Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
Work Projects Administration
Part 4 out of 6
said he come to Louisiana from there too. They was plain field hands.
"My folks belong to Miss Mary Ann Richardson and Massa Harve Richardson.
They had five children and every one dead now. They lived at Duncan
"The white folks told em they was free. They had no place to go and they
been workin' the crop. White folks glad for em to stay and work on. And
the truth is they was glad to git to stay on cause they had no place to
go. They kept stayin' on a long time.
"I was so small I don't know if the Ku Klux ever did come bout our place
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Lettie Nelson
St. Marys Street, Helena, Arkansas
Age: 55 or 56?
"Grandma was Patsy Smith. She said in slavery they had a certain amount
of cotton to pick. If they didn't have that amount they would put their
heads between the rails of the fences and whoop them. They whooped them
in the ebenin' when they weighed up the cotton. Grandma was raised in
Virginia. She was light. Mama was light. They was carried from Virginia
to Louisiana in wagons. They found clothes along the road people had
lost. She said several bundles of good clothes. They thought they had
dropped off of wagons ahead of them. They washed and wore the clothes.
Some of 'em fit so they wore them. Mama left her husband and brother in
Virginia. Ed Smith was her second husband. He was a light man. My
grandpa was a field man. I never heard if grandpa was sold. Jimmie
Stansberry was the man that bought or brought mama and grandma to
Louisiana. Mama cooked and worked in the field both. Grandma did too.
She cooked in Louisiana more than mama. They belong to Lou and Jimmie
Stansberry and they had two boys. They lived close to Minden, Louisiana.
I don't know so much about my parents and grandma talked but we didn't
pay enough attention to remember it all. She was old and got things
"They was glad when freedom come but they lived on with Jimmie
Stansberry. I remember them. Grandma raised me after my parents died.
Then she lived with me till she died. She was awful old when she died.
They would talk about how different Virginia and Louisiana was. It took
them a long time to make that trip."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Mattie Nelson
710 E. Fourth Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in Chicot County, Arkansas in '65. They said I was born on
the roadside while we was on our way here from Texas. They had to camp
they said. Some people called it emigrate. Now that's the straightest
way I can tell it.
"Our mistress and master was named Chapman. I member when I was a child
mistress used to be so good to us. After surrender my parents stayed
right on there with the Chapmans, stayed right on the place till they
"My mudder and pappy neither one of em could read or write, but I went
to school. I always was apt. I am now. I always was one to work--yes
ma'm--rolled logs, hope clean up new ground--yes ma'm. When we was
totin' logs, I'd say, "Put the big end on me" but they'd say, "No,
you're a woman." Yes ma'm I been here a long time. I do believe in
stirrin' work for your livin', yes ma'm, that's what I believe in.
"I been workin' ever since I was six years old. My daughter was just
like me--she had a gift, but she died. I seen all my folks die and that
lets me know I got to die too.
"White folks used to come along in buggies, and hoss back too, and stop
and watch me plow. Seem like the hotter the sun was the better I liked
"Yes ma'm, I done all kinds a work and I feels it now, too."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Dan Newborn
1000 Louisiana, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in 1860. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee. I suppose it was in
"Solomon Walton was my mother's owner and my father belonged to the
Newborns. My grandmother belonged to the Buggs in Richmond, Virginia and
she was sold to the Waltons. When my mother died in '65 my grandmother
raised me. After she was freed she went to the Powell Clayton place. Her
daughter lived there and she sent up the river and got her. I went too.
Me and two more boys.
"I never went to school but about thirty days. Hardly learned my
"In '66, my grandmother bound two of us to Powell Clayton for our
'vittils' and clothes and schoolin', but I didn't get no schoolin'. I
waited in the house. Stayed there three years, then we come back to the
"My grandmother said the Waltons treated her mean. Beat her on the head
and that was part of her death. Every spring her head would run. She
said they didn't get much of somethin' to eat.
"I was married 'fore my grandmother died--to this wife that died two
months ago. We stayed together fifty-seven years.
"To my idea, this younger generation is too wild--not near as settled as
when I was comin' up. They used to obey. Why, I slept in the bed with my
grandmother till I was married. She whipped me the day before I was
married. It was 'cause I had disobeyed her. Children will resist their
"I think the colored people is better off now 'cause they got more
privilege, but the way some of 'em use their privilege, I think they
ought to be slaves.
"My grandmother taught me not to steal. My white folks here have trusted
me with two and three hundred dollars. I don't want nothin' in the world
"I been workin' here for Fox Brothers thirty-eight years and they'll
tell you there's not a black mark against me.
"I used to be a mortar maker and used to sample cotton. Then I worked at
the Cotton Belt Shops eight years.
"I've bought me a home that cost $780.
"I don't mind tellin' about myself 'cause I've been honest and you can
go up the river and get my record.
"Out of all due respect to everybody, the Yankees is the ones I like.
"Vote? Oh yes, Republican ticket. I like Roosevelt's administration. If
I could vote now, I'd vote for him. He has done a whole lot of good."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Sallie Newsom
"Miss, I don't know my age, but I know I is old. I'm sick now.
"My grandma's mistress and mama's mistress and my mistress was Miss
Jennie Brawner at Thomasville, Georgia. Me and my oldest sister was born
in Atlanta. Then freedom come on. My own papa wanted mama to follow him
to Mississippi. He had a wife there. She wouldn't go. She stayed on a
while with Mr. Acy and Miss Jennie. They come from Virginia. Her name
"Grandma toted her big hoop dresses about and carried her trains up off
the floor. Combed her long glossy hair. Mama was a house girl too, but
then grandma took to the kitchen. She was the cook then.
"Old Miss Jennie wanted mama to give her my oldest sister Lulu, so mama
gave her to her. Then when we started to come to Holly Grove,
Mississippi, Miss Jennie still wanted her. Mama didn't want to part from
her. She was married again and brought me but my aunts told mama to
leave her there, she would have a good home and be educated, so she
'greed to leave her two years. She sent back for her at the end of two
years; she wrote and didn't want to come. She was still at Miss
Jennie's. I haben seen her from the day we left Atlanta till this very
day. A woman, colored woman, was here in Brinkley once seen her. Said
she was so fine and nice. Had nice soft skin and was well to do. I have
wrote but my letters come back. I know Miss Jennie is dead, and my
sister may be by now.
"My papa was Abe Brooks. His master was Mars Jonas Brooks. Old master
give him to the young master. He was rich, rich, and traveled all time.
His pa give him a servant. He cooked for him, drove his carriage--they
called it a brake in them days--followed him to the hotels and
bar-rooms. He drink and give him a dram. When he was freed he come to
Mississippi with the Brooks to farm for them. I went to see my papa at
"When we was at Holly Springs, Mississippi my cousin was a railroad man
so he helped me run away. He paid my way. I come to Clarendon. I cooked,
washed and ironed. In two or three years I went back to see mama. They
was glad to see me. They had eight children.
"I couldn't guarantee you about the eight younger children, but there
ain't a speck of no kind of blood about me and Lulu Violet but African.
We are slick black Negroes. (She is very black, large and bony.)
"Miss Jennie Brawner had one son--Gus Brawner--and he may be living now
"My uncle said he seen the Yankees come through Thomasville, Georgia. I
never seen an army of them. I seen soldiers, plenty of em. None of the
Brooks or Brawners went to war that I heard of. I was kept close and too
young to know much of what happened. I heard about the Ku Klux but I
never seen them.
"I know Miss Jennie Brawner come from Virginia but I don't brought
grandma with her or bought her. She never did say.
"I don't vote. My husband voted, I don't know how he voted.
"Since I been sick, I get a check and commodities."
Interviewer: Miss Sallie C. Miller
Person interviewed: Pete Newton, Clarksville, Arkansas
Age: 83 [TR: 85?]
Occupation: Farmer and day laborer
"My white folks was as good to me as they could be. I ain't got no kick
to make about my white people. The boys was all brave. I was raised on
the farm. I staid with my boss till I was nearly grown. When the war got
so hot my boss was afraid the 'Feds' would get us. He sent my mammy to
Texas and sent me in the army with Col. Bashom, to take care of his
horses. I was about eleven or twelve years old. Col. Bashom was always
good to me. He always found a place for me to sleep and eat. Sometimes
after the colonel left the folks would run as off and not let me stay
but I never told the colonel. I went to Boston, Texas with the colonel
and his men and when he went on the big raid into Missouri he left me in
Sevier County, Arkansas with his horses 'Little Baldy' and 'Orphan Boy'.
They was race horses. The colonel always had race horses. He was killed
at Pilot Knob, Missouri. After the colonel was killed his son George (I
shore did think a lot of George) come after me and the horses and
brough' us home.
"While I was in Arkadelphia with Col. Bashom's horses, I went down to
the spring to water the horses. The artillery was there cleaning a big
cannon they called 'Old Tom'. Of course I went up to watch them. One of
the men saw me and hollered, 'Stick his head in the cannon.' It liked to
scared me to death. I jumped on that race horse and run. I reconed I
would have been killed but my uncle was there and saw me and stopped the
"Another time we went to a place and me and another colored boy was
taking care of the horses while our masters eat dinner. I saw some
watermelons in the garden with a paling fence around it. I said if the
other boy would pull a paling off I would crawl through and get us a
watermelon. He did but the man who owned the place saw me just as I got
the melon and whipped us and told us if we hollered he would kill us. We
didn't holler and we never told Col. Bashom either.
