Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
Work Projects Administration
Part 4 out of 6
If you have read this interview hastily and have missed the patroller
joke on page three, turn back and read it now. The interviewer considers
it the choicest thing in the story.
That and the story of an unpensioned Union veteran and the insistence on
the word "son" seemed to me to set this story off as a little out of the
Interviewer: Mrs. Annie L. LaCotts
Person interviewed: Jonas Boone, St, Charles. Arkansas
Most any day in St. Charles you can see an old Negro man coming down the
street with a small sack made of bed ticking hanging shot-pouch fashion
from his shoulder. This is old Uncle Jonas Boone who by the aid of his
heavy cane walks to town and makes the round of his white folks homes to
be given some old shoes, clothes, or possibly a mess of greens or some
sweet potatoes--in fact whatever he may find.
"Jonas, can you remember anything about the war or slavery time?"
"Yes mam I was a great big boy when the slaves were sot free."
"Do you know how old you are?"
"Yes mam I will be 87 years old on March 15th. I was born in Mississippi
at Cornerville. My mother belonged to Mr. L.D. Hewitt's wife. She didn't
have many slaves--just my parents and my two uncles and their families.
My daddy and two uncles went to the war but our mistress' husband Mr.
Hewitt was too old to go. I guess my daddy was killed in de war, for he
never come home when my uncles did. We lived here in Arkansas close to
St. Charles. Our mistress was good to her slaves but when they were free
her husband had got himself drowned in big LaGrue when de water was high
all over the bottoms and low ground; he was trying to cross in a boat,
what you call a dug out. You know it's a big log scooped out till it
floats like a boat. Then after that our mistress wanted to go back to
her old home in Mississippi and couldn't take us with her cause she
didn't have any money, so we stayed here. My mammy cried days and nights
when she knew her mistress was going to leave her here in Arkansas. We
moved down on de Schute and worked for Mr. Mack Price. You know he was
Mr. Arthur's and Miss Joe's father."
"Jonas, if your owners were Hewitts why is your name Boone?"
"Well you see, miss, my daddy's daddy belonged to Mr. Daniel Boone, Mr.
John Boone's and Miss Mary Black's grandpa, and I was named Boone for
him, my granddaddy. I been married twice. My last wife owns her home out
close to de church west of St. Charles. I haven't been able to work any
for over two years but my wife makes us a living. She's 42 or 43 years
old and a good worker and a good woman. I've been all de time wanting
some of this help other folks been getting but dey won't give me
nothing. The woman what goes to your house to see if you needs relief
told me I was better off den most folks an' of course I know I'd rather
have my wife and home than have to be like lots of dese niggers who's
old and can't work and got nothing but what de Government give 'em."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: John Bowdry, Clarendon, Arkansas
"I was born at Baldwyn, Mississippi not for from Corinth. When my mother
was last seen she was going away with a bunch of Yankees. I don't know
what it was. She was a dark woman. Pa was light. I was born in 1865. I
was left when I was two or three months old. I never seen no pa. They
left me with my uncle what raised me. He was a slave but too young to go
to war. His master was named Porter. Master Stevenson had sold him. He
liked Porter the best. He took the name of Stanfield Porter at freedom.
Porters had a ordinary farm. He wasn't rich. He had a few slaves.
Stevenson had a lot of slaves. Grandfather was in Charleston, South
Carolina. Him and my uncle corresponded. My uncle learnet to read and
write but I guess somebody done his writing for him at the other end.
"My Uncle Stanfield seen a heap of the War. He seen them fight, come by
in droves a mile long. They wasted their feed and living too.
"At freedom Master Porter told them about it and he lived on there a few
years till I come into recollection. I found out about my pa and mother.
They had three sets of children in the house. They was better to them.
All of them got better treatment 'en I did. One day I left. I'd been
making up my mind to leave. I was thirteen years old. Scared of
everything. I walked twenty miles to Middleton, Tennessee. I slept at
the state line at some stranger's but at black folks' house. I walked
all day two days. I got a job at some white folks good as my parents.
His name wae J.D. Palmer. He was a big farmer. I slept in a servant's
house and et in his own kitchen. He sont me to school two two-month
terms. Four months all I got. I got my board then four months. I got my
board and eight dollars a month the other months in the year. He died.
"I come to Forrest City when I was twenty years old.
"I been married. I got a girl lives wid me here. My girl, she married.
"I ain't got no complaint again' the times. My life has been fair. I
worked mighty hard."
Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson
This information given by: Jack Boyd
Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas
Occupation: Light jobs now. AGE: 72
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
[HW: The Boyd Negroes]
Jack Boyd was born a slave. Miss Ester's mother was a Boyd and married a
Donnahoo. Miss Ester Donnahoo married Jim Shed. The Boyd's lived in
Richmond, Virginia. They sold Jack Boyd's grandmother, grandfather,
mother, and father a number of times. One time they were down, in
Georgia not far from Atalnta. They were being ill treated. The new
master had promised to be good to them so he wasn't and the news had
gotten back to Virginia as it had a time or two before so the Boyds sent
to Georgia and brought them back and took them back home to Virginia.
The Boyds always asked the new masters to be good to them but no one was
never so good to them as the Boyds were, and they would buy them back
again. When freedom was declared three of the Boyd brothers and Miss
Ester's husband Jim Shed, was the last master of Charlie Boyd. Jack's
father came to Waco, Texas. They may have been there before for they
were "big ranchmen" but that is when Jack Boyds whole family came to
Texas. There were thirty six in his family. The families then were
large. When Jack grew up to be about ten years old there wasn't anything
much at Waco except a butcher shop and a blacksmith shop. Jim Shed alone
had 1800 acres of land his own. He used nine cowboys, some white and
some black. The first of January every year the cattle was ready to be
driven to Kansas City to market. They all rode broncos. It would rain,
sometimes hail and sometimes they would get into thunder storms. The
cattle would stampede, get lost and have to be found.
They slept in the open plains at night. They had good clothes. They
would ride two or three weeks and couldn't get a switch. Finally in
about June or July they would get into Kansas City. The white masters
were there waiting and bought food and supplies to take back home. They
would have started another troop of cowboys with cattle about June and
meet them in Kansas City just before Christmas. Jack liked this life
except it was a hard life in bad weather. They had a good living and the
Masters made "big money." Jack said he always had his own money then.
His people are scattered around Waco now, "the Boyd negroes." He hasn't
been back since he came to Arkansas when he was about eighteen. He
married here and had "raised" a big family. The plains were full of
rattle snakes, rabbits, wild cats and lots of other wild animals. They
never started out with less than 400 head of cattle. They picked cattle
that would travel about together. It would all be grown or about the
same age. The worst thing they had to contend with was a lack of water.
They had to carry water along and catch rainwater and hunt places to
water the cattle. His father's and grandfather's masters names were
Gillis, Hawkins, and Sam Boyd. They were the three who came to Texas and
located the ranch at Waco. Jack thinks they have been dead a long time
but they have heirs around Waco now. Jack Boyd left Waco in 1881.
Circumstances Of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Bernice Bowden
ADDEESS--1006 Oak Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
DATE--November 2, 1938
1. Name and address of informant--Mal Boyd, son of slaves
2. Date and time of interview--November 1, 1938, 9:45 a.m.
3. Place of interview--101 Miller Street
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
informant--None. I saw him sitting on porch as I walked along.
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--None
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--Frame house. Sat on
porch. Yard clean--everything neat. Near foundry on graveled street in
suburbs of west Pine Bluff.
Text of Interview
"Papa belonged to Bill Boyd. Papa said he was his father and treated him
just like the rest of his children. He said Bill Boyd was an Irishman. I
know papa looked kinda like an Irishman--face was red. Mama was about my
color. Papa was born in Texas, but he came to Arkansas. I member hearin'
him say he saw 'em fight six months in one place, down here at Marks'
Mill. He said Bill Boyd had three sons, Urk and Tom and Nat. They was in
the Civil War. I heered Tom Boyd say he was in behind a crew of men in
the war and a Yankee started shootin' and when he shot down the last one
next to Tom, he seen who it was doin' the shootin' and he shot him and
saved his life. He was the hind one.
"I've farmed mostly and sawmilled.
"I use to get as high as three and five dollars callin' figgers for the
NAME OF WORKER--Bernice Bowden
NAME AND ADDRESSS OF INFORMANT--Mal Boyd, 101 Miller Street, Pine Bluff,
Subscribes to the Daily Graphic and reads of world affairs. Goes to a
friend's house and listens to the radio. Lives with daughter and is
supported by her. House belongs to a son-in-law. Wore good clothing and
was very clean. He hoped that the United States would not become
involved in a war.
Personal History of Informant
NAME OF WORKER--Bernice Bowden
ADDRESS--1006 Oak Street
DATE--November 2, 1938
NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT--Mal Boyd, 101 Miller Street, Pine Bluff,
1. Ancestry--Father, Tol Boyd; Mother, Julia Dangerfield.
2. Place and date of birth--Cleveland County, August 4, 1873
3. Family--Lives with daughter. Has one other daughter. Mother one-half
Indian, born in Alabama, he thinks.
4. Places lived in, with dates--Ouachita County, Dallas County. Bradley
County, Jefferson County.
5. Education, with dates--Began schooling in 1880 and went until twelve
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Farmed till 21, public
work? Sawmill work.
7. Special skills and interests--None
8. Community and religious activities--Ward Chapel on West Sixth.
9. Description of informant--Gray hair, height 5 ft. 9 in., high
cheekbones. Gray hair--practically straight says like father.
10. Other points gained in interview--Says father was part Irish.
Belonged to Bill Boyd. Stayed there for years after freedom.
Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson
Subject: EX-SLAVE--HISTORY--OLD SAYINGS
This information given by: George Braddox
Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas
Occupation: Farmer AGE: 80
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
George Braddox was born a slave but his mother being freed when he was
eipht years old they went to themselves--George had one sister and one
brother. He doesn't know anything about them but thinks they are dead as
he is the youngest of the three. His father's name was Peter Calloway He
went with Gus Taylor to the war and never came back to his family.
