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The Bull Whip: A Family Heirloom

I was blessed to have known my great-grandparents, Louise and Buck Walker. Having them in my life has allowed me to recall so many names and stories that have helped with my family history research. My Granddaddy Buck was always everything to me. Clarence “Buck” Walker was born in Blackville South Carolina in August 1905 to Jannie Franklin (1870 -1943) and Mingo Walker (1872 – 1909). He was a farmer his entire life. His father died when he was about 9 years old and because his mother needed all of the family members to work on the farm, they sharecropped he never attended school. Even as an uneducated man, his massive amount of common sense, his kind heart, and his introverted nature made him a big lovable teddy bear in my eyes. My great-granddaddy raised 3 children and 7 grandchildren and was a good husband, father, and provider. His great-grandchildren brought him a great deal of joy as well.

  Clarence "Buck" Walker (1905 - 1986) and Nicole Hicks ~ circa 1971

My family origins are from a small town in South Carolina called Blackville. I lived there for a short time when I was a small child. Of course, in my great-grandparent’s house, there were many “old things.” As children, we are not allowed to touch them! My great-grandmother’s doll, an antique sewing machine, and wine goblets, etc. My great-grandmother showed me these things that she cherished so much and shared stories of their origin, many of which I don’t remember. Granddaddy, however, never talked about his family and neither did sisters Aunt Sarah and Aunt Janie. I never heard any stories about the Walker family from them as a little girl. The one “old thing” Granddaddy Buck ever shared with us that was handed down as an heirloom was, The Bull Whip!

The Bull Whip ~ A Family Heirloom

The Bull Whip is kind of an unusual family heirloom, but it has been in our family for several generations. Family folklore… and my Grandma says that the Bull Whip was handed down to my Granddaddy Buck by his mother. His father Mingo stole it from either the Mims or Walker Plantation which was where my 3rd great-grandparents, Jackson and Charlotte Walker were mostly enslaved. It is the whip that slaveholders had beaten their parents and other enslaved people with. I remember when the Bull Whip was kept in the trunk of my Granddaddy Buck’s car. He would show it to us whenever we asked about it and said it belonged to his father.


After my Granddaddy Buck’s death, the Bull Whip was kept in the laundry room, but then the genuine leather contraption began to deteriorate. When my grandmother noticed that the handle had broken, the leather had become brittle and was falling off, she wrapped it in cheesecloth and kept it in a plastic bag. With further decay, she decided to place it inside of a “bubbled” picture frame to protect it further from the elements. By all estimates, this braided leather whip is over 160 years old.


While this heirloom brings about thoughts of frustration, anger, and sadness about the plight of my ancestors during slavery, its very acquisition (the fact that Granddaddy Mingo stole it) is a symbol of defiance. It was used to inflict horrific abuses and violence to garner compliance and submission from people he knew and loved. It is a symbol of endurance, because multiple generations have seen and touched this item, and they know the history behind it. It is a symbol of perseverance because those before me lived to tell the story. It is a family heirloom because it is a strong symbol of my ancestor’s survival.

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