would break out again on the day of the election?

Answer: I will tell you what way I looked at it, the way they talked when I would get in the presence of them, it seemed they were all afraid to go to the polls as bad as they wanted to vote, which I believe every colored one there was a Republican and wanted to vote.

Question: Were they afraid to vote?

Answer: They were afraid to vote.

Question: Did that fear grow out of this firing on the 3d of November, you have described?

Answer: I don’t believe they got really over that until today; up to this present time.

Question: Did their staying away from the polls grow out of that fear? Did they stay away, from the polls from the fear that grew out of the firing there on Saturday?

Answer: Yes, sir; they staid away and I reckon it was better; and most of them staid home and didn’t go about, and I saw less pass on the day of election amongst the colored people than I ever did.

Question: Do you think your husband has got over his scare yet?

Answer: He says if it continued like it is, which I like to see him vote all the time, when the time comes to vote, I like to see him go to the poll and vote, and I asked him if he would vote and he said that if it continued like it was he didn’t think he would ever go and vote any more.

Question: Didn’t he think he would ever vote any more?

Answer: No, sir.

Question: Are any of the colored people in your country Democrats?

Answer: I don’t know. I don’t have nothing to do with that sort.

Question: I ask you if any of them are Democrats?

Answer: I am telling you just what I know; I don’t have nothing to do with that sort.

Question: Well are any of them Democrats?

Answer: Sir?

Question: You heard the question.

Answer: No sir; I didn’t heard.

Question: Are any of the colored people Democrats?

Answer: I don’t know; I don’t ask them, because I generally talks with them like myself I don’t have much to do with people. But, as for my part, if I hear of a colored man voting the Democratic ticket, I stay as far from him as I can; I don’t have nothing in the world to do with him.

Question: You don’t speak to him?

Answer: No, sir; I don’t ‘tallow him to come in my house.

Question: That is not the rule among all the colored people?

Answer: I don’t know for anybody but myself.

Question: Why do you have such a dislike to a colored man that votes the Democratic ticket?

Answer: I will tell you as near as I know. I think that if the race of colored people that has got no friends nohow, and if they don’t hang together they won’t have none while one party is going one way and another the other. I don’t wish to see a colored man sell himself when he can do without. Of course we all have to live, and I always like to have a man live even if he works for 25 cents a day, but I don’t want to see him sell himself away.

Question: Cannot a colored man vote the Democratic ticket without selling himself?

Answer: I think if a colored man votes the Democratic ticket he has always sold himself, because the white man is no friend to him anyway.

Question: Now, when you find a white man voting with the colored people, don’t you think he sold himself?

Answer: I will tell you what I think of him. I think he is a man who has a judgment of his own head and knows what he is doing … .

Question: It is a pretty general rule down there, that if a colored man sells himself you won’t have anything to do with him?

Answer: If I knew a colored man that voted the Democratic ticket to come to my house, I would tell him to go somewhere else and visit.

Question: Suppose your husband should go and vote a Democratic ticket?

Answer: I would just pick up my clothes and go to my father’s, if I had a father, or would go to work for 25 cents a day … .

Question: Are not the white people down there good friends to the colored people?

Answer: Yes, friends to them; rather kill them.

Question: But you said in your testimony, if I recollect aright, that you were astonished; that you did not believe the white folks had anything against the black folks.

Answer: No, sir; I didn’t say that, but I believe by hearing several of them talk, that I knew they must have had something in their heart against them, because they said they feared the colored people were going to carry the election, and I believe they had something against them on account of that … .