Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
Work Projects Administration
Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Andrea Ball and PG Distributed Proofreaders. Produced from
images provided by the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.
[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note
[HW: ***] = Handwritten Note
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with Former Slaves
TYPEWRITTEN RECORDS PREPARED BY
THE FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PROJECT
WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
SPONSORED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
the Federal Writers' Project of
the Works Progress Administration
for the State of Arkansas
McDaniel, Richard H.
Madden, Nannie P.
Meeks, Rev. Jesse
Miller, Henry Kirk
Mooreman, Mary Jane (Mattie)
Neal, Tom Wylie
Nealy (Neely), Sally
Nelson, James Henry
Parnell, Austin Pen
Patterson, Frank A.
Patterson, Sarah Jane
Pattillo, Solomon P.
Patton, Carry Allen
Payne, Harriett McFarlin
Perkins, Marguerite (Maggie)
Peters, Mary Estes
Pettus, Henry C.
Pope, John (Doc)
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Charlie McClendon
708 E. Fourth Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I don't know exactly how old I am. I was six or seven when the war
ended. I member dis--my mother said I was born on Christmas day. Old
master was goin' to war and he told her to take good care of that
boy--he was goin' to make a fine little man.
"Did I live up to it? I reckon I was bout as smart a man as you could
jump up. The work didn't get too hard for _me_. I farmed and I sawmilled
a lot. Most of my time was farmin'.
"I been in Jefferson County all my life. I went to school three or four
"About the war, I member dis--I member they carried us to Camden and I
saw the guards. I'd say, 'Give me a pistol.' They'd say, 'Come back
tomorrow and we'll give you one.' They had me runnin' back there every
day and I never did get one. They was Yankee soldiers.
"Our folks' master was William E. Johnson. Oh Lord, they was just as
good to us as could be to be under slavery.
"After they got free my people stayed there a year or two and then our
master broke up and went back to South Carolina and the folks went in
different directions. Oh Lord, my parents sho was well treated. Yes
ma'm. If he had a overseer, he wouldn't low him to whip the folks. He'd
say, 'Just leave em till I come home.' Then he'd give em a light
"My father run off and stay in the woods one or two months. Old master
say, 'Now, Jordan, why you run off? Now I'm goin' to give you a light
breshin' and don't you run off again.' But he'd run off again after
"He had one man named Miles Johnson just stayed in the woods so he put
him on the block and sold him.
"I seed the Ku Klux. We colored folks had to make it here to Pine Bluff
to the county band. If the Rebels kotch you, you was dead.
"Oh Lord yes, I voted. I voted the Publican ticket, they called it. You
know they had this Australia ballot. You was sposed to go in the caboose
and vote. They like to scared me to death one time. I had a description
of the man I wanted to vote for in my pocket and I was lookin' at it so
I'd be sure to vote for the right man and they caught me. They said,
'What you doin' there? We're goin' to turn you over to the sheriff after
election!' They had me scared to death. I hid out for a long time till I
seed they wasn't goin' to do nothin'.
"My wife's brother was one of the judges of the election. Some of the
other colored folks was constables and magistrates--some of em are
now--down in the country.
"I knew a lot about things but I knew I was in the United States and had
to bow to the law. There was the compromise they give the colored
folks--half of the offices and then they got em out afterwards. John M.
Clayton was runnin' for the senate and say he goin' to see the colored
people had equal rights, but they killed him as he was gwine through the
"The white people have treated me very well but they don't pay us enough
for our work--just enough to live on and hardly that. I can say with a
clear conscience that if it hadn't been for this relief, I don't know
what I'd do--I'm not able to work. I'm proud that God Almighty put the
spirit in the man (Roosevelt) to help us."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Lizzie McCloud
1203 Short 13th Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was one of 'em bless your heart. Yes ma'm, Yes ma'm, I wouldn't tell
you a lie 'bout that. If I can't tell you the truth I'm not goin' tell
"Oh yes, I was a young lady in slavery times--bred and born in
Tennessee. Miss Lizzie and Marse John Williams--I belonged to them--sho
did! I was scared to death of the white folks. Miss Lizzie--she mean as
the devil. She wouldn't step her foot on the ground, she so rich. No
ma'm wouldn't put her foot on the ground. Have her carriage drive up to
the door and have that silk carpet put down for her to walk on. Yes
Lord. Wouldn't half feed us and they went and named me after her.
"I know all about the stars fallin'. I was out in the field and just
come in to get our dinner. Got so dark and the stars begin to play
aroun'. Mistress say, 'Lizzie, it's the judgment.' She was just a
hollerin'. Yes ma'm I was a young woman. I been here a long time, yes
ma'm, I been here a long time. Worked and whipped, too. I run off many a
time. Run off to see my mammy three or four miles from where I was.
"I never was sold but they took we young women and brought us down in
the country to another plantation where they raised corn, wheat, and
hay. Overseer whipped us too. Marse John had a brother named Marse
Andrew and he was a good man. He'd say to the overseer, 'Now don't whip
these girls so much, they can't work.' Oh, he was a good man. Oh, white
folks was the devil in slavery tines. I was scared to death of 'em.
They'd have these long cow hide whips. Honey, I was treated bad. I seen
a time in this world.
"Oh Lord, yes, that was long 'fore the war. I was right down on my
master's place when it started. They said it was to free the niggers. Oh
Lord, we was right under it in Davidson County where I come from. Oh
Lord, yes, I knowed all about when the war started. I'se a young woman,
a young woman. We was treated just like dogs and hogs. We seed a hard
time--I know what I'm talkin' about.
"Oh God, I seed the Yankees. I saw it all. We was so scared we run under
the house and the Yankees called 'Come out Dinah' (didn't call none of
us anything but Dinah). They said 'Dinah, we're fightin' to free you and
get you out from under bondage.' I sure understood that but I didn't
have no better sense than to go back to mistress.
"Oh Lord, yes, I seed the Ku Klux. They didn't bother me cause I didn't
stay where they could; I was way under the house.
"Yankees burned up everything Marse John had. I looked up the pike and
seed the Yankees a coming'. They say 'We's a fightin' for you, Dinah!'
Yankees walked in, chile, just walked right in on us. I tell you I've
seed a time. You talkin' 'bout war--you better wish no more war come. I
know when the war started. The Secessors on this side and the Yankees on
that side. Yes, Miss, I seen enough. My brother went and jined the
Secessors and they killed him time he got in the war.
"No, Missy, I never went to no school. White folks never learned me
nothin'. I believes in tellin' white folks the truth.
"White folks didn't 'low us to marry so I never married till I come to
Arkansas and that was one year after surrender.
"First place I landed on was John Clayton's place. Mr. John Clayton was
a Yankee and he was good to us. We worked in the field and stayed there
two years. I been all up and down the river and oh Lord, I had a good
time after I was free. I been treated right since I was free. My color
is good to me and the white folks, too. I ain't goin' to tell only the
truth. Uncle Sam goin' send me 'cross the water if I don't tell the
truth. Better _not fool_ with dat man!"
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Lizzie McCloud
1203 E. Short 13th Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
[TR: Appears to be same as previous informant despite age discrepancy.]
"Well, where you been? I been wonderin' 'bout you. Yes Lawd. You sure is
"Yes, honey, I was bred and bawn in Davidson County, Tennessee. Come
here one year after surrender.
"My daughter there was a baby jus' sittin' alone, now, sittin' alone
when I come here to this Arkansas. I know what I'm talkin' about.
"Lizzie Williams, my old missis, was rich as cream. Yes Lawd! I know all
about it 'cause I worked for 'em.
"I was a young missis when the War started. I was workin' for my owners
then. I knowed when they was free--when they said they was free.
"The Yankees wouldn't call any of the colored women anything but Dinah.
I didn't know who they was till they told us. Said, 'Dinah, we's comin'
to free you.'
"The white folks didn't try to scare us 'bout the Yankees 'cause they
was too scared theirselves. Them Yankees wasn't playin'; they was
fitin'. Yes, Jesus!
"Had to work hard--and whipped too. Wasn't played with. Mars Andrew come
in the field a heap a times and say, 'Don't whip them women so hard,
they can't work.' I thought a heap of Mars Andrew.
"I used to see the Yankees ridin' hosses and them breastplates a
shining'. Yes Lawd. I'd run and they'd say, 'Dinah, we ain't gwine hurt
you.' Lawd, them Yankees didn't care for nothin'. Oh, they was fine.
"My husband was a soldier--a Yankee. Yes ma'am. They sends me thirty
dollars every month, before the fourth. Postman brings it right to me
here at the house. They treats me nice.
"When I come here, I landed on John Clayton's place. He was a Yankee and
he was a good white man too.
"I'm the onliest one left now in my family."
Interviewer: Mrs. Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Avalena McConico
on the [TR: ---- ----] west of Brinkley, Arkansas
Age: 40[TR: ?]
[TR: Much of this interview smeared and difficult to decipher;
illegible words indicated by "----", questionable words
followed by "?".]
"Grandma was a slave woman. Her name was Emma Harper. She was born in
Chesterville, Mississippi. Her young master was Jim and Miss Corrie
Burton. The old man was John Burton. I aimed[?] to see them once. I
seen both Miss Corrie and Mr. Jim. My grandparents was never sold. They
left out after freedom. They stayed there a long time but they left.