"After the war my mammie come back from Texas and took me over to Dover
to live but my old boss told her if she would let him have me he would
raise and educate me like his own children. When I got back the old boss
already had a boy so I went to live with one of his sons. He told me it
was time for me to learn how to work. My boss was rough but he was good
to me and taught me how to work. The old boss had five sons in the army
and all was wounded except one. One of them was shot through and through
in the battle of Oak Hill. He got a furlough and come back and died. I
left my white folks in 1869 and went to farming for myself up in Hartman
bottom. I married when I was about seventeen years old.
"They though' a house near us was hainted. Nobody wanted to live in it
so they went to see what the noise was. They found a pet coon with a
piece of chain around his neck. The coon would run across the floor and
drag the chain.
"The children now are bad. No telling that will be in the next twenty or
thirty years everything is so changed now.
"I learnt to sing the hymns but never sang in the choir. We sang
'Dixie', 'John Brown's Body Lies, etc.', 'Juanita', 'Just Before the
Battle, Mother', 'Old Black Joe'."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Charlie Norris
122 Miller Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Born in slavery times? That's me, I reckon. I was born October 1, 1857
in Arkansas in Union County. Tom Murphy was old master's name.
"Yes ma'am, I remember the first regiment left Arkansas--went to
Virginia. I member our white folks had us packin' grub out in the woods
cause they was spectin' the Yankees.
"I member when the first regiment started out. The music boat come to
the landin' and played 'Yankee Doodle.' They carried all us chillun out
"After they fit they just come by from daylight till dark to eat. They
was death on bread. My mother and Susan Murphy, that was the old lady
herself, cooked bread for em.
"I stayed with the Murphys--round on the plantation amongst em for five
or six years after freedom. Andrew Norris, my father's old master, was
the first sheriff of Ouachita County.
"My mother belonged to the Murphys and my father belonged to the
Norrises and after freedom they never did go back together.
"My mother told me that Susan Murphy would suckle me when my mother was
out workin' and then my mother would suckle her daughter.
"I was raised up in the house you might say till I was a big nigger. Had
plenty to eat. That's one thing they did do. I lived right amongst a
settlement of what they called free niggers cause they was treated so
"Sometimes Susan Murphy got after me and whipped me and old Marse Tom
would tell me to run and not let her whip me. You see, I was worth
$1,500 to him and he thought a lot of us black kids.
"Old man Tom Murphy raised me up to a big nigger and never did whip me
but twice and that was cause I got drunk on tobacco and turned out his
"Yes ma'am, I voted till bout two or three years ago. Oh Lawd, the
colored used to hold office down in the country. I've voted for white
"Some of the colored folks better off free and some not. That's what I
think but they don't."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Emma Oats (Mulatto)
Holly Grove, Ark.
Age: 90 or older
"I was born in St. Louis. My mother died when I was little. I never
knowed no father. (He was probably a white man.) Jack Oats raised me.
Jim Oats at Helena was his son. He is still living. He come through here
(Holly Grove) not long ago. I was raised on the Esque place.
"I was fraid of my grandma. I wouldn't live with her. I know'd her. She
was a big woman, big white eyes, big thick lips, and had 'Molly Glaspy
hair,' long straight soft hair. She was a African woman. She made my
clothes. I was fraid of her. I never lived with her. My folks was all
free folks. When my mother died my uncle took us--me and brother. He
hired us out and we got stole. Gene Oglesby stole us and brought us to
Memphis to Joe Nivers. I recken he sold us then. Then they stood me up
in the parlor and sold me to Jack Oats. They said I was 'good pluck.'
Joe Nivers sold me to Jack Oats for $1,150.00 when I was four years old.
My brother was name Milton Smith. I ain't seen him from that day till
this. Joe Nivers kept him, I recken. I come here on a 'legal
tender'--name of the boat I recken. I know that. I recken it was name of
a boat. I got off and Thornton Walls, old colored man, toted me cross
every mud hole we come to. He belong to Bud Walls' (white man at Holly
Grove) daddy. When we got home Jack Oats and all of em was there.
"I slept on a pallet and lounge and took care of their children. I
played round. Done bout as I pleased. They had a cook they called Aunt
Joe--Joe Oats. We had plenty to eat and wear. They dressed me like one
their children. We had good flannel clothes. When she washed her
children she washed me too. When she combed their hair she combed mine
too. She kept working with it till I had pretty hair. Some of her
children died. It hurt me bad as it did them. All I done was play with
em and see after em. Their names was Sam, John, Dixie, Sallie, Jim. I
went in the hack to church; if she took the children, she took me. I was
a good size girl when she died. The last word she spoke was to me; she
said, 'Emma, take care of my children.' Dr. John Chester was her doctor.
"Oats come here from North Alabama. Will Oats, Wyatt Oats, and Jack
"When mistress living we took a bath every Friday in a sawed-intwo
barrel (wooden tub). The cook done our washing. We had clean fresh
clothes. We had to dress up every few days. If we get dirty she say she
would give us lashes. She never give me none, I never was sassy (saucy).
That what most of em got 10 lashes, 25, 50 lashes for.
"When I was bout grown I went to school a little bit to James A. Kerr
here at Holly Grove. I was good and grown too.
"I was settin' on the gate post--they had a picket fence. I seen some
folks coming to our house. I run in the house and says, 'Miss Mai Liza,
the Yankees coming here!' She told her husband to get in the bed. He
says, 'Oh God, what she know bout Yankees?' Miss Mai Liza say, 'I don't
know; she's one of em, I speck she knows em.' One of the officers come
in and asked him what was the matter. He said he was sick. He had boils
bout on him. He had a Masonic pin on his shirt. He showed it to the
officer. He asked Lou and Becky and all the servants if he hadn't been
bushwhacking. They all said, 'No.' He said he wanted something to eat.
They went to the well house and got him some milk.
"They camped below the house. They went to their store house and brought
more rations up there in a wagon. Lou cooked and she had help. She set a
big table and they had the biggest dinner. They had more hams. They had
'Lincoln Coffee' there that day. It was a jolly day. They never et up
there no more or bothered round our house no more. The officer had
something on his bare arm he showed. He said, when he went to leave,
'Aunt Lou, you shall not be hurt.'
"Mr. Oats had taken long before that day all his slaves to Texas. He
took all but Wash Martin. They went in wagons and none of them ever come
"Miss Callie Edwards was older than Miss Henrietta Jackson. They kept
Wash Martin going through the bottoms nearly all time from their houses
at Golden Hill to Indian Bay. They kept him from one place to the other
to keep him out of the war. They hired him out to school Miss Henrietta.
Miss Callie Edwards died then they give him to Miss Henrietta.
"During the war Mrs. Keeps come up to our house. They heard a gun. She
was jes visiting Mrs. Oats. Mrs. Keeps went home and the bushwhackers
had killed him. He was dead.
"I never seen no Ku Klux in my whole life.
"I remember the stage coach that run every two or three days from Helena
"I don't remember bout freedom. Dr. Green, Hall Green's daddy, told his
colored folks they was free. They told our folks. I heard em talking
bout it. I was kept quiet. It was done freedom, fore I knowed it. I
stayed on and done like I been doin'. I stayed on and on.
"When I was grown I come here to school and soon married. I washed and
ironed and cooked all over Holly Grove. I was waiting on the table at
the boarding house here at Holly Grove. Mr. Oats was talking bout naming
the town. They had put the railroad through. I ask em why didn't they
name the town Holly Grove. It was thick with holly trees. They named it
that, and put it up on the side of the depot. That way I named the town.
"My folks give me five acres of land and Julia Woolfolk give a blind
woman on the place five acres. I didn't know what to do wid it. I didn't
have no husband. I was young and foolish. I let it be.
"My husband farmed. I raised my family, chopped and picked cotton and
done other things along with that. I have worked all my life till way
after my husband died.
"My husband could jump up, knock heels together three times before he
come down. He died May 12, 1909. He was 83 years old February 16, 1909.
"I never voted. I never heard my husband say much bout voting. I know
some colored folks sold their voting rights. That was wrong.
"I lived at Baptist Bottoms two years. It lack to killed me."
Wyatt Oats and Miss Callie Edwards owned the husband of Emma Oats. She
was married once and had two girls and two boys--one boy dead now. Emma
lives at one of her daughters' homes.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Helen Odom and mother, Sarah Odom
"Great-grandmother was part African, Indian, and Caucasian. She had two
girls before slavery ended by her own master--Master Temple. He was also
Caucasian (white). She was cook and housemaid at his home. He was a
bachelor. Grandmother's name was Rachael and her sister's name was
Gilly. Before freedom Master Temple had another wife. By her he had one
boy and two girls. He never had a Caucasian wife. In fact he was always
a bachelor. Grandmother was a field hand and so was her sister, Gilly.
"But after freedom grandmother married a Union soldier. His took-on name
was George Washington Tomb. He was generally called Parson Tomb
(preacher). He met Grandmother Rachael in Arkansas.
