Slave Narratives: Arkansas Narratives
Work Projects Administration
Part 2 out of 6
notebook. With only a few preliminaries and amenities the interview was
in full swing. It neither startled nor confused him, to have an excited
young woman plant herself on a public sidewalk at his side and demand
his life's story. A man who had belonged to three different masters
before the age of 15 was inured to minor surprises. Tom Robinson long
since learned to take life as it came.
He is quite deaf in one ear and hears poorly with the other. Nobody
within a quarter of a block could have been in doubt of what was going
on. A youth moved closer. The kept-after-school pair emerged from the
building and stood near us, goggle-eyed thruout the interview. When
we were finished, Robinson turned to the children and gave them, a
grandfatherly lecture about taking advantage of their opportunities,
a lecture in which the white woman sitting beside him joined
heartily--drawing liberally on comments of ex-slaves in recent
interviews concerning the helplessness felt in not being able to write
and read letters from well loved friends.
"Where was I born, ma'am? Why it's my understanding that it was Catawba
County, North Carolina. As far as I remember, Newton was the nearest
town. I was born on a place belonging to Jacob Sigmens. I can just
barely remember my mother. I was not 11 when they sold me away from her.
I can just barely remember her.
"But I do remember how she used to take us children and kneel down in
front of the fireplace and pray. She'd pray that the time would come
when everybody could worship the Lord under their own vine and fig
tree--all of them free. It's come to me lots of times since. There she
was a'praying, and on other plantations women was a'praying. All over
the country the same prayer was being prayed. Guess the Lord done heard
the prayer and answered it.
"Old man Sigmens wasn't a bad master. Don't remember so much about him.
I couldn't have been 11 when he sold me to Pickney Setzer. He kept me
for a little while and then he sold me to David Robinson. All three of
them lived not so far apart in North Carolina. But pretty soon after he
bought me old men Dave Robinson moved to Texas. We was there when the
war started. We stayed there all during the war. I was set free there.
"We lived in Cass County. It was pretty close to the Arkansas border,
and 'twasn't far from Oklahoma--as is now. I remember well when they was
first gathering them up for the war. We used to hear the cannon often.
Was I afraid? To be sure I was scared, right at first. Pretty soon we
got used to it. Somebody even made up a song, 'Listen to the Home-made
Thunder'. They'd sing it every time the cannon started roaring.
"No, ma'am, there never was any fighting right around us. I never really
saw any fighting. Old man Dave Robinson was good to me. He didn't have
a big farm--just owned me. Treated me almost like I was one of his own
children. Course, I had to work. Sometimes he whipped me--but no more
than he had to. I was just a child and any child has got to be made to
mind. He was good to me, and old Miss was good to me. All my masters was
pretty good to me--lots better than the usual run. Which one I like the
best. Well, you might know. I kept the name Robinson, and I named my son
Dave. You might know which one I think the most of.
"One day I was out milking the cows. Mr. Dave come down into the field,
and he had a paper in his hand. 'Listen to me, Tom,' he said, 'listen to
what I reads you.' And he read from a paper all about how I was free.
You can't tell how I felt. 'You're jokin' me.' I says. 'No, I ain't,'
says he. 'You're free.' 'No,' says I, 'it's a joke.' 'No,' says he,
'it's a law that I got to read this paper to you. Now listen while I
read it again.'
"But still I wouldn't believe him. 'Just go up to the house,' says he,
'and ask Mrs. Robinson. She'll tell you.' so I went. 'It's a joke,' I
says to her. 'Did you ever know your master to tell you a lie?' she
says. 'No,' says I, 'I ain't.' 'Well,' she says, 'the war's over and
"By that time I thought maybe she was telling me what was right. 'Miss
Robinson,' says I, 'can I go over to see the Smiths?'--they was a
colored family that lived nearby. 'Don't you understand,' says she,
'you're free. You don't have to ask me what you can do. Run along
"And so I went. And do you know why I was a'going? I wanted to find out
if they was free too." (a chuckle and toothy smile) "I just couldn't
take it all in. I couldn't believe we was all free alike.
"Was I happy? Law Miss. You can take anything. No matter how good you
treat it--it wants to be free. You can treat it good and feed it good
and give it everything it seems to want--but if you open the cage--it's
"What did I do after the war was over? I farmed. I farmed all my life,
'til I got too old. I stopped three--four years ago. I lives with my
son--Dave Robinson--the one I named for my master.
"How did I farm? Did I share crop? No, ma'am!" (Sharply as tho
repramanding the inquirer for an undeserved insult.) "I didn't share
crop, except just at first to get a start. I rented. I paid thirds and
fourths. I always rented. I wasn't a share-cropper.[A]
[A: Socially and economically sharp distinctions are drawn between the
different classes of renters, both by owners and tenants themselves.
Families whom ambition and circumstances have allowed to accumulate
enough surplus to buy farm implements and have food for a year ahead
look with scorn on fellow farmers who thru inertia or bad luck must be
furnished food and the wherewithall to farm. In turn, families that have
forged ahead sufficiently to be able to pay cash rent on farms they
cultivate look down On both of the other groups.]
"It was awful hard going after the war. But I got me a place--had to
share-crop for a year or two. But I worked hard and saved all I could.
Pretty soon I had me enough that I could rent. I always raised the usual
things--cotton and corn and potatoes and a little truck and that sort of
thing--always raised enough to eat for us and the stock--and then some
cotton for a cash crop.
"My first wife, well it was kind of funny; I wasn't more than 19. She
had 11 children. Some of them was older than I was. No ma'am it wasn't
so hard on me. They was all old enough to take care of themselves. I
lived with that woman for 17 years. Then she died.
"I been married five times. Three of my children are living. One's
here--that's Dave. Then there's one in Texarkana and there's one in
Kansas City. Two of my children's dead. The youngest died just about
last year. All my wives are dead.
"Almost every day I comes up to sit here and watch the children. It does
me good to see 'em. Makes me feel good all over to think about all the
fine chance they has to get a good education. Sonny, you hear me? You
pay attention too, sonny. I'm watching you--you and all the other little
boys. You mind me. You learn all you can. You ought to be so thankful
you allowed to learn that you work hard. You mind me, sonny. When you're
grown up, you'll know what I'm talking about--and know I'm right. Run
along, sonny. No use hanging around the school yard too long."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Isom Rogers, Edmondson, Arkansas
"I was born in Tunica County, Austin, Mississippi. I been in Edmondson,
Arkansas ten years. I come to do better. Said farming was good here. My
folks' owners was Master Palmer and George Rogers. My parents was never
sold. They was young folks in slavery time and at time of freedom. They
was farm hands. Their names was Pat and Ely Rogers.
"I heard him say he made palings and went 'round mending the fences when
the ground was froze. He made boards to cover the houses with too--I
heard him say. He was strong and worked all the time at some jobs. Never
heard mother say very much.
"I been farming and I have worked on quarter-boat and back farming. I
been here ten years."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Oscar James Rogers, Wheatley, Arkansas
Age: Up in 70's
"I come to dis state in 1885. I run off from my parents back in North
Carolina. They was working in a turpentine forest there.
"When freedom was declared my folks heard 'bout a place where money was
easy to make. So they walked from down close to Charleston up there and
carried the children. I was 'bout nine or ten years old. I liked the
farm so I left the turpentine farm. I got to rambling round and finally
got to Arkansas. I run off from my folks cause they kept staying there.
I was a child and don't recollect much 'bout slavery. I was at the
quarters wid all the children. My mother b'longed to Bob Plat and my
father to a man named Rogers. My father could get a pass and come to see
us every Sunday providin' he didn't go nowhere else or stop long the
road. He came early and stay till bedtime. We all run to meet him. He
kiss us all in bed when he be leavin'.
"I heard them say they 'spected a home and freedom but when the time
come they master forgot 'bout home cause they just took the few clothes
in bundles and left. Then they had a hard time 'cause they never thought
how freedom would be. They never axed for nothin' and they never got
nothin'. They didn't understand how to hustle lest somebody tell them
what to do next. They did have a hard time and it was cold and rocky
up in North Carolina to what they had been used to down close to
"When I got out to Arkansas I like it better than any country I seed and
I say 'I'm stayin' here.' I meant to go back but I married and didn't
get no money ahead for a long time. Then I had a family of 11 children.
Jes' 'fore I married I got to go to school four months' close to Cotton
Plant, where I married.
"When I was young I sho could knock off de work. I cummulated 80 acres
land in Lee County. I paid $900 for it, got in debt and had let it fur
'bout ($247.50) Two hundred forty-seven and a half dollars. All I got
outen it. I had a bad crop and had a little provision bill. I made on
time, man agreed to run me on then took it 'bout all.
"Then I still was a strong man an' we bought 40 acres 14 miles from
Cotton Plant and I had it 27 years. Then lost it.
"My second wife owned a house and garden at Wheatley half a mile or so
from town. We live over there. Our children all gone. She say she cooked
and washed and farmed for it. It cost $100.00.
"I could do heap work if I could get it. Old man can't get 'nuff regular
work to cover my house or buy me a suit closes. The Government gives me
$10.00 a month. That's a help out but it don't go fir high as provisions
is. Me an' the old woman both too feeble to do much hard work. I gets
all the odd jobs the white folks give me. Misses, I ain't lazy, I jess
gettin' old and not able to hold out to do much. Whut I could do they
give it to the young fellows cause they do it in a hurry.
"I used to vote right smart when they needed me to help out. I voted
for Hoover. Don't think it right the way the men settin' round and deir
wives workin' fer livin' and votin'. The women can vote if they want to
but I don't think it right. Seems lack the cart in front ob de horse
"It wouldn't do no more good to vote in the Primary than it do in the
General election. It don't do much good nohow.
"Fur as I ever knowed the slaves had no uprisin's. They thought well
enough of their masters. Everybody worked then hard as they could. The
master he worked all time in the shop making things jess like he needed,
boards and handles, plows and things. Missus, everybody worked hard dem
days, both black and white, and that is the reason folks had plenty. The
old grandmas done work whut suited them and helped out. Now lack me, I
can't get the right work whut I able to do 'nuff to keep me livin'. It
"If times was bad as they was few years ago all old folks done been
rotten, starved to death. Times is better but they sho ain't all right
"This young generation livin' so fast they stop thinkin'. They do well
to keep livin' their selves. They wastes a heap they outer save fur
rainy days. They ain't takin' no advice from old folks. I don't know
whut goiner become of them."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Will Ann Rogers
R.F.D., Brinkley, Arkansas
"I was born three years after the surrender. I was born at Fryers Point,
Mississippi. The reason I ain't got the exact date when I was born, my
ma put it down in the Bible and the house burned up and everything in it
burned to ashes. No mam she got somebody what could write real nice to
write all the names and ages for her.
