TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE Text marked with underscores was underlined in the original, except on the title page, where it was italicised. Text marked [HW: like this] was handwritten. The date marked at the beginning of some of the accounts was a stamp mark. Where this was partially missing or illegible, the omissions are marked as " ". Page numbers in body text refer to the page of the current interview, unlike those in the table of contents which refer to the numbering of the whole document. (Page boundaries are preserved in the HTML version of this eBook.) Some typographical errors have been corrected; they are marked in the HTML version of this eBook. In addition, punctuation and formatting have been made consistent, particularly the use of quotation marks.
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
Illustrated with Photographs
Prepared by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Arkansas
Gadson, Charlie 1 Gaines, Dr. D. B. 2 Gaines, Mary 7 Gant, William 11 Genes, Mike 15 Gibson, Jennie Wormly 17 Gill, James 19 Gillam, Cora 27 Gillespie, J. N. 34 Glass, Will 38 Glenn, Frank William 42 Glespie, Ella 44 Golden, Joe 47 Goodridge, Jake 53 Goodson (Goodrum), John 56 Govan, George 63 Grace, Julia 65 Graham, Charles 67 Graham, James 70 Grant, Marthala 71 Graves, Wesley 73 Gray, Ambus 77 Gray, Green 80 Gray, Neely (Nely) 82, 84 Green, Henry (Happy Day) 87, 90 Greene, Frank 102 Greene, George 104 Gregory, Andrew 112 Griegg, Annie 113 Guess, William and Charlotte 117 Guidon, Lee 119
Hadley, Linley 127 Hall, Anna 129 Hamilton, Ellie 131 Hamilton, Josephine 133, 136 Hamilton, Peter 137 Hampton, Lawrence 139 Hancock, Hannah 142, 147 Haney, Julia E. 149 Hankins, Rachel 154 Hardridge, Mary Jane 157, 160 Hardy, O. C. 161 Hardy, Rosa 163 Harper, Eda 164, 166, 167 Harris, Abram 168 Harris, Betty 176 Harris, Mary 177 Harris, Rachel 179, 181 Harris, William 183 Harrison, William 185 Hart, Laura 190 Haskell, Hetty 193 Hatchett, Matilda 195 Hawkens, John G. 202 Hawkens, Lizzie 205 Hawkins, Becky 209 Hawkins, G. W. 212 Hays, Eliza 221 Haynes, Tom 227 Haywood, Joe 229 Hervey, Marie E. 231 Hicks, Phillis 235 Hicks, Will 237 Higgins, Bert 238 Hill, Annie 241 Hill, Clark 247, 249, 250, 251 Hill, Elmira 252 Hill, Gillie 256 Hill, Harriett 258 Hill, Hattie 262 Hill, Oliver 264 Hill, Rebecca Brown 267 Hill, Tanny 272 Hines, Elizabeth 273 Hinton, Charles 276, 279 Hite, Ben 281 Hodge, Betty 282 Hollomon, Minnie 285 Holloway, H. B. (Dad or Pappy) 287 Holly, Pink 306 Holmes, Dora 307 Hopkins, Elijah Henry 308 Hopson, Nettie 317 Horn, Molly 318 Horton, Cora L. 321 House, Laura 325 Howard, Pinkey (Pinkie) 326, 337 Howell, Josephine 339 Howell, Pauline (Pearl) 341 Hudgens, Molly 345 Huff, Charlie 347 Huff, Louvenia 349 Huggins, Anne 351 Hulm, Margret 357 Hunter, John 359 Hunter, William 367 Hutchinson, Ida Blackshear 369
Ishmon, Cornelia 379 Island, Jack and Talitha 380, 382 Island, Mary 389 Isom, Henrietta 391
The Old South Frontispiece
—- — 1937 Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Charlie Gadson Brinkley, Arkansas Age: 67
"I was born in Barnwell County, South Carolina. My parents' name was Jane Gadson, Aaron Gadson. My mother master was Mr. Owens. That is all I ever knowed bout him. My father's master was Rivers and Harley Gadson.
"They said they was to get something but they moved on. At the ending of that war the President of the United States got killed. They wouldn't knowed they was free if they hadn't made some change. I don't know what made them think they would get something at freedom less somebody told them they would.
"I work at the oil mill and at sawmilling. I been farmin' mostly since I been here. I got kidney trouble and rheumatism till I ain't no count. I own a house and lot in Brinkley."
#771 Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Dr. D. B. Gaines 1720 Izard Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 75
"I was born in 1863 and am now seventy-five years old. You see, therefore, that I know nothing experimentally and practically about slavery.
"I was born in South Carolina in Lawrence County, and my father moved away from the old place before I had any recollection. I remember nothing about it. My father said his master's name was Matthew Hunter.
"I was named for my father's master's brother, Dr. Bluford Gaines. My name is Doctor Bluford Gaines. Of course, I am a doctor but my name is Doctor.
"My father's family moved to Arkansas, in 1882. Settled near Morrilton, Arkansas. I myself come to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1885, October eighth. Worked in the homes of white families for my board and entered Philander Smith College October 8, 1885. Continued to work with Judge Smith of the Arkansas Supreme Court until I graduated from Philander Smith College. After graduating I taught school and was elected Assistant Principal of the Little Rock Negro High School in 1891. Served three years. Accumulated sufficient money and went to Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee. Graduated there in 1896. Practiced for five years in the city of Little Rock. Entered permanently upon the ministry in 1900. Was called to the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church where I have been pastoring for thirty-nine years the first Sunday in next May.