"When Master Temple died his nearest relative was Jim McNeilly. He made
a will leaving everything he possessed to Master McNeilly. The estate
had to be settled, so he brought the two sisters to Little Rock we think
to be sold. They rode horseback and walked and brought wagons with
bedding and provisions to camp along the road. The blankets were frozen
and stood alone. It was so cold. Grandmother was put up on the block to
be auctioned off and freedom was declared! Aunt Gilly never got to the
block. Grandmother married and was separated from her sister.
"Whether the other three children were brought to Arkansas then I don't
know but this I know that they went by the name McNeilly. They changed
their names or it was done for them. They are all dead now and my own
mother is the only one now living. Their names were John, Tom, and
Netline. Mother says they were sold to Johnson, and went by that name
too as much as McNeilly. They remained with Johnson till freedom, in
"My mother's name is Sarah.
"They seem to think they were treated good till Master Temple died. They
nearly froze coming to Arkansas to be sold.
"I heard this told over and over so many, many times before grandmother
died. Seemed it was the greatest event of her life. She told other
smaller things I can't remember to tell with sense at all. Nothing so
important as her master and own father's death and being sold.
"Times are good, very good with me. Our African race is advancing with
Teacher in Biscoe school. Father was a graduate doctor of medicine and
in about 1907, '08, '09 school director at Biscoe.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Jane Oliver
Route 4, near airport, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I'm certainly one of em, cause I was in the big house. When Miss Liza
married they give sister to her and I stayed with Miss Netta. Her name
was Drunetta Rawls. That was in Mississippi. We come to Arkansas when I
"I remember when they run us to Texas, and we stayed there till freedom
come. I remember hearin' em read the free papers. Mama died in Texas and
they buried her the day they read the free papers. I know. I was out
playin' and Miss Lucy, that was my young mistress, come out and say,
'Jane, you go in and see your mother, she wants you.' I was busy playin'
and didn't want to go in and I member Miss Lucy say, 'Poor little fool
nigger don't know her mother's dyin'.' I went in then and said, 'Mama,
is you dyin'?' She say, 'No, I ain't; I died when you was a baby.' You
know, she meant she had died in sin. She was a christian.
"Me and Lucy played together all the time--round about the house and in
the kitchen. Little Marse Henry, that was big old Marse Henry's son, he
was a captain in the army. We all called him Little Marse Henry. Old
mistress was good to us. Us chillun called her Miss Netta. Best woman I
ever seed. Me and Lucy growed up together. Looks like I can see just the
way the house looked and how we used to go down to the big gate and
play. I sits here and studies and wonders if I'd know that place today.
That's what I study bout.
"I used to hear em say we only stayed in Texas nine months and the white
folks brought us back.
"My uncle Simon Rawls, he took me after the war. Then I worked for Mrs.
"I went to school a little and learned to read prints. The teacher tried
to get me to write but I wouldn't do it. And since then I have wished so
much I had learned to write. Oh mercy! Old folks would tell me, 'Well,
when you get up the road, you'll wish you had.' I didn't know what they
meant but I know now they meant when I got old.
"I was married when I was young--I don't think I was fifteen.
"Yes ma'am, I've worked hard. I've always lived in the country.
"I can remember when the white folks refugeed us to Texas. Oh we did
hate the Yankees. If I ever seed a Yankee I didn't know it but I heard
the white folks talkin' bout em.
"I used to hear em talk bout old Jeff Davis and Abe Lincoln.
"Bradley County was where we lived fore we went to Texas and afterward.
Colonel Ed Hampton's plantation jined the Rawls plantation on the
Arkansas River where it overflowed the land. I loved that better than
any place I ever seed in my life.
"I couldn't say what I think of the young folks now. They is different
from what we was. Yes, Lord, they is different. Sometimes I think they
is better and sometimes wuss. I just thanks the Lord that I'm here--have
come this far.
"When I bought this place from Mr. R.M. Knox he said, 'When I'm in my
grave you'll thank me that you took my advice and put your savings in a
Home.' I do thank him. I been here thirty years and I get along. God
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Ivory Osborne
Route 5, Box 158, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Know about slavery? Sho I do--I was born in '52. Born in Arkansas? No
ma'm, born in Texas.
"Oh yes, indeed, I had a good master. Good to me, indeed. I was that
high when the war started. I member everything. Take me from now till
dark to tell you everything I know bout slavery.
"I put in three years and five months, choppin' cotton and corn. I
member the very day, on the 10th of May, old mistress blowed the conk
and told us we was free.
"Oh Lord, I had a good time.
"I never was whipped.
"Ku Klux used to run me. Run me clear from the plum orchard bout a mile
from the house. Run to my mistress at the big house.
"Miss Ann had eight darkies and told her stepmother, 'Don't you put your
hand on em.' She didn't either.
"I went to school since 'mancipation in Nacitosh. Learned to read and
write. Was in the eighth grade when I left. Stood at the head of every
class. They couldn't get me down. I done got old and forgot now.
"I didn't know the difference between slavery and free, I never was
"Did I ever vote? You know I voted, old as I am. Ain't voted in over
forty years. I ain't nobody. My wife's eighty. I've had her forty years.
_Cose_ I voted the Republican ticket. You never seed a colored person a
Democrat in your life.
"In slavery days we killed seventy-five or eighty hogs every year. And I
don't mean shoats, I mean hogs. I ain't lost my membrance."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Jane Osbrook
602 E. 21st Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes ma'm, I was livin' in slavery days. I was borned in Arkansas I
reckon. I was borned within three, miles of Camden but I wasn't raised
there. We moved to Saline County directly after peace was declared.
"I don't know what year I was born because you see I'm not educated but
I was ninety the 27th of this last past May. Yes ma'm, I'm a old bondage
woman. I can say what a heap of em can't say--I can tell the truth bout
it. I believe in the truth. I was brought up to tell the truth. I'm no
"My old master was Adkison Billingsly. My old mistress treated us just
like her own children. She said we had feelin's and tastes. I visited
her long after the war. Went there and stayed all night.
"I member when they had the fight at Jenkins Ferry. Old Steele had
30,000 and he come down to take Little Rock, Pine Bluff and others.
Captain Webb with 1,500 Rebels was followin' him and when they got to
Saline River they had a battle.
"The next Sunday my father carried all us children and some of the white
folks to see the battle field. I member the dead was lyin' in graves,
just one row after another and hadn't even been covered up.
"Oh yes, I can tell all bout that. Nother time there was four hundred
fifty colored and five white Yankee soldiers come and ask my father if
old mistress treated us right. We told em we had good owners. I never
was so scared in my life. Them colored soldiers was so tall and so black
and had red eyes. Oh yes ma'm, they had on the blue uniforms. Oh, we
sure was fraid of em--you know them eyes.
"They said, 'Now uncle, we want you to tell the truth, does she feed you
well?' My ma did all the cookin' and we had good livin'. I tole my
daughter we fared ten thousand times better than now.
"I come up in the way of obedience. Any time I wanted to go, had to go
to old mistress and she say, 'Don't let the sun go down on you.' And
when we come home the sun was in the trees. If you seed the sun was
goin' down on you, you run.
"I ain't goin' tell nothin' but the truth. Truth better to live with and
better to die with.
"Some of the folks said they never seed a biscuit from Christmas to
Christmas but we had em every day. Never seed no sodie till peace was
"In my comin' up it was Whigs and Democrats. Never heard of no
Republicans till after the war. I've seed a man get upon that platform
and wipe the sweat from his brow. I've seed em get to fight in' too.
That was done at our white folks house--arguin' politics.
"I never did go to school. I married right after the war you know. What
you talkin' bout--bein' married and goin' to school? I was housekeepin':
Standin' right in my own light and didn't know it."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Annie Page
412-1/2 Pullen Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born 1852, they tell me, on the fifteenth of March. I was workin'
a good while 'fore surrender.
"Bill Jimmerson was my old master. He was a captain in Marmaduke's army.
Come home on thirty days furlough once and he and Daniel Carmack got
into some kind of a argument 'bout some whisky and Daniel Carmack
stabbed him with a penknife. Stabbed him three times. He was black as
tar when they brought him home. The blood had done settled. Oh Lawd,
that was a time.
"My eyes been goin' blind 'bout six years till I got so I can't excern
"Old miss used to box me over the head mightily and the colored folks
used to hit me over the head till seem like I could hear a bell for two
or three days. Niggers ain't got no sense. Put 'em in authority and they
gits so uppity.
"My brother brought me here and left me here with a colored woman named
Rachael Ross. And oh Lawd, she was hard on me. Never had to do in
slavery times what I had to do then.
"But the devil got her and all her chillun now I reckon. They tell me
when death struck her, they asked if the Lawd called her, and they say
she just turned over and over in the bed like a worm in hot ashes."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Annie Page
400 Block West Pullen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes'm I 'member the war. I never knowed why they called it the Civil
"I was born in Union County, Arkansas, 'bout a mile from Bear Creek, in
1852. That's what my old mistress tole me the morning we was sot free.
"My mistress was a Democrat. Old master was a captain in Marmaduke's
"I used to hope (help) spin the thread to make the soldiers' clothes.