"When ma was a young woman, she said they put her on a block and sold
her. They auctioned her off at Richmond, Virginia. When they sold her,
her mother fainted or drapped dead, she never knowed which. She wanted
to go see her mother lying over there on the ground and the man what
bought her wouldn't let her. He just took her on. Drove her off like
cattle, I recken. The man what bought her was Ephram Hester. That the
last she ever knowed of any of her folks. She say he mated 'em like
stock so she had one boy. He livin' down here at Helena now. He is Mose
Kent. He was born around Richmond, Virginia jes' lack dat she say.
"When it nearly 'bout time for freedom a whole army of Yankees come by
and seed Mose working. They told him if he come go wid them they give
him that spotted horse and pair red boots. He crawled up on the horse
an' was gone wid 'em for a fact she said. She started right after them,
following him. She followed them night and day. She nearly starved, jess
begged 'long the road all she could. I heard her say how fast she have
to walk to keep on trail of 'em and how many nights. She say some nights
when they camped she would beg 'round and try to fill up. But she
couldn't get to Mose without them seein' her. When they got to Fryers
Point she went an' got him. They jess laughed and never give him
nuthin'. They left that army fast as they could she say.
"She married at Fryers Point. She had jes' one boy and I had four or
five sisters. They all dead but me and Mose. He think he 'bout ninety
years old. He come here to see me last year. He sho is feeble.
"How come I here? When I was fourteen years old my family heard how fine
this State was and moved to Helena. I lived at Moro and Cotton Plant.
Then, the way I come here was funny. A man come up there and say a free
train was comin' to go back to Africa. All who wanted to go could go. My
pa sold out 'bout all we had an' we come here lack they say. No train
come yet goin' to Africa as I seed. My pa give the white man $5.00 to
pay fer the train. Tom Watson was one of 'em too. He was a sorter leader
'mong 'em wantin' to go back. Well when the day come that the train due
to start everybody come to the depot whar the train going to stop.
There was a big crowd. Yes mam, dressed up, and a little provisions and
clothes fixed up. Jes' could take along a little. They say it would
be crowded so. We stayed around here a week or two waitin' to hear
somethin' or be ready to go. Most everybody stayed prutty close to the
depot for two or three days. Yes mam there sho was a crowd--a whole big
train full from here 'sides the other places. I jes' stayed here an'
been here ever since. The depot agent, he told 'em he didn't know 'bout
no train going to Africa. The tickets was no good on his trains.
"How I owns this place, I'll tell you. A man here had all dis land
'round here (Negro town) laid off. He couldn't sell none of his lots.
They wouldn't buy his lots. So he got after me. We had made a good crop,
so I got up the money and bought this place. One hundred dollars is what
I give him. Others then started to settlin' in and about close to my
"I guess it was Spotsells in Virginia what raised her. She say her name
was Lizzie Spotsell Johnson. Then when Ephram Hester bought her they
learned her to do about in their house. She cooked and swept and knocked
flies and tended to the children. She stayed with 'em a pretty long time
till she run off and went to Fryers Point.
"She may have told us about the Nat Turner rebellion but I don't
remember it. They sung a lot in my mother's time. Seemed lack they was
happier than we are somehow. She sung religious songs and one or two
field songs. I don't recollect 'em now.
"I never did vote. I never cared nuthin' about it. Some of 'em 'round
here wouldn't miss votin' for nothin'.
"Lawd me, chile, the times is done run ahead of me now. I'm so fur
behind I never expect to catch up. I don't pay no more attention to the
young folks, the way they act now, 'an I do my little dog there. They
don't want no advice and I would be afraid I would 'vise 'em wrong.
When my children come I tell 'em you are grown and you knows right from
wrong. Do right. That's all I know to say.
"The way I am supported is my husband gets all the jobs he able to do
and can and the governmint give me an' him $10 a month. We has a little
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: William Henry Rooks
Baptist Preacher; Brinkley, Arkansas
The slaves didn't spect nothing but freedom. Jes freedom! In Africa they
was free as wild animals and then they was so restricted. Jes put in
bondage for no reason at all.
No plantations was divided. I was born a slave and I remembers right
smart how it was.
My master was John Freeman and his wife's name was Fannie. I went to
Como, Mississippi twice a week to get the mail all durin the war. It was
eight miles. I rode a pony.
If you go to church you have to have a pass from the master. The
pattyrollers see you and you have to show it to them. It was just a
note. If you didn't have it they take or send you home. If they catch
you any more without a pass they whip you. They come to the church and
in all public places like the police stands around now. They rode around
mostly. Sometimes they went in droves.
They would let you go visiting sometimes and exchange work. Some masters
was good and some was mean jess like they are now and some slaves good
and some bad. That is the way they are now.
Some of the white men had a hundred slaves and had plenty money. The war
broke nearly all of them. The very worse thing I ever knowed about it
was some white men raised hands to sell like they raise stock now. It
was hard to have your child took off and never see or hear tell of it.
Mean man buy it and beat it up. Some of them was drove off to be sold at
auction at New Orleans. That was where some took them cause they could
get big money for them.
I never knowed of a master to give the slaves a dime when they become
free. They never promissed them nothing. The Yankees might have to toll
them off. The hands all stayed on John Freeman's place and when it was
over he give them the privilege of staying right on in their houses.
Some left after awhile and went somewhere they thought they could do
They didn't have the Ku Klux but it was bout like it what they had.
They wore caps shine de coons eye and red caps and red garments. Red
symbolize blood reason they wore red. They broke up our preaching. Some
folks got killed. Some was old, some young--old devlish ones. They was
like a drove of varments. I guess you be scared. They run the colored
folks away from church a lot of times. That was about equalization after
the freedom. That was the cause of that.
There was uprisings like I'm telling you but the colored folks didn't
have nothing to go in a gun if he had one. White folks make them give up
The first votin I done I was workin for young Henry Larson back in
Mississippi. He give my mother $120 a year to cook for his young wife
and give her what she eat and I worked on his farm. He told me to go
vote, it was election day. I ask him how was I going to know how to
vote. I could read a little. I couldn't write. The ballot box was at
Pleasant Mount. Ozan set over the box. He was a Yankee. He was the only
one kept the box. It was a wooden box nailed up and a slit in the top.
A.R. Howe and Captain Howe was two more Yankee white men there watching
round all day. Ozan was the sheriff at Sardis, Mississippi soon after
the war. Some more colored folks come up to vote. We stood around and
watched. We saw D. Sledge vote; he owned half of the county. We
knowed he voted Democrat so we voted the other ticket so it would be
Republican. I voted for President Grant. I don't believe in women
voting. They used to have the Australian Ballot System. It's a heap more
the man that's elected than it is the party. We all voted for Hoover;
he was a Republican and foe he got one term served out we was about on
starvation. I ain't voted since. That President claim to be a Democrat.
He ain't no Democrat. I don't know what he be.
I been farming and preaching. I started preaching in Mississippi. I
joined the conference in Arkansas in 1886 and started preaching at
Surrounded Hill (Biscoe). I come here in 1884 from Pinola County.
Mississippi. I had some stock and they was fencing up everything over
there. I had no land so I come to an open country. It wasn't long before
they fenced it in. I come to Brinkley and worked for Gun and Black
sawmill and I been here forty or fifty years. I don't know jess how
long. I couldn't starve to death in a whole year here. The people
wouldn't let me. I got lot of friends, both black and white, here.
I married December 17, 1874 in the Baptist church. Glasco Wilson was the
preacher married me. My wife died here in dis house nine years ago. We
had ten children but jes two livin now. My girl married a preacher and
live at Hope. Arkansas. My son preaches in Parson, Kansas.
I supports my own self. I works and I preaches a little yet. I saved up
some money but it nearly give out. The young generation, some of them,
do mighty bad. Some of them is all right. Some of them don't do much
and don't save nothing. I owns this house and did own another one what
burned down. A lamp exploded and caught it while I was going off up the
road but I never looked back or I would have seen it. It seem lack now
it takes more money to do than it ever did in times before. Seems like
money is the only thing to have and get. Folks gone scottch crazy over
money, money! Both is changing. The white folks, I'm speaking bout, the
white folks has changed and course the colored folks keeping up wid
them. The old white and colored neither can't keep up wid the fast
times. I say it's the folks that made this depression and it's the folks
keeping the depression. The little fellow is squeezed clear out. It out
to be stopped. Folks ain't happy like they used to be. Course they sung
songs all the time. Religious choruses mostly.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Amanda Rosa
817 Schiller Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was nine years old in the time of the surrender. I know I was here
in that time. I don't know nothin' 'bout their carryin'-on. I know they
whipped them with hobble rods. You don't know what hobble rods is!!!
Ain't you seen these here long thin hick'ry shoots? They called hobble
rods. I don't know why they called 'em hobble rods. I know they made you
hobble. They'd put 'em in the fire and roast 'em and twist 'em. I have
seen 'em whip them till the blood run down their backs. I've seen 'em
tie the women up, strip 'em naked to their waist and whip 'am till the
blood run down their backs. They had a nigger whipper, too.
"I was born in Salem, Alabama. I came up here about twenty-five years
"Isaac Adair was the name of the old man who owned me. He owned my
mother and father too, Hester and Scip. Their last name was Adair, the
same as their master's.
"I don't remember the names of my grandfather and grandmother, 'cause we
was crossed up, you see, One of my grandmothers was named Crecie and the
other was named Lydia. I don't remember my grandfather's name. I spect
I used to call 'im master. I used to remember them but I don't no more.
Nobody can't worry me 'bout them old folks now. They ast me all them
questions at the Welfare. They want to know your gran'pa and your
gran'ma. Who were they, what did they do, where did they live, where are
they now? I don't know what they did. That's too far back for me.
"My mother and father had nine children. I have only one sister living.
All the others done gone to heaven but me and her.
"My mother and father lived in a log cabin. They had one-legged beds
nailed to the wall. They had benches and boxes and blocks and all sich
as that for chairs. My daddy made the table we used. He made them
one-legged beds too. They kept the food in boxes and gourds. They had
these big gourds. They could cut holes in the top of them and put things
in them. My mammy had a lot of 'em and they were nice and clean too.
Wisht I had one of them now.