"The first real thing that made me switch from the medicine to the ministry was the deep call of the ministry gave me more interest in the Gospel than the profession of medicine furnished to me. In other words, I discovered that I was a real preacher and not a real doctor.
"Touching slavery, the white people to whom my parents belonged were tolerant and did not allow their slaves to be abused by patrollers and outsiders.
"My mother's people, however, were sold from her in very early life and sent to Alabama. My mother's maiden name was Harriet Smith. She came from South Carolina too. Her old master was a Smith. My mother and father lived on adjoining plantations and by permission of both overseers, my father was permitted to visit her and to marry her even before freedom. Out of regard for my father, his master bought my mother from her master. I think my father told me that the old master called them all together and announced that they were free at the close of the War. Right after freedom, the first year, he remained on the farm with the old master. After that he moved away to Greenville County, South Carolina, and settled on a farm, with the brother-in-law of his old master, a man named Squire Bennett. He didn't go to war.
"There was an exodus of colored people from South Carolina beginning about 1880, largely due to the Ku Klux or Red Shirts. They created a reign of terror for colored people in that state. He joined the exodus in 1882 and came to Arkansas where from reports, the outlook seemed better for him and his family. He had no trouble with the Ku Klux in Arkansas. He maintained himself here by farming."
"It is my opinion that from a racial standpoint, the lines are being drawn tighter due to the advancement of the Negro people and to the increased prejudice of the dominant race. These lines will continue to tighten until they somehow under God are broken. We believe that the Christian church is slowly but surely creating a helpful sentiment that will in time prevail among all men.
"It appears from a governmental standpoint that the nation is doomed sooner or later to crash. Possibly a changed form of government is not far ahead. This is due to two reasons: (1) greed, avarice, and dishonesty on the part of public people; (2) race prejudice. We believe that the heads of the national government have a far vision. The policies had they been carried out in keeping with the mind of the President, would have worked wonders in behalf of humanity generally. But dishonesty and greed of those who had the carrying out of these policies has destroyed their good effect and the fine intentions of the President who created them. It looks clear that neither the Democratic nor the Republican party will ever become sufficiently morally righteous to establish and maintain a first-class humanitarian and unselfish government.
"It is my opinion that the younger generation is headed in the wrong direction both morally and spiritually. This applies to all races. And this fact must work to the undoing of the government that must soon fall into their hands, for no government can well exist founded upon graft, greed, and dishonesty. It seems that the younger group are more demoralized than the younger group were two generations ago. Thus the danger both to church and state. Unless the church can catch a firmer grip upon the younger group than it has, the outlook is indeed gloomy.
"We are so far away from the situation of trouble in Germany, that it is difficult to know what it is or should be. But one thing must be observed—that any wholesale persecution of a whole group of people must react upon the persecutors. There could no cause arise which would justify a governmental power to make a wholesale sweep of any great group of people that were weak and had no alternative. That government which settles its affairs by force and abuse shows more weakness than the weak people which it abuses.
"We need not think that we are through with the job when we kill the weaker man. No cause is sufficient for the destruction of seven hundred thousand people, and no persecutor is safe from the effects of his own persecution."
The house at 1720 Izard is the last house in what would otherwise be termed a "white" block. There appears to be no friction over the matter.
Note that if you were calling Dr. Gaines by his professional title and his first name at the same time, you would say Dr. Doctor Bluford Gaines. He has attained proficiency in three professions—teaching, medicine, and the ministry.
Dr. Gaines is poised in his bearing and has cultured tastes and surroundings—neat cottage, and simple but attractive furnishings.
He selects his ideas and words carefully, but dictates fluently. He knows what he wants to say, and what he omits is as significant as what he states.
He is the leader type—big of body, alert of mind, and dominant. It is said that he with two other men dominated Negro affairs in Arkansas for a considerable period of time in the past. He does not give the impression of weakness now.
Despite his education, contacts, and comparative affluence, however, his interview resembles the type in a number of respects—the type as I have found it.
#648 Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Mary Gaines Brinkley, Arkansas Age: Born 1872
"I was born in Courtland, Alabama. Mother was twelve years old at the first of the surrender.
"Grandfather was a South Carolinian. Master Harris bought him, two more, his brothers and two sisters and his mother at one time. He was real African. Grandma on mother's side was dark Indian. She had white hair nearly straight. I have some of it now. Mother was lighter. That is where I gets my light color.
"Master Harris sold mother and grandma. Mother said she was fat, tall strong looking girl. Master Harris let a Negro trader have grandma, mother and her three brothers. They left grandpa. Master Harris told the nigger traders not divide grandma from her children. He didn't believe in that. He was letting them go from their father. That was enough sorrow for them to bear. That was in Alabama they was auctioned off. Master Harris lived in Georgia. The auctioneerer held mother's arms up, turned her all around, made her kick, run, jump about to see how nimble and quick she was. He said this old woman can cook. She has been a good worker in the field. She's a good cook. They sold her off cheap. Mother brought a big price. They caught on to that. The man nor woman wasn't good to them. I forgot their names what bought them. The nigger traders run her three brothers on to Mississippi. The youngest one died in Mississippi. They never seen the other two or heard of them till after freedom. They went back to Georgia. All of them went back to their old home place.
"In Alabama at this new master's home mother was nursing. Grandma and another old woman was the cooks. Mother went to their little house and told them real low she had the baby and a strange man in the house said, 'Is that the one you goiner let me have?' The man said, 'Yes, he's goiner leave in the morning b'fore times.'