Old mistress cared for me. Lacy Jimmerson--the onliest mistress I ever
had. She wanted to send us away to Texas but old master say it want no
use. Cause if the Yankees won, they have to bring us back, so we didn't
"Did they _whip_ us? Why I bet I can show you scars now. Old Miss whip
me when she feel like fightin'. Her granddaughter, Mary Jane, tried to
learn me my ABC's out of the old Blue Back Speller. We'd be out on the
seesaw, but old Miss didn't know what we doin'. Law, she pull our hair.
Directly she see us and say 'What you doin'? Bring that book here!'
"One day old master come home on a thirty-day furlough. He was awful
hot-headed and he got into a argument with Daniel Carmack and old Daniel
stobbed him right in the heart. Fore he die he say to bury him by the
side of the road so he can see the niggers goin' to work.
"I never seen no Ku Klux but I heard of 'em 'rectly after the war.
"I'se blind. I jest can see enough to get around. The Welfare gives me
eight dollars a month.
"My mother died soon after the war ended and after that I was jest
knocked over the head. I went to Camblin and worked for Mrs. Peters.
Then I runned away and married my first husband Mike Samson. I been
married twice and had two children but they all dead now.
"Law, I jest scared of these young ones as I can be. I don't have no
dealins with 'em."
Name of interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
This information given by: Annie Page
Place of residence: 412-1/2 Pullen Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Occupation: None Age: 86
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
"I told 'bout old master's death. Mama had done sent me out to feed the
chickens soon of a morning.
"Here was the smokehouse and there was a turkey in a coop. And when I
throwed it the feed I heard somethin' sounded just like you was draggin'
a brush over leaves. It come around the corner of the smokehouse and
look like a tall woman. It kept on goin' toward the house till it got to
the hickory nut tree and still sound like draggin' a brush. When it got
to the hickory nut tree it changed and look like a man. I looked and I
said, 'It's old master.' And the next day he got killed. I run to the
house and told mama, 'Look at that man.' She said, 'Shut your mouth, you
don't see no man.' Old miss heard and said, 'Who do you s'pose it could
be?' But mama wouldn't let me talk.
"But I know it was a sign that old master was goin' to die."
"I was born with a caul over my face. Old miss said it hung from the top
of my head half way to my waist.
"She kept it and when I got big enough she said, 'Now that's your veil,
you play with it.'
"But I lost it out in the orchard one day.
"They said it would keep you from seein' ha'nts."
"William Jimmerson's wife had a daughter was born blind, and she said it
was her husband's fault. She was delicate, you know, and one afternoon
she was layin' down and I was sittin' there fannin' her with a peafowl
fan. Her husband was layin' there too and I guess I must a nodded and
let the fan drop down in his face. He jumped up and pressed his thumbs
on my eyes till they was all bloodshot and when he let loose I fell down
on the floor. Miss Phenie said, 'Oh, William, don't do that.' I can
remember it just as well.
"My eyes like to went out and do you know, when her baby was born it was
blind. It's eyes just looked like two balls of blood. It died though,
just lived 'bout two weeks."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Fannie Parker
1908 W. Sixth Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes, honey, this is old Fannie. I'se just a poor old nigger waitin' for
Jesus to come and take me to Heaven.
"I was just a young strip of a girl when the war come. Dr. M.C. Comer
was my owner. His wife was Elizabeth Comer. I said Marse and Mistis in
them days and when old mistress called me I went runnin' like a turkey.
They called her Miss Betsy. Yes Lord, I was in slavery days. Master and
mistress was bossin' me then. We all come under the rules. We lived in
Monticello--right in the city of Monticello.
"All I can tell you is just what I remember. I seed the Yankees. I
remember a whole host of 'em come to our house and wanted something to
eat. They got it too! They cooked it them selves and then they burned
everything they could get their hands on. They said plenty to me. They
said so much I don't know what they said. I know one thing they said I
belonged to the Yankees. Yes Lord, they wanted me to tell 'em if I was
free. I told 'em I was free indeed and that I belonged to Miss Betsy. I
didn't know what else to say. We had plenty to eat, plenty of hog meat
and buttermilk and cornbread. Yes ma'm--don't talk about that now.
"Don't tell me 'bout old Jeff Davis--he oughta been killed. Abraham
Lincoln thought what was right was right and what was wrong was wrong.
Abraham was a great man cause he was the President. When the rebels
ceded from the Union he made 'em fight the North. Abraham Lincoln
studied that and he had it all in his mind. He wasn't no fighter but he
carried his own and the North give 'em the devil. Grant was a good man
too. They tried to kill him but he was just wrapped up in silver and
"I remember when the stars fell. Yes, honey, I know I was ironin' and it
got so dark I had to light the lamp. Yes, I did!
"It's been a long time and my mind's not so good now but I remember old
Comer put us through. Good-bye and God bless you!"
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Story: Birth, Parents, Master.
Person Interviewed: J.M. Parker, (dark brown)
Address: 1002 Ringo Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Occupation: Formerly a carpenter
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
"I was born in South Carolina, Waterloo, in Lawrence County, [HW:
Laurens Co.] in 1861, April 5th. Waterloo is a little town in South
Carolina. I believe that fellow shot the first gun of the war when I was
born. I knew then I was going to be free. Of course that is just a lie.
I made that up. Anyway I was born in 1861.
"Colonel Rice was our master. He was in the war too. The name Parker
came in by intermarriage, you see. My mother belonged to Rice. She could
have been a Simms before she married. My father's name was Edmund
Parker. He belonged to the Rices also. That was his master; Colonel Rice
and him were boys together. He went down there to Charleston, South
Carolina to build breastworks. While down there, he slipped off and
brought a hundred men away from Charleston back to Lawrence County where
the men was that owned them. He was a business man, father was. Brought
'em all through the swamps. They were slaves and he brought 'em all back
home. They all followed his advice.
"My mother's name was Rowena Parker after she married.
"Colonel Rice was a pretty fair man--a pretty good fellow. He was a
colonel in the war and stood pretty high. Bound to be that way by him
being a colonel. Seemed like him and my father had about the same number
of kids. He thought there was nobody like my mother. He never _whipped
the slaves himself_ but his _overseer would sometimes jump on them_. The
Rice family was very good to our people. The men being gone they were
left in the hands of the mistress. She never touched anybody. She never
had no reason to.
"Patterollers didn't bother us, but we were in that country. During the
war, most of the men that amounted to anything were in the war and the
patrolers didn't bother you much. The overseer didn't have so much power
over me than. That pretty well left the colored people to come up
without being abused during the war. The white folks was forced to go to
the war. They drafted them just like they do now. They'd shoot a _po'_
white man if he didn't come.
"My master didn't force men and women to marry. _He didn't_ put 'em
together just to get more slave. Some times other people would have
women and men just for that purpose. But there wasn't much of it in my
House, Stock, Parents' Occupations
"Our house was a frame building, boxed in with one-by-twelve like we
have here in the country. That was a good house with regular flooring,
tongue and groove. We was raised up in a good house. Old Colonel Rice
had to protect his standing. He had good stock. My father was a carriage
man. He had to keep those horses clean and they always looked good. That
carriage had to shine too. Colonel Rice was a high stepper. He'd take
his handkerchief and rub it over the horses hair to see if they were
really clean. He would always find 'em clean though when the old man got
through with them. He would drive fine stock. Had some fine horses.
Couldn't trust 'em with just anybody.
"My mother was cook. She helped Mrs. Rice take care of the kids, and
cooked around the house. She took care of her kids, too.
"The house we was born and bred in was built for a carriage house, but
somehow or 'nother they give it to us to live in. My mother being a
cook, she got what she wanted. That was a good house too. It was sealed.
It had good floors. It had two rooms. It had about three windows and
good doors to each room.
"We had just common furniture. Niggers didn't have much then. My father
was a good mechanic though and he would make anything he wanted. We
didn't have much, just common things. But all my people were mechanics,
harness makers, shoemakers,--they could make anything. Young Sam Parker
could make any kind of shoe. He made shoes for the white folks; Young
Jacob was a blacksmith; he made horseshoes and anything else out of
iron. He may still be living. In fact, he made anything he could get his
hands on. My young uncles on my mother's side, I don't know much about
them, because they were all mechanics. My grandfather on my mother's
side could make baskets--any kind--could make baskets that would hold
"My father had thirteen children. Three of them are living now. My
brother lives here in the city. He was born during the war and his
mother was supposed to be free when he was born.
Right After the War
"That's what my mother told me. I can remember a long ways back myself.
After the war, it wasn't long before they began to open up schools. They
used to run school three or four months a year. Both white and colored
in the country had about three or four months. That is all they had.
There weren't so very many white folks that took an interest in
education during slave time. Colored people got just about as much as
they did right after the war. What time we went to school we went the
whole day. We would come home and work in the evening like. We had
pretty fair teachers. All white then at first. They didn't have no
colored till afterwards. If they did, they had so few, I never heard of
"The first teacher I had was Katie Whitefold (white). That was in
Waterloo. Miss Richardson was our next teacher. She was white too. We
went to school two terms under white women. After that we began to get
teachers from Columbia, South Carolina, where the normal school was.
"The white teachers who taught us were people who had been raised right
around Waterloo. We never had no Northern teachers as I knows of. Our
first colored teacher was Murry Evans. He a preacher. He was one of our
leading preachers too. After him our colored women began to come in and
stand examination wasn't so hard at that time, but they made a good
showing. There were good scholars.