"Some folks didn't have that good. We had trundle beds for the children
that would run under the big bed when they wasn't sleeping in it. We
made a straw mattress. You know the white folks weren't goin' to let 'em
use cotton, and they didn't have no chickens to git feathers from; so
they had to use straw. Oh, they had a hard time I'm tellin' you. My
mother pulled greens out of the garden and field, and cured it up for
"For rations, we'd eat onions and vegetables. We et what was raised.
You know they didn't have nothin' then 'cept what they raised. All the
cookin' was done at one house, but there was two cooks, one for the
colored folks and one for the white folks. My grandma cooked for the
white people. They cooked in those big old washpots for the colored
people. We all thought we had a pretty good master.
"We didn't know nothin' about a master.
"I ain't positive what time the hands ate breakfast. I know they et it
and I know they et at the same time and place. I think they et after
sunrise. They didn't have to eat before sunrise.
"When they fed the children, they cook the food and put it in a great
big old tray concern and called up the children, 'Piggee-e-e-e-e,
piggee-e-e-e-e.' My cousin was the one had to go out and call the
children; and you could see them runnin' up from every which way, little
shirt tails flyin' and hair sticking out. Then they would pour the food
out in different vessels till the children could git around them with
those muscle-shell spoons. Many of them as could get 'round a vessel
would eat out of it and when they finished that one, they'd go to
another one, and then to another one till they all got fed.
"My master worked seventy hands they said. He had two colored overseers
and one white one. He didn't allow them overseers to whip and slash
them niggers. They had to whip them right. Didn't allow no pateroles to
bother them neither. That's a lot of help too. 'Cause them pateroles
would eat you up. It was awful. Niggers used to run away to keep from
bein' beat up.
"I knowed one gal that ran away in the winter time and she went up into
the hollow of a tree for protection. When she came in, she was in sich
a bad condition they had to cut off both her legs. They had froze out
there. They taken care of her. They wanted her to work. She was jus' as
nice a seamstress as you ever saw. And she could do lots of things. She
could get about some. She could go on her knees. She had some pads for
them and was just about as high as your waist when she was goin' along
on her hands and knees, swinging her body between her arms.
Ate in the Big House
"The cooks and my mother stayed in the white folks' yard. They weren't
in the quarters. My mother was seamstress and she was right in the house
all the day long sewing. The children like me and my sister, they used
us 'round the house and yard for whatever we could do. They didn't never
whip none of my father's children. If we done something they thought we
ought to been whipped for, they would tell father to whip us, and if he
wanted to, he would; and if he didn't want to, he wouldn't. They made a
big difference for some reason.
"They married in that time by standing up and letting someone read the
ceremony to them. My master was a Christian. There wasn't no jumpin'
over a broomstick on my master's place. The white folks didn't have no
nigger preacher for their churches. But the colored folks had 'em. They
preached out of these little old Blue Back Spellers--leastways they was
little blue back books anyhow.
"My folks was on the road refugeeing from Magnolia, Arkansas to
Pittsburg, Texas when the news came that the colored folks was free. And
my master came 'round and told the niggers they was free as he was. I
didn't hear him. I don't know where I was. I'm sure I was out playin
Slave Wages and Experiences after the War
"My father worked in a blacksmith shop right after the War. Before the
War, he went far and near to work for the white folks. They'd risk him
with their money and everything. They would give him part of it; I don't
know how much. He brought money to them, and they sure give him money.
"We didn't have to wear the things the other slave children had to wear.
He would order things for his family and my father would do the same for
us. When old master made his order, my father would put his in with it.
"I am the mother of fifteen children--ten girls and five boys. That was
enough for me. I am willing to quit off. My husband is dead. He's been
dead for thirty-five years.
"I don't know what to say about these young people. Mine are pretty
good. So, I'm 'fraid to say much about the others.
"Lord, I don't know what we'll do if we don't get some rain.
When I was able I washed and ironed. I didn't have to do nothin' till
after my father and husband died. Then I washed and ironed and cooked
till the white folks set me out. They said I was too old. That is one
thing I hates to think of. They had the privilege to say I couldn't
work; they ought to a seen that I got somethin' to live on when I wasn't
able to work no more."
You can't get the whole story by reading the words in this interview.
You have to hear the tones and the accents, and see the facial
expressions and bodily movements, and sense the sometimes almost occult
influence; you have to feel the utter lack of resentment that lies
behind the words that sound vehement when read. You marvel at the quick,
smooth cover-up when something is to be withheld, at the unexpected
vigor of the mind when the bait is attractive enough to draw it out, and
at the sweetness of the disposition. Some old people merely get
mellowed and sweetened by the hardships through which they have passed.
Sometimes, you wonder if some of the old folk don't have dispositions
that they can turn off or on at will.
It is not hard to realize the reason why Amanda was treated better than
other children when you remember that she called her grandpa "Master".
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: "Cat" Ross
Age: Born 1862
"I was born in Releford County on old Major Ross place. I was born
durin' a battle between the North and South at Murfreesboro. The house
was on the battle ground. Mama had five children. Her name was Susanna
Wade. Papa's name was Amos Ross. He belong to Major Bill Ross. Major
Ross had ten houses houses--one at the edge of the thicket, two on Stone
river, and they was scattered around over his land. Major Ross never
went to war. Papa went with Major Billy to bury his gold. It stayed
where they put it till after the war they went and dug it up. I seen
that. When they brought it to the house, it was a pot--iron pot--full of
gold. I didn't know where they had it buried nor how they fixed it.
"My folks was all field hands. They muster been blessed cause
they didn't get mixed up with the other nations. Grandfather's
mother--Grandma Venus--come from Africa. She'd been in bondage about
a hundred years. I recollect her well. My folks all lived to be old
people, over a hundred years old. They was all pretty well, all
"I have seen the Ku Klux quarter mile long and two breasted on horses.
They scared me so bad I never had no experiences with them. They run my
uncle in. He was a big dancer. One time they made him dance. He cut the
pigeon-wing for them. That was the name of what he danced.
"I never was sold. I was give way. One of the Wades married into the
Mitchell family. Mama belong to the Wades. They give me and Mama and
Aunt Sallie--she wasn't my aunt but I called her that--to Wade's
daughter. She was the young mistress. The Wades wasn't so good to their
slaves. When freedom was declared, Papa come and got me and Mama and
took us on over to his place agin. We started sharecroppin' at Major
Ross's place. In 1881 Chick McGregor paid my way. I come to Arkansas.
I farmed all my life till 1922 to 1933 I been here in Brassfield
sawmilling. They took the mill away from here. I cain't plough, I'm not
able. I pick and hoe cotton. I work day labor. I never have got on the
Name of Interviewer: Pernella Anderson
Subject: Centennial Snow--Spring in St. Louis addition
Name: Mattie Ross
Residence: South Field, Oil Field.
[TR: Information moved from bottom of second page.]
Ah wuz born aftuh surrender. Ah guess ah'm about 74 years ole. Mah pa
wuz er slave an mah ma wuz too. Dey moster wuz name Green Traylor an dey
lived right down dar at _Tula_ Creek. Mah mistess wuz named Martha
Traylor an dey name me aftuh huh. Mah name is Martha Lee Traylor. Aftuh
she mahried huh name wiz Martha Tatum. We worked down dar. Oh! Mah Lawd!
How we did work--all ovah dat bottom. De puttiest fiel' ah evah did see.
De Traylor's owned hit den. Later on de Tatums bought hit fum dem and
years aftuh dat de Nash's bought hit fum de Tatums. But new all uv dat
place is growed up. Nothing but er pine thicket and er black berry
thicket. Ye caint hardly walk through de place. Later on de Cobbs owned
us. George Cobb wuz his name. He lived down in de Caledonia settlement.
Ah went behin' him er many er day wid de hoe or he'd crack mah haid.
He use tuh be de sheriff here de years uv de boom an his nephew is de
sheriff now--Grady Wosley. Later en while ah wuz a gull ah werked fuh
de Swilleys an wuz partly raised on dey plantation. De ole man wuz name
Lawson Swilley. His wife, Margaret Swilley, and I clare dem two people
treated me white. She mammied me er many er day. Ah wuz bred and born
right down dar er-round Caledonia. Ah wuz a big gull durin de time uv de
centennial snow. Dis snow wuz called dat cause hit wuz de bigges snow
dat evah been. Hit wuz ovah yo haid. We had tuh spade our way evah whah
we went. Tuh de wood gitting place, tuh de sping, tuh de hoss lot, and
evah whah. De anow wuz warm an soft. We piled up so much snow till hit
took hit er half er year tuh melt. Dat snow stayed on de groun two
Ah am de muthah uv five gulls and fo' boys. Didn nairy one uv mah gulls
come in de pen till dey wuz mahried. Ah use tuh fish in er big ole fish
pond rat down whah de wesson depot is now. Years ergo people come fum
Camden an othuh places tuh fish in dat fish pond.
Mr. Sam Austin sole old man Burgy (Burgiss?) er piece uv groun' to bury
folks in and he wuz de first man tuh die an be buried dar. So dey name
hit de Burgy Cemetery.
Down dar in Memphis Addition atah the colored Prof. Dykes place dar use
tuh be one uv de bes' springs. Course at dat time hit wuz er big ole
fiel' den and de watuch wuz jes lak ice watuh.
Dat make me think. Mah pa sed he went tuh de wah tuh cook fuh his ole
moster, Green Traylor. Well pa said dar wuz er spring whar dey got
watuh. Said he went tuh git watuh outen de sping and had tuh pull dead
men outn de spring an dat day drinked of'n dem dead men all while de wah
wuz going on.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Laura Rowland
Address: Brinkley, Arkansas
"My parents name was Mary Ann and Sam Billingslea. Mother's father lived
with us when I first remember. His name was Robert Todd. He was a brown
skin Negro. They said he was a West Indian. He talked of olden times but
I don't remember well enough to tell you. Father owned a home that we
was living on when I first remember. Mother was bright color, too.
Vaden, Mississippi was our trading post. Mother had twenty children. She
was a worker. She would work anywhere she was put. My folks never talked
much about slavery. I don't know how they got our place.
"I know they was bothered by the Ku Klux. One night they heard or saw
the Ku Klux coming. The log house set low on the ground but was dug out
to keep potatoes and things in--a cellar like. The planks was wide, bout
a foot wide, rough pine, not nailed down. They lifted the planks up and
all lay down and put the planks back up. The house look like outside
nothing could go under it, it was setting on the hard ground. When they
got there and opened the doors they saw nobody at home and rode off.