"The new master come stand around to see when they went to sleep. That night he stood in the chimney corner. There was a little window; the moon throwed his shadow in the room. They said, 'I sure do like my new master.' Another said, 'I sure do.' The other one said, 'This is the best place I ever been they so good to us.' Then they sung a verse and prayed and got quiet. They heard him leave, seen his shadow go way. Heard his house door squeak when he shut his door. Then they got up easy and dressed, took all the clothes they had and slipped out. They walked nearly in a run all night and two more days. They couldn't carry much but they had some meat and meal they took along. Their grub nearly give out when they come to some camps. Somebody told them, 'This is Yankee camps.' They give them something to eat. They worked there a while. One day they took a notion to look about and they hadn't gone far 'fore Grandpa Harris grabbed grandma, then mama. They got to stay a while but the Yankees took them to town and Master Harris come got them and took them back. Their new master come too but he said his wife said bring the girl back but let that old woman go. Master Harris took them both back till freedom.
"When freedom come folks shout and knock down things so glad they was free. Grandpa come back. Master Harris said, 'You can have land if you can get anything to work.' Grandpa took his bounty he got when he left the army and bought a pair of mules. He had to pay rent the third year but till then he got what they called giving all that stayed a start.
"Grandma was Mariah and grandpa was Ned Harris. The two boys come back said the baby boy died at Selma, Alabama.
"Grandpa talked about the War when I was a child. He said he was in the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi. He said blood run shoe mouth deep in places. He didn't see how he ever got out alive. Grandma and mama said they was glad to get away from the camps. They looked to be shot several times. Colored folks is peace loving by nature. They don't love war. Grandpa said war was awful. My mother was named Lottie.
"One reason mother said she wanted to get away from their new master, he have a hole dug out with a hoe and put pregnant women on their stomach. The overseers beat their back with cowhide and them strapped down. She said 'cause they didn't keep up work in the field or they didn't want to work. She didn't know why. They didn't stay there very long. She didn't want to go back there.
"My life has never been a hard one. I have always worked. Me and my husband run a cafe till he got drowned. Since then I have to work harder. I wash and iron, cook wherever some one comes for me. When I was a girl I was so much like mother—a fast, strong hand in the field, I always had work.
"Mother said, 'Eat the beans and greens, pot-liquor and sweet milk, make you fat and lazy.' That was what they put in the children's wooden trays in slavery. They give the men and women meat and the children the broth and dumplings, plenty molasses. Sunday mother could cook at home in slavery if she'd 'tend to the baby too. All the hands on Harrises place et dinner with their family on Sunday. He was fair with his slaves.
"For the life of me I can't see nothing wrong with the times. Only thing I see, you can't get credit to run crops and folks all trying to shun farming. When I was on a farm I dearly loved it. It the place to raise young black and white both. Town and cars ruined the country."
Owns two houses in among white people.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: William Gant Forrest City, Arkansas Age: 101
"I was one hundred and one years old last Saturday (1938). I was born in Bedford County, middle Tennessee. My parents' names was Judy and Abraham Gant. They had the same master. They had three boys and two girls. Our owners was Jim Gant and Elizabeth Gant. Ma had seven children, four gals and three boys. We called her Miss Betsy. Jim Gant owned seven hundred acres of good land in one body and some more land summers else. My young masters and mistresses was: Malindy, Jennie, Betsy, Mary, Jim, John, Andy. They had twenty-five or thirty slaves I knowed. He was pretty good to his slaves. He didn't whoop much. Give 'em three or four licks. He fed 'em all well. We had warm clothes in winter.
"I never seen nobody sold. My brothers and sisters was divided out. Miss Betsy was my young mistress. I could go to see all my folks. I never seen no hard times in my life. I had to work or be called lazy. I loved to work. I been in the field when the sun come up and got part my ploughing done. Go back to the house and eat and feed my mule, rest around in the shade. Folks didn't used to dread work so bad like they do now. I lay down and rest in the heat of the day. They had big shade trees for us niggers to rest under, eat under, spring water to drink. I'd plough till smack dark I couldn't see to get to the barn. We had lighted knots to feed by. The feed be in the troughs and water in the big trough in the lot ready. My supper would be hot too. It would be all I could eat too. Yes, I'd be tired but I could sleep till next morning.
"We had big todoos along over the country. White and black could go sometimes. Picnics and preachings mostly what I went to. Sometimes it was to a house covering, a corn shucking, a corn shelling, or log rolling. We went on hunts at night some.
"Sassy (saucy) Negroes got the most licks. I never was sassy. I never got but a mighty few licks from nobody. We was slaves and that is about all to say.
"I learned to fiddle after the fiddler on the place. Uncle Jim was the fiddler. Andy Jackson, a white boy, raised him. He learned him to read and write in slavery. After slavery I went to learn from a Negro man at night. I learned a little bit. My master wouldn't cared if we had learned to read and write but the white folks had tuition school. Some had a teacher hired to teach a few of them about. I could learned if I'd had or been 'round somebody knowed something. He read to us some. He read places in his Bible. Anything we have and ask him. We didn't have books and papers. I loved to play my fiddle, call figures, and tell every one what to do. I didn't take stock in reading and writing after the War.
"My parents had the name of being a good set of Negroes. She was raised by folks named Morrow and pa by folks named Strahorn. When ma was a little gal the Morrows brought her to Tennessee. My parents both raised in South Carolina by the Morrows and Strahorns. I was twenty years old in the War.