George said he had been to Chicago several times to see his father where
he was living. But his mother let her children go by that name. She gave
them a name Braddox when they were freed. Calloways lived on a joining
plantation to John and Dave Gemes. John Gemes was the old master and
Dave the young. George said they were mean to him. He can remember that
Gus Taylor wes overseer for the Gemes till he went to war. The Gemes
lived in a brick house and the slaves lived in log houses. They had a
big farm and raised cotton and corn. The cotton was six feet tall and
had big leaves. They had to pull the leaves to let the bowls get the sun
to open. They topped the cotton too. They made lots of cotton and corn
to an acre. Dave Gemes had several children when George moved away,
their names were Ruben, John, Margaret, Susie and Betty. They went to
school at Marshall, Texas.
John Gemes had fine carriages, horses and mules. He had one old slave
who just milked and churned. She didn't do anything else. When young
calves had to be attended to somebody else had to help her and one man
did all the feeding. They had lots of peafowles, ducks, geese and
They had mixed stock of chickens and guineas--always had a drove of
turkeys. Sometimes the turkeys would go off with wild turkeys. There
were wild hogs and turkeys in the woods. George never learned to read or
write. He remembers they built a school for white children on the
Calloway place joining the Gemes place but he thought it was tuition
school. George said he thought the Gemes and all his "kin" folks came
from Alabama to Texas, but he is not sure but he does know this. Dr.
Hazen came from Tennessee to Texas and back to Hazen, Arkansas and
settled. His cousin Jane Hodge (colored) was working out near here and
he came here to deer hunt and just stayed with them. He said deer was
plentiful here. It was not cleared and so close to White Cache, St.
Francis and Mississippi rivers.
George said his mother cooked for the Gemes the first he could remember
of her. That was all she had time to do. It was five miles to Marshall.
They lived in Harrison County and they could buy somethings to eat there
if they didn't raise enough. They bought cheese by the cases in round
boxes and flour in barrels and sugar in barrels. They had fine clothes
for Sunday. After his mother left the Gemes they worked in the field or
did anything she could for a living.
George married after he came to Arkansas and bought a farm 140 acres of
land 4 miles north of Hazen and a white man, -- --- closed a mortgage
out on him and took it. He paid $300.00 for a house in town in which he
now lives. His son was killed in the World War and he gets his son's
insurance every month.
George said when he came to Arkansas it was easy to live if you liked to
hunt. Ship the skins and get some money when you couldn't be farming.
Could get all the wood you would cut and then clear out land and farm.
He hunted 7 or 8 years with Colonel A.F. Yopp and fed Colonel's dogs. He
hunted with Mr. Yopp but he didn't think Colonel was a very good man. I
gathered from George that he didn't approve of wickedness.
It is bad luck to dig a grave the day before a person is buried, or any
time before the day of the burying. Uncle George has dug or helped to
dig lots of graves. It is bad luck to the family of the dead person. The
grave ought not to be "left open" it is called. He has always heard this
and believes it, yet he can't remember when he first heard it.
He thinks there are spirits that direct your life and if you do wrong
the evil fates let you be punished. He believes in good and evil
spirits. Spirits right here among us. He says there is "bound to be
spirits" or "something like 'em."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: George Braddox, Hazen, Arkansas
Most of the old songs were religious. I don't remember none much. When
the war broke out my papa jess left and went on off with some people and
joined the Yankee army. I went to see him since I been at Hazen. He
lived in Chicago. Yes mam he's been dead a long time ago. Gus Taylor and
Peter Calloway (white) took my papa with them for their helper. He left
them and went with the Yankee army soon as he heard what they was
fighting about. Peter Calloway lived on a big track of land joining Dave
Genes land. It show was a big farm. Peter Calloway owned my papa and
Dave Genes my mama. Gus Taylor was Dave Genes overseer. Peter Calloway
never come back from the war. My folks come from Alabama with Dave Genes
and his son John Genes. I was born in Harrison county, Texas. Gus Taylor
was a great big man. He was mean to us all. The Yankees camped there. It
was near Marshall. I had some good friends among the Yankees. They kept
me posted all time the war went on. Nobody never learnt me nothing. I
can cipher a little and count money. I took that up. I learned after I
was grown a few things. Just learned it myself. I never went to school a
day in my life. The Genes had a brick, big red brick house. They sent
their children to schools. They had stock, peafowls, cows, guineas,
geese, ducks and chickens, hogs and everything. Old woman on the place
just milked and churned. That is all she done.
I never heard of no plantations being divided. They never give us
nothing, not nothing. Right after the war was the worse times we ever
have had. We ain't had no sich hard times since then. The white folks
got all was made. It was best we could do. The Yankees what camped down
there told us about the surrender. If the colored folks had started an
uprisin the white folks would have set the hounds on us and killed us.
I never heard of the Ku Klux Klan ever being in Texas. Gus Taylor was
the ridin boss and he was Ku Klux enough. Everybody was scared not to
mind him. He rode over three or four hundred acres of ground. He could
beat any fellow under him. I never did see anybody sold. I never was
sold. We was glad to be set free. I didn't know what it would be like.
It was just like opening the door and lettin the bird fly out. He might
starve, or freeze, or be killed pretty soon but he just felt good
because he was free. We show did have a hard time getting along right
after we was set free. The white folks what had money wouldn't pay
nothing much for work. All the slaves was in confusion.
A cousin of mine saw Dr. Hazen down in Texas and they all come back to
work his land. They wrote to us about it being so fine for hunting. I
always liked to hunt so I rode a pony and come to them. The white folks
in Texas told the Yankees what to do after the surrender; get off the
land. We didn't never vote there but I voted in Arkansas. Mr. Abel
Rinehardt always hope me. I could trust him. I don't vote now. No
colored people held office in Texas or here that I heard of.
I got nothing to say bout the way the young generation is doing.
I farmed around Hazen nearly ever since the Civil War. I saved $300 and
bought this here house. My son was killed in the World War and I get his
insurance every month. I hunted with Colonel Yapp and fed his dogs. He
never paid me a cent for taking care of the dogs. His widow never as
much as give me a dog. She never give me nothing!
I'm too old to worry bout the present conditions. They ain't gettin no
better. I sees dot.
Interviewer: Bernice Bowden
Person Interviewed: Edward Bradley
115 South Plum Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was seventy years old this last past June, the sixth day. Lots of
people say I don't look that old but I'm sure seventy and I've done a
lot of hard work in my day. One thing, I've taken good care of myself. I
never did lose much sleep.
"I farmed forty years of my life. Been in this State thirty-seven years.
I was born in Hardin County, Tennessee. I disremember what age I was
when I left Tennessee.
"My mother was named Mary Bradley and my father was named Hilliard
Bradley. They originated in Alabama and was sold there, and they was
free when they come to Tennessee.
"Bradley was the last man owned 'em. I think Beaumont sold 'em to
Bradley. That's the way I always heered 'em talk. I think they claimed
their owners was pretty good to 'em. I know I heered my father say he
never did get a whippin' from either one of 'em.
"Of course my mother wasn't a Bradley fore she married, she was a
"I had one brother four years older than I was. He was my half-brother
and I had a whole brother was two years older than I.
"First place I lived in Arkansas was near Blytheville. I lived there
four years. I was married and farmin' for myself.
"I went from Hardin County, Tennessee to Blytheville, Arkansas by land.
Drove a team and two cows. I think we was on the road four days. My wife
went by train. You know that was too wearisome for her to go by land.
"I had been runnin a five-horse crop in Tennessee and I carried three
boys that I used to work with me.
"The last year I was there I cleared $1660.44. I never will forget it. I
made a hundred and ten bales of cotton and left 2000 pounds of seed
cotton in the field cause I was goin' to move.
"My folks was sick all the time. Wasn't any canals in that country, and
my wife had malaria every year.
"After I got my crop finished I'd get out and log. I was raised in a
poor county and you take a man like that, he's always a good worker. I
rented the land--365 acres and I had seven families workin for me. I was
responsible for everything. I told 'em that last year that if I cleared
over a $1000, I'd give 'em ten dollars a piece. And I give it to 'em
too. You see they was under my jurisdiction.
"Next place I lived was Forrest City. They all went with me. Had to
charter a car to move 'em. It was loaded too.
"I had 55 hogs, 17 head of cattle, 13 head of mules and horses. And I
had killed 1500 pounds of hogs. You see besides my family I had
two-month-hands--worked by the month.
"I own a home in Forrest City now. I'm goin back right after Christmas.
My children had it fixed up. Had the waterworks and electric lights put
"Two of my daughters married big school teachers. One handles a big
school in Augusta and the other in Forrest City. One of 'em is in the
Smith-Hughes work too.
"I've done something no other man has done. I've educated four of my
brothers and sisters after my father died and four of my wife's brothers
and sisters and one adopted boy and my own six children--fifteen in all.
A man said to me once, "Why any man that's done that much for education
ought to get a pension from the educator people."
"I never went to school six months in my life but I can read and write.
I'm not extra good in spelling--that's my hindrance, but I can figger
"We always got our children started 'fore they went to school and then I
could help 'em in school till they got to United States money.
"Another thing I always would do, I would buy these block A, B, C's.
Everyone learned their A, B, C's fore they went to school.
"I reckon I'm a self-made man in a lot of things. I learnt my own self
how to blacksmith. I worked for a man for nothin' just so I could learn
and after that for about a year I was the best plow sharpener. And then
I learned how to carpenter.
"My mother was awful good on head countin' and she learnt me when I was
a little fellow. My oldest brother use to help me. We'd sit by the fire,
so you see you might say I got a fireside education.
