Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
Work Projects Administration
Part 4 out of 4
wanted. I wouldn't care if that time would come back now.
"'Did you ever vote?' Me? Yes'm I voted. Never had no trouble 'tall. I
voted for Garfield. I 'member when Garfield was shot. I was settln' out
in the yard. The moon was in the 'clipse. I'll never forget it.
"I think the colored folks should have a legal right to vote, cause if
ever they come another war--now listen--them darkies ain't never goin'
to France again. The nigger ain't got no country--this is white man's
"What I been doin' since the war? Well, I'm a good cook. When I puts on
the white apron, I knows what to do. Then I preaches. The Lord done
revealed things to me.
"I'll tell you 'bout this younger generation. They is goin' to
destruction. They is not envelopin (developing) their education.
"Well I done tole you all I know. Guess I tole you 'bout a book, ain't
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Tom Windham, 723 Missouri, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was twenty-one years old when the war was settled. My mother and my
grandmother kep' my age up and after the death of them I knowed how to
handle it myself.
"My old master's name was Butler and he was pretty fair to his darkies.
He give em plenty to eat and wear.
"I was born and raised in Indian Territory and emigrated from there to
Atlanta, Georgia when I was about twelve or thirteen. We lived right in
Atlanta. I cleaned up round the house. Yes ma'm, that's what I followed.
When the Yankees come to Atlanta they just forced us into the army.
After I got into the army and got used to it, it was fun--just like meat
and bread. Yankees treated me good. I was sorry when it broke up. When
the bugle blowed we knowed our business. Sometimes, the age I is now, I
wish I was in it. Father Abraham Lincoln was our President. I knowed the
war was to free the colored folks. I run away from my white folks is how
come I was in the Yankee army. I was in the artillery. That deefened me
a whole lot and I lost these two fingers on my left hand--that's all of
my joints that got broke.
"Before the war my white folks was good to us. I had a better time than
I got now.
"My father and mother was sold away from me, but old mistress couldn't
rest without em and went and got em back. They stayed right there till
they died. Us folks was treated well. I think we should have our liberty
cause us ain't hogs or horses--us is human flesh.
"When I was with the Yankees, I done some livin'.
"I went to school two months in my life. I should a gone longer but I
found where I could get next to a dollar so I quit. If I had education
now it might a done me some good.
"I used to be in a brass band. I like a brass band, don't make no
difference where I hear it.
"There was one song we played when I was in the army. It was:
'Rasslin Jacob, don't weep
Weepin' Mary, don't weep.
Before I'd be a slave
I'd be buried in my grave,
Go home to my father and be saved.'
The Rebels was hot after us then. Another one we used to sing was:
'My old mistress promised me
When she die, she'd set me free.'
"After the war I continued to work around the white folks and yes ma'm,
I seen the Ku Klux many a time. They bothered me sometimes but they soon
let me alone. They was a few Yankees about and they come together and
made the Ku Klux stay in their place.
"One time after the war I went to Ohio and stayed three months but it
was too cold for me. Man I worked for was named Harper and as good a man
as ever broke a piece of bread.
"I come back South and learned how to farm. I been here in this country
of Arkansas a long time. I hoped clean up this place (Pine Bluff) and
make a town of it.
"I got a daughter and two sisters alive in Africa today--in Liberia. I
went there after we was free. I liked it. Just the thoughts of bein'
where Christ traveled--that's the good part of it. They furnished us
transportation to go to Africa after the war and a lot of the colored
folks went. I come back cause I had a lot of kin here, but I sent my
daughter and two sisters there and they're alive there today."
Interviewer: Bernice Bowden
This information given by: Tom Windham
Place of Residence: 723 Missouri St. Pine Bluff, Ark.
Occupation: None (Age 92)
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
"Yes ma'm, I believe in spirits--you got two spirits--one bad and one
good, and when you die your bad spirit here on this earth.
Now my mother comes to see me once in awhile at night. She been dead
till her bones is bleached, but she comes and tells me to be a good boy.
I always been obedient to old and young. She tell me to be good and she
banish from me.
My grandmother been to see me once.
Old Father Abraham Lincoln, I've seen him since he been dead too. I got
a gun old Father Abraham give me right out o' his own hand at Vicksburg.
I'm goin' to keep it till I die too.
Yes ma'm, I know they is spirits."
Pine Bluff District
Name of interviewer: Martin - Barker
Information by: Tom Windham
Place of residence: 1221 Georgia St.
[TR: Information moved from bottom of second page.]
My master was an Indian. Lewis Butler of Oklahoma. I was born and raised
in Muskogee, Okla.
All of marse Butler's people were Creek Indians. They owned a large
plantation and raised vegetables. They lived in tepees, had floors and
were set on a lot and a wall boarded up around them. This was done so
that they could hide the slaves they had stolen.
I was twelve or thirteen years old, when the Indians had a small war.
They wouldn't allow us to fight. If we did, we were punished. They had a
place and made us work. I went to school two months also a little at
night. Cant read nor write. I am all alone now here in America. I have a
daughter in Ethiopia, teaching school, also two sisters.
I served in several wars and I have been to Ethiopia. We left Monroe,
La., took water, then went back by gun-boat to Galveston. The Government
took us over and brought us back. After the Civil war was over the
Indians let the slaves go.
I had an Indian wife and wore Indian dress and when I went to Milford,
Tenn., I had to send the outfit home to Okla. I had long hair until
My Indians believed in our God. They held their meetings in a large
tent. They believed in salvation and damnation, and in Heaven and Hell.
My idea of Heaven is that it is a holy place with God. We will walk in
Heaven just as on earth. As in him we believe, so shall we see.
The earth shall burn, and the old earth shall pass away and the new
earth will be created. The saints will return and live on, that is the
ones who go away now.
The new earth is when Jesus will cone to earth and reign. Every one has
two spirits. One that God kills and the other an evil spirit. I have had
communication with my dead wife twice since I been in Pine Bluff. Her
spirit come to me at night, calling me, asking whar wuz baby?
That meant our daughter whut is across the water.
My first wifes name was Arla Windham. My second wife was just part
Indian. I have seen spirits of friends just as they were put away. I
shore believe in ghosts. Their language is different from ours. I knew
my wife's voice cause she called me "Tommy".