"The first of the War was like dis: Our related folks was having a
dance. The Yankees come in and was dancing. Some "fry boys" [---- ----]
them. The next day they were all in the field and heard something.
They went to the house and told the white folks there was [----] a
fire. They heard it. [----] he [----] about. Master told them it
was war. Miss Burton was crying. They heard about [----] in [----] at
Harrisburg where they could hear the shooting.
"They put the slaves to digging. They dug two weeks. They buried their
meat and money and a whole heap of things. They never found it. A little
white,[?] Mollita[?], was out where they were digging. She went in the
house. She said, Mama, is the devil coming? They said he was." Master
had them come to him. He questioned them. They told him they got so
tired [----] of them said he [----] he [---- ----] the [----] Yankees
come he'd tell them where all this was, but he was just talking. But
when the Yankees did come they was so scared they never got close to a
Yankee. They was scared to death. They never found the meat and money.
They [----] and cut the turkeys' heads off and the turkey fell off the
rail fence, the head drop on one side and the body on the other. They
milked a cow and cut both hind quarters off and leave the rest of the
cow there and the cow not dead yet.
"Mr. South[?] Strange at Chesterville, Mississippi had a pony named
Zane. The Yankees hemmed him and four more men in at Malone Creek and
killed the four men. Zane rared up on hind legs and went up a steep
cliff and ran three miles. Mr. Strange's coat was cut off from him. It
was a gray coat. Mr. Strange was a white man.
"Uncle Frank Jones was forty years old when they gathered him up out of
the woods and put him in the battle lines. All the runaway black folks
in the woods was hunted out and put in the Yankee lines. Uncle Frank
lived in a cave up till about then. His master made him mean. He got
better as he got old. His master would sell him and tell him to run away
and come back to his cave. He'd feed him. He never worked and he went up
for his provisions. He was sold over and over and over. His master
learnt him in books and to how to cuss. He learnt him how to trick the
dogs and tap trees like a coon. At the end of the trail the dogs would
turn on the huntsman. Uncle Frank was active when he was old. He was
hired out to race other boys sometimes. He never wore glasses. He could
see well when he was old. He told me he was raised out from England,
"When freedom was told 'em Uncle Frank said all them in the camps
hollered and danced, and marched and sung. They was so glad the War was
done and so glad they been freed.
"Grandma was sold in South Carolina to Mississippi and sold again to Dr.
Shelton. Now that was my father's father and mother. She said they rode
and walked all the way. They came on ox wagons. She said on the way they
passed some children. They was playing. A little white boy was up in a
persimmon tree settin' on a limb eating persimmons. He was so pretty and
clean. Grandma says, 'You think you is some pumpkin, don't you, honey
child.' He says, 'Some pumpkin and some 'simmon too.' Grandma was a
house girl. She got to keep her baby and brought him. He was my father.
Uncle was born later. Then they was freed. Grandma lived to be
ninety-five years old. Mrs. Dolphy Wooly and Mrs. Shelton was her young
mistresses. They kept her till she died. They kept her well.
"Grandma told us about freedom. She was hired out to the Browns to make
sausage and dry out lard. Five girls was in the field burning brush.
They was white girls--Mrs. Brown's girls. They come to the house and
said some Blue Coats come by and said, 'You free.' They told them back,
'That's no news, we was born free.' Grandma said that night she melted
pewter and made dots on her best dress. It was shiny. She wore it home
next day 'cause she was free, and she never left from about her own
white folks till she died and left them.
"Times seem very good on black folks till hard cold winter and spring
come, then times is mighty, mighty bad. It is so hard to keep warm fires
and enough to eat. Times have been good. Black folks in the young
generation need more heart training and less book learning. Times is so
fast the young set is too greedy. They is wasteful too. Some is hard
workers and tries to live right.
"I wash and irons and keep a woman's little chile so she can work. I
owns my home."
Interviewer: Mrs. Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Ike McCoy, Biscoe, Arkansas
[TR: Illegible words indicated by "----",
questionable words followed by "?".]
"My parents named Harriett and Isaac McCoy. Far as I knew they was
natives of North Kaline (Carolina). He was a farmer. He raised corn and
cabbage, a little corn and wheat. He had tasks at night in winter I
heard him say. She muster just done anything. She knit for us here in
the last few years. She died several years ago. Now my oldest sister was
born in slavery. I was next but I came way after slavery.
"In war time McCoys hid their horses in the woods. The Yankees found
them and took all the best ones and left their [----] (nags). Old boss
man McCoy hid in the closet and locked himself up. The Yankees found
him, broke in on him and took him out and they nearly killed him
beating him so bad. He told all of 'em on the place he was going off.
They wore him out. He didn't live long after that.
"Things got lax. I heard her say one man sold all his slaves. The War
broke out. They run away and went back to him. She'd see 'em pass going
back home. They been sold and wouldn't stay. Folks got to running off to
war. They thought it look like a frolic. I heard some of them say they
wish they hadn't gone off to war 'fore it was done. Niggers didn't know
that[TR: ?] war no freedom was 'ceptin' the Yankees come tell them
something and then they couldn't understand how it all be. Black folks
was mighty ignant then. They is now for that matter. They look to white
folks for right kind of doings[?].
"Ma said every now and then see somebody going back to that man tried to
get rid of them. They traveled by night and beg along from black folks.
In daytime they would stay in the woods so the pettyrollers wouldn't run
up on them. The pettyrollers would whoop 'em if they catch 'em.
"Ma told about one day the Yankees come and made the white women came
help the nigger women cook up a big dinner. Ma was scared so bad she
couldn't see nothing she wanted. She said there was no talking. They was
too scared to say a word. They sot the table and never a one of them
told 'em it was ready.
"She said biscuits so scarce after the War they took 'em 'round in their
pockets to nibble on they taste so good.
"I was eighteen years old when pa and ma took the notion to come out
here. All of us come but one sister had married, and pa and one brother
had a little difference. Pa had children ma didn't have. They went
together way after slavery. We got transportation to Memphis by train
and took a steamboat to Pillowmount. That close to Forrest City. Later
on I come to Biscoe. They finally come too.
"I been pretty independent all my life till I getting so feeble. I work
a sight now. I'm making boards to kiver my house out at the lot now. I
goiner get somebody to kiver it soon as I get my boards made.
"We don't get no PWA aid 'ceptin' for two orphant babies we got. They
are my wife's sister's little boys.
"Well sir-ree, folks could do if the young ones would. Young folks don't
have no consideration for the old wore-out parents. They dance and drink
it bodaciously out on Saturday ebening and about till Sunday night. I
may be wrong but I sees it thater way. Whan we get old we get helpless.
I'm getting feebler every year. I see that. Times goiner be hard ag'in
this winter and next spring. Money is scarce now for summer time and
craps laid by. I feels that my own self now. Every winter times get
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Richard H. McDaniel, Brinkley, Arkansas
"I was born in Newton County, Mississippi the first year of the
surrender. I don't think my mother was sold and I know my father was
never sold. Jim McDaniel raised my father and one sister after his
mother died. One sister was married when she died. I heard him say when
he got mad he would quit work. He said old master wouldn't let the
mistress whoop him and she wouldn't let him whoop my father. My father
was a black man but my mother was light. Her father was a white man and
her mother part Indian and white mixed, so what am I? My mother was
owned by people named Wash. Dick Wash was her young master. My parents'
names was Willis and Elsie McDaniel. When it was freedom I heard them
say Moster McDaniel told them they was free. He was broke. If they could
do better go on, he didn't blame them, he couldn't promise them much
now. They moved off on another man's place to share crop. They had to
work as hard and didn't have no more than they had in slavery. That is
what they told me. They could move around and visit around without
asking. They said it didn't lighten the work none but it lightened the
rations right smart. Moster McDaniel nor my father neither one went to
"From the way I always heard it, the Ku Klux was the law like night
watchman. When I was a boy there was a lot of stealing and bushwhacking.
Folks meet you out and kill you, rob you, whoop you. A few of the black
men wouldn't work and wanted to steal. That Ku Klux was the law watching
around. Folks was scared of em. I did see them. I would run hide.
"I farmed up till 1929. Then I been doing jobs. I worked on relief till
they turned me off, said I was too old to work but they won't give me
the pension. I been trying to figure out what I am to do. Lady, could
you tell me? Work at jobs when I can get them.
"I allus been voting till late years. If they let some folks vote in the
first lection, they would be putting in somebody got no business in the
gover'ment. All the fault I see in white folks running the gover'ment is
we colored folks ain't got work we can do all the time to live on. I
thought all the white folks had jobs what wanted jobs. The conditions is
hard for old men like me. I pay $3 for a house every month. It is a cold
"This present generation is living a fast life. What all don't they do?"
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Waters McIntosh
1900 Howard Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was born July 4, 1862 at 2:08 in the morning at Lynchburg, Sumter
County, South Carolina.
"My mother was named Lucy Sanders. My father was named Sumter Durant.