"They had a big battle seven or eight miles from our homes. It started at daylight Sunday morning and lasted till Monday evening. I think it was Bragg and Buel. The North whooped. It was a roar and shake and we could hear the big guns plain. It was in Hardin County close to Savannah, Tennessee. It was times to be scared. We was all distressed.
"My master died, left her a widow.
"We farmed, made thirty or forty acres of wheat, seventy-five acres of oats, some rye. I pulled fodder all day and take it down at night while the dew would keep it in the bundle. Haul it up. We was divided out when the War was on.
"Somebody killed Master Jim Gant. He was murdered in his own house. They never did know who done it. They had two boys at home. One went visiting. They knocked her and the boy senseless. It was at night. They was all knocked in the head.
"Will Strahorn owned my wife. He was tolerable good to his Negroes. Edmond Gant was a black preacher in slavery. He married us. He married us in white folks' yard. They come out and looked at us marry. I had to ask my master and had to go ask for her then. Our children was to be Strahorn by name. Will would own them 'cause my wife belong to him. My first wife had five girls and three boys. My wife died. I left both my two last wives. I never had no more children but them eight.
"Freedom—my young master come riding up behind us. We was going in dragging our ploughs. He told us it was freedom. The Yankees took everything. We went to Murray County to get my horse. I went off the next day. The Yankees stayed in Lawrence County. The Yankees burnt Tom Greenfield out. Tom and Jim had joining farms. They took everything he had. Took his darkies all but two girls. He left. Jim was good and they never went 'bout him. Jim stayed at home. I went over there. He put me on his brother's place.
"I come to Arkansas by train. I come to Jackson, Tennessee, then to Forrest City, brought my famlee. My baby child is grown and married.
"The Ku Klux never bothered me. It was a mighty little I ever seen of them.
"I never have had a hard time. I have worked hard. I been ploughing, hoeing, cradling grain, picking cotton all my life. I love to plough and cradle grain. I love to work.
"There is a big difference now and the way I was raised up. They used to be whooped and made mind. They learned how to work. Now the times run away from the people. They used to buy what they couldn't raise in barrels. Now they buy it in little dabs. I ain't used to it. White folks do as they pleases and the darkies do as they can. Everybody greedy as he can be it seem like to me. Laziness coming on more and more every year as they grow up. I ain't got a lazy bone in me. I'm serving and praising my Lord every day, getting ready to go over in the next world."
JAN 14 1938 Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Mike Genes Holly Grove, Ark. Age: 72
"I heard folks talk is all I know bout slavery. I was born in Arkansas. My mother was Sara Jane Whitley. My father was _ Genes. My mother came here from Tennessee wid Henderson Sanders. I was raised on the Duncan place. My mother raised us a heap like old times. I got fire tongs now she had. She made ash cakes and we had plenty milk. I got her old pot hooks too. She cooked cracklin' bread in the winter and black walnut bread the same way. We made palings and boards for the houses and barns. Jes gradually we gittin' away from all that. Times is changing so fast.
"I heard 'em say in slavery they got 'em up fore day and they worked all day. Some didn't have much clothes. I can remember three men twisting plow lines. They made plow lines.
"I vote if I have a chance, but I really don't care bout it. I don't know how to keep up to vote like it ought to be.
"This young generation may change but if they don't they air a knock out. They do jes anyway and everyway. They don't save and cain't save it look like, way we got things now. Folks don't raise nothin' and have to buy so much livin' is hard. Folks all doin fine long as the cotton is to pick. This is two reconstructions I been through. Folks got used to work after that other one and I guess they have to get used to work this time till it get better. I don't know what causes this spell of hard times after the wars."
#653 Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Jennie Wormly Gibson Biscoe, Arkansas Age: 49
"Gran'ma was Phoebe West. Mama was Jennie West. Mama was a little girl when the Civil War come on. She told how scared her uncle was. He didn't want to go to war. When they would be coming if he know it or get glimpse of the Yankee soldiers, he'd pick up my mama. She was a baby. He'd run for a quarter of a mile to a great big tree down in the field way back of the place off the road. He never had to go to war. Ma said she was little but she was scared at the sight of them clothes they wore. Mama's and grandma's owners lived at Vicksburg a lot of the time but where that was at Washington County, Mississippi. They had lots of slaves.
"Grandma was a midwife and doctored all the babies on the place. She said they had a big room where they was and a old woman kept them. They et milk for breakfast and buttermilk and clabber for supper. They always had bread. For dinner they had meat boiled and one other thing like cabbage, and the children got the pot-liquor. It was brought in a cart and poured in wooden troughs. They had gourds to dip it out with. They had gourds to drink their cool spring water with.
"Daylight would find the hands in the field at work. Grandma said they had meat and bread and coffee till the war come on. They had to have a regular meal to work on in the morning.
"Grandma said their something to eat got mighty slim in war times and kept getting slimmer and slimmer. They had plenty sorghum all the time. Them troughs was hewed out of a log and was washed and hung in the sun till next mealtime. They cooked in iron pots and skillets on the fire. Grandma worked where they put her but her main trade was seeing after the sick on that place.
"They had a fiddler on the place and had big dances now and then.
"This young generation won't be advised no way you can fix it. I don't know what in the world the folks is looking about. The folks ain't good as they used to be. They shoots craps and drinks and does low-down things all the time. I ain't got no time with the young generation. Times gone to pieces pretty bad if you axing me."