"Another time, one black night, a man--he must have been a
soldier--strided a block step with his horse and ordered supper. She
told him she didn't have nothing cooked and very little to cook. He
cursed and ordered the supper. Told her to get it. She pretended to be
fixing it and slipped out the back door down the furrows and squatted
in the briers in a fence corner. Long time after she had been out there
hid, he come along, jumped the fence on his horse, jumped over her back,
down into the lane and to the road he went. If the horse hadn't jumped
over her and had struck her he would have killed her. Now I think he was
a soldier, not the Ku Klux. I heard my father say he was a yard boy.
"I married in Mississippi and came to Malvern and Hot Springs. He was a
mill hand. I raised three children of my own and was a chamber maid.
I kept house and cooked for Mrs. Bera McCafity, a rich woman in Hot
Springs. My husband died and was buried at Malvern. I married again, in
Hot Springs, and lived there several years. We went to the steel mill at
Gary, Indiana. He died. I come back here and to Brinkley in 1920. One
daughter lives in Detroit and one in Chicago. The youngest one is
married, has a family and a hard time; the other makes her living. It
takes it all to do her. I get $8.00 on the P.W.A.
"They all accuse me around here of talking mighty proper. I been around
fine city folks so much I notice how they speak.
"I don't fool with voting. I don't care to vote unless it would be some
town question to settle. I would know something about it and the people.
"I don't know my age. I was grown when I married nearly sixty years ago.
We have to show our license to get on the W.P.A. or our age in the Bible
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Landy Rucker
2315 W. Fourth Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in 1854 in the State of Georgia, Elbert County.
"I member some about the war. I went to the field when I was twelve.
Pulled fodder, picked peas and tended to the cow pen. I had to go then.
We had _a good master_. _Our mistress wasn't good though_. She
wouldn't give us enough to eat. Old master used to ask if we had enough
to eat and he'd pull out great big hams and cut em all to pieces and
give em to us. Old mistress would cry and say, 'You're givin' away all
my good dinner.' But she repented since the war. She said she didn't do
"We got here to Pine Bluff in '61.
"Oh yes, I remember comin' here on the train and on the boat.
"Old mistress whipped us when she thought we needed it. I been pretty
good all my life.
"My father was a blacksmith and one day when I was six or seven I was
takin' his dinner when some dogs smelled the dinner and smelled me too
and they got after me. I had to climb a tree and they stayed around till
they heard some other dogs barkin' and ran off. I come down then and
took my bucket and left. Nother time some hogs chased me. They rooted
all around the tree till they heard somethin' crackle in the woods and
run off and then I'd come down.
"After the war I went to school three days and the teacher whipped me. I
went home and I didn't go back. I went home and went to the field. I had
a mother and a sister and I tried to make a living for them.
"I went to school a little while after that and then went to the field.
Most I know I learned by myself.
"Yes'm, I seen the Yankees bout a year fore the war ceasted. They come
to get somethin' to eat and anything else they could get. Got the mules
and things and took my two brothers and put em in the war. One come back
after surrender and the other one died in the war. They said they was
fightin' to free the niggers from being under bondage.
"I seen the Ku Klux. Looked like their horses could fly. Made em jump a
big high fence. They come and took my father and all the other men on
the place and was goin' to put em in the Confederate army. But papa was
old and he cried and old mistress thought a lot of him so they let him
stay. I just lay down and hollered cause they was takin' my brothers,
but they didn't keep em long. One of my brothers, six years older than
me, come up here to Pine Bluff to jine the Yankees.
"We could hear the guns at Marks Mill.
"I been married twice. There was about eleven years betwixt the two
"I worked on the farm till about '85. Then I worked in the planing mill.
I got hit by a car and it broke my hip so I have to walk on crutches
now. Then I got me a little shoe shop and I got along fine till I got so
I couldn't set down long enough to fix a pair of shoes. I bought this
house and I gets help from the Relief so I'm gettin' along all right
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Martha Ruffin
1310 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was born in North Carolina, and I was seven years old when the
Surrender was. Every one of my children can tell you when they was born,
but I can't. My mother, Quinettie Farmer was her name. Brother Robert
Farmer is my cousin. He is about the same age as my husband. He got
married one week and me and my husband the next. My father's name was
Valentine Farmer. My grandmother on my mother's side was Mandy Harrison,
and my grandfather's name on my mother's side was Jordan Harrison. My
grandpa on my father's side was named Reuben Farmer, and his wife was
Nancy Farmer. I have seed my grandpa and grandma on my father's side.
But my mother didn't see them on my mother's side.
"I 'members my daddy's white folks' names, Moses Farmer. My father never
was sold. My daddy, Valentine Farmer, was a ditcher, shoemaker, and
sometimes a tanner. My mother was a house girl. She washed and ironed. I
couldn't tell exactly what my grandparents did. My grandparents, so my
parents told me, were mostly farmers. I reckon Moses Farmer owned about
three hundred slaves.
"I was born on Robert Bynum's place. He was my mother's owner. He
married one of the Harrison girls and my mother fell to that girl. My
mother done just about as she pleased. She didn't know nothin' about
workin' in the field till after the Surrender.
"The way my mother and father happened to meet--my old master hired my
daddy to do some work for him and he met my mama that way.
"The way my folks learned they was free was, a white school-teacher who
was teaching school where we stayed told my mother she was free, but
not to say nothing about it. About three weeks later, the Yankees come
through there and told them they was free and told my old boss that if
he wanted them to work he would have to hire them and pay them. The
school-teacher stayed with mother's folks--mother's white folks. The
school-teacher was teaching white folks, not niggers. She was a Yankee,
too. My mother was the house girl, and the school-teacher stayed with
her folks. The War was so hot she couldn't git no chance to go back
"My daddy farmed after the War. He farmed on shares the first year. The
next year, he bought him a horse. He finally owned his own farm. He
owned it when he died. He had about one hundred acres of land.
"I have pretty fair health for an old woman like I am. I am bothered
with the rheumatism. The Lawd wouldn't let both of us git down at the
same time. (Here she refers to her husband who was sick in bed at
the time she made the statement. You have his story already. It was
difficult for her to tell her story, for he wanted it to be like
"I belong to the Primitive Baptist Church. I haven't changed my
membership from my home.
"I got married in 1882, in February. How many years is that? I got so I
can't count up nothin'. Fifty-six years. Yes, that's it; that's how long
I been married. I had a little sister that got married with me. She
didn't really git married; she just stood up with me. She was just a
little baby girl. They told me I was pretty near twenty-three years old
when I married. I have a daughter that's been married twenty-five years.
We had older daughters, but that one was the first one married. I have
got a daughter over in North Little Rock that is about fifty years old.
Her husband is dead. We had ten children. My daughter is the mother of
ten children too. She got married younger than I did. This girl I am
living with is my baby. I have four children living--three girls and one
boy. A woman asked me how many children I had and I told her three. She
was a fortuneteller and she wanted to tell me my fortune. But I didn't
want her to tell me nothin'. God was gittin' ready to tell me somethin'
I didn't want to hear. I've got five great-grandchildren. We don't have
no great-great-grandchildren. Don't want none."
The old lady's style was kind of cramped by the presence of her husband.
Every once in a while, when she would be about to paint something in
lurid colors, he would drop in a word and she would roll her phrases
around in her mouth, so to speak, and shift and go ahead in a different
direction and on another gear.
Very pleasant couple though--with none of the bitterness that old age
brings sometimes. The daughter's name is Searles.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person Interviewed: Thomas Ruffin
1310 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: 82 or 84
"I was born in North Carolina, Franklin County, near Raleigh. My
father's name really I don't know. Folks said my master was my daddy.
That's what they told me. Of course, I don't know myself. But then white
folks did anything they wanted to in slavery times.
"My mother's name was Morina Ruffin. I don't know the names of my
grandparents. That is too far back in slavery for me. Of course, old man
Ruffin my father's father, which would have been my grandfather, he died
way back yonder in slave times before the war. My father gotten kilt in
the war. His name was Tom Ruffin. I was named after him. He died trying
to hold us. That man owned three hundred slaves. He never married.
Carried my mother round everywhere he went. Out of all his niggers, he
didn't have but one with him. That was in slavery time and he was a fool
"I couldn't tell you exactly when I was born. Up until the surrender I
couldn't tell how old I was. I am somewheres around eighty-two years
old. The old lady is just about the same. We guesses it in part. We
figure it on what we heard the old folks say and things like that. I
remember plenty of things about slavery that I saw.
"I never did much when I was a boy. The biggest thing I remember is a
mule got to kicking and jumped around in a stall. She lost her footing
and fell down and broke her neck right there in the stall. I remember
her name as well as if it was yesterday. Her name was Bird. That was
just before the war. I know I must have been at least four years old
then. You can figure that up and see what it comes to.
"I never did any work when I was a child. I jus went to the spring with
the young Mistress and danced for them sometimes. But they never did
give me any work to do,--like they did the others. I lived right in the
biggest house the biggest portion of my time.
"That day and time, they made compost heaps. Mixed dirt with manure.
They hoed cotton and crops. They didn't know what school was. They
helped with washing and ironing. Did every kind of work they had
strength enough to do till they got big enough to go to the field. That
was what the children did.
"When they were about seven years old, to the best of my recollection
they would go to the field. Seven or eight. They would pick up corn
stalks and brush. And from that on when they were about eight or nine,
they would pick cotton.
"My mother never did have to do anything round the farm. She lived about
seventy-five miles from it, there where the master had his office. He
was a lawyer. After I was born, she didn't come out to see me but once a
year that I recollect. When she did come, she would bring me some candy
or cakes or something like that.
"I didn't see the soldiers during the time of the war. But I saw plenty
of them afterwards--riding round and telling the niggers they were free.
They had some of the finest saddles I ever seed. You could hear them
creaking a block off. No, I didn't see them while they was fighting. We
were close enough to hear the guns crash, and we could see the light
from them, but I didn't actually see the fightin. The Yankees come
through on every plantation where they were working and entered into
every house and told us we was free. The Yankees did it. They told you
you were free as they were, that you didn't have to stay where you was,
that you didn't have no more master, that you could go and come as you
"I got along _hard_ after I was freed. It is a hard matter to tell
you what we could find or get. We used to dig up dirt in the smokehouse
and boil it and dry it and sift it to get the salt to season our food
with. We used to go out and get old bones that had been throwed away and
crack them open and get the marrow and use them to season the greens
with. Jus plenty of niggers then didn't have anything but that to eat.
"Even in slavery times, there was plenty of niggers out of them three
hundred slaves who had to break up old lard gourds and use them for
meat. They had to pick up bones off the dung hill and crack them open to
cook with. And then, of course, they'd steal. Had to steal. That the bes
way to git what they wanted.