Our owner was Dr. J.M. Sanders, the son of Mr. Bartlett Sanders. Sumter
Durant was a white man. My mother was fourteen years old when I was born
I was her second child. Durant was in the Confederate army and was
killed during the War in the same year I was born, and before my birth.
"When I was a year old, my mother was sold for $1500 in gold, and I was
sold for $500 in gold to William Carter who lived about five miles south
of Cartersville. The payment was made in fine gold. I was sold because
my folk realized that freedom was coming and they wanted to obtain the
cash value of their slaves.
"My name is spelled 'Waters' but it is pronounced 'Waiters.' When I was
born, I was thought to be a very likely child and it was proposed that I
should be a waiter. Therefore I was called Waters (but it was pronounced
Waiters). They did not spell it w-a-i-t-e-r-s, but they pronounced it
How Freedom Came
"My mother said that they had been waiting a long time to hear what had
become of the War, perhaps one or two weeks. One day when they were in
the field moulding corn, going round the corn hoeing it and putting a
little hill around it, the conk sounded at about eleven o'clock, and
they knew that the long expected time had come. They dropped their hoes
and went to the big house. They went around to the back where the master
always met the servants and he said to them, 'You are all free, free as
I am. You can go or come as you please. I want you to stay. If you will
stay, I will give you half the crop.' That was the beginning of the
share cropping system.
"My mother came at once to the quarters, and when she found me she
pulled the end out of a corn sack, stuck holes on the sides, put a cord
through the top, pulled out the end, put it on me, put on the only dress
she had, and made it back to the old home (her first master's folk).
What the Slaves Expected
"When the slaves were freed, they got what they expected. They were glad
to get it and get away with it, and that was what mother and them did.
Slave Time Preaching
"One time when an old white man come along who wanted to preach, the
white people gave him a chance to preach to the niggers. The substance
of his sermon was this:
"'Now when you servants are working for your masters, you must be
honest. When you go to the mill, don't carry along an extra sack and put
some of the meal or the flour in for yourself. And when you women are
cooking in the big house, don't make a big pocket under your dress and
put a sack of coffee and a sack of sugar and other things you want in
"They took him out and hanged him for corrupting the morals of the
Conditions After the War
"Immediately after the War, there was a great scarcity of food. Neither
Negroes nor white folk had anything to eat. The few white people who did
have something wouldn't let it be known. My grandmother who was
sixty-five years old and one of the old and respected inhabitants of
that time went out to find something for us to eat. A white woman named
Mrs. Burton gave her a sack of meal and told her not to tell anybody
where she got it.
"My grandmother brought the meal home and cooked it in a large skillet
in a big cake. When it got done, she cut it into slices in the way you
would cut up a pie and divided it among us. That all we had to eat.
"The white people in those days built their houses back from the front.
In South Carolina, there were lots of farms that had four to twelve
thousand acres. From what mother told me, Master Bill's place set back
from the road. Then there was a great square place they called the yard.
A fence divided the house and the yard adjoining it from that part of
the grounds which held the barn. The yard in front and back of the house
held a grove.
The square around the house and the Negro quarters were all enclosed so
that the little slaves could not get out while parents were at work. The
Negroes assembled on the porch when the gong called them in the morning.
The boss gave orders from the porch. There was an open space between the
quarters and the court (where the little slaves played). There was a
gate between the court and the big house.
"On the rear of the house, there was a porch from which the boss gave
orders usually about four o'clock in the morning and at which they would
disband in the evening between nine and ten--no certain time but more or
less not earlier than nine and not often later than ten. Back of the
house and beyond it was a fence extending clear across the yard. In one
corner of this fence was a gate leading into the court. Leading out of
the court was an opening surrounded by a semi-circular fence which
enclosed the Negro quarters.
"The cabins were usually built on the ground--no floors. The roofs were
covered with clapboards.
"When I was a boy we used to sing, 'Rather be a nigger than a poor white
man.' Even in slavery they used to sing that. It was the poor white man
who was freed by the War, not the Negroes.
"There wasn't any furniture. Beds were built with one post out and the
other three _sides_ fastened to the sides of the house.
"I remember one night the people were gone to marry. That was when all
the people in the community married immediately after slavery.
"We had an open fireplace. That was at Bartlett Sanders' place. He had
close on to three thousand acres. Every grown person had gone to the
marrying, and I was at home in the bed I just described.
"My grandfather's mother[HW: ?] had a chair and that was hers only. She
was named Senia and was about eighty years old. We burned nothing but
pine knots in the hearth. You would put one or two of those on the fire
and they would burn for hours. We were all in bed and had been for an
hour or two. There were some others sleeping in the same room. There
came a peculiar knocking on grandmother's[HW: great grandmother?] chair.
It's hard to describe it. It was something like the distant beating of a
drum. Grandmother was dead, of course. The boys got up and ran out and
brought in some of the hands. When they came in, a little thing about
three and a half feet high with legs about six or eight inches long ran
out of the room.
Ku Klux Klan
"Whenever there was a man of influence, they terrorized him. They were
at their height about the time of Grant's election. Many a time my
mother and I have watched them pass our door. They wore gowns and some
kind of helmet. They would be going to catch same leading Negro and whip
him. There was scarcely a night they couldn't take a leading Negro out
and whip him if they would catch him alone. On that account, the Negro
men did not stay at home in Sumter County, South Carolina at night. They
left home and stayed together. The Ku Klux very seldom interfered with a
woman or a child.
"They often scared colored people by drinking large quantities of water.
They had something that held a lot of water, and when they would raise
the bucket to their mouths to drink, they would slip the water into it.
"The white caps operated further to the northwest of where I lived. I
never came in contact with them. They were not the same thing as the Ku
"In South Carolina under the Reconstruction, we voted right along. In
1868 there were soldiers at all of the election places to see that you
Career Since the War
"In 1881 I married. The year after that, in '83,[HW: ?] I merchandised a
little. Then I got converted. I got it in my head that it was wrong to
take big profits from business, so I sold out. Then I was asked to
assist the keeper of the jail.
"In 1888 I went to school for the first time. I was then twenty-six
years old. By the end of the first term, I knew all that the teacher
could teach, so he sent me to Claflin University. I left there in the
third year normal.
"When I returned home, I taught school, at first in a private school and
later in a public school for $15 a month.
"A man named Boyle told me that he had some ground to sell. I saved up
$45, the price he asked for it. When I offered it to him, he said that
he had decided not to sell it. I went to town and spent my $45. A few
days later, he met me and offered me the place again. I told him I had
spent my money. He then offered it to me on time. There was plenty of
timber on the place, so I got some contracts with a man named Roland and
delivered wood to him. When I went to collect the money, he said he
would not pay me in money.
"A man named Pennington offered me 20¢ a day for labor. I asked if he
would pay in money.
"He replied, 'If you're looking for money, don't come.'
"I went home and said to my wife, 'I am going to leave here.'
"I came to Forrest City, Arkansas January 28, 1888. I farmed in Forrest
City, making one crop, and then I entered the ministry, and then I
preached at Spring Park for two years.
"Then I entered Philander Smith College where I stayed from 1891-1897. I
preached from the time I left Philander until 1913.
"Then I studied law and completed the American Correspondence course in
Law when I was fifty years old. I am still practicing.
Wife and Family
"In 1897, when I graduated from Philander, my wife and six children were
sitting on the front seat.
"I have eleven sons and daughters, of whom six are living. I had seven
brothers and sisters.
"My wife and I have been married fifty-six years. I had to steal her
away from her parents, and she has never regretted coming to me nor I
"Brother Mack" as he is familiarly and affectionately known to his
friends is a man keen and vigorous, mentally and physically. He attends
Sunday school, church both in the morning and evening, and all
departments of the Epworth League. He takes the Epworth Herald, the
Southwestern Christian Advocate, the Literary Digest, some poultry and
farm magazines, the Arkansas Gazette, and the St. Louis Democrat, and
several other journals. He is on omnivorous reader and a clear thinker.
He raises chickens and goats and plants a garden as avocations. He has
on invincible reputation for honesty as well as for thrift and thought.
Nothing is pleasanter than to view the relationship between him and his
wife. They have been married fifty-six years and seem to have achieved a
perfect understanding. She is an excellent cook and is devoted to her
home. She attends church regularly. Seems to be four or five years
younger than her husband. Like him, however, she seems to enjoy
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Cresa Mack
1417 Short Indiana St., Pine Bluff, Ark.
"I can tell you something about slavery days. I was born at South Bend,
Arkansas on the old Joe Clay place. I 'member they used to work 'em
scandalous. They used me at the house and I used to wait on old
mistress' brother. He was a old man named Cal Fletcher.
"I 'member when they said the Yankees was comin' the boss man put us in
wagons and runned us to Texas. They put the women and chillun in the
wagons but the men had to walk. I know I was something over twelve years
"Old mistress, Miss Sarah Clay, took her chillun and went to Memphis.
"My white folks treated us very well. I never seed 'em whip my mother
but once, but I seen some whipped till they's speechless. Yes ma'm I
"I can 'member a lot 'bout the war. The Lord have mercy, I'se old. I
'member they used to sing
'Run nigger run,
The paddyrollers'll ketch you,
Run nigger run.'
