Williams Sykes: former slave

The Library of Congress hosts the fulltext documents of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938.  I decided to search for Martin County, and I located a slave narrative from William Sykes.

William was interviewed while in state prison at the age of 78 years old. He tells that he and his mother Martha  belonged to Joshua & Catherine Long of Martin County and his father Henry belonged to Squire Ben Sykes of Tyrell County.  It seems that Squire Sikes lived in Gum Neck and owned more than 100 slaves.  William had several siblings: Henry, Benjamin, Columbus, Hester, Margaret, Lucy & Susan.

During the war, he and his family were sent to Mitchell county to the home of Judge Clayton Moore and his father Jim, and stayed there after the war. William was in jail for manslaughter.


I located William and his family in the 1870 census. The family is living in Jamesville. Henry is 33, Martha is 34 years old. They have 6 children at this time – Lucy (14), Susan (15), Margaret (13), Hester (9), William (3), and Isadora(sp?) is age 1.  Given that in William’s narratives he talks as if he were actually part of the family during the war, I wonder if he was not in fact, older than 3 in 1870.  The family lives next door to a family of black Moore’s, which goes along with his stated family’s relationship with the Moores in Mitchell county.

sykeshenry1870 Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Jamesville, Martin, North Carolina;                                               Roll: M593_1147; Page: 529; Image: 365.