"When I left Forrest City I moved to England and made one crop and moved
to Baucum and made one crop and then I moved on the Sheridan Pike three
miles the other side of Dew Drop. I got the oil fever. They was sellin'
land under that headin'. Sold it to the colored folks and lots o' these
Bohemians. They sho is fine people to live by--so accommodatin'.
"Then I came here to Pine Bluff in 1921. I hauled wood for two years.
Then I put in my application at the Cotton Belt Shops. That was in 1923
and I worked there fifteen years. I retired from the shops this year and
took a half pension. I think I'll get about fifteen dollars a month.
That's my thoughts.
"I have two daughters in Camden. One teaches school and one operates a
"All six of my children finished high school and three graduated from
"I think the younger generation is livin' too fast. I know one thing,
they has done--they 'bout wore out the old folks. Old folks educate 'em
and can't accumulate anything.
"They don't settle much now till they marry. Seems like the young folks
don't have much accommodation.
"I'll tell you another thing, the children aren't carryin' out things
like they use to. I think when us old folks plays out this world is
goin' to be in a bad shape.
"I belong out here to the Catholic Church--the oldest church in the
world. I use to belong to the Methodist Church, but they got along so
bad I got tired, so I went to the Catholic. I like it out
there--everthing so quiet and nice."
Name of Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Rachel Bradley. 1103 State Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Upon arriving at the humble unpainted home of Rachel Bradley I found her
sitting in the doorway on a typical split-oak bottomed chair watching
the traffic of State Street, one of our busiest streets out of the high
rent district. It is a mixture of white and Negro stores and homes.
After asking her name to be sure I was really talking to Rachel Bradley,
I said I had been told she was a former slave. "Yes'm, I used to be a
slave." She smiled broadly displaying nearly a full set of teeth. She is
of a cheerful, happy disposition and seemed glad to answer my questions.
As to her age, she said she was "a little girl on the floor whan the
stars fell." I looked this up at the public library and found that
falling stars or showers of meteors occur in cycles of thirty-three
years. One such display was recorded in 1833 and another in 1866. So if
Rachel Bradley is really 107 years old, she was born in 1830. It is a
question in my mind whether or not she could have remembered falling
stars at the age of three, but on the other hand if she was "a little
girl on the floor" in 1866 she would be only somewhere between
seventy-five and eighty years of age.
Her master and mistress were Mitchell and Elizabeth Simmons and they had
two sons and two daughters. They lived on a plantation about twelve
miles from Farmersville, Louisiana.
Rachel was a house girl and her mother was the cook. Besides doing house
work, she was nursemaid and as she grew older did her mistress' sewing
and could also weave and knit. From the way she smiled and rolled her
eyes I could see that this was the happiest time of her life. "My white
folks was so good to me. I sat right down to the same table after they
While a child in the home of her white folks she played with her
mistress' children. In her own words "My mistress give us a task to do
and when we got it done, we went to our playhouse in the yard."
When the war came along, her master was too old to go but his two sons
went and both lived through the war.
Questioned about the Yankees during the war she said, "I seen right
smart of the Yankees. I seen the 'Calvary' go by. They didn't bother my
white folks none."
Rachel said the ABC's for me but cannot read or write. She said her
mistress' children wanted to teach her but she would rather play so grew
up in ignorance.
After the war Rachel's white folks moved to Texas and Rachel went to
live with her mistress' married daughter Martha. For her work she was
paid six dollars a month. She was not given any money by her former
owners after being freed, but was paid for her work. Later on Rachel
went to work in the field making a crop with her brother, turning it
over to the owner of the land for groceries and other supplies and when
the cotton was weighed "de white folks taken out part of our half. I
knowed they done it but we couldn't do nothin bout it."
Rachel had four husbands and eleven children. Her second husband
abandoned her, taking the three oldest and leaving five with her. One
boy and one girl were old enough to help their mother in the field and
one stayed in the house with the babies, so she managed to make a living
working by the day for the white people.
The only clash with the Ku Klux Klan was when they came to get an army
gun her husband had bought.
Being a woman, Rachel did not know much about politics during the
Reconstruction period. She had heard the words "Democrat," "Radical" and
"Republican" and that was about all she remembered.
Concerning the younger generation Rachel said: "I don't know what goin'
come of 'em. The most of 'em is on the beat" (trying to get all they can
After moving to Arkansas, she made a living working in the field by the
day and as she grew older, washing and ironing, sewing, housecleaning
Her long association with white people shows in her speech which is
quite plain with only a few typical Negro expressions, such as the
"She died this last gone Sattiday and I hope (help) shroud her."
"When white lady find baby, I used to go hep draw the breas'."
"Heap a people."
The Welfare Department gives Rachel $8.00 a month. She pays $2.00 a
month for two rooms with no drinking water. With the help of her white
friends she manages to exist and says she is "pendin on the Lord" to
help her get along.
She sang for me in a quavering voice the following songs reminiscent of
"Homespun dresses plain I know.
And the hat palmetto too.
We cheer for the South we love so dear,
We cheer for the homespun dresses
The Southern ladies wear!"
"Who is Price a fightin'?
He is a fightin', I do know.
I think it is old Curtis.
I hear the cannons roa'"
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Elizabeth Brannon, Biscoe, Arkansas
(Packed to move somewhere else)
Age: 40 plus
"I was born in Helena, Arkansas. Grandma raised me mostly. She was born
up in Virginia. Her name was Mariah Bell.
"Grandmother was sold more than once. When she was small she and her
mother were sold together to different buyers. The morning she was sold
she could see her mother crying through the crowd, and the last she ever
seen her mother she was crying and waving to her. She never could forget
that. We all used to sit around her and we would all be crying with her
when she told that so many, many times. Grandmother said she was five
years old then and was sold to a doctor in Virginia. He made a house
girl of her and learned her to be a midwife.
"She told us about a time when the stars fell or a time about like it.
Her master got scared in Virginia. His niece killed herself 'cause she
thought the world was coming to on end. Mama of the baby was walking,
crying and praying. Grandmama had the baby. She said it was a terrible
"When grandmama was sold away from her own mother she took the new
master's cook for her mother. I live to see her. Her name was Charity
Walker. She was awful old. Grandmama didn't remember if her mother had
other children or not. She was the youngest.
"Grandmama was sold again. Her second master wasn't good as her doctor
master. He didn't feed them good, didn't feed the children good neither.
He told his slaves to steal. Grandmama had two children there. She was
pregnant again. Grandpa stole a shoat. She craved meat. Meat was scarce
then and the War was on. Grandpa had it cut up and put away. Grandmama
had the oldest baby in the box under her bed and the youngest child
asleep in her bed. She was frying the meat. She seen the overseer across
the field stepping that way. Grandpa left and grandmama put the skillet
of meat in the bed with the baby and threw a big roll of cotton in the
fire. The overseer come in and looked around, asked what he smelled
burning. She told him it was a sack of motes (cotton lumps). Grandpa was
Jim Bell. His master learnet him to steal and lie. He got better after
"Grandmama never would let us have pockets in our aprons and dresses.
Said it was a temptation for us to learn to steal. She thought that was
awful and to lie too.
"Grandmama and grandpa and mama and her sister, the baby, died. Come
with soldiers from Virginia to Helena, Arkansas on a big boat. They
nursed soldiers in the hospital in the last of the War. Grandpapa died
in 1895. He had heart trouble. He was seventy-five years old then.
Grandmama died in 1913. She was awful, awful old. Grandmama said they
put her off on College and Perry streets but that wasn't the names of
the streets then. She wore a baggin dress and brogan shoes. Brass-toed
shoes and brass eyelets. She would take grease and soot and make shoe
polish for them. We all wore that dress and the shoes at times. I wore
them to Peabody School in Helena and the children made so mich fun of
their cry (squeaking) till I begged them to get me some better looking
shoes for cold rainy spells of weather. I wore the dress. It was strong
nearly as leather.
"When she was sold the last time she got a marble box and it had a small
lock and key. It was square and thick, size of four men's shoe boxes.
When she come to Arkansas she brought it filled with rice on the boat.
She kept her valuable papers in it. Our house burned and the shoes and
box both got away from me. Her oldest girl died after the surrender and
was never married. Never had children.
"On College and Perry streets the hospital was cleared away and grandpa
bought the spot. It has had two houses rot down of his own on it. It has
been graded down and a big brick house stands there now.
"She used to tell how when meat was so scarce she'd be cooking. She'd
wipe her girls' faces with the dishrag. One of them would lick her lips.
Make other children hungry for meat to see them so greasy. They hadn't
had any meat.
"Grandmama told me her doctor master bought them shoes for her, and I
think they gave her the marble box. The children teased me so much
grandmama bought me some limber sole shoes.
"Auntie was good they said and mama was mean so they said. Auntie died
after surrender. We'd tell grandmama she ought to put the skillet on
mama. She said the good Lord took care of her baby that time. Mama would
get so mad. She would whoop us for saying she ought to put the hot
skillet on her.
"Grandmama was a midwife with black and white for forty-five years in
Helena. She worked for Joe Horner, Mr. Leifer, Mrs. E.M. Allen. Mama had
seven children, and grandmama raised Will Marshal (colored). He works at
D.T. Hargraves & Sons store now in Helena. He started a delivery boy but
now he is their main repair man.
"Grandmama was a strong woman. Mama worked out at some places I told
you. Grandmama worked. Grandmama always had a pretty flower yard. She
did love pretty flowers.
"Mama minded grandmama like one of us. She was a good woman. None of us,
not even the boys, ever had pockets in our clothes. Grandmama made them
for us. She taught us not to lie and steal. She thought it was the worse
thing you could do. She was loved and respected by white and black till
she died down at Helena in 1913. They are all buried down there."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mack Brantley, Brinkley, Arkansas
"I was born in Dallas County close to Selma, Alabama. My mother's owners
was Miss Mary Ann Roscoe and her husband was Master Ephriam Roscoe. They
had a good size gin and farm. We would gather 'round and tell ha'nt
tales till we would be scared to go home in the dark. The wind would
turn the old-fashioned screw and make a noise like packing cotton. We
older children would run and make out we thought it was the spirits. We
knowed better but the little children was afraid.