"Corse if they ketch you out without a pass they'd beat you nearly to
death and tell you to go home to your master.
"One time I was totin' water for the woman what did the washin'. I was
goin' along the road and seed somethin' up in a tree that look like a
dog. I said 'Look at that dog.' The overseer was comin' from the house
and said 'That ain't no dog, that's a panther. You better not stop' and
he shot it out. Then I've seen bears out in the cane brakes. I thought
they was big black bulls. I was young then--yes mam, I was young.
"When the Yankees come through they sot the house afire and the gin and
burned up 'bout a hundred bales a cotton. They never bothered the
niggers' quarters. That was the time the overseer carried us to Texas to
get rid of the Yankees.
"After the surrender the Yankees told the overseer to bring us all up in
the front yard so he could read us the ceremony and he said we was as
free as any white man that walked the ground. I didn't know what 'twas
about much cause I was too busy playin'.
"I didn't know what school was 'fore freedom, but I went about a month
after peace was declared. Then papa died and mama took me out and put me
in the field.
"I was grown, 'bout twenty-four or five, when I married. Now my chillun
and grand chillun takes care of me."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Warren McKinney, Hazen, Arkansas
I was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina. I am eighty-five years
old. I was born a slave of George Strauter. I remembers hearing them say
"Thank God Ize free as a jay bird." My ma was a slave in the field. I
was eleven years old when freedom was declared. When I was little, Mr.
Strauter whipped my ma. It hurt me bad as it did her. I hated him. She
was crying. I chunked him with rocks. He run after me, but he didn't
catch me. There was twenty-five or thirty hands that worked in the
field. They raised wheat, corn, oats, barley, and cotton. All the
children that couldn't work stayed at one house. Aunt Mat kept the
babies and small children that couldn't go to the field. He had a gin
and a shop. The shop was at the fork of the roads. When de war come on
my papa went to build forts. He quit ma and took another woman. When de
war closed ma took her four children, bundled em up and went to Augusta.
The government give out rations there. My ma washed and ironed. People
died in piles. I don't know till yet what was de matter. They said it
was the change of living. I seen five or six wooden, painted coffins
piled up on wagons pass by our house. Loads passed every day lack you
see cotton pass here. Some said it was cholorea and some took
consumption. Lots of de colored people nearly starved. Not much to get
to do and not much house room. Several families had to live in one
house. Lots of the colored folks went up north and froze to death. They
couldn't stand the cold. They wrote back about them dieing. No they
never sent them back. I heard some sent for money to come back. I heerd
plenty bout the Ku Klux. They scared the folks to death. People left
Augusta in droves. About a thousand would all meet and walk going to
hunt work and new homes. Some of them died. I had a sister and brother
lost that way. I had another sister come to Louisiana that way. She
I don't think the colored folks looked for a share of land. They never
got nothing cause the white folks didn't have nothing but barren hills
left. About all the mules was wore out hauling provisions in the army.
Some folks say they ought to done more for de colored folks when dey
left, but dey say dey was broke. Freeing all de slaves left em broke.
That reconstruction was a mighty hard pull. Me and ma couldn't live. A
man paid our ways to Carlisle, Arkansas and we come. We started working
for Mr. Emenson. He had a big store, teams, and land. We liked it fine,
and I been here fifty-six years now. There was so much wild game living
was not so hard. If a fellow could get a little bread and a place to
stay he was all right. After I come to dis state I voted some. I have
farmed and worked at odd jobs. I farmed mostly. Ma went back to her old
master. He persuaded her to come back home. Me and her went back and run
a farm four or five years before she died. Then I come back here. I
first had 300 acres at Carlisle. I sold it and bought 80 acres at Green
Grove. I married in South Carolina. We had a fine weddin, home weddin.
Each of our families furnished the weddin supper. We had 24 waiters.
That is all the wife I ever had. We lived together 57 years. It is hard
for me to keep up with my mind since she died. She been dead five years
nearly now. I used to sing but I forgot all the songs. We had song
books. I joined the church when I was twelve years old.
I think the times are worse than they use to be. The people is living
mighty fast I tell you. I don't get no help from the government. They
won't give me the pension. I can't work and I can't pay taxes on my
place. They just don't give me nothing but a little out of the store. I
can't get no pension.
Little Rock District
Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson
This Information given by: Warren McKinney
Place of Residence: Hazen, Green Grove Settlement, Arkansas
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
Warren McKinney was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina. He was
born a slave. His master was George Strauter. He had a big plantation
and worked twenty-five or thirty work hands. There were twenty-five or
thirty children too small to work in the field. They raised cotton,
corn, oats, and wheat. His mother washed and ironed and cooked. He was
small but well remembers once when his mother had been sick and had just
gotten out. George Strauter whipped her with a switch on her legs.
Warren did not approve of it. Rocks were plentiful and he began throwing
at him. He said Mr. George took out after him but didn't catch or whip
George Strauter tried to teach them all how to be good farmers and be
saving. Warren knew war was going on but he didn't see any of it. His
father came home several times. He was off building forts. He said he
remembered a big "hurly-burly" and he heard 'em saying, "Thank God I'ze
free as a jay bird." He didn't know why they were fighting so he didn't
know then why they were saying that.
George Strauter had a shop at the fork of the roads. He had his own gin.
They sold cotton and bought provisions at Augusta, Georgia. They made
some of their meal and flour and raised all their meat and made enough
lard to do the year around.
He heard them talking about the "Yankees" burning up Augusta, but he saw
where they had burned Hamburg, South Carolina or North Augusta they call
After they were free he remembers his mother bundling up her things and
her family and them all going in an ox cart to Augusta to live. Warren's
mother washed, cooked and ironed for a living. Her husband went off and
lived with another woman after freedom. Warren was about eleven years
old then. The Government furnished food for them too. One thing that
distressed Warren was _the way people died for more than a year_. He saw
five or six coffins piled up on a wagon being taken out to be buried. He
thought it was changing houses and changing ways of living. They didn't
have shoes and warm clothes and weren't fed from white folks smoke
house. _Lots of the slaves had Consumption and died right now_. Stout
men and women didn't live two years after they were freed. Lots of them
said they didn't like that freedom and wanted to go back but the masters
were broke and couldn't keep many of them if they went back.
When Warren was about fifteen years old, there was a white man or two,
but colored leaders mostly got about a thousand colored people to start
for the West walking. Warren had sisters and brothers who started on
this trip. Warren had some fussy brothers, his mother was afraid would
get in jail. They kept her uneasy. They shipped their "stuff" by boat
and train. He never saw them any more but he heard from them in
Louisiana. Louisiana had a bad name in those days.
When Warren was about fourteen and fifteen, his mother had them on a
farm, farming near Hamburg.
When he was sixteen or seventeen, his mother and the other children came
on the train to about where Carlisle now is but it wasn't called by that
name. There were very few houses of any kind. Mr. Emerson had a big
store and lots of land. He worked black and white. Mr. Emerson let them
have seven or eight mules and wagons and they farmed near there. He
remembers pretty soon there was a depot where the depot now stands, a
bank, a post office, and two or three more stores, all small buildings.
He liked coming to Arkansas because he got to ride on the train a long
ways. It was easy to live here. There were lots of game and fish.
Warren never shot anything in his life. He was no hunter. _Nats_ were
awful. Warren made smoke to run the nats from the cows. Four or five
deer would come to the smoke. Cows were afraid of them and would leave
the smoke. When he would go the deer would leap four or five feet in the
air at the sight of him.
When Warren lived in Augusta, Georgia, they had schools a month at a
time but Warren never did get to go to any, so he can't read or write.
But he learned to save his money. He joined a church when he was twelve
years old in South Carolina and belongs to the Baptist church at Green
The old master in South Carolina persuaded his mother to come back. They
all went back four or five years before his mother died. While Warren
was there he married a woman on a joining farm.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Victoria McMullen
1416 E. Valmar, Little Rock, Arkansas
"My mother was born March 16, 1865, and knew nothing of slavery.
"Both my grandmothers and both grandfathers were slaves. My father was
born in the same year as my mother and like my mother knew nothing of
slavery although both of them might have been born slaves.
"I knew my mother's mother and father and my father's mother, but I
didn't know my father's father.
"He was from Texas and he always stayed there. He never did come out to
Louisiana where I was born. My mother was born in Louisiana, but my
father was born in Texas. I don't know what county or city my father was
born in. I just heard my grandmother on his side say he was born in
"During the War (he was born in '65 when the War ceased), Grandmother
Katy--that was her name, Katy, Katy Elmore--she was in Louisiana at
first--she was run out in Texas, I suppose, to be hidden from the
Yankees. My father was born there and my grandfather stayed there. He
died in Texas and then Grandma Katy come back to Louisiana with my
father and settled in Ouachita Parish.
"Grandma Katy was sold from South Carolina into Louisiana to Bob
McClendon, and she kept the name of Elmore who was her first owner in
South Carolina. It was Bob McClendon who run her out in Texas to hide
her from the Yankees. My grandfather in Texas kept the name of Jamison.