"I went to school too much. I went to school at Philander Smith College
some, too. I went a good piece in school. Come pretty near finishing the
English course (high school). I finished Good[HW: sp.?] Brown's 'Grammer
of Grammers'. Professor Backensto (the spelling is the interviewer's)
sent away and got it and sold it to us. We was his students. He was a
white man from the North and a good scholar. We got in those grammars
and got the same lessons they give him when he was in school--nine pages
a lesson and we had to repeat that lesson three times. When my mother
died, I was off in the normal school.
"Right after the war, my parents farmed. He followed his trade. That
always gave us something to eat you know. When we farmed, we
sharecropped--a third and a fourth--that is, we got a third of the
cotton and a fourth of the corn. Potatoes and things like that went
free. All women got an acre free. My mother always got an acre and she
worked it good too. She always had her bale of cotton. And if she didn't
have a bale, she laid it next to the white folks' and made it out. They
knew it and they didn't care. She stood well with the white people.
Helped all of 'em raise their children, and they all liked that.
"I went along with my father whenever he had a big job and needed help.
I got to be as good a carpenter as he was.
"I married out here. About eighty-five. People were emigrating to this
country. There was a boom to emigrating then. Emigrating was a little
dangerous when a man was trying to get hands. White folks would lay
traps and kill men that were taking away their hands--they would kill
white just as quick as they would black. I started out under a white
man--I can't remember his name. He turned me over to Madden, a colored
man who was raised in Waterloo. We came from there to Greenwood, South
Carolina where everything was straight. After that we had nothing to do
but get on the train and keep coming. We was with our agent then and we
had no more trouble after that.
"I got off at Brinkley over at Minor Gregory's farm. He needed hands
then and was glad to get us. He is dead now. I stayed in Brinkley the
space of about a year. Then he gave us transportation to Little Rock.
The train came from Memphis, and we struck out for Little Rock. I
married after I come to Little Rock. I forget what year. But anyway my
wife is dead and gone and all the children. So I'm single now.
Opinions of the Present
"I think times are about dead now. Things ought to get better. I believe
things are going to get better for all of us. People have got to think
more. People have got to get together more. War doesn't always make
thing better. It didn't after the Civil War. And it didn't after the
World War. The young people are all right in their way. It would just
take another war to learn 'em a lesson.
"I can't do any work now. I get a little help from the welfare. It
doesn't come regular. I need a check right now. I think it's due now.
But they haven't sent it out yet. That is, I haven't got it.
"I'm a Christian. All my family were Methodists. I belong to Wesley.
Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins
Person Interviewed: Judy Parker
Home: 618 Wade Street, Hot Springs, Ark.
For location of Wade Street, see interview with Emma Sanderson.
As the interviewer walked down Silver Street a saddle colored girl came
out on a porch for a load of wood.
"I beg your pardon," she began, pausing, "can you tell me where I will
find Emma Sanderson?"
"I sure can." The girl left the porch and came out to the street. "I'll
walk down with you and show you. That way it'll be easier. Kind of cold,
"It surely is," this from the interviewer. "Isn't it too cold for you,
can't you just tell me? I think I can find it." The girl had expected to
be only on the porch and didn't have a coat.
"No, ma'am. It's all right. Now we're far enough for you to see. You see
those two houses jam up against one and 'tother? Well Miz Parker lives
in the one this way. I goes down to look after her most every day.
That's where you'll find her.--No ma'am--'twaren't no bother."
The gate sagged slightly at the house "this way" of the "two jam up
against one and 'tother." A large slab from an oak log in the front yard
near a woodpile bore mute evidence of many an ax blow. (Stove wood is
generally split in the rural South--one end of the "stick" resting
against the ground, the other atop a small log.)
Up a couple of rickety steps the interviewer climbed. She knocked three
times. When she was bade to enter she opened the door to find an old
woman sitting near a wood stove combing her long, white hair.
Mrs. Parker was expecting the visit. A few days before the interviewer
had had a visit from a couple of colored women who had "heard tell how
you is investigating the old people.--been trying to get on old age
pension for a long time--glad you come to get us on.----No? Oh, I see
you is the Townsend woman." (An explanation of her true capacity was
almost impossible for the interviewer.)
Mrs. Parker, however, seemed to comprehend the idea perfectly. She
expected nothing save the chance to tell her story. Her joy at the gift
of a quarter (the amount the interviewer set aside from her salary for
each interviewee) was pitiful. Evidently it had been a long time since
she had possessed a similar sum to spend exactly as she pleased.
"I don't rightly know how old I is. My mother used to tell me that I was
a little baby, six months old when our master, Joe Potts was his name,
got ready to clear out of Florida. You see he had heard tell of the war
scare. So he started drifting out of the way. Bet it didn't take him
long after he made up his mind. He was a right decided man. Mister Joe
"How did we like him? Well, he was always good to us. He was well
thought of. Seemed to be a pretty clever man, Mr. Joe did." ("Clever" in
plantation language like "smart" refers more to muscular than mental
activity. They might almost be used as synonyms for "hard working" on
the labor level.)
"So Mr. Joe got ready to go to Texas. Law, Miss, I don't rightly know
whether he had a family or not. Never heard my Mother say. Anyhow he
come through Arkansas intending to drift on out into Texas. But when he
got near the border 'twix't and between Arkansas and Texas he stopped.
The talk about war had about settled down. So he stopped. He stopped
near where the big bridge is. You know where Little River County is
don't you? He stopped and he started to work. Started to make a crop.
'Course I can't remember none about that. Just what my Mother told me.
But I remembers him from later.
"He went at it the good way. Settled down and tried to open up a home.
They put in a crop and got along pretty good. Time passed and the war
talk started floating again. That time he didn't pay much attention and
it got him. It was on a Sunday morning when he went away. I never knew
whether they made him go or not. But I kind of think they must of. Cause
he wouldn't have moved off from Florida if he had wanted to go to war.
"He took my daddy with him! Ma'am--did he take him to fight or to wait
on him--Don't know ma'am, but I sort of think he took him to wait on
him. But he didn't bring him back. My daddy got killed in the war. No
ma'am. I don't rightly know how he got killed. Never heard nobody say. I
was just a little girl--nobody bothered to tell me much.
"Yes, that we did. We stayed on on the farm and we made a crop--the old
folks did. Mr. Joe, when he went off, said "Now you stay on here, you
make a crop and you use all you need. Then you put up the rest and save
for me." He was a right good man, Mr. Joe was.
"No, we didn't never see no fighting. There wasn't nothing to be scared
of. Didn't see no Yankees until the war was through. Then they started
passing. Lawsey, I couldn't tell how many of them there was. More than
you could count.
"We had all stayed on. I was the oldest of my mother's children. But she
had two more after me. There was our family and my two uncles and my
grandmother. Then there was some other colored folks. But we wasn't
scared of the Yankees. Mr. Joe was there by that time. They camped all
around in the woods near us. They got us to do their washing. Lawsey
they was as filthy as hogs. I never see such folks. They asked Mr. Joe
if we could do their washing. Everything on the place that come near
those clothes got lousey. Those men was covered with them. I never see
nothing like it. We got covered with them. No, ma'am, we got rid of 'em
pretty easy. They ain't so hard to get rid of, if you keep clean.
"After it was all over Master Joe got ready to go back to Florida. He
took Warley and Jenny with him. They was children he had had by a black
woman--you know folks did such things in them days. He asked the rest of
us if they wanted to go back too. But my folks made up their minds they
didn't. You see, they didn't know how they'd get along and how long it
would take them to pay for the trip back, so they stayed right where
"Lots of 'em went to Rondo and some of us worked for Herb Jeans--he
lived farther up Red River. After my mother died I was with my
grandmother. She washed and cooked for Herb Jeans's family. I stayed on
with her, helped out until I got married. I was about fifteen when that
"My man owned his place. Sure he did. Owned it when I married him. He
owned it himself and farmed it good. Yes ma'am we stayed with the land.
He made good crops--corn and cotton, mostly. Course we raised potatoes
and the truck we needed--all stuff like that. Yes, ma'am we had thirteen
children. Just three of them's living. All of them is boys.
"Yes ma'am we got along good. My husband made good crops and we got
along just good. But 'bout eight years ago my husband he got sick. So he
sold out the farm--sold out everything. Then he come here.
"Before he died he spent every last cent--every last cent--left me to
get along the very best way I kin. I stays with my son. He takes care of
me. He don't make much, but he does the best he kin.
"No ma'am, I likes living down in the country. Down there near Red River
it's soft and sandy. Up here in Hot Springs the rocks tear up your feet.
If you's country raised--you like the country. Yes ma'am, you like the
As she left the interviewer handed her a quarter. At first the old
woman's face was expressionless. But she moved the coin nearer to her
eyes and a smile broke and widened until her whole face was a wrinkle of
joy. When she turned in the doorway, the interviewer noticed that the
hand jammed into an apron pocket was clutched into a possessive fist,
cradling the precious twenty five cents.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: R.F. Parker
619 N. Hickory, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in '62. I reckon I was born in slavery times. Born in Ripley
County, Missouri. Old man Billy Parker was my master, and my young
master was Jim Parker.
