Slave Narratives: Arkansas Narratives
Work Projects Administration
Part 4 out of 6
"I suffer all the time. I can't sit still, I can't sleep I suffer so wid
rheumatism. Nobody knows how I do suffer. My general health is fine.
"This President has sure been merciful to the poor and aged. Surely he
will be greatly rewarded hereafter."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Robert Solomon, Des Arc, Arkansas
My father was African. He was born in Atlanta. My mother was a Cherokee
Indian. Her name was Alice Gamage. I was born in 1864. I don't know
where I was born--think it was in the Territory--my father stole my
mother one night. He couldn't understand them and he was afraid of her
people. He went back to Savannah after so long a time and they was in
Florida when I first seen any of her people. When I got up any size I
asked my father all about him and my mother marrying. He said he knowed
her 'bout two year 'fore they married. They sorter courted by signs--my
mother learned me her language and it was natural fur me to speak my
father's tongue. I talked for them. She was bout fifteen when she run
away. I don't know if a preacher ever did marry em or not. My father
said she was just so pretty he couldn't help lovin' her. He kept makin'
signs and she made signs. I liked my Gramma Gamage. She couldn't
understand much. We all went to the Indian Territory from Florida and
Georgia. That's how I come out here.
I don't remember the Ku Klux. I remember hearing ma and gramma talk
'bout the way they tried to get way from 'em. My father was a farmer
till freedom. He farmed around here and at Pine Bluff. He died at West
Point. My mother and step-mother both died at Pine Bluff. They took my
mother to her nation in Oklahoma. She was sick a good while and they
took her to wait on her. Then come and took her after she died. There
show is a fambly. My father had twenty-two in his fambly. My mother
had five boys and three girls and me. My stepmother had fourteen more
children. That's some fambly aint it? All my brothers and sisters died
when I was little and they was little. My father's other children jess
somewhar down round Pine Bluff. I guess I'd know em but I aint seed none
of them in I don't know how long.
The first work I ever done was sawmilling at Pine Bluff. Then I went
down in Louziana, still sawmilling--I followed dat trade five or six
years. Den I got to railroading. I was puttin down cross ties and layin'
steel. I got to be straw boss at dat. I worked at dat fifteen years. I
worked doing that in six different states. That was show fine livin'--we
carried our train right along to live in. I married and went to farming.
Then I come to work at this oil mill here (in Des Arc). The reason I
quit. I didn't quit till it went down and moved off. I aint had nothin'
much to do since. I been carryin' water and wood fur Mrs. Norfleet
twenty years and they cooks fur me now. My wife died 'bout a year ago.
She been dead a year last January. She was sick a long time 'fore she
died. Well the relief gives me a little to eat, some clothes and I gets
$5.00 a month and I takes it and buys my groceries and I takes it up to
Mrs. Norfleet's. They says come there and eat. They show is good to me
'cept I aint able to carry the wood up the steps much no more. It hurt
me when I worked at the oil mill. I helped them 'bout the house all the
What I do wid my money I made? I educated my girls. Yes maam I show is
got children. One my girls teaches school in St. Louis and de other at
Hot Springs. They both went to college at Pine Bluff. I sent em. No'm
dey don't help me. They is by my second wife and my first wife live with
my son, down close to Star City. Dey farm. It's down in Lincoln County.
They let me live in this house. It belongs to him. I went to the bank
fo' it closed and got my money whut I had left. I been livin' on it but
it give out.
The conditions are all right. They kin make a right smart but everything
is so high it don't buy much. Some of 'em say they ain't goiner do the
hardest work, hot or cold and liftin' for no dollar a day. Don't nobody
work hard as I used to. There's goiner be another war and a lot of them
killed--'cause people ain't doin right. Some don't treat the others
right. No'm they never did. They used to threaten em and take 'em out in
cars and beat 'em up, just for disputin' their word or not paying 'em
and de lack. The white man has cheated a heap because we was ignorant
and black. They gamble on the cotton and take might' near all of it for
the cheap grub they let out to make de crop on. Conditions are better
but a heap of the young black and white too deblish lazy to work. Some
of dem get killed out goin' on at their meanness.
I heard of uprisings since the war but I never was 'bout none of them.
I votes the Republican ticket. The last I voted was for Hoover. Sure
they have tried to change my way of voting but I ain't goiner change.
I ain't heard nothin' 'bout no restrictions 'bout votin'. If a woman
wanter vote it's all right. My girs and my boy votes right along. They
are all Republicans.
The most money I ever has at one time was $600.00. I did save it. I
spent it on my girls' clothes and education. They did go to college at
Pine Bluff but they went to the Catholic High School first down at Pine
Bluff. No'm they don't help me. They say it's all dey can do to get
along. They never have told me how much they make.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: James Spikes
2101 Bell Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Good morning. Yes'm I remember the Civil War. I was a soldier. I was
between sixteen and seventeen when I enlisted in the war.
"'Why did you enlist?'
"I didn't know no better. I thought I would be took care of. They told
us the war was sposed to set the darkies free. My old master didn't want
me to go--cose not. But they was very good to me. I regard them just the
same as myself.
"I enlisted in the 55th regiment of colored soldiers. Then I went off
with the Yankees. I was with them when they had the battle at Corinth,
"I was with them when the Yankees taken Corinth and whupped. The rebels
tried to take it back and the Yankees whupped 'em again. The regiment I
was with whupped 'em away from several places and kept 'em runnin'.
"When we was in Fort Pickens I 'member they had a poll parrot--some of
the officers had trained it to say 'Corporal of the guard, Jim Spikes,
post No. 1." Sometimes I would draw my gun like I was going to shoot and
the poll parrot would say, 'Jim, don't you shoot me!' They got plenty a
"The war was funny and it wasn't funny. Well, it was funny for the side
that won when we had scrummishes (skirmish). I never was captured but I
hoped capture a lot.
"I stayed in the war till I was mustered out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
I was a good big fellow then. Oh Lord yes, I knowed most anything.
"After that I went to Memphis and then I come to Arkansas and went to
farming with some white fellows named French. The river overflowed and
we lost 'bout all the cotton.
"The government gives me a pension now cause I was a soldier. Yes'm it
comes in right nice--it does that."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Kittie Stanford
309 Missouri Street; Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes'm, I used to be a slave. My mother belonged to Mrs. Lindsey. One
day when I was ten years old, my old mistress take me over to her
daughter and say 'I brought you a little nigger gal to rock de cradle.'
I'se one hundred and four years old now. Miss Etta done writ it down in
the book for me.
"One time a lady from up North ask me did I ever get whipped. Honey, I
ain't goin' tell you no lie. The overseer whipped us. Old mistress used
to send me to her mother to keep the Judge from whippin' me. Old Judge
say 'Nigger need whippin' whether he do anything or not.'
"Some of the hands run away. Old Henry run away and hide in the swamp
and say he goin' stay till he bones turn white. But he come back when he
get hongry and then he run away again.
"When the war come some of the slaves steal the Judge's hosses and run
away to Pine Bluff and he didn't never find 'em. The Judge think the
Yankees goin' get everything he got so we all left Arkansas and went to
Texas. We in Texas when freedom come. We come back to Arkansas and I
stay with my white folks awhile but I didn't get no pay so I got a job
cookin' for a colored woman.
"I been married fo' times. I left my las' husband. I didn't leave him
cause he beat me. I lef' him cause he want too many.
"No'm I never seen no Ku Klux. I heard 'bout 'em but I never seen none
that I knows of. When I used to get a pass to go to 'nother plantation I
always come back fo' dark.
"This younger generation is beyond my onderstanding. They is gettin'
weaker and wiser.
"I been ready to die for the last thirty years. 'Mary (her granddaughter
with whom she lives), show the lady my shroud.' I keeps it wropped up
in blue cloth. They tells me at the store to do that to keep it from
turning yellow. 'Show her that las' quilt I made.' Yes'm I made this all
by myself. I threads my own needle, too, and cuts out the pieces. I has
worked hard all my life.
"Now the Welfare gives me my check. My granddaughter good to me. I goes
to church on the first and third Sundays.
"Lady, I glad you come to see me and God bless you. Goo' bye!"
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Tom Stanhouse
"I was born close to Greenville, South Carolina. I lived down close to
Spartanburg. My mother was named Luvenia Stanhouse and Henry Stanhouse.
They had nine children. Grandma belong to Hopkins but married into the
Stanhouse family. Grandpa's name was Tom. They set him free. I guess
because he was old. He lived about mong his children.
"When they was set free old man Adam Stanhouse was good to em. He
treated em nice but they never got nothing but their clothes. They moved
on another place and started working sharecropper.
"Before freedom old man Adam Stanhouse would give my pa a pass or his
pocket knife to show to go to see my ma. She lived at Dr. Harrison's
farm five miles apart. They all knowed Adam Stanhouse's knife. I don't
know how they would know it. He never let his Negroes be whooped unless
he said so. Owners didn't 'low the Ku Klux whoop hands on their place.
"Adam Stanhouse brought my pa from Virginia with him. Some of them men
thought might near much of his slaves as they did their children. Or I
heard em say they seem to. My pa married my ma when she was thirteen
years old. They had nine children.
"I heard ma say Dr. Harrison practiced medicine. His wife was named Miss
Lizzie. They had two boys and three girls.
"Ma was a house girl. Pa was a field hand. One time traders come round
and ma's owner wanted to sell her and his wife objected. She wasn't sold
that time. I don't know if she was sold or not.
"I don't know no more about that war than I do about the German war
(World War). I was a little boy when it was all over. I left South
Carolina in 1888. Ma was a part Red Indian and pa was a half Black Creek
Indian. I had two children before I left South Carolina. I was married
back there. I paid my own way and come to Fargo. I was trying to better
my condition. In 1896 I come to Brinkley. Before that I lived at Dark
Corner eight years. In 1920 ma and pa come to me and died with me. I
paid $25.00 for my second class ticket to Fargo--in 1888.