"My parents was Lucindy Roscoe. My pa belong to Warren Brantley. His
name was Silica Brantley.
"I was a stole chile. Ma had a husband the master give her and had
children. My pa lived on a joining farm. She wasn't supposen to have
children by my pa. That is why I'm called Mack Brantley now. Mama died
and Green Roscoe, my older brother, took me to Howell's so they would
raise me. They was all kin. I was six months old when ma died. My sister
nursed me but Miss Mary Ann Roscoe suckled me wid Miss Minnie. When Miss
Minnie got grown and married she went to Mobile, Alabama to live. Later
Brother Silica give me to Master Henry Harrell. They sent me to school.
I never went to colored school. We went to Blunt Springs three months
every year in the summer time. When we come home one year Mr. Hankton
was gone and he never come back. He was my only teacher. The white
population didn't like him and they finally got him away.
"They was good white people. I had a pallet in the room and in the
morning I took it up and put it away in a little room. I slept in the
house till I was good and grown. I made fires for them in the winter
time. Mr. Walter died three years ago. He was their son. He had a big
store there. Miss Carrie married Charlie Hooper. He courted her five
years. I bring her a letter and she tore it up before she read it. He
kept coming. He lived in Kentucky. The last I heard they lived in
Birmingham. Miss Kitty Avery Harrell was my mistress at freedom and
after, and after boss died. I had four children when I left. If Mr.
Walter was living I'd go to him now. Mr. Hooper would cuss. Old boss
didn't cuss. I never liked Mr. Hooper's ways. Old boss was kinder. All
my sisters dead. I reckon I got two brothers. Charles Roscoe was where
boss left him. He was grown when I was a child. Jack Roscoe lives at
Forrest, Mississippi. Brother Silica Roscoe had a wife and children when
freedom come on. He left that wife and got married to another one and
went off to Mississippi. Preachers quit their slavery wives and children
and married other wives. It wasn't right. No ma'am, it wasn't right.
Awful lot of it was done. Then is when I got took to my Miss Kitty.
After freedom is right.
"I tole you I was a stole chile. I never seen my own pa but a few times.
He lived on a joining farm. Ma had a husband her master give her the
first time they had been at a big log rolling and come up for dinner.
They put the planks out and the dinner on it. They kept saying, 'Mack,
shake hands with your papa.' He was standing off to one side. It was
sorter shame. They kept on. I was little. I went over there. He shook
hands with me. I said, 'Hi, papa! Give me a nickel.' He reached in his
pocket and give me a nickel. Then they stopped teasing me. He went off
on Alabama River eighteen miles from us to Caholba, Alabama. I never
seen him much more. Ma had been dead then several years.
"Green, my brother, took me to Miss Mary Ann Roscoe when mama died. She
was my ma's owner. I stayed there till Green died. A whole lot of boys
was standing around and bet Green he couldn't tote that barrel of
molasses a certain piece. They helped it up and was to help him put it
down and give him five dollars. That was late in the ebenin'. He let the
barrel down and a ball as big as a goose egg of blood come out of his
mouth. The next day he died. Master got Dr. Blevins quick as he could
ride there. He was mad as he could be. Dr. Blevins said it weighed eight
hundred pounds. It was a hogshead of molasses. Green was much of a man.
He was a giant. Dr. Blevins said they had killed a good man. Green was
good and so strong. I never could forget it. Green was my standby.
"The Yankees burnt Boss Henry's father's fine house, his gin, his grist
mill, and fifty or sixty bales of cotton and took several fine horses.
They took him out in his shirt tail and beat him, and whooped his wife,
trying to make them tell where the money was. He told her to tell. He
had it buried in a pot in the garden. They went and dug it up. Forty
thousand dollars in gold and silver. Out they lit then. I seen that. He
lived to be eighty and she lived to be seventy-eight years old. He had
owned seven or eight or ten miles of road land at Howell Crossroads.
Road land is like highway land, it is more costly. He had Henry and
Finas married and moved off. Miss Melia was his daughter and her husband
and the overseer was there but they couldn't save the money. I waited on
Misa Melia when she got sick and died. She was fine a woman as ever I
seen. Every colored person on the place knowed where the pot was buried.
Some of them planted it. They wouldn't tell. We could hear the battles
at Selma, Alabama. It was a roar and like an earthquake.
"Freedom--I was a little boy. I cried to go with the bigger children.
They had to tote water. One day I heard somebody crying over 'cross a
ditch and fence covered with vines and small trees. I heard, 'Do pray
master.' I run hid under the house. I was snoring when they found me. I
heard somebody say, 'Slave day is over.' That is all I ever knowed about
freedom. The way I knowed, a Yankee. We was in the road piling up sand
and a lot of blue coats on horses was coming. We got out of the road and
went to tell our white folks. They said, 'Get out of their way, they are
"When I left Alabama I went to Mississippi. I worked my way on a
steamboat. I had been trained to do whatever I was commanded. The man,
my boss, said, 'Mack, get the rope behind the boiler and tie it to the
stob and 'dead man'. I tied it to the stob and I was looking for a dead
man. He showed me what it was. Then I tied it. I went to Vicksburg then.
I had got mixed up with a woman and run off.
"I been married once in my life. I had eighteen children. Nine lived. I
got a boy here and a girl in Pine Bluff. My son's wife is mean to me. I
don't want to stay here. If I can get my pension started, I want to live
with my daughter.
"I used to vote Republican. They claimed it made times better for my
race. I found out better. I don't vote now. Wilson was good as Mr.
Roosevelt, I think. I voted about eight years ago, I reckon. I didn't
vote for Mr. Roosevelt.
"I wish I was young and had the chance this generation has got. Times is
better every way for a good man unless he is unable to work like I am
now. (This old man tends his garden, a large nice one--ed.) My son
supports me now."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Ellen Brass
1427 W. Eighth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: About 82
[HW: White Folks want Niggers]
"I was born in Alabama in Green County. I was about four years old when
I came from there; so I don't know much about it. I growed up in
Catahoula, Louisiana. My mother's name was Caroline Butler and my
father's name was Lee Butler. One of my father's brothers was named Sam
Butler. I used to be a Butler myself, but I married. My father and
mother were both slaves. They never did any slave work.
Father Free Raised
"My father was free raised. The white folks raised him. I don't know how
he became free. All that I know is that he was raised right in the house
with the white folks and was free. His mother and father were both
slaves. I was quite small at the time and didn't know much. They bought
us like cattle and carried us from place to place.
"The slaves lived in log cabins with one room. I don't know what kind of
house the white folks lived in. They, the colored folks, ate corn bread,
wheat bread (they raised wheat in those times), pickled pork. They made
the flour right on the plantation. George Harris, a white man, was the
one who brought me out of Louisiana into this State. We traveled in
wagons in those days. George Harris owned us in Louisiana.
"We were sold from George Harris to Ben Hickinbottom. They bought us
then like cattle. I don't know whether it was a auction sale or a
private sale. I am telling it as near as I know it, and I am telling the
truth. Hickinbottom brought us to Catahoula Parish in Louisiana. Did I
say Harris brought us? Well, Hickinbottom brought us to Louisiana. I
don't know why they went from one place to the other like that. The
soldiers were bad about freeing the slaves. From Catahoula Parish,
Hickinbottom carried us to Alexandria, Louisiana, and in Alexandria, we
was set free.
How Freedom Came
"According to my remembrance the Yankees come around and told the people
they was free. I was in Alexandria, Louisiana. They told the colored
folks they was free and to go and take what they wanted from the white
folks. They had us all out in the yard dancing and playing. They sang
'They hung Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree
While we all go marching on.'
It wasn't the white folks on the plantation that told us we was free. It
was the soldiers their selves that came around and told us. We called
Right After the War
"Right after the War, my folks farmed--raised cotton and corn. My mother
had died before I left Alabama. They claimed I was four years old when
my mother died in Alabama. My father died after freedom.
"My first occupation was farming--you know, field work. Sometimes I used
to work around the white people too--clean house and like that.
"The white folks ain't got no reason to mistreat the colored people.
They need us all the time. They don't want no food unless a nigger cooks
it. They want niggers to do all their washing and ironing. They want
niggers to do their sweeping and cleaning and everything around their
houses. The niggers handle everything they wears and hands them
everything they eat and drink. Ain't nobody can get closer to a white
person than a colored person. If we'd a wanted to kill 'em, they'd a all
done been dead. They ain't no reason for white people mistreating
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Alice Bratton, Wheatley, Arkansas
"I was born a few miles from Martin, Tennessee. Mama was born in
Virginia. She and her sister was carried off from the Witherspoon place
and sold. She was Betty and her sister was named Addie.
"Their mama had died and some folks said they would raise them and then
they sold them. She said they never did know who it was that carried
them off in a big carriage. They brought them to Nashville, Tennessee
and sold them under a big oak tree. They was tied with a hame string to
a hitching ring. Addie wanted to set down and couldn't. She said,
'Betty, wouldn't our mama cry if she could see us off like this?' Mama
said they both cried and cried and when the man come to look at them he
said he would buy them. They felt better and quit crying. He was such a
kind looking young man.
"They lived out from Nashville a piece then. He took them home with him,
on a plank across the wagon bed. He was Master Davy Fuller. He had a
young wife and a little baby. Her name was Mistress Maude and the baby
was Carrie. She was proud of Betty and Addie. They told her their mama
died. Mama said she was good to them. She died the year of the surrender
and Master Davy took them all to his mother's and his papa put them out
to live with a family that worked on his place.
"They went to see Carrie and played with her till Addie married and mama
come close to Martin to live with them. Addie took consumption and died,
then mama married Frank Bane and he died and I was born.