"They had a great big kitchen for the slaves. They had what you call pot
racks they could push them big pots in and out on. They cooked hog slop
there. They had trays and bowls to eat out of that were made out of gum
wood. It was a long house used as a kitchen for the hands to go in
and eat. They et dinner there and for supper they would be there. But
breakfast, they would have to eat in the field. The young niggers would
bring it out to them. They would bring it about an hour after the sun
rose and the slave hands would eat it right out in the field; that was
the breakfast. You see the hands went to the field before sunup, and
they didn't get to eat breakfast in the kitchen and it had to be et in
the field. Little undergrowth of children--they had plenty of them on
the place--had to carry their meals to them.
"They would usually give them collars [HW: collards] in green times,
potatoes in potato time. Bread,--they didn't know what that was. White
folks hardly knew theirselves. They didn't have butter and they didn't
have no sugar. Didn't know much about what meat was yet. They would give
the little bits of children pot liquor. That's the most I ever seed them
git. Of course I was treated differently. You couldn't judge them by
me. I was the only half-white youngun round there, and they said I was
half-brother to ol Marse's chillun. And the white chillen would git me
up to the house to dance for them and all like, and they would give me
biscuits or anything good they had. I never seed the others eatin nothin
but pot liquor.
"Most of the slaves lived in log cabins. You know they never had but
one door. In general where they had large families, they would have two
rooms with a chimney in the middle of the house. The chimney was built
out of mud and straw. I can remember them sawin the timber. Two pulled a
big ol crosscut saw. Didn't have no saw mills then. This world has come
from a long ways. They used to didn't have no plows. It was without
form. You made it at home.
"They had ol homemade bedsteads to sleep in. They had a little rope
that ran back and forth instead of slats. That was called a corded bed.
Cheers were all made at home and were split bottoms.
"They didn't many of the slaves have food in their homes. But when they
did, they would jus have a little wooden box and they would put their
food in it.
"It seems like the white people got to burying their money during the
time of the war. That never come out till after the war. Then they got
to wantin that money and started looking for it. There never was any
talk of buried treasure before the war.
"My folks didn't give me any schoolin before the surrender. I never
got any before the surrender and a mighty little afterwards. No nigger
knowed anything. I started to farming when I was thirteen years old. I
used to be a fertilizer, and then a cotton sower. That was the biggest
I knowed about farming when I was a boy. My mother lived about fifteen
years after slavery. I reckon.
"In the time of slavery, you couldn't marry a woman. You just took up
with her. Mother married the same man she had been going with after
freedom. She had four children after the surrender as fer as I can
tell--three girls and two boys.
"I moved from North Carolina to Louisiana. Stayed there one year and
then moved here. Bought forty acres of land. Bought it after I'd been
here a year. It took me four years to pay for that. Then next time I
bought eighty acres and paid for them. Paid them out in two years. Then
I bought eighty acres more and paid for them in two years. Couldn't pay
for them cash at first, but could have paid for the last eighty when I
bought them if I had a wanted to. Then I bought eighty more and then I
bought eighty again and then forty and on till I had five hundred and
three acres of farm land. I got the three over when I got the sorghum
"I left my farm and come to the city for doctor's treatment. My old
lady and I worked out five hundred and three acres of land. I got five
children living. I gave each one of them forty acres of land. Most of
the rest I sold. I got a fellow here that owes me for one of the places
now. He lives over on Third and Dennison. His name is Wright. My old
lady an me held on to that and didn't lose it even in all these hard
"My daughter kept after me to come here and she built this little house
out here where I could holler or do anything I wanted to do and not
disturb nobody. I couldn't feel at home up in a big house with other
people. Four or five months ago it would take two people to put me to
bed. I would get off from home and have to carry me back. But I
am gettin along fine now. This high blood pressure keeps me from
remembering so well. Ol lady where's my pipe? You didn't find it up to
daughter's? Ain't it in the kitchen? Can't you find it nowheres? What
_didju_ do with it? Well, you needn't look for it no longer. It's
here in my pocket. That's my high blood pressure workin. That whut it
does to you.
"I belong to the Primitive Baptist Church and have been belonging to it
altogether about sixty-three years. I used to be a Missionary. I been a
member of the church a long time.
"I think times are jus fulfilling the Bible. The people are wiser now
than we ever known them to be and wickeder. I don't believe the times
you see now will be always. People are getting so wise and so wicked
that I think the end is near at hand. You notice the Germans now are
trying to make slaves out of the Jews. There's the Japans that is jus
slaughtering up the Chinese like they was nothin but dumb brutes. The
world is wickeder than it ever has been before.
"The young people today! I'd hate to tell you what I do think of them.
The business is going to fall."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Casper Rumple, De Valls Bluff, Arkansas
"I will be, providin' the good Lord spare me, 79 years old the first day
of January. I was born in Lawrence County, South Carolina. The Big road
was the dividing line between that and Edgefield County. My mother
belonged to John Griffin. His wife named Rebecca. My father was a
Irishman. Course he was a white man--Irishman. Show I did know him. He
didn't own no slaves. I don't guess he have any land. He was a overseer
in Edgefield County. His name was Ephraim Rumple. What become of him?
He went off to fight the Yankees and took Malaria fever and died on Red
River. I could show you bout where he died.
"My mother had a big family. I can't tell you much bout them. I was the
youngest. She cooked up at John Griffins. He was a old man and the land
was all his wife's. She was old too. She had some grown girls. He had
no children. They called him Pa and I did too. I stayed round with him
nearly all the time helping him.
"He had a room and she had a room. I slept on a bed--little
bed--home-made bed--in the room wid him and she slept in the room with
her two girls and my mother slept in the kitchen a whole heap so she
be there to get breakfast early. They riz early every mornin'. John
Griffins wife owned four plantations more than 160 acres in each one,
but I couldn't say how much.
"My mother was a field hand in busy times too. Miss Rebecca had all the
slaves clothes made. She seed to that. She go to the city, Augusta, and
bring back bolts cloth. One slave sewed for Miss Rebecca and her family.
She didn't do all the sewing but she sewed all the time. One woman done
all the weavin'. At night after they work in the field Miss Rebecca give
em tasks--so many bats to card or so much spinnin' to do.
"Master John didn't want em to work at night but she made em work all
the same. They b'long to her. Another thing the women had to do was work
in the garden. It was a three acre garden. They always had plenty in
thar. Had it palinged so the young chickens couldn't squeeze through the
"They had plenty stock and made all the fertilizer needed in the garden
and patches. They had goober patch, popcorn patch, sorghum patches,
several of em, pea patches but they was field cabbage patch and
watermellon patch. They had chicken house, goose house, duck house and
way off a turkey pen. It had a cover on it. They had to be cleaned and
all that manure moved to the garden and patches. Old man John Griffin
was a good man. Things went on pretty quiet bout the place. They had
to do their own cooking. They got for the grown ups 3 pounds meat, 1
pk.[TR:?] meal a week. They fed the young chaps plenty so they wouldn't
get stunted. They keep em chunky till they get old nough to grow up tall
and that make big women and big men. They stunt em then when they
start runnin' up, it cause em to be low. The owners was mighty careful
(not)[HW: ?] to feed the chaps nough to eat so they make strong hands.
"Men come long the road peddlin' from out the cities, men come long with
droves of horses and mules. They was called horse traders. Then once in
a while they come long tradin' and selling slaves. Nother way they sell
em was at public auction. Iffen a slave steal from another master, like
go in his smoke house or crib and steal, the sheriff have to whip him.
They would have public whippin'.
"How'd they know was freedom? How'd they not know it was freedom?
Everybody went wild. They was jes' crazy cause they was free. Way I
knowd for certain it was freedom Mr. John Griffin had all the slaves
that hadn't done went off come to the house and he told them they was
all free. Some of em just started walking the roads till they nearly
starved. The government didn't start feeding the slaves till so many
nearly starved. My mother cooked on nearly a year. Then she went to work
for Vaughn in Edgefield County.
"They didn't give them no land. The white folks was land pore.
"They didn't have no money. When the masters had money they give the
slaves a little spending money. Nearly all the slaves had a little money
long. They get a pass to split rails for a neighbor and make money.
That was befo freedom. After freedom nobody had money but the Yankee
soldiers. They keep it closer than the folks you been livin' with.
"Mr. Griffin, he was called General by all the young men. He was too old
to fight so he trained soldiers. He didn't wear a uniform but they did.
They met certain days every week. They wore gray uniforms.
"They had a battle at Lawrence. It was 17 miles. The soldiers passed
long the Big road. I didn't see the battles. I heard plenty talk about
that conflict at Lawrence though.
"I heard the slaves was goin' to get 40 acres and a mule. I tell you
they didn't wait to see if they was going to get another meal. They went
wild, walking and hooping up and down the road. They found out when they
nearly starved they had got the bad end of the game somehow. Then to
keep em from starvin' they had certain days to go to Lawrence and get a
little rations. Not much I tell you. They started stealin' and the Ku
Klux started up bout that.
"The President got killed (Abraham Lincoln). Then they knowed the gig
was up. They had to go to work hard as ever and mighty little to eat.
The slaves did vote. It was the color of the paper they used way they
knowed how to vote. The Republican government had full sway 12 years.
All the offices at Edgefield nearly was Negroes cept the sheriff. The
Yankees tell em what to do way they knowed how. Butler went to Congress.
He was a Negro--(???). That was what the Ku Klux was mad bout. They run
the Yankees out and took holt of the offices soon as they could.
"Our master had no Ku Klux comin' on our place. He protected us, It
wasn't no different than slavery till I was nearly grown and a drove was
walking going west to better place. I got in with them and come on. The
Ku Klux had killed several Negroes. That scared them all up. I remember
Tuscaloosa, Alabama when we cone through there. We was walking--a line
a mile long--marching and singing. They was building back in a hurry
seemed like to me. The town had been burned up. Some dropped out to get
work along. Some fell out sick. Some so weak they died long the road.
Had to keep up. Some stopped; they never caught up no more. Mostly old
folks or half starved folks couldn't keep going. The Ku Klux whoop and
shoot you down for any little thing. They started at night, fraid of the
Yankees but they whooped and run them out and the Negroes left. The Ku
Klux got so bold they didn't dress up nor go at night neither. At first
they was careful then they got bold. The Yankee soldiers bout all they
was afraid of. The Negroes found out who some of the Ku Klux was and
told the Yankees but it didn't do much good. After bout twelve years all
the Yankees gone back home. The white folks down in Carolina thought
bout as little of them as Negroes. They wouldn't let them have no land
if they did have money to pay any price for it. They didn't want them
living amongst them. They say they rether have a Negro family.