"Since 1864 to 1937 I farmed, sawmilled, threshed, run a grist mill, run
a cotton gin and worked about em. I farmed eight or nine years across
the bayou here.
"I own a home. My wife is living. I get 'demodities', no money. I got
two girls living. One girl is in New Jersey and one in Michigan. They
make their living.
"I think the world is going on worse than ever I seen it. Folks can't
live without money. They don't try to raise their living no more. I
ain't no prophet. The world going to nothing way I see it."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Isom Starnes, Marianna, Arkansas
"I was born in Marshall County, Alabama near Guntersville. Father belong
to the Starnes. They bought him in Alabama. My parents' name was Jane
and Burrel Starnes. They had two children I knew of. When they was set
free they left and started renting. I don't remember much that happened
before freedom. I picked up chips and put them in a split basket I just
could chin. I'd fill all the baskets and they would haul them up to put
under the iron skillet. Other chaps was picking up chips too. They used
some kinds to smoke the meat. I could tote water on my head and a bucket
in each hand. They was small buckets. We had to come up a path up the
hill. I stumped my toe on the rocks till they would bleed; sometimes it
looked like the nail would come off. My mother was a good cook. I don't
know what she was doing in slavery.
"I been farming all my life. Yes, I owned ninety-eight acres in Alabama.
I had a home on it. I lost it. We brought a suit for water damage. We
lost it, I reckon. They fixed a dam that ruined my place. I left and
went to the North--to Springfield, Ohio. I started public work and
worked three or four months in a piano factory. I liked farming the best
and come back to it. My boys hope me down hill. I got two boys. My girl
left me all I got now. She is dead. I got a home and twenty-five acres
of ground. She made the money washing, ironing and farming. I 'plied for
the old folks' pension but didn't get it and give it up. I made four
bales cotton, one hundred pounds seed cotton. My place is half mile from
town. I have to get somebody to do all the work.
"My father did vote. He voted a Republican ticket. I have voted but I
don't vote now. I voted a few days ago for a little cotton this year. It
was the cotton control election. I voted a Republican ticket. I found
out Democrat times is about the best time for us in the South. I
quit voting because I'm too old to keep up with it. If a woman owns
anything--land or house--she ought to be allowed to vote.
"The times is mighty hard. I need a little money now and I can't get it
nowhere. It looks like bad times for me. The young folks don't work hard
as I did. I kept study (steady) at farming. I liked it. My race is the
best fitted for farming and that is where we belong. I never been in
jail. I never been arrested in my whole life."
I stopped this clean, feeble, old Negro--humble as could be--on the edge
of town. He had a basket of groceries taking to his old wife. It was a
small split basket. His taxes worried him. He couldn't get a holt on any
money, so I told him about the Farmers' Loan. He was so scared looking
I felt he didn't tell me all he knew. He looked tired. I gave it up and
jokingly asked him if he had ever been in jail. He said, "I never been
in jail. I never been arrested in my whole life." I laughed good and
thanked him. I told a young woman who had curiously been trying to catch
the conversation from her yard that I feared I frightened the old man
till he couldn't think to tell me all he knew. She said, "Maybe so but
he has a reputation of being good as gold and his word his bond."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Ky (Hezekiah) Steel
West Fifth Avenue (rear), Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Occupation: Yard man
"What is it you want to know? Well, I was born in North Carolina. I know
they brought me here from North Carolina in slavery times. I couldn't
keep no count of it, lady, 'cause I didn't know. I know I was big enough
to walk behind the wagon pickin' up corn. I know that. That was in
"Mr. June Ingraham's father brought me here.
"Oh, that's a long time ago. Mr. June and I was boys together. I was
born in the Ingraham family.
"They carried me from here to Texas. I stayed there till I was grown and
married. Then I come back to Arkansas I got with Mr. June's son and I
been here since.
"Never have gone to school a day. Can't read but I can spell a little.
"I've done most all kinds of work--split rails, cut wood, farm work, and
railroad work on the section.
"Ku Klux come out there where I was in Texas. Didn't bother me--they was
just around first one place, then another.
"I voted once. I guess it was Republican. I don't remember now who I
voted for. I didn't take much interest in politics--only just what I'd
hear somebody say.
"Yankees was camped near us in Texas to keep the wild Indians back. That
was after the War. Yes'm, sure was.
"I know the very night old missis told us we was free. Called all us
slaves up there together. Told us we was just as free as she was. I
always will remember that.
"I stayed there till we got through the crop. Then I went to
Paris, Texas and portered in a little hotel there. Then I went
"They used to whip me in slavery times when they got ready. Need it?
well, they said I did. Hurt my feelin's and hurt my hide too, but they
raised me to do whatever they said.
"This younger generation ain't no good--they ain't raised up like I was.
Things is a whole lot different than they used to be. The folks ain't
prayin' to God like they used to. Ain't livin' right.
"I had two brothers killed in time of the War. That's what the old
people told me after I come back from Texas.
"Yes'm, I've had plenty to eat all my life--up until now; I ain't got so
"I keep the rheumatism pretty much all the time but I ain't never been
down sick so I couldn't help myself.
"I'm telling you just what I know and what I don't know I couldn't tell
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Maggie Stenhouse,
(a mile down the railway track),
"Mama was owned by Master Barton. She lived on the line of North
Carolina and South Carolina. Her husband was sold away from her and two
children. She never seen him no more. Rangments was made with Master
Barton to let Master Liege Alexander have her for a cook. Then she went
to Old Pickens, South Carolina. Liege Alexander had a white wife and by
her he had two girls and a boy. He had a black cook and by her he had
two boys and a girl. One of these boys was my papa and I told you the
old man bought my mama from Master Barton for his colored son. My papa
never was sold you see cause he was the old white man's boy. After his
white wife died his two girls married and the boy left Old Pickens, and
they told his colored wife and her two boys and girl if they would stay
and take care of him as long as he lived they could have the property.
My papa went off five or six miles and built him a log house.
"The old man--Master Liege Alexander--was blind when his wife died and
he had to be tended to like a child. He would knock his stick on the
wall and some of the small children would lead him about where he wanted
to go. His white children didn't like the way he had lived so they
didn't want to be bothered with him.
"My parents' names was Cheney Barton and Jim Alexander. Papa was medium
dark and so was his own brother but their sister was as white as the
woman's two girls and boy.
"After the railroads sprung up the town moved to New Pickens.
"Master Liege Alexander had lots of slaves and land. I reckon the white
wife's children fell heir to the farm land.
"My aunt and grandma cooked for him till he died. They kept him clean
and took care of him like as if his white wife was living. The colored
wife and her girl waited on the white wife and her children like queens.
That is what papa said.
"Durin' slavery there was stockmen. They was weighed and tested. A man
would rent the stockman and put him in a room with some young women he
wanted to raise children from. Next morning when they come to let him
out the man ask him what he done and he was so glad to get out. Them
women nearly kill him. If he said nothin' they wouldn't have to pay for
him. Them women nearly kill him. Some of the slave owners rented these
stockmen. They didn't let them work in the field and they kept them fed
"Fore the Civil War broke out mama said Master Barton hid a half bushel
solid gold and silver coins over the mountains. He had it close to the
spring awhile. Mama had to go by it to tote water to the house. She said
she never bothered it. He said he could trust her and she wouldn't
tell a lie. He took another sack of money over the mountains and the
silverware. His wife died during the war. A lot of people died from
hearing of the war--heart failure. I don't know what become of his
money. He lost it. He may forgot where he hid it. It was after his wife
died that he sold mama to Jim Alexander's papa.
"The Yankees rode three years over the country in squads and colored
folks didn't know they was free. I have seen them in their old uniforms
riding around when I was a child. White folks started talking about
freedom fore the darkies and turning them loose with the clothes they
had on and what they could tote away. No land, no home, no place; they
"When it was freedom the thing papa done was go to a place and start out
share croppin'. Folks had no horses or mules. They had to plough new
ground with oxen. I ploughed when I was a girl, ploughed oxen. If you
had horses or mules and the Yankees come along three or four years after
the war, they would swap horses, ride a piece, and if they had a chance
swap horses again. Stealing went on during and long after the war.
"The Ku Klux was awful in South Carolina. The colored folks had no
church to go to. They gather around at folks' houses to have preaching
and prayers. One night we was having it at our house, only I was the
oldest and was in another room sound asleep on the bed. There was a
crowd at our house. The Ku Klux come, pulled off his robe and door face,
hung it up on a nail in the room, and said, 'Where's that Jim Jesus?' He
pulled him out the room. The crowd run off. Mama took the three little
children but forgot me and run off too. They beat papa till they thought
he was dead and throwed him in a fence corner. He was beat nearly to
death, just cut all to pieces. He crawled to my bed and woke me up and
back to the steps. I thought he was dead--bled to death--on the steps.
Mama come back to leave and found he was alive. She doctored him up and
he lived thirty years after that. We left that morning.
"The old white woman that owned the place was rich--big rich. She been
complaining about the noise--singing and preaching. She called him
Praying Jim Jesus till he got to be called that around. He prayed in
the field. She said he disturbed her. Mama said one of the Ku Klux she
knowed been raised up there close to Master Barton's but papa said he
didn't know one of them that beat on him.
"Papa never did vote. I don't vote. I think women should vote much as
men. They live under the same law.
"I come to Arkansas about forty-five years ago. Papa brought us to a new
country, thought we could do better. I been farming, cooking, washing. I
can't do my own cooking and washing now. I got rheumatism in my joints,
feet, knees, and hands. We don't get no help of no kind.
"My daughter is in Caldwell, New Jersey at work. She went there to get
work. She heard about it and went and haven't come home. I jes' got one
Interviewer: Beulah Sherwood Hagg
Person interviewed: Mrs. Charlotte E. Stephens
1420 West 15th Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
I was born right here in Little Rock. My father was owned by a splendid
family--the Ashleys. The family of Noah Badgett owned my mother and the
children. Pardon me, madam, and I shall explain how that was. In many
cases the father of children born in slavery could not be definitely
determined. There was never a question about the mother. From this you
will understand that the children belonged to the master who owned the
mother. This was according to law.