#728 Interviewer: Watt McKinney Person interviewed: James Gill R.F.D. Marvell, Arkansas Age: 86 Occupation: Farmer
"Uncle Jim" Gill, an ex-slave eighty-six years of age, owns a nice two hundred acre farm five miles north of Marvell where he has lived for the past thirty-five years. "Uncle Jim" is an excellent citizen, prosperous and conservative and highly respected by both white and colored. This is molasses making time in the South and I found "Uncle Jim" busily engaged in superintending the process of cooking the extracted juice from a large quantity of sorghum cane. The familiar type of horse-power mill in which the cane is crushed was in full operation, a roaring fire was blazing in the crudely constructed furnace beneath the long pan that contained the furiously foaming, boiling juice and that "Uncle Jim" informed me was "nigh 'bout done" and ready to drain off into the huge black pot that stood by the side of the furnace. The purpose of my visit was explained and "Uncle Jim" leaving the molasses making to some younger Negro accompanied me to the shade of a large oak tree that stood near-by and told me the following story:
"My ole mars, he was name Tom White and my young mars what claimed me, he was name Jeff. Young mars an' me was just 'bout same age. Us played together from time I fust riccolect till us left de ole home place back in Alabama and lit out for over here in Arkansas.
"Ole mars, he owned a heap of niggers back dere where us all lived on de big place but de lan', it was gittin' poor an' red and mought near wore out; so ole mars, he 'quired a big lot of lan' here in Arkansas in Phillips County, but you know it was all in de woods den 'bout fifteen miles down de ribber from Helena and just thick wid canebrakes. So he sont 'bout twenty famblies ober here end dats how us happened to come 'cause my pappy, he was a extra blacksmith and carpenter and ole mars knowed he gwine to haf to hab him to 'sist in buildin' de houses and sich like.
"Though I was just 'bout seben year ole den, howsomeever, I 'member it well an' I sure did hate to leave de ole home where I was borned and I didn' want leave Mars Jeff either and when Mars Jeff foun' it out 'bout 'em gwine take me he cut up awful and just went on, sayin' I his nigger and wasn't gwine 'way off to Arkansas.
"Ole mars, he knowed my mammy and pappy, dey wasn't gwine be satisfied widout all dere chillun wid 'em, so en course I was brung on too. You see, ole mars and he fambly, dey didn' come and we was sont under de oberseer what was name Jim Lynch and us come on de train to Memphis and dat was when I got so skeered 'cause I hadn' nebber seen no train 'fore den an' I just hollered an' cried an' went on so dat my mammy say if I didn' hush up she gwine give me to de paddy rollers.
"Dey put us on de steamboat at Memphis and de nex' I 'member was us gittin' off at de landin'. It was in de winter time 'bout las' of January us git here and de han's was put right to work clearin' lan' and buildin' cabins. It was sure rich lan' den, boss, and dey jus' slashed de cane and deaden de timber and when cotton plantin' time come de cane was layin' dere on de groun' crisp dry and day sot fire to it and burned it off clean and den planted de crops.
"Ole mars, he would come from Alabama to see 'bout de bizness two an' three times every year and on some of dem 'casions he would bring Mars Jeff wid him and Mars Jeff, he allus nebber failed to hab somethin' for me, candy and sich like, and dem times when Mars Jeff come was when we had de fun. Us just run wild playin' and iffen it was in de summer time we was in de bayou swimmin' or fishin' continual but all dem good times ceasted atter a while when de War come and de Yankees started all dere debbilment. Us was Confedrits all de while, leastwise I means my mammy an' my pappy and me an' all de res' of de chillun 'cause ole mars was and Mars Jeff would er fit 'em too and me wid him iffen we had been ole enough.
"But de Yankees, dey didn' know dat we was Confedrits, dey jus' reckon we like most all de res' of de niggers. Us was skeered of dem Yankees though 'cause us chillun cose didn' know what dey was and de oberseer, Jim Lynch, dey done tole us little uns dat a Yankee was somepin what had one great big horn on he haid and just one eye and dat right in de middle of he breast and, boss, I sure was s'prized when I seen a sure 'nough Yankee and see he was a man just like any er de res' of de folks.
"De war tore up things right sharp yit an' still it wasn't so bad here in Arkansas as I hear folks tell it was back in de yolder states like Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. De bes' I riccolect de Yankees come in here 'bout July of de year and dey had a big scrap in Helena wid 'em and us could hear de cannons fifteen miles off and den dey would make dere trips out foragin' for stuff, corn and sich, and dey would take all de cotton dey could fin', but our mens, dey would hide de cotton in de thickets an' canebrakes iffen dey had time or either dey would burn it up 'fore de Yankees come if dey could. I 'member one day we had on han' 'bout hundred bales at de gin and a white man come wid orders to de oberseer to git rid of it, so dey started to haulin' it off to de woods and dey hauled off 'bout fifty bales and den dey see dey wasn't goin' to hab time to git de res' to de woods and den dey commenced cuttin' de ties on de bales so dey could set fire to dem dat dey hadn' hid yit and 'bout dat time here come one of Mr. Tom Casteel's niggers just a flyin' on a mule wid a letter to de white man. Mr. Tom Casteel, he had he place just up de ribber from us, on de island, and when he gived de letter to de man an de man read it, he said de Yankees is comin' and he lit out for de ribber where de boat was waitin' for him and got 'way and dere was all dat loose cotton on de groun' and us was skeered to sit fire to de cotton den and 'bout dat time de Yankees arive and say don' you burn dat cotton and dey looked all ober de place and find de bales dat was hid in de woods and de nex' day dey come and haul it off and dey say us niggers can hab dat what de ties been cut on and my mammy, she set to work and likewise de odder women what de Yankees say can had de loose cotton and tie up all dey can in bags and atter dat us sold it to de Yankees in Helena for a dollar a poun' and dat was all de money us had for a long time.