"The biggest Negro uprisin' I ever seed was at freedom. They riz up in a
"I had to stop and work all along. I got to Arkansas in 1881. I never
went no further. I been all my life farmin'. I cut and sell wood, clear
land. The best living was when I farmed and sold wood. I bought a 10
acre farm and cleared it up graduly, then I sold it fer $180.00 cause I
got blind and couldn't see to farm it. I had a house on it. I own this
here house (a splendid home). My daughter and her husband come to take
care me. They come from Cincinatti here. She made $15.00 a week up there
three years. I get $8.00 a month now from the Social Welfare. If I could
see I could make money.
"I never seen times like this. Sin is causin' it. Unrest and
selfishness. No neighborly spirit. I don't bother no young folks. I
don't know how they will come out. If they caint get a big price they
won't work and the white folks are doing their own work, and don't help
like they did. I could get along if I could see. I had a light stroke
keeps me from talkin' good, I hear that."
Interviewer: Thomas Elmore Lucy
Person interviewed: Henry Russell, Russellville, Arkansas
"My father's name was Ed Russell, and he was owned by Dr. Tom Russell,
de first pioneer settler of Russellville--de' man de town got its name
"My name is Henry, and some folks call me 'Bud.' I was born at Old
Dwight de 28th of October, 1866. Yes suh, dat date is correct.
"I was too young to remember much about happenings soon after de War,
but I kin ricollect my father belongin' to de militia for awhile during
de Reconstruction days. Both Negroes and whites were members of de
"My folks come here from Alabama, but I don't know much about them
except dat my grandmother, Charlotte Edwards, give me an old wash pot
dat has been in de family over one hundred years. Yes suh, it's out here
in de ya'd now. Also, I owns an old ax handle dat I keep down at de
store jist for a relic of old days. It's about a hundred years old, too.
"My wife was Sallie Johnson of Little Rock, and she was a sister of Mrs.
Charley Mays, de barber you used to know, who was here sich a long time.
"For a long time I worked at different kinds of odd jobs, sometimes in
de coal mines and sometimes on de farms, but for several years I've run
a little store for de colored folks here in Russellville. Ain't able to
do very much now.
"I remember very well de first train dat was ever run into Russellville.
Must have been 68 or 69 years ago. A big crowd of people was here from
all over de country. Of course dere was only a few families living in de
town, and only one or two families of colored folks. People come in from
everywhere, and it was a great sign. Little old train was no bigger dan
de Dardanelle & Russellville train. (You remember de little old train
dey used to call de 'Dinkey' don't you?) Well, it wasn't no bigger dan
de Dinkey, and it didn't run into de depot at all, stopped down where de
dump is now. Sure was a sight. Lot of de folks was afraid and wouldn't
go near it, started to run when two men got off. I saw only two man
working in front of it, but I remember it very plain. Dey was working
with wheelbarrows and shovels to clear up de track ahead.
"Another thing I remember as a boy was de 'sassination of President
Gyarfield. I can't read or write but very little, but I remember about
dat. It was a dull, foggy mornin', and I was crossin' de bayou with Big
Bob Smith. (You remember 'Big Bob' dat used to have the merry-go-'round
and made all de county fairs.) Well, he told me all about de killing of
de President. It was about 1881 wasn't it?
"I think times was better in de old days because people was better. Had
a heap more honor in de old days dan dey have now. Not many young folks
today have much character.
"All right. Come back again. Whenever I kin help you out any way, I'll
be glad to."
NOTE: Henry Russell is quite proud of the fact that his ancestors were
the first families of Russellville. He is a polite mulatto, uneducated,
and just enough brogue to lend the Southern flavor to his speech, but is
a fluent conversationalist.
Interviewer: Miss Sallie C. Miller
Person interviewed: Katie Rye, Clarksville, Arkansas
"We lived in Greenbrier, Faulkner County, Arkansas. All stayed at home
and got along very well. We had enough to eat and wear. Mistress was
awful mean to us but we stayed with them until after the war. After the
war master moved us off to another place he had and my father farmed for
his self, master and his pa and ma, and mistress' pa and ma. They awful
good to us, but mistress was so high tempered she would get mad and whip
some of the slaves but she never whipped any of us. She worried so over
the loss of her slaves after the war she went crazy. We had two white
grand pas and grand mas. We colored children called them grandpa and ma
and uncle and aunt like the white children did and we didn't know
the difference. The slaves was only allowed biscuit on Christmas and
sometimes on Sundays but we had beef and plenty of honey and everything
after we moved from the big house. Mistress used to come down to see
us an' my mother would cook dinner for her and master. He was such a
_good_ man and the best doctor in the State. He would come in and
take the babies up (mother had nine children) and get them to sleep for
my mother. His mother would come to the kitchen and ask for a good cup
of coffee and mother would make it for her. The master and his family
were Northern people and my mother was given to the mistress by her
father and mother when she married.
"After my father bought his own farm about ten miles from the big house,
father would put us all in an ox wagon and take us back to see our white
"The mistress claimed to be a Christian and church member but I don't
see how she could have been she was so mean.
"I think the present day generation mighty wicked. Seems like they get
worse instead of better, even the members of the church are not as good
as they used to be. They don't raise the children like they used to.
They used to go to Sunday School and church and take the children, now
the children do as they please, roam the streets. It is sad to see how
the parents are raising the children, just feed them and let them go.
The children rule the parents now.
"We sang the old hymns and 'Dixie', 'Carry Me Back to Old Virginia',
'When You and I Were Young, Maggie'."
Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Miss Hazel Horn
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
DATE--Last of April, 1936
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
1. Name and address of informant--Uncle Bob Samuels, Washington,
2. Date and time of interview--Last of April, 1936
3. Place of interview--Washington, Arkansas
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--J.C.W. Smith
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.
Personal History of Informant
1. Ancestry--Grandmother, Spanish; Grandfather, Negro; father, Negro.
2. Place and date of birth--Born about 1846
4. Places lived in, with dates--
5. Education, with dates--
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--
7. Special skills and interests--
8. Community and religious activities--
9. Description of informant--Tall and straight. He is blind. Clean in
appearance, dressed in slightly faded overalls. He has short, clean,
grey beard. Speaks with a clear accent.
10. Other points gained in interview--Ancestors were in De Soto
Text of Interview (Unedited)
"From my mother's mother I learned that on my mother's side my ancestor
came with De Soto from Spain where she was educated at Madrid. From
Spain she came to Havana, Cuba, and from there to Tampa, Florida. From
Florida she came to some point in Alabama. From this place she came to
the Mississippi river and the East Bank and crossed where it is called
Gaines Landing. After they crossed the river they went ten kilometers
from there, traveled north from there to where Arkansas County is close
to the mouth of the Arkansas River. Here they camped awhile. When they
broke camp there they traveled northeast to Boiling Springs. Making
their way from here they crossed the Ouachita River on the other side
of Arkadelphia. They traveled on, crossing Little Missouri River below
Wallaceburg. Here they found some Indian mounds. Then they traveled on a
trail from there to Washington, turned into Washington and took a trail
toward Columbus and turned off to the right (Uncle Bob not sure of the
name of this trail) and crossed what is known as Beard's Lake. They
crossed Little River at Ward's Ferry and crossed the Saline river.
Traveling northwest they reached White Oak shoals where Index is now and
crossed over into what was Mexico and traveled to a place called Kawaki
located where [TR: ?] now is.
"After camping here for a while they came back into Arkansas to some
point near Rando, crossed Red River at Dooley's Ferry, went to Coola
Fabra(?) and back to Boiling Springs. [Here a gold mine was found and
a quarrel ensued, and in a fight De Soto was killed.] They carried
his body overland and buried him in the Mississippi River between
Grensville[HW:sp.] and Vicksburg. [TR: Moved from end of interview: De
Soto was buried at the junction of the Mississippi and [??] Rivers,
about 100 miles south of Vicksburg.] The remaining forces of the
expedition returned to Spain.
"Sometime in 1816 my mother's mother was born. My mother's mother was
Spanish. My mother says she was well educated. Mother and her mother
have Spanish mixed with Negro blood. I had a sister named Mary and a
brother named John.
"Armarilla, my grandmother came here from Cuba through to Gaines
Landing. Her son Edmin and her husband were with her. They crossed the
Mississippi River and she said they stopped at the old De Soto camp. A
short distance west of this place they met two men--Nick Trammel and
John Morrow who profitted (dealt) in Negro slaves. My grandfather and
mother employed these men to guide them to Coola Fabre(?) Camden?. From
Little River to Dooley's Ferry these men carried them to Waco, Texas.
They killed my grandfather and kept my grandmother forcing her to marry
either a half-breed Mexican, an Indian or a Negro. It was near Waco in
Hickman[HW:sp.] Prairie that mother was born. The boy Edmin was returned
to Dooley's Ferry and remained in the vicinity until he was about
seventeen years of age. He then lived in the vicinity of Little Rock
about six months before returning to Mexico. My grandmother said that
Mr. Trammel and Mr. Morrow probably thought he might cause trouble and
killed him as she never saw him after he returned from Little Rock.
Mother was held in Lafayette County at a point where the river crossed
and joined Bowie County (Texas) and where Louisiana bounded the south.
"De Soto traveled by land, not by boat. He had a force of about 550
persons. The women dressed as men. My grandmother was with her husband.
"My mother was a slave. She was held in Bowie County, Hickens[HW:sp.]
Prairie, by Bob Trammel. They kept her locked up and I have heard mother
say that she used whale bone, card bats and a spinning wheel. Finally
they got so hot behind the Trammels in 1847-48, they pulled up stakes
and went down on the Guadalupe River and carried my mother's mother down
there. Before they left Dave Block went on Trammel's bond and got my
mother. He made my mother head housekeeper slave. She had been taught
Spanish. She was tall and fair with straight black hair. She was married
to Dick Samuels, my father.
"After the war my father was elected [HW: Hempstead] County Clerk in
1872 on the Republican ticket. He could neither read nor write, so
was clerk in name only securing one of the white men to attend to the
office. By trade he was a blacksmith."
Uncle Bob Samuels is the son of Richard Samuels and Mary. He was a slave
of David Block. After freedom he came to Little Rock with a sister and a
brother, John. Uncle Bob said he often heard his mother speak of a gold
mine. She had a trunk of maps and charts which her mother had given to
her. In this was supposed to be the papers regarding De Soto's legendary
gold mine. The trunk had been lost as Uncle Bob has no idea where the
gold mine is. He tells the story the same way, never varying a point. He
does not claim to remember Indian trails or names.