My father's family name was Andrews. How did it happen that it was not
Ashley?... Oh, my dear, you have been misinformed about all slaves
taking the name of the master who owned them when peace came.... No,
madam. My father was named William Wallace Andrews after his father,
who was an English gentleman. He had come to Missouri in early days and
owned slaves.... Yes, my grandfather was white. The Ashleys brought my
father to Arkansas Territory when they came. They always permitted him
to keep his family name. Many other masters did the same.
From the standpoint of understanding between the white and colored
races, Little Rock has always been a good place to live. The better
class families did not speak of their retainers as slaves; they were
called servants. Both my parents were educated by their masters. Besides
being a teacher and minister my father was a carpenter and expert
The first school for Negroes in Little Rock was opened in 1863 and was
taught by my father. I went to school to him. A few months later there
came from the north a company of missionary teachers and opened a school
which I attended until 1867. My father was a minister of the Methodist
Episcopal church for colored people on what is now Eighth and Broadway.
He also had a chapel on the property of Mr. Ashley. You probably know
that during slavery days the slaves belonged to and attended the same
church as their white folks. They sat in the back, or in a balcony built
for them. My father was considered the founder of Wesley Chapel, which
was Methodist Episcopal. From that time until this day I have been a
member of that church. Seventy-three years, I think it is. Before the
break came in the Methodist church, you know, it was all the same, north
and south. After the division on account of slavery the Methodist church
in the south had the word "south" attached. For a long time my father
did not realize that. In 1863 he and his church went back into the
original Methodist church.
In 1867 the Society of Friends--we called them Quakers--came and erected
a large two-story schoolhouse at Sixth and State streets. It was called
Union school. When it was built it was said by the Quakers that it was
to be for the use of colored children forever, but within a year or two
the city bought the property and took charge of the school. As far as
I can now recall, white and colored children never did attend the same
school in Little Rock. There have always been separate schools for the
races. I am able to remember the names of the first teachers in the
Quaker school; J.H. Binford was the principal and his sister taught the
primary department. Other teachers were Miss Anna Wiles (or Ware), Miss
Louise Coffin, Miss Lizzie Garrison, and Sarah Henley.
I was about 11 years old when peace came and was living with my mother
and the other children on the Badgett plantation about 7 miles east of
Little Rock. Mother did laundry and general house work. Being a small
child, all that was asked of me was to run errands and amuse the little
white children. Madam, if I could tell you the great difference between
slave owners it would help you in understanding conditions of today
among the colored people. Both my father and my mother had peculiar
privileges. The Ashley family were exceptional slave owners; they
permitted their servants to hire their time. There was class
distinction, perhaps to greater extent than among the white people. Yes,
madam, the slaves who lived in the family with master and mistress were
taught just about the same as their own children. At any rate, they
imitated them in all matters; to speak with a low voice, use good
English, the niceties of manners, good form and courtesy in receiving
and attending guests.
I began teaching in Little Rock schools when I was 15 years old and am
still teaching. In all, it is 69 years, and my contract is still good.
My first experience as a teacher, (as I told you I was fifteen) was by
substituting for a teacher in that first Missionary school, in 1869. For
some reason, she did not return, and the School Board appointed me in
her place. After one year I was given leave of absence to attend Oberlin
College in Ohio. I spent three years there, but not in succession. When
my money would give out I would come home and the School Board would
provide work for me until I could earn enough to carry me through
another term. I finished at Oberlin in 1873. I extended my work through
courses at Normal schools and Teacher's Institutes. I have taken lecture
courses in many colleges, notably the University of California in 1922.
I have taught all grades from the first to the twelfth. My principal
work, for the last 35 years, however, has been high school Latin and
English and Science.
At present I am serving as librarian at the Senior high school and
Junior College. I have twice served as principal of city schools in
Little Rock. First at Capitol Hill. The Charlotte E. Stephens school at
18th and Maple was named in my honor. I have a book I have kept for 68
years regarding those first schools, and I'm told it is the only one
in existence. I also have the first monthly report card ever issued in
Little Rock. Mr. Hall (Superintendent of Little Rock City Schools) has
asked me to will it to the School Board.
I could recall many interesting events of those early schools for the
colored race. Old, old slaves came, desiring to learn to read and spell.
They brought the only books they could find, many of which proved to be
almanacs, paper bound novels discarded by their mistress and ancient
dictionaries, about half of which might be missing.
Yes, madam, I do remember that the emancipated slaves were led to
believe they would be given property and have just what their masters
had been accustomed to enjoy. I remember hearing my mother tell, in
later years, that she really had expected to live as her mistress had;
having some one to wait upon her, plenty of money to spend, ride in a
carriage with a coachman. But she always added that the emancipated ones
soon found out that freedom meant more work and harder than they had
ever done before.
What did they work at? Pardon me please for so often reminding you of
conditions of that time. Few of the trades workers were white. Brick
makers and brick layers, stone masons, lathers, plasters,--all types of
builders were of the freed men. You must remember that slaves were the
only ones who did this work. Their masters had used their labor as their
means of income. Not all slaves were in the cotton fields, as some
suppose. The slave owners of towns and villages had their slaves learn
skilled trade occupations and made a great deal of money by their
earnings. The Yankee soldiers and the many Northern people who lived
here hired the freed men and paid them. Quite soon the colored people
were buying homes. Many were even hired by their former masters and paid
for the work they formerly did without pay under slavery.
I remember Bill Read and Dave Lowe. They had been coachmen before
freedom. By combining their first savings, they bought a hack, as it was
called. It was more of a cab. For all those who did not have private
conveyances, this was the only way of getting about town. It was Little
Rock's first taxi-cab business, I should say. Bill and Dave made a
fortune; they had a monopoly of business for years and eventually had
enough cabs to take the entire population to big evening parties,
theater, and all places where crowds would gather.
No, madam, I do not recall that we had any inconvenience from the Ku
Klux Klan. If they made trouble in Little Rock I do not now remember it.
I did hear that out in the country they drove people from their homes.
Yes, madam, I do remember, quite distinctly, the times when colored men
were voted into public offices. John C. Corbin was State Superintendent
of Public Instruction. Phillips county sent two colored men to the
legislature; they were W.H. Gray and H.H. White, both from Helena.
J.E. Bush of this city followed M.W. Gibbs as Police Judge. After
reconstruction when all colored people were eliminated from public life
all these people returned to their trade.
I was 22 when I married. My husband was a teacher but knew the carpenter
trade. During the time that Negroes served in public office he served as
deputy sheriff and deputy constable. He was with me for 41 years before
his death; we raised a family of six children and gave each one a
Now, you have asked my opinion of present conditions of the younger
generation. It seems to me they are living in an age of confusion; they
seem to be all at sea as to what they should get for themselves. I do
know this. In some respects the modern frankness is an improvement over
the old suppression and repression in the presence of their elders.
At the same time, I think the young people of today lack the proper
reverence and respect for age and the experience it brings as a guide
for them. During my long years of teaching I have had opportunity to
study this question. I am still making a study of the many phases of
modern life as it affects the young people. I do not like the trend
of amusements of today; I would like for our young people to become
interested in things more worth while; in a higher type of amusement.
Conditions of morality and a lack of regard for conventions is
deplorable. Smoking among the girls has increased the common use of
liquor between the sexes.
Did you ask me about the voting restrictions for the colored race in
this State? I will tell you frankly that I think the primary law here is
unjust; most unjust. We are citizens in every other respect; the
primary voting privilege should be ours also. This restriction has been
explained as coming down from "the grandfather clause" inserted in early
legislation. I cannot give you the exact wording of the clause but
the substance was that no person whose ancestor--grandfather--was not
entitled to vote _before_ 1863 should have the right to the ballot.
Of course it is readily seen that this clause was written purely for the
purpose of denying the vote to the colored people.
Perhaps, madam, my talk has been too much along educational lines. You
asked me about my life since freedom came and how I have lived to the
present time. I have had the blessed privilege of being a teacher--of
doing the work I love best of all in the world to do. I have written the
story of my life work; it is all ready to be published. I have written
"The Story of Negro Schools in Little Rock" and "Memoirs of Little
Rock." Madam, I have written, I suppose, what would amount to volumes
for our church papers and local Negro newspaper. My daughter was, at one
time, editor of the Womens' Page. No, I'm indeed sorry that I have not
kept a scrapbook of such writings. In these latter years my friends
scold me for having destroyed all the papers as fast as they were read.
The most of the news in the articles, however, I have used in the
manuscripts of the books I hope to have published.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: William J. Stevens, Brinkley, Arkansas
Age: Up in 70's
"I was born in Pleasant Hill, Alabama. My owners were Haley and Missouri
Stevens. They owned Grandma Mary. Pa was born on the place. Mother was
sold from the Combesses to Stevens. Mother's mother was a Turk Dark
Creek Indian. She was a free woman. Her name was Judy. I called her
Grandma Judy. She was old but not gray. She had long black hair as I
remember her. Mother was named Millie. Haley bought her for my pa. _My
pa's father was Haley Stevens' own son_. He was his coachman. Pa
never worked a great deal. Mother never cooked till after emancipation.
She was the house girl and nurse. Life moved along smoothly as much as I
ever heard till freedom come on. The Indians was independent folks. My
mother was like that. Haley Stevens took his family to Texas soon as
freedom come on. Mother went with them. They treated her so nicely. Pa
wouldn't follow. He said she thought more of them than she did him. He
kept me with him. He married again. He was a barber at Selma, Alabama.
He died a barber at Anniston, Alabama. While my mother was in Texas
she went to see her mother in Hickory, Alabama. She was talking with a
tramp. He had helped my pa in the shop at Selma. Mother took the train
and come to pa's and my stepmother's house. I was fourteen years old
then and still wore a long shirt-like dress. They treated her the
nicest kind. She told them she was married to a man named Sims down in
Mississippi. She went back. I don't know where. The barber business was
a colored man's trade in the early days.