"How-some-ever us all lived good 'cause dere was heap of wild hogs an' 'possums and sich and we had hid a heap of corn and us did fine. Sometimes de war boats, dey would pass on de ribber—dat is de Yankee boats—and us would hide 'hind de trees and bushes and see dem pass. We wouldn't let dem see us though 'cause we thought dey would shoot. Heap en heap er times sojers would come by us place. When de Yankees ud come dey would ax my mammy, 'Aunt Mary, is you seen any Se-cesh today?' and mammy, she ud say 'Naw suh' eben iffen she had seen some of us mens, but when our sojers ud come and say, 'Aunt Mary, is you seen ary Yankee 'round here recent?' she ud allus tell dem de truf. Dey was a bunch of us sojers, dat is de Confedrits, what used to stay 'round in de community constant, dat we knowed, but dey allus had to be on de dodge 'cause dere was so many more Yankees dan dem.
"Some of dese men I 'member good 'cause dey was us closest neighbors and some of dem libed on 'j'ining places. Dere was Mr. Lum Shell, Mr. Tom Stoneham, Mr. Bob Yabee, Mr. Henry Rabb and Mr. Tom Casteel. Dem I 'member well 'cause dey come to us cabin right of'en and mammy, she ud cook for 'em and den atter de niggers git dey freedom dey could leave de place any time dey choose and every so of'en mammy ud go to Helena and gin'rally she took me wid her to help tote de things she get dere. Ole Mr. Cooledge, he had de biggest and 'bout de onliest store dat dere was in Helena at dat time. Mr. Cooledge, he was a ole like gentleman and had everything most in he store—boots, shoes, tobacco, medicine en so on. Cose couldn't no pusson go in an' outen Helena at dat time—dat is durin' war days—outen dey had a pass and de Yankee sojer dat writ de passes was named Buford en he is de one what us allus git our passes from for to git in en out and 'twasn't so long 'fore Mr. Buford, he git to know my mammy right well and call her by her name. He, just like all de white mens, knowed her as 'Aunt Mary', but him nor none of de Yankees knowed dat mammy was a Confedrit and dats somepin I will tell you, boss.
"Dese sojers dat I is just named and dat was us neighbors, dey ud come to our cabin sometimes en say, 'Aunt Mary, we want you to go to Helena for us and git some tobacco, and mebbe some medicine, and so on, and we gwine write ole man Cooledge er note for you to take wid you'; and mammy, she ud git off for town walking and ud git de note to ole man Cooledge. Ole man Cooledge, you see, boss, he sided wid de Confedrites too but he didn' let on dat he did but all de Confedrit sojers 'round dar in de county, dey knowed dey could 'pend on him and when my mammy ud take de note in ole man Cooledge, he ud fix mammy up in some of dem big, wide hoop skirts and hide de things 'neath de skirts dat de men sont for. Den she and sometimes me wid her, us would light out for home and cose we allus had our pass and dey knowed us and we easy git by de pickets and git home wid de goods for those sojer men what sont us.
"Speakin' from my own pussonal 'sperience, boss, de niggers was treated good in slavery times, dat is dat was de case wid my mars' peoples. Our mars wouldn't hab no mistreatment of his niggers but I'ze heered tell dat some of de mars was pretty mean to dere niggers, but twasn't so wid us 'cause us had good houses and plenty somepin to eat outen de same pot what de white folks' victuals cooked in and de same victuals dat dey had. You see dat ole kittle settin' ober dar by de lasses pan right now? Well, I is et many a meal outen dat kittle in slavery times 'cause dat is de very same kittle dat dey used to cook us victuals in when us belonged to ole mars, Tom White, and lived on he place down on de ribber. It was den, boss, just same wid white men as 'tis in dis day and time. Dere is heap of good white folks now and dere is a heap of dem what ain't so good. You know dat's so, boss, don't you?
"When de niggers been made free, de oberseer, he called all de peoples up and he says, 'You all is free now and you can do like you please. You can stay on here and make de crops ur you can leave which-some-ever you want to do.' And wid dat de niggers, dat is most of dem, lef' like when you leave de lot gate open where is a big litter of shotes and dey just hit de road and commenced to ramble. Most of 'em, dey go on to Helena and gits dey grub from de Yankees and stay dar till de Yankees lef'.
"But us, we stay on de place and some more, dey stay too and you know, boss, some of dem niggers what belonged to old mars and what he was so good to, dey stole mighty nigh all de mules and rode dem off and mars, he never git he mules back. Naw suh, dat he didn'. De war, it broke ole mars up and atter de surrender he jus' let he Arkansas farm go an' never come back no more. Some of de older peoples, dey went back to Alabama time er two and seen ole mars but I nebber did git to see him since us was sot free. But Mars Jeff, he comed here all de way from de home in Alabama way atter he was growed. It's been 'bout fifty year now since de time he was here and I sure was proud to see him, dat I was, boss, 'cause I sure did love Mars Jeff and I loves him yit to dis day iffen he still lives and iffen he daid which I ain't never heered er not, den I loves and 'spects he memory.