Uncle Bob is tall and straight. He is blind. Was clean in appearance
dressed in slightly faded overalls. He has a short, clean grey beard. He
talks with a clear accent, no Negro accent. During Reconstruction days
he served as County Clerk of Hempstead County under Carpetbaggar rule.
During those days he was a political power to be reckoned with. He was
a national as well as a state figure in the "Lily White Republican"
organization. [His wife was a Negro, good looking, but showed little
trace of much white blood.]
Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins
Person Interviewed: Emma Sanderson
Home: 617 Wade Street, Hot Springs.
"Emma Sanderson"--"Wade Street". That was all the prospective
interviewer could learn. "Emma Sanderson--ex-slave!" "Wade Street"--"Why
it's way off that way. You go sort of thatta way, and then thatta way."
A city map disclosed no Wade Street. Maps belonging to a local
abstractor helped not a whit. "Insurance maps are in more detail."
someone advised, "Wade Street," mused the young woman at the desk, "I've
heard of it. We have written a policy for someone there." The head of
the department was new to the city, but he was eager to help. After
about five minutes search--from wall maps to bound volumes of blocks
and back again it appeared that "Wade Street" more frequently known as
"Washington Street" meanders wanderingly from Silver Street, in the
colored section out to the "Gorge addition" inhabited by low economic
Down Malvern Avenue (Hot springs' Beale Street) went the interviewer. On
she went past the offices of a large Chicago packing house. For better
then a block she trudged by dilapidated shops which a few seasons back
had housed one of the key transient centers of the U.S.A. Down the
street she walked, pausing for a moment to note that coffee colored
faces decorated the placards in the beauty shop window--two well groomed
mulatto girls sitting inside, evidently operators. Her course took her
past sandwich joints and pool halls. Nails, she noted as she drifted
along, had been driven into the projection beneath the plate glass
window of the brick bank (closed during the depression--a building and
bank built, owned and operated by negro capital) to keep loungers away.
The colored theater (negroes are admitted only to the balconies of
theaters in Hot Springs--one section of the balcony at the legitimate
theater) she noticed was now serving as a religious gathering place. The
well built and excellently maintained Pythian Bath house (where the hot
waters are made available to colored folk) with the Alice Eve Hospital
(45 beds, 5 nurses, 2 resident physicians--negro doctors thruout the
town cooperating--surgical work a specialty) stood out in quiet dignity.
For the rest, buildings were an indiscriminate hodge-podge of homes,
apartment houses, shacks, and chain groceries. At the corner where "the
street turns white" the interviewer turned east.
The Langston High School (for colored--with a reputation for turning out
good cooks, football players and academicians) stands on Silver Street.
A few paces from the building the interviewer met a couple of plump
colored women laughing and talking loudly.
"I beg your pardon," was her greeting, "can you tell me where Wade
Street is?" They could and did. They were so frankly interested in
knowing why the white women wanted Emma Sanderson that she told them
her mission. They were not taken aback--there was no servility--no
resentment they were frankly charmed with the idea. Their directions for
finding Mrs. Sanderson became even more explicit.
When the proper turn off was found the question of Wade versus
Washington Street was settled. A topsy-turvy sign at the intersection
announced that Wade Street was ahead. Emma Sanderson's grandson lived a
couple of blocks down the road.
Only the fact that she could hear someone inside moving about kept the
interviewer hammering on the door. Finally she was rewarded by a voice.
"Is that somebody a' knockin'?" In a moment the door opened. The
question, "Were you a slave" no matter how delicately put is a difficult
one to ask, but Mrs. Sanderson was helpful, if doubtful that her story
would do much good. "I was just so little when it all happened." But the
interviewer was invited in and placed in a chair near the fire.
"No ma'am. He ain't my grandson--I's the third grandmother. No son, you
ain't three--you's five. Don't you remember what I told you? Yes, he
stays with me, ma'am. I take care of him while the rest of 'em works.
"It's hard for me to remember. I was just so little. Yes, ma'am, I was
born a slave--but I was so little. Seems to me like I remember a big,
big house. We was sort of out in the country---out from Memphis. I know
there was my father and my mother and my uncles and my aunts. I know
there was that many. How many more of us old man Doc Walker had--I just
don't know. They must have took good care of us tho. My mother was a
"When the war was ready to quit they gave us our pick. We could stay on
and work for wages or we could go. The folks decided that the'd go on in
to Memphis. My Mother and Father didn't live together none after we went
to town. First I lived with Mother and then when she died my Father took
me. My mother died when I was 9. She worked at cooking and washing. When
I was big enough I went to school. I kept on going to school after my
Father took me. He died when I was about 15. By that time I was old
enough to look out after myself.
"What did I do? I stayed in folkses houses. I cooked and I washed. Then
when I was about 16, I married. After that I had a man to take care of
me. He was a carpenter.
"We been here in Hot Springs a long time--you maybe heared of
Sanderson--he took up platering and he was good too. How long I been in
Hot Springs--law I don't know--'cept I was a full grown women when we
"I's had four children--all of 'em is dead. I lives with my grandson.
The little fellow, he'll be old enough to go to school in a year or two.
A dime for him ma'am--an' 2 cents besides? Now son you keep the dime and
you can spend the pennies. I always tries to teach him to save. Then
when he gets big he'll know what to do."
Dining room and living room joined one another by means of a high and
wide arch. The stove was sensibly set up in this passage. Both rooms
were comfortably furnished with products which had in all probability
been bought new. The child stood close by thruout the entire
conversation. There was no whit of timidity about him, nor was he the
least impertinent. He was frankly interested and wanted to know what was
being said. He received the dime and the pennies with a pleasant grin
and a (grandmother prompted) "Thank you". But the gift didn't startle
him. Dimes must have been a fairly usual part of his life. But a few
minutes before the interviewer left she dropped her pencil. It was new
and long and yellow. The child's eyes clung to it as he returned it.
"Would you like to have it." the young woman asked, "would you like a
pencil of your very own, to draw with?" Would he! The child's whole face
beamed. Dimes were as nothing compared to shiney new pencils. The third
grandchild was overjoyed with his new plaything. Ella Sanderson was
delighted with her great grandchild's pleasure. The interviewer received
a warm and friendly "Good-bye".
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Mary Scott
DeValls Bluff or Biscoe
"I said if ever I seed you agin I'd show you dis here scar on my head.
See here [a puffed-out, black, rusty, not quite round place, where no
hair grew]. Dat dar what my young mistress put on me when I was a chile.
Dock Hardy hired me. He was rich and married a pore gal. It went to her
head. He was good to me. She was mean. She had him whoop me a time or
two for nothin'. They had two little babies, I stayed round wid. I loved
em. I churned, brought in all the wood mighty near, brought bout all the
water from the spring. Master Dock be coming horseback from Franklin,
Tennessee. I knowed bout time I take the babies to meet him. He'd wait
at a big stump we could climb on his horse, take the baby in front and
us up behind him, and put us off on the back piazza at the house. I
wrapped up the churn and quit. She ax me what I quit churnin' for. I say
the butter come. She say it ain't had time. I say it ready to take up
anyhow. She got so mad she throwed a stick of stove wood, hit me on
my head. I run out crying, the blood streamin' down. I started to the
spring, come back and got the water bucket. I got me some water and
brought back a fresh bucket full. I washed my head in cool water where
it was bleedin'. It bled all way back. She say, 'Where you been?' I say
I been to the spring, brought some cool water to the babies. I give em
some I told her. When I got water I always give them some. She took the
bucket, made me go wid her, poured the water out in the path under a
shade tree, and made me take 'nother bucketful home. I thought she was
so mean; I didn't know what she was doing that about. Got to the house
she put me on a clean chemisette. I slipped off down to the feed house,
lay down, my head on the cotton seeds, and went to sleep.
"When Master Dock come he woke me up, wanted to know why I didn't meet
him. He seen that blood. Went on to the house. He ask her what done my
head that way. She say, 'She went to the spring, fell down, spilled the
water, and hurt it on a rock.' I told him that wasn't so--not so! I told
him all bout it. He told her she ought to be 'shamed treat good little
nigger chap mean. He was so sorry for me. She didn't care. They had been
goin' to old missis house every week. It was three weeks 'fo she would
go. I got to see my mama, 'fo she died.
"Old Mistress Emily was a doctor woman. Dock told her, 'Mama, Scrubbs
jumps and screams bout a hour late every evening wid her head.' When it
got late it hurt and I screamed and jump up and down. Mistress Emily
come got me in her arms, put me to sleep. When I woke up Dock and Kitty
gone home with the babies. I cried bout being from the babies; I loved
em, never been away from em 'fo. She got three maggots and says,
'Scrubbs, see what I got out your little head.' Mama had died then. She
say, 'Your mama would want me to keep you here wid me.' She kept me till
it healed up. Them maggots big as a sage broom straw. We swept the floor
wid sage straw tied together then. Mistress Emily kept me a month with
her and doctored my head every day. I slept on a pallet and on a little
bed she had in the room. When I went back to Kitty's she wasn't as mean
to me as she been--but mean nough then.
"My mama named Amy Hardy. She had five boys, three girls. She died with
a young baby. I reckon they had different papas. I was my papa's only
chile. They all said that. Bout a month after I went to Dock and
Kitty's, it was surrender. He (the little Negro girl's father) come,
stayed all night, and took me wid him to live. Dock wanted me to stay; I
love Dock and the children. Every year till a few years ago my head get
sore and run. We tried all kinds medicine on it. Don't know what cured
"The week 'fo I left there I had a task to make a cut of thread every
night, a reel. When I heard papa was coming to git me, I put cotton bats
under the reels and kivered em up. Good thing papa got me--Kitty would
killed me when she went to spin next week. She been so mean why I done
"They never sold any of our set but some on the place was sold. The
mothers grieve and grieve over their children bein' sold. Some white
folks let their slaves have preachin', some wouldn't. We had a bush
arbor and set on big logs. Children set round on the ground. 'Fo freedom
I never went to preachin'. I kept Kitty's babies so she went. Mothers
didn't see their children much after they was sold.
"Fo freedom they would turn a wash pot upside-down at the door and have
singin' and prayer meetin'. The pot would take up the noise. They done
that when they danced too. I don't know how they found out the iron pot
would take up the noise. They had plenty of em settin' round in them
days. Somebody found it out and passed it on."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mollie Hardy Scott, R.F.D., DeValls Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born at Granville, Georgia in Franklin County. I don't know my
age cept I was big enough to plow when young master lef and went to war.