"Soon after freedom I made two trips a day and carried my young
mistress' books to school. It was a mile for us to go 'round the road to
Pleasant Hill. She married C.C. Williams. I cooked for her. I cooked her
daughter's weddin' supper. She had two girls, Maude and Pearl. I worked
there fourteen years for my clothes and something to eat. Then I went to
myself. When I wasn't cooking I worked in Mr. C.C. Williams' sash and
blind factory. They was big rich folks. Mrs. Williams had a hundred rent
houses. She went about in her carriage and collected rent. That was at
Meridian, Mississippi. They learned me more than an education--to work.
She learned me to cook. I cooked all my life. I cooked here at the
Rusher Hotel till I got so old I was not able to do the work.
"I do little odd jobs of work where I can find them. I 'plied for the
Old Age Pension but they give me commodities and that's all. I supports
my own self such as it be.
"I find the young generation don't stick to jobs like I had to do. Seems
like they want an education to keep them out of work. Education does
some good and some more harm than good. Oh, times! Times is going fast.
Well with some I reckon. Some like me is done left. I mean I got slower.
Time getting faster. I'm done left outen the game. Time wait for no
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Minnie Johnson Stewart
3210 W. Sixteenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: Between 50 and 60?
"My mother's name was Mahala McElroy. Her master's name was Wiley
McElroy. She was living in Howard County, Arkansas near Nashville. She
worked in the field, and sewed in the house for her mistress. One time
she said she never would forget about slavery was a time when she was
thirteen years old, and the overseer beat her.
"My mother was a real bright woman with great long black hair. Her
master was her father. She told me that the overseer grabbed her by her
hair and wound it 'round his arm and then grabbed her by the roots of it
and jerked her down to the ground and beat her till the blood ran out of
her nose and mouth. She was 'fraid to holler.
"Mother married when she was fourteen. I can't remember the name of
her husband. The preacher was an old man, a faith doctor, who read the
ceremony. His name was Lewis Hill.
"I heard mother say they beat my brother-in-law (his name was Dave
Denver) till he was bloody as a hog. Then they washed him down in salt
and water. Then they beat him again because he hollered.
"She told us how the slaves used to try to pray. They were so scared
that the overseer would see them that early in the morning while they
were going to their work in the field at daybreak that they would fall
down on one knee and pray. They were so 'fraid that the overseer would
catch them that they would be watching for him with one eye and looking
for God with the other. But the Lord understood.
"My mother was seventy years old when she died. She has been dead thirty
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Liza Stiggers, Forrest City, Arkansas
Age: 70 plus
"I was born in Poplar Grove, Arkansas on Col. Bibbs' place. Mama was
sold twice. Once she was sold in Georgia, once in Alabama, and brought
to Tennessee, later to Arkansas. Master Ben Hode brought her to
Arkansas. She had ten children and I'm the only one living. Mama was a
dancing woman. She could dance any figure. They danced in the cabins and
out in the yards.
"The Yankees come one day to our house and I crawled under the house. I
was scared to death. They called me out. I was scared not to obey and
scared to come on out. I come out. They didn't hurt me. Mr. Ben Hode hid
a small trunk of money away. He got it after the War. The slaves never
did know where it was hid. They said the hair was on the trunk he hid
his money in. It was made out of green hide for that purpose.
"Mama had a slave husband. He was a field hand and all kind of a hand
when he was needed. Mama done the sewing for white and black on the
place. She was a maid. She could cook some in case they needed her. She
died first. Papa's foot got hurt some way and it et off. He was so old
they couldn't cure it. He was named Alfred Hode. Mama was Viney Hode.
She said they had good white folks. They lived on Ben Hode's place two
or three years after freedom.
"I farmed, cooked, and ironed all my life. I don't know how to do
"I live with my daughter. I got a son."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: James Henry Stith
2223 W. Nineteenth Street
Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was born la Sparta in Hancock County, Georgia, in January 26, 1866.
My father was named William Henry Stith, and I was a little tot less
than two years old when my mother died. My father has called her name
often but I forget it. I forget the names of my father's father, too,
and of mother's people. That is too far back.
"My father was born in 1818. He was born in Georgia. His master was
named W.W. Simpson. He had a master before Simpson. Simpson bought him
from somebody else. I never can remember the man's name.
"The first houses I saw in Georgia were frame or brick houses. There
weren't any log houses 'round where I was brought up. Georgia wasn't a
log house state--leastwise, not the part I lived in. In another part
there were plenty of sawmills. That made lumber common. You could get
longleaf pine eighty to ninety feet long if you wanted it. Some little
towns didn't have no planing mills and you would have to send to Augusta
or to Atlanta for the planing work or else they would make planed lumber
by hand. I have worked for four and five weeks at a time dressing
lumber--flooring, ceiling, siding, moldings, and so on.
"My father was still with Simpson when I remembered anything. At that
time the house we lived in was a weatherboarded house just like the ones
we live in now. It was a house that had been built since freedom. Old
man Simpson sent for my father and told him to build a house for himself
on the grounds. My father had been with Simpson for so long and had done
so much work for him during slave time that Simpson didn't want to do
without him. He supplied all the lumber and materials for my father.
During slave time, Simpson had hired my father out to the other planters
when he had nothing for him to do in the line of building on his own
plantation. He had had him to superintend his grist mill. All that was
in slavery time. My father was a highly skilled laborer. He could do a
lot of other things besides building. So when freedom came, he wanted
my father 'round him still. They both fished and hunted. He wanted my
father to go fishing with him and keep him company. My father was a
carpenter of the first class, you see, even in slave time. That was all
he done. He was brought up to be a carpenter and did nothing but that
all his time. My daddy was a mighty good mechanic.
"My daddy's master was a very good and kind one. My father was not under
any overseer. He worked directly under his master.
"I remember one incident he told me. His master hired a new overseer who
hung around for a bit watching my father. Finally, my father asked him,
'Now, what are you able to do?' The overseer answered. 'Why, I can see
all over and whip all over, and that's as much as any damn man can do.'
"Nobody was allowed to touch my father. He never had no trouble with
the pateroles either. Old man Simpson didn't allow that. He was a free
agent. When he wasn't working for Simpson, he was working for the next
big farmer, and then the next one, and then the next one, and old man
Simpson got wages for his work. Sometimes he worked a contract. Old man
Simpson couldn't afford to have him handicapped in his going and coming.
He could go whenever he wanted to go, and come back whenever he got
ready, with a pass or without one. His time was valuable.
"The reason why so many slaves suffered as much as they did as a rule
was not because of the masters but because of the poor white trash
overseers. I know of several rich white women that had slaves that
wouldn't allow them to be mistreated. They would fire four and five
overseers to keep their slaves from being mistreated.
"But there were some mean masters. I have heard that right there in
Georgia there was one white planter--I think it was Brantley---who put
one of his slaves that had been unruly in a packing screw and ran it
down on him till he mashed him to death. The cotton screw was the thing
they pressed cotton bales in. They run it down by steam now, but then,
they used to run it down with two mules. They tell a lot of things like
that on Brantley. Of course, I couldn't personally know it, but I know
he was mighty mean and I know the way he died.
Bushwhacking the Ku Klux
"He belonged to the paterole gang and they went out after the Negroes
one night after freedom. The Negroes bushwhacked them and killed four or
five of them. They give it out that the men that was killed had gone to
Texas. Brantley was one of the killed ones. The pateroles was awful bad
at that time. Ku Klux they called them after the War, but they was the
same people. I never heard of the Klan part till this thing come up
that they have now. They called them Ku Klux back when I was a boy. My
stepmother carried me over to Brantley's house the night he got killed.
So I know the Texas he went to. That was in '69 or '70. He lived about a
mile from us and when he got killed, she carried me over to see him just
like we would have gone to see any other neighbor.
"The Negroes were naturally afraid of the Ku Klux but they finally got
to the place where they were determined to break it up. They didn't have
no ropes, but they would take grapevines and tie them across the road
about breast high when a man would be on horseback. The Ku Klux would
run against these vines and be knocked off their horses into the road
and then the bushwhackers would shoot them. When Ku Klux was killed in
this manner, it was never admitted; but it was said that they had gone
to Texas. There was several of them went to Texas one night.
"There weren't many amusements in slave times. They had dances with
fiddle music. There was mighty few darkies could get out to go to dances
because the pateroles was so bad after them. I don't know of any other
amusements the slaves had. They were playing baseball when I was born.
There were boys much older than I was already playing when I was old
enough to notice, so I think they must have known about it in slave
time. They didn't play much in that way because they didn't have time.
Slaves who Bought Themselves
"I have heard tell of some Negroes that was thrifty and got money enough
from side work to buy themselves. They had to go North then because they
couldn't live in the South free. I don't remember their names just now.
"The slaves had church. Sometimes they had church at one another's
house. I don't think they ever built them a church house. But they could
go to the white folks' church if they wanted to.
How Freedom Came
"My daddy's master told my father he was free. He told him that in 1865.
He told him that he was free to do as he pleased, that he could come
when he pleased and go when he pleased. 'Course, he told him he wanted
him to stay around him--not to go off.
"I have heard my father speak of soldiers, but they were too busy 'round
Atlanta and up that way to git down where my father was. They don't seem
to have bothered his town. They never made my father do any labor in the
army neither. My father was mixed Indian, white, and Negro.
"Slaves had to get the consent of their masters to marry. Sometimes
masters would want them to go and would even buy the woman they wanted
to keep them contented on the plantation. Sometimes the masters wouldn't
do anything but let them visit. They would marry--what they called
marriage in those days--and the husband would have to git permission
from his master to go visit his wife and git permission from her master
to come there. He would go on Saturday night and get back in time for
his work on Monday morning. It was just like raising stock and mating
"I have been married fifty-one years. I have been married twice though.
My first wife died in 1900. I have been married to my second wife
thirty-four years last April. Those were real marriages.
"I can't say much along these lines. The chance to make a living looks
so dark I can't see much of a future. Things seem to be getting worse.
Nearly everybody I talk with, white or colored, seems to think the same.