"They bought my mother in Tennessee when she was a child. I wasn't big
enough to remember much about slavery but I was big enough to know when
they turned my mother loose, and we come to Lawrence County, Arkansas.
"I remember my mother sayin' she had to plow while her young master, Jim
Parker, was off to war, but I don't know what side he was on.
"I remember seein' some soldiers ridin' down the road, about
seventy-five of 'em. I know I run under a corn pen and hid. I thought
they was after me. They stopped right there and turned their horses
loose 'round that pen. I can remember that all right. They went in the
white folks' house and took a shotgun. I know I remember hearin' mama
talk about it. I think they had on blue clothes.
"I was goin' on seven when we come to Arkansas. I know I'd walk a while
and she'd tote me a while. But we was lucky enough to get in with some
white people that was movin' to Arkansas. We was comin' to a place
called 'The Promised Land.' We stayed there till '92.
"I have farmed and done public work. I worked nine years at that heading
factory in the east end (of Pine Bluff).
"I used to vote. When I was in north Arkansas, I voted in all kinds of
elections. But after I come down here to Jefferson County, I couldn't
vote in nothin' but the presidential elections.
"I don't think the young people are goin' to amount to much. They are a
heap wilder than when I was young. They got a chance to graduate
now--something I didn't get to do.
"I never went to school a day in my life, but the white people where I
worked learned me to read and write."
This man could easily pass for a white person.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Annie Parks
720 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: About 80
Occupation: Formerly house and field work
"I was born and raised in Mer Rouge, Louisiana. That is between here and
Monroe. I have been here in Little Rock more than twenty-five years.
"My mother's name was Sarah Mitchell. That was her married name. I don't
know what her father's name was. My father's name was Willis Clapp. He
was killed in the first war--the Civil War. My father went to the war
from Mer Rouge, Louisiana. I don't remember him at all. But that is what
my mother told me about him. My mother said he had very good people.
After he married my mother, old man Offord bought him. Offord's name was
Warren Offord. They buried him while I was still there in Mer Rouge. He
was a old-time Mason. That was my mother's master--in olden days.
"His grandmother took my mother across the seas with her. She (his
grandmother) died on shipboard, and they throwed her body into the
water. There's people denies it, but my mother told me it was so. Young
Davenport is still living. He is a relative of Offords. My mother never
did get no pension for my father.
Slave House and Occupation
"I was born in a log house. There were two doors--a front and a
back--and there were two windows. My mother had no furniture 'cept an
old-time wooden bed--big bed. She was a nurse all the time in the house.
I heard her say she milked and waited on them in the house. My father's
occupation was farming during slavery times.
"My mother always said she didn't have no master to beat on her. I like
to tell the truth. My mother's master never let no overseer beat his
slaves around. She didn't say just what we had to eat. But they always
give us a plenty, and there wasn't none of us mistreated.
"My father could have an extra patch and make a bale of cotton or
whatever he wanted to on it. That was so that he could make a little
money to buy things for hisself and his family. And if he raised a bale
of cotton on his patch and wanted to sell it to the agent, that was all
"I have a brother named Manuel Clayton. If he's living still, he is
younger than I am. He is the baby boy. I doesn't remember his father at
all. I had five sisters with myself and two brothers. All of them were
older than me except Manuel. My mother had one brother and two sisters.
Her brother's name was Lin Urbin. We always called him Big Buddy. He
hasn't been so long died. My older brother is named Willis Clayton--if
he's still living. Willis has a half dozen sons. He is my oldest
brother. He lives way out in the country 'round Mer Rouge.
"My mother said they promised to them money when they were freed. Some
of them gave them something, and some of them didn't. My mother's folks
didn't give her nothin'. The Government didn't give her nothin' either.
I don't know just who told her she was free nor how. I don't remember
Patrollers and Ku Klux
"I never heard much about pateroles. My mother said they used to whip
you if they would catch you out without a pass. I heard her talk about
the Ku Klux after freedom.
"My mother could always go to church on Sunday. Her slave-time preacher
was Tom Johnson. Henry Soates and Watt Taylor were slavery-time
preachers too. Old man Jacob Anderson too was a great preacher in slave
time. There was a big arbor where they held church. That was outdoors.
There was just a wood frame and green leaves laid over it. Hundreds of
people sat under there and heard the Gospel preached. The Offords didn't
care how much you worshipped. If I was with them, I wouldn't have no
"In the winter time they had a small place to meet in. They built a
church after the war. When I went home, eight or nine years ago, I
walked all 'round and looked at all the old places.
"You know my remembrance comes and goes. I ain't had no good remembrance
since I been sick. I been mighty sick with high blood pressure. I can't
work and I can't even go out. I'm 'fraid I'll fall down and get myself
hurt or run over.
"I don't get no help 'cept what my daughter gives me. I can't get no Old
Age Pension. I never did get nothin' for my father. My mother didn't
either. He was killed in the war, but they didn't give nobody nothin'
for his death. They told me they'd give me something and then they told
me they wouldn't. I'm dependent on what my daughter does for me. If I
was back in Mer Rouge, I wouldn't have no trouble gettin' a pension, nor
Slave Marriages on the Offord Plantation
"My mother said they just read 'em together, slavery times. I think she
said that the preacher married them on the Offord plantation. They
didn't get no license.
"They had quiltings and corn shuckings. I don't know what other
amusements they had, but I know everything was pleasant on the Offord
"If slaves went out without a pass, my mother said her master wouldn't
allow them to beat on them when they come in. They had plenty to eat,
and they had substantial clothes, and they had a good fire.
"I don't know how old I am. I was born before the war. My father went to
the war when it begun. I had another brother that was born before the
war. He don't remember nothin' about my father. I don't neither. I was
Allowing for a year's difference between the two youngest children, and
allowing that the boy was born immediately before the War, the girl
could not be younger than seventy-eight. She could be older. She states
all facts as through her mother, but she seems to have experienced some
of the things she relates. Her memory is fading. Failure to get pension
or old age assistance oppresses her mind. She comes back to it again and
again. She carries her card and her commodity order with her in her
She had asked me to write some letters for her when her daughter
interfered and said that she didn't want it done. She said that she had
told the case worker that her husband worked at the Missouri Pacific
Shop and that the case worker had asked her if she wouldn't provide for
her mother. They live in a neat rented house. The mother weighs about a
hundred and ten pounds and is tall. The daughter is about the same
height but weighs about two hundred and fifty. Time and again, the old
lady tried to convey to me a message that she didn't want her daughter
to hear, but I could not make it out. The daughter was belligerent, as
is sometimes the case, and it was only by walking in the very middle of
the straight and narrow path that I managed to get my story.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Austin Pen Parnell
4314 W. Seventeenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Birth and General Fact About Life
"I was born April fifteenth, 1865, the day Lincoln was assassinated, in
Carroll County, Mississippi, about ten miles from Grenada. It's about
half the distance between Grenada and Carrollton. Carrollton is our
county seat but we went to Grenada more than we went to Carrollton.
"When I got older, I moved to Grenada and I come from there here. I was
about thirty-five years old when I moved to Grenada. About 160 acres of
land in Grenada was mine. I bought it, but heirs claimed the place and I
had to leave. I had no land then, only a lot here and I came over here
to look it over. A lady had come to Mississippi selling property and she
had a plat which she said was in Little Rock not far from the capitol.
Her name was Mrs. Putman. The place was on the other side of the
Fourche. But I didn't know that until I came here. She misguided me. I
came to Arkansas and looked at the lot and didn't want it. I made a trip
over here twice before I settled on living in Little Rock. I told the
others who had bought property from her the truth about its location.
They asked me and I hate to lie. I didn't knock; I just answered
questions and didn't volunteer nothing. They all quit making their
payments, Just like I did. My land had a rock on it as big as a bale of
"Mr. Herring thought hard of me because I told the others the truth. I
went into the office one day and Mr. Herring said, 'Parnell, I
understand you have been knocking on me.' I said, 'Well, I'll tell you,
Mr. Herring, if telling the truth about things is knocking on them, I
certainly did.' He never said anything more about it, and I didn't
"I rented a place on Twelfth and Maple and then rented around there two
or three times, and finally bought a place at 3704 West Twelfth Street.
I moved to Little Rock March 18, 1911. That was twenty-seven years ago.
"My father was named Henry Parnell. He died in the year 1917 in the time
of the great war. He was ninety-five years old when he died. His master
had the same name. My mother's name was Priscilla Parnell. She belonged
to the same family as he did. They married before freedom. My father was
a farmer and my mother was a housewife and she'd work in the field too.
"My grandmother on my mother's side was named Hester Parnell. I don't
know what her husband's name was. My mother, father, and grandmother
were all from North Carolina. My grandmother did house and field work.
"My mother and father lived in a two-room house hewed out of big
logs--great big logs. The logs were about four inches thick and twelve
inches wide. It didn't take many of them to build a wall--about ten or
twelve of them on a side. They were notched down so as to almost come
together. They chinked up the cracks with mud and covered it with a
"I laid in bed many a night and looked up through the cracks in the
roof. Snow would come through there when it snowed and cover the bed
covers. We thought you couldn't build a roof so that it would keep out
rain and snow, but we were mistaken. Before you would make a fire in
them days, you had to sweep out the snow so that it wouldn't melt up in
the house and make a mess. But we kept healthy just the same. Didn't
have no pneumonia in those days.
