Q. Welcome, Sunday Duval. We are fortunate to have you stop in today. The name “Sunday” is beautiful and riveting. How did you come about it?
A. It would be necessary for you to ask my mother, who is now-deceased, about that—which I never did—at least that I recall. What I do know is that the lion’s share of bad things that have happened to me seems to have happened on Sundays.
Q. As a slave during the Civil War period, would you tell us a bit about your unplanned travels?
A. I’m originally from Virginia, and I had no desire to leave. Why trade one bad situation for another? Wasn’t that the way of it for black people in America? But after having been forced from my home state via a coffle—walking all day and sleeping in the open air or in a rat-infested barn at night—and a trip down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, I finally ended up in Vicksburg, Mississippi where I now live.
Q. That must have been traumatic.
A. It’s almost too painful to discuss, since I had gone to every length to be an obedient slave. By doing so, I was actually trying to make sure I was never sold downriver, and I must say that traveling hundreds of miles as the only woman chained to a group of surly and sometimes overprotective male slaves was a nightmare that still occupies many of my sleeping hours.
Q. Pardon my lack of sensibilities, but you are quite articulate for an ex-slave.
A. Both of my fathers saw to it, and that is all I will say about that.
Q. As an African descendant during the era of slavery in America, what event most impacted your life?
A. Again, this type of question gives me pause because even though I still have nightmares, I try during my conscious hours not to dwell overmuch on the exceptionally hard times of my life. But I can state, without equivocation, that watching my parents murdered in our front yard when I was six—simply because they were free people of color—impacted me as nothing else has and put my life on a projectile of nearly unmitigated suffering, the scars of which I bear today.
Q. Hmm. I can only imagine. As I understand it, you are married, but you did not marry for love. Why do slaves marry in the first place when it’s rarely, if ever, legal, and why wasn’t yours a marriage for love and affection?
A. Many slaves do marry—or at least simulate the ritual—simply because, like other human beings, they fall in love and want the relationship blessed by their Creator, but as you say, my marriage was different.
Q. Understandable. And how was your marriage different from other slaves?
A. I did not consider love when I married Noah. The word was meaningless to me. I married solely to give birth—to bring a child into this world whom I could call my own, at least until he or she was sold from me.
Q. Did you count the cost of what it would be like when or if you ever had to see your child sent to the market?
Q. No? No further explanation?
A. What else is there to say? Planning too far into the future is not a sensible option for a slave. Slaves live in the moment by the grace of God
Q. What would you do if you had life to live over?
A. Love my good-looking husband from day one of our marriage the way he deserved to be loved.
Q. If you had just one prayer—sure to be answered from God in a positive way—what would it be?
A. That people of African descent could one day travel the streets and roads of these United States and frequent public places of worship, entertainment, and buying and selling without fear.
Q. Well, this about concludes our interview. Thank you for further insight into your life and mindset as a slave. Is there anything else you are urged to comment upon?
A. I cannot say it was a pleasure discussing my past, but I can say that I thank you for the opportunity. I believe open discussion is necessary for the growth and health of the country, and I’m happy to advance that cause any time.
Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock is a multi-genre author whose works range from Christian-based historical novels, short stories, and devotionals to a memoir of growing up during and after segregation. Her novels share the narratives of African American women seeking their identities in the difficult setting of the old South.
A former high school and college English teacher, her first novel, A Most Precious Gift, debuted in 2014 and made Amazon’s Best Seller list in African American Historical Fiction. In 2017, she released its sequel, In Pursuit of an Emerald. In January of 2022, she published The Lords of Wensy Wells, and on August 2nd of the same year, she released her latest novel, God, Send Sunday.
Published multiple times by University Press of Mississippi, she has been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers for over a decade. Jacqueline and her husband Donald have two married adult children and two granddaughters.