It is like Senator Glass said. 'If Congress would close up and go home
at once, times would get better.' People don't know what kind of fool
law Congress is going to make and they are not going to spend much
money. I don't think Mr. Roosevelt's pump priming will do much good
because you must keep adding to it or it will go away.
"I don't think much of the young people. These nineteenth or twentieth
century Negroes is something fierce I'm telling you.
"I am a carpenter. I wish I wasn't. The depression has made it so that
the Negroes get very little to do. What they have they give to their
own people. They don't have much for nobody. Even if the nigger gets
something, he gets very little out of it. But the main trouble is there
isn't anything to do.
"I have been a carpenter for fifty-four years. I have been here
fifty-one years. I have never had no trouble earning a living till now.
I can't do it now. The biggest obstacle of the success of the Negro
carpenter is that Negroes don't have the money to build with. They must
get the money from the white man. The white man, on the other hand, if
he lets out the money for the building, has the say-so on who will
do it, and he naturally picks out another white man. That keeps the
majority of Negroes out of work as far as carpentry is concerned. It
does in a time like this. When times is better, the white man does not
need to be so tight, and he can divide up."
Interviewer: Pernella Anderson, colored
I was born in Alabama in slavery time. I was sold from my mother after I
was five years old and never did see her again. Was sold to a family by
the name of Mr. Games. There were six of them in family and I was the
seventh. They were very nice to me until I was about 10 years of age.
I would attend to the little kids. They were all boys. Had to sleep on
straw beds and been cooking for myself ever since I was 8 years old.
When about ten they started putting hard work on me and had to pick
cotton and do the work around the house. Was a slave for about 15 years.
After I was freed I moved to Union County and been here ever since.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Felix Street
822 Schiller Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
I was born in Dickson County, Tennessee, fifty miles north of Nashville,
in 1864. It was on December twenty-eighth. My father told me when he was
living how old I was. He told me all the way along, and I remember it.
"Nannie, Jeff, Hardy, John Mack, and Felix (that's me) are my father's
children by his first wife. Lena, Martha, Esther are his children by his
second wife. He had five children by my mother, and four of them lived
to be grown, and one died in infancy. My mother was his first wife. Her
name was Mary Street. Her name before she married--hold a minute, lemme
see--seems like it was Mary--Mary--Street.
"My father and my mother couldn't have lived on the same plantation
because she was a May and he was a Street. I don't know how they met.
"My father's master's name was Jick Street. He owned, to my knowing, my
father, Bill Street; Henry Street, and Ed Street. He might have owned
more but I heard my father say he owned those.
"My father said his white people weren't very wealthy. He and his
brother had to go and cut cordwood, both summer and winter. And they was
allowed so much work for a task. Their task was nine cords a week for
each man. That was equal to a cord and a half a day for each man each
day. My father would cut his wood like a man ought to cut it. But he
said my uncle wouldn't git at his task. He would drink whiskey all the
week. They'd get after him about bein' behind with his work, but he
would say, 'Never mind that; I won't be behind Monday morning.' On
Sunday morning at nine o'clock, he would get up and begin to cut on that
wood. And on Monday morning at nine o'clock, he would have nine cords
cut for his white folks and four or five for himself. It would all be
done before nine o'clock Monday morning.
"I recently seen my brother Jeff Davis Street. I haven't seen him
before for sixty-one years. He blew in here from Texas with a man named
Professor Smuggers. He lives in Malakoff, Texas. It's been sixty-one
years since he was where I could see him, but he says he saw me
fifty-nine years ago. He came back home and I was 'sleep, he says, and
he didn't wake me up. He rambled around a little and stood and looked at
me awhile, he says. He was seventeen years old and I was twelve.
"My brother had a lot of children. He had four girls with him. He had a
boy somewheres. He is older than I am.
"I heard my father say that in time of war, they were taking up folks
that wouldn't join them and putting them in prison. They picked a white
fellow up and had him tied with a rope and carried him down to a creek
and were tying him up by his thumbs. He saw my father coming and said:
'There's a colored man I know.' My father said he knew him. They let
him go when my father said he knew him and that he didn't harbor
bushwhackers. Every time he saw my father after that he would say,
'Bill, you sure did save my life.'
"My father and mother lived in a log cabin. They had homemade furniture.
They had a bunk up side the wall and a trundle bed. That was the cabin
they lived in in slavery time.
"My father said once that when the men were gone, the soldiers came
in and asked the women to cook for them. They wouldn't do it; so the
soldiers made them bring them a chunk of fire. They throwed the fire on
the bed and when it got to burning good, the officer wouldn't let them
put it out. But he told them that they could get some of the boys to
help them carry out their things if the boys were willing to do it. It
was the officers who wanted the women to cook for them. It wasn't the
slaves they asked; it was the white folks.
Sold His Master
"I heard my stepmother--I call her my mother--say some thing once. She
belonged to a white family named Bell. They had a lot of slaves. My
stepmother was the house girl; so she could get on to a lot of things
the others couldn't. She stayed in the house. That was in slavery times.
The speculators who were buying colored folks would put up at that
place. Looked like a town but it all belonged to one person. The name of
the place was Cloverdale, Tennessee. My stepmother said that a gang of
these folks put up at Cloverdale once and then went on to Nashville,
Tennessee. On the next day a nigger sold the speculator. He was educated
and a mulatto, and he sold his master in with a bunch of other niggers.
He was just fixin' to take the money, when his master got aware of it,
and come on up just in time. I don't know what happened to the nigger.
It was just an accident he got caught. My stepmother said it was true.
"My mother had a good master. At least, she said he was good. Slaves
from other plantations would run away and come to her master's place to
stay. They would stay a good while.
"My father said his master was good to him too. My father's young master
has come to see us since the War. He got down low and used to come
'round. My father would give him turns of corn. You know when you used
to go to the mill, you would carry about two bushels of corn and call it
a milling or a turn. My father would let his young master shell a bushel
or two of corn and carry it to the mill. He got poor and sure 'nough you
see. We had moved away from them then, and he got in real hard luck. He
used to come and sit a half day at a time at our house. And father would
give him the corn for his family. We were living in Dickson County,
Tennessee then. Seems like we was on Frank Hudson's place. We hadn't
bought a place for ourselves then.
Ku Klux Klan
"You know they used to ku klux the niggers. They went to the house after
the War of an old man named Hall. They demanded for him to let them in
but he wouldn't. They said that they would break open the door if he
didn't let them in. He didn't let them in, and they broke it down.
When they started in, his wife threw fire brands in amongst 'em and he
knicked one down with an ax. Them that wasn't hurt carried the wounded
man away and it was reported the next day that he was sick. They never
did bother the nigger no more and he never had no charges made against
Runaway Negroes--After Freedom
"It was over forty years ago. Me and my wife lived at a big sawmill near
Elliott, Arkansas, just ten miles outside of Camden. White folks used to
come up there and catch niggers and carry them back to Louisiana with
them, claiming that they owed debts. One time two white men came to
Elliott looking for a nigger. They came through the Negro quarters and
all the men were off that day because it was a holiday. The nigger saw
them first and ran to the woods. They ran after him and caught him. They
came back through the quarters and tied him to one of the horses and
then went on to Louisiana--them ridin' and him walkin' tied up with his
arms behind him and roped to the horse like he was some kind of cattle
or something. The niggers followed them with guns a little distance, but
one nigger telephoned to El Dorado and the officers there were on the
lookout for them. At night, the officers in plain clothes went over and
chatted with them white men. When they saw the nigger, they asked what
it was they had there. They told the one that asked that it was a damn
nigger that owed money back in Louisiana and got smart and run away
without paying up. The officers drew their guns and put handcuffs on
them and carried them and the nigger away to Jail.
"They put everybody in jail that night. But the next morning they
brought them to trial and fined the white men a hundred and fifty
dollars apiece and after the trial they turned the nigger loose. That
broke up the stealing of niggers. Before that they would come and take a
Negro whenever they wanted to.
"Niggers were just beginning to wake up then, and know how to slip away
and run off. We had whole families there that had run off one by one.
The man would run away and leave his children, and as they got old
enough, they would follow him one by one.
Right After the War
"Right after the War, my people farmed on shares. We had a place we
leased on the Hudson place that we stayed on. We leased it for five
years but we stayed there seven or maybe eleven years. When we left
there we bought a place of our own. On the Hudson place we cleared up
about thirty acres of land and 'tended it as long as we stayed there. We
put out a lot of fruit trees on it. Had lots of peaches, and plums, and
quinces--do you know what quinces are?--and danvils (these danvil plums
you know). They are kinda purple looking fruit made in the shape of a
prune. They are about two inches through--jus' about half as big as your
"When we moved to our own place, we stayed in the same county. It was
just about three-fourths of a mile from the Hudson place--west of it.
Moving to Arkansas
"I came to Arkansas with the intention of going to school. But I jus'
messed myself up. Instead of goin' to school, I went and got married.
I was out here just one year before I got married. I married the first
time in 1887--February fourteenth, I think. My first wife taken sick
with rheumatism and she died in 1908. We were married thirty-one years.
I married again about 1913.
"When I was able to work, I worked in the railroad shops--boiler maker's
helper. Before that I farmed and did other things. Went from trackman to
machinist's helper and boilermaker's helper.
"Young folks Just need the right handlin'.
"I don't mix in politics."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mary Tabon, Forrest City, Arkansas
"Pa was sold twice to my knowing. He was sold to McCoy, then to
Alexander. He was Virginian. Then he was carried to Alabama and brought
to Holly Grove by the Mayos. I have wore four names, Alexander, Adams,
Morgan, and Tabon.
"My mother's owners was Ellis from Alabama. She said she was sold from
the Scales to Ellis. Her father, sister, and two brothers was sold from
Ellis. She never seen them no more. They found Uncle Charles Ellis dead
in the field. They never knowed how it come.
"My parents had hard times during slavery. Ma had a big scar on her
shoulder where the overseer struck her with a whoop. She was chopping
cotton. She either wasn't doing to suit him or wasn't getting along fast
enough to suit him.