"My pa was a white man. He was a bachelor, had a little store, and he
overcome mama. She never did marry no more. I was her only child. I
don't remember the man but mama told me how she got tripped up and
nearly died and for me never to let nobody trip me up that way. I sorter
recollect the store. It burned down one night. We lived around over
there till I was sixteen years old. We moved to a few miles of Corinth,
Mississippi on a farm. Mr. Cat Madford was the manager. I got married. I
married Will Bratton. We had a home wedding on Sunday evening. It was
cold and freezing and the freeze lasted over a week. Will Bratton was
black as night. I had one little boy. After mama died Will Bratton went
off with another woman. He come back but the place was mine. Mama left
it to me. I wouldn't let him stay there. I let him go on where he
"Times been growing slacker for a long time. People live slack. Young
folks coming on slacker and slacker every day. Don't know how to do,
don't want to know. They get by better 'en I did. I work in the field
and I can't hardly get by. I see folks do nothing all the time. Seem
like they happy. Times is hard for some, easy for some. I want to live
in the country like I is 'cause I belongs there. I can work and be
satisfied! I did own my home. I reckon I still do. I got a little cow
and some chickens."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Frank Briles
817 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: About 82 or 83
[HW: Gives up the Ghost]
"I was born right here in Arkansas. My father's name was Moses Briles.
My mother's name was Judy Briles. Her name before she was married I
don't know. They belonged to the Briles. I don't know their first name
"My father was under slavery. He chopped cotton and plowed and scraped
cotton. That is where I got my part from. He would carry two rows along
at once. I was little and couldn't take care of a row by myself. I was
born down there along the time of the War, and my father didn't live
long afterwards. He died when they was settin' them all free. He was a
choppin' for the boss man and they would set them up on blocks and sell
them. I don't know who the man was that did the selling, but they tell
me they would sell them and buy them.
"I am sick now. My head looks like it's goin' to bust open.
"I have heard them tell about the pateroles. I didn't know them but I
heard about them. Them and the Ku Klux was about the same thing. Neither
one of them never did bother my folks. It was just like we now, nobody
was 'round us and there wasn't no one to bother you at all at Briles'
plantation. Briles' plantation I can't remember exactly where it was. It
was way down in the west part of Arkansas. Yes, I was born way back
south--east--way back. I don't know what the name of the place was but
it was in Arkansas. I know that. I don't know nothing about that. My
father and mother came from Virginia, they said. My father used to drive
cattle there, my mother said. I don't know nothin' except what they told
"I learnt a little some thing from my folks. I think of more things
every time I talk to somebody. I know one thing. The woman that bossed
me, she died. That was about--Lord I was a little bitty of a fellow,
didn't know nothin' then. She made clothes for me. She kept me in the
house all the time. She was a white woman. I know when they was setting
them free. I was goin' down to get a drink of water. My father said.
'Stop, you'll be drowned.' And I said, 'What must I do?' And he said,
'Go back and set down till I come back.' I don't know what my father was
doing or where he was going. There was a man--I don't know who--he come
'round and said, 'You're all free.' My mama said, 'Thank God for that.
Thank God for that.' That is all I know about that.
"When I got old enough to work they put me in the woods splitting rails
and plowing. When I grew up I scraped cotton and worked on the farm.
That is where my father would come and say, 'Now, son, if anybody asks
you how you feel, tell them the truth.'
"I went to school one session and then the man give down. He got sick
and couldn't carry it no longer. His pupils were catching up with him I
reckon. It was time to get sick or somethin'.
"I never did marry. I was promised to marry a woman and she died. So I
said, 'Well, I will give up the ghost. I won't marry at all.'
"I ain't able to do no work now 'cept a little pittling here and there.
I get a pension. It's been cut a whole lot."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Mary Ann Brooks
James Addition, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born here in Arkansas. Durin' the war we went to Texas and stayed
one year and six months.
"My old master was old Dr. Brewster. He bought me when I was a girl
eight yeers old. Took me in for a debt. He had a drug store. I was a
nurse girl in the house. Stayed in the house all my life.
"I stayed here till Dr. Brewster--Dr. Arthur Brewster was his
name--stayed here till he carried me to his brother-in-law Dr. Asa
Brunson. Stayed there awhile, then the war started and he carrled us all
"I seen some Yankeee after we come back to Arkansas. I wes scared of em.
"I don't knew nothln' bout the war. I wasn't in it. I was livin' but we
was in Texas.
"The Ku Klux got after us twice when we was goin' to Texas. We had six
wagons, a cart, and a carriage. Old Dr. Brunson rode in the carriage.
He'd go ahead and pilot the way. We got lost twice. When we come to Red
River it was up and we had to camp there three weeks till the water
"We took some sheep and some cows so we could kill meat on the way. I
member we forded Saline River. Dr. Brunson carried us there and stayed
till he hired us out.
"After the war ceasted he come after us. Told as we didn't belong to him
no more--said we was free as he was. Yankees sent him after us. All the
folks come back--all but one famlly.
"I had tolerable good owners. Miss Fanny Brewster good to me.
"Old master got drunk so much. Come home sometimes muddy as a hog. All
his chillun was girls. I nursed all the girls but one.
"I was a mighty dancer when I was young--danced all night long.
Paddyrollers run us home from dancin' one night.
"I member one song we used to sing:
'Hop light lady
Cake was all dough--
Never mind the weather,
So the wind don't blow.'
"How many chillun I have? Les see--count em up. Ida, Willie, Clara--had
"Some of the young folks nowadays pretty rough. Some of em do right and
"Never did go to school. Coulda went but papa died and had to go to
"I thinks over old times sometimes by myself. Didn't know what freedom
was till we was free and didn't hardly know then.
"Well, it's been a long time. All the Brewsters and the Bransons dead
and I'm still here--blind. Been blind eight years."
1814 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, Ark.
Retired railroad worker, No. Pac. 75
[TR: Information moved from bottom of each page.]
[HW: A Railroad Work History]
I was only three years old when peace (1865) was declared. I was born in
1862. Peace was declared in 1865. I remember seeing plenty of men that
they said the white folks never whipped. I remember seeing plenty of men
that they said bought their own freedom.
I remember a woman that they said fought with the overseer for a whole
day and stripped him naked as the day he was born. She was Nancy Ward.
Her owner was named Billie Ward. He had an overseer named Roper. Her
husband ran away from the white folks and stayed three years. He was in
the Bayou in a boat and the bottom dropped out of it. He climbed a tree
and hollered for someone to tel his master to come and get him if he
My father's master was John T. Williams. He went into the army--the
rebel army--and taken my father with him. I don't know how long my
father stayed in the army but I was only 6 months old when he died. He
had some kind of stomach trouble and died a natural death.
My mother and father both belonged to Joe Ward at first but Ward died
and his widow married Williams. My mother told me and not only told me
but showed me knots across her shoulder where they whipped her from
seven in the morning until nine at night. She went into the smoke house
to get some meat and they closed in on her and shut the door and strung
her up by her hands (her arms were crossed and a rope run from her
wrists to the hook in the ceiling on which meat was hung). There were
three of them. One would whip until he was tired, and then the other
would take it up.
Some years after she got that whipping, her master's child was down to
the bayou playing in the water. She told the child to stop playing in
the water, and it did not. Instead it threw dirt into the water that had
the bluing in it. Then she took the child and threw it into the Bayou.
Some way or other the child managed to scramble out. When the child's
aunt herd it from the child, she questioned my mother and asked her if
she did it. My mother told her "Yes". Then she said. "Well what do you
want to own it for? Don't you know if they find it out they will kill
HOW FREEDOM CAME
My mother said that an old white man came through the quarters one
morning and said that they were all free--that they could go away or
stay where they were or do what they wanted to. If you will go there, I
can send you to an old man eighty-six years old who was in General
Sherman's army. He came from Mississippi. I don't know where he was a
slave. But he can tell you when peace was declared aad what they said
WHAT THE SLAVES EXPECTED
The slaves were not expecting much but they were expecting more than
they got. I am not telling you anything I read in history but I have
heard that there was a bounty in the treasury for the ex-slaves, and
them alone. And some reason or other they did not pay it off, but the
time was coming when they would pay it off. And every man or woman
living that was born a slave would benefit from it. They say that
Abraham Lincoln principally was killed because he was going to pay this
money to the ex-slaves end before they would permit it they killed him.
Old man White who lives out in the west part of town was an agent for
some Senator who was in Washington, and he charged a dime and took your
name and age and the place where you lived.
KU KLUX KLAN
They called the K.K.K. "White Cape". Right there in my neighborhood,
there was a colered man who hadn't long come in. The colored man was
late coming into the lot to get the mule for the white man and woman he
was working for. The white man hit him. The Negro knocked the white man
down and was going to kill him when the white man begged him off,
telling him that he wouldn't let anybody else hurt him. He (the Negro)
went on off and never came back. That night there were two hundred White
Caps looking for him but they didn't find him.
Another man got into an argument. They went to work and it started to
rain. The Negro thought that they would stop working because of the
rain; so he started home. The man he was working for met him and asked
him where he was going. When he told him he started to hit him with the
butt end of the gun he was wearing. The Negro knocked his gun up, took
it away from him, and drawed down and started to kill him when another
Negro knocked the gun up, and saved the white man's life. But the Nigger
might as well have killed him because that night seventy-five masked men
hunted him. He was hid away by his friends until he got a chance to get
away. This man was named Matthew Collins.
There was another case. This was a political one. The colored man wanted
to run for representative of some kind. He had been stump speaking. He
lived on a white man's place, and the owner came to him and told him he
had better get away because a mob was coming after him (not just
K.K.K.). He told his wife to go away and stay with his brother but she
wouldn't. He hid himself in a trunk and his wife was under the floor
with his two children. The white men fired into the house and that
didn't do anything, so they throwed a ball of fire into the house and
burned his wife and children. Then he rose up and came out of the trunk
and hollered, "Look out I'm coming", and he fired a load of buck shot
and tore one man nearly in two and ran away in the confusion. The next
day he went to the man on whose place he lived, but he told him he
couldn't do anything about it.
