Bethany Veney


Bethany Veney

Bethany Veney, also known as Aunt Betty,(1815-) was an African American slave. She published an autobiography in 1889.

Childhood

Veney begins her narrative simply: "My mother and her five children were owned by one James Fletcher, Pass Run, town of Luray, Page County, Virginia. Of my father I know nothing." The first story she relates tells of how her mistress and her mother impressed on her to tell the truth.

Her mother and master both died when she was around nine. Veney and her family were split up, and she ended up with her mistress Miss Lucy and David Kibbler--a Dutchman with a violent temper. Miss Lucy hated slavery but didn't know what to do about how things were, except to be kind to Veney.

Religious Experiences

After some time with Miss Lucy and Kibbler, Veney visited a church. Master Kibbler's brother became a Christian and started a meeting for people in the area. Kibbler didn't want Veney attending church and sent her away to allow her new found religious fervor to die down. He sent to a man named Mr. Levers, but Levers allowed Veney to attend Church. In a telling passage she describes a scene in which Kibbler escorts her from the church.

Every night, old Mr. Levers would tell me I could go; and I did, till, in the middle of the meeting one night, Master Kibbler came up to me, and, taking me by the arm, carried me out, scolding and fuming, declaring that old Webster (the minister) was a liar, and that for himself he didn't want such a "whoopin' and hollerin' religion," and, if that was the way to heaven, he didn't "want to go there."

Veney eventually outlasted Kibbler, and he allowed her to go to church regularly where she was baptized.

Marriage and Family

The years passed, and Veney came to marry a man called Jerry. Their masters consented to their union and told them to simply be together. Veney, however, wanted to be married. Eventually they found someone to marry them, but Veney couldn't make traditional vows--like white people--because her circumstances could break up the marriage.

A few months into their marriage, Jerry was arrested. He escaped and ran away but couldn't evade capture. His escape, attempts to avoid detection and subsequent capture seemed to have broken Jerry. He was sent away and Veney and Jerry never saw each other again.

Motherhood

While still at Kibbler's, she became a mother and immediately began to worry about being separated from her daughter Charlotte. She writes:

My dear white lady, in your pleasant home made joyous by the tender love of husband and children all your own, you can never understand the slave mother's emotions as she clasps her new-born child, and knows that a master's word can at any moment take it from her embrace; and when, as was mine, that child is a girl, and from her own experience she sees its almost certain doom is to minister to the unbridled lust of the slave-owner, and feels that the law holds over her no protecting arm, it is not strange that, rude and uncultured as I was, I felt all this, and would have been glad if we could have died together there and then.

She tried to find a new location away from Master Kibbler. She explored her options through Miss Lucy and found someone to buy her--a local man named John Prince.

[http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/veney/summary.html A Brief Summary]

[http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/veney/veney.html Full Text Version] at [http://docsouth.unc.edu/index.html Documenting the American South]

Other Links of Interest: [http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/index.html North American Slave Narratives Home Page]

[http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/index.html First-Person Narratives of the American South Home Page]

Publishing info: The Narrative of Bethany Veney: A Slave WomanWorcester, Mass: [s.n.] ; (Boston : Press of Geo. H. Ellis), 1889. 46 p.

Resources:Work Consulted: Clark, Edward, Black Writers in New England. A bibliography, with biographical notes, of books by and about Afro-American writers associated with New England in the Collection of Afro-American Literature, Boston: National Park Service, 1985. [http://docsouth.unc.edu/index.html Documenting the American South]


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