That was the name of his master in Texas. But grandma kept the name of
Elmore from South Carolina because he was good to her. He was better
than Bob McClendon. The eastern states sold their slaves to the southern
states and got all the money, then they freed the slaves and that left
the South without anything.
"Grandma Katy had Creek Indian blood in her. She was of medium size and
height, copper colored, high cheek bones, small squinchy eyes, black
curly hair. Her hair was really pretty but she didn't curl it. It was
just naturally curly. She was a practical nurse as they call it, but she
did more of what some people call a midwife. They call it something else
now. They got a proper word for it.
"They got it in these government agencies. That is what she was even in
slavery times. She worked for colored people and white people both. That
was after she was freed until she went blind. She went blind three years
before she died. She died at the age of exactly one hundred years. She
treated women and babies. They said she was a real good doctor in her
day. That is been fifty-four years ago. [I will be fifty-four years old
tomorrow--September 18, 1938.] In slavery times my grandma was almost as
free as she was in freedom because of her work.
"She said that Bob McClendon was cruel to her. Sometimes he'd get angry
and take the shovel and throw hot ashes on the slaves. And then he'd see
them with blisters on them and he would take a handsaw or a flat plank
and bust the blisters. Louisiana was a warm country and they wouldn't
have much clothes on. When the slaves were freed, he went completely
broke. He had scarcely a place to live.
"I seen him once. Be look like on old possum. He had a long beard down
to his waist and he had long side burns too. Just a little of his face
showed. He was tall and stooping and he wore his hair long and uncut
down on his neck. You know about what he looked like. He had on blue
jeans pants and brogan shoes and a common shirt--a work shirt. He wore
very common clothes. When they freed the Negroes, it broke him up
completely. He had been called a 'big-to-do' in his life but he wasn't
nothing then. He owned Grandma Katy.
"Grandma Katy had a sister named Maria and a brother named Peter. He
owned all three of them. I have seen all of them. Grandma Katy was the
oldest. She and Uncle Peter stayed close together. He didn't have no
wife and she didn't have no husband. But Aunt Maria had a husband. She
lived off from them after freedom. It was about twelve miles away. My
great-aunt and great-uncle--they were Maria and Peter--that was what
they were. Uncle Peter died first before I left Louisiana, but Aunt
Maria and Grandma Katy died after I came to Arkansas. Grandma Katy lived
four years after I came here.
"After they was free and my father had gotten large enough to work and
didn't have no horse, my grandma was going 'round waiting on women--that
is all she did--all the rest of the people had gotten large and left
home. Papa made a crop with a hoe. He made three bales of cotton and
about twelve loads of corn with that hoe. He used to tell me, 'You don't
know nothin' 'bout work. You oughter see how I had to work.' After that
he bought him a horse. Money was scarce then and it took something to
buy the place and the horse both. They were turned loose from slavery
without anything. Hardly had a surname--just Katy, Maria, and Peter.
"I knew more about the slave-time history of my mother's folks than I
did about my father's but I'll tell you that some other time. My
grandmother on my mother's side was born in Richmond, Virginia. She was
owned by a doctor but I can't call his name. She gets her name from her
husband's owners. They came from Virginia. They didn't take the name of
their owners in Louisiana. They took the name of the owners in Virginia.
She was a twin--her twin was a boy named June and her name was Hetty.
Her master kept her brother to be a driver for him. She was sent from
Virginia to Louisiana to people that were related to her Virginia
people. She called her Louisiana mistress 'White Ma;' she never did call
her 'missis.' The white folks and the colored folks too called her
Indian because she was mixed with Choctaw. That's the Indian that has
brown spots on the jaw. They're brownskin. It was an Indian from the
Oklahoma reservation that said my mother belonged to the Choctaws.
"She rode from Virginia to Louisiana on a boat at the age of twelve
years. She was separated from her mother and brothers and sisters and
never did see them again. She was kept in the house for a nurse. She was
not a midwife. She nursed the white babies. That was what she was sent
to Louisiana for--to nurse the babies. The Louisiana man that owned her
was named George Dorkins. But I think this white woman came from
Virginia. She married this Louisiana man, then sent back to her father's
house and got grandma; she got her for a nurse. She worked only a year
and a half in the field before peace was declared. After she got grown
and married, my grandfather--she had to stay with him and cook and keep
house for him. That was during slavery time but after George Dorkins
died. Dorkins went and got hisself a barrel of whiskey--one of these
great big old barrels--and set it up in his house, and put a faucet in
it and didn't do nothin' but drink whiskey. He said he was goin' to
drink hisself to death. And he did.
"He was young enough to go to war and he said he would drink hisself to
death before he would go, and he did. My grandma used to steal
newspapers out of his house and take them down to the quarters and leave
them there where there were one or two slaves that could read and tell
how the War was goin' on. I never did learn how the slaves learned to
read. But she was in the house and she could steal the papers and send
them down. Later she could slip off and they would tell her the news,
and then she could slip the papers back.
"Her master drank so much he couldn't walk without falling and she would
have to help him out. Her mistress was really good. She never allowed
the overseer to whip her. She was only whipped once in slave time while
my father's mother was whipped more times than you could count.
"Her master often said, 'I'll drink myself to death before I'll go to
war and be shot down like a damn target.' She said in living with them
in the house, she learned to cuss from him. She said she was a cussin'
soul until she became a Christian. She wasn't 'fraid of them because she
was kin to them in some way. There was another woman there who was some
kin to them and she looked enough like my grandma for them to be kin to
each other. We talked it over several times and said we believed we were
related; but none of us know for sure.
"When the slaves wanted something said they would have my grandma say it
because they knew she wouldn't be whipped for it. 'White Ma' wouldn't
let nobody whip her if she knew it. She cussed the overseer out that
time for whipping her.
"When grandma was fourteen or fifteen years old they locked her up in
the seed house once or twice for not going to church. You see they let
the white folks go to the church in the morning and the colored folks in
the evening, and my grandma didn't always want to go. She would be
locked up in the seed bin and she would cuss the preacher out so he
could hear her. She would say, 'Master, let us out.' And he would say,
'You want to go to church?' And she would say, 'No, I don't want to hear
that same old sermon: "Stay out of your missis' and master's hen house.
Don't steal your missis' and master's chickens. Stay out of your missis'
and master's smokehouse. Don't steal your missis' and master's hams." I
don't steal nothing. Don't need to tell me not to.'
"She was tellin' the truth too. She didn't steal because she didn't have
to. She had plenty without stealin'! She got plenty to eat in the house.
But the other slaves didn't git nothin' but fat meat and corn bread and
molasses. And they got tired of that same old thing. They wanted
something else sometimes. They'd go to the hen house and get chickens.
They would go to the smokehouse and get hams and lard. And they would
get flour and anything else they wanted and they would eat something
they wanted. There wasn't no way to keep them from it.
"The reason she got whipped that time, the overseer wanted her to help
get a tree off the fence that had been blown down by a storm. She told
him that wasn't her work and she wasn't goin' to do it. Old miss was
away at that time. He hit her a few licks and she told old miss when she
came back. Old 'White Ma' told the overseer, 'Don't never put your hands
on her no more no matter what she does. That's more than I do. I don't
hit her and you got no business to do it.'
"Her husband, my grandfather, was a blacksmith, and he never did work in
the field. He made wagons, plows, plowstocks, buzzard wings--they call
them turning plows now. They used to make and put them on the stocks. He
made anything-handles, baskets. He could fill wagon wheels. He could
sharpen tools. Anything that come under the line of blacksmith, that is
what he did. He used to fix wagons all the time I knowed him. In harvest
time in the fall he would drive from Bienville where they were slaves to
Monroe in Ouachita Parish. He kept all the plows and was sharpening and
fixing anything that got broke. He said he never did get no whipping.
"His name was Tom Eldridge. They called him 'Uncle Tom'. They was the
mother and father of twelve children. Six lived and six died. One boy
and five girls lived. And one girl and five boys died--half and half. He
died at the age of seventy-five, June 6, 1908. She died January 1920.
"I came out here in January 1907. I lived in Pine Bluff. From Louisiana
I came to Pine Bluff in 1906. In 1907 I went to Kerr in Lonoke County
and lived there eight years and then I came to Little Rock. I farmed at
Kerr and just worked 'round town those few months in Pine Bluff.
Excusing the time I was in Pine Bluff and Little Rock I farmed. I farmed
in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Nannie P. Madden
West Memphis, Arkansas
"I am Martha Johnson's sister. I was born at Lake Village, Arkansas. I
am 69 years old. I was born on Mr. Ike Wethingtons place. Pa was
renting. Mother died in 1876 on this farm. We called it Red Leaf
plantation. Father died at Martha Johnson's here in West Memphis when he
was 88 years old.
"Mother was not counted a slave. Her master's Southern wife (white wife)
disliked her very much but kept her till her death. Mother had three
white children by her master. After freedom she married a black man and
had four children by him. We are in the last set.
"We was born after slavery and all we know is from hearing our people
talk. Father talked all time about slavery. He was a soldier. I couldn't
tell you straight. I can give you some books on slavery:
Booker T. Washington's Own Story of His Life and Work,
64 page supplement, by Albon L. Holsey
Authentic Edition--in office of Library of Congress,
Washington, D.C., 1915, copywrighted by J.L. Nichols
The Master Mind of a Child of Slavery--Booker T. Washington,
by Frederick E. Drinker, Washington, D.C.