Another man by the name of Bob Sawyer had a farm near my home and
another farm down near Maginty's place. He worked the ????[TR:
Illegible] Niggers from one farm to the other.
His boy would ride in front with a rifle and he would be in the rear
with a big gun swinging down from his hip. There wae one Nigger who got
out and went down to Alexandria (Louisiana). He wrote to the officers
and they caught the Nigger and put him into the stocks and brought him
back, and the man hadn't done a thing but run away. After that they
worked him with a chain holding his legs together so that he could only
make short steps.
They had an old white man who worked there and they treated him so mean
he ran away and left his wife. They treated the poor whites about as bad
as they treated the colored.
If Bob met a Negro carrying cotton to the Gin, he would ask "Whose
cotton is that?", and if the Nigger said it was some white man's, he
would let him alone. But if he said. "Mine", Bob would tell him to take
it to some Gin where he wanted it taken. He was the kind of man that if
you seen him first, you wouldn't meet him.
One night he slipped up on a Nigger man that had left his place and
killed him as he sat at supper. I had an aunt with five or six children
who worker with him. He married my young Mistress after I was freed.
I saw him do this. The white folks had a funeral at the church down
there one Sunday. He came along and young Billie Ward (white man) was
sitting in a buggy driving with his wife. When he saw Billie, he jumped
down out of his buggy and horse-whipped him until he ran away. All the
while, Sawyer's mother-in-law was sitting in his buggy calling out,
"Shoot him, Bob, shoot him." this was because Billie and another man
had done some talk about Bob.
I came to Brinkley, Arkansas, March 4, 1900, and have been in Arkansas
ever since. Why I came, the postmaster where I was rented farm on which
I was farming. In March he put hands in my field to pick my cotton. All
that was in the field was mine. I knew that I couldn't do anything about
it so I left. A couple of years before that I rented five acres of land
from him for three dollars as acre (verbal agreement) sowed it down in
cotton. It done so well I made five bales of cotton on it. He saw the
prospects were so good that he went to the man who furnished me supplies
and told him that I had agreed to do my work on a third and fourth
(one-third of the seed and one-fourth of the cotton to go to the owner).
He get this although if he had stuck to the agreement he would not have
gotten but fifteen dollars. So he dealt me a blow there, but I got over
Before this I had bought a piece of timber land in Moorehouse parish
(Louisiana) and was expecting to get the money to finish paying for it
from my cotton. The cost was $100.00. So when he put hands in my field,
it made me mad, and I left. (Brooks would have lost most of his cotton
if the hands had picked it.)
At Brinkley, I farmed on halves with Will Carter, one of the richest men
in Monroe County (Arkansas). I done $17.50 worth of work for Carter and
he paid me for it. Then he turned around and charged me up with it. When
we came to settle up, we couldn't settle. So finally, he said, "Figures
don't lie." and I said, "No, figures don't lie but men do." When I sed
that I stepped out and didn't get scared until I was half way home. But
nobody did anything. He sent for me but I wouldn't go back because I
knew what he was doing.
After that I went to Wheatley, Arkansas, about five miles west of
Brinkley. I made a crop for Goldberg. Jake Readus was Goldberg's agent.
The folks had told the white folks I wasn't no account, so I couldn't
get nothing only just a little fat meat and bread, and I got as naked as
a jaybird. About the last part of August, when I had done laid by and
everything. Jake Readus came by and told me what the Niggers had said
and said he knowed it was a lie because I had the best crop on the
When Goldberg went to pay me off, he told Dr. Beauregard to come and get
his money. I said. "You give me my money; I pay my own debts. You have
nothing to do with it." When I said that you could have heard a pin
drop. But he gave it to me. Then I called the Doctor and gave him his
money and he receipted me. I never stayed there but one year.
I moved then down to Napel[TR: Possibly Kapel] Slough on Dr. West's
place. I wanted to rent but Dr. West wouldn't advance me anything unless
he took a mortgage on my place; so I wouldn't stay there. I chartered a
car and took my things back to Brinkley at a cost of ten dollars. I
stayed around Brinkley all the winter.
While I was at Wheatley, there was a man by the name of Will Smith who
married the daughter of Dr. Paster, druggist at Brinkley. Now Jim Smith,
poor white trash, attempted to assault Will Thomas' daughter. Negro
girl. When Thomas heard it, he hunted Jim with a Winchester. When that
got out, Deputy Sheriff arrested Will and they said that he was chained
when he was brought to trial. He got away from them somehow and went to
Jonesboro. I took my horse and rid seven or eight miles to carry his
clothes. Another Nigger who had promised to make a crop when he left had
the blood beat out of his back because he didn't do it.
The winter, I worked at the Gin and Black Saw Mills. That spring I pulls
up and goes to Brises. That was in the year 1903. I made a crop with old
man Wiley Wormley one of the biggest Niggers there. I fell short. George
Walker furnished what I had.
Then I left and went back to Brinkley and worked at the Sawmill again.
That was in 1904. I went to Jonesboro. I had just money enough to go to
Jonesboro, and I had a couple of dollars over. I had never been out
before that; so I spent that and didn't get any work. I stayed there
three days and nights and didn't get anything to eat. Lived in a box
car. Then I went to work with the Cotton Belt.
My boarding mistress decided to go up to fifteen dollars for board. I
told her I couldn't pay her fifteen dollars for that month, but would
begin next month. She wouldn't have that and got the officers to look
for my money so I caught the train and went back to Brinkley and worked
on the railroad again from the Cotton Belt to the Rock Island.
I was getting along all right and I done my job, but when the foreman
wanted me to work on the roof and I told him if that was all he had for
me to do he could pay me off because that was off the ground and I was
fraid of falling. He said that I was a good hand and that he hated to
In March, 4, 1907, I came here (Little Rock) and at first rolled
concrete in Niemeyer's at $1.50 a day where the other men were getting
from two to two and a half dollars. They quit for more wages and I had
to quit with them. Then I worked around till May 24 when I was hired at
the Mountain Shops as Engine wiper for about six or eight months, then
painted flues for three or four months, then was wood hauler for about
thirteen or more years, then took care of the situation with shavings
and oil, then stayed in wash room six or seven years until I was
retired. I had control of the ice house, too.
IDEAS ABOUT THE PRESENT
Young people are just going back to old Ante-Bellum days. They are going
to destruction. They got a way of their own and you can't tell them
anything. They don't educate anything but their heads. The heart isn't
educated and if my heart is black as my hat, can I do anything for God?
The old people are not getting a square deal. Some of them are being
I did not get much schooling. Between the time I was old enough to go to
school and the time I went to the field, I got a little. I would go to
school from July to September, and also about six weeks in January.
They had public school taught by some of the people. I went to a white
man once. An old white woman taught there before him. I went to a Negro
woman, Old Lady Abbie Lindsay. She lives here now down on State Street.
She is about ninety years old. I went to Jube Williams (white), Current
Lewis, Abbie Lindsay, and A.G. Mertin. They did n't paas you by grades
then. I got through the fourth reader. If you got through, they would go
back and carry you through again. They had the old Blue Back Speller. I
got ready for the fifth reader but I quit. I had just begun to cipher,
in arithmetic, but I had to quit because they could n't spare me out of
the field. In fact they put me into the field when I was eight years
old, but I managed to go to school until I was about twelve years old or
something like that. I never got a year's schooling all put together. My
mother was a widow and had five or six children, none of them able or
big enough to work but my oldest sister. She raised five of us.
If I had done as she told me, I might have been a good scholar. But I
played around and went off with the other children. I learnt way
afterwards when I was grown how to write my name. I could work addition
and I could work some in multiplication, but I couldn't work division
and couldn't work subtraction. Come around any time, specially on Sunday
Name of Interviewer: Velma Sample
Subject: NEGRO LORE--THE STORY OF CASIE JONES BROWN
Casie Jones Brown was a dearly loved Negro servant. He was known for his
loving kindness toward children, both black and white. Lots of the white
children would say, "Casie sure is smart" because Casie was a funny and
witty old darkie. Casie has a log house close to his master, Mr. Brown.
They live on what is called the Brown Plantation. The yard had large old
cedars planted all around it. They were planted almost a century ago.
The plantation is about six miles from Paragould, [TR: possibly
Baragould] Arkansas, where the hills are almost mountains. There have
been four generations living in the old house. They have the big sand
stone fireplaces. Casie has a spiritual power that makes him see and
hear things. He says that sometimes he can hear sweet voices somewhere
in his fireplace. In the winter time he does all of his cooking in a big
black kettle with three legs on it, or a big iron skillet. And when he
first settled there he did not have a stove to cook on except the
fireplace. He says the singing that comes from somewhere about the
fireplace is God having his angels entertain him in his lonely hours.
Casie is 91 years old and has been in that settlement as long as he can
The little white boys and girls like to be entertained by Casie. He
tells them stories about the bear and peter rabbit. Also he has subjects
for them to ask questions about and he answers them in a clever way. He
was kind enough to let me see the list and the answers. He cannot write
but he has little kids to write them for him. He cannot read, but they
appoint one to read for him, and he has looked at the list so much that
he has it memorized.
Casie, what does hat mean or use hat for a subject. "De price ob your
hat ain't de medjer ob your brain."
Coat--"Ef your coat tail catch afire don't wait till you kin see de
blaze 'fo' you put it out."
Graveyard--"De graveyard is de cheapes' boardin' house."
Mules--"Dar's a fam'ly coolness 'twix' de mule an' de single-tree."
Mad--"It pesters a man dreadful when he git mad an' don' know who to
Crop--"Buyin' on credit is robbin' next 'er's crop."
Christmas--"Christmas without holiday is like a candle without a wick."
