Sue worked for my grandmother without pay in Sumter, South Carolina, from her teenage years in the early 20th century until she was quite elderly. Then she was ‘given’ back to her relatives. My grandmother claimed Sue’s father ‘gave’ her to my family. She was a member of the African-American family that were my family’s slaves. I met her only once. She was so bow-legged it seemed to me she was walking on the sides of her feet. My grandmother explained that she was a ‘box baby’. This meant her parents sat her in a box while they picked cotton. She grew and the box didn’t so her legs bent. I know now that bowed legs are a result of rickets, a vitamin deficiency during childhood.
My grandmother gave me the impression that Sue was happy working for her. The time I met her, when my grandmother took Sue some old clothes, she showed no warmth, though. Instead, I saw dignity and good manners – no warmth or happiness. Much later my aunt told me, “You know, Mable (my grandmother) wasn’t very nice to Sue.”
I think Sue’s family name was Peters or Peterson. I wish I could apologize to her relatives.