I have read them both. Yes, they are my own books.
"I farmed and cooked all my life."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Perry Madden, Thirteenth Street, south side,
one block east of Boyle Park Road, Route 6,
Care L.G. Cotton, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: About 79
Birth and Age
"I have been here quite a few years. This life is short. A man ought to
prepare for eternity. I had an uncle who used to say that a person who
went to torment stayed as long as there was a grain of sand on the sea.
"I was a little boy when slavery broke. I used to go out with my
brother. He watched gaps. I did not have to do anything; I just went out
with him to keep him company. I was scared of the old master. I used to
call him the 'Big Bear.' He was a great big old man.
"I was about six years old when the War ended, I guess. I don't know how
old I am. The insurance men put me down as seventy-three. I know I was
here in slavery time, and I was just about six years old when the War
"I got my first learning in Alabama. I didn't learn anything at all in
slavery times. I went to school. I would go to the house in slavery
tine, and there wouldn't be nobody home, and I would go to the bed and
get under it because I was scared. When I would wake up it would be way
in the night and dark, and I would be in bed.
"I got my schooling way after the surrender. We would make crops. The
third time we moved, dad started me to school. I had colored teachers. I
was in Talladega County. I made the fifth grade before I stopped. My
father died and then I had to stop and take care of my mother.
An "Aunt Caroline" Story
"I know that some people can tell things that are goin' to happen. Old
man Julks lived at Pumpkin Bend. He had a colt that disappeared. He went
to 'Aunt Caroline'--that's Caroline Dye. She told him just where the
colt was and who had it and how he had to get it back. She described the
colt and told him that was what he come to find out about before he had
a chance to ask her anything. She told him that white people had it and
told him where they lived and told him he would have to have a white man
go and git it for him. He was working for a good man and he told him
about it. He advertised for the colt and the next day, the man that
stole it came and told him that a colt had been found over on his place
and for him to come over and arrange to git it. But he said, 'No, I've
placed that matter in the hands of my boss.' He told his boss about it,
but the fellow brought the horse and give it to the boss without any
Family and Masters
"My old master's slaves were called free niggers. He and his wife never
mistreated their slaves. When any of Madden's slaves were out and the
pateroles got after them, if they could make it home, that ended it.
Nobody beat Madden's niggers.
"My father's name was Allen Madden and my mother's name was Amy Madden.
I knew my grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side. My
grandfather and grandmother never were 'round me though that I can
"When the old man died, the Negroes were divided out. This boy got so
many and that one got so many. The old man, Mabe Madden, had two sons,
John and Little Mabe. My mother and father went to John. They were in
Talladega because John stayed there.
"My father's mother and father fell to Little Mabe Madden. They never
did come to Alabama but I have heard my father talk about them so much.
My father's father was named Harry. His last name must have been Madden.
"My grandfather on my mother's side was named Charlie Hall. He married
into the Madden family. He belonged to the Halls before he married. Old
man Charlie, his master, had a plantation that wasn't far from the
Madden's plantation. In those days, if you met a girl and fell in love
with her, you could git a pass and go to see her if you wanted to. You
didn't have to be on the same plantation at all. And you could marry her
and go to see her, and have children by her even though you belonged to
different masters. The Maddens never did buy Hall. Grandma never would
change her name to Hall. He stayed at my house after we married, stayed
with me sometimes, and stayed with his other son sometimes.
"My mother was born a Madden. She was born right at Madden's place. When
grandma married Hall, like it is now, she would have been called Hall.
But she was born a Madden and stayed Madden and never did change to her
husband's name. So my mother was born a Madden although her father's
name was Hall.
"I don't know what sort of man Mabe was, and I only know what my parents
said about John. They said he was a good man and I have to say what they
said. He didn't let nobody impose on his niggers. Pateroles did git
after them and bring them in with the hounds, but when they got in, that
settled it. Madden never would allow white people to beat on his
"They tried to git my daddy out so that they could whip him, but they
couldn't catch him. They shot him--the pateroles did--but he whipped
them. My daddy was a coon. I mean he was a good man.
"My brother was big enough to mind gaps. That was in slavery times. They
had good fences around the field. They didn't have gates like they do
now. They had gaps. The fence would zigzag, and the rails could be
lifted down at one section, and that would leave a gap. If you left a
gap, the stock would go into the field. When there was a gap, my brother
would stay in it and keep the stock from passing. When the folks would
come to dinner, he would go in and eat dinner with them just as big as
anybody. When they would leave, the gap would stay down till night. It
stayed down from morning till noon and from one o'clock till the men
come in at night. The gap was a place in the rails like I told you where
they could take down the rails to pass. It took time to lay the rails
down and more time to place then back up again. They wouldn't do it.
They would leave them down till they come back during the work hours and
a boy that was too small to do anything else was put to mind them. My
brother used to do that and I would keep him company. When I heard old
master coming there, I'd be gone, yes siree. I would see him when he
left the house and when he got to the gap, I would be home or at my
"I have followed farming all my life. That is the sweetest life a man
can lead. I have been farming all my life principally. My occupation is
farming. That is it was until I lost my health. I ain't done nothin' for
about four years now. I would follow public work in the fall of the year
and make a crop every year. Never failed till I got disabled. I used to
make all I used and all I needed to feed my stock. I even raised my own
wheat before I left home in Alabama. That is a wheat country. They don't
raise it out here.[HW: ?]
"I came here--lemme see, about how many years ago did I come here. I
guess I have been in Arkansas about twenty-eight years since the first
time I come here. I have gone in and out as I got a chance to work
somewheres. I have been living in this house about three years.
"I preached for about twenty or more years. I don't know that I call
myself a preacher. I am a pretty good talker sometimes. I have never
pastored a church; somehow or 'nother the word come to me to go and I go
and talk. I ain't no pulpit chinch. I could have taken two or three
men's churches out from under them, but I didn't.
Freedom and Soldiers
"I can't remember just how my father got freed. Old folks then didn't
let you stan' and listen when they talked. If you did it once, you
didn't do it again. They would talk while they were together, but the
children would have business outdoors. Yes siree, I never heard them say
much about how they got freedom.
"I was there when the Yankees come through. That was in slave time. They
marched right through old man Madden's grove. They were playing the
fifes and beating the drums. And they were playing the fiddle. Yes sir,
they were playing the fiddle too. It must have been a fiddle; it sounded
just like one. The soldiers were all just a singin'. They didn't bother
nobody at our house. If they bothered anything, nothing was told me
about it. I heard my uncle say they took a horse from my old manager. I
didn't see it. They took the best horse in the lot my uncle said. Pardon
me, they didn't take him. A peckerwood took him and let the Yankees get
him. I have heard that they bothered plenty of other places. Took the
best mules, and left old broken down ones and things like that. Broke
things up. I have heard that about other places, but I didn't see any of
Right after the War
"Right after the War, my father went to farming--renting land. I mean he
sharecropped and done around. Thing is come way up from then when the
Negroes first started. They didn't have no stock nor nothin' then. They
made a crop just for the third of it. When they quit the third, they
started givin' them two-fifths. That's more than a third, ain't it? Then
they moved up from that, and give them half, and they are there yet. If
you furnish, they give you two-thirds and take one-third. Or they give
you so much per acre or give him produce in rent.
"I was married in 1883. My wife's name was Mary Elston. Her mother died
when she was an infant. Her grandmother was an Elston at first. Then she
changed her name to Cunningham. But she always went in the name of
Elston, and was an Elston when she married me. My wife I mean. I married
on a Thursday in the Christmas week. This December I will be married
fifty-five years. This is the only wife I have ever had. We had three
children and all of them are dead. All our birthed children are dead.
One of them was just three months old when he died. My baby girl had
three children and she lived to see all of them married.
"Our own folks is about the worst enemies we have. They will come and
sweet talk you and then work against you. I had a fellow in here not
long ago who came here for a dollar, and I never did hear from him again
after he got it. He couldn't get another favor from me. No man can fool
me more than one time. I have been beat out of lots of money and I have
got hurt trying to help people.
"The young folks now is just gone astray. I tell you the truth, I
wouldn't give you forty cents a dozen for these young folks. They are
sassy and disrespectful. Don't respect themselves and nobody else. When
they get off from home, they'll respect somebody else better 'n they
will their own mothers.
"If they would do away with this stock law, they would do better
everywhere. If you would say fence up your place and raise what you
want, I could get along. But you have to keep somebody to watch your
stock. If you don't, you'll have to pay something out. It's a bad old
thing this stock law. It's detrimental to the welfare of man."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Lewis Mann
1501 Bell Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"As nigh as I can come at it, I was bout five or six time of the war. I
remember when the war ceasted. I was a good-sized chap.
"Durin' the war my mother's master sent us to Texas; western Texas is
whar they stopped me. We stayed there two years and then they brought us
back after surrender.
"I remember when the war ceasted and remember the soldiers refugeein'
through the country. I'm somewhar round eighty-one. I'm tellin' you the
truf. I ain't just now come here.