"Ma had so many little ones to raise she give me to Nancy Bennett. I
love her soul in her grave. I helped her to do all her work she taught
me. She'd leave me with her little boy and go to church and I'd make
cakes and corn bread. She brag on me. We'd have biscuits on Sunday
morning. They was a rarity.
"One day she had company. She told me to bake some potatoes with the
jackets on. I washed the potatoes and wrapped them up in rags and boiled
them. It made her so mad she wet the towel and whooped me with it. I
unwrapped the potatoes and we had them that way for dinner. That was the
maddest she ever got at me. She learned me to cook and keep a nice house
and to sew good as anybody. I rather know how to work than be educated.
"Mr. Ash give me a lot of scraps from his garment factory. I made them
up in quilts. He give me enough to make three dresses. I needed dresses
so bad." (One dress has sixty-six pieces in it but it didn't look like
that. They sent it to Little Tock and St. Louis for the county fairs.
Her dresses looked fairly well.)
"I was born at Holly Grove, Arkansas. Alexander was the name my pa went
by and that was my maiden name."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Liza Moore Tanner, Helena, Arkansas
"I was born in north Georgia. It was not fer from Rome. We belong to
Master Belton Moore and Miss Jane Moore. They had a big family, some
grandchildren old as their own. That was my job playing wid the
children. My parents' name Rob Moore and Pilfy Calley. She lived five
miles from Belton Moore's house. She was hired out over at Moore's the
way she and papa met up. I know now I was hired out too. I run after
them children a long time it seemed like to me. I loved them and they
cried after me. I get so tired I'd slip off and go up in the loft and
soon be asleep. I learned to climb a ladder that very way. It was nailed
up straight against the side of the wall. They'd ask me where I been.
They never did whoop me fer that. I tell 'em I been asleep. I drapped
off 'sleep. I was so tired. Papa helped with the young calves and the
feeding and in the field too. Mama was a fast hand in the field. They
called her a little guinea woman. She could outdo me when I was grown
and she was getting old. She washed fer the Calley's. All I remember
they was a old man and woman. Mama lived in the office at their house.
He let her ride a horse to Moore's to work. I rode home wid her many a
time. She rode a side saddle. I rode sideways too. She used a battling
stick long as she lived when she washed.
"Papa died two years after the surrender in Atlanta, Georgia. The
Moore's moved there and he went along. He left mama at Master Calley's
and I was still kept at the old home place. Aunt Jilly kept me and my
two oldest sisters. Her name was Jilly Calley. I seen mama right often.
They fetched papa back to see us a few times and then he died. We all
went to Atlanta where he was buried. Mama lived to be purty nigh a
hundred years old. She had fourteen children. I had two sisters and
eight half-brothers and three half-sisters. Some died so young they
never was named. My stepfather was mean to her and beat her, caused some
of their deaths. She was a midwife in her later years. She made us a
living till I married. She was gone with Dr. Harrison a lot. He'd come
take her off and bring her home in the buggy. I married and immigrated
to Dell, Arkansas. We lived there a year and went to Memphis. Mama come
there and died at my house. She got blind. Had to lead her about. My
steppapa went off and never come back. He got drunk whenever he could
get to it. We hunted him and asked about him. I think he went off with
other women. We heard he did.
"Freedom--I heard Miss Jane say when she was packing up to go to
Atlanta, 'I will get a nurse there. They will make her go to school.' I
thought she was talking about me. I wanted to go. I loved the children.
I got to go to school in the country a right smart. I can read and
write. Me and my two sisters all was in the same class. It seemed
strange then. We had a colored man teacher, Mr. Jacobin. It was easier
for me to learn than my sisters. They are both dead now.
"I got three living children--one here and two in Memphis. After I got
my hip broke I live about with them so they can wait on me.
"I don't know about this new way of living. My daughter in Memphis
raising her little girl by a book. She don't learn her as much manners
as children used to know. She got it from the white lady she works for.
It tells how to do your child. Times done changed too much to suit my
way of knowing. 'The Old Time Religion' is the only good pattern fer
raising a family. Mighty little of that now."
Interviewer: Pernella M. Anderson
Person interviewed: Fannie Tatum, Junction City, Arkansas
Age: Born 1862
"I was born on Wilmington landing in 1862 on the Ouachita River and was
carried away when I was two years old. My mother ran away and left my
sister and me when we was three and five years old. I never saw her any
more till I was eight and after I was eight years old I never saw her
again in forty years. After my mama left me old Master Neal come here to
El Dorado and had me bound to him until I was twenty-one. I stayed there
till I was twenty-one. I slept by the jamb of the fireplace on a sack of
straw and covered with saddle blankets. That was in the winter when snow
was waist high. In summer I slept on naked floor and anywhere I laid
down was my bed just like a dog.
"I wasn't allowed to eat at the table. I et on the edge of the porch
with the dogs with my fingers. I worked around the house and washed
until I was nine and then I started to plowing. At ten I started
splitting rails. My task was two hundred rails a day. If I didn't cut
them I got a beating. I did not know what a coat was. I wore two pieces,
a lowel[HW:?] underskirt and a lowel[HW:?] dress, bachelor brogans and
sacks and rags wrapped around my legs for stockings. That was in winter.
Summer I went barefooted and wore one piece. My sun hat was a rag tied
on my head.
"I did not know anything about Sunday School nor church. The children
would try to teach me my ABC's but master would not let them. Never
visited any colored people. If I see a colored person coming I run from
them. They said they might steal me. After I got grown they let me go
to a colored party and they whipped me for going. Tried to make me tell
whether or not a boy come home with me but I did not tell it; one come
with me though. That was the first time I got out. Of course they sent
one of the boys along with me but he would not tell on me.
"I never slept in a bed until I was twenty-two years old. Never was with
any colored people until I was grown. My play was with white children.
My father was a white man. He was my ma's old master and they was Neals.
They kept my hair cut off like a boy's all the time. I never wore a
stocking until I was twenty-two and my hair did not grow out and get
combed until I was twenty-two. My old master and mistress would have
been mean to me but I was so smart they did not get a chance. The only
thing I was treated like a dog.
"I live in Junction City but am here visiting my daughter."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Anthony Taylor
2424 W. Ninth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: 68, or 78?
"I was born in Clark County adjoining Hot Spring County, between Malvern
and Arkadelphia. Clark County was named after old man General Clark. He
was worth four or five thousand acres of land.
"My father's name was Anthony McClellan. Why they called me Anthony
Taylor was my stepfather was named Taylor. My mother's name was Lettie
Sunnaville. My mother has been dead thirty or forty years and my father
died six months before I was born. He died a natural death. Sickness. He
was exposed and died of pneumonia.
"Fayette Sunnaville was my grandfather on my mother's side. That was
my mother's father. Rachel Sunnaville was my mother's mother's name. I
don't know the names of my father's people. They was _sole_[HW:?]
in slavery. But it is been so far back; I don't remember nothing, and I
don't know whether they would or not if they was living.
"We stayed on the old plantation for seven or eight years before we had
sense enough or knowed enough to get away from there and git something
for ourselves. That is how I come to raise such big potatoes. I been
raising them fifty years. These are hill potatoes. You have to know how
to raise potatoes to grow 'em this big. (He showed me some potatoes,
sweet, weighing about seven pounds--ed.)
"I have heard my mother and my grandfather tell lots of stories about
slavery. I can't remember them.
"Old man Bullocks had about eight or ten families that I knew about.
Those were the families that lived right near us in the quarters. I
didn't say eight or ten hands--I said eight or ten families. Them was
the ones that was right near us. We was awful small after freedom but
them what was with him stayed with him quite a while--stayed with the
old master. He would pay them so much after freedom come.
"Lawd. I could tell you things about slavery. But I'm forgitful and I
can't do it all at once. He had the whole county from Arkadelphia clean
down to Princeton and Tulip--our old mars did. Lonoke was between
Princeton and Tulip. Princeton was the county-seat. He must have had a
large number of slaves. Those ten families I knew was just those close
'round us. Most of the farm was _fur_ pine country land. There
would be thirty or forty acres over here of cultivation and then thirty
or forty acres over there of woods and so on. He had more land than
anybody else but it wasn't all under cultivation.
"He's been dead now twenty or thirty years. I don't know that he was
mean to his slaves. If he had been, they wouldn't have gone on after
freedom. They would have moved out. You see, they didn't care for
nothing but a little something to eat and a fine dress and they would
have gone on to somebody else and got that.
"Wasn't no law then. He was the law. I worked all day long for ten cents
a day. They would allowance you so many pounds of meat, so much meal, so
much molasses. I have worked all day for ten cents and then gone out at
night to get a few potatoes. I have pulled potatoes all day for a peck
of meal and I was happy at that. I never did know what the price of
"Where we was, the Ku Klux never did bother anybody. All there was,
every time we went out we had to have a pass.
"My grandfather and grandmother were both whipped sometimes. I don't
know the man that whipped them. I don't know whether it was the agent or
the owner or who, but they were whipped. Lots of times they had work to
do and didn't do it. Naturally they whipped them for it. That was what
they whipped my grandparents for. Sometimes too, they would go off and
wouldn't let the white folks know where they was going. Sometimes they
would neglect to feed the horses or to milk the cows--something like
that. That was the only reason I ever heard of for punishing them.
"I heard that if the boss man wanted to be with women that they had, the
women would be scared not to be with him for fear he would whip them.
And when they started whipping them for that they kept on till they got
what they wanted. They would take them 'way off and have dealings with
them. That is where so much of that yellow and half-white comes from.
"There was some one going through telling the people that they was free
and that they was their own boss. But yet and still, there's lots of
them never did leave the man they was with and lots of them left. There
was lots of white people that wouldn't let a nigger tell their niggers
that they was free, because they wanted to keep them blind to that for
years. Kept them for three or four years anyway. Them that Bullocks
liked was crazy about him. He would give them a show--so much a month
and their keeps. I don't remember exactly how much it was but it was
neighborhood price. He was a pretty good man. Of course, you never seen
a white man that wouldn't cheat a little.