My mother died bout time the war started. We belonged to Miss Eliza and
Master Jim Hardy. He had two boys bout grown, Jim and John. My father
belong to the Linzys. I don't know nuthin much bout them nor him
neither. When the war was done he come and got me and we went to Barton
County, Georgia. When I lef they give me my feather bed, two good
coverlets and my clothes. White folks hated fo me to leave. We all cried
but I never seen em no more. They said he take me off and let me suffer
or die or something. I was all the child my father had but my mother had
ten children I knowed of. We all lived on the place. They lived in a
little log house and I stayed wid em some an up at white folks house
mostly. No I never seed my folks no more. We had plenty to eat. Had meat
and garden stuff. We had pot full of lye hominy. It last several days.
It was good. I seed em open up a pot full of boiled corn-on-the-cob.
Plenty milk and butter. We had wash pot full of collards or turnip
salad. Maybe a few turnips on top and a big piece of fresh meat. We
had plenty to eat and wear long as I lived wid the white folks. We had
goobers, molasses candy to pull and pop corn every now and then. They
fill all the pockets, set around the fire an eat at night. Sometimes we
bake eggs and sweet potatoes, cracklin hoe cake covered up in the ashes.
Bake apples in front of the fire on de hearth. Everybody did work an we
sho had plenty to eat an wear.
"I had plenty when I stayed at my father's an we worked together all the
time. When he died I married. I've had a hard time not able to work.
There ain't no hard time if yous able to get bout. I pieces quilts an
sells em now. Sells em if I can. For $150 piece (has no idea of money
value). Some women promissed to come git 'em but they ain't come yet. I
wanter buy me some shoes. I could do a heap if they send fo me. I can
nurse. I kept a woman's children when she teached last year (Negro
"I brought four or five when I come to Arkansas of my own. They all dead
but my one girl I lives wid.
"Seemed lack so many colored folks coming out West to do better. We
thought we come too. We come on immigrate ticket on the train. All the
people I worked for was Captain Williams, Dr. Givens. Mr. Richardson
right where Mesa is now but they called it 88 then (88 miles from
Memphis). Mr. Gates. I farmed, washed and ironed. I nursed some since
I'm not able to get about in the field. I never owned nothing. They run
us from one year till the next and at the end of the year they say we
owe it bout all. If we did have a good crop we never could get ahead. We
couldn't get ahead nuff not to have to be furnished the next year. We
did work but we never could get ahead. If a darky sass a white land
owner he would be whooped bout his account or bout anything else. Yes
siree right here in dis here county. Darky have to take what the white
folks leave fo em and be glad he's livin.
"I say I ain't never voted. Whut in de world I would want er vote for?
Let em vote if they think it do em good.
"I seen a whole gang of Ku Kluxes heap of times when I was little back
in Georgia. I seed paddyrollers and then they quit and at night the Ku
Kluxes rode by. They would whoop or shoot you either if you didn't tend
to yo own business and stay at home at night. They kept black and white
doing right I tell you. I sho was afraid of them but they didn't bother
us. If you be good whose ever place you lives on would keep 'em from
harmin you. They soon got all the bad Yankies ran back North from
Georgia. They whip the black men and women too but it was mostly the men
they watched and heap of it was for stealing. Folks was hungry. Couldn't
help stealin if they seed anything. I seed heap of folks having a mighty
hard time after the war in them restruction (Reconstruction) days. I was
"My daughter would do mo than she do fo me but she is a large woman and
had both her legs broke. They hurt her so bad it is hard fo her to do
much. She good as she can be to everybody. The Welfare give three of us
$10.00 a month (daughter, husband, and Mollie). We mighty glad to get
that. We sho is. I am willin to work if I could get work I could do.
That's my worst trouble. Like I tell you, I can nurse and wash dishes if
I could get the jobs.
"I don't see much of the real young folks. I don't know what they are
doing much. If a fellow is able he ought to be able to do good now if he
can get out and go hunt up work fo himself. That the way it look like. I
Interviewer: Thomas Elmore Lucy
Person interviewed: Sam Scott, Russellville, Arkansas
"Hello dar, Mistah L----! Don' you dare pass by widout speakin' to dis
old niggah friend of yo' chil'hood! No suh! Yuh can't git too big to
speak to me!
"Reckon you've seen about all dar is to see in de worl' since I seen
you, ain't you? Well, mos' all de old-time niggahs and whites is both
gone now. I was born on de twentieth of July, 1879. Count up--dat makes
me 79 (born 1859), don't it? My daddy's name was Sam, same as mine, and
mammy's was Mollie. Dey was slaves on de plantation of Capt. Scott--yes
suh, Capt. John R. Homer Scott--at Dover. My name is Sam, same as my
father's, of course. Everybody in de old days knowed Sam Scott. My
father died in slavery times, but mother lived several years after.
"No, I never did dance, but I sure could play baseball and make de home
runs! My main hobby, as you calls it, was de show business. You remember
de niggah minstrels we used to put on. I was always stage manager
and could sing baritone a little. Ed Williamson and Tom Nick was de
principal dancers, and Tom would make up all de plays. What? Stole a
unifawm coat of yours? Why, I never knowed Tom to do anything like that!
Anyway, he was a good-hearted niggah--but you dunno what he might do.
Yes, I still takes out a show occasionally to de towns around Pope
and Yell and Johnson counties, and folks treat us mighty fine. Big
crowds--played to $47.00 clear money at Clarksville. Usually take about
eight and ten in our comp'ny, boys and gals--and we give em a real hot
"De old show days? Never kin forgit em! I was stage manager of de old
opery house here, you remember, for ten years, and worked around de
old printin' office downstairs for seven years. No, I don't mean stage
manager--I mean property man--yes, had to rustle de props. And did we
have road shows dem days! Richards & Pringle's Georgia minstrels, de
Nashville students, Lyman Twins, Barlow Brothers Minstrels, and--oh,
ever so many more--yes, Daisy, de Missouri Girl, wid Fred Raymond. Never
kin forgit old black Billy Kersands, wid his mouf a mile wide!
"De songs we used to sing in old days when I was a kid after de War
wasn't no purtier dan what we used to sing wid our own minstrel show
when we was at our best twenty-five and thirty years ago; songs like
'Jungletown,' 'Red Wing,' and 'Mammy's Li'l Alabama Coon.' Our circuit
used to be around Holla Bend, Dover, Danville, Ola, Charleston, Nigger
Ridge, out from Pottsville, and we usually starred off at the old opery
house in Russellville, of course.
"I been married, but ain't married now. We couldn't git along somehow.
Yes suh, I been right here workin' stiddy for a long time. Been janitor
at two or three places same time; was janitor of de senior high school
here for twenty-two years, and at de Bank of Russellville twenty-nine
"Folks always been mighty nice to me--and no slave ever had a finer
master dan old Captain Scott.
"In de old show days de manager of de opery always said. 'Let de
niggers see de show,' and sometimes de house was half full of colored
folks--white folks on one side de house and niggahs on de other--and
dere never was any disturbance of any kind. Ain't no sich good times now
as we had in de old road show days. No suh!"
NOTE: Sam Scott, who has been personally known to the interviewer
for many years, is above the average of the race for integrity and
truthfulness. His statement that he was born a few years after slavery
and that his father died during slavery was not questioned the matter
being a delicate personal affair and of no special moment.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Cora Scroggins, Clarendon, Arkansas
Age: 48 or 50
"My mother was born in Spring Hill, Tennessee and brought to Arkansas by
her master. Her name was Margaret. Dr. and Mrs. Porter brought my mother
to Batesville, Arkansas when she was eight years old and raised her. She
was very light. She had long straight hair but was mixed with white. She
never knew much about her parents or people.
"Mr. William Brook (white) came to De Valls Bluff from Tennessee and
brought her sister soon after the War. She was a very black woman.
"Dr. Porter had a family. One of their daughters was Mrs. Mattie Long,
another Mrs. Willie Bowens. There were others. They were all fine to my
mother. She married in Dr. Porter's home. Mrs. Porter had learnt her to
sew. My father was a mechanic. My mother sewed for both black and white.
She was a fine dressmaker. She had eight children and raised six of us
"My father was a tall rawbony brown man. His mother was an Indian squaw.
She lived to be one hundred seven years old. She lived about with her
children. The white folks all called her 'Aunt Matildy' Tucker. She was
a small woman, long hair and high cheek bones. She wore a shawl big as a
sheet purty nigh all time and smoked a pipe. I was born in Batesville.
"My mother spoke of her one long journey on the steamboat and
stagecoach. That was when she was brought to Arkansas. It made a
memorable picture in her mind.
"Dr. and Mrs. Porter told her she was free and she could go or stay. And
she had nowheres to go and she had always lived with them white folks.
She never did like black folks' ways and she raised us near like she was
raised as she could.
"She used to tell us how funny they dressed and how they rode at night
all through the country. She seen them and she could name men acted as
Ku Kluxes but they never bothered her and she wasn't afraid of them.
"I cooked all my life till I got disabled. I never had a child. I wish I
had a girl. I've been considered a fine cook all of my life."
Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Bernice Bowden
ADDRESS--1006 Oak Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
DATE--November 4, 1938
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
1. Name and address of informant--Sarah Sexton, Route 4, Box 685, Pine
2. Date and time of interview--November 3, 1958, 10:00 a.m.
3. Place of interview--Route 4, Box 685, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
informant--Georgia Caldwell, Route 6, Box 128, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--None.
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--Frame house, front
porch with two swings. Fence around yard. Chinaberry tree and Tree of
Paradise, Coxcomb in yard. Southeast of Norton-Wheeler Stave Mill just
off Highway 65.
Text of Interview
"Prewitt Tiller bought my mother and I belonged to young master. In
slavery I was a good-sized-young girl, mama said. Big enough to put the
table cloths on the best I could. After freedom I did all the cookin'
and milkin' and washin'.
"Now listen, this young master was Prewitt's son.
"Grandpa's name was Ned Peeples and grandma was Sally Peeples. My mother
was Dorcas. Well, my papa, I ain't never seed him but his name was Josh
Allen. You see, they just sold 'em around. That's what I'm talkin'
about--they went by the name of their owners.
"I'm seventy-eight or seventy-nine or eighty. That's what the insurance
man got me up.
"I been in a car wreck and I had high blood pressure and a stroke all at
once. And that wreck, the doctor said it cracked my skull. Till now, I
ain't got no remembrance.
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