"I was born right here in Arkansas. My mother's master was old B.D.
Williams of Tennessee and we worked for his son Mac H. Williams here in
Arkansas. They was good to my mother. Always had nurses for the colored
childrun while the old folks was in the field.
"After the war I used to work in the house for my white folks--for Dr.
Bob Williams way up there in the country on the river. I stayed with his
brother Mac Williams might near twenty-five or thirty years. Worked
around the house servin' and doin' arrands different places.
"I went to school a little bit a good piece after the war and learned to
read and write.
"I've heard too much of the Ku Klux. I remember when they was Ku Kluxin'
all round through here.
"Lord! I don't know how many times I ever voted. I used to vote every
time they had an election. I voted before I could read. The white man
showed me how to vote and asked me who I wanted to vote for. Oh Lord, I
was might near grown when I learned to read.
"I been married just one time in my life and my wife's been dead
"I tell you, Miss, I don't know hardly what to think of things now.
Everything so changeable I can't bring nothin' to remembrance to hold
"I didn't do nothin' when I was young but just knock around with the
white folks. Oh Lord, when I was young I delighted in parties. Don't
nothin' like that worry me now. Don't go to no parades or nothin'. Don't
have that on my brain like I did when I was young. I goes to church all
the place I does go.
"I ain't never had no accident. Don't get in the way to have no accident
cause I know the age I is if I injure these bones there ain't anything
more to me.
"My mother had eight childrun and just my sister and me left. I can't do
a whole day's work to save my life. I own this place and my
sister-in-law gives me a little somethin' to eat. I used to be on the
bureau but they took me off that."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Angeline Martin, Kansas City, Missouri
Visiting at 1105 Louisiana St., Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Well, I was livin' then. I was born in Georgia. Honey, I don't know
what year. I was born before the war. I was about ten when freedom come.
I don't remember when it started but I remember when it ended. I think
I'm in the 80's--that's the way I count it.
"My master was dead and my mistress was a widow--Miss Sarah Childs. She
had a guardeen.
"When the war come, old mistress and her daughter refugeed to
Mississippi. The guardeen wouldn't let me go, said I was too young.
"My parents stayed on the plantation. My white folks' house was vacant
and the Yankees come and used it for headquarters. They never had put
shoes on me and when the Yankees shot the chickens I'd run and get em.
They didn't burn up nothin', just kill the hogs and chickens and give us
"I didn't know what the war was about. You know chillun in them days
didn't have as much sense as they got now.
"After freedom, my folks stayed on the place and worked on the shares. I
want to school right after the war. I went every year till we left
there. We come to this country in seventy something. We come here and
stopped at the Cummins place. I worked in the field till I come to town
bout fifty years ago. Since then I cooked some and done laundry work.
"I married when I was seventeen. Had six children. I been livin' in
Kansas City twenty-three years. Followed my boy up there. I like it up
there a lot better than I do here. Oh lord, yes, there are a lot of
colored people in Kansas City."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Josie Martin
R.F.D., Madison, Arkansas
"I was born up near Cotton Plant but took down near Helena to live. My
parents named Sallie and Bob Martin. They had seven children. I heard
mother say she was sold on a block in Mississippi when she was twelve
years old. My father was a Creek Indian; he was dark. Mother was a
Choctaw Indian; she was bright. Mother died when I was but a girl and
left a family on my hands. I sent my baby brother and sister to school
and I cooked on a boarding train. The railroad hands working on the
tracks roomed and et on the train. They are all dead now and I'm 'lone
in the world.
"My greatest pleasure was independence--make my money, go and spend it
as I see fit. I wasn't popular with men. I never danced. I did sell
herbs for diarrhea and piles and 'what ails you.' I don't sell no more.
Folks too close to drug stores now. I had long straight hair nearly to
my knees. It come out after a spell of typhoid fever. It never come in
to do no good." (Baldheaded like a man and she shaves. She is a
hermaphrodite, reason for never marrying.) "I made and saved up at one
time twenty-three thousand dollars cooking and field work. I let it slip
out from me in dribs.
"I used to run from the Yankees. I've seen them go in droves along the
road. They found old colored couple, went out, took their hog and made
them barbecue it. They drove up a stob, nailed a piece to a tree stacked
their guns. They rested around till everything was ready. They et at one
o'clock at night and after the feast drove on. They wasn't so good to
Negroes. They was good to their own feelings. They et up all that old
couple had to eat in their house and the pig they raised. I reckon their
owners give them more to eat. They lived off alone and the soldiers
stopped there and worked the old man and woman nearly to death.
"Our master told us about freedom. His name was Master Martin. He come
here from Mississippi. I don't recollect his family.
"I get help from the Welfare. I had paralysis. I never got over my
stroke. I ain't no 'count to work."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Bess Mathis, Hazen, Arkansas
"I was born in De Sota County, Mississippi. My parents' owners was Mars
Hancock. Mama was a cook and field hand. Papa milked and worked in the
field. Mama had jes' one child, that me. I had six childern. I got five
livin'. They knowed they free. It went round from mouth to mouth. Mama
said Mars Hancock was good er slave holder as ever lived she recken. I
heard her come over that er good many times. But they wanted to be free.
I jes' heard em talk bout the Ku Klux. They said the Ku Klux made lot of
em roamin' round go get a place to live and start workin'. They tell how
they would ride at night and how scarry lookin' they was. I heard em say
if Mars Hancock didn't want to give em meat they got tree a coon or
possum. Cut the tree down or climb it and then come home and cook it.
They had no guns. They had dogs or could get one. Game helps out lots.
"The women chewed for their children after they weaned em. They don't
none of em do that way now. Women wouldn't cut the baby's finger nails.
They bite em off. They said if you cut its nails off he would steal.
They bite its toe nails off, too. And if they wanted the children to
have long pretty hair, they would trim the ends off on the new of the
moon. That would cause the hair to grow long. White folks and darkies
both done them things.
"I been doin' whatever come to hand--farmin', cookin', washin', ironin'.
"I never expects to vote neither. I sure ain't voted.
"Conditions pretty bad sometimes. I don't know what cause it. You got
beyond me now. I don't know what going become of the young folks, and
they ain't studyin' it. They ain't kind. Got no raisin' I call it. I
tried to raise em to work and behave. They work some. My son is takin'
care of me now."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Caroline Matthews
812 Spruce Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes'm, I was born in slavery times in Mississippi. Now, the only thing
I remember was some soldiers come along on some mules. I remember my
mother and father was sittin' on the gallery and they say, 'Look a
there, them's soldiers.'
"And I remember when my parents run off. I was with 'em and I cried for
'em to tote me.
"My mother's first owner was named Armstrong. She said she was about
eleven years old when he bought her. I heard her say they just changed
around a lot.
"Freedom was comin' and her last owners had carried her to a state where
it hadn't come yet. That's right--it was Texas.
"Her first owners was good. She said they wouldn't 'low the overseer to
'buke the women at all.
"But her last owners was cruel. She said one day old missis was out in
the yard and backed up and fell into a pan of hot water and when her
husband come she told him and he tried to 'buke my mother. You know if
somebody tryin' to get the best of you and you can help yourself, you
gwine do it. So mama throwed up her arm and old master hit it with a
stick and cut it bad. So my parents run off. That was in Texas.
"She said we was a year comin' back and I know they stopped at the
Dillard place and made a crop. And they lost one child on the way--that
"I heard mama say they got back here to Arkansas and got to the bureau
and they freed 'em. I know the War wasn't over yet 'cause I know I heard
mama say, 'Just listen to them guns at Vicksburg.'
"When I was little, I was so sickly. I took down with the whoopin' cough
and I was sick so long. But mama say to the old woman what stayed with
me, 'This gal gwine be here to see many a winter 'cause she so stout in
the jaws I can't give her no medicine.'
"When I commenced to remember anything, I heered 'em talkin' 'bout Grant
and Colfax. Used to wear buttons with Grant and Colfax.
"But I was livin' in Abraham Lincoln's time. Chillun them days didn't
know nothin'. Why, woman, I was twelve years old 'fore I knowed babies
didn't come out a holler log. I used to go 'round lookin' in logs for a
"I had seven sisters and three brothers and they all dead but me. Had
three younger than me. They was what they called freeborn chillun.
"After freedom my parents worked for Major Ross. I know when mama fixed
us up to go to Sunday-school we'd go by Major Ross for him to see us. I
know we'd go so early, sometimes he'd still be in his drawers.
"I know one thing--when I was about sixteen years old things was good
here. Ever'body had a good living."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Malindy Maxwell, Madison, Arkansas
Age: Up in 80's
"I was born close to Como and Sardis, Mississippi. My master and
mistress was Sam Shans and Miss Cornelia Shans. I was born a slave. They
owned mama and Master Rube Sanders owned pa. Neither owner wouldn't sell
but they agreed to let ma and pa marry. They had a white preacher and
they married out in the yard and had a big table full of weddin' supper,
and the white folks et in the house. They had a big supper too. Ma said
they had a big crowd. The preacher read the ceremony. Miss Cornelia give
her a white dress and white shoes and Miss Cloe Wilburn give her a veil.