"He'd cheat you out of a little cotton. He would have the cotton carried
to the gin. He would take half the corn and give us five or six shoats.
After he got the cotton all picked and sold, the cotton it would all go
to him for what you owed him for furnishing you. You never saw how much
cotton was ginned, nor how much he got for it, nor how much it was worth
nor nothing. They would just tell you you wasn't due nothing. They did
that to hold you for another year. You got nothing to move on so you
stay there and take what he gives you.
"Of all the crying you ever heard, one morning we'd got up and the pigs
and hogs in the lot that we had fattened to go on that winter, he was
catching them. After we'd done fattened them with the corn that was
our share, he took 'em and sold 'em. We didn't even know we owed him
anything. We thought the crops had done settled things. Nobody told us
nothin'. All we children cried. The old man and the old woman didn't say
nothing, because they was scared. My mother would get up and go down and
milk the cows and what she'd get for the milking would maybe be a bucket
"We'd have a spoonful of black molasses and corn bread and buttermilk
for breakfast. We got flour bread once a week. We would work hard all
the week talkin' 'bout what good biscuits we'd have Sunday morning. Sack
of flour would last two or three months because we wouldn't cook flour
bread only once a week--Saturday night or Sunday morning.
"We had no skillet at that time. We would rake the fireplace and push
the ashes back and then you would put the cake down on the hearth or on
a piece of paper or a leaf and then pull the ashes over the cake to cook
it. Just like you roast a sweet potato. Then when it got done, you would
rake the ashes back and wash the cake and you would eat it. Sometimes
you would strike a little grit or gravel in it and break your teeth. But
then I'm tellin' you the truth about it.
"When our hogs was taken that time, we didn't have nothing to go on that
winter. They would compel us to stay. They would allowance us some meat
and make us split rails and clear up land for it. It was a cinch if he
didn't give it to you you couldn't get nothin'. Wasn't no way to get
nothing. Then when crop time rolled 'round again they would take it all
out of your crops. Make you split rails and wood to earn your meat and
then charge it up to your crop anyhow. But you couldn't do nothin' 'bout
"Sometimes a barrel of molasses would set up in the smokehouse and turn
to sugar. You goin' hungry and molasses wastin'. They was determined not
to give you too much of it.
"I made my way by farming. After I got to be some size, I started at it.
I farmed all my life. While I could work, things was pretty good. Wisht
I was on a farm now. Even when I'm 'round here sick, I can git these
potatoes raised with a little help from the neighbors.
"I don't belong to church. I oughter, but I don't. Then again, I figure
that a man can be just as good out of it as he can in it. I've got good
desires, but I never confessed to the public.
"I have had three hundred dollars worth of stuff stolen from me.
Everything I produced is stolen from me because I have no way to protect
myself. What I raise if I don't get shet of it right away, the people
get shet of it for me. I had eighty head of chickens in the barn out
there runnin' 'round. When I got sick and was in the bed and couldn't
help myself, the chickens went. In the daytime, they would fix traps and
jerk a string and pull a board down on them and then go out in the weeds
and get them. I never reported nothin' to the police. I wasn't able to
report nothing. I was just batching, and now and then people would come
in and report them to me. They would wait till they saw somebody come
in and when they saw that I was talking and wouldn't notice them, they
would steal anything they wanted. The police came by here and ran them
once. But that didn't do no good.
"Once somebody stole an automatic shotgun. They stole a colt one time.
They stole all my clothes and pawned them to a whiskey dealer. He got
sent to the pen for selling whiskey, but I didn't get my clothes.
They come in the yard and steal my potatoes, collards, turnips, ochre
(okra?), and so on. I lay there in the bed and see them, but I can't
stop them. All I can do is to holler, 'You better go on and let them
things alone.' Ever since the last war, I haven't been able to work. I
am bare-feeted and naked now on account of not bein' able to support
"I just come out of the hospital. I been too sick even to work in my
garden. After I come home I taken a backset[TR: ?] but I am still
staying here. I am just here on the mercies of the people. I don't
get nothing but what the people give me. I don't get no moddities nor
nothin' from the Government.
"I ain't never been able to get no help from the Government. Long time
ago, I went down to the place and asked for help and they told me that
since I was alone, I oughta be able to help myself. They gimme a ticket
for twenty meals and told me by the time I ate them up, they might have
something else they could do for me. I told them I couldn't go back and
forth to git the meals. I have the ticket now. I couldn't git to the
place to use it none, so I keep it for a keepsake. It is 'round here
somewheres or other. I was past the pension age. I ain't been able to do
no steady work since the war. I was too old for the war--the World War."
Interviewer's Comment [HW: omit]
The spelling of the name Sunnaville is phonetic. I don't recognize the
name and he couldn't spell it of course.
When I called, he had potatoes that weighed at least seven pounds. They
were laid out on the porch for sale. He had a small patch in his yard
which he cultivated, and had gotten about ten bushels from it.
His account of slavery times is so vivid that you would consider his age
nearer eighty than sixty-eight. A little questioning reveals that he
has no idea of his age although he readily gives it as sixty-eight--a
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Lula Taylor, R.F.D., east of town,
"My mother was sold five times. She was sold when she was too little to
remember her mother. Her mother was Charity Linnerman. They favored. She
was dark and granny was light colored. My mother didn't love her mother
like I loved her.
"Granny lived in a house behind the white church (?) in Helena. After
freedom we kept writing till we got in tetch with her. We finally got
granny with us on the Jefferies place at Clarendon.
"A man (Negro) come by and conjured my mother. She was with Miss Betty
Reed (or Reid) up north of Lonoke. They was my mother's last owners.
That old man made out like she stole things when he stole them his own
black self. He'd make her hide out like she stole things. She had a
sweetheart and him and his wife. She had to live with them. They stole
her off from her last owner, Miss Betty Reed. They didn't like her
sweetheart. They was going to marry. He bought all her wedding clothes.
When she didn't marry him she let him have back all the weddin' clothes
and he buried his sister in them. This old man was a conjurer. He give
my mother a cup of some kind of herbs and made her drink it. He tole her
all her love would go to Henry Deal. He liked him. He was my papa. Her
love sure did leave her sweetheart and go to my papa. He bought her some
nice clothes. She married in the clothes he got her. She was so glad
to let go that old man and woman what conjured her 'way from her white
folks to wait on them.
"Granny's head was all split open. I lived to see all that. White folks
said her husband done it but she said one of her old master's struck her
on the head with a shoe last.
"My papa said he'd hit boards and stood on them all day one after
another working cold days.
"Master Wade Deal at freedom give papa a pair of chickens, goats, sheep,
turkeys, a cow; and papa cleared ten acres of ground to pay for his
first mule. He bought the mule from Master Wade Deal.
"Old Master Deal used to run us from behind him plowing. We tease
him, say what he'd say to the horse or mule. He'd lock us up in the
smokehouse. We'd eat dried beef and go to sleep. He was a good old man.
"Grandpa Henry Pool went to war. Papa was sold from the Pools to the
Deals. Grandpa played with us. He'd put us all up on a horse we called
Old Bill. He said he got so used to sleeping on his blanket on the
ground in war times till he couldn't sleep on a bed. He couldn't get off
"Grandpa found a pitcher of gold money been buried in old Master Pool's
stable. He give it to them. They knowed it was out there.
"Mother was with Miss Betty Reed in most of war times. Miss Betty hid
their jewelry and money. She spoke of the Yankees coming and kill pretty
chickens and drink up a churn of fresh milk turned ready for churning.
It be in the chimney corner to keep warm. They'd take fat horses and
turn their poor ones in the lot. They never could pass up a fat hog.
They cleaned out the corn crib.
"All my kin folks was field hands. I ploughed all day long.
"Papa said his ole mistress Deal was out under an apple tree peeling
apples to dry. A white crane flew over the tree and fluttered about over
her. Next day she died. Then the old man married a younger woman.
"It is so about the pigeons at Pigeon Roost (Wattensaw, Arkansas). They
weighted trees down till they actually broke limbs and swayed plenty of
them. That was the richest land you ever seen in your life when it was
cleared off. Folks couldn't rest for killing pigeons and wasted them
all up. I was born at Pigeon Roost on Jim High's place. I seen a whole
washpot full of stewed pigeon. It was fine eating. It was a shame to
waste up all the pigeons and clear out the place."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Millie Taylor
1418 Texas Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes'm, I was born in slavery times in Calhoun County, Mississippi.
"Bill Armstrong was my owner. He's been dead a long time.
"My folks stayed on there a good while.
"Pa said they was good to him but they wasn't good to my ma. I heered pa
say they beat her till she died. I don't remember a thing 'bout my ma.
"I heered 'em talk 'bout the Ku Klux. They kep' that in my hearin' so
much that I kep' that in my remembrance.
"I know when we stayed on the place pa said was old master's. Yes'm, I
sure 'members dat. I know we stayed there till pa married again.
"Bill Armstrong's wife made our clothes. I know we stayed right in the
yard with some more colored folks.
"Pa worked on the shares and rented too.
"I was twenty-four when I come from Mississippi here. I was married
then and had three chillun. But they all dead now. I stays here with my
grandson. I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for him. I reckon I'd
just be knockin' around--no tellin'.
"I got another grandson lives in Marvell. I went there to visit and I
got so I couldn't walk, so my grandson carried me to the doctor. And he
just looked at me--he had been knowin' me so long. I said, 'Don't you
know me?' And he said, 'If you'd take off your hat I think I'd know
you.' And he said, 'Well, for the Lawd, if it ain't Millie Taylor!'
"I've always done farmin'. That's the way I was raised--farmin'. I just
looks at these folks in town and it seems funny to me to buy ever'thing
you need. Looks to me like they would rather raise it.
"Oh, Lawd, don't talk about this young race. It looks to me like they is
more heathe'nish. The Bible say they would be weaker and wiser but they
is just too wise for their own good. I just looks at 'em and I don't
know what to think about this young race. They is a few respects you and
"I seen things here in town I didn't think I'd ever see. Seems like the
people in the country act like they recognize you more.
"I has a good remembrance. Seems like I gets to studyin' 'bout it and it
just comes to me like ABC. I know pa used to talk and tell us things and
if I didn't believe it, I didn't give him no cross talk. But nowadays if
chillun don't believe what you say, they goin' try to show you a point.
"Yes ma'am, folks is livin' a fast life--white and colored.
"Looks like the old folks has worked long enough for the white folks
till they ought to have enough to live on."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Sarah Taylor, R.F.D., Madison, Arkansas
"I was born in Releford County, Tennessee, ten miles from Murfreesboro.
My parents belonged to Dr. Jimmy Manson. He was off and gone from home
nearly all the time. He didn't have a Negro driver. Because he didn't
they called us all Manson's free niggers. Folks didn't like it because
we had so much freedom. One day a terrible thing happened broke up our
happy way of living on Dr. Manson's place.
"Grandpa was part Indian. Dr. Jimmy didn't whoop. He visited and he'd
get a jug of whiskey, call his niggers and give them a little, make them
feel good and get them in a humor for working. Dr. Jimmy had a nigger
overseer. They was digging a ditch and making a turnpike from Dr.
Manson's place to Murfreesboro. They told grandpa to drive down in the
ditch with his load of rock and let the white folks drive up on the
dump. They was hauling and placing rock on the dump to make a turnpike.
In Tennessee it was a law if a man owned a nigger he had to whoop him or
have him whooped. If he didn't he had to sell him. They told grandpa
if he didn't do as they said they would whoop him, then they said they
would break his back. They took the fussing to Dr. Jimmy for him to
whoop grandpa. He sold him to nigger traders and they drove him to
Mississippi. Mother never seen him no more. Grandma died of grief. She
had nine girls and no boys. After freedom seven went North and mama,
was Jane, and Aunt Betty lived on in Tennessee, and I lived some in
Mississippi. That's the reason I hate Mississippi to this very day.
"The day they fit on Stone River in Tennessee, brother Hood was born. He
was born during the battle. I guess they moved off of Dr. Jimmy's place
at freedom, for I was born on Jack Little's place.
"The times is passing faster than I want it to and I'm doing very well.
I don't never meddle in young folks' business and I don't 'low them
meddling in mine. Folks is the ones making times so hard. Some making
times hard for all rest of us can't help ourselves. It is sin and
selfishness makes times so hard. Young folks no worse than some not so
very old. It ain't young folks making times hard. It's older ones so
greedy. They don't have no happiness and don't want to see old ones live
nor the young ones neither."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Warren Taylor
3200 W. Seventeenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
My people are all from Richmond, Virginia. I was just four years old
when they come here. My father was in charge of all the machinery. He
ran the gin. Didn't do anything else. My mother was a house girl. The
kids learned her everything they learned in school. She knew everything.
My father died when I was young. My mother lived till she was eighty.
But the time she was fifty, I bought her a home and sat her down on
Pulaski Street in that home. And that is why I have so little trouble.
"My ma belonged to Hoffman. He sold her to Wiley Adams. He carried her
to Mississippi. She stayed there for a short time and then came to
Arkansas. He settled in a little place called Tulip, Arkansas. Then
freedom came and we came to Little Rock and settled at what is now
Seventh and Ringo Streets; but then it was just a stage road leading to
Benton, Arkadelphia, and other places. Stages passed twice a day with
passengers and freight. No railroads at all then. The government kept
the roads up. They had the arsenal hall where the city park is and had
a regiment of soldiers there. The work on that road was kept up by the
soldiers. That was under Grant's administration. I never saw but
three presidents--three Democratic presidents--Cleveland, Wilson, and
"My father's master was named Lee. He married my mother back in
Virginia. My daddy's people when he was freed was named Taylor. He died
when I was young and he never gave me any details about them.
"The Adamses were good to my mother. And they help her even after
freedom. Charlie Adams and Mack Adams of Malvern, Arkansas. John was the
sheriff and ran a store. Mack was a drummer for the Penzl Grocery. When
my mother was ill, he used to bring her thirty dollars at a time. Every
two months she had to go down to Malvern when she was well and carry an
empty trunk and when she would come back it would be full. My mother was
wet-nurse to the Adamses and they thought the world and all of her.
"They had a good opinion of their house servants. That is how she and my
father came to belong to different families. One white man would say to
the other, 'I got a good boy. I'm going to let him come over to see your
girl.' He would be talking about a Negro man that worked around his
house and a Negro girl that worked for the other man. That would be all
right. So that's the way my father went to see my mother. He was married
in the way they always married in those days. You know how it was. There
was no marriage at all. They just went on out and got the woman and the
white man said, 'There she is. You are man and wife.'
Right After the War
"My father died before freedom. My mother lived with him until her folks
moved away from his folks. Then she was separated from him and left him
in Mississippi. She belonged to one white man and he to another, and
that could happen any time.
"Right after freedom, she stayed with these white people, doing the
house work. She had the privilege of raising things for herself. She
made a garden, and raised vegetables and such like.
"My brother who had run off during slavery time and who later became a
preacher in the North invited us to live in the city with him.
"I wasn't fourteen years old when I was tending to flowers for the Cairo
and Fulton Railroad. That was a railroad which later became Missouri
Pacific. They beautified everything. There wasn't any bridge. They had a
boat to take you into the town of Argenta then, and when the trains came
through, the same boat would carry the cars across. An engine would be
on the other side to finish the journey with them.
"There is one engineer living now who was active in that time, Charlie
Seymour, retired, of Little Rock. He used to run the first train over
the Baring Cross Bridge, and then he ran the first engine over the new
bridge here. He had already been retired when they finished the new
bridge, but they had him pull the first train over the new bridge
because he had pulled the first one over the old bridge. They wanted to
give him that honor.
"My manager in that time was Superintendent A.E. Buchanan.
"From this work, I was advanced to the office and stayed there twenty
years. I served under Commissioner Thomas Essex and later under
Commissioner J.A. Dean. This service included twenty years in various
"After that I billed freight for the Missouri Pacific at the Baring
Cross Storerooms under Mr. H.S. Turner for eight months or more. Then I
was transferred, because the location was not good for my health, to De
Soto, Missouri, forty-five miles this side of St. Louis. Sedentary work
had proved bad for me and I needed more active work. I waited on the
master mechanic there. After that I came back to Little Rock and worked
for the Pacific Express Company under Mr. G.F. Johnson, superintendent.
After that, I worked for the Quapaw Club[HW?] during its heyday when
Johnie Boyle, Hollenberg, Acie Bragg, Will Mitchell, Mr. Cottman,
Captain Shaw, and oodles of others were members. Mr. Moorehead White was
secretary. After that I went to doing my own work.
"Now I am past my prime and I do the best I can with what little help I
get from the government. I get eight dollars a month and commodities.
Mr. Roosevelt has got guts. Mighty few men would attempt to do what he
has done. He is the greatest humanitarian president the country has ever
"But I've got a pile of recommendations. I've got recommendations from
Thomas Essex, Land Commissioner, St. Louis, Iron Mountain,
and Southern Railway
W.S. Thomas, Geologist, St. Louis, Iron Mountain, Southern
J.H. Harvey, General Foreman of Bridges and Building
G.A.A. Deane, Land Commissioner succeeding Essex, St. Louis,
Iron Mountain, and Southern
S.W. Moore, General Secretary, Railway Y.M.C.A.
Arthur B. Washburn, Superintendent, Arkansas Deaf Mute Institute
A.C. St. Clair, Manager of the College of Physicians and Surgeons
(Note comment) [TR: No additional comment found.]
You can read these for yourself, and you see what they say. They can't
get me work now, but it's great to know you did good work and be able to
"The same commodities they give now were given in 1870. They had what
they called the Freedman's Bureau. They used to have what they called
the LICK SKILLET on Spring Street from Fifth to Seventh. Leastwise, the
colored people called it that. Bush and a lots of other big niggers used
to go there and get free lodgings until they were able to get along
alone without help. The niggers they call BIG NIGGERS now stayed in
wagon yards when they first come here.
"There was a time when a low-down person, colored or white, couldn't
stay in the community. They would give him a ticket and send him to
Memphis or somewhere else.
"Reuben White built the First Baptist Church. In those days, people were
Christian. White baptized one hundred fifty people twice a month. You
didn't have to put a lock on your door then.
"I haven't been married; marriage holds a man back. A woman won't do as
she is told.
Successful Negroes in Little Rock
"They had three Negro aldermen in this city: one of them was Green
Thompson; but the Negroes butchered him. He was murdered as he came in
from a festival. M.W. Gibbs, Land Office Man for the Government, was the
only nigger here who wasn't bothered by no one--by no colored person.
Dr. Smith was the leading colored dentist once, and the leading dentist
of the city in his day. Almost all the white people went to him. Colored
people had the barber shops. McNair had a barber shop on Main between
Second and Third. His boy killed him--no good reason. His boy went to
school with us; he was always stubborn and mean.
"Henry Powell was jailer here once. Sam Wilkins, a man that weighed
about three hundred pounds, was the turnkey at the penitentiary. He
lived in one of the finest houses in the town at that time. Nigger bands
had all the music then. I have seen white organizations like the Odd
Fellows and Masons follow Negro bands. Nigger orchestras played here
all the big to-dos among white people. White people used to get nigger
dancers to come here to dance and show them so that they could learn the
"Colored caterers had the big jobs. Henry Miller was one of them. He's
going pretty strong still. You get some smart niggers 'round the Marion
Hotel right now. We used to have some smart cooks. But they did too much
peddling out of the back door. Dishonesty put them back. White people
have taken all that work now. The nigger ruined himself in this town.
They are paying white men now for what they know. They used to pay
niggers for what they knowed.
"If the government would give you a job today, niggers would be up to
take you out of it tomorrow. Niggers are dirty, and these 'round here
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