[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note [HW: ***] = Handwritten Note
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves
TYPEWRITTEN RECORDS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT 1936-1938 ASSEMBLED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PROJECT WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA SPONSORED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Prepared by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Arkansas
McClendon, Charlie McCloud, Lizzie McConico, Avalena McCoy, Ike McDaniel, Richard H. McIntosh, Waters Mack, Cresa McKinney, Warren McMullen, Victoria Madden, Nannie P. Madden, Perry Mann, Lewis Martin, Angeline Martin, Josie Mathis, Bess Matthews, Caroline Maxwell, Malindy Maxwell, Nellie May, Ann Mayes, Joe Meeks, Rev. Jesse Metcalf, Jeff Miller, Hardy Miller, Henry Kirk Miller, Matilda Miller, Nathan Miller, Sam Miller, W.D. Minser, Mose Minton, Gip Mitchell, A.J. Mitchell, Gracie Mitchell, Hettie Mitchell, Mary Mitchell, Moses Moon, Ben Moore, Emma Moore, Patsy Moorehead, Ada Mooreman, Mary Jane (Mattie) Morgan, Evelina Morgan, James Morgan, Olivia Morgan, Tom Morris, Charity Morris, Emma Moss, Claiborne Moss, Frozie Moss, Mose Mullins, S.O. Murdock, Alex Myers, Bessie Myhand, Mary Myrax, Griffin
Neal, Tom Wylie Nealy (Neely), Sally Nealy, Wylie Neland, Emaline Nelson, Henry Nelson, Iran Nelson, James Henry Nelson, John Nelson, Lettie Nelson, Mattie Newborn, Dan Newsom, Sallie Newton, Pete Norris, Charlie
Oats, Emma Odom, Helen Oliver, Jane Osborne, Ivory Osbrook, Jane
Page, Annie Parker, Fannie Parker, J.M. Parker, Judy Parker, R.F. Parks, Annie Parnell, Austin Pen Parr, Ben Patterson, Frank A. Patterson, John Patterson, Sarah Jane Pattillo, Solomon P. Patton, Carry Allen Payne, Harriett McFarlin Payne, John Payne, Larkin Perkins, Cella Perkins, Marguerite (Maggie) Perkins, Rachel Perry, Dinah Peters, Alfred Peters, Mary Estes Peterson, John Pettis, Louise Pettus, Henry C. Phillips, Dolly Piggy, Tony Pittman, Ella Pittman, Sarah Poe, Mary Pollacks, W.L. Pope, John (Doc) Porter, William Potter, Bob Prayer, Louise
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Charlie McClendon 708 E. Fourth Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 77
"I don't know exactly how old I am. I was six or seven when the war ended. I member dis—my mother said I was born on Christmas day. Old master was goin' to war and he told her to take good care of that boy—he was goin' to make a fine little man.
"Did I live up to it? I reckon I was bout as smart a man as you could jump up. The work didn't get too hard for me. I farmed and I sawmilled a lot. Most of my time was farmin'.
"I been in Jefferson County all my life. I went to school three or four sessions.
"About the war, I member dis—I member they carried us to Camden and I saw the guards. I'd say, 'Give me a pistol.' They'd say, 'Come back tomorrow and we'll give you one.' They had me runnin' back there every day and I never did get one. They was Yankee soldiers.
"Our folks' master was William E. Johnson. Oh Lord, they was just as good to us as could be to be under slavery.
"After they got free my people stayed there a year or two and then our master broke up and went back to South Carolina and the folks went in different directions. Oh Lord, my parents sho was well treated. Yes ma'm. If he had a overseer, he wouldn't low him to whip the folks. He'd say, 'Just leave em till I come home.' Then he'd give em a light breshin'.
"My father run off and stay in the woods one or two months. Old master say, 'Now, Jordan, why you run off? Now I'm goin' to give you a light breshin' and don't you run off again.' But he'd run off again after awhile.
"He had one man named Miles Johnson just stayed in the woods so he put him on the block and sold him.
"I seed the Ku Klux. We colored folks had to make it here to Pine Bluff to the county band. If the Rebels kotch you, you was dead.
"Oh Lord yes, I voted. I voted the Publican ticket, they called it. You know they had this Australia ballot. You was sposed to go in the caboose and vote. They like to scared me to death one time. I had a description of the man I wanted to vote for in my pocket and I was lookin' at it so I'd be sure to vote for the right man and they caught me. They said, 'What you doin' there? We're goin' to turn you over to the sheriff after election!' They had me scared to death. I hid out for a long time till I seed they wasn't goin' to do nothin'.
"My wife's brother was one of the judges of the election. Some of the other colored folks was constables and magistrates—some of em are now—down in the country.
"I knew a lot about things but I knew I was in the United States and had to bow to the law. There was the compromise they give the colored folks—half of the offices and then they got em out afterwards. John M. Clayton was runnin' for the senate and say he goin' to see the colored people had equal rights, but they killed him as he was gwine through the country speakin'.
"The white people have treated me very well but they don't pay us enough for our work—just enough to live on and hardly that. I can say with a clear conscience that if it hadn't been for this relief, I don't know what I'd do—I'm not able to work. I'm proud that God Almighty put the spirit in the man (Roosevelt) to help us."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Lizzie McCloud 1203 Short 13th Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 120?
"I was one of 'em bless your heart. Yes ma'm, Yes ma'm, I wouldn't tell you a lie 'bout that. If I can't tell you the truth I'm not goin' tell you nothin'!
"Oh yes, I was a young lady in slavery times—bred and born in Tennessee. Miss Lizzie and Marse John Williams—I belonged to them—sho did! I was scared to death of the white folks. Miss Lizzie—she mean as the devil. She wouldn't step her foot on the ground, she so rich. No ma'm wouldn't put her foot on the ground. Have her carriage drive up to the door and have that silk carpet put down for her to walk on. Yes Lord. Wouldn't half feed us and they went and named me after her.
"I know all about the stars fallin'. I was out in the field and just come in to get our dinner. Got so dark and the stars begin to play aroun'. Mistress say, 'Lizzie, it's the judgment.' She was just a hollerin'. Yes ma'm I was a young woman. I been here a long time, yes ma'm, I been here a long time. Worked and whipped, too. I run off many a time. Run off to see my mammy three or four miles from where I was.
"I never was sold but they took we young women and brought us down in the country to another plantation where they raised corn, wheat, and hay. Overseer whipped us too. Marse John had a brother named Marse Andrew and he was a good man. He'd say to the overseer, 'Now don't whip these girls so much, they can't work.' Oh, he was a good man. Oh, white folks was the devil in slavery tines. I was scared to death of 'em. They'd have these long cow hide whips. Honey, I was treated bad. I seen a time in this world.
"Oh Lord, yes, that was long 'fore the war. I was right down on my master's place when it started. They said it was to free the niggers. Oh Lord, we was right under it in Davidson County where I come from. Oh Lord, yes, I knowed all about when the war started. I'se a young woman, a young woman. We was treated just like dogs and hogs. We seed a hard time—I know what I'm talkin' about.
"Oh God, I seed the Yankees. I saw it all. We was so scared we run under the house and the Yankees called 'Come out Dinah' (didn't call none of us anything but Dinah). They said 'Dinah, we're fightin' to free you and get you out from under bondage.' I sure understood that but I didn't have no better sense than to go back to mistress.
"Oh Lord, yes, I seed the Ku Klux. They didn't bother me cause I didn't stay where they could; I was way under the house.
"Yankees burned up everything Marse John had. I looked up the pike and seed the Yankees a coming'. They say 'We's a fightin' for you, Dinah!' Yankees walked in, chile, just walked right in on us. I tell you I've seed a time. You talkin' 'bout war—you better wish no more war come. I know when the war started. The Secessors on this side and the Yankees on that side. Yes, Miss, I seen enough. My brother went and jined the Secessors and they killed him time he got in the war.
"No, Missy, I never went to no school. White folks never learned me nothin'. I believes in tellin' white folks the truth.
"White folks didn't 'low us to marry so I never married till I come to Arkansas and that was one year after surrender.
"First place I landed on was John Clayton's place. Mr. John Clayton was a Yankee and he was good to us. We worked in the field and stayed there two years. I been all up and down the river and oh Lord, I had a good time after I was free. I been treated right since I was free. My color is good to me and the white folks, too. I ain't goin' to tell only the truth. Uncle Sam goin' send me 'cross the water if I don't tell the truth. Better not fool with dat man!"
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Lizzie McCloud 1203 E. Short 13th Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 103 [TR: Appears to be same as previous informant despite age discrepancy.]
"Well, where you been? I been wonderin' 'bout you. Yes Lawd. You sure is lookin' fine.
"Yes, honey, I was bred and bawn in Davidson County, Tennessee. Come here one year after surrender.
"My daughter there was a baby jus' sittin' alone, now, sittin' alone when I come here to this Arkansas. I know what I'm talkin' about.
"Lizzie Williams, my old missis, was rich as cream. Yes Lawd! I know all about it 'cause I worked for 'em.
"I was a young missis when the War started. I was workin' for my owners then. I knowed when they was free—when they said they was free.
"The Yankees wouldn't call any of the colored women anything but Dinah. I didn't know who they was till they told us. Said, 'Dinah, we's comin' to free you.'
"The white folks didn't try to scare us 'bout the Yankees 'cause they was too scared theirselves. Them Yankees wasn't playin'; they was fitin'. Yes, Jesus!
"Had to work hard—and whipped too. Wasn't played with. Mars Andrew come in the field a heap a times and say, 'Don't whip them women so hard, they can't work.' I thought a heap of Mars Andrew.
"I used to see the Yankees ridin' hosses and them breastplates a shining'. Yes Lawd. I'd run and they'd say, 'Dinah, we ain't gwine hurt you.' Lawd, them Yankees didn't care for nothin'. Oh, they was fine.
"My husband was a soldier—a Yankee. Yes ma'am. They sends me thirty dollars every month, before the fourth. Postman brings it right to me here at the house. They treats me nice.
"When I come here, I landed on John Clayton's place. He was a Yankee and he was a good white man too.
"I'm the onliest one left now in my family."
Interviewer: Mrs. Irene Robertson Person Interviewed: Avalena McConico on the [TR: —— ——] west of Brinkley, Arkansas Age: 40[TR: ?] [TR: Much of this interview smeared and difficult to decipher; illegible words indicated by "——", questionable words followed by "?".]
"Grandma was a slave woman. Her name was Emma Harper. She was born in Chesterville, Mississippi. Her young master was Jim and Miss Corrie Burton. The old man was John Burton. I aimed[?] to see them once. I seen both Miss Corrie and Mr. Jim. My grandparents was never sold. They left out after freedom. They stayed there a long time but they left.
"The first of the War was like dis: Our related folks was having a dance. The Yankees come in and was dancing. Some "fry boys" [—— ——] them. The next day they were all in the field and heard something. They went to the house and told the white folks there was [——] a fire. They heard it. [——] he [——] about. Master told them it was war. Miss Burton was crying. They heard about [——] in [——] at Harrisburg where they could hear the shooting.
"They put the slaves to digging. They dug two weeks. They buried their meat and money and a whole heap of things. They never found it. A little white,[?] Mollita[?], was out where they were digging. She went in the house. She said, Mama, is the devil coming? They said he was." Master had them come to him. He questioned them. They told him they got so tired [——] of them said he [——] he [—— ——] the [——] Yankees come he'd tell them where all this was, but he was just talking. But when the Yankees did come they was so scared they never got close to a Yankee. They was scared to death. They never found the meat and money. They [——] and cut the turkeys' heads off and the turkey fell off the rail fence, the head drop on one side and the body on the other. They milked a cow and cut both hind quarters off and leave the rest of the cow there and the cow not dead yet.
"Mr. South[?] Strange at Chesterville, Mississippi had a pony named Zane. The Yankees hemmed him and four more men in at Malone Creek and killed the four men. Zane rared up on hind legs and went up a steep cliff and ran three miles. Mr. Strange's coat was cut off from him. It was a gray coat. Mr. Strange was a white man.
"Uncle Frank Jones was forty years old when they gathered him up out of the woods and put him in the battle lines. All the runaway black folks in the woods was hunted out and put in the Yankee lines. Uncle Frank lived in a cave up till about then. His master made him mean. He got better as he got old. His master would sell him and tell him to run away and come back to his cave. He'd feed him. He never worked and he went up for his provisions. He was sold over and over and over. His master learnt him in books and to how to cuss. He learnt him how to trick the dogs and tap trees like a coon. At the end of the trail the dogs would turn on the huntsman. Uncle Frank was active when he was old. He was hired out to race other boys sometimes. He never wore glasses. He could see well when he was old. He told me he was raised out from England, Arkansas.
"When freedom was told 'em Uncle Frank said all them in the camps hollered and danced, and marched and sung. They was so glad the War was done and so glad they been freed.
"Grandma was sold in South Carolina to Mississippi and sold again to Dr. Shelton. Now that was my father's father and mother. She said they rode and walked all the way. They came on ox wagons. She said on the way they passed some children. They was playing. A little white boy was up in a persimmon tree settin' on a limb eating persimmons. He was so pretty and clean. Grandma says, 'You think you is some pumpkin, don't you, honey child.' He says, 'Some pumpkin and some 'simmon too.' Grandma was a house girl. She got to keep her baby and brought him. He was my father. Uncle was born later. Then they was freed. Grandma lived to be ninety-five years old. Mrs. Dolphy Wooly and Mrs. Shelton was her young mistresses. They kept her till she died. They kept her well.
"Grandma told us about freedom. She was hired out to the Browns to make sausage and dry out lard. Five girls was in the field burning brush. They was white girls—Mrs. Brown's girls. They come to the house and said some Blue Coats come by and said, 'You free.' They told them back, 'That's no news, we was born free.' Grandma said that night she melted pewter and made dots on her best dress. It was shiny. She wore it home next day 'cause she was free, and she never left from about her own white folks till she died and left them.
"Times seem very good on black folks till hard cold winter and spring come, then times is mighty, mighty bad. It is so hard to keep warm fires and enough to eat. Times have been good. Black folks in the young generation need more heart training and less book learning. Times is so fast the young set is too greedy. They is wasteful too. Some is hard workers and tries to live right.
"I wash and irons and keep a woman's little chile so she can work. I owns my home."
Interviewer: Mrs. Irene Robertson Person Interviewed: Ike McCoy, Biscoe, Arkansas Age: 65 [TR: Illegible words indicated by "——", questionable words followed by "?".]
"My parents named Harriett and Isaac McCoy. Far as I knew they was natives of North Kaline (Carolina). He was a farmer. He raised corn and cabbage, a little corn and wheat. He had tasks at night in winter I heard him say. She muster just done anything. She knit for us here in the last few years. She died several years ago. Now my oldest sister was born in slavery. I was next but I came way after slavery.
"In war time McCoys hid their horses in the woods. The Yankees found them and took all the best ones and left their [——] (nags). Old boss man McCoy hid in the closet and locked himself up. The Yankees found him, broke in on him and took him out and they nearly killed him beating him so bad. He told all of 'em on the place he was going off. They wore him out. He didn't live long after that.
"Things got lax. I heard her say one man sold all his slaves. The War broke out. They run away and went back to him. She'd see 'em pass going back home. They been sold and wouldn't stay. Folks got to running off to war. They thought it look like a frolic. I heard some of them say they wish they hadn't gone off to war 'fore it was done. Niggers didn't know that[TR: ?] war no freedom was 'ceptin' the Yankees come tell them something and then they couldn't understand how it all be. Black folks was mighty ignant then. They is now for that matter. They look to white folks for right kind of doings[?].
"Ma said every now and then see somebody going back to that man tried to get rid of them. They traveled by night and beg along from black folks. In daytime they would stay in the woods so the pettyrollers wouldn't run up on them. The pettyrollers would whoop 'em if they catch 'em.
"Ma told about one day the Yankees come and made the white women came help the nigger women cook up a big dinner. Ma was scared so bad she couldn't see nothing she wanted. She said there was no talking. They was too scared to say a word. They sot the table and never a one of them told 'em it was ready.
"She said biscuits so scarce after the War they took 'em 'round in their pockets to nibble on they taste so good.
"I was eighteen years old when pa and ma took the notion to come out here. All of us come but one sister had married, and pa and one brother had a little difference. Pa had children ma didn't have. They went together way after slavery. We got transportation to Memphis by train and took a steamboat to Pillowmount. That close to Forrest City. Later on I come to Biscoe. They finally come too.
"I been pretty independent all my life till I getting so feeble. I work a sight now. I'm making boards to kiver my house out at the lot now. I goiner get somebody to kiver it soon as I get my boards made.
"We don't get no PWA aid 'ceptin' for two orphant babies we got. They are my wife's sister's little boys.
"Well sir-ree, folks could do if the young ones would. Young folks don't have no consideration for the old wore-out parents. They dance and drink it bodaciously out on Saturday ebening and about till Sunday night. I may be wrong but I sees it thater way. Whan we get old we get helpless. I'm getting feebler every year. I see that. Times goiner be hard ag'in this winter and next spring. Money is scarce now for summer time and craps laid by. I feels that my own self now. Every winter times get tough."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Richard H. McDaniel, Brinkley, Arkansas Age: 73
"I was born in Newton County, Mississippi the first year of the surrender. I don't think my mother was sold and I know my father was never sold. Jim McDaniel raised my father and one sister after his mother died. One sister was married when she died. I heard him say when he got mad he would quit work. He said old master wouldn't let the mistress whoop him and she wouldn't let him whoop my father. My father was a black man but my mother was light. Her father was a white man and her mother part Indian and white mixed, so what am I? My mother was owned by people named Wash. Dick Wash was her young master. My parents' names was Willis and Elsie McDaniel. When it was freedom I heard them say Moster McDaniel told them they was free. He was broke. If they could do better go on, he didn't blame them, he couldn't promise them much now. They moved off on another man's place to share crop. They had to work as hard and didn't have no more than they had in slavery. That is what they told me. They could move around and visit around without asking. They said it didn't lighten the work none but it lightened the rations right smart. Moster McDaniel nor my father neither one went to war.
"From the way I always heard it, the Ku Klux was the law like night watchman. When I was a boy there was a lot of stealing and bushwhacking. Folks meet you out and kill you, rob you, whoop you. A few of the black men wouldn't work and wanted to steal. That Ku Klux was the law watching around. Folks was scared of em. I did see them. I would run hide.
"I farmed up till 1929. Then I been doing jobs. I worked on relief till they turned me off, said I was too old to work but they won't give me the pension. I been trying to figure out what I am to do. Lady, could you tell me? Work at jobs when I can get them.
"I allus been voting till late years. If they let some folks vote in the first lection, they would be putting in somebody got no business in the gover'ment. All the fault I see in white folks running the gover'ment is we colored folks ain't got work we can do all the time to live on. I thought all the white folks had jobs what wanted jobs. The conditions is hard for old men like me. I pay $3 for a house every month. It is a cold house.
"This present generation is living a fast life. What all don't they do?"
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Waters McIntosh 1900 Howard Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 76
"I was born July 4, 1862 at 2:08 in the morning at Lynchburg, Sumter County, South Carolina.
"My mother was named Lucy Sanders. My father was named Sumter Durant. Our owner was Dr. J.M. Sanders, the son of Mr. Bartlett Sanders. Sumter Durant was a white man. My mother was fourteen years old when I was born I was her second child. Durant was in the Confederate army and was killed during the War in the same year I was born, and before my birth.
"When I was a year old, my mother was sold for $1500 in gold, and I was sold for $500 in gold to William Carter who lived about five miles south of Cartersville. The payment was made in fine gold. I was sold because my folk realized that freedom was coming and they wanted to obtain the cash value of their slaves.
"My name is spelled 'Waters' but it is pronounced 'Waiters.' When I was born, I was thought to be a very likely child and it was proposed that I should be a waiter. Therefore I was called Waters (but it was pronounced Waiters). They did not spell it w-a-i-t-e-r-s, but they pronounced it that way.
How Freedom Came
"My mother said that they had been waiting a long time to hear what had become of the War, perhaps one or two weeks. One day when they were in the field moulding corn, going round the corn hoeing it and putting a little hill around it, the conk sounded at about eleven o'clock, and they knew that the long expected time had come. They dropped their hoes and went to the big house. They went around to the back where the master always met the servants and he said to them, 'You are all free, free as I am. You can go or come as you please. I want you to stay. If you will stay, I will give you half the crop.' That was the beginning of the share cropping system.
"My mother came at once to the quarters, and when she found me she pulled the end out of a corn sack, stuck holes on the sides, put a cord through the top, pulled out the end, put it on me, put on the only dress she had, and made it back to the old home (her first master's folk).
What the Slaves Expected
"When the slaves were freed, they got what they expected. They were glad to get it and get away with it, and that was what mother and them did.
Slave Time Preaching
"One time when an old white man come along who wanted to preach, the white people gave him a chance to preach to the niggers. The substance of his sermon was this:
"'Now when you servants are working for your masters, you must be honest. When you go to the mill, don't carry along an extra sack and put some of the meal or the flour in for yourself. And when you women are cooking in the big house, don't make a big pocket under your dress and put a sack of coffee and a sack of sugar and other things you want in it."
"They took him out and hanged him for corrupting the morals of the slaves.
Conditions After the War
"Immediately after the War, there was a great scarcity of food. Neither Negroes nor white folk had anything to eat. The few white people who did have something wouldn't let it be known. My grandmother who was sixty-five years old and one of the old and respected inhabitants of that time went out to find something for us to eat. A white woman named Mrs. Burton gave her a sack of meal and told her not to tell anybody where she got it.
"My grandmother brought the meal home and cooked it in a large skillet in a big cake. When it got done, she cut it into slices in the way you would cut up a pie and divided it among us. That all we had to eat.
"The white people in those days built their houses back from the front. In South Carolina, there were lots of farms that had four to twelve thousand acres. From what mother told me, Master Bill's place set back from the road. Then there was a great square place they called the yard. A fence divided the house and the yard adjoining it from that part of the grounds which held the barn. The yard in front and back of the house held a grove.
The square around the house and the Negro quarters were all enclosed so that the little slaves could not get out while parents were at work. The Negroes assembled on the porch when the gong called them in the morning. The boss gave orders from the porch. There was an open space between the quarters and the court (where the little slaves played). There was a gate between the court and the big house.
"On the rear of the house, there was a porch from which the boss gave orders usually about four o'clock in the morning and at which they would disband in the evening between nine and ten—no certain time but more or less not earlier than nine and not often later than ten. Back of the house and beyond it was a fence extending clear across the yard. In one corner of this fence was a gate leading into the court. Leading out of the court was an opening surrounded by a semi-circular fence which enclosed the Negro quarters.
"The cabins were usually built on the ground—no floors. The roofs were covered with clapboards.
"When I was a boy we used to sing, 'Rather be a nigger than a poor white man.' Even in slavery they used to sing that. It was the poor white man who was freed by the War, not the Negroes.
"There wasn't any furniture. Beds were built with one post out and the other three sides fastened to the sides of the house.
"I remember one night the people were gone to marry. That was when all the people in the community married immediately after slavery.
"We had an open fireplace. That was at Bartlett Sanders' place. He had close on to three thousand acres. Every grown person had gone to the marrying, and I was at home in the bed I just described.
"My grandfather's mother[HW: ?] had a chair and that was hers only. She was named Senia and was about eighty years old. We burned nothing but pine knots in the hearth. You would put one or two of those on the fire and they would burn for hours. We were all in bed and had been for an hour or two. There were some others sleeping in the same room. There came a peculiar knocking on grandmother's[HW: great grandmother?] chair. It's hard to describe it. It was something like the distant beating of a drum. Grandmother was dead, of course. The boys got up and ran out and brought in some of the hands. When they came in, a little thing about three and a half feet high with legs about six or eight inches long ran out of the room.
Ku Klux Klan
"Whenever there was a man of influence, they terrorized him. They were at their height about the time of Grant's election. Many a time my mother and I have watched them pass our door. They wore gowns and some kind of helmet. They would be going to catch same leading Negro and whip him. There was scarcely a night they couldn't take a leading Negro out and whip him if they would catch him alone. On that account, the Negro men did not stay at home in Sumter County, South Carolina at night. They left home and stayed together. The Ku Klux very seldom interfered with a woman or a child.
"They often scared colored people by drinking large quantities of water. They had something that held a lot of water, and when they would raise the bucket to their mouths to drink, they would slip the water into it.
"The white caps operated further to the northwest of where I lived. I never came in contact with them. They were not the same thing as the Ku Klux.
"In South Carolina under the Reconstruction, we voted right along. In 1868 there were soldiers at all of the election places to see that you did vote.
Career Since the War
"In 1881 I married. The year after that, in '83,[HW: ?] I merchandised a little. Then I got converted. I got it in my head that it was wrong to take big profits from business, so I sold out. Then I was asked to assist the keeper of the jail.
"In 1888 I went to school for the first time. I was then twenty-six years old. By the end of the first term, I knew all that the teacher could teach, so he sent me to Claflin University. I left there in the third year normal.
"When I returned home, I taught school, at first in a private school and later in a public school for $15 a month.
"A man named Boyle told me that he had some ground to sell. I saved up $45, the price he asked for it. When I offered it to him, he said that he had decided not to sell it. I went to town and spent my $45. A few days later, he met me and offered me the place again. I told him I had spent my money. He then offered it to me on time. There was plenty of timber on the place, so I got some contracts with a man named Roland and delivered wood to him. When I went to collect the money, he said he would not pay me in money.
"A man named Pennington offered me 20 a day for labor. I asked if he would pay in money.
"He replied, 'If you're looking for money, don't come.'
"I went home and said to my wife, 'I am going to leave here.'
"I came to Forrest City, Arkansas January 28, 1888. I farmed in Forrest City, making one crop, and then I entered the ministry, and then I preached at Spring Park for two years.
"Then I entered Philander Smith College where I stayed from 1891-1897. I preached from the time I left Philander until 1913.
"Then I studied law and completed the American Correspondence course in Law when I was fifty years old. I am still practicing.
Wife and Family
"In 1897, when I graduated from Philander, my wife and six children were sitting on the front seat.
"I have eleven sons and daughters, of whom six are living. I had seven brothers and sisters.
"My wife and I have been married fifty-six years. I had to steal her away from her parents, and she has never regretted coming to me nor I taking her."
"Brother Mack" as he is familiarly and affectionately known to his friends is a man keen and vigorous, mentally and physically. He attends Sunday school, church both in the morning and evening, and all departments of the Epworth League. He takes the Epworth Herald, the Southwestern Christian Advocate, the Literary Digest, some poultry and farm magazines, the Arkansas Gazette, and the St. Louis Democrat, and several other journals. He is on omnivorous reader and a clear thinker. He raises chickens and goats and plants a garden as avocations. He has on invincible reputation for honesty as well as for thrift and thought.
Nothing is pleasanter than to view the relationship between him and his wife. They have been married fifty-six years and seem to have achieved a perfect understanding. She is an excellent cook and is devoted to her home. She attends church regularly. Seems to be four or five years younger than her husband. Like him, however, she seems to enjoy excellent health.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Cresa Mack 1417 Short Indiana St., Pine Bluff, Ark. Age: 85
"I can tell you something about slavery days. I was born at South Bend, Arkansas on the old Joe Clay place. I 'member they used to work 'em scandalous. They used me at the house and I used to wait on old mistress' brother. He was a old man named Cal Fletcher.
"I 'member when they said the Yankees was comin' the boss man put us in wagons and runned us to Texas. They put the women and chillun in the wagons but the men had to walk. I know I was something over twelve years old.
"Old mistress, Miss Sarah Clay, took her chillun and went to Memphis.
"My white folks treated us very well. I never seed 'em whip my mother but once, but I seen some whipped till they's speechless. Yes ma'm I have.
"I can 'member a lot 'bout the war. The Lord have mercy, I'se old. I 'member they used to sing
'Run nigger run, The paddyrollers'll ketch you, Run nigger run.'
"Corse if they ketch you out without a pass they'd beat you nearly to death and tell you to go home to your master.
"One time I was totin' water for the woman what did the washin'. I was goin' along the road and seed somethin' up in a tree that look like a dog. I said 'Look at that dog.' The overseer was comin' from the house and said 'That ain't no dog, that's a panther. You better not stop' and he shot it out. Then I've seen bears out in the cane brakes. I thought they was big black bulls. I was young then—yes mam, I was young.
"When the Yankees come through they sot the house afire and the gin and burned up 'bout a hundred bales a cotton. They never bothered the niggers' quarters. That was the time the overseer carried us to Texas to get rid of the Yankees.
"After the surrender the Yankees told the overseer to bring us all up in the front yard so he could read us the ceremony and he said we was as free as any white man that walked the ground. I didn't know what 'twas about much cause I was too busy playin'.
"I didn't know what school was 'fore freedom, but I went about a month after peace was declared. Then papa died and mama took me out and put me in the field.
"I was grown, 'bout twenty-four or five, when I married. Now my chillun and grand chillun takes care of me."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Warren McKinney, Hazen, Arkansas Age: 85
I was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina. I am eighty-five years old. I was born a slave of George Strauter. I remembers hearing them say "Thank God Ize free as a jay bird." My ma was a slave in the field. I was eleven years old when freedom was declared. When I was little, Mr. Strauter whipped my ma. It hurt me bad as it did her. I hated him. She was crying. I chunked him with rocks. He run after me, but he didn't catch me. There was twenty-five or thirty hands that worked in the field. They raised wheat, corn, oats, barley, and cotton. All the children that couldn't work stayed at one house. Aunt Mat kept the babies and small children that couldn't go to the field. He had a gin and a shop. The shop was at the fork of the roads. When de war come on my papa went to build forts. He quit ma and took another woman. When de war closed ma took her four children, bundled em up and went to Augusta. The government give out rations there. My ma washed and ironed. People died in piles. I don't know till yet what was de matter. They said it was the change of living. I seen five or six wooden, painted coffins piled up on wagons pass by our house. Loads passed every day lack you see cotton pass here. Some said it was cholorea and some took consumption. Lots of de colored people nearly starved. Not much to get to do and not much house room. Several families had to live in one house. Lots of the colored folks went up north and froze to death. They couldn't stand the cold. They wrote back about them dieing. No they never sent them back. I heard some sent for money to come back. I heerd plenty bout the Ku Klux. They scared the folks to death. People left Augusta in droves. About a thousand would all meet and walk going to hunt work and new homes. Some of them died. I had a sister and brother lost that way. I had another sister come to Louisiana that way. She wrote back.
I don't think the colored folks looked for a share of land. They never got nothing cause the white folks didn't have nothing but barren hills left. About all the mules was wore out hauling provisions in the army. Some folks say they ought to done more for de colored folks when dey left, but dey say dey was broke. Freeing all de slaves left em broke.
That reconstruction was a mighty hard pull. Me and ma couldn't live. A man paid our ways to Carlisle, Arkansas and we come. We started working for Mr. Emenson. He had a big store, teams, and land. We liked it fine, and I been here fifty-six years now. There was so much wild game living was not so hard. If a fellow could get a little bread and a place to stay he was all right. After I come to dis state I voted some. I have farmed and worked at odd jobs. I farmed mostly. Ma went back to her old master. He persuaded her to come back home. Me and her went back and run a farm four or five years before she died. Then I come back here. I first had 300 acres at Carlisle. I sold it and bought 80 acres at Green Grove. I married in South Carolina. We had a fine weddin, home weddin. Each of our families furnished the weddin supper. We had 24 waiters. That is all the wife I ever had. We lived together 57 years. It is hard for me to keep up with my mind since she died. She been dead five years nearly now. I used to sing but I forgot all the songs. We had song books. I joined the church when I was twelve years old.
I think the times are worse than they use to be. The people is living mighty fast I tell you. I don't get no help from the government. They won't give me the pension. I can't work and I can't pay taxes on my place. They just don't give me nothing but a little out of the store. I can't get no pension.
Little Rock District FOLKLORE SUBJECTS Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson Subject: Ex-Slave—History Story:—Information
This Information given by: Warren McKinney Place of Residence: Hazen, Green Grove Settlement, Arkansas Occupation: Farming Age: 84 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
Warren McKinney was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina. He was born a slave. His master was George Strauter. He had a big plantation and worked twenty-five or thirty work hands. There were twenty-five or thirty children too small to work in the field. They raised cotton, corn, oats, and wheat. His mother washed and ironed and cooked. He was small but well remembers once when his mother had been sick and had just gotten out. George Strauter whipped her with a switch on her legs. Warren did not approve of it. Rocks were plentiful and he began throwing at him. He said Mr. George took out after him but didn't catch or whip him.
George Strauter tried to teach them all how to be good farmers and be saving. Warren knew war was going on but he didn't see any of it. His father came home several times. He was off building forts. He said he remembered a big "hurly-burly" and he heard 'em saying, "Thank God I'ze free as a jay bird." He didn't know why they were fighting so he didn't know then why they were saying that.
George Strauter had a shop at the fork of the roads. He had his own gin. They sold cotton and bought provisions at Augusta, Georgia. They made some of their meal and flour and raised all their meat and made enough lard to do the year around.
He heard them talking about the "Yankees" burning up Augusta, but he saw where they had burned Hamburg, South Carolina or North Augusta they call it.
After they were free he remembers his mother bundling up her things and her family and them all going in an ox cart to Augusta to live. Warren's mother washed, cooked and ironed for a living. Her husband went off and lived with another woman after freedom. Warren was about eleven years old then. The Government furnished food for them too. One thing that distressed Warren was the way people died for more than a year. He saw five or six coffins piled up on a wagon being taken out to be buried. He thought it was changing houses and changing ways of living. They didn't have shoes and warm clothes and weren't fed from white folks smoke house. Lots of the slaves had Consumption and died right now. Stout men and women didn't live two years after they were freed. Lots of them said they didn't like that freedom and wanted to go back but the masters were broke and couldn't keep many of them if they went back.
When Warren was about fifteen years old, there was a white man or two, but colored leaders mostly got about a thousand colored people to start for the West walking. Warren had sisters and brothers who started on this trip. Warren had some fussy brothers, his mother was afraid would get in jail. They kept her uneasy. They shipped their "stuff" by boat and train. He never saw them any more but he heard from them in Louisiana. Louisiana had a bad name in those days.
When Warren was about fourteen and fifteen, his mother had them on a farm, farming near Hamburg.
When he was sixteen or seventeen, his mother and the other children came on the train to about where Carlisle now is but it wasn't called by that name. There were very few houses of any kind. Mr. Emerson had a big store and lots of land. He worked black and white. Mr. Emerson let them have seven or eight mules and wagons and they farmed near there. He remembers pretty soon there was a depot where the depot now stands, a bank, a post office, and two or three more stores, all small buildings. He liked coming to Arkansas because he got to ride on the train a long ways. It was easy to live here. There were lots of game and fish.
Warren never shot anything in his life. He was no hunter. Nats were awful. Warren made smoke to run the nats from the cows. Four or five deer would come to the smoke. Cows were afraid of them and would leave the smoke. When he would go the deer would leap four or five feet in the air at the sight of him.
When Warren lived in Augusta, Georgia, they had schools a month at a time but Warren never did get to go to any, so he can't read or write. But he learned to save his money. He joined a church when he was twelve years old in South Carolina and belongs to the Baptist church at Green Grove now.
The old master in South Carolina persuaded his mother to come back. They all went back four or five years before his mother died. While Warren was there he married a woman on a joining farm.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Victoria McMullen 1416 E. Valmar, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 54 Occupation: Seamstress
"My mother was born March 16, 1865, and knew nothing of slavery.
"Both my grandmothers and both grandfathers were slaves. My father was born in the same year as my mother and like my mother knew nothing of slavery although both of them might have been born slaves.
"I knew my mother's mother and father and my father's mother, but I didn't know my father's father.
"He was from Texas and he always stayed there. He never did come out to Louisiana where I was born. My mother was born in Louisiana, but my father was born in Texas. I don't know what county or city my father was born in. I just heard my grandmother on his side say he was born in Texas.
"During the War (he was born in '65 when the War ceased), Grandmother Katy—that was her name, Katy, Katy Elmore—she was in Louisiana at first—she was run out in Texas, I suppose, to be hidden from the Yankees. My father was born there and my grandfather stayed there. He died in Texas and then Grandma Katy come back to Louisiana with my father and settled in Ouachita Parish.
"Grandma Katy was sold from South Carolina into Louisiana to Bob McClendon, and she kept the name of Elmore who was her first owner in South Carolina. It was Bob McClendon who run her out in Texas to hide her from the Yankees. My grandfather in Texas kept the name of Jamison. That was the name of his master in Texas. But grandma kept the name of Elmore from South Carolina because he was good to her. He was better than Bob McClendon. The eastern states sold their slaves to the southern states and got all the money, then they freed the slaves and that left the South without anything.
"Grandma Katy had Creek Indian blood in her. She was of medium size and height, copper colored, high cheek bones, small squinchy eyes, black curly hair. Her hair was really pretty but she didn't curl it. It was just naturally curly. She was a practical nurse as they call it, but she did more of what some people call a midwife. They call it something else now. They got a proper word for it.
"They got it in these government agencies. That is what she was even in slavery times. She worked for colored people and white people both. That was after she was freed until she went blind. She went blind three years before she died. She died at the age of exactly one hundred years. She treated women and babies. They said she was a real good doctor in her day. That is been fifty-four years ago. [I will be fifty-four years old tomorrow—September 18, 1938.] In slavery times my grandma was almost as free as she was in freedom because of her work.
"She said that Bob McClendon was cruel to her. Sometimes he'd get angry and take the shovel and throw hot ashes on the slaves. And then he'd see them with blisters on them and he would take a handsaw or a flat plank and bust the blisters. Louisiana was a warm country and they wouldn't have much clothes on. When the slaves were freed, he went completely broke. He had scarcely a place to live.
"I seen him once. Be look like on old possum. He had a long beard down to his waist and he had long side burns too. Just a little of his face showed. He was tall and stooping and he wore his hair long and uncut down on his neck. You know about what he looked like. He had on blue jeans pants and brogan shoes and a common shirt—a work shirt. He wore very common clothes. When they freed the Negroes, it broke him up completely. He had been called a 'big-to-do' in his life but he wasn't nothing then. He owned Grandma Katy.
"Grandma Katy had a sister named Maria and a brother named Peter. He owned all three of them. I have seen all of them. Grandma Katy was the oldest. She and Uncle Peter stayed close together. He didn't have no wife and she didn't have no husband. But Aunt Maria had a husband. She lived off from them after freedom. It was about twelve miles away. My great-aunt and great-uncle—they were Maria and Peter—that was what they were. Uncle Peter died first before I left Louisiana, but Aunt Maria and Grandma Katy died after I came to Arkansas. Grandma Katy lived four years after I came here.
"After they was free and my father had gotten large enough to work and didn't have no horse, my grandma was going 'round waiting on women—that is all she did—all the rest of the people had gotten large and left home. Papa made a crop with a hoe. He made three bales of cotton and about twelve loads of corn with that hoe. He used to tell me, 'You don't know nothin' 'bout work. You oughter see how I had to work.' After that he bought him a horse. Money was scarce then and it took something to buy the place and the horse both. They were turned loose from slavery without anything. Hardly had a surname—just Katy, Maria, and Peter.
"I knew more about the slave-time history of my mother's folks than I did about my father's but I'll tell you that some other time. My grandmother on my mother's side was born in Richmond, Virginia. She was owned by a doctor but I can't call his name. She gets her name from her husband's owners. They came from Virginia. They didn't take the name of their owners in Louisiana. They took the name of the owners in Virginia. She was a twin—her twin was a boy named June and her name was Hetty. Her master kept her brother to be a driver for him. She was sent from Virginia to Louisiana to people that were related to her Virginia people. She called her Louisiana mistress 'White Ma;' she never did call her 'missis.' The white folks and the colored folks too called her Indian because she was mixed with Choctaw. That's the Indian that has brown spots on the jaw. They're brownskin. It was an Indian from the Oklahoma reservation that said my mother belonged to the Choctaws.
"She rode from Virginia to Louisiana on a boat at the age of twelve years. She was separated from her mother and brothers and sisters and never did see them again. She was kept in the house for a nurse. She was not a midwife. She nursed the white babies. That was what she was sent to Louisiana for—to nurse the babies. The Louisiana man that owned her was named George Dorkins. But I think this white woman came from Virginia. She married this Louisiana man, then sent back to her father's house and got grandma; she got her for a nurse. She worked only a year and a half in the field before peace was declared. After she got grown and married, my grandfather—she had to stay with him and cook and keep house for him. That was during slavery time but after George Dorkins died. Dorkins went and got hisself a barrel of whiskey—one of these great big old barrels—and set it up in his house, and put a faucet in it and didn't do nothin' but drink whiskey. He said he was goin' to drink hisself to death. And he did.
"He was young enough to go to war and he said he would drink hisself to death before he would go, and he did. My grandma used to steal newspapers out of his house and take them down to the quarters and leave them there where there were one or two slaves that could read and tell how the War was goin' on. I never did learn how the slaves learned to read. But she was in the house and she could steal the papers and send them down. Later she could slip off and they would tell her the news, and then she could slip the papers back.
"Her master drank so much he couldn't walk without falling and she would have to help him out. Her mistress was really good. She never allowed the overseer to whip her. She was only whipped once in slave time while my father's mother was whipped more times than you could count.
"Her master often said, 'I'll drink myself to death before I'll go to war and be shot down like a damn target.' She said in living with them in the house, she learned to cuss from him. She said she was a cussin' soul until she became a Christian. She wasn't 'fraid of them because she was kin to them in some way. There was another woman there who was some kin to them and she looked enough like my grandma for them to be kin to each other. We talked it over several times and said we believed we were related; but none of us know for sure.
"When the slaves wanted something said they would have my grandma say it because they knew she wouldn't be whipped for it. 'White Ma' wouldn't let nobody whip her if she knew it. She cussed the overseer out that time for whipping her.
"When grandma was fourteen or fifteen years old they locked her up in the seed house once or twice for not going to church. You see they let the white folks go to the church in the morning and the colored folks in the evening, and my grandma didn't always want to go. She would be locked up in the seed bin and she would cuss the preacher out so he could hear her. She would say, 'Master, let us out.' And he would say, 'You want to go to church?' And she would say, 'No, I don't want to hear that same old sermon: "Stay out of your missis' and master's hen house. Don't steal your missis' and master's chickens. Stay out of your missis' and master's smokehouse. Don't steal your missis' and master's hams." I don't steal nothing. Don't need to tell me not to.'
"She was tellin' the truth too. She didn't steal because she didn't have to. She had plenty without stealin'! She got plenty to eat in the house. But the other slaves didn't git nothin' but fat meat and corn bread and molasses. And they got tired of that same old thing. They wanted something else sometimes. They'd go to the hen house and get chickens. They would go to the smokehouse and get hams and lard. And they would get flour and anything else they wanted and they would eat something they wanted. There wasn't no way to keep them from it.
"The reason she got whipped that time, the overseer wanted her to help get a tree off the fence that had been blown down by a storm. She told him that wasn't her work and she wasn't goin' to do it. Old miss was away at that time. He hit her a few licks and she told old miss when she came back. Old 'White Ma' told the overseer, 'Don't never put your hands on her no more no matter what she does. That's more than I do. I don't hit her and you got no business to do it.'
"Her husband, my grandfather, was a blacksmith, and he never did work in the field. He made wagons, plows, plowstocks, buzzard wings—they call them turning plows now. They used to make and put them on the stocks. He made anything-handles, baskets. He could fill wagon wheels. He could sharpen tools. Anything that come under the line of blacksmith, that is what he did. He used to fix wagons all the time I knowed him. In harvest time in the fall he would drive from Bienville where they were slaves to Monroe in Ouachita Parish. He kept all the plows and was sharpening and fixing anything that got broke. He said he never did get no whipping.
"His name was Tom Eldridge. They called him 'Uncle Tom'. They was the mother and father of twelve children. Six lived and six died. One boy and five girls lived. And one girl and five boys died—half and half. He died at the age of seventy-five, June 6, 1908. She died January 1920.
"I came out here in January 1907. I lived in Pine Bluff. From Louisiana I came to Pine Bluff in 1906. In 1907 I went to Kerr in Lonoke County and lived there eight years and then I came to Little Rock. I farmed at Kerr and just worked 'round town those few months in Pine Bluff. Excusing the time I was in Pine Bluff and Little Rock I farmed. I farmed in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Nannie P. Madden West Memphis, Arkansas Age: 69
"I am Martha Johnson's sister. I was born at Lake Village, Arkansas. I am 69 years old. I was born on Mr. Ike Wethingtons place. Pa was renting. Mother died in 1876 on this farm. We called it Red Leaf plantation. Father died at Martha Johnson's here in West Memphis when he was 88 years old.
"Mother was not counted a slave. Her master's Southern wife (white wife) disliked her very much but kept her till her death. Mother had three white children by her master. After freedom she married a black man and had four children by him. We are in the last set.
"We was born after slavery and all we know is from hearing our people talk. Father talked all time about slavery. He was a soldier. I couldn't tell you straight. I can give you some books on slavery:
Booker T. Washington's Own Story of His Life and Work, 64 page supplement, by Albon L. Holsey
Authentic Edition—in office of Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 1915, copywrighted by J.L. Nichols Co.
The Master Mind of a Child of Slavery—Booker T. Washington, by Frederick E. Drinker, Washington, D.C.
I have read them both. Yes, they are my own books.
"I farmed and cooked all my life."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Perry Madden, Thirteenth Street, south side, one block east of Boyle Park Road, Route 6, Care L.G. Cotton, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: About 79
Birth and Age
"I have been here quite a few years. This life is short. A man ought to prepare for eternity. I had an uncle who used to say that a person who went to torment stayed as long as there was a grain of sand on the sea.
"I was a little boy when slavery broke. I used to go out with my brother. He watched gaps. I did not have to do anything; I just went out with him to keep him company. I was scared of the old master. I used to call him the 'Big Bear.' He was a great big old man.
"I was about six years old when the War ended, I guess. I don't know how old I am. The insurance men put me down as seventy-three. I know I was here in slavery time, and I was just about six years old when the War ended.
"I got my first learning in Alabama. I didn't learn anything at all in slavery times. I went to school. I would go to the house in slavery tine, and there wouldn't be nobody home, and I would go to the bed and get under it because I was scared. When I would wake up it would be way in the night and dark, and I would be in bed.
"I got my schooling way after the surrender. We would make crops. The third time we moved, dad started me to school. I had colored teachers. I was in Talladega County. I made the fifth grade before I stopped. My father died and then I had to stop and take care of my mother.
An "Aunt Caroline" Story
"I know that some people can tell things that are goin' to happen. Old man Julks lived at Pumpkin Bend. He had a colt that disappeared. He went to 'Aunt Caroline'—that's Caroline Dye. She told him just where the colt was and who had it and how he had to get it back. She described the colt and told him that was what he come to find out about before he had a chance to ask her anything. She told him that white people had it and told him where they lived and told him he would have to have a white man go and git it for him. He was working for a good man and he told him about it. He advertised for the colt and the next day, the man that stole it came and told him that a colt had been found over on his place and for him to come over and arrange to git it. But he said, 'No, I've placed that matter in the hands of my boss.' He told his boss about it, but the fellow brought the horse and give it to the boss without any argument.
Family and Masters
"My old master's slaves were called free niggers. He and his wife never mistreated their slaves. When any of Madden's slaves were out and the pateroles got after them, if they could make it home, that ended it. Nobody beat Madden's niggers.
"My father's name was Allen Madden and my mother's name was Amy Madden. I knew my grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side. My grandfather and grandmother never were 'round me though that I can remember.
"When the old man died, the Negroes were divided out. This boy got so many and that one got so many. The old man, Mabe Madden, had two sons, John and Little Mabe. My mother and father went to John. They were in Talladega because John stayed there.
"My father's mother and father fell to Little Mabe Madden. They never did come to Alabama but I have heard my father talk about them so much. My father's father was named Harry. His last name must have been Madden.
"My grandfather on my mother's side was named Charlie Hall. He married into the Madden family. He belonged to the Halls before he married. Old man Charlie, his master, had a plantation that wasn't far from the Madden's plantation. In those days, if you met a girl and fell in love with her, you could git a pass and go to see her if you wanted to. You didn't have to be on the same plantation at all. And you could marry her and go to see her, and have children by her even though you belonged to different masters. The Maddens never did buy Hall. Grandma never would change her name to Hall. He stayed at my house after we married, stayed with me sometimes, and stayed with his other son sometimes.
"My mother was born a Madden. She was born right at Madden's place. When grandma married Hall, like it is now, she would have been called Hall. But she was born a Madden and stayed Madden and never did change to her husband's name. So my mother was born a Madden although her father's name was Hall.
"I don't know what sort of man Mabe was, and I only know what my parents said about John. They said he was a good man and I have to say what they said. He didn't let nobody impose on his niggers. Pateroles did git after them and bring them in with the hounds, but when they got in, that settled it. Madden never would allow white people to beat on his niggers.
"They tried to git my daddy out so that they could whip him, but they couldn't catch him. They shot him—the pateroles did—but he whipped them. My daddy was a coon. I mean he was a good man.
"My brother was big enough to mind gaps. That was in slavery times. They had good fences around the field. They didn't have gates like they do now. They had gaps. The fence would zigzag, and the rails could be lifted down at one section, and that would leave a gap. If you left a gap, the stock would go into the field. When there was a gap, my brother would stay in it and keep the stock from passing. When the folks would come to dinner, he would go in and eat dinner with them just as big as anybody. When they would leave, the gap would stay down till night. It stayed down from morning till noon and from one o'clock till the men come in at night. The gap was a place in the rails like I told you where they could take down the rails to pass. It took time to lay the rails down and more time to place then back up again. They wouldn't do it. They would leave them down till they come back during the work hours and a boy that was too small to do anything else was put to mind them. My brother used to do that and I would keep him company. When I heard old master coming there, I'd be gone, yes siree. I would see him when he left the house and when he got to the gap, I would be home or at my grandfather's.
"I have followed farming all my life. That is the sweetest life a man can lead. I have been farming all my life principally. My occupation is farming. That is it was until I lost my health. I ain't done nothin' for about four years now. I would follow public work in the fall of the year and make a crop every year. Never failed till I got disabled. I used to make all I used and all I needed to feed my stock. I even raised my own wheat before I left home in Alabama. That is a wheat country. They don't raise it out here.[HW: ?]
"I came here—lemme see, about how many years ago did I come here. I guess I have been in Arkansas about twenty-eight years since the first time I come here. I have gone in and out as I got a chance to work somewheres. I have been living in this house about three years.
"I preached for about twenty or more years. I don't know that I call myself a preacher. I am a pretty good talker sometimes. I have never pastored a church; somehow or 'nother the word come to me to go and I go and talk. I ain't no pulpit chinch. I could have taken two or three men's churches out from under them, but I didn't.
Freedom and Soldiers
"I can't remember just how my father got freed. Old folks then didn't let you stan' and listen when they talked. If you did it once, you didn't do it again. They would talk while they were together, but the children would have business outdoors. Yes siree, I never heard them say much about how they got freedom.
"I was there when the Yankees come through. That was in slave time. They marched right through old man Madden's grove. They were playing the fifes and beating the drums. And they were playing the fiddle. Yes sir, they were playing the fiddle too. It must have been a fiddle; it sounded just like one. The soldiers were all just a singin'. They didn't bother nobody at our house. If they bothered anything, nothing was told me about it. I heard my uncle say they took a horse from my old manager. I didn't see it. They took the best horse in the lot my uncle said. Pardon me, they didn't take him. A peckerwood took him and let the Yankees get him. I have heard that they bothered plenty of other places. Took the best mules, and left old broken down ones and things like that. Broke things up. I have heard that about other places, but I didn't see any of it.
Right after the War
"Right after the War, my father went to farming—renting land. I mean he sharecropped and done around. Thing is come way up from then when the Negroes first started. They didn't have no stock nor nothin' then. They made a crop just for the third of it. When they quit the third, they started givin' them two-fifths. That's more than a third, ain't it? Then they moved up from that, and give them half, and they are there yet. If you furnish, they give you two-thirds and take one-third. Or they give you so much per acre or give him produce in rent.
"I was married in 1883. My wife's name was Mary Elston. Her mother died when she was an infant. Her grandmother was an Elston at first. Then she changed her name to Cunningham. But she always went in the name of Elston, and was an Elston when she married me. My wife I mean. I married on a Thursday in the Christmas week. This December I will be married fifty-five years. This is the only wife I have ever had. We had three children and all of them are dead. All our birthed children are dead. One of them was just three months old when he died. My baby girl had three children and she lived to see all of them married.
"Our own folks is about the worst enemies we have. They will come and sweet talk you and then work against you. I had a fellow in here not long ago who came here for a dollar, and I never did hear from him again after he got it. He couldn't get another favor from me. No man can fool me more than one time. I have been beat out of lots of money and I have got hurt trying to help people.
"The young folks now is just gone astray. I tell you the truth, I wouldn't give you forty cents a dozen for these young folks. They are sassy and disrespectful. Don't respect themselves and nobody else. When they get off from home, they'll respect somebody else better 'n they will their own mothers.
"If they would do away with this stock law, they would do better everywhere. If you would say fence up your place and raise what you want, I could get along. But you have to keep somebody to watch your stock. If you don't, you'll have to pay something out. It's a bad old thing this stock law. It's detrimental to the welfare of man."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Lewis Mann 1501 Bell Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 81
"As nigh as I can come at it, I was bout five or six time of the war. I remember when the war ceasted. I was a good-sized chap.
"Durin' the war my mother's master sent us to Texas; western Texas is whar they stopped me. We stayed there two years and then they brought us back after surrender.
"I remember when the war ceasted and remember the soldiers refugeein' through the country. I'm somewhar round eighty-one. I'm tellin' you the truf. I ain't just now come here.
"I was born right here in Arkansas. My mother's master was old B.D. Williams of Tennessee and we worked for his son Mac H. Williams here in Arkansas. They was good to my mother. Always had nurses for the colored childrun while the old folks was in the field.
"After the war I used to work in the house for my white folks—for Dr. Bob Williams way up there in the country on the river. I stayed with his brother Mac Williams might near twenty-five or thirty years. Worked around the house servin' and doin' arrands different places.
"I went to school a little bit a good piece after the war and learned to read and write.
"I've heard too much of the Ku Klux. I remember when they was Ku Kluxin' all round through here.
"Lord! I don't know how many times I ever voted. I used to vote every time they had an election. I voted before I could read. The white man showed me how to vote and asked me who I wanted to vote for. Oh Lord, I was might near grown when I learned to read.
"I been married just one time in my life and my wife's been dead thirteen years.
"I tell you, Miss, I don't know hardly what to think of things now. Everything so changeable I can't bring nothin' to remembrance to hold it.
"I didn't do nothin' when I was young but just knock around with the white folks. Oh Lord, when I was young I delighted in parties. Don't nothin' like that worry me now. Don't go to no parades or nothin'. Don't have that on my brain like I did when I was young. I goes to church all the place I does go.
"I ain't never had no accident. Don't get in the way to have no accident cause I know the age I is if I injure these bones there ain't anything more to me.
"My mother had eight childrun and just my sister and me left. I can't do a whole day's work to save my life. I own this place and my sister-in-law gives me a little somethin' to eat. I used to be on the bureau but they took me off that."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Angeline Martin, Kansas City, Missouri Visiting at 1105 Louisiana St., Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age 80
"Well, I was livin' then. I was born in Georgia. Honey, I don't know what year. I was born before the war. I was about ten when freedom come. I don't remember when it started but I remember when it ended. I think I'm in the 80's—that's the way I count it.
"My master was dead and my mistress was a widow—Miss Sarah Childs. She had a guardeen.
"When the war come, old mistress and her daughter refugeed to Mississippi. The guardeen wouldn't let me go, said I was too young.
"My parents stayed on the plantation. My white folks' house was vacant and the Yankees come and used it for headquarters. They never had put shoes on me and when the Yankees shot the chickens I'd run and get em. They didn't burn up nothin', just kill the hogs and chickens and give us plenty.
"I didn't know what the war was about. You know chillun in them days didn't have as much sense as they got now.
"After freedom, my folks stayed on the place and worked on the shares. I want to school right after the war. I went every year till we left there. We come to this country in seventy something. We come here and stopped at the Cummins place. I worked in the field till I come to town bout fifty years ago. Since then I cooked some and done laundry work.
"I married when I was seventeen. Had six children. I been livin' in Kansas City twenty-three years. Followed my boy up there. I like it up there a lot better than I do here. Oh lord, yes, there are a lot of colored people in Kansas City."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Josie Martin R.F.D., Madison, Arkansas Age: 86
"I was born up near Cotton Plant but took down near Helena to live. My parents named Sallie and Bob Martin. They had seven children. I heard mother say she was sold on a block in Mississippi when she was twelve years old. My father was a Creek Indian; he was dark. Mother was a Choctaw Indian; she was bright. Mother died when I was but a girl and left a family on my hands. I sent my baby brother and sister to school and I cooked on a boarding train. The railroad hands working on the tracks roomed and et on the train. They are all dead now and I'm 'lone in the world.
"My greatest pleasure was independence—make my money, go and spend it as I see fit. I wasn't popular with men. I never danced. I did sell herbs for diarrhea and piles and 'what ails you.' I don't sell no more. Folks too close to drug stores now. I had long straight hair nearly to my knees. It come out after a spell of typhoid fever. It never come in to do no good." (Baldheaded like a man and she shaves. She is a hermaphrodite, reason for never marrying.) "I made and saved up at one time twenty-three thousand dollars cooking and field work. I let it slip out from me in dribs.
"I used to run from the Yankees. I've seen them go in droves along the road. They found old colored couple, went out, took their hog and made them barbecue it. They drove up a stob, nailed a piece to a tree stacked their guns. They rested around till everything was ready. They et at one o'clock at night and after the feast drove on. They wasn't so good to Negroes. They was good to their own feelings. They et up all that old couple had to eat in their house and the pig they raised. I reckon their owners give them more to eat. They lived off alone and the soldiers stopped there and worked the old man and woman nearly to death.
"Our master told us about freedom. His name was Master Martin. He come here from Mississippi. I don't recollect his family.
"I get help from the Welfare. I had paralysis. I never got over my stroke. I ain't no 'count to work."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Bess Mathis, Hazen, Arkansas Age: 82
"I was born in De Sota County, Mississippi. My parents' owners was Mars Hancock. Mama was a cook and field hand. Papa milked and worked in the field. Mama had jes' one child, that me. I had six childern. I got five livin'. They knowed they free. It went round from mouth to mouth. Mama said Mars Hancock was good er slave holder as ever lived she recken. I heard her come over that er good many times. But they wanted to be free. I jes' heard em talk bout the Ku Klux. They said the Ku Klux made lot of em roamin' round go get a place to live and start workin'. They tell how they would ride at night and how scarry lookin' they was. I heard em say if Mars Hancock didn't want to give em meat they got tree a coon or possum. Cut the tree down or climb it and then come home and cook it. They had no guns. They had dogs or could get one. Game helps out lots.
"The women chewed for their children after they weaned em. They don't none of em do that way now. Women wouldn't cut the baby's finger nails. They bite em off. They said if you cut its nails off he would steal. They bite its toe nails off, too. And if they wanted the children to have long pretty hair, they would trim the ends off on the new of the moon. That would cause the hair to grow long. White folks and darkies both done them things.
"I been doin' whatever come to hand—farmin', cookin', washin', ironin'.
"I never expects to vote neither. I sure ain't voted.
"Conditions pretty bad sometimes. I don't know what cause it. You got beyond me now. I don't know what going become of the young folks, and they ain't studyin' it. They ain't kind. Got no raisin' I call it. I tried to raise em to work and behave. They work some. My son is takin' care of me now."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Caroline Matthews 812 Spruce Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 79
"Yes'm, I was born in slavery times in Mississippi. Now, the only thing I remember was some soldiers come along on some mules. I remember my mother and father was sittin' on the gallery and they say, 'Look a there, them's soldiers.'
"And I remember when my parents run off. I was with 'em and I cried for 'em to tote me.
"My mother's first owner was named Armstrong. She said she was about eleven years old when he bought her. I heard her say they just changed around a lot.
"Freedom was comin' and her last owners had carried her to a state where it hadn't come yet. That's right—it was Texas.
"Her first owners was good. She said they wouldn't 'low the overseer to 'buke the women at all.
"But her last owners was cruel. She said one day old missis was out in the yard and backed up and fell into a pan of hot water and when her husband come she told him and he tried to 'buke my mother. You know if somebody tryin' to get the best of you and you can help yourself, you gwine do it. So mama throwed up her arm and old master hit it with a stick and cut it bad. So my parents run off. That was in Texas.
"She said we was a year comin' back and I know they stopped at the Dillard place and made a crop. And they lost one child on the way—that was Kittie.
"I heard mama say they got back here to Arkansas and got to the bureau and they freed 'em. I know the War wasn't over yet 'cause I know I heard mama say, 'Just listen to them guns at Vicksburg.'
"When I was little, I was so sickly. I took down with the whoopin' cough and I was sick so long. But mama say to the old woman what stayed with me, 'This gal gwine be here to see many a winter 'cause she so stout in the jaws I can't give her no medicine.'
"When I commenced to remember anything, I heered 'em talkin' 'bout Grant and Colfax. Used to wear buttons with Grant and Colfax.
"But I was livin' in Abraham Lincoln's time. Chillun them days didn't know nothin'. Why, woman, I was twelve years old 'fore I knowed babies didn't come out a holler log. I used to go 'round lookin' in logs for a baby.
"I had seven sisters and three brothers and they all dead but me. Had three younger than me. They was what they called freeborn chillun.
"After freedom my parents worked for Major Ross. I know when mama fixed us up to go to Sunday-school we'd go by Major Ross for him to see us. I know we'd go so early, sometimes he'd still be in his drawers.
"I know one thing—when I was about sixteen years old things was good here. Ever'body had a good living."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Malindy Maxwell, Madison, Arkansas Age: Up in 80's
"I was born close to Como and Sardis, Mississippi. My master and mistress was Sam Shans and Miss Cornelia Shans. I was born a slave. They owned mama and Master Rube Sanders owned pa. Neither owner wouldn't sell but they agreed to let ma and pa marry. They had a white preacher and they married out in the yard and had a big table full of weddin' supper, and the white folks et in the house. They had a big supper too. Ma said they had a big crowd. The preacher read the ceremony. Miss Cornelia give her a white dress and white shoes and Miss Cloe Wilburn give her a veil. Miss Cloe was some connection of Rube Sanders.
"They had seven children. I'm the oldest—three of us living.
"After 'mancipation pa went to see about marrying ma over agen and they told him that marriage would stand long as ever he lived.
"Mama was sold at twelve years old in Atlanta, Georgia. Ma and pa was always field hands. Grandma got to be one of John Sanders' leading hands to work mong the women folks. They said John Sanders was meanest man ever lived or died. According to pa's saying, Mars Ruben was a good sorter man. Pa said John Sanders was too mean a man to have a wife. He was mean to Miss Sarah. They said he beat her, his wife, like he beat a nigger woman.
"Miss Sarah say, 'Come get your rations early Saturday morning, clean up your house, wash and iron, and we'll go to preaching tomorrow—Sunday. I want you to all come out clean Monday morning.' They go ask Mars John Sanders if they could go to preaching. I recken from what they said they walked. Mars John, when they git their best clothes on, make them turn round and go to the field and work all day long. He was just that mean. Work all day long Sunday.
"Miss Sarah was a Primitive Baptist and that is what I am till this day. Some folks call us Hardshell Baptist. The colored folks set in the back of the church. The women all set on one side and the men on the other. If they had a middle row, there was a railing dividing mens' seats from the womens' seats on the very same benches.
"Miss Cloe, Miss Cornelia, and Miss Sarah cook up a whole lot of good things to eat and go to camp meeting. Sometimes they would stay a week and longer. They would take time bout letting the colored folks go long. We had big times. My grandpa took a gingercake cutter with him and sold gingercakes when they come out of the church. He could keep that money his own. I don't know how he sold them. My sister has the cutter now I expect. My girl has seen it. It was a foot long, this wide (5 inches), and fluted all around the edges, and had a handle like a biscuit cutter. They was about an inch thick. He made good ones and he sold all he could ever make. Grandpa took carpet sacks to carry his gingercakes in to sell them. I remember that mighty well. (The shape of the cutter was like this: .) He purt nigh always got to go to all the camp meetings. Folks got happy and shouted in them days. It would be when somebody got religion. At some big meetings they didn't shout.
"When I was born they had a white mid-wife, Miss Martin. My mistress was in the cabin when I was born. I was born foot foremost and had a veil on my face and down on my body a piece. They call it a 'caul.' Sometimes I see forms and they vanish. I can see some out of one eye now. But I've always seen things when my sight was good. It is like when you are dreaming at night but I see them at times that plain in day.
"I don't know how old I am but I was a good size girl when 'mancipation come on. Miss Cornelia had my age in her Bible. They done took me from the cabin and I was staying at the house. I slept on a trundle bed under Miss Cornelia's bed. Her bed was a teaster—way high up, had a big stool to step on to go up in there and she had it curtained off. I had a good cotton bed and I slept good up under there. Her bed was corded with sea grass rope. It didn't have no slats like beds do now.
"Colored folks slept on cotton beds and white folks—some of em at least—picked geese and made feather beds and down pillows. They carded and washed sheep's wool and put in their quilts. Some of them, they'd be light and warm. Colored folks' bed had one leg. Then it was holes hewed in the wall on the other three sides and wooden slats across it. Now that wasn't no bad bed. Some of them was big enough for three to sleep on good. When the children was small four could sleep easy cross ways, and they slept that way.
"They had shelves and tables and chairs. They made chests and put things in there and set on top of it too. White folks had fine chests to keep their bed clothes in. Some of them was made of oak, and pine, and cypress. They would cook walnut hulls and bark and paint them dark with the tea.
"I recollect a right smart of the Civil War. We was close nough to hear the roar and ramble and the big cannons shake the things in the house. I don't know where they was fighting—a long ways off I guess.
"I saw the soldiers scouting. They come most any time. They go in and take every drop of milk out of the churn. They took anything they could find and went away with it. I seen the cavalry come through. I thought they looked so pretty. Their canteens was shining in the sun. Miss Cornelia told me to hide, the soldiers might take me on with them. I didn't want to go. I was very well pleased there at Miss Cornelia's.
"I seen the cavalry come through that raised the 'white sheet.' I know now it must have been a white flag but they called it a white sheet to quit fighting. It was raised a short time after they passed and they said they was the ones raised it. I don't know where it was. I reckon it was a big white flag they rared up. It was so they would stop fighting.
"Mars Sam Shan didn't go to no war; he hid out. He said it was a useless war, he wasn't going to get shot up for no use a tall, and he never went a step. He hid out. I don't know where. I know Charles would take the baskets off. Charles tended to the stock and the carriage. He drove the wagon and carriage. He fetched water and wood. He was a black boy. Mars Sam Shan said he wasn't goiner loose his life for nothing.
"Miss Cornelia would cook corn light bread and muffins and anything else they had to cook. Rations got down mighty scarce before it was done wid. They put the big round basket nearly big as a split cotton basket out on the back portico. Charles come and disappear with it.
"Chess and Charles was colored overseers. He didn't have white overseers. Miss Cornelia and Miss Cloe would walk the floor and cry and I would walk between. I would cry feeling sorry for them, but I didn't know why they cried so much. I know now it was squally times. War is horrible.
"Mars Sam Shan come home, went down to the cabins—they was scattered over the fields—and told them the War was over, they was free but that they could stay. Then come some runners, white men. They was Yankee men. I know that now. They say you must get pay or go off. We stayed that year. Another man went to pa and said he would give him half of what he made. He got us all up and we went to Pleasant Hill. We done tolerable well.
"Then he tried to buy a house and five acres and got beat out of it. The minor heirs come and took it. I never learnt in books till I went to school. Seem like things was in a confusion after I got big nough for that. I'd sweep and rake and cook and wash the dishes, card, spin, hoe, scour the floors and tables. I would knit at night heap of times. We'd sing some at night.
"Colored folks couldn't read so they couldn't sing at church lessen they learnt the songs by hearing them at home. Colored folks would meet and sing and pray and preach at the cabins.
"My first teacher was a white man, Mr. Babe Willroy. I went to him several short sessions and on rainy days and cold days I couldn't work in the field. I worked in the field all my life. Cook out in the winter, back to the field in the spring till fall again.
"Well, I jes' had this one girl. I carried her along with me. She would play round and then she was a heap of help. She is mighty good to me now.
"I never seen a Ku Klux in my life. Now, I couldn't tell you about them.
"My parents' names was Lou Sanders and Anthony Sanders. Ma's mother was a Rockmore and her husband was a Cherokee Indian. I recollect them well. He was a free man and was fixing to buy her freedom. Her young mistress married Mr. Joe Bues and she heired her. Mr. Joe Bues drunk her up and they come and got her and took her off. They run her to Memphis before his wife could write to her pa. He was Mars Rockmore.
"Grandma was put on a block and sold fore grandpa could cumerlate nough cash to buy her for his wife. Grandma never seen her ma no more. Grandpa followed her and Mr. Sam Shans bought her and took her to Mississippi with a lot more he bought.
"My pa's ma b'long to John Sanders and grandpa b'long to Rube Sanders. They was brothers. Rube Sanders bought grandpa from Enoch Bobo down in Mississippi. The Bobo's had a heap of slaves and land. Now, he was the one that sold gingercakes. He was a blacksmith too. Both my grandpas was blacksmiths but my Indian grandpa could make wagons, trays, bowls, shoes, and things out of wood too. Him being a free man made his living that way. But he never could cumolate enough to buy grandma.
"My other grandma was blacker than I am and grandpa too. When grandpa died he was carried back to the Bobo graveyard and buried on Enoch Bobo's place. It was his request all his slaves be brought back and buried on his land. I went to the burying. I recollect that but ma and pa had to ask could we go. We all got to go—all who wanted to go. It was a big crowd. It was John Sanders let us go mean as he was.
"Miss Cornelia had the cistern cleaned out and they packed up their pretty china dishes and silver in a big flat sorter box. Charles took them down a ladder to the bottom of the dark cistern and put dirt over it all and then scattered some old rubbish round, took the ladder out. The Yankees never much as peared to see that old open cistern. I don't know if they buried money or not. They packed up a lot of nice things. It wasn't touched till after the War was over.
"I been farming and cooking all my life. I worked for Major Black, Mr. Ben Tolbert, Mr. Williams at Pleasant Hill, Mississippi. I married and long time after come to Arkansas. They said you could raise stock here—no fence law.
"I get $8 and commodities because I am blind. I live with my daughter here."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Nellie Maxwell, Biscoe, Arkansas Age: 63
"Mama was Harriett Baldwin. She was born in Virginia. Her owners was Mistress Mollie Fisher and Master Coon Fisher. It was so cold one winter that they burned up their furniture keeping a fire. Said seemed like they would freeze in spite of what all they could do.
"Grandpa was sold away from grandma and three children. He didn't want to be sold nary bit. When they would be talking about selling him he go hide under the house. They go on off. He'd come out. When he was sold he went under there. He come out and went on off when they found him and told him he was sold to this man. Grandma said he was obedient. They never hit him. He was her best husband. They never sold grandma and she couldn't 'count for him being let go. Grandma had another husband after freedom and two more children. They left there in a crowd and all come to Arkansas. Grandma was a cook for the field hands. She had charge of ringing a big dinner-bell hung up in a tree. She was black as charcoal. Mama and grandma said Master Coon and old Mistress Mollie was good to them. That the reason grandpa would go under the house. He didn't want to be sold. He never was seen no more by them.
"Grandma said sometimes the meals was carried to the fields and they fed the children out of troughs. They took all the children to the spring set them in a row. They had a tubful of water and they washed them dried them and put on their clean clothes. They used homemade lye soap and greased them with tallow and mutton suet. That made them shine. They kept them greased so their knees and knuckles would ruff up and bleed.
"Grandma and mama stopped at Fourche Dam. They was so glad to be free and go about. Then it scared them to hear talk of being sold. It divided them and some owners was mean.
"In my time if I done wrong most any grown person whoop me. Then mama find it out, she give me another one. I got a double whooping.
"Times is powerful bad to raise up a family. Drinking and gambling, and it takes too much to feed a family now. Times is so much harder that way then when I was growing."
Interviewer: Miss Sallie C. Miller Person interviewed: Ann May, Clarksville, Arkansas Age: 82
"I was born at Cabin Creek (Lamar now, but I still call it Cabin Creek. I can't call it anything else). I was sold with my mother when I was a little girl and lived with our white folks until after the war and was freed. We lived on a farm. My father belong to another family, a neighbor of ours. We all lived with the white folks. My mother took care of all of them. They was always as good as they could be to us and after the war we stayed on with the white folks who owned my father and worked on the farm for him. His master gave us half of everything we made until we could get started our selves, then our white folks told my father to homestead a place near him, and he did. We lived there until after father died. We paid taxes and lived just like the white folks. We did what the white folks told us to do and never lost a thing by doing it. After I married my husband worked at the mill for your father and made a living for me and I worked for the white folks. Now I am too old to cook but I have a few washin's for the white folks and am getting my old age pension that helps me a lot.
"I don't know what I think about the young generation. I aim at my stopping place.
"The songs we sang were
'Come ye that love the Lord and let your Joys be known' 'When You and I Were Young, Maggie' 'Juanita' 'Just Before the Battle, Mother' 'Darling Nellie Gray' 'Carry Me Back to Old Virginia' 'Old Black Joe'
Of course we sang 'Dixie.' We had to sing that, it was the leading song."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Joe Mayes, Madison, Arkansas Age: ?
"I was born a slave two years. I never will forget man come and told mother she was free. She cooked. She never worked in the field till after freedom. In a few days another man come and made them leave. They couldn't hold them in Kentucky. The owners give her provisions, meat, lasses, etc. They give her her clothes. She had four children and I was her youngest. The two oldest was girls. Father was dead. I don't remember him. Mother finally made arrangements to go to Will Bennett's place.
"Another thing I remember: Frank Hayes sold mother to Isaac Tremble after she was free. She didn't know she was free. Neither did Isaac Tremble. I don't know whether Frank Mayes was honest or not. The part I remember was that us boys stood on the block and never was parted from her. We had to leave our sisters. One was sold to Miss Margaret Moxley, the other to Miss Almyra Winder. (He said "Miss" but they may have been widows. He didn't seem to know—ed.) Father belong to a Master Mills. All our family got together after we found out we had been freed.
"The Ku Klux: I went to the well little after dark. It was a good piece from our house. I looked up and saw a man with a robe and cap on. It scared me nearly to death. I nearly fell out. I had heard about the 'booger man' and learned better then. But there he was. I had heard a lot about Ku Klux.
"There was a big gourd hanging up by the well. We kept it there. There was a bucket full up. He said, 'Give me water.' I handed over the gourd full. He done something with it. He kept me handing him water. He said, 'Hold my crown and draw me up another bucket full.' I was so scared I lit out hard as I could run. It was dark enough to hide me when I got a piece out of his way.
"The owners was pretty good to mother to be slavery. She had clothes and enough to eat all the time. I used to go back to see all our white folks in Kentucky. They are about all dead now I expect. Mother was glad to be free but for a long time her life was harder.
"After we got up larger she got along better. I worked on a steamboat twelve or thirteen years. I was a roustabout and freight picker. I was on passenger boats mostly but they carried freight. I went to school some. I always had colored teachers. I farmed at Hughes and Madison ever since excepting one year in Mississippi.
"I live alone. I get $8 and commodities from the Sociable Welfare.
"The young folks would do better, work better, if they could get work all time. It is hard at times to get work right now. The times is all right. Better everything but work. I know colored folks is bad managers. That has been bad on us always.
"I worked on boats from Evansville, St. Louis, Memphis to New Orleans mostly. It was hard work but a fine living. I was stout then."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Jesse Meeks 707 Elm Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 76 Occupation: Minister
"I am seventy-six. 'Course I was young in slavery times, but I can remember some things. I remember how they used to feed us. Put milk and bread or poke salad and corn-meal dumplin's in a trough and give you a wooden spoon and all the children eat together.
"We stayed with our old master fourteen years. They were good folks and treated us right. My old master's name was Sam Meeks—in Longview, Drew County, Arkansas, down here below Monticello.
"I got a letter here about a month ago from the daughter of my young mistress. I wrote to my young mistress and she was dead, so her daughter got the letter. She answered it and sent me a dollar and asked me was I on the Old Age Pension list.