"Yas suh, boss, times is changed sure 'nough but like I 'splained 'bout white folks and it's de same wid niggers, some is good and trys to lib right en some don' keer and jus' turns loose en don' restrain demselves.
"You know, boss, dere is heaps of niggers wid white blood in 'em and dat mess was started way back yonder I reckon 'fore I was ever borned. Shucks, I knowed it was long afore den but it wasn't my kine er white folks what 'sponsible for dat, it was de low class like some of de oberseers and den some of de yother folks like for instance de furriners what used to come in de country and work at jobs de mars ud give 'em to do on the places like carpentrying an' sich. I knowed one bad case, boss, dat happened right dere by us place and dat was de oberseer who 'sponsible for dat and he was de oberseer for a widow oman what lived in Helena and dis white man runned de place an' he hab he nigger oman and she de mama of 'bout six chillun by dis man I tellin' you 'bout, three gals and three boys, and dem chillun nigh 'bout white and look just like him and den he move off to some yother part of de county and he git married dere to a white oman but he take he nigger fambly wid him just de same and he built dem a house in de middle of de place he done bought and he keep 'em dere eben though he done got him a white wife who he lib wid also and, boss, since I done told you he name don't tell I said so 'cause de chillun, dey is livin' dere yet and some of dem is gettin' old deyselves now but, boss, I don't 'spect I is tellin' you much you don't already know 'bout dat bunch."
Interviewer: Beulah Sherwood Hagg Person interviewed: Mrs. Cora Gillam 1023 Arch Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 86 [HW: [Scratching Pacified Master.]]
"I have never been entirely sure of my age. I have kept it since I was married and they called me fifteen. That was in '66 or '67. Anyhow, I'm about 86, and what difference does one year make, one way or another. I lived with master and mistress in Greenville, Mississippi. They didn't have children and kept me in the house with them all the time. Master was always having a bad spell and take to his bed. It always made him sick to hear that freedom was coming closer. He just couldn't stand to hear about that. I always remember the day he died. It was the fall of Vicksburg. When he took a spell, I had to stand by the bed and scratch his head for him, and fan him with the other hand. He said that scratching pacified him.
"No ma'am, oh no indeedy, my father was not a slave. Can't you tell by me that he was white? My brother and one sister were free folks because their white father claimed them. Brother was in college in Cincinnati and sister was in Oberlin college. My father was Mr. McCarroll from Ohio. He came to Mississippi to be overseer on the plantation of the Warren family where my mother lived. My grandmother—on mother's side, was full blood Cherokee. She came from North Carolina. In early days my mother and her brothers and sisters were stolen from their home in North Carolina and taken to Mississippi and sold for slaves. You know the Indians could follow trails better than other kind of folks, and she tracked her children down and stayed in the south. My mother was only part Negro; so was her brother, my uncle Tom. He seemed all Indian. You know, the Cherokees were peaceable Indians, until you got them mad. Then they was the fiercest fighters of any tribes.
"Wait a minute, lady. I want to tell you first why I didn't get educated up north like my white brother and sister. Just about time for me to be born my papa went to see how they was getting along in school. He left my education money with mama. He sure did want all his children educated. I never saw my father. He died that trip. After awhile mama married a colored man name Lee. He took my school money and put me in the cotton patch. It was still during the war time when my white folks moved to Arkansas; it was Desha county where they settle. Now I want to tell you about my uncle Tom. Like I said, he was half Indian. But the Negro part didn't show hardly any. There was something about uncle Tom that made both white and black be afraid of him. His master was young, like him. He was name Tom Johnson, too.
"You see, the Warrens, what own my mother, and the Johnsons, were all sort of one family. Mistress Warren and Mistress Johnson were sisters, and owned everything together. The Johnsons lived in Kentucky, but came to Arkansas to farm. Master Tom taught his slaves to read. They say uncle Tom was the best reader, white or black, for miles. That was what got him in trouble. Slaves was not allowed to read. They didn't want them to know that freedom was coming. No ma'am! Any time a crowd of slaves gathered, overseers and bushwhackers come and chased them; broke up the crowd. That Indian in uncle Tom made him not scared of anybody. He had a newspaper with latest war news and gathered a crowd of slaves to read them when peace was coming. White men say it done to get uprising among slaves. A crowd of white gather and take uncle Tom to jail. Twenty of them say they would beat him, each man, till they so tired they can't lay on one more lick. If he still alive, then they hang him. Wasn't that awful? Hang a man just because he could read? They had him in jail overnight. His young master got wind of it, and went to save his man. The Indian in uncle Tom rose. Strength—big extra strength seemed to come to him. First man what opened that door, he leaped on him and laid him out. No white men could stand against him in that Indian fighting spirit. They was scared of him. He almost tore that jailhouse down, lady. Yes he did. His young master took him that night, but next day the white mob was after him and had him in jail. Then listen what happened. The Yankees took Helena, and opened up the jails. Everybody so scared they forgot all about hangings and things like that. Then uncle Tom join the Union army; was in the 54th Regiment, U. S. volunteers (colored) and went to Little Rock. My mama come up here. You see, so many white folks loaned their slaves to the cessioners (Cecessionists) to help build forts all over the state. Mama was needed to help cook. They was building forts to protect Little Rock. Steele was coming. The mistress was kind; she took care of me and my sister while mama was gone.
"It was while she was in Little Rock that mama married Lee. After peace they went back to Helena and stayed two years with old mistress. She let them have the use of the farm tools and mules; she put up the cotton and seed corn and food for us. She told us we could work on shares, half and half. You see, ma'am, when slaves got free, they didn't have nothing but their two hands to start out with. I never heard of any master giving a slave money or land. Most went back to farming on shares. For many years all they got was their food. Some white folks was so mean. I know what they told us every time when crops would be put by. They said 'Why didn't you work harder? Look. When the seed is paid for, and all your food and everything, what food you had just squares the account.' Then they take all the cotton we raise, all the hogs, corn, everything. We was just about where we was in slave days.
"When we see we never going to make anything share cropping, mother and I went picking. Yes ma'am, they paid pretty good; got $1.50 a hundred. So we saved enough to take us to Little Rock. Went on a boat, I remember, and it took a whole week to make the trip. Just think of that. A whole week between here and Helena. I was married by then. Gillam was a blacksmith by trade and had a good business. But in a little while he got into politics in Little Rock. Yes, lady. If you would look over the old records you would see where he was made the keeper of the jail. I don't know how many times he was elected to city council. He was the only colored coroner Pulaski county ever had. He was in the legislature, too. I used to dress up and go out to hear him make speeches. Wait a minute and I will get my scrap book and show you all the things I cut from the papers printed about him in those days....
"Even after the colored folks got put out of public office, they still kept my husband for a policeman. It was during those days he bought this home. Sixty-seven years we been living right in this place—I guess—when did you say the war had its wind up? It was the only house in a big forest. All my nine children was born right in this house. No ma'am, I never have worked since I came here. My husband always made a good living. I had all I could do caring for those nine children. When the Democrats came in power, of course all colored men were let out of office. Then my husband went back to his blacksmith trade. He was always interested in breeding fine horses. Kept two fine stallions; one was named 'Judge Hill', the other 'Pinchback'. White folks from Kentucky, even, used to come here to buy his colts. Race people in Texas took our colts as fast as they got born. Only recently we heard that stock from our stable was among the best in Texas.
"The Ku Kluxers never bothered us in the least. I think they worked mostly out in the country. We used to hear terrible tales of how they whipped and killed both white and black, for no reason at all. Everybody was afraid of them and scared to go out after dark. They were a strong organization, and secret. I'll tell you, lady, if the rough element from the north had stayed out of the south the trouble of reconstruction would not happened. Yes ma'am, that's right. You see, after great disasters like fires and earthquakes and such, always reckless criminal class people come in its wake to rob and pillage. It was like that in the war days. It was that bad element of the north what made the trouble. They tried to excite (incite) the colored against their white friends. The white folks was still kind to them what had been their slaves. They would have helped them get started. I know that. I always say that if the south could of been left to adjust itself, both white and colored would been better off.
"Now about this voting business. I guess you don't find any colored folks what think they get a fair deal. I don't, either. I don't think it is right that any tax payer should be deprived of the right to vote. Why, lady, even my children that pay poll tax can't vote. One of my daughters is a teacher in the public school. She tells me they send out notices that if teachers don't pay a poll tax they may lose their place. But still they can't use it and vote in the primary. My husband always believed in using your voting privilege. He has been dead over 30 years. He had been appointed on the Grand Jury; had bought a new suit of clothes for that. He died on the day he was to go, so we used his new suit to bury him in. I have been getting his soldier's pension ever since. Yes ma'am, I have not had it hard like lots of ex-slaves.
"Before you go I'd like you to look at the bedspread I knit last year. My daughters was trying to learn to knit. This craze for knitting has got everybody, it looks like. I heard them fussing about they could not cast on the stitches. 'For land's sakes,' I said, 'hand me them needles.' So I fussed around a little, and it all came back. What's funny about it is, I had not knitted a stitch since I was about ten. Old mistress used to make me knit socks for the soldiers. I remember I knit ten pair out of coarse yarn, while she was doing a couple for the officer out of fine wool and silk mixed. I used to knit pulse warmers, and 'half-handers',—I bet you don't know what they was. Yes, that's right; gloves without any fingers, 'cepting a thumb and it didn't have any end. I could even knit on four needles when I was little. We used to make our needles out of bones, wire, smooth, straight sticks,—anything that would slip the yarn. Well, let me get back to this spread. In a few minutes it all came back. I began knitting washrags. Got faster and faster. Didn't need to look at the stitches. The girls are so scared something will happen to me, they won't let me do any work. Now I had found something I could do. When they saw how fast I work, they say: 'Mother, why don't you make something worth while? Why make so many washrags?' So I started the bedspread. I guess it took me six months, at odd times. I got it done in time to take to Ft. Worth to the big exhibit of the National Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. My daughter was the national president that year. If you'll believe it, this spread took first prize. Look, here's the blue ribbon pinned on yet. What they thought was so wonderful was that I knit every stitch of it without glasses. But that is not so funny, because I have never worn glasses in my life. I guess that is some more of my Indian blood telling.
"Sometimes I have to laugh at some of these young people. I call them young because I knew them when they were babies. But they are already all broken down old men and women. I still feel young inside. I feel that I have had a good life."
—- 11 1938 Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: J. N. Gillespie 1112 Park Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 75
"I was born near Galveston, in Texas, January 19, 1863, so they tell me. I been in this town and been living right here at 1112 Park Street for fifty-three years and ain't never had no trouble with anybody.
"My grandparents were Gillespie's. My grandma was an Indian woman. She was stolen off the reservation—her and her daughter. The daughter was about twelve years old and big enough to wait table. Both of them were full blooded Cherokee Indians. My grandