Slave Narratives: Arkansas Narratives
Work Projects Administration
Part 3 out of 6
"You know how long I went to school? Three days. No ma'm I had to work,
"I was born down here on Saline River at Selma. I done forgot what
"What kinda work have I done? Oh, honey, I done farmed myself to death,
darlin'. You know Buck Couch down here at Noble Lake? Well, I hoped pick
out eight bales of cotton for him.
"I wish I had the dollars I had workin' for R.A. Pickens down here at
Walnut Lake. Yes, honey, I farmed for him bout fifteen or twenty years
"And he sure was nice and he was mischievous. He called all of us his
chillun. He use to say, 'Now you must mind your papa!' And we'd say 'Now
Mr. Pickens, you know you ain't got no nigger chillun'. He use to say to
me 'Sallie, you is a good woman but you ain't got no sense'. Them was
fine white folks.
"Honey, these white folks round here what knows me, knows they ain't a
lazy bone in my body.
"I'se cooked and washed and ironed and I'se housecleaned. Yes'm, I
certainly was a good cook.
"I belongs to the Palestine Baptist Church. Yes ma'm. I don't know what
I'd do if twasn't for the good Master. I talks to Him all the time.
"I goes to this here government school. A man teaches it. I don't know
what his name is, we just calls him Professor.
"Well, chile, I'll tell you the truf. These young folks is done gone.
And some o' these white headed women goes up here truckin'. It's a sin
and a shame. I don't know what's gwine come of 'em."
This woman lives with her daughter Angelina Moore who owns her home.
Mother and daughter both attend government school. Both were neatly
dressed. The day was warm so we sat on the front porch during the
Personal History of Informant
1. Ancestry--Grandfather, Ned Peeples; grandmother, Sally Peeples;
Mother, Dorcas Peeples; Father, Josh Allen.
2. Place and date of birth--On Saline River, Selma, Arkansas. No date.
3. Family--Two daughters and granddaughter.
4. Places lived in, with dates--Desha County, Walnut Lake, Noble Lake,
(Arkansas) Poplar Bluff, Missouri. No dates.
5. Education, with dates--Three days, "after freedom". Attends
government school now.
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Farmwork, cooking,
laundry work until 1936.
7. Special skills and interests--Cooking.
8. Community and religious activities--Member of Palestine Baptist
9. Description of informant--Medium height, plump, light complexion and
10. Other points gained in interview--Injured in auto wreck seven years
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Roberta Shaver, West Memphis, Arkansas
"I was born close to Natchez, Mississippi. Grandma was sold at Wickerson
County, Mississippi. They took her in a wagon to Jackson, Tennessee. She
was mother of two children. They took them. She was part Indian. She was
a farm woman. Her name was Dicy Jackson. They sold her away from the
Jacksons to Dobbins. She was a house woman in Jackson, Tennessee. She
said they was good to her in Tennessee. Grandma never was hit a lick in
slavery. Grandpa was whooped a time or two. He run off to the woods for
weeks and come back starved. He tended to the stock and drove Master
Clayton around. He was carriage driver when they wanted to go places.
"After freedom grandma set out to get back to grandpa. Walked and rode
too I reckon. She brought her children back. After a absence of
five years she and grandpa went back together. They met at Natchez,
Mississippi. Mama was born after freedom.
"The way grandma said she was sold was, a strange man come there one day
and the master had certain ones he would sell stand in a line and
this strange man picked out the ones he wanted and had them get their
belongings and put them in the wagon and took them on off. She never
seen grandpa for five years."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Mary Shaw
1118 Palm Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Occupation: Laundry work
"I was born in Bolivar County, Mississippi. My mother didn't know how
old I was but after freedom I went by Miss Ann Blanchet's--that was my
mother's old missis--and she said I was born in 1861.
"But I don't know nothin' 'bout slavery or the War. I was born and bred
in the desert and my mother said it was a long time after freedom 'fore
she knowed anything about it. She said there was just lots of the folks
said, to their knowin', they had been free three years 'fore they knowed
anything about it.
"My husband brought me to Arkansas when I was 35 and I been workin' in
the same family, Captain Jeter's family, ever since-forty odd years.
"I always have worked hard. I've had the flu only reason I'm sittin'
here now. If I had to sit and hold my hands very long, they'd have to
take me to Little Rock.
"I been married twice. My last husband was Sam Shaw. He was a great
whiskey man and when whiskey went out, he went to bootleggin' and they
got behind him and he left.
"He wrote me once and said if I'd borrow some money on my home and send
it to him, he'd come back. I wrote and told him just like I'm tellin'
you that after I had worked night and day to pay for this house while
he was off tellin' some other woman lies just like he told me, I wasn't
goin' to send him money. So I ain't seen him since.
"I ain't never been to school much. When schools got numerous in
Mississippi they had me behind a plow handle.
"Mrs. Jeter made me mad once and I quit. My first husband was a porter
on the railroad and I got on the train and went to Memphis with him.
"One time he come back from a trip to Pine Bluff and handed me a little
package. I opened it and it was a note from Mrs. Jeter and a piece of
corn bread. She said, 'Now, Mary, you see what I've had to eat. I want
you to come back.' So I went back and stayed 'til she died. And now I'm
workin' for her daughter, Mrs. McEwen. Mrs. Jeter used to say, 'Mary,
I know you're not a Arkansas woman 'cause you ain't got a lazy bone in
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Violet Shaw, West Memphis, Arkansas
"I heard Grandma Katie Williams say she was put up on a high stump and
auctioned off. She told how great-grandma cried and cried and never
seen her no more. Grandma come from Oakland, Tennessee to Mississippi.
Grandma took the two young children and left the other two with
great-grandma. They took her from her husband. She never seen none of
"After freedom she didn't know how to find them. She never could get
trace of them. She tried. She never married no more. I was born at
Clarksdale, Mississippi. I have seen Tom Pernell (white), the young
master, come and spend the night with Henry Pernell. Henry had once been
Tom's father's slave and carriage driver. I was too small to know the
cause but I remember that several times mighty well. They fixed him up a
clean bed by hisself. Henry lived in town. But he might have been drunk.
I never seen no misbehavior out of him. It was strange to me to see
"Freedom--Aunt Mariah Jackson was freed at Dublin, Mississippi. She said
she was out in the field working. A great big white man come, jumped
up on a log and shouted, 'Freedom! Freedom!' They let the log they was
toting down; six, three on a side, had holt of a hand stick toting a
long heavy log. They was clearing up new ground. He told them they was
free. They went to the house. They cooked and et and thanked God. Some
got down and prayed, some sung. They had a time that day. They got the
banjo and fiddle and set out playing. Some got in the big road just
walking. She said they had a time that day."
Name of Interviewer: Cecil Copeland
This information given by: Frederick Shelton
Place of Residence: Dump Section, Texarkana, Arkansas
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
In an humble cabin on the outskirts of the city lives a venerable old
negro ex-slave. Although bent with rheumatism and age, he still retains
his mental faculties to a remarkable degree.
An inquiry as to his health elicited the following reply: "I'se a
willful mind but a weak body. Just like an old tree--de limbs are
withered and almost dead. I'se been here a long tins, ovah 81 years, and
am ready to go any time de good Lawd says de word. Dat's de trouble wid
de people nowadays--dey ain't prepared. Back when I wuz a young man,
dey wuzn 't so much meaness, and such goings on as dey are nowadays. De
young-peple know as much as de old folks. Yas, suh, de worl' am goin' to
Asked about life in pioneer days, the old negro replied; "We had lots
ob good times in dem days. Log rollings wuz lots ob fun to me as I wuz
strong den, an' I could "show off" befo' de odder niggers. Dey wuzn't
much rollin' to it, mostly carrying. I mind de time when I lifted de end
ob a log, an' four men tried at different times to lift de odder, but
dey couldn't do it. Three of dese men went to an early grave from trying
to lift dis log--all tore up inside. Maybe dat's whut ails me.
"You had to be careful den, when traveling through de woods, or de
varmints would git you, especially at night. I mind de time when a negro
wuz comin' through de woods one nite, when he seed a panther about to
spring on him.
"Dis nigger dropped in his tracks lack he wuz dead. De panther came up to
him and smelled ob him, but de nigger held his breath, and de panther
thought he wuz dead. De panther covered him wid leaves an' went about
one hundred yards into de woods to call his friends to de feast. No
sooner had he left when de nigger jumped up and climbed a tree, first
rutting an old chunk of wood in de place where he wuz buried. De nigger
could hear de panther out in de woods as he called for his friends, and
pretty soon, here dey come, about five of 'em. Slowly circling aroun' de
place where de nigger had been, all of a sudden dey all jumped. Findin'
nothin' but de old chunk of wood, dem panthers got real mad. Wid angry
growls, dey jumped on de one whut had called dem, and ate him up."
This old negro reserves all of the heroic roles for others. Asked if he
had had any experience with the "varmints", as he termed them he said:
"Yas, suh. De worst scared I ever got wuz frum a wolf. Walkin' down a
trail one day, I spied a wolf not more than ten feet away. Man, I wuz so
scared dat I seemed to freeze in my tracks, and couldn't move. I tried
to holler but all I could do wuz croak. Den I tried to whistle but de
only sound I could make wuz a hiss. After standing for whut seemed
hours, wid his ears sticking straight up, de wolf finally turned around
and trotted away."
The conversation drifted to other topics, and finally to ghosts and
spirits. The old negro said he had never seen a ghost, and didn't
believe in those things. No sooner had he said this when his wife, who
had been listening in on the conversation from the inside of the door
exclaimed: "I does! Seein' is believin' aint it? Well suh, about two
years ago de negro dat lived next door died. A few weeks after he died I
wuz settin' out on de porch when I see dis negro come out of de house,
and walk slowly to de corner of mah yard where he vanished into de air.
A few nights later de same thing happened again. No suh, dat nigger
didn't go to Heaven and he didn't go to Hell. He's still around heah. He
wuz a wicked negro and wuz scared to go."
Circumstances of interview
NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
1. Name and address of informant--Laura Shelton, 1518 Pulaski Street,
Little Rock, Arkansas.
2. Date and time of interview interview--
3. Place of interview--1518 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, 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--
Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--
Personal History of Informant
1. Ancestry--mother, Susan Barnett; father, Ben Bearden; grandfather,
2. Place and date of birth--Arkansas, 1878
3. Family--Three children.
4. Education, with dates--
5. Places lived in with dates--Jerome, Arkansas and Little Rock. No
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Farmed, wash and iron.
7. Special skills and interests--
8. Community and religious activities--Belongs to Baptist Church.
9. Description of informant--
10. Other points gained in interview--
Text of Interview (Unedited)
"My mother used to sit down and talk to us and tell us about slavery.
If she had died when I was young I wouldn't have known much. But by her
living till I was old, I learned a lot.
"My mother's old master was Tom Barnett, so she said. No, not 'so she
said' because I have seed him. He give her her age and all at that
time. I have it in my Bible. He said that she was twelve years old the
Christmas before the surrender. The surrender was in May, wasn't it?
"My mother's name was Susan Bearden. She married Ben Bearden. She worked
in Tom Barnett's house. She milked and churned and 'tended to the
children and all such as that. He never allowed her to go to the field.
Neither her mother, my grandmother. She was the cook. My mother's name
before she married was Susan Barnett.
"An old colored lady that they had there seed after the colored
children. She looked after my mother too. She was so old she couldn't do
nothin' so they had her to look after the children. My grandmother was
kept busy because she had the white folks to cook for and she had all
the colored folks to cook for too.
"There is an old lady down on Spring Street that can give you a lot of
information about slavery times.
"A boy was telling her that somebody was going 'round asking questions
about slavery and she said she wished he would come and see her.
"My mother never had any chance to go to school before freedom and she
never had any chance to go afterwards because she didn't have any money.
When they turned them loose the white folks didn't give 'em anything, so
they had to work. They didn't allow them to pick up a piece of paper in
slave time for fear they would learn.
"My mother remembered the pateroles. She said they used to catch and
whip the colored men and women when they would get out.
"My mother's old master was the one that told mama she was free. He told
her she was free as he was. After they learned that they were free, they
stayed on till Christmas.
"After Christmas, they went to another plantation. My gran'pa, he come
and got them all to come. My gran'pa's name was Harvey Barnett. His old
master's son had married and he had been staying with him. That made
him be on another place. There was a good many of the children in my
grandmother's family. Mama had a sister named Lucy, one named Lethe,
one named Caroline, one named Annie, and one named Jane. She had two
boys--one named Jack, and one named Barnett. She had another sister
named--I don't remember her name.
"After freedom, we sharecropped for a number of years up until my father
died. He died about twenty-four years ago.
"After that mama washed and ironed for about ten or twelve years. Then
she got too old to work and we took care of her. My mother died last
March on the ninth day. She always had good health for an old lady.
Never got so she couldn't get up and do her light work such as dress
herself, cooking, sweeping, and so on. She would even do her own washing
and ironing if we would let her. She would hide from us and pick cotton
till we stopped her.
"She was sick only one week and the doctor said she died of old age. He
said it was just her time. She didn't have nothin' the matter with her
but jus' old age he said so far as he could find. Dr. Fletcher was
our doctor. She died in Jerome, Arkansas about sixteen miles from the
Louisiana line. Leastwise, they tell me it's about sixteen miles from
the line. She always told us that she had her business fixed with the
Lord and that when she taken sick, It wouldn't be long. And sure 'nough,
"I farmed until my mother and brother died. Then I came up here with my
sister as I had no children living. I jus' wash and iron now whenever I
can get somethin' to do.
"I have been married once. I had three children. All of them are dead.
My children are dead and my husband is dead.
"I belong to the Baptist church down on Spring Street. I always unite
with the church whenever I go to a place. I don't care whether I stay
there or not.
"My mama's master was good as far as white folks generally be in slavery
times. He never whipped my grandmother nor my mother. He was good to the
field hands too. He never whipped them. He would feed them too. He had
right smart of field hands but I don't know just how many. I don't think
he ever sold any of his slaves. I think he come by them from his father
because I have heard them say that his father told him before he died
never to 'part with Black Mammy. That was what he called her. And he
kept them altogether jus' like his father told him to. His father said,
'I you to keep all my Negroes together and Black Mammy I don't want you
let her be whipped because she nursed all of you.' She said she never
was whipped 'cept once when she got a cockle berry up her nose and he
got it out and gave her a little brushing--not as much as grandma would
have given her.
"He kept them all in good shoes and warm clothes and give them plenty to
eat. So many of the slaves on other plantations didn't have half enough
to eat and were half naked and barefooted all the time."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mahalia Shores, Marianna, Arkansas
"I was born in Greene County, Georgia. My owner was Jim Jackson. He
bought my mother's father. She was raised on Jim Jackson's place. I
rec'collect a right smart about slavery times. He made us dress up and
let the nigger traders see what little niggers I got. We thought it
was nice. What fine limbs we had. Aunt Judy--some called her 'big
mamma'--lived down under the hill. She was old and seen after the
children. The biggest children took care and nursed the little ones.
On Wednesday and Saturday the cook made ginger cakes for the little
children. The house girl called us. She was Aunt Teena's girl. Aunt
Teena was a housemaid. See little niggers coming from every direction to
get our cakes.
"Jim Jackson's wife was named Mariah. They lived in a big fine white
house. When it was freedom a soldier come, brought a paper and Massa Jim
was settin' on the porch. Tom Chapman was his overseer. They rung the
big farm bell and had the oldest niggers stand in a line and us little
ones in front so we could all see. Tom Chapman read the paper and stood
by the soldier. He had two big plantations. Massa Jim got sick that day
and vomited and vomited. He lived a week or two weeks. They sent for Dr.
Ducham but he couldn't do him no good. He died. Massa Jim told them they
could take the teams and go to town, all he ax of 'em was to feed and
take care of 'em. Every one of the grown folks went and left us at home.
Aunt Judy seen 'bout us like she been doing all the time. They went over
to Greensboro to celebrate. They all come back. They was all ready fer
their breakfastes. It was twelve miles from Greensboro. Then the next
day Massa Jim or Tom Chapman, one called the grown folks to the house
and told them, 'You can stay and I will pay you or you can go. I pay
no more doctor bills. I don't feed you no more nor give you no
more clothes.' Some moved and some hired to him. Some went to his
father-in-law's place and some to his brothers' place and around.
His wife was rich. She was Dave Butler's gal. No, I mean Massa Jim's
wife--Miss Mariah. That big place was what her pa give her. Massa Jim
had five hundred little niggers on that place and lots more on the big
plantation. He had about two thousand little niggers. We went in droves
"I never went to a table in slavery time. We had our plates and cup and
took it to the pot and they put some victuals in 'em, then we went and
et where we pleased. We had all the meat we could eat and all the milk
we could drink all the time. Aunt Teena sewed and grandma would weave
cloth. They made white aprons. My hair was nice and old mistress would
tell Aunt Judy to curl my hair. They rolled it up on cloth and on little
light cobs. If they wet it, it would stay curled.
"Massa Jim sold his niggers when he wanted to. He sold my grandpa and
Uncle Steve. Grandma wanted him to sell her and he wouldn't do it. I
don't know what become of grandpa. After freedom Uncle Steve come back
to us all. Grandpa was crying. He come to our house and said he had to
go. We never seen him no more.
"Some of the slaves wouldn't be whooped by Tom Chapman. I heard them say
since I got grown he 'tacked 'em. It caused trouble. He couldn't whoop
'em then. Old master whooped some of 'em. Some would say, 'I take ten
licks offen you and that is all.' Then he would sell them the first
chance. They would go to the woods if he beat them too much. He didn't
abuse his niggers. He said his niggers was his property. Aunt Sarah
tended to the cows and Aunt Clarisa raised geese, turkeys, chickens,
ducks, and churned.
"The Ku Klux come to our house, called Uncle Billy--that was my papa.
They got him up out of bed. One man said, 'I ain't had no water since
the battle of Shiloah.' He had pa draw water till daybreaking. He had
a horn he poured the water in. We was all scared half to death. Next
morning there was a branch from the well done run off. Something took
place about a well. Uncle Neel Anderson and Uncle Cush dug wells for
their living. They come after them. Aunt Mandy had a baby. They pitied
her and Uncle Neel got so scared he run upstairs in his shirt tail and
stuck his head in the cotton. They found him that way. Uncle Cush said,
'Come on, Neel, and go with me.' They whooped Uncle Cush in his shirt
tail. If you didn't open the door they would break it in.
"I worked in the field in Georgia and Arkansas both. I cooked since I
was twelve years old. I married when I was twenty years old. I cooked
here in Marianna eighteen years and I have cooked three Sunday dinners
on Saturday and Sunday together. I would make three dollars when I done
that. I had five children and I raised one boy. I washed and ironed. I
get some help from the Welfare but I saved and my good old man saved so
we would have plenty when we got old. Folks burnt up two of my houses. I
got three more not fitten to live in till they are covered. I got good
property in Stuttgart but couldn't pay the tax on it and 'bout to loose
it. I tried to get a loan and never could. We niggers have a hard time."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Rosa Simmons
823 West 13th Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes mam, I was here during that Civil War. I was fifteen years old
then. I was born In Tennessee.
"My boss man carried all the best hands to Texas and carried the scrub
hands across Cypress Creek here in Arkansas, and that's where I come. I
was fifteen when the Yankees come in on my boss man's place, so you know
now I ain't no baby. I thank God that He left me here to get old.
"Before the war. I nussed two babies--my mistress' baby and her sister's
baby. Yes'm we had a good master and mistress. We didn't suffer for
nothin' and we didn't have no overseer over us. Colonel Maples was my
master. No'm he wasn't no soldier--that was the name his mother give
"When my folks first come to Arkansas we lived in a cabin that just had
a balin' sack hangin' in the door and one night a bear come in and my
brother and I broke a board off the side and fell right out in the cane.
We all hollered so some folks come down and shot the bear. I ain't never
seed a bear before and I didn't know what it was.
"I 'member when the Yankees come to my boss man's place. They wanted to
shake hands but he was scared to death and wouldn't do it. Another time
the Yankees captured him and kept him three months. They took his horse
and he finally come home on a mule that didn't have but three legs. I
guess the Yankees give him the mule. He turned the old mule loose and
said he never wanted to see another Yankee. If he saw any kind of a
white man comin' down the road he run in the house and hid between the
feather bed and the mattress.
"One time the Yankees come and drunk the sweet milk and took all the
butter, turkeys and hogs and then broke the powder horn against the
"The cook say 'I'm gwine tell Marse Joe you drink all this milk.' The
Yankees say, 'Let the damn fool alone--here we are tryin' to free her
and she ain't got no sense.' They said there wouldn't be any more hard
times after the war.
"But I sure have seen some hard times. I have washed and cooked and done
"When I get up in the morning I got the limburger (lumbago) in my back
so I ain't able to do much. Sometimes I have something to eat and
sometimes I don't."
Mrs. Carol Graham
Mrs. Mildred Thompson
El Dorado District
"How ole is ah? Ise about 78. Yes'm ah wuz live durin de wah. Mah ole
moster wuz Mistuh Jake Dumas we lived near de Ouachita rivuh bout five
miles fum El Dorado landin. Ah membush dat we washed at de spring way,
way fum de house. What dat yo say? Does ah know Ca'line. Ca'line, lawsy,
me yes. Ca'line Washington we use tuh call huh, she wuz one uv Mr. Dumas
niggers. We washed fuh de soldiers. Had tuh carry day clo'es tuh dem
aftuh dark. Me an Ca'line had tuh carry dem. We had tuh hide de horse
tuh keep de soldiers fum gittin him. When we would take de horse tuh de
plum orchard we would stay dah all day to dark wid "Blackie". Dat wuz
de horse's name. Mah job mostly wuz tuh watch de chillun an feed mah
"Ah kin recollect when dey took us an started tuh Texas an got as fur
as El Dorado and found out dat us niggers wuz free. We went back
an grandma's mistress's son took us home wid him fuh stretches and
stretches. We lived on de ole Camden road.
"In mah days ah've done plenty uv work but ah don' do nothing now but
piece quilts. Dat's whut ah've been doing fuh mah white fokes since ah
been heah. Ah jes finished piecing and quiltin two uv em. De Glove[TR:?]
and de Begger. Mah husban' been dead 31 years dis pas' August. No, ah
counts is by dose twins ah raised. One uv em lives in dis heah place
right heah. Ah aint much count now. Sometime mah laig gets so big ah jes
had tuh sloop mah foot erlong."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Jerry Sims (Indian and Negro)
Age: Born 1859
"I was born in 1859 close to Natchez, Mississippi. Chief Sims was my
grandpa. He was Indian, full blood. His wife was a Choctaw Indian.
Grandpa was a small red Indian. They kept my pa hid out with stock
nearly all time of the Civil War. Both my mas' parents was nearly all
Indian too but they was mixed. I'm more Indian than anything else. I
heard pa talk about staying in the cane brakes. Mighty few cane brakes
to be found now. I come with my grandpa and grandma to Arkansas when I
was five years old.
"My ma belong to Quill and Sely Whitaker. I et and slept with Hattie and
Bud and Rob Whitaker. Quill Whitaker was a Union surgeon in the Civil
"I don't think any of my folks was ever sold. They was of a porer class
and had to have a living and sorter become slaves for a living. I never
heard ma say how she got in bondage. Pa stayed with John Rob bout like a
"I am a farmer. I am not on the PWA. Times for me is hard. You see some
has so much and others hardly can live atall.
"It is not for me to say about the young generation. I have mighty
little to do with any of them.
"I have voted but not lately. I never did understand voting."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Victoria Sims, Helena, Arkansas
"I was born in Limestone County, Alabama. It was on a river. Where I was
born they called it Elks Mouth. Our owners was Frank Martin and Liza
Martin. They raised papa. Their daughter aired (heired) him. Her name
was Miss (Mrs.) Betty Hansey. Papa's name was Ed Martin. I stood on a
stool and churned for papa's young mistress. The churn was tall as I
was. I loved milk so good and they had plenty of it--all kinds. Soon as
ever I get through, they take up the butter. I'd set 'round till they
got it worked up so I could get a piece of bread and fresh butter and a
big cup of that fresh milk. They always fixed it for me.
"Mama was Minthy Martin. She cooked on another place. She was a nurse.
Her papa belong to one person and her mother to somebody else. Mama was
Minthy Bridgeforth but I don't have her owner's name. I guess she was
sold. I heard her say the Bridgeforth's was good to her. Some white man
whooped on her once. I never heard her say much about it. Papa's owners
was good to him. They was crazy about him. I knowed papa's owners the
best and I lived there heap the most. I was born a slave but I don't
know who I belong to. I've studied that over myself. I used to go back
to see papa's owners. They owned lots of slaves and lots of land. Papa
done a lot of different things. He fed and farmed and cleaned off the
yards and slopped the pigs. He done what they said do, well as I can
recollect. I wasn't with mama till after freedom. Mama said her white
folks was treated mighty mean during the War. Once the soldiers come and
mama was so scared she took the baby and run got in the cellar. They
throwed out everything they had to eat. They took off barrels of things
to eat and left them on starvation. One soldier come one time and wanted
mama to go to the camps. She was scared not to go, scared he'd shoot her
down. She told him she'd go the next day soon as she could get up her
things and tell her folks she had gone. He agreed to that. Soon as he
left she and some other young women on the place put out to the cane
brakes and caves. She said they nearly starved. The white folks sent
them baskets of victuals several times. Mama said she had some pretty
beads she wore. Somebody had made her a present of them. She loved 'em.
I think she said they was red. Mama's mistress told her to hide her
beads, the soldiers would take them. She hid them up in the loft of
their house on a nail. One day a gang come scouting and they rummaged
the whole house and place. When the soldiers left she thought about her
beads and went to see and they was gone. She cried and cried about them.
That was before she went to the canebrakes.
"When freedom come on, the owners told them they was free. They didn't
leave and then they made a way for them to stay on. They stayed on.
"I was grown when we come to this state but we lived in Tennessee a few
years. Mama had had nine children by that time. All was dead, but us two
girls and my brother. We come to Arkansas with our parents. We heard the
land was new and rich. I wasn't married then.
"I've worked hard in the field all my life till last year or so. I still
"Times is tough here I tell you. I get a little help, six dollars.
"Some of the young folks won't work, some not able to work. If anybody
saving a thing I don't hear about it."
Interviewer: Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Virginia Sims
1121 N. Magnolia
Pine Bluff, Ark.
Occupation: Retired Midwife
"I was born in 1844. I was twenty when peace was declared. I was born
in Virginia. Yes ma'am, but I was sold, put up on a stump just like you
sell hogs to the highest speculator. I was sold with my mother from
a man named Joe Poindexter and bought by Tom Murphy and brought to
Arkansas. My God, every Murphy round here knows me. Yes'm, my mother and
me was sold. Papa wasn't sold, but he come here the second year after
"I was old enough to spin twelve cuts a day--had it to do. And I could
weave cloth just like they do now.
"Had seven brothers and I'm the onliest girl.
"I can recollect when Miss Mary Poindexter died. They said I was two.
"My mistis in Arkansas was Mrs. Susan Murphy. That was out on the
plantation, we didn't live in no city--my God, no!
"The way my people acts now, they looks foolish. I never heard a person
curse till I come up here. I was a grown young lady nineteen years old
when our master lowed us to get out and cote. You better not. The first
husband I married I was nineteen goin' on twenty. My husband fought on
the Southern side. His master sent him as a substitute.
"My master put good clothes on me, I'd say. 'Master. I wants a dress
like so and so, and I wants a pair of shoes.' Yes ma'am, and he got em
for me. I was forty-three and married to a nigger fore I knowed what
twas to cry for underwear.
"I member they was a white man called Dunk Hill and he said, 'Virginia,
who freed the niggers?' I said, 'God freed the niggers.' He said, 'Now,
Virginia, you goin' be just as free as I am some day!'
"General Shelby's troops was comin' on this side the ribber. That's
one time I was scared. Never seed so many men in my life. They wanted
something to eat. Mama cooked all night. They was nine hundred and
somethin'. I toted canteens all night long.
"I member when they had that Marks Mill battle. My husband was there and
he sent word for me to come cause he had the measles and they had went
in on him. I had to put on boots and wade mud. Young folks now ain't got
no sense. I see so many folks now with such dull understanding. Marks
Mill was the onliest part of the war I was in.
"General Shelby and Captain Blank, they whetted their swords together
when peace was declared. Captain said, 'General, I'm not crazy and
neither am I a coward. I looked up and seem like a man was comin' out
the clouds, and so I'm goin' to surrender.'
"Them cavalry men--they'd say, 'Ride!' and how they'd go.
"I seen em when they was enlistin'. Said they was goin' to whip the
Yankees and be back for breakfast in the morning.
"Marse Ben was goin' and Miss Susan say, 'Virginia, if you think he
ain't goin' come back you ought to kiss him goodbye.' I said, 'I ain't
goin' to kiss no white man.'
"Miss Fanny went up the ladder and sot rite on the roof and watched the
soldiers goin' by. Yes'm. Old master whipped me with a little peach
stick cause I let Frankie--we called her Frankie--go up the ladder. I
said I couldn't stop her cause she said if I told her papa, she and
Becky goin' to whip me. He whipped Miss Fanny. Old miss come in and say,
'Ain't you goin' whip this nigger?' She was mean as the devil. Oh, God,
yes. She so mean she didn't know what to do. But old master kep her
down. You know some of these redheaded women, they just as devilish as
they can be. We had some neighbors, Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Daniels and old
miss would be out there on the lawn quarrelin' till it was just like a
fog. Us niggers would be out there listenin'.
"But I was always treated good. You know if I had been beat over the
head I couldn't recollect things now. My head ain't been cracked up.
Nother thing. I always been easy controlled.
"I never went to school a day. After we was freed we stayed right on
the Murphy place. They paid us and we worked on the shares. That's the
reason I say I done better when I was a slave."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Senya Singfield
1613 W. Second Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in Washington, Virginia right at the foot of the Blue Ridge
Mountains. My mother was sold when I was a babe in her arms. She was
sold three times. I know one time when she had four children she was
sold and one of my brothers was sold away unbeknownst to her. Her old
master sold her away from her mistress. She was a cook and never was
"I ain't never been to school. When I got big enough, my mother was a
widow and I had to start out and make a living. I've always been a cook.
Used to keep a boarding house, up until late years. I've washed and
ironed, sewed a right smart and quilted quilts. I've done anything I
could to turn an honest living. Oh I've been through it but I'm still
here. I've been a widow over forty years.
"I think the folks nowdays are about run out. They are goin' too fast.
When I was comin' up, I had to have some manners. My mother didn't low
me to 'spute nobody."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Peggy Sloan
2450 Howard Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: About 80, or more
"I was born in Arkansas in Tulip, in Dallas County I think it is, isn't
"Charlotte Evans was mother's name and my father's name was Lige Evans.
Gran'daddy David was my mother's father, and Cheyney was my mother's
"Mr. Johnnie Sumner was the name of my young master, and the old man was
Mr. Judge Sumner. The old people are all dead now. Mr. Judge Sumner
was Johnnie Sumner's father. Me and Mr. Johnnie suckled together. Mr.
Johnnie came to Fordyce they say looking for the old slaves. I didn't
know about it then. I never would know him now. That is been so long
ago. I sure would like to see 'im.
"My mother ain't told me much about herself in slave times. She was a
nurse. She lived in a log cabin. You know they had cabins for all of
them. The colored lived in log houses. The white people had good houses.
Them houses was warmer than these what they got now.
"My grandma could cut a man's frock-tail coat. These young people don't
know nothin' 'bout that. Grandma was a milliner. She could make anything
you used a needle to make.
"Lige Evans was the name my father took after the surrender. He wasn't
named that before the surrender--in the olden times. My mother had
fifteen children. She was the largest woman you ever seen. She weighed
four hundred pound. She was young Master Johnnie's nurse. Mr. Johnnie
said he wanted to come and see me. I heard he lives way on the other
side of Argenta somewheres.
"I was my mama's seventh girl, and I got a seventh girl living. I
had fifteen children. My mother's children were all born before the
"Mr. Judge Sumner and his son were both good men. They never whipped
"They didn't feed like they do now. I et corn bread then, and I eat
it now. Some people say they don't. They would give them biscuits on
Sundays. They had a cook to cook for the hands. She got all their meals
"They had a woman to look after the little colored children, and they
had one to look after the white children. My mother was a nurse for the
white children. My mother didn't have nothing to do with the colored
"I didn't never have no trouble with the pateroles. Sometimes they would
come down the lane running the horses. When I would hear them, I would
run and git under the bed. I was the scaredest soul you ever seen. I
think that's about all I can remember.
"I was the mother of fifteen children. I had one set of twins, a boy and
a girl. The doctor told me you never raise a boy and a girl twin. My boy
is dead. All of my children are dead but two.
"I was raised on the farm. I want a few acres of ground now so bad.
"I never was married but once. My husband's name was David Sloan. I
don't know exactly how long he and me were married. It was way over
twenty years. My license got burnt up.
"You know I couldn't be nothin' but a Christian."
Peggy Sloan's memory is going. She is not certain of the number of
children her mother had although she knows there were more than seven
because she was the seventh.
She remembers nothing about her age, but she knows definitely that all
of her mother's children were born before the War--that is before the
end of the War. Since the War ended seventy-three years ago and she was
the seventh child with possibly seven behind her, I feel that she could
not be younger than eighty. She remembers definitely running at the
approach of men she calls pateroles during "slavery time."
Her mind may be fading, but it is a long way from gone. She questioned
me closely about my reason for getting statements from her. She had to
be definitely satisfied before the story could be gotten.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Arzella Smallwood
Hazen R.F.D., Green Grove, Arkansas
Age: 60 Doesn't know exact age
"I was born about eight miles from Williston, South Carolina. After
freedom my mother married Lee Ballinger and she had six children. He
died when I was real small. My mother was named Hester McCrary. Old
Master McCrary bought grandma and my mother in Virginia. One sister my
mother never did run across after freedom. She was older and sold to
other people. I think at freedom my mother left and I think grandma did
too. My grandpa was half Indian, but I never did see him to remember
what he looked like. Our young master is a doctor. He waited on my
mother before she died. Grandma was blind and she lived with us. Our
young master may still be living. Old mistress was named Sylvania and
she sent for my mother to come wait on her when she got sick to die. I
think they had pretty fair treatment there. My mother was to be a house
girl and cook. I think grandma was a cook and field woman both.
"I heard them say the white folks took them to church to learn to pray,
then they didn't allow them to pray for freedom. But I don't think they
wanted freedom. After they was set free they died up so scand'lous.
Grandma said they had to work harder. My mother brought a good price
because she was real light color and sharp to learn. She had six
children and we was all darker than she was a whole lots. She and
grandma was both good on giving advice. Seem like they could see how
things would turn out every time.
"I married a man with a roving nature. We come here. He left me, come
back for me to look after before he died. I married again. I left him.
He told me how I could do five washings a week and take care of us both.
I didn't aim to do it. I mighter got some washings but I didn't aim to
"I get a little commodities along to help out. I'm picking berries now
twenty-five cents a gallon for the first picking. Fifteen and twenty
cents is the regular prices.
"I haven't got children and I don't know what they ought to do. I reckon
they do the best they can.
"Times is hard on me. It takes me all the time to make a living."