Crawfish--"De crawfish in a hurry look like he tryin' to git dar
Lean houn'--"Lean houn' lead de pack when de rabbit in sight."
Snow Flakes--"Little flakes make de deepes' snow."
Whitewash--"Knot in de plank will show froo de whitewash."
Yardstick--"A short yardstick is a po' thing to fight de debbul wid."
Cotton--"Dirt sho de quickes' on de cleanes' cotton."
Candy--"De candy-pullin' din call louder dan de log-rollin'."
Apple--"De bes' apple float on de top o' 'ligion heaps de half-bushel."
Hoe--"De steel hoe dat laughs at de iron one is like de man dat is
shamed of his grand-daddy."
Mule--"A mule kin tote so much goodness in his face dat he don't hab
none lef' for his hind legs."
Walks--"Some grabble walks may lead to de jail."
Cow bell--"De cow bell can't keep a secret."
Tree--"Ripe apples make de tree look taller."
Rose--"De red rose don't brag in de dark."
Billy-goat--"De billy-goat gits in his hardes' licks when he looks like
he gwine to back out of de fight."
Good luck--"Tis hard for de bes' an' smartes' fokes in de wul' to git
'long widout a little tech o' good luck."
Blind horse--"Blind horse knows when de trough empty."
Wagon--"De noise of de wheels don't medjer de load in de wagon."
Hot--"Las' 'ear's hot spell cools off mighty fast."
Hole--"Little hole in your pocket is wusser'n a big one at de knee."
Tim o' day--"Appetite don't regerlate de time o' day."
Quagmire--"De quagmire don't hang out no sign."
Needle--"One pusson kin th'ead a needle better than two."
Pen--"De pint o' de pin is de easier in' to find."
Turnip--"De green top don't medjer de price o' de turnip."
Dog--"Muzzle on de yard dog unlocks de smokehouse."
EQUAL TO THE EMERGENCY
Hebe: "Unc Isrul, mammy says, hoocume de milk so watery on top in de
Patriarch: "Tell you' mammy dat's de bes' sort o' milk, dat's de dew on
it, de cows been layin' in de dew."
Hebe: "An' she tell me to ax you what meck it so blue."
Patriarch: "You ax your mammy what meck she so black."
Here are some of Casie's little rhymes that he entertained the neighbor
Look at dat possum in dat holler log. He hidin' he know dis nigger eat
possum laik a hog.
Hear dat hoot owl in dat tree. Dat old hoot owl gwine hoot right out at
Rabbit, rabbit, do you know; I can track you in de snow.
One young man lingered at the gate after a long visit, but a lots ob
sweethearts do det. His lady love started to cry. He said, "Dear, don't
cry; I will come to see you again." But she cried on. "Oh, darling don't
cry so; I will come back again, I sure will." Still she cried. At last
he said: "Love, did I not tell you that I would soon come again to see
you?" And through her tears she replied: "Yes, but I am afraid you will
never go; that is what is the matter with me. We must all go."
Uncle Joshua was once asked a great question. It was: "If you had to be
blown up which would you choose, to be blown up on the railroad or the
steamboat?" "Well," said Uncle Joshua, "I don't want to be blowed up no
way; but if I had to be blowed up I would rather be blowed up on de
railroad, because, you see, if you is blowed up on de railroad, dar you
is, but if you is blowed up on de steamboat, whar is you?"
Casie tells me of some of his superstitions:
If you are the first person a cat looks at after he has licked hisself,
you are going to be married.
If you put a kitten under the cover of your bed and leave it until it
crawls out by itself, it will never leave home.
If you walk through a place where a horse wallows, you will have a
If a woodpecker raps on the house, someone is going to die.
If an owl screeches, turn the pocket of your apron inside out, tie a
knot in your apron string, and he will stop.
If a rabbit runs across the road in front of you, to the left, it is a
sign of bad luck; if it goes to the right, it is a sign of good luck.
If you cut a child's finger nails before it is a year old, it will steal
when it grows up.
If you put your hand on the head of a dead man, you will never worry
about him; he will never haunt you, and you will never fear death.
If the pictures are not turned toward the wall after a death, some other
member of the family will die.
If you see a dead man in the mirror, you will be unlucky the rest of
Name of Interviewer: Velma Sample
Subject: Slavery Days
THE ATTACK THE YANKEES MADE ON JOHNNIE REAVES PLACE GIVEN BY AUNT ELCIE
Aunt Elcie Brown (a negro girl age nine years old) was living in the
clay hills of Arkansas close to Centerville, and Clinton in Amid County
on Johnnie Reeves Place. Johnnie Reeves was old and had a son named
Henry L. Reeves who was married. Young Reeves got the news that they
were to be attacked by the Yankees at a certain time and he took his
family and all the best stock such as horses, cattle, and sheep to a
cave in a bluff which was hid from the spy-glasses of the Yankees, by
woods all around it. Johnnie Reeves was left to be attacked by the
soldiers. He was blind and almost paralyzed. He had to eat dried beef
shaved real fine and the negro children fed him. They ate as much of it
as he did. Aunt Elcie and her brother fed him most of the time. They
would get on each side of him and lead him for a walk most every day.
The natives thought they would bluff the soldiers and cut the bridge
into and thought that the soldiers would be unable to cross Beavers
Creek, but the Yankees was prepared. They had made a long bridge for the
soldiers to come marching right over. This bridge was just a mile from
Reeves farm. Then the soldiers came they were so many that they could
not all come up the big road but part of them came over the hill by the
sheeps spring and through the pasture.
All the negroes came out of their shacks and watched them march toward
their houses. Elcie and her brother got scared and ran in the house,
crawled in bed and thought they were hid, as they had scrutched down in
the middle of the bed with the door locked. But the soldiers bursted in
and moved the bed from the corner. One stood over the bed and laughed,
then asked the other man to look, then threw the covers off of them. He
first took her brother by one arm and one leg and stood him on his feet,
patted his head and told him not to be afraid, that they would not hurt
them. Then took Elcie and stood her up. He reached in a bag lined with
fur which was strapped on them and gave them both a stick of candy.
Elcie says she thinks that is why she has always liked stick candy. She
also says that that day has stood out to her and she can see everything
just like it was yesterday. All the negro homes were close together and
the soldiers raided them in small bunches. They were kind to the negro
children. Wnen they started to the big house where Johnnie Reeves lived
all the negro children followed them. When they entered the house Mr.
Reeves was sitting by the side of the fire-place and every one that
passed him kicked him brutely. They ransacked the place all over and
when they got up stairs they kicked out all the window pains and tore
off all the window-shutters. They took all the things they wanted out of
the house, such as silver-ware, and jewelry. The smoke-house, milk-house
and store-house was three separate buildings in a row. The first one
they entered was the milk-house. It had seven shelves of milk, cream and
butter in it. There was eleven crocks of sweet milk larger than a
waterbucket. They had forty gallons of butter milk, and over three
gallons of butter in a large flat crock. They also had over five gallons
of cream. The Yankee soldiers ate all the butter and cream and set the
milk in the yard and ask the negro kids to finish the milk.
They drank it like pigs without a cup, just stuck their heads down and
drank like pigs. When they were full the balance of the milk was so
dirty it looked like pigs had been in it.
The soldiers entered the next building which was the store-room where
they stored rice, flour, sugar, coffee, and such like, and they took
what they wanted, then destroyed the rest. Mr. Reeves had just been to
town and bought a hogshead of sugar and they took it out and burst it
and invited the negro children to help themselves. Elcie says that when
the kids all got full there was not a half bushel left. The last raid
was the smoke-house where stuffed sausage was hanging by the hundred and
hams by the dozens. They didn't leave a thing, took lard and everything.
It took over two wagons to hold everything. Then they crossed over to
the next place owned by Bill Gunley.
* * * * *
Dr. Levy tells me of his father being partial to the southerners
although he lived in Evansville, Indiana, and fought as a Yankee. He was
accused of being partial and they would turn over his wagons and cause
him trouble. He had fine wagons and sometimes when he would be turning
his wagons back up after them being turned over to contrary him, he
would curse Gen. Grant and call him that G.D. Old Tobacco spitter.
Although Henry Levy seldom did swear as he was French, sometimes they
would make him mad and he would do so.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: F. H. Brown
701 Hickory Street, North Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: Builds Church and School]
"I was born in Marion County, Mississippi. Columbus is the county-seat.
My father's name was Hazard Brown, and my mother's name was Willie
Brown. She was a Rankin before she married. My mother was born in
Lawrence County, Mississippi, and married father there. My father was
born in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. I was born in three feet of the
line in Louisiana. I was born in the old slave quarters. The house was
just across the line between Mississippi and Louisiana. The lower room
was in Louisiana and the other was in Mississippi. There was a three
foot hall between the rooms. It was a matter of convenience that I was
born in Mississippi. I might have been just as well born in Louisiana.
The house was in both states.
"My father's master was Black Bill Warren. Black Bill was just a title
they give him. I think that his name was Joe Warren, but they nicknamed
him Black Bill, and everybody called him that. My mother belonged to the
"My mother's mother was named Dolly Ware. My father's mother was named
Maria. Their papa's father was named Thomas, and I forget my mother's
father's name. I know it but I forget it just now. I haven't thought
over it for a long time.
"My father when he died was eighty-five years old. He was treated pretty
good in slavery time. He did farm work. His mars had about ninety
slaves, that is, counting children and all. When I was a boy, I was in
those quarters and saw them. I went back there and though it was some
time afterward, taught in them. And later on, I preached in them, since
I have been a preacher, of course. I have a cousin there now. He is
about a hundred years old. He belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church.
"My father lived to see freedom. He has been dead more than twelve
years. He died at my home.
"He was so close to the fighting that he could hear the guns and the
firing. When they was freed, some white people told him, 'You are just
as free as we are.' I was born after the Emancipation proclamation. The
proclamation was issued in September and I was born in October. It
didn't become effective till January first. So I was born a slave any
way you take it.
"The farm my father worked on was on the Pearl River. It was very
fertile. It was in Mississippi. A very big road runs beside the farm.
The road is called the Big Road. The nigger quarters were across the
road on the south side.
"My mother's folks treated her nicely too. Mr. Rankins didn't have any
slaves but Mrs. Rankins had some. Her people gave them to her. My
grandma who belonged to her had twenty-six children. She got her start
off of the slaves her parents gave her, and finally she had about
seventy-five. She ran a farm. My mother's work was house woman. She
worked in the house. Her mistress was good to her. The overseer couldn't
whip the niggers, except in her presence, so that she could see that it
wasn't brutal. She didn't allow the women to be whipped at all. When an
overseer got rough, she would fire him. Slaves would run away sometimes
and stay in the woods if they thought that they would get a whipping for
it. But she would send word for them to come on back and they wouldn't
be whipped. And she would keep her word about it. The slaves on her
place were treated so good that they were called free niggers by the
other white people. When they were whipped, they would go to the woods.
"I have heard them speak of the pateroles often. They had to get a pass
and then the pateroles wouldn't bother them. They would whip you and
beat you if you didn't have a pass. Slavery was an awful low thing. It
was a bad system. You had to get a pass to go to see your wife. If you
didn't have that pass, they would whip you. The pateroles carried on
their work for a good while after slavery was over, and the Civil War
"I was pretty good when I was a boy. So I never had any trouble then. I
was right smart size when I saw the Ku Klux. They would whip men and
women that weren't married and were living together. On the first day of
January, they would whip men and boys that didn't have a job. They kept
the Negroes from voting. They would whip them. They put up notices, 'No
niggers to come out to the polls tomorrow.' They would run them off of
government land which they had homesteaded. Sometimes they would just
persuade them not to vote. A Negro like my father, they would say to
him, 'Now, Brown, you are too good to get messed up. Them other niggers
'round here ain't worth nothing, but you are, and we don't want to see
you get hurt. So you stay 'way from the polls tomorrow.' And tomorrow,
my father would stay away, under the circumstances. They had to depend
on the white people for counsel. They didn't know what to do themselves.
The other niggers they would threaten them and tell them if they came
out they would kill them.
"Right after the war, we farmed on shares. When we made our last
share-crop, father farmed on Senator Bilbo's mother's farm on the State
line. I nursed Senator Bilbo when he was a baby. Theoda Bilbo. He is the
one who says Negroes should be sent to Africa. Then there wouldn't be
nobody here to raise people like him. He fell into the mill pond one day
and I pulled him out and kept him from drowning. If it weren't for that,
he wouldn't be here to say, 'Send all the Negroes to Africa.' If I'd see
him right now, he'd give me ten dollars.
"Mrs. Bilbo's first husband was a Crane. He killed himself. He didn't
intend to. It was in a horse race. The horse ran away with him and
killed him. Then Theoda's father married her. He was a poor man. He
married that widow and got up in the world. They had a gin mill, and a
grist mill, and a sawmill. They got business from everybody. That was
Theoda's daddy--old man Bilbo.
"In 1870, we stayed on Elisha McGhee's farm. We called him Elisha but
his name was Elijah. I began to remember them. The next year, we farmed
for old man William Bilbo. But we didn't get along so well there because
daddy wouldn't let anybody beat him out of anything that was his. That
was Theoda's gran'daddy. Then we went to (Mississippi) Miss Crane's. The
next year she married Theoda Bilbo's daddy and in 1874, my daddy moved
up on his own place at Hurricane Creek. There he built a church and
built a school, and I went to the school on our own place. He stayed
there till 1880. In 1880, we moved to Holly Springs. That was right
after the yellow fever epidemic. I went to school there at Shaw
University. I stayed in that school a good while. It's called Rust
College now. It's named after the Secretary of the Freedman's Aid
Society. Rust was the greatest donor and they named the school after
him. I went to the state school in my last year because they would give
you a lifetime certificate when you finished there. I mean a lifetime
teaching certificate for Mississippi. I finished the course and got the
certificate. There is the diploma up there on the wall. J.H. Henderson
was the principal and he was one of my teachers too. Henderson was a
wonderful man. You know he died out here in the county hospital sometime
ago. Sometime I'll tell you all about him. He was a remarkable man. He
taught there behind Highgate, a Northern man. I'll tell you all about
"I farmed with my father in the early part of my life. When I went to
Holly Springs in 1881, I worked for Dr. T.J. Malone, a banker there, and
a big farmer--President of the Holly Springs Bank. I worked for him
mornings and evenings and slept at home of nights. I would work in
vacation times too at whatever I could find to do till I got about able
to teach. When I first commenced to teach, I taught in several
counties--Lincoln, Simpson, Pike, Marion (the place I went to school),
and Copiah. I built the school at Lawrence County. I organized the
Folsom High School there. It was named after President Cleveland's wife.
I taught there nine years. I married there. My wife's name was Narcissa
Davis. She was a teacher and graduated from the same school I did. She
lived in Calhoun County. She died in 1896, in Conway.
"I taught school at Conway in Faulkner County, and joined the ministry
as a local preacher, in 1896. I moved from there to White County and
taught in Searcy one term. Taught at Beebe ten years. Married again in
1898--Annie Day. I taught at Beebe and lived in White County. Then I
bought me a home at Higginson, and went into the ministry solely. I left
Higginson and taught and pastored seven years at Des Arc. I know
practically everybody in Des Arc. I was thinking today about writing
Brick Williams. He is the son of old man Williams, the one you know I
think. Then I come to what is called Sixteen Section three miles from
Galloway and taught there seven years and pastored. I presided too as
Elder some of those years--North Little Rock District. Then I went back
and pastored there and taught at West Point, Arkansas four years. Then I
pastored at Prescott and was on the Magnolia District as Presiding Elder
two years. Then I presided over the North Little Rock District again.
Pastored St. Luke Circuit in southwest part of Arkansas below
Washington. Then I built a church at Jonesboro. I pastored twenty-nine
years altogether, built five churches, and have been responsible for
five hundred conversions.
"I think the prospects of the country and the race are good. I don't see
much dark days ahead. It is just a new era. You are doing something
right now I never saw done before in my life. Even when they had the
census, I didn't see any colored people taking it.
"I don't get any assistance in the form of money from the government. I
have been trying to get it but I can't. Looks like they cut off a lot of
them and can't reach it. Won't let me teach school. Say I am too old for
WPA teaching. Superannuate me in the church, and say I'm too old to
preach, and still I haven't gotten anything from my church since last
January. I get some commodities from the state. I belong to the C.M.E.
Church. I have lived in this community twenty-five years."
Hanging on the wall was the old man's diploma from the Mississippi State
Normal School for colored persons. It was dated May 30, 1888, and it
bore the signatures of J.R. Preston, State Superintendent; E.D. Miller,
County Superintendent (both members of the Board of Directors); J.H.
Henderson, Principal; Narcissa Hill and Maria Rabb, faculty members.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: George Brown
Route 4; Box 159, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes'm, I was born in slavery times. I was born in 1854. How old does
that leave me?
"No ma'am, I wasn't born in Arkansas, born in Alabama.
"Jim Hart was my white folks. Good to me? I'd rather let that alone.
Plenty to eat? I'll have to let that alone too. I used to say my old
missis was 'Hell a mile.' Her name was Sarah. She was a Williams but she
married Jim Hart. They had about a hundred and seventy head, little and
"Me? I was a servant at the house. I didn't do any field work till after
"Some women was pretty mean and old miss was one of 'em.
"You'll get the truth now--I ain't told you half.
"We lived in Marengo County. The Tombigbee River divided it and Sumter
County. The War didn't get down that far. It just got as far as Mobile.
"Oh yes'm, I knowed they was a war gwine on. I'd be waitin' on the table
and I'd hear the white folks talkin'. I couldn't keep all I heard.
"I know I heard 'em say General Grant went up in a balloon and counted
all the horses and mules they had in Vicksburg.
"I seen them gunboats gwine down the Tombigbee River. And I seen a
string of cotton bales as long as from here to there floatin' down the
river to Mobile. I reckon they was gettin' it away from the Yankees. You
see we was a hundred and fifty miles north of Mobile.
"I wish you'd a caught me with my mind runnin' that way. I could open
"They had a overseer named Sothern. One Sunday my mammy slipped off and
went to church. Some of 'em told Sothern and he told Miss Sarah. And she
had mammy called out and they had a strop 'bout as wide as any hand and
had holes in it, and they started whippin' her. I was runnin' around
there with my shirt tail full of bricks and I was chunkin' 'em at that
overseer. He would a caught me and whipped me too but Tom Kelly--that
was old miss' son-in-law--said, 'A calf loves the cow,' so he wouldn't
let old miss whip me.
"I come away from Alabama in '75. I lived in Tallulah, Louisiana eight
years and the rest of the time I been here in Arkansas.
"I've farmed most of the time. I owned one farm, forty-nine acres, but
my boy got into trouble and I had to sell it.
"Then I've been a engineer in sawmills and at gins. I used to be a round
man--I could work any place.
"Me? Vote? No, I never did believe in votin'. I couldn't see no sense in
it. They was mobbin' and killin' too much for George Brown. I was a
preacher--Baptist. I was a ordained preacher. I could marry 'em. Oh
Lord, I ain't preached in a long time. I got so I couldn't stand on my
"I been in the Church of God sixty-one years. Never been in any lawsuit
or anything like that in my life. I always tried to keep out of
"I 'member one time I come nearest to gettin' drowned in the Tombigbee
River. We boys was in washin' and we got to divin' and I div where it
was too deep. When I come up, look like a world of water. A boy in a
skiff come and broke right to me. I reckon I was unconscious, I didn't
know what. But them boys wasn't unconscious.
"I think the younger generation is mighty bad. There's some exceptions
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