"The house had two rooms about eight feet apart. The rooms were
connected by a hall which we called a gallery in those days. The hall
was covered by the same roof as the house and it had the same floor. The
house sot east and west and had a chimney in each end. The chimneys were
made out of sticks and mud. I can build a chimney now like that.
"It was large at the bottom and tapered at the top. It was about six or
seven feet square at the bottom. It grew smaller as it went toward the
top. You could get a piece of wood three and a half or four feet long in
the boddom of it. Sometimes the wood would be too large to carry and you
would just have to roll it in.
"The floors was boards about one by twelve. There were two doors in each
room--one leading outside and the other to the hall. If there were any
windows, I can't remember them. We didn't need no windows for
"This was the house that I remember first after freedom. I remember
living in it. That was about seven or eight years after freedom. My
father rented it from the big man named Alf George for whom he worked.
Mr. George used to come out and eat breakfast with us. We'd get that
hoecake out of the ashes and wash it off until it looked like it was as
clean as bread cooked in a skillet. I have seen my grandmother cook a
many a one in the fire. We didn't use no skillet for corn bread. The
bread would have a good firm crust on it. But it didn't get too hard to
eat and enjoy.
"She'd take a poker before she put the bread in and rake the ashes off
the hearth down to the solid stone or earth bottom, and the ashes would
be banked in two hills to one side and the other. Then she would put the
batter down on it; the batter would be about an inch thick and about
nine inches across. She'd put down three cakes at a time and let 'em
stay there till the cakes were firm--about five minutes on the bare hot
hearth. They would almost bake before she covered them up. Sometimes she
would lay down as many as four at a time. The cakes had to be dry before
they were covered up, because if the ashes ever stuck to them while they
were wet, there would be ashes in them when you would take them out to
eat. She'd take her poker then and rake the ashes back on the top of the
cakes and let 'em stay there till the cakes were done. I don't know just
how long--maybe about ten or twelve minutes. She knew how long to cook
them. Then she'd rake down the hearth gently, backward and forward, with
the poker till she got down to them and then she'd put the poker under
them and lift them out. That poker was a kind of flat iron. It wasn't a
round one. Then we'd wash 'em off like I told you and they be ready to
"Mr. George would eat the ash cake and drink sweet milk. 'Auntie, I want
some of that ash cake and some of that good sweet milk.' We had plenty
"Two-thirds of the water used in the ash cake was hot water, and that
made the batter stick together like it was biscuit dough. She could put
it together and take it in her hand and pat it out flat and lay it on
the hearth. It would be just as round! That was the art of it!
"When I go back to Mississippi, I'm going back to that house again. I
don't remember seeing the house I was born in. But I was told it was an
ordinary log house just like those all the other slaves had,--just a
one-room log house.
"My father went to the War. He was on the Confederate side. They carried
him there as a worker. They cut down all the timber 'round the place
where they were to keep the Yankee gunboats from shelling them and
knocking the logs down on them. But them Yankees were sharp. They stayed
away till everything got dry as a chip. Then they come down and set all
that wood afire with their shells, and the wind seemed to be in their
favor. The Rebels had to get away from there.
"He got sick before the War closed and he had to come home. His young
master and the other folks stayed there four or five months longer. His
young master was named Tom. When Tom came home, he waited about five or
six months before he would tell them they was free. Then he said, 'You
all free as I am. You can stay here if you want or you can go. You are
free.' They all got together and told him that if he would treat them
right he wouldn't have to do no work. They would stay and do his work
and theirs too. They would work the land and he would give them their
part. I don't know just what the agreement was. I think it was about a
third. Anyway, they worked on shares. When the landlord furnished a team
usually it was halves. But when the worker furnished his own team, it
was usually two-thirds or three-fourths that the worker got. But none of
them owned teams at that time. They were just turned loose. We stayed
there with them people a good while. I don't know just how long, but it
was several years.
Catching a Hog
"One time a slave went to steal a hog. I don't know the name of the man;
I just hear my father tell what happened, and I'm repeating it. It was a
great big hog and kind of wild. His plan to catch the hog was to climb a
tree and carry a yeer of corn up the tree and at the same time he'd
carry a long rope. He had put a running noose in the end of the rope and
laid it on the ground and shelled the corn into the ring. He had the
other end of the rope tied around himself; he was up the tree. About the
time he got the noose pulled up around the hog so that he could tighten
up on it, he dropped his hat and scared the hog. The hog didn't know he
was around until the hat fell, and the falling of the hat scared it so
that it made a big jump and ran a little ways off. That jerked the man
out of the tree. Him falling scared the hog a second time and got him to
running right. He was a big stout hog, and the man's weight didn't hold
him back much. The man didn't know what to do to stop the hog. The hog
was running draggin' him along, snatching him over logs. There was
nothin' else he could do, so he tried prayer. But the hog didn't stop.
Seemed like even the Lord couldn't stop him. Then he questioned the
Lord; he said, 'Lawd, what sawt [HW: sort] of a Lawd is you? You can
stop the wind; you can stop the rain; you can stop the ocean; but you
can't stop this hog.'
"The hog ran till he came to a big ditch. He jumped the ditch, but the
man fell in it, and that compelled the hog to stop. The man's hollering
made somebody hear him and come and git him loose from the hog. He was
so glad to git loose, he didn't mind losing the hog and gettin'
punished. He didn't get the hog. He just got a lot of bruises. I don't
remember just how they punished him.
Ku Klux Klan
"Once after the War there was a lot of colored people at a prayer
meeting. It was in the winter and they had a fire. The Ku Klux come up.
They just stood outside the door, but the people thought they were
coming in and they got scared. They didn't know hardly how to get out.
One man got a big shovelful of hot coals and ashes out of the fireplace
and threw it out over them, and while they was dusting off the ashes and
coals, the niggers all got away.
"I remember my father telling tales about the patrollers, but I can't
remember them just now. There was an old song about them. Part of it
went like this:
'Run, nigger, run
The pateroles'll get you.
That nigger run
That nigger flew
That nigger bust
His Sunday shoe.
Run, nigger, run
The pateroles'll get you.'
That's all I know of that. There is more to it. I used to hear the boys
sing it, and I used to hear 'em pick it out on the banjo and the guitar.
Old Massa Goes 'Way
"Old massa went off one time and left the niggers. He told 'em that he
was goin' to New York. He jus' wanted to see what they would do if they
thought he was away. The niggers couldn't call the name New York, and
they said, 'Old massa's gone to PhilameYawk.'
"They went in the pantry and got everything they wanted to eat. And they
had a big feast. While they were feasting, the old man came in disguised
as a tramp--face smutty and clothes all dirty and raggedy. They couldn't
tell who he was. He walked up just as though he wanted to eat and begged
the boys for something to eat. The boys said to him, 'Stan' back, you
shabby rascal, you; _if'n_ they's anything left, you get some; _if'n_
they ain't none left, you get none. This is our time. Old massa done
gone to PhilameYawk and we're having a big time.'
"After they were through, they did give him a little something but they
still didn't know him. I never did learn the details about what happened
after they found out who the tramp was. My father told me about it.
Whipping a Slave
"I heard my father say his old master give him two licks with a whip
once. Him and another man had been off and they came in. Master drove up
in a double surrey. He had been to town and had bought the boys a pair
of boots apiece. He told them as he got out of the surrey to take his
horses out and feed them. My father's friend was there with him and he
said: 'Le's get our boots before we feed the horses.' After that the
master walked out on the porch and he had on crying boots. The horses
heard them squeaking and they nickered.
"Master said, 'Henry, I thought I told you to feed them horses. Henry
was so taken aback that he couldn't say a thing. Henry was my father,
you know. Master went and got his cowhide. He said, 'Are you going to
obey my orders?' About the time he said that, he hit my father twice
with the cowhide, and my father said, 'Oh pray, master, oh pray,' and he
let him go. He beat the other fellow pretty bad because he told him to
'Le's get the boots first.'
"Old master would get drunk sometimes and get on the niggers and beat
them up. He would have them stark naked and would be beating them. Then
old missis would come right out there and stop him. She would say, 'I
didn't come all the way here from North Carolina to have my niggers beat
up for nothin'.' She'd take hold of the cowhide, and he would have to
quit. My father had both her picture and the old man's.
"I can remember how my mother used to pray out in the field. We'd be
picking cotton. She would go off out there in the ditch a little ways.
It wouldn't be far, and I would listen to her. She would say to me:
'Pray, son,' and I would say, 'Mother, I don't know how to pray,' and
she would say, 'Well, just say Lord have mercy.' That gave me religious
inclinations. I cultivated religion from that time on. I would try to
pray and finally I learned. One day I was out in the field and it was
pouring down rain, and I was standing up with tears in my eyes trying to
pray as she taught me to. We weren't picking cotton then. I was just
walking out. My mother was dead. I would be walking out and whenever I
would get the notion I would stop right there and go to praying.
"In slave times, they would have a prayer meeting out in some of the
places and they would turn a pot down out in front of the door. It would
be on a stick or something and raised up a short distance from the
ground so that it wouldn't set flat on the ground. It seems that that
would catch the sound and keep it right around there. They would sing
that old song:
'We will camp awhile in the wilderness
And then I'm going home.'