Pine Bluff District
Name of Interviewer: Martin & Barker
Subject: Negro Customs
This information given by: Sarah Smiley (Colored)
Place of Residence: Humphrey, Arkansas
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
I was born the 10th of May, 1860. My home was in Charleston, S.C. I was
not a slave, but my parents were.
My mother was a seamstress and my father, Edward Barnewill, was butler
for their white folks.
I looks the door at sundown, and me and God are all by ourselves, and I
am not afraid.
I came to Sherrill when I was a schoolgirl, and married when I was 14.
Lived here after I was married. Taught school before I was married.
Had seven children by my first husband. My three husbands were Ike
Williams, Eli Treadvan, and Calvin Smiley.
When asked about her books standing on her shelves--namely Golden Gems,
arithmetic, and the Bible, also a blue back speller--said she just loved
Young folks of today don't love like they did in the olden days. Now it
is hot love, minute love, free love.
When my first child was born, I begged the midwife not to cut me open to
get the baby out. The midwife told me the same place it went in the same
place it will come out.
When my breasts began to grow (adolescence) I didn't want those bumps on
me, and tied them down with wide rags.
Cures--I uses gasoline and cedar, soak it and rub on affected places for
I believe that you must not let your left hand know what your right hand
Heaven is a place of rest. If we are faithful to God, you can ride death
Hell is below--also here on earth.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Andrew Smith
R.F.D., Forrest City, Arkansas
"I was born after the surrender at Oxford, Mississippi. We belong to
Master Jim Smith. Mother cooked and father worked in the field. He was
on a average being good. They didn't trouble my mother as I recollect
hearing 'em say but they whooped them in the field. Pattyrollers chased
papa in sometimes. I heard him talk about it but I couldn't tell what he
said now. Mama had two before freedom, then she married and had three
children. He died. She married the second time and had two more
children. That made seben in all.
"She said her first marriage was pronounced (announced). My mother said
their master refugeed them to Texas till the year of the surrender. They
didn't know nothing 'bout freedom till a while after they got back
from Texas. They stayed on that year and longer too not knowing 'bout
freedom. My rickerliction is short.
"Frank Houston was a neighbor of our'n. He lived on my folks' joining
plantation close to Houston, Mississippi during slavery. During or
before the War come on he put his money in a barrel--hogshead. They
said it was gold and silver. I don't know. It might some been paper. He
rolled the barrel down to the river. It was the Tallahassee (?) River
eighteen miles northeast of Oxford, Mississippi. He hid his barrel of
money in the river. They hunted and hunted it and never could find it.
It might sunk in the mud and quick sand. Somebody might er hauled it out
and stole it. The whole neighborhood hope him hunt it. They never did
find it. I seen the old man and Jim Smith heaps of times.
"I voted in Mississippi. I couldn't read. They had a big fight in the
country at Midway Church where we all voted. It was out a ways from
Oxford, Mississippi. I never voted in Arkansas. I pay poll tax. Never
'lowed to vote.
"I never went to school a day in my life.
"I come to Forrest City fifty-four years ago. Married here. Never had a
child. Now my wife dead. I farmed all my life. I bought a farm but they
never let me have it. I never got it all paid out. They took it.
"I get Welfare help. I does some work. I'm nearly past hard work now."
Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Carol N. Graham
ADDRESS--Rear 456 West Main Street, El Dorado, Arkansas
DATE--November 1, 1938
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
1. Name and address of informant--Caroline Smith, Route 1, El Dorado.
(Lives with Negroes by name of Green about 1 mile from Smith's Crossing)
2. Date and time of interview--November 1, 1938, Tuesday morning,
3. Place of interview--at the home of some Negroes named Green.
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
informant--Had previously talked with Caroline.
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--Mrs. Ethel
Depriest, 516 East Miles Street, El Dorado.
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--a typical Negro farm
Personal History of Informant
2. Place and date of birth--Camden, Arkansas? No date.
3. Family--one child.
4. Places lived in, with dates--Camden and El Dorado. No dates.
5. Education, with dates--
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--None
7. Special skills and interests--
8. Community and religious activities--
9. Description of informant--
10. Other points gained in interview--This slave old enough to remember
Text of Interview (Unedited)
"I first remembers living on the plantation of Mr. Jake Dumas near El
Dorado Landing. You know it's Calion now. We lived up towards Camden and
it was there that my ma and pa was married and buried. I was a big girl
durin' the war. My job was to card and spin. And I use to carry the
children to school. When I would get to the school I would put the
children off, git straddle and ride that horse home. When I would get
there old mos would say Ca'line did you run him? I'd say naw sir. Then
he'd say, 'Oh, Carryline put the horse in the lot and come out here. I'd
say, 'Master I didn't run that horse' but didn't do no good. He sure
would whip me. I'd get down and roll. I would stomp and he would do the
same. I wondered how he could tell I'd run that horse. But course he
could cause that horse had the thumps (heart beating rapidly).
"I remember seeing the soldiers come through during the war. They come
by droves stealing horses, setting the cotton on fire and taking sumpin
to eat, too.
"Yes, I does still member the songs we sung durin' the war but I've got
the asthmy and ain't got much wind fur singin'.
"You want to know the reason,
You want to know the reason,
You want to know the reason, I'll tell you why,
We'll whip them Yankees, whole hog or die."
"Hooray, Hooray, Hooray for the Southern Girl.
Hooray for the homespun dress the Southern ladies wear.
My homespun dress is plain I know,
I glory in its name;
Hooray for the homespun dress the Southern ladies wear."
"I've got the asthmy honey and jest caint sing no more.
"You asked 'bout my husband and chillun. I been married fo' times. My
first man's name was Dick Hagler, the next Frank Bibby, the next Henry
Harris and the last one was Tom Smith. That's where I get my name
Ca'line Smith. I never did have but one daughter but she had sixteen
chillun. She's daid now and mah granchillun is scattered.
"I got the asthmy an jes don' feel like talkin' no more. Long time ago
when I was sick master always had a doctor to me now I have to hire one.
And they always fed me good and clothed me but after I was free I would
go round and work around to git a little sumpin to eat."
Interviewer: Thomas Elmore Lucy
Person interviewed: Caroline Smith, Russellville, Arkansas
"Ca'line Smith's my name and dey calls me 'Aunt Ca'line.' I was born
about de year 1855 as I was about dis high (measuring) when de War broke
out. I remembers de boys marching away in their grey uniforms just as
plain. We chillen would watch dem as dey went away; we could see em as
we peeped through de winders and de cracks in de walls.
"I was born in Mississippi close to Columbus on de plantation of my
master, John Duncan. And he was a purty strict old master, sure, but
sometimes he was kind to us. When we was set free he let us all go
wherever we wanted to, but didn't pay us nothin'.
"All de slaves that I remembers stayed on around in different parts of
Mississippi after de War and engaged in farmin', and workin' on roads
and streets, and other public work. About forty years ago I come to Pope
County, Arkansas wid my parents and has lived here ever' since.
"I don't remember nothin' about de Klu Klux Klan or if our folks was
ever bothered wid em.
"Yes suh, I keeps workin' every day and likes to keep up my sewin'.
Plenty of it to do all de time--jest like I'm doin' today. My health is
purty good ceptin' I has a sort of misery in my side.
"I draws a pension of $7.50 a month, but I dunno who sends it.
"I belongs to de Adventist Church, and I sure believes in always tellin'
de trufe and nofin' but de trufe; we better tell de trufe here, for some
of dese days we all gwine where nofin' but de trufe will be accepted.
"No suh, I ain't never took any interest in politics and ain't never
"Dese young'uns today is simply too much for me; I can't understand em,
and I dunno which way dey headed. Some few of em seems to have sound
common sense, but--well, I just refuse to talk about em."
Interviewer: Pernella Anderson
Person Interviewed: Edmond Smith
El Dorado, Ark.
"I was born in Arcadia, Louisiana a long, long time ago. Now my work
when I was a child was farmin'. I did not stay a child long, I been
grown ever since I was fourteen. My father lived till I was eleven, and
I thought since I was the oldest boy I could take his place of bossin',
but my mother would take me down a button hole lower whenever I got too
"Before my papa died we had a good livin'. We lived with his mistress's
daughter, and we thought we lived in heaven. My papa made all of the
shoes and raised all of the cattle from which he got the hide. We raised
all the wool to make our wool clothes and made all of the clothes we
wore. And food--we did not know what it was to go to a store to buy.
Didn't have to do that. You see, people now living out of paper sacks.
Every time they get ready to cook it's go to the store. We old timers
lived out of our smokehouse.
"In there we had dried beef, cured pork, sugar from syrup, sweet
potatoes, onions, Irish potatoes, plenty of dried fruit and canned
fruit, peanuts, hickory nuts, walnuts; eggs in the henhouse and chickens
on the yard, cows in the pen and milk and butter in the house.
"My mama even made our plow lines. She had a spinning wheel and you know
how to spin?--you can make ropes for plow lines too. Just twist the
cotton and have it about six inches long and put it in the loom and let
it go around and around. You keep puttin' the twisted cotton in the loom
and step on the peddle and no sooner than done, that was worked in a
rope. Now, if you don't know what I am talking about it is useless for
me to tell you.