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Alice Wise
1112 Indiana Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in South Carolina, and I sent and got my age and the man
sent me my age. He said he remembered me. He said, 'You married Marcus
Wise. I know you is seventy-nine 'cause I'm seventy-four and you're
older'n me. Why, I got a boy fifty-three years old.
"We belonged to Daniel Draft. His wife was named Maud. And my father's
people was named Wesley Caughman and his wife was Catherine Caughman.
"I can recollect hearin' the folks hollerin' when the Yankees come
through and singin' this old cornfield song
'I'm a goin' away tomorrow
Hoodle do, hoodle do.'
That's all I can recollect.
"I can recollect when we moved from the white folks. My father driv' a
wagon and hauled lumber to Columbia from Lexington.
"I don't know how old I was when I come here. My age got away from me,
that's how come I had to write home for it, but I had three chillun when
I come to this country; I know that.
"I went to school a little, but chillun in them days had to work. I was
always apt about washin' and ironin' and sewin' and so if anybody was
stopped from school I was stopped. I used to set pockets in pants for
mama. In them days they weaved and made their own.
"They'd do better if they had a factory here now. Things wouldn't be so
"Oh Lord, yes, I could knit. I'd sit up some nights and knit a half a
sock and spin and card.
"My mother's boys would card and spin a broach when they wasn't doin'
nothin' else, but nowadays you can't get 'em to bring you a bucket of
"They say they is weaker and wiser, but I say they is weaker and
foolisher. That's what I think. You know they ain't like the old folks
was. Folks works nowadays and keeps their chillun in school till they're
grown, and it don't do 'em much good-some of 'em."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Frank Wise, 1006 Victory Street,
Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: 81 to 85
Birth and Parents
"I was born in Burch County, Georgia, in 1854. I came to this state in
1871; I think I was about sixteen years old then.
"My father was named Jim Wise and my mother was named Harriet Wise. My
father belonged to the Wises, and my mother to the Crawfords. They
didn't live on the same plantation. When they married, she was a
Crawford. Her old master was named Jim Crawford. I don't know how she
and my father happened to meet up. Wise and Crawford had adjoining
plantations. Both of them was in Burch County. My father's father was
named Jacob Wise and his mother was named Martha. I don't remember the
names of their master. I don't remember the names of my mother's people.
"I remember the year the War ended. I remember when the Yankees came on
the place that day the War ended. We children was all settin' out in the
yard. Some of them ran under the house when they saw the soldiers. They
were shooting the chickens and everything, taking the horses, and
anything else they thought they could use. They said to the old lady,
'Lemme kill them little niggers.' Old miss said, 'No, wait till you set
them free.' He said, 'No, when we set them free, we ain't goin' to kill
them.' They got around in the house, under the house, and in the yard.
They asked the old lady, 'Where is the horses?' She said, 'I don't
know.' They said, 'Go down in the woods and get them.' Somebody went
down and brought back a mare and a mule and a colt. They knocked the
colt in the head and shot him. They took the mare and the mule. They
took all the meat out of the smokehouse. They didn't set us free, and
they didn't tell us anything about freedom. Not then.
How Freedom Came
"I don't remember how we got the news of freedom. I don't remember what
the slaves expected to get. I don't know what they got, if they got
anything. I don't remember nothin' about that.
"I went to school about eight days. That's all the schooling I ever got.
I had a brother and sister who went to school, but I never went much. I
went to school what little I did right here in Lonoke County, Arkansas.
My teacher was Tom Fuller. He was a colored man. He came from down in
Texas. I learned everything I know by watching people and listenin' to
"The first thing I ever did was farming. I farmed all up till 1879. I
worked on steamboat till 1881, and then I went out railroading. I worked
at that a long time. I married in 1883. I was about twenty-seven years
old then, and a few months over.
"While I was farming, I did some sharecropping, but I never got cheated
out of anything.
"I remember the folks had been off to see their people and the Ku Klux
taken the stock while they were gone. I don't remember the Ku Klux Klan
interfering with the Negroes much. I never saw them.
"I never voted till Cleveland began his campaign for President. I voted
for eight presidents. Nobody ever bothered me about it.
"There were six children in my mother's family. My father had six
brothers. He made the seventh. I had nine children in all. Four of them
are living now. One is here; one, in St. Louis; and two, in Chicago. My
boy is in Chicago.
"The majority of the young people are just growing up. Lots of them are
not getting any raising at all."
Wise is between eighty-one and eighty-five years old. The data he gives
conflict, some of it indicating the earlier and some of it later years.
He doesn't talk much and has to be pumped. He doesn't lose the thread of
the discourse. His failure to talk on details of his early life seem to
the interviewer due to unwillingness rather than lack of memory. While
his age is advanced, his mind is sharp for one who has had such limited
He has no definite means of support, but states that he has been
promised a pension in September--he means old age assistance.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Lucy Withers, Brinkley, Arkansas
I was born 5-1/2 miles from Abbeville, South Carolina, in sight of
Little Mountain. I do remember the Civil War. I never seen them fight.
They come to about twenty or thirty miles from where I lived. They
didn't bother much in the parts where I lived. All the white men folks
went to war. My mama's master was Edward Roach and his wife was Miss
Sarah Roach. My papa's master was Peter Radcliff and Miss Nancy
Radcliff. They give me to her niece, Miss Jennie Shelitoe. When she
married she wanted me. After freedom I married. In 1866 we come to a big
farm close to Pine Bluff. Then we lived close to Memphis and I been
living here in Brinkley a long time.
The Ku Klux put down a Governor in South Carolina right after the war.
They rode everywhere night and day scaring everybody. They wouldn't let
no colored people hold office. That governor was a colored man. The Ku
Klux whipped both black and white folks. They run the Yankees plumb out
er that country.
No sir ree I never voted and I ain't never goner vote! Women is tearing
dis world up.
The ex-slaves was told that they would got things, different things. I
don't know what all. I know they didn't got nothing and when freedom
came they took their clothes and left. They scattered out and went to
different places. It was hard to get work and there was no money cept
what the Yankees give em. When they all got run off there was no money.
My husband was a Yankee soldier and he decided he wanter come to this
country. We come on the train and on the boat to Pine Bluff. We farmed.