Miss Cloe was some connection of Rube Sanders.
"They had seven children. I'm the oldest--three of us living.
"After 'mancipation pa went to see about marrying ma over agen and they
told him that marriage would stand long as ever he lived.
"Mama was sold at twelve years old in Atlanta, Georgia. Ma and pa was
always field hands. Grandma got to be one of John Sanders' leading hands
to work mong the women folks. They said John Sanders was meanest man
ever lived or died. According to pa's saying, Mars Ruben was a good
sorter man. Pa said John Sanders was too mean a man to have a wife. He
was mean to Miss Sarah. They said he beat her, his wife, like he beat a
"Miss Sarah say, 'Come get your rations early Saturday morning, clean up
your house, wash and iron, and we'll go to preaching tomorrow--Sunday. I
want you to all come out clean Monday morning.' They go ask Mars John
Sanders if they could go to preaching. I recken from what they said they
walked. Mars John, when they git their best clothes on, make them turn
round and go to the field and work all day long. He was just that mean.
Work all day long Sunday.
"Miss Sarah was a Primitive Baptist and that is what I am till this day.
Some folks call us Hardshell Baptist. The colored folks set in the back
of the church. The women all set on one side and the men on the other.
If they had a middle row, there was a railing dividing mens' seats from
the womens' seats on the very same benches.
"Miss Cloe, Miss Cornelia, and Miss Sarah cook up a whole lot of good
things to eat and go to camp meeting. Sometimes they would stay a week
and longer. They would take time bout letting the colored folks go long.
We had big times. My grandpa took a gingercake cutter with him and sold
gingercakes when they come out of the church. He could keep that money
his own. I don't know how he sold them. My sister has the cutter now I
expect. My girl has seen it. It was a foot long, this wide (5 inches),
and fluted all around the edges, and had a handle like a biscuit cutter.
They was about an inch thick. He made good ones and he sold all he could
ever make. Grandpa took carpet sacks to carry his gingercakes in to sell
them. I remember that mighty well. (The shape of the cutter was like
this: [Illustration].) He purt nigh always got to go to all the camp
meetings. Folks got happy and shouted in them days. It would be when
somebody got religion. At some big meetings they didn't shout.
"When I was born they had a white mid-wife, Miss Martin. My mistress was
in the cabin when I was born. I was born foot foremost and had a veil on
my face and down on my body a piece. They call it a 'caul.' Sometimes I
see forms and they vanish. I can see some out of one eye now. But I've
always seen things when my sight was good. It is like when you are
dreaming at night but I see them at times that plain in day.
"I don't know how old I am but I was a good size girl when 'mancipation
come on. Miss Cornelia had my age in her Bible. They done took me from
the cabin and I was staying at the house. I slept on a trundle bed under
Miss Cornelia's bed. Her bed was a teaster--way high up, had a big stool
to step on to go up in there and she had it curtained off. I had a good
cotton bed and I slept good up under there. Her bed was corded with sea
grass rope. It didn't have no slats like beds do now.
"Colored folks slept on cotton beds and white folks--some of em at
least--picked geese and made feather beds and down pillows. They carded
and washed sheep's wool and put in their quilts. Some of them, they'd be
light and warm. Colored folks' bed had one leg. Then it was holes hewed
in the wall on the other three sides and wooden slats across it. Now
that wasn't no bad bed. Some of them was big enough for three to sleep
on good. When the children was small four could sleep easy cross ways,
and they slept that way.
"They had shelves and tables and chairs. They made chests and put things
in there and set on top of it too. White folks had fine chests to keep
their bed clothes in. Some of them was made of oak, and pine, and
cypress. They would cook walnut hulls and bark and paint them dark with
"I recollect a right smart of the Civil War. We was close nough to hear
the roar and ramble and the big cannons shake the things in the house. I
don't know where they was fighting--a long ways off I guess.
"I saw the soldiers scouting. They come most any time. They go in and
take every drop of milk out of the churn. They took anything they could
find and went away with it. I seen the cavalry come through. I thought
they looked so pretty. Their canteens was shining in the sun. Miss
Cornelia told me to hide, the soldiers might take me on with them. I
didn't want to go. I was very well pleased there at Miss Cornelia's.
"I seen the cavalry come through that raised the 'white sheet.' I know
now it must have been a white flag but they called it a white sheet to
quit fighting. It was raised a short time after they passed and they
said they was the ones raised it. I don't know where it was. I reckon it
was a big white flag they rared up. It was so they would stop fighting.
"Mars Sam Shan didn't go to no war; he hid out. He said it was a useless
war, he wasn't going to get shot up for no use a tall, and he never went
a step. He hid out. I don't know where. I know Charles would take the
baskets off. Charles tended to the stock and the carriage. He drove the
wagon and carriage. He fetched water and wood. He was a black boy. Mars
Sam Shan said he wasn't goiner loose his life for nothing.
"Miss Cornelia would cook corn light bread and muffins and anything else
they had to cook. Rations got down mighty scarce before it was done wid.
They put the big round basket nearly big as a split cotton basket out on
the back portico. Charles come and disappear with it.
"Chess and Charles was colored overseers. He didn't have white
overseers. Miss Cornelia and Miss Cloe would walk the floor and cry and
I would walk between. I would cry feeling sorry for them, but I didn't
know why they cried so much. I know now it was squally times. War is
"Mars Sam Shan come home, went down to the cabins--they was scattered
over the fields--and told them the War was over, they was free but that
they could stay. Then come some runners, white men. They was Yankee men.
I know that now. They say you must get pay or go off. We stayed that
year. Another man went to pa and said he would give him half of what he
made. He got us all up and we went to Pleasant Hill. We done tolerable
"Then he tried to buy a house and five acres and got beat out of it. The
minor heirs come and took it. I never learnt in books till I went to
school. Seem like things was in a confusion after I got big nough for
that. I'd sweep and rake and cook and wash the dishes, card, spin, hoe,
scour the floors and tables. I would knit at night heap of times. We'd
sing some at night.
"Colored folks couldn't read so they couldn't sing at church lessen they
learnt the songs by hearing them at home. Colored folks would meet and
sing and pray and preach at the cabins.
"My first teacher was a white man, Mr. Babe Willroy. I went to him
several short sessions and on rainy days and cold days I couldn't work
in the field. I worked in the field all my life. Cook out in the winter,
back to the field in the spring till fall again.
"Well, I jes' had this one girl. I carried her along with me. She would
play round and then she was a heap of help. She is mighty good to me
"I never seen a Ku Klux in my life. Now, I couldn't tell you about them.
"My parents' names was Lou Sanders and Anthony Sanders. Ma's mother was
a Rockmore and her husband was a Cherokee Indian. I recollect them well.
He was a free man and was fixing to buy her freedom. Her young mistress
married Mr. Joe Bues and she heired her. Mr. Joe Bues drunk her up and
they come and got her and took her off. They run her to Memphis before
his wife could write to her pa. He was Mars Rockmore.
"Grandma was put on a block and sold fore grandpa could cumerlate nough
cash to buy her for his wife. Grandma never seen her ma no more. Grandpa
followed her and Mr. Sam Shans bought her and took her to Mississippi
with a lot more he bought.
"My pa's ma b'long to John Sanders and grandpa b'long to Rube Sanders.
They was brothers. Rube Sanders bought grandpa from Enoch Bobo down in
Mississippi. The Bobo's had a heap of slaves and land. Now, he was the
one that sold gingercakes. He was a blacksmith too. Both my grandpas was
blacksmiths but my Indian grandpa could make wagons, trays, bowls,
shoes, and things out of wood too. Him being a free man made his living
that way. But he never could cumolate enough to buy grandma.
"My other grandma was blacker than I am and grandpa too. When grandpa
died he was carried back to the Bobo graveyard and buried on Enoch
Bobo's place. It was his request all his slaves be brought back and
buried on his land. I went to the burying. I recollect that but ma and
pa had to ask could we go. We all got to go--all who wanted to go. It
was a big crowd. It was John Sanders let us go mean as he was.
"Miss Cornelia had the cistern cleaned out and they packed up their
pretty china dishes and silver in a big flat sorter box. Charles took
them down a ladder to the bottom of the dark cistern and put dirt over
it all and then scattered some old rubbish round, took the ladder out.
The Yankees never much as peared to see that old open cistern. I don't
know if they buried money or not. They packed up a lot of nice things.
It wasn't touched till after the War was over.
"I been farming and cooking all my life. I worked for Major Black, Mr.
Ben Tolbert, Mr. Williams at Pleasant Hill, Mississippi. I married and
long time after come to Arkansas. They said you could raise stock
here--no fence law.
"I get $8 and commodities because I am blind. I live with my daughter
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Nellie Maxwell, Biscoe, Arkansas
"Mama was Harriett Baldwin. She was born in Virginia. Her owners was
Mistress Mollie Fisher and Master Coon Fisher. It was so cold one winter
that they burned up their furniture keeping a fire. Said seemed like
they would freeze in spite of what all they could do.
"Grandpa was sold away from grandma and three children. He didn't want
to be sold nary bit. When they would be talking about selling him he go
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