"After papa died that left no one to work but mama and I tell you time
brought about a change. A house full of little children--we lived from
hand to mouth. Not enough corn to feed one mule. No syrup, no hogs, no
cows. Oh! we had a hard time. I remember hearing my mama many a night
ask God to help her through the struggle with her children. The more my
mama prayed the harder times got with her. Wasn't no churches around so
she had to sing and pray at home. The first Sunday School I remember
going to was in 1892. I went to school and got as high as fifth grade,
then I ran away from my mama.
"Just becaise I let old bad man overpower me I got grown and mannish.
Couldn't nobody tell me a thing. I would steal, I would fight, I would
lie. I remember in 1896 I went to church--that was about the fourth time
I had been to church. The preacher began preachin' and I went outdoors
and cut the harness off of his mule and broke one of his buggy wheels. I
went down in the woods and cut a cow just for meanness. I stole a gun,
and I would shoot anytime and anywhere, and nobody bothered me because
they was scared to. I stole chickens, turkeys and anything.
"I got in trouble more times than a little, so the last time I got in
trouble some white people got me out and I worked for them to pay my
fine out. While working for them I made shoes. They taught me to do
carpenter work. They taught me to paint; to paper; to cook; work in the
field and do most anything. I came to my senses while working with those
people and they made a man out of me. When I left there I was a first
class carpenter. Those white people was the cause of me getting
independent. I didn't get no book sense, but if you get with some good
white people, that will be worth more than an education."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Emma Hulett Smith; Hazen, Arkansas
"I was the first colored baby born here or very near here. There was
only three houses in this town (Hazen). I think they muster been log
"My folks belong to Dr. Hazen. He brought families from Tennessee. When
the war broke out he took em to Texas. Then he brought em back here.
When they was freed I heard my mother say they worked on for him and his
boys (Alex and Jim Hazen) and they paid them. He was good to them. They
had er plenty always. After the war they lived in good log houses and he
give em land and lumber for the church. Same church we got cept a storm
tore it down and this one built in place of it. He let em have a school.
Same place it stands now. My mother (Mandy Hulett) got a Union pension
till she died. She cooked at the first hotel in Hazen for John Lane. She
washed and ironed till she died. We girls helped and we wash and iron
all we can get now. None of us not on relief (Fannie nor Emma). I can't
wash no more. My hands and arms swell up with rheumatism. I still iron
all I can get.
"The present conditions seems awful unsettled; wages low, prices high
and work scarce at times. Men can get work in the hay two months and
bout two months work in the rice or pickin cotton, either one. Then the
work has played clean out till hay time next year.
"How do they live? Some of their _wifes_ cooks for white people and
they eat all they make up soon as they get paid. Only way they live."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Ervin E. Smith
811 Ringo Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
"I have been in this state for forty-nine years. I will be here fifty
years on the fifteenth of December.
"I was born in Ebenezer Township, York County, South Carolina, on the
twenty-ninth day of April, in 1854. That makes me eighty-four years old
on Friday. I was born on Good Friday--on Good Friday at six o'clock in
"I am telling you what I was instructed all of my life. My father, W.D.
Smith, and my mother, Haria, told me these things. My mother carried a
nickname, Salina, all her life, but her real name was Haria.
"I'll tell you how they happened to keep such good records. We had a
little advantage over the other people of that day. My father never
got any school education, but his brothers instructed him--his
half-brothers. They were white. They was good, too. I mean them brothers
thought just as much of me as they did of anybody else. So my father
got pretty good training. He got it from his brothers and that's how he
learned to keep such good records.
"I am told my mother cooked for one family for forty-two years. Her
maiden name was Haria Harris. She was three-fourths white. She come from
the Indian tribe--old Catawba Indians. Her own daddy was a white man,
but her Grand daddy on her mother's side was an Indian.
"I am told that the old fellow bought my mother when she was fifteen
years old. Finally he got hold of both my father and my mother. Both of
them put together didn't have half colored blood. He must have loved
them a lot to work so hard to get them together. My father was half
white, but his mother was a mulatto woman (Interpreter's comment--This
should make him a quadroon)[TR: sentence lined out.]; and my mother's
great-grandmother was a colored woman.
"I never knew much about race troubles. The best friend I ever had was
an old white grandmother. I was carefully shielded from all unpleasant
"I was looking at the men when they were getting ready to get on the
train to go to Fort Sumter. Mr. John White, Captain John White, I knew
him personally. He was one of our neighbors. That was in Ebenezer that
he was one of our neighbors. The soldiers going to capture Fort Sumter
caught the Columbia and Augusta train going to Charleston. Looked like
to me there was ten thousand of them. John White was the captain and
Beauregard [HW: here Gustave Toutant Beauregard.] was the general.
"I didn't see the fighting because it was too far away. It was about
eighty miles from us where they got on the train to Fort Sumter. They
got on the train at Rock Hill. Rock Hill was a city--small city--real
close to Ebenezer. We lived near Rock Hill. They was adjoining towns.
Patrollers and Good Masters
"The only patrollers I knew of was some that come on the place once and
got hurt. My mother had a brother Hobb and the patroller tried to whip
him. Hobb knocked all his front teeth out with a stick. Ches[TR:?] Wood
was the name of the patroller. It was like it is now. There were certain
white people who didn't allow any of their niggers to be whipped. I
never seen a patroller on my place. I have heard of them in other
places, but the only one to come on our place was the one Uncle Hobb
beat up. He had to take it, because you couldn't put anything over on
Harris' plantation. My people was rich people. They didn't allow anybody
to come on their places and interfere with then--their niggers.
"I have heard my mother say that no white man ever struck her in her
life. I have had uncles that were struck. Two of them, and both of them
killed the men that struck them. Uncle Saul killed Edmund Smith and
Uncle George killed Ed McGehee. Uncle George's full white sister (his
half-sister) sent him away and saved him. They electrocuted Uncle
Saul--they executed him.
"White men struck them and they wouldn't take it. They didn't do nothin'
at all to Hobb Baron. He got to his boss and the white folks was 'fraid
to come there after him. All of this was in slavery. My people ain't
never had no trouble with anybody since freedom; white people would get
mad with my uncles and try to do something to them, and they wouldn't
"There were three races in the neighborhood where I was raised--niggers,
Indians, and white folks. They never sent the Indians out until 1876
when I was a grown man. They sent them over there to Utah when it became
a state. I had a lot of Indian friends that went along at that time.
"Bad blood was mixed up there and you couldn't do nothing to anybody and
get away with it.
First Pair of Shoes
"I can remember the first pair of shoes my uncle gave me. They had a
little brass on the top of the toes to keep you from kicking them out
and skinning them up. That was way back yonder in the fifties.
Bible and Church in Slave Time
"White people taught their niggers what Bible they wanted them to know.
"'Who made you?'
"'Why did He make you?'
"'For his own glory.'
"'Why ought you to love God?'
"'Because He made me and takes care of me.'
"That was all the Bible they wanted you to learn. That, and just a few
more things. I could state them all.
"In 1866, everybody that was less than sixteen years old in South
Carolina had to go to school. The little fellows that had been slaves
had to go to school, and they got some education. You will hardly find
an old man from South Carolina around my age who can't read and write.
There was one hundred sixty pupils in my school. All boys. I never went
to a mixed school--a school where they had boys and girls both.
"The first school I attended was in Ebenezer. I went to high school in
Macklenburg. Miss Sallie Good and Miss Mattie Train, Elias Hill, and
David G. Wallace--all of these were my teachers. They were all white
except Elias Hill. He was the only colored teacher in that section of
the country--at that time.
"When I finished high school, I went to Biddle University. Biddle was
a boys' school. It was in Charlotte, North Carolina. They had a girls'
school in Concord, North Carolina. Biddle is still running, but it has
another name. Dr. Mattoon was president of Biddle then and Dr. Darling
was president of the girls' school.
"The first murder ever I saw was Violet Harris killed Warren Fewell. It
come over a family quarrel some way. They fell out over something. She
was not related to him. It was done right at the fence at her gate. She
cut him with a butcher knife--stuck him just once right through the
heart. That is the first murder I ever saw. They were both colored. The
War was just winding up. It happened in Ebenezer. I don't recall that
they punished her.
"I have seen a white man killed by a white man, and I have seen a
colored man killed by a colored man; but I have never seen a colored man
killed by a white man or a white man killed by a colored man. I have
seen them after they were killed, but I never seen the killing. I have
seen both races killing their own, but I have never seen them killing
across the races.
"About fifty years ago, I saw a young man come in the church and kill
another one. Just come in and shot him. That is been fifty years
ago--back in 1881 in Ebenezer.
"Rock Hill, South Carolina, from 1876 to a while later, bore the name
'Bloody Town.' They killed a man there every Saturday night in the
year--fifty-two times a year they killed a man. They had to send for the
Federal troops to bring them down. They didn't just kill colored people.