I got three children but just two living. One boy lives at Fargo and the
girl lives at Chicago. My husband died. Me and my sister lives here. I
bought a place with my pension money. That since my husband died.
The present times is hard. I don't know nithin about these young folks.
I tends to my own business. I ain't got nothing to do with the young
folks. I don't know what causes the times to be so hard. Folks used to
wear more clothes than they do and let colored folks have more ironing
and bigger washings too. The washings bout played out. Some few folks
I farmed and washed and ironed and I have cooked along some here in
I am supported by my pension my husband left me. It ain't much but I
make out with it. It is Union Soldiers Pension.
[HW: Hot Springs]
Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins
Person Interviewed: Anna Woods, 426 Grand Avenue
"Yes ma'am. Come on in. Is you taking lists of folks for old age
pensions? Can you tell us what we going to get and when it's going to
come? No? Then--Oh, I see you is writing us up. Well maybe that will
help us to get attention. Cause we sure does need the pension.
To be sure I remembers slave days. My grandmother--she was give away in
the trading yard. She was aflicted. What was the matter with her? Was
she lame? No ma'am, she had the scrofula. So her mother was sold away
from her, but she was give away. She was give away to a woman named
Mrs. Glover was a old woman when I knowed her. She was an old, old
woman. She sort of studied before she'd say anything. She was a pretty
good old woman though, Mrs. Glover was. She wouldn't let her colored
folks be whipped. She wouldn't let me work in the field. Old Donovan
wanted me to work in the field--but she wouldn't let him make me.
Donovan was Mary's husband. Mary was Mrs. Glover's girl's girl. Mrs.
Glover's girl was named Kate.
Mrs. Glover had a whole flock of slaves. My mother and another woman
named Sallie cooked and did the washing. Fannie, she was my sister, was
old Mrs. Glover's maid. Robert and Sally and Lucy--they was my brother
and sisters--all of them worked in the field. They had to begin early
and work late. They got them out way fore day. They worked them til
I remembers that Sally and Lucy used to wear boots and roll their skirts
up nearly to their waistses. Why--well you see sometimes it was muddy.
Did we raise rice--No, ma'am. We mostly raised corn and cotton, like
We lived near Natchez. No ma'am, I never see but one colored person
whipped. His name was Robert. They laid him down on his stomach to whip
him. Never did hear what he had done. Maybe he run off. They usually
whipped them for that. No ma'am. I was right. Mrs. Glover didn't let her
colored folks be whipped. Robert, you see, was Donovan's man. He didn't
belong to Mrs. Glover. Her folks never got whipped.
Maybe Robert run off. I don't know. The folks did one thing special to
keep them from running. They fastened a sort of yoke around they necks.
From it there run up a sort of piece and there was a bell on the top of
that. It was so high the folks who wore it couldn't reach the bell. But
if they run it would tinkle and folks could find them. I don't quite
know how it worked--I just slightly remembers.
No, ma'am, I was just sort of a little girl before the war. You might
say I was never a slave. Cause I didn't have to work. Mrs. Glover
wouldn't let me work in the field and I didn't have much work to do in
the house either. Mrs. Glover was an old widow woman, but she was shore
good. Miss Kate was her onliest child. Kate's daughter was named Mary.
Was I afraid of the soldiers? No ma'am. I wasn't.
Lots of them that came through were colored soldiers. I remember that
they wore long tailed coats. They had brass buttons on they coats. But
we had to move from Natchez.
First the soldiers run us off to Tennisaw Parish--an island there." (A
check on maps in the atlas of Encyclopedia Britannica reveals a Tenses
Parish, Louisiana--across the river and a few miles north of Natchez.)
"We couldn't even stay there. They drove us along, and finally we wound
up in Texas.
We wasn't there in Texas long when the soldiers marched in to tell us
that we was free. Seems to me like it was on a Monday morning when they
come in. Yes, it was a Monday. They went out to the field and told them
they was free. Marched them out of the fields. They come a'shouting. I
remembers one woman, she jumped up on a barrell and she shouted. She
jumped off and she shouted. She jumped back on again and shouted some
more. She kept that up for a long time, just jumping on a barrell and
back off again.
Yes ma'am, we children played. I remembers that the grown folks used to
have church--out behind an old shed. They'd shout and they'd sing. We
children didn't know what it all meant. But every Monday morning we'd
get up and make a play house in an old wagon bed--and we'd shout and
sing too. We didn't know what it meant, or what we was supposed to be
doing. We just aped our elders.
When the war was over my brother, he drove the carriage, he drove the
white folks back to Natchez. But we didn't go--my family. We stopped
part way to Natchez. Never did see Miss Kate or Mrs. Glover again. Never
did see them again. Lots later my brother learned where we was. He came
back for us and took us to Natchez. But we never did see Mrs. Glover
I lived on in Natchez. I worked for white folks--cooked for them. I did
a lot of traveling. Even went up into Virginia. Traveled most of the
time. I'd go with one family and when we'd get back, there'd be another
one who wanted me to go and take care of their children.
Been in Hot Springs since 1905. Worked for Dr. ---- first. Stayed right
in the house. Never did see such fine folks as Dr. ----" (prominent
local surgeon) "and his wife. Then I worked for Mr. ----" (prominent
realtor) "Yes, and I's worked at the Army and Navy Hospital too. Mighty
nice up there. Worked in the officer's mess--finest place up there. I's
worked for the officers too. Then I's worked for the Levi Hospital.
Worked for lots of folks.
I's worked for lots of folks and in lots of places. But I haven't got
anything now. How soon do you think they will begin paying us? I get
just $10 from the county every month. $5 of that goes for my house.
Folks gives me clothes, but if they'd only give me groceries too, I
could get along. When do you think they will begin to pay us?"
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Cal Woods; R.F.D., Biscoe, Arkansas
"I don't know zactly how old I is. I was good size boy when the war come
on. We all belonged to a man named John Woods. We lived in South
Carolina during slavery. Slavery was prutty bad itself but the bad time
come after the war. The land was hilly some red and some pore and sandy.