I don't know any more of the words of that song.
"I started to school when I was about six or seven years old. I didn't
get to school regular because my father had plenty of work and he had a
habit of taking me out to help him when he needed me in his work.
"My first teacher was a white man named Jones. I don't remember his
first name. He was a northerner and a Republican. He taught in the
public school with us. His boy, John, and his girl, Louisa, went to the
same school, and were in classes with us. The kids would beat them up
sometimes but he didn't cut up about it. He was pretty good man.
"After him, I had a colored man named M.E. Davis as a teacher. He would
say to my father, 'Henry, that is a bright boy; he will be a credit to
you if you will keep him at school and give him a chance. Don't make him
lose so much time.' My father would say, 'Yes, that is right.' But as
soon as another job came up, he would keep me out again.
"I soon got so my learning was a help to him in his work. Whenever any
figuring was to be done, I had to do it if it was done right. He never
had a chance to get any schooling and he couldn't figure well. So they
used to beat him out of plenty when he would work for them. One day we
had picked cotton for a white man and when the time came to pay off, the
man paid father, but I noticed that he didn't give him all he should
have. I didn't say anything while we was standing there but after we got
away I said, 'Papa, he didn't give you the right money.'
"Papa said, 'How much should he have given me?'
"I told him, and he said to me, 'Will you say that to him?'
"I said, 'Yes, papa.'
"He turned 'round and we went on back to the place and pa said, 'My boy
says you didn't pay me all that was comin' to me.'
"The white man turned to me at once and said, 'How much was coming to
"I told him.
"He said, 'What makes you think that?'
"I said, 'We picked so many pounds of cotton at so much per hundred
pounds, and that would amount to so many dollars and so many cents.'
"When I said that, he fell over on the ground and like to killed his
self laughing. He counted out the right money to my father and said,
'Henry, you better watch that little skinny-eyed nigger; he knows
"I don't got anything from the government. I live by what little I make
at odd jobs."
Note: In this interview this man used correct English most of the time
and the interview is given in his own words. Lapses into dialect will be
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Ben Parr, Brinkley, Arkansas
Age: 85 next March (1938)
"I was born in Tennessee close to Ripley. My master was Charles Warpoo
and Catherine Warpoo. They had three boys and two girls. They owned my
mama and me and Gentry was the oldest child. He died last year. My mama
raised twelve children. My papa belong to people over on the Mississippi
River. Their name was Parr but I couldn't tell a thing about them. When
I come to know about them was after freedom. There was Jim Parr, Dick
Parr, Columbus Parr. We lived on their place. Both my parents was farm
hands, and all twelve children wid them.
"Well, the first I recollect is that we lived on the five acre lot, the
big house, and some of the slaves lived in houses around the big yard
all fenced with pailings and nice pickett fence in front of Charlie
Warpoo's house. We played around under the trees all day. The soldiers
come nearly every day and nearly et us out of house and home. The blue
coats seemed the hungriest or greediest pear lack. They both come.
Master didn't go to war; his boys was too young to go, so we was all at
home. My papa shunned the war. He said he didn't give a pickayune
whether he be free or not, it wouldn't do no good if he be dead nohow.
He didn't live with us doe (though). They kept papa pretty well hid out
with stock in the Mississippi River bottoms. He wasn't scared ceptin'
when he come over to see my mama and us. When we come to know anything
we was free.
"I never seen nobody sold. None of my folks was sold. The folks raised
my mama and they didn't want her to leave. The folks raised papa what
had him at freedom. He said him and mama was married long before the war
sprung up. I don't know how they married nor where. She was young when
"I remember hearing mama say when you went to preaching you sit in the
back of the church and sit still till the preaching was all over. They
had no leaving.
"I know when I was a child people raised children, now they let them
grow up. Children was sent off or out to play, not sit and listen to
what grown folks had to say. Now the children is educated and too smart
to listen to good advice. They are going to ruination. Mama used to have
our girls knit at night and she spin, weave, sew. They would tell us how
to be polite and honest and how to work. Young folks too smart to take
"Mama was cooking at the Warpoo's house; she cooked breakfast. One
morning I woke up and here was a yard full of 'Feds.' I was hungry. I
went through the whole regiment--a yard full--to mama hard as I could
split. They didn't bother me. I was afraid they would carry me off
sometimes. They was great hands to tease and worry the little Negro
"Over at Dyersburg, Tennessee the Ku Klux was bad. Jefferie Segress was
pretty prosperous, owned his own home. John Carson whooped him, cut his
ear off, treated him bad. High Sheriff they said was a 'Fed.' He put
twenty-four buck shots in John Carson. That was the last of the Ku Klux
at Dyersburg. The Negroes all left Dyersburg. They kept leaving. The
'Feds' was meaner to them than the owners. In 1886, three weeks before
Christmas, one hundred head of Negroes got off the train here at
Brinkley. The Ku Klux was the tail end of the war, whooping around. It
was a fight between the 'Feds' and the old owners--both sides telling
the Negroes what to do. The best way was stay at home and work to keep
out of trouble.
"The bushwhackers killed Raymond Jones (black man) before the war
closed. Well, I don't know what they ambushed for.
"I paid my own way to Arkansas. I brought my wife. Mama was dead.
"If the Negro is a taxpayer he ought to vote like white folks. But they
can't run the government. That was tried out after that war we been
talking about. Our color has faith in white folks and this is their
country. I vote some. We got a good right to vote. We helped clear out
the country. It is our home now.
"The present times is too fast. I can't place this young generation.
"This is my second wife I'm living wid now. She's got children. I never
had a child. We gets $10 off of the Welfare and I work around at pick-up
jobs. I farmed all my whole life."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Frank A. Patterson
906 Chester Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1850. My father was born in
Baltimore, Maryland. My mother and father was sold into Bibb County,
Georgia. I don't know how much they sold for. I don't know how much they
paid for them. I don't know how much the speculator asked for them. Used
to have them in droves and you would go in and pick 'em out and pay
different amounts for them.
"I was never sold. My old boss didn't believe in selling slaves. He
would buy 'em but he wouldn't sell 'em. I'll say that much for him.
"I belonged to a man named Thomas Johnson Cater.
"They lived in log houses. Some of them had weatherboard houses but the
majority of them was log houses. Two doors and one window. Some of them
had plank floors. Some of them had floors what was hewed, you know,
sills. They had stick and dirt chimneys. Some of them had brick
chimneys. It depended on the master--on the situation of the master.
"They just had bunks built up side the wall. The best experienced
colored people had these teester beds. Didn't have no slats. Had ropes.
They called 'em cord beds sometimes. They had tables just like we have
now what they made themselves. Chairs were long benches made out of
planks. Little kids had big blocks to sit on where they sawed off
"They had what they called a cupboard to keep the food in. Some of them
had chests made out of planks, you know. That is the way they kept it.
They put a hasp and steeple on it so as to keep the children out when
they was gone to the field.
"They give 'em three pounds of meat a week, peck of meal, pint of
molasses; some of them give 'em three to five pounds of flour on a
Sunday morning according to the size of the family. The majority of them
had shorts from the wheat. Some of the slaves would clean up a flat in
the bottoms and plant rice in it. That was where they would allow the
slaves to have truck patches.
"Some few of them had chickens that was allowed to have them. Same of
them had owners that wouldn't allow their slaves to own chickens. They
never allowed them to have hogs or cows. Wherever there was a family
that had a whole lot of children they would allow them to have a cow to
milk for to get milk for their children. They claimed the cow, but the
master was the owner of it. It belonged to him. He would just let them
milk it. He would just let them raise their children off of the milk it
"There was no child ever had a pair of shoes until he got old enough to
go in the field. That was when he was twelve years old. That is about
all I know about it.
"I never went to school in my life. I got hold of one of them old blue
back spelling books. My young boss gave it to me after I was free. He
told me that I was free now and I had to think and act for myself.
Signs of War
"Before the War I saw the elements all red as blood and I saw after that
a great comet; and they said there was going to be a war.
Memories of the Pre-War Campaign
"When Fillmore, Buchanan, and Lincoln ran for President one of my old
bosses said, 'Hurrah for Buchanan,' and I said, 'Hurrah for Lincoln.'
One of my mistresses said, 'Why do you say, 'Hurrah for Lincoln?' And I
said, 'Because he's goin' to set me free.'
"During that campaign, Lincoln came to North Carolina and ate breakfast
with my master. In those days, the kitchen was off from the house. They
had for breakfast ham with cream gravy made out of sweet milk and they
had biscuits, poached eggs on toast, coffee and tea, and grits. They had
waffles and honey and maple syrup. That was what they had for breakfast.
"He told my old boss that our sons are 'ceivin' children by slaves and
buyin' and sellin' our own blood and it will have to be stopped. And
that is what I know about that.
"At the close of the War, we had refugeed down in Houston County in
"Sherman's army came through there looking for Jeff Davis, and they told
me that they wasn't fightin' any more,--that I was free.
"They said, 'You ain't got no master and no mistress.' They et dinner
there. All the old folks went upstairs and turned the house over to me
and the cook. And they et dinner. One of them said, 'My little man,
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