They killed anybody--about anything."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Frances Smith
2224 Havis Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I specs I was born in slavery times. I remember seein' the Yankees.
That was in Mississippi. I'm seventy-seven--that's my age.
"Spencer Bailey was old master. Just remember the name was 'bout the
biggest thing I knowed about. I seen him all right but I didn't know
much about him 'cept his name.
"Mother belonged to him, yes'm.
"I tell you the truf, what little I used to remember I done forgot it. I
just didn't try to keep up with it. I wasn't concerned and just didn't
try to keep up with it.
"I know our folks stayed there a while. First place we went to after the
War was Tennessee.
"I don't know how long I been here--I been here a time though.
"Yes'm, I went to school several terms.
"I was married in Arkansas. My folks heard about Arkansas bein' such a
rich country, so they come to Arkansas.
"I farmed a long time and then I done housework.
"Deal a times I don't know what to think of this younger generation. I
sits down sometimes and tries to study 'em out, but I fails.
"Well, what the old folks goin' to get out of this?"
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Henrietta Evelina Smith
1714 Pine Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was born in Louisiana in East Felicie Parish near Baton Rouge on the
twenty-eighth day of December. My mother's name was Delia White. Her
maiden name was Delia Early. My father's name was Henry White. My
mother's father was named Amos Early. My mother's mother's name was
Julia. My father's father was named Tom White and his mother was named
"My father and mother both belonged to the Eason's. I don't know how
they spelled it. Eason's daughter married Munday and my uncle bought
this white man's place years after freedom. That is not far from
Clinton--about four or five miles. It is three miles from Ethel,
"Amos, my grandfather, was the wagoneer on the old place. Father, he
used to drive the wagon too. He'd haul cotton to Baton Rouge and things
like that. He would run off and stay five or six months. I have heard
them talk about how he used to come back and bring hogs and one thing
and another that he had found out in the woods. He would run off because
the overseer would whip him. But he was such a good working man that
once or twice, the boss man turned off his overseer on account of him.
There wasn't nothing against his work. He just wouldn't take a blow.
Most of the times after he had been out a while the boss man would tell
the hands to tell Amos that if he would come on home they wouldn't whip
him for running off.
"My grandmother's mother on my father's side was named Melissa. I think
that was her name. My father's mother was named Susan like I told you.
She was part Indian--better work hand never was. But she wouldn't be
conquered neither. When they got ready to whip her, it would be half a
day before they could take her. When they did get her, they would whip
her so they would have to raise her in a sheet. The last time they
whipped her, it took her nearly a year to get over it. So the white man
just turned her loose and told her she was free. She went on off and we
never did know what became of her.
"The Easons were farmers and they had a large plantation. I don't know
just how many slaves they owned.
"My father and mother were fed like pigs. They had an old woman that did
the cooking. She was broke down from work. They would give the slaves
greens and the children pot-liquor. My parents were field hands. My
mother was too young to carry a row when she was freed, but she worked
on an older person's row. They worked from can till can't. You know what
I mean, from the time they could see till the time they couldn't. Reb
time was something like the penitentiary now. It never got too cold nor
too hot to work. And there wasn't any pay. My parents never were given
any chance to earn any money. I heard that my grandpa used to make a
little something. He was a wagoneer you know. He would carry a little
extra on his load and sell it. His old master never did find it out.
People knew he had stole it, but they would buy it just the same.
"The old boss man came down in the quarters and told them they were free
when freedom came. Right after freedom they stayed there on the old
place for a year or more. My mother wasn't grown and she and my father
married after that. Afterwards they had kind of a fight to get away from
the old man. He was carrying them the same way he was going before the
War and they had a row (quarrel), and left him. I don't know just what
terms they worked on. I don't think they did themselves. They took just
what they could get and didn't know just how they was paid.
"If a man made a good crop, they would run him away and make him leave
his crops behind.
"My folks continued to farm all their lives. They had trouble with the
night riders. They had to vote like they were told. If you voted the
wrong way they would get behind you and run you off. There were some
folks who would take pay for voting and then vote different, and when
the night riders found it out, there would be trouble. I don't believe
in taking money for voting, and I don't believe in lying.
"My mother and father didn't get any schooling. That was allowed after
slavery, but it wasn't allowed in slavery time. They learned a little
from other people. They would slip and learn to read.
"My great-grandmother was considered pretty when she was young. She had
glossy black hair and was a little short. She was brownskin and had big
legs. Her master would take her out behind the field and do what he
wanted. When she got free, she gave both of her children away. She had
two children by him--a boy named Eli and a girl named Anna. She didn't
want them 'round her because they reminded her of him."
The subject did not wish to state her age. It is probably around
sixty-five. Her mother was married shortly after freedom. And eight
years is probably a liberal allowance for the distance of her birth from
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person Interviewed: Henry Smith
702 Virginia, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Occupation: Odd jobs
"Yes mam, I was here in slavery times. I was born in Tennessee on a
plantation near Jackson. I was eight years old when peace was declared.
All I member is when they beat the folks pit near to death.
"My old master was Tom Smith. Mean? Cose he was mean. Old mistress was
sorta good to us but old master was the devil. Used to make the men hold
the women while they whipped em. Make em wear old brogan shoes with
buckles across the instep. Had the men and women out fore day plowin'. I
member they had my mother out many a day so dark they had to feel where
the traces was to hitch up the mules.
"My mother worked in the field and I stayed in front and helped her up
when she got behind.
"I member when the Yankees had thousands and thousands of bales of
cotton in the streets right here in Pine Bluff and take a knife and
cut it open and put a match to it, and burn peoples houses and the gin
houses and everything. Take the hosses and mules and run em off.
"Old master and mistress carried us to Texas till peace was declared. I
member one morning the mail come and old master had a long paper and he
called all us colored folks up and told us we was free. He told us we
could go or stay. They all wanted to stay so he brought em all back here
to Arkansas. He give each one three acres of ground and all they could
make on it. That's the nicest thing he ever done, but he didn't do that
but one year. After that the land fell back to him. Then they worked on
"When the colored folks went to buy stock and rent land from the whites,
it cost five and six dollars a acre. They sho could make some money that
"I was big enough to do right smart behind a plow. I could do a heap. We
got along pretty well.
"I got married when I was bout eighteen and made a home for myself. Me
and my wife had twenty-two children. White folks helped us a lot. My
wife's dead and all my children dead 'cept four.
"I been here in Pine Bluff twenty-two years. I been here a good
while--that ain't no joke. Used to make three dollars a day mowin'
grass. Bought this place with the money. Can't make that now. They won't
give you nothin' for your work.
"Oh yes'm, I voted and wouldn't know what I was votin' till 'twas too
"Never went to school much. Learned to read a little bit. They kep' me
in the field. Yes ma'm, I've worked but I've never had a doctor to me in
"Ain't much to this younger generation. The old race can get along a lot
better with the white folks than the young race can.
"I'm the head deacon of the Morning Star Church. Read the Bible right
smart. I tell you one thing--I like all of it."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: J.L. Smith
1215 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was born in 1862 in the month of September on the fifteenth. I
was born at a place they call Indian Bay on White River down here
in Arkansas. My mother was named Emmaline Smith and she was born in
Tennessee. I don't know really now what county or what part of the
state. My father's name was John Smith. He was born in North Carolina.
I don't know nothing about what my grandfather's name and grandmother's
names were. I never saw them. None of my folks are old aged as I am. My
father was sixty years old when he died and my mother was only younger
Experience of Father
"I heard my father say that he helped get out juniper timber in North
Carolina. The white man me and my sister worked with after my father
died was the man my father worked with in the juniper swamp. His name
was Alfred Perry White. As long as he lived, we could do work for him.
We didn't live on his place but we worked for him by the day. He is dead
now--died way back yonder in the seventies. There was the Brooks and
Baxter trouble in 1874, and my father died in seventy-five. White lived
a little while longer.
"My father was married twice before he married my mother. He had two
sets of children. I don't know how many of them there were. He had
four children by my mother. He had only four children as far as I can
"I don't know how my father and my mother met up. They lived in the same
plantation and in the same house. They were owned by the same man when
freedom came. I don't know how they got together. I have often wondered
about that. One from Tennessee and the other from North Carolina, but
they got together. I guess that they must have been born in different
places and brought together through being bought and sold.
"My mother was a Murrill. My father was a Cartwright. My father's
brother Lewis was a man who didn't take nothing much from anybody, and
he 'specially didn't like to take a whipping. When Lewis' master wanted
to whip him, he would call his mother--the master's mother--and have her
whip him, because he figured Uncle Lewis wouldn't hit a woman.
"I have six children altogether. Two of them are dead. There are three
girls and one boy living. The oldest is fifty-seven; the next, fifty;
and the youngest, forty-eight. The youngest is in the hospital for
nervous and mental diseases. She has been there ever since 1927. The
oldest had an arm and four ribs broken in an auto accident last January
on the sixteenth of the month. She didn't get a penny to pay for her
trouble. I remember the man did give her fifteen cents once. The truck
struck her at the alley there and knocked her clean across the street.
She is fifty-seven years old and bones don't knit fast on people that
old. She ain't able to do no work yet. All of my daughters are out of
work. I don't know where the boy is. He is somewheres up North.
"I have seen some old log houses that they said the slaves used to live
in. I was too young to notice before freedom. I have seen different
specimens of houses that they lived in. One log house had a plank house
builded on to the end of it. The log end was the one lived in during
slavery times and the plank end was built since. That gal there of mine
was born in the log end. There were round log houses and sawed log
houses. The sawed log houses was built out of logs that had been squared
after the tree had been cut down, and the round log houses was built out
of logs left just like they was when they was trees. There's been quite
an improvement in the houses since I was a kid.
"I have heard my father and mother talking among themselves and their
friends, but they never did tell me nothing about slave times. They
never did sit down and talk to me about it. When they'd sit down and
start talkin', it would always be, 'Now you children run on out and play
while we old folks sit here and talk.' But from time to time, I would be
sitting on the floor playing by myself and they would be talking 'mongst
themselves and I would hear them say this or that. But I never heered
them say what they et in slave times.
"My father worked in the juniper swamp in North Carolina, like I told
you. I think I heard my mother say she cooked. Most I ever heard them
say was when they would get with some one else and each would talk about
"I heard my mother say that her mistress used to take a fork and stick
it in her head--jog it up and down against her head. I don't know how
hard she punched her. My mother was very gray--all her hair was gray and
she wasn't old enough for that. I reckon that was why.
How Freedom Came
"I don't remember how freedom came. They were refugeed--I call it
that--my father and mother were. My sister was born in Texas, and they
were back in Arkansas again when I was born. I was born and raised right
here in Arkansas. They were running from one place to the other to keep
the Yankees from freeing the slaves. I never even heard them say where
they were freed. I don't know whether it was here or in Texas.
Right After the War
"I have no knowledge of what they did right after the War. The first
thing I remember was that they were picking cotton in Pine Bluff or near
there. It was a smoky log house I had to stay in while they were out in
the field and the smoke used to hurt my eyes awful.
Ku Klux and Patrollers
"I don't remember nothing about the Ku Klux. I heard old folks say
they used to have passes to keep the pateroles from bothering them. I
remember that they said the pateroles would whip them if they would
catch them out without a pass. When I first heard of the Ku Klux Klan,
I thought that it was some kind of beast the folks was talking about. I
didn't hear nothing special they did.
"When I got old enough, I worked a farm--picked cotton, hoed, plowed,
pulled corn--all such things. That is about all I ever did--farming.
Farming was always my regular occupation. I never did anything else--not
for no regular thing.
"I married in 1879. My father and mother married each other too after
freedom. I remember that. It was when the government was making all
those that had been slaves marry. I have been married just the one time.
My wife died in April 1927.
"I am not able to do anything now. I don't even tote a chair across the
room, or spade up the ground for a garden, or hoe up the weeds in it. I
am ruptured and the doctor says it is the funniest rupture he ever seen.
He says that there's a rupture and fat hanging down in the rupture. They
have to keep me packed with ice all the time. The least little thing
brings it down. I can't hold myself nor nothing. Have to wear something
under my clothes.
"I don't get a pension."
Smith is sensitive about his first name--doesn't like to give it--and
about his condition. He doesn't like to mention it or to have it
He has an excellent memory for some things and a rather poor one for
some others. He got angry when his granddaughter supplied data about his
wife which he apparently could not recall.
His physical condition is deplorable and his circumstances extremely
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: John H. Smith
2602 W. Twelfth Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I reckon I was here, I member seein' the smoke from the guns look like
"I was born in Missouri in 1856. I member _way_ back. Yes'm. I'm
"I member seein' the soldiers--Yankees--eight or ten in a squad and they
asked me did I want to ride with em? Old mistress say, 'That's my boy!'
I member way back when they used to put the folks upon a block and sell
em. I member one night we was in the cabin and the Ku Klux come up on
horses. And I member when they was hollerin' peace was declared.
"Mama told me I was born in 1856. Mama had all our ages in that big
"We stayed in St. Louis six years then we went to Chrystal City.
Missouri and I went to the glass factory and went to work.
"Did I vote? Me? Yes'm, I voted many a time--Republican. I'm still a
Republican--always will be I reckon. I haven't voted for a long time but
I think everybody ought to have the liberty to vote.
"I like to live in the North better cause the white folks treats you
better. They treats me all right here cause I don't do nothin'.
"I member my white folks was good to me.
"I went to school after the war whar I was born. C.N. Douglas, the son
of Napoleon Douglas, was my teacher. First teacher we had was Miss
Mary Strotter. I know she couldn't learn us anything so they got C.N.
Douglas. He brought that paddle with the little holes and he learned
us something. I know my sister was next to me and she couldn't get her
spelling and I'd work my mouf so she could see. C.N. Douglas caught me
at it and he whipped me that day. I never worked my mouf again.
"I was the best speller in the school. I won a gold pen and ink stand
and George Washington picture.
"Before the war I member the overseer would say, 'If you don't have that
done tonight, I'll whip you tomorrow.' They had one man was pretty bad
and I know they give him a thimble and a barrel and told him he had to
fill up that barrel, but he couldn't do it you know and so they whipped
"Mama used to whip me. She called me the 'Devil's Egg Bag' for a long
time. I used to take a darning needle and punch the eyes out of guineas
or chickens just to see em run around. She broke me of that. I know now
she never whip me enough, but she made a man of me. I got a good name
now. Always been a good worker. Done my work good and that's what they
want to know. Yes ma'm, I'm _old_."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Persons interviewed: Maggie Snow and Charlie Snow
R.F.D., Brinkley, Arkansas
Ages: 69 and 75
"My parents' names was Mary and Henderson Kurkendall. They had seven
children. Mama died when I was three years old. Papa was a Yankee
"They belong to the same white folks, Moster Jake and Peggy Kurkendall.
They had a big farm.
"My papa told me that one morning they woke up and looked out over the
field. The Yankees had pitched their camps far as you could see on
Moster Jake's farm. They come up to his house. Moster Jake had a big
house and a big family. The Yankees come up there and throwed out all
they had and told the slaves to take it. No, they didn't; they was
scared to take it and it belong to them. They didn't want it all wasted
like they was doing. Papa said they rode their horses up to the house.
They took all the soldiers on the place to the camp. They was scared not
"Papa left mama at the old home place and Moster Jake let them work all
they could. Papa stayed in the war till after the battle at Vicksburg.
Then he come home. They stayed awhile at Moster Jake's and worked. He
got his knee hurt and his health ruined. He never was no count after he
got back home. Mama could pick six hundred pounds of cotton a day he
said. They worked from daybreak till pitch dark in them days.
"Little Jake Kurkendall is living now Enoch or Harrison Station,
Mississippi. He is older than I am. He got a family. But he is all the
son old Moster Jake had that I know living now.
"Papa said the Yankees made all the slaves fight they could run across.
Some kept hid in the woods. Seem like from way he told bout it they
wanted freedom but they didn't want to go to war.
"When we heard bout Arkansas being so rich and a new country, we wanted
to come. Some white and some colored come. We come to Aubrey, Arkansas.
We got six living, five dead children. I been here fourteen years (at
Brinkley). I hired out to cook in Mississippi but I wash and iron
and work in the field till I bout wore out. My husband in a terrible
condition. He picked some cotton. He got rheumatism in his legs.
"We own a little home bout a mile from town and a pig. I wish I could
get a cow. I ain't got the money to buy one. Jess can't get one no way.
We had a fine garden. Two of us get $10 and commodities. Times so far
this year been good. When it gets cold times may be hard. Times better
this year than last or it been for a long time.
"I didn't know I could vote. Guess my husband done my part of the
"I am seventy-three years old. There was two boys and two girls of us.
My aunts and uncles raised me. My mother died when I was little and fore
that my papa went to the army and never come home. They said he got
killed or died--they didn't know. My parents belong to Berry Bruce. He
had a family I heard em say. He lived at Louisville, Mississippi.
"I recollect the Ku Klux. I heard em talk a whole lot about em. One time
they rode round our house and through the hall of our house. Yes ma'am,
it scared us so bad it most paralyzed us all. They went on. We didn't
know what they wanted. We never did find out.
"I don't vote. I never voted in my life. I don't recken I ever will. I
have been a hard worker all my life. I farmed. I loaded and unloaded on
a steamboat with my family farmin' in the country. The boat I run on
went from Memphis to New Orleans.
"My family farmed at Batesville in the country out from there. For a
long time I made staves with the Sweeds. They was good workers. We would
make 1,000, then load the barge and send or take them to Vicksburg. I
got my board and $1 a day.
"The present conditions for the cotton farmer has been better this year
than last. When it gets cold and no work, makes it hard on old men. I
got no job in view for the winter.
"I would like to have a cow if I could raise the money to get one. I
been tryin' to figure out how to get us a cow to help out. I can't make
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