Had to plough a mule or horse. Hard to make a living. Some folks was
rich, had heap of slaves and some bout one family. Small farmer have 160
acres and one family of slaves. When a man had one or two slave families
he treated em better an if he had a great big acreage and fifteen or
twenty families. The white folks trained the black man and woman. If he
have so many they didn't learn how to do but one or two things. Mas
generally they all worked in the fields in the busy seasons and
sometimes the white folks have to work out there too. Sometimes they get
in debt and have to sell off some slave to pay the debt.
"Things seemed heap mo plentiful. Before the war folks wore fine
clothes. They go to their nearest tradin point and sell cotton. They had
fine silk clothes and fine knives and forks. They would buy a whole case
o cheese at one time and a barrel of molasses. Folks eat more and worked
harder than they do now.
"Some folks was mean to their slaves and some slaves mean. It is lack it
is now, some folks good no matter what dey color, other folks bad. Black
folks never knowed there was freedom till they was fighting and going to
war. Some say they was fightin to save their slaves, some say the Union
broke. The slave never been free since he come to dis world, didn't know
nuthin bout freedom till they tole em bout it.
"I recollect bout the Ku Klux after the war. Some folks come over the
country and tell you you free and equal now. They tell you what to do an
how to run the country and then if you listen to them come the Ku Klux
all dressed half mile down the road. That Ku Klux sprung up after the
war bout votin an offis-holdin mong the white folks. The white folks
ain't then nor now havin no black man rulin over him. Them Ku Klux
walked bout on high sticks and drink all the water you have from the
spring. Seem lack they meddled a whole heap. Course the black folks
knowed they was white men. They hung some slaves and white Yankees too
if they be very mean. They beat em. Hear em hollowing and they hollow
too. They shoot all directions round and up an down the road. That's how
you know they comin close to yo house. If you go to any gatherins they
come break it up an run you home fast as you could run and set the dogs
on you. Course the dogs bite you. They say they was not goiner have
equalization if they have to kill all the Yankees and niggers in the
country. The masters sometime give em a home. My mother left John Woods
then. The family went back. He give her an my papa twenty acres their
lifetime. Where dey stayed on the old folks had a little at some places.
They didn't divide up no plantations I ever heard of. They never give em
no mules. If some tole em they would I know they sho didn't. Didn't give
em nuthin I tell you. My mother's name was Sylvia and papa's name was
"I come to Arkansas so my little boys would have a home. I had a little
home an sold it to come out here. Agents come round showin pictures how
big the cotton grow. They say it grow like trees out here. The children
climb the stalks an set on the limb lack birds to pick it. They show
pictures like that. Cotton basket way down under it on the ground. See
droves of wild hogs coming up, look big as mules. Men ridin em. No I
didn't know they said it was so fine. We come in freight cars wid our
furniture and everything we brought. We had our provision in baskets and
big buckets. It lasted till we passed Atlanta. We nearly starved the
rest of the way. When we did stop you never hear such a hollein. We come
two days and nights hard as we could come. We stayed up and eat, cooked
meat an eggs on the stove in the store till daybreak. Then they showed
us wha to go to our places the next day. I been here ever since.
"I hab voted. I done quit lettin votin bother me up. All I see it do is
give one fellow out of two or three a job both of them maybe ought to
have. The meanest man often gets lected. It the money they all after not
the work in it. I heard em say what all they do and when they got lected
they forgot to do all they say they would do.
"I never knowed bout no slave uprisins. Thed had to uprose wid rocks an
red clods. The black man couldn't shoot. He had no guns. They had so
much work they didn't know how to have a uprisin. The better you be to
your master the better he treat you. The white preachers teach that in
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Maggie Woods,
"My parents was Fannie and Alfred Douglas. They had three children, then
he died and my mother married a man name Thompson. My parents belong to
the Douglasses at Summerville, Tennessee. They had six children in their
"I was born the second year of the surrender that make me seventy years
old. My folks was all field hands. They was all pure African stock. All
black folks like me. Grandma Liney Douglass said she was sold and
Grandpa was sold too. My own parents never was sold. The Douglass
men-folks whooped the slaves but they was good masters outside of that.
"They would steal off and have preachin' at night. Had preachin' nearly
all night sometimes. They'd hurry and get in home fore the day be
breakin'. From the way they talked they done more prayin' than
"Whenever they be sick they would send to the Douglasses to know what to
do. They would take them up to their house and doctor them or come down
to the quarters and wait on whoever be sick. They had some white doctors
about but not near enough. They trained black women to be midwives.
"I think my folks had enough to eat and clothes too I recken. They eat
meat to give them strength to work. My old stepdaddy always make us eat
piece of meat if we eat garden stuff. He say the meat have strength in
it. Cornbread, meat, peas and potatoes used to be the biggest part of
folks livin' in olden days. They had plenty milk.
"Children when I come on didn't have no use for money. We eat molasses.
Had a little candy once in a while. That be the best thing Santa Claus
would bring me. We get ginger cakes in our new stockings too. Santa
Claus been comin' ever since I been in the world. Seem like Christmas
never would come round agin. It don't seem near so long now.
"I was too young to know about freedom. We was livin' on Douglas farm
when George Flenol (white) come and brought us to Indian Bay. We worked
on Dick Mayo's place. I don't know what they expected from freedom but
I'm pretty sure they never got nothing.
"When the black folks come free then the Ku Klux took it up and made 'em
work and stay at home. I heard that some folks wanted to stay in the
road all the time. The Ku Klux nearly scared me to death to see pass by.
They never did bother us.
"I don't vote. Don't know nothing about it. I don't like the way that is
fixed for us to live now. We pay house rent and works as day laborers.
It makes the work too heavy at some times and no work to do nearly all
the time. It is making times hard. Cotton and corn choppin' time and
cotton pickin' time is all the times a woman like me can work. I raised
a shoat. I got no room for garden and chickens.
"I got one girl, she way from here, she sent me $2.00 for my Christmas.
"The young generation is weaker in body than us old folks has been. They
ain't been raised to hard work and they don't hold out.
"That is salve I'm making. What do it smell like? It smell like
chitlings. In that sack is the inside of the chitlings (hog manure). I
boil it down and strain it, then boll it down, put camphor gum and fresh
lard in it, boil it down low and pour it up. It is a green salve. It is
fine for piles, rub your back for lumbago, and swab out your throat for
sore throat. It is a good salve. I had a sore throat and a black woman
told me how to make it. It cures the sore throat right now.
"I live on what I am able to work and make. I never have got no help
from the government."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Sam Word, 1122 Missouri Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I'm a sure enough Arkansas man, born in Arkansas County near De Witt.
Born February 14, 1859, and belonged to Bill Word. I know Marmaduke come
down through Arkansas County and pressed Bill Word's son Tom into the
"I 'member one song they used to sing called the 'Bonnie Blue Flag.'
'Jeff Davis is our President
And Lincoln is a fool;
Jeff Davis rides a fine white horse
While Lincoln rides a mule.'
'Hurrah! Hurrah! for Southern rights,
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a Single Star!'"
(The above verse was sung to the tune of "The Bonnie Blue Flag." From
the Library of Southern Literature I find the following notation about
the original song and its author, Harry McCarthy: "Like Dixie, this
famous song originated in the theater and first became popular in New
Orleans. The tune was borrowed from 'The Irish Jaunting Car', a popular
Hibernian air. Harry McCarthy was an Irishman who enlisted in the
Confederate army from Arkansas. The song was written in 1861. It was
published by A.E. Blackmar who declared General Ben Butler 'made it very
profitable by fining every man, woman, or child who sang, whistled or
played it on any instrument twenty-five dollars.' Blackmar was arrested,
his music destroyed, and a fine of five hundred dollars imposed upon
"I stayed in Arkansas County till 1866. I was about seven years old and
we moved here to Jefferson County. Then my mother married again and we
went to Conway County and lived a few years, and then I come back to
Jefferson County, so I've lived in Jefferson County sixty-eight years.
"In Conway County when I was a small boy livin' on the Milton Powell
place, I 'member they sent me out in the field to get some peaches about
a half mile from the slave quarters. It was about three o'clock, late
summer, and I saw something in the tree--a black lookin' concern. Seem
like it got bigger the closer I got, and then just disappeared all of a
sudden and I didn't see it go. I know I went back without any peaches.
"And another thing I can tell you. In the spring of the year we was
hoein' and when they quit at night they'd leave the hoes in the field,
stickin' down in the ground. And next morning they wouldn't be where you
left 'em. You'd have to look for 'em and they'd be lyin' on top of the
ground and crossed just like sticks.
"I'll tell you what I do know. When we was livin' in Conway County old
man Powell had about ten colored families he had emigrated from
Jefferson County. Our folks was the only colored people in that
neighborhood. And he had a white man that was a tenant on the place and
he died. Now my mother and his wife used to visit one another. In them
days the white folks wasn't like they are now. And so mother went there
to sit up with his wife. And while she was sittin' up the house was full
of people--white and colored. They begin to hear a noise about the
coffin. So they begin to investigate the worse it got and moved around
the room and it lasted till he was took out of the house. Now I've heard
white and colored say that was true. They never did see it but they
"I don't think there is any ghosts now but they was in the past
"I know many times me and my stepfather would be pickin' cotton and my
dog would be up at the far end of the row and just before dark he'd
start barkin' and come towards us a barkin' and we never could see
anything. He'd do that every day. It was a dog named Natch--an English
bull terrier. He was give to me a puppy. He was a sure enough bulldog
and he could whip any dog I ever saw. He was an imported dog.
"I remember a house up in Conway County made out of logs--a two-story
one just this side of Cadron Creek on the Military Road. Then they
called it the Wire Road because the telegraph wire run along it. The
house was vacant after the people that owned it had died, and people
comin' along late at night would stop to spend the night, and in the
middle of the night they'd have to get out. Now I've heard that with my
own ears. There was a spring not far from the house. It had been a fine
house and was a beautiful place to stop. But in the night they'd hear
chairs rattlin' and fall down. It's my belief they had spooks in them
"Now I'll tell you another incident. This was in slave times. My mother
was a great hand for nice quilts. There was a white lady had died and
they were goin' to have a sale. Now this is true stuff. They had the
sale and mother went and bought two quilts. And let me tell you, we
couldn't sleep under 'em. What happened? Well, they'd pinch your toes
till you couldn't stand it. I was just a boy and I was sleepin' with my
mother when it happened. Now that's straight stuff. What do I think was
the cause? Well, I think that white lady didn't want no nigger to have
them quilts. I don't know what mother did with 'em, but that white lady
just wouldn't let her have 'em.
"Now I'm puttin' the oil out of the can--I mean that what I say is true.
People now will say they ain't nothin' to that story. At that time the
races wasn't 'malgamated. But people are different now--ain't like they
was seventy-five years ago.
"Visions? Well, now I'm glad you asked me that. I'll take pleasure in
tellin' you. Two years before I moved to this place I had a vision and I
think I saw every colored person that was ever born in America, I
believe. I was on the east side of my house and this multitude of people
was about four feet from me and they was as thick as sardines in a box
and they was from little tots up. Some had on derby hats and some was
bareheaded. I talked with one woman--a brown skinned woman. They was
sitting on seats just like circus seats just as far as my eyes could
behold. Looked like they reached clear up in the sky. That was when I
fust went blind. You've read about how John saw the multitude a hundred
forty and four thousand and I think that was about one-fourth of what I
saw. They was happy and talkin' and nothin' but colored people--no white
"Another vision I had. I dreamed that the day that I lived to be
sixty-five, that day I would surely die. I thought the man that told me
that was a little old dried-up white man up in the air and he had scales
like the monkey and the cat weighed the cheese. I thought he said, 'That
day you will surely die,' and one side of the scales tipped just a
little and then I woke up. You know I believed this strong. That was in
1919 and I went out and bought a lot in Bellwood Cemetery. But I'm still
"Old Major Crawley who owned what they called the Reader place on this
side of the river, four miles east of Dexter, he was supposed to have
money buried on his place. He owned it during slavery and after he died
his relatives from Mississippi come here and hired a carriage driver
named Jackson Jones. He married my second cousin. And he took 'em up
there to dig for the money, but I don't know if they ever found it. Some
people said the place was ha'nted."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Sam Word
1122 Missouri, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born February 14, 1859. My birthplace was Arkansas County. Born
in Arkansas and lived in Arkansas seventy-eight years. I've kept up with
my age--didn't raise it none, didn't lower it none.
"I can remember all about the war, my memory's been good. Old man Bill
Word, that was my old master, had a son named Tom Word and long about in
'63 a general come and pressed him into the Civil War. I saw the Blue
and the Gray and the gray clothes had buttons that said C.S., that meant
secessioners. Yankees had U.S. on their buttons. Some of em come there
so regular they got familiar with me. Yankees come and wanted to hang
old master cause he wouldn't tell where the money was. They tied his
hands behind him and had a rope around his neck. Now this is the
straight goods. I was just a boy and I was cryin' cause I didn't want em
to hang old master. A Yankee lieutenant comes up and made em quit--they
was just the privates you know.
"My old master drove a ox wagon to the gold fields in California in '49.
That's what they told me--that was fore I was born.
"Good? Ben Word good? My God Amighty, I wish I had one-hundredth part of
what I got then. I didn't exist--I lived.
"Ben Word bought my mother from Phil Ford up in Kentucky. She was the
housekeeper after old mistress died. I'll tell you something that may be
amusing. Mother had lots of nice things, quilts and things, and kept em
in a chest in her little old shack. One day a Yankee soldier climbed in
the back window and took some of the quilts. He rolled em up and was
walking out of the yard when mother saw him and said, 'Why you nasty,
stinkin' rascal. You may you come down here to fight for the niggers,
and now you're stealin' from em.' He said, 'You're a G-D--liar, I'm
fightin' for $14 a month and the Union.'
"I member there was a young man named Dan Brown and they called him Red
Fox. He'd slip up on the Yankees and shoot em, so the Yankees was always
lookin' for him. He used to go over to Dr. Allen's to get a shave and
his wife would sit on the front porch and watch for the Yankees. One day
the Yankees slipped up in the back and his wife said, 'Lord, Dan,
there's the Yankees.' Course he run and they shot him. One of the
Yankees was tryin' to help him up and he said, 'Don't you touch me, call
Dr. Allen.' Yes ma'm, that was in Arkansas County.
"I never been anywhere 'cept Arkansas, Jefferson, and Conway Counties. I
was in Conway County when they went to the precinct to vote for or
against the Fort Smith & Little Rock Railroad. The precinct where they
went to vote was Springfield. It used to be the county seat of Conway
"While the war was goin' on and when young Tom Word would come home from
school, he learned me and when the war ended, I could read in McGuffy's
Third Reader. After that I went to school three months for about four
"Directly after Emancipation, the white men in the South had to take the
Oath of Allegiance. Old master took it but he hated to do it. Now these
are stubborn facts I'm givin' you but they's true.
"After freedom mother brought me here to Pine Bluff and put me in the
field. I picked up corn stalks and brush and carried water to the hands.
Children in them days worked. After they come from school, even the
white children had work to do. Trouble with the colored folks now, to my
way of thinkin', is they are top heavy with literary learning and
feather light with common sense and domestic training.
"I remember a song they used to sing daring the war:
'Jeff Davis is our President
Lincoln is a fool;
Jeff Davis rides a fine white horse
While Lincoln rides a mule.'
"And here's another one:
'Hurrah for Southern rights, hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonny Blue Flag
That bore the single star.'
"Yes, they was hants sixty years ago. The generation they was interested
has bred em out. Ain't none now.
"I never did care much for politics, but I've always been for the South.
I love the Southland. Only thing I don't like is they don't give a
square deal when it comes between the colored and the Whites. Ten years
ago, I was worth $15,000 and now I'm not worth fifteen cents. The real
estate men got the best of me. I've been blind now for four years and
all my wife and I have is what we get from the Welfare."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Ike Worthy
2413 W. 11th Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in Selma, Alabama on Christmas day and I'm goin' on 75.
"I can 'member old missis' name Miss Liza Ann Bussey. I never will
forget her name. Fed us in a trough--eighteen of us. Her husband was
named Jim Bussey, but they all dead now.
"When I got large enough to remember we went to Louisiana. I was sixteen
when we left Alabama--six hundred head of us. Dr. Bonner emigrated us
there for hisself and other white men.
"There was nine of us boys in my parents' family. We worked every day
and cleared land till twelve o'clock at night. On Saturday we played
ball and on Sunday we went to Sunday school.
"We worked on the shares--got half--and in the fall we paid our debts.
Sometimes we had as much as $150 in the clear.
"Most money I ever had was farmin'. I farmed 52 years and never did buy
no feed. Raised my own meat and lard and molasses. Had four milk cows
and fifteen to twenty hogs. You see, I had eight children in the family.
"Never went to school but one day in my life, then my father put us to
work. Never learned to read. You see everybody in the pen now'days got a
education. I don't think too much education is good for 'em.
"I was 74 Christmas day.
"Garland, Brewster--the sheriff and the judge--I missed them boys when
they was little. Worked at the brickyard.
"I got shot accidental and lost my right leg 32 years ago when I was
farmin'. I've chopped cotton and picked cotton with this peg-leg. Mr.
Emory say he don't see how I can do it but I goes right along. I made
$21 pickin' and $18 choppin' last year. I picked up until Thanksgiving
"I worked at the Long-Bell Lumber Company since I had this peg-leg too.
I stayed in Little Rock 23 years. Had a wood yard and hauled wood.
"Yes ma'am, I voted the 'Publican ticket. No ma'am, I never did hold any
"I don't know what goin' come of the younger generation. To my idea I
don't think there's anything to 'em. They is goin' to suffer when all
the old ones is dead.
"I goes to the Zion Methodist Church. No ma'am, I'm not a preacher--just
a bench member."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Alice Wright
2418 Center Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: About 74
"I was born way yonder in slavery time. I don't know what part of
Alabama nor exactly when, but I was born in slavery time and it was in
Alabama. My oldest boy would be fifty-six years old if he were living.
My father said he was born in slavery time and that I was born in
slavery time. I was a baby, my papa said, when he ran off from his old
master and went to Mississippi. He lived in the thickets for a year to
keep his old master from finding out where he was.
Father, Mother and Family
"My father's name was Jeff Williams. He's been dead a long time. Nobody
living but me and my children. My mother's name was Malinda Williams. My
father had seven children, four girls and five boys. Four of the boys
were buried on the Cummins (?) place. It used to be the old place of old
Man Flournoy's. My oldest brother was named Isaac.
"I had sixteen children; four of them are still living--two boys and two
girls. The boys is married and the daughters is sick. No, honey, I can't
tell how many of em all was boys and girls.
"My folks lived right in the white folks' yard. I don't know what kind
of house it was. My mother used to cook and do for the white folks. She
caught her death of cold going backward and forward milking and so on.
How the Children were Fed
"They'd put a trough on the floor with wooden spoons and as many
children as could get around that trough got there and eat, they would.
How Freedom Came
"Dolly and Evelyn were upstairs spinning thread and overheard the old
master saying that peace was declared but they didn't want the niggers
to know it. Father had them to throw their clothes out the windows. Then
he slipped out with them. Malinda Williams, my mother, came with them.
Dolly and Evelyn were my sisters. I don't know my master's name, but it
must have been Williams because all the slaves took their old master's
names when they were freed. I was a baby in my daddy's arms when he ran
"I heard my papa talk about the patrollers. He said they used to run
them in many a time. That is the reason he had to cross the bridge that
night going over the Mississippi into Georgia. The slaves had been set
free in Georgia, and he wanted to get there from Alabama.
What the Slaves Got
"The slaves never got nothin' when they were freed. They just got out
and went to work for themselves.
"My father tended to the white folks' mules. He wasn't no soldier. When
he married my mother, he was only fifteen years old. His master told him
to go pick himself out a wife from a drove of slaves that were passing
through, and he picked out my mother. They married by stepping over the
broom. The old master pronounced them master and wife.
"The drove passed through Alabama, but my father didn't know where it
came from nor where it went. They were selling slaves. They would pick
up a big lot of them somewhere, and they would drive them across the
country selling some every place they stopped. My master bought my
mother out of the drove. Droves came through very often. I don't know
where they came from.
"My father remembered coming through Alabama. He remembered the soldiers
coming through Alabama. They didn't bother any colored people but they
killed a lot of white people, tore up the town and took some white
babies out and busted their brains out. That is what my father said. My
father died in 1910. He was pushing eighty then and maybe ninety. He had
a house full of grown children and grandchildren and great
grandchildren. He wasn't able to do no work when he died. It was during
the War that my father ran away into Georgia with me, too.
"My father said they put medicine in the water (cisterns) to make the
young slaves have more children. If his old master had a good breeding
woman he wouldn't sell her. He would keep her for himself.
"When they were praying for peace they used to turn down the wash
kettles to keep the sound down. In the master's church, the biggest
thing that was preached to them was how to serve their master and
"My grandmother was a full-blood Indian. I don't know from what tribe.
"People used to bury their money in iron pots and chests and things in
order to keep the soldiers from getting it. In Wabbaseka [HW: Ark.]
there they had money buried. They buried their money to keep the
soldiers from getting it.
"The Ku Klux Klan came after freedom. They used to take the people out
and whip them.
Just After the War
"Immediately after the War, papa farmed. Most of it was down at the
Cummins place. When he ran away to Georgia, he didn't stay there. He
left and came back to Mississippi. I don't know just when my papa came
to the Cummins' place. It was just after the War. After be left the
Cummins' place he worked at the Smith place. Then he was farming agent
for sometime for old man Cook in Jefferson County. He would see after
"I ain't never voted in my life. I know plenty men that used to vote but
I didn't. I never heard of no women voting.
"I used to do field work. I washed and ironed until I got too old to do
anything. I can't do anything now. I ain't able.
"I get the old age pension and the Welfare give me some commodities for
myself and my sick daughter. She ain't been able to walk for a year.
"I married Willis Wright in July 1901. He did farming mostly. When he
died in 1928, he was working at the Southern Oil Mill. He didn't leave
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Hannah Brooks Wright
W. 17th, Highland Addition, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes ma'am, I was born in slavery times. I was born on Elsa Brooks'
plantation in Mississippi. I don't know what year 'twas but I know 'twas
in slavery times.
"I was a great big gal when the Yankees come through. I was Elsa Brooks'
"I remember when a man come through to 'vascinate' all the chillun that
was born in slavery times. I cut up worse than any of 'em--I bit him. I
thought he was gwine cut off my arm. Old missis say our names gwine be
sent to the White House. Old missis was gwine around with him tryin' to
calm 'em down.
"And the next day the Yankees come through. The Lord have mercy! I
think I was 'bout twelve years old when freedom come. We used to ask old
missis how old we was. She'd say, 'Go on, if I tell you how old you is,
your parents couldn't do nothin' with you. Jus' tell folks you was born
in slavery times!' Gramma wouldn't tell me neither. She'd say, 'You
hush, you wouldn't work if you knowed how old you is.'
"I used to sit on the lever a many a day and drive the mule at the gin.
You don't know anything 'bout that, do you?
"I remember one time when the Yankees was comin' through. I was up on
top of a rail fence so I could see better. I said, 'Just look a there at
them bluebirds.' When the Yankees come along one of 'em said, 'You get
down from there you little son of a b----.' I didn't wait to climb down,
I jus' fell down from there. Old missis come down to the quarters in her
carriage--didn't have buggies in them days, just carriages--to see who
was hurt. The Yankees had done told her that one of her gals had fell
off the fence and got hurt. I said, 'I ain't hurt but I thought them
Yankees would hurt me.' She said, 'They won't hurt you, they is comin'
through to tell you you is free.' She said if they had hurt me she would
jus' about done them Yankees up. She said Jeff Davis had done give up
his seat and we was free.
"Our folks stayed with old missis as long as they lived. My mammy cooked
and I stayed in the house with missis and churned and cleaned up. Old
master was named Tom Brooks and her name was Elsa Brooks. Sometimes I
jus' called her 'missis.'
"Old missis told the patrollers they couldn't come on her place and
interfere with her hands. I don't know how many hands they had but I
know they had a heap of 'em.
"Sometimes missis would say it looked like I wanted to get away and
she'd say, 'Why, Hannah, you don't suffer for a thing. You stay right
here at the house with me and you have plenty to eat.'
"I was the oldest one in my mammy's family.
"I just went to school a week and mammy said they needed me at the
"Then my daddy put me in the field to plow. Old missis come out one day
and say, 'Bill, how come you got Hannah plowin'? I don't like to see her
in the field.' He'd say, 'Well, I want to learn her to work. I ain't
gwine be here always and I want her to know how to work.'
"They had me throwin' the shickles (shuttles) in slavery times. I used
to handle the cyards (cards) too. Then I used to help clean up the milk
dairy. I'd be so tired I wouldn't know what to do. Old missis would say,
'Well, Hannah, that's your job.'
"We used to have plenty to eat, pies and cakes and custards. More than
we got now.
"I own this place if I can keep payin' the taxes.
"Old missis used to say, 'You gwine think about what I'm tellin' you
after I'm dead and gone.'
"Young folks call us old church folks 'old _ism_ folks,' 'old fogies.'
They say, 'You was born in slavery times, you don't know nothin.' You
can't tell 'em nothin'.
"I follows my mind. You ain't gwine go wrong if you does what your mind
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Tom Yates, Marianna. Arkansas
"I was born in 1872 in Mississippi, on Moon Lake. Mama said she was
orphan. She was sold when she was a young woman. She said she come from
Richmond, Virginia to Charleston, South Carolina. Then she was brought
to Mississippi and married before freedom. She had two husbands. Her
owners was Master Atwood and Master Curtis Burk. I don't know how it
come about nor which one bought her. She had four children and I'm the
youngest. My sister lives in Memphis.
"My father was sold in Raleigh, North Carolina. His master was Tom
Yeates. I'm named fer some of them. Papa's name was William Yeates. He
told us how he come to be sold. He said they was fixing to sell grandma.
He was one of the biggest children and he ask his mother to sell him and
let grandma raise the children. She wanted to stay with the little ones.
He said he cried and cried long after they brought him away. They all
cried when he was sold, he said. I don't know who bought him. He must
have left soon after he was sold, for he was a soldier. He run away and
want in the War. He was a private and mustered out at DeValls Bluff,
Arkansas. That is how come my mother to come here. He died in 1912 at
Wilson, Arkansas. He got a federal pension, thirty-six dollars, every
three months. He wasn't wounded, or if he was I didn't hear him speak of
it. He didn't praise war."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Annie Young, 913 West Scull Street,
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"My old master's name was Sam Knox. I 'members all my white people. My
mother was the cook.
"We had a good master and a good mistress too. I wish I could find some
of my master's family now. But after the war they broke up and went up
"I 'member well the day my old master's son got killed. My mother was
workin' in the field and I know she come to the house a cryin'. I
'member well when we was out in the plum nursery and could hear the
cannons. My white girl Nannie told me 'Now listen, that's the war a
"The soldiers used to come along and sometimes they were in a hurry and
would grab something to eat and go on and then sometimes they would sit
down to a long table.
"I could hear my great grandmother and my mother talkin' 'We'll be free
"After the war my stepfather come and got my mother and we moved out in
the piney woods. My stepfather was a preacher and sometimes he was a
hundred miles from home. My mother hired out to work by the day. I was
the oldest of seven chillun and when I got big enough to work they
worked me in the field. When we cleaned up the new ground we got fifty
cents a day.
"I was between ten and twelve years old when I went to school. My first
teacher was white. But I tell you the truth, I learned most after my
children started to school.
"I worked twenty-three years for the police headquarters. I was janitor
and matron too. I washed and ironed too. I been here in Pine Bluff about
fifty or sixty years.
"If justice was done everybody would have a living. I earned the money
to buy this place and they come and wanted me to sign away my home so I
could get the old age pension but I just had sense enough not to do it.
I'm not goin' sign away my home just for some meat and bread."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: John Young
925 E. 15th Ave., Pine Bluff, Ark.
"Well, I don't know how old I is. I was born in Virginia, but my mother
was sold. She was bought by a speculator and brought here to Arkansas.
She brought me with her and her old master's name was Ridgell. We lived
down around Monticello. I was big enough to plow and chop cotton and
drive a yoke of oxen and haul ten-foot rails.
"Oh Lord, I don't know how many acres old master had. He had a
territory--he had a heap a land. I remember he had a big old carriage
and the carriage man was Little Alfred. The reason they called him that
was because there was another man on the place called Big Alfred. They
won't no relation--just happen to be the same name.
"I remember when the Yankees come and killed old master's hogs and
chickens and cooked 'em. There was a good big bunch of Yankees. They
said they was fightin' to free the niggers. After that I runned away and
come up here to Pine Bluff and stayed awhile and then I went to Little
Rock and jined the 57th colored infantry. I was the kittle drummer. We
marched right in the center of the army. We went from Little Rock to
Fort Smith. I never was in a big battle, just one little scrummage. I
was at Fort Smith when they surrendered and I was mustered out at
"My grandfather went to war as bodyguard for his master, but I was with
"I remember when the Ku Klux come to my grandmother's house. They nearly
scared us to death. I run and hid under the bed. They didn't do nothin',
just the looks of 'em scared us. I know they had the old folks totin'
water for 'em. Seemed like they couldn't get enough.
"After the war I come home and went to farmin'. Then I steamboated for
four years. I was on the Kate Adams, but I quit just 'fore it burned,
'bout two or three weeks.
"I never went to school a minute in my life. I had a chance to go but I
"No'm I can't remember nothin' else. It's been so long it done slipped
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: John Young
923 E. Fifteenth, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I know I was born in Arkansas. The first place I recollect I was in
"I was a drummer in the Civil War. I played the little drum. The bass
drummer was Rheuben Turner.
"I run off from home in Drew County. Five or six of us run off here to
Pine Bluff. We heard if we could get with the Yankees we'd be free, so
we run off here to Pine Bluff and got with some Yankee soldiers--the
"Then we went to Little Rock and I j'ined the fifty-seventh colored
infantry. I thought I was good and safe then.
"We went to Fort Smith from Little Rock and freedom come on us while we
was between New Mexico and Fort Smith.
"They mustered us out at Fort Leavenworth and I went right back to my
folks in Drew County, Monticello.
"I've been a farmer all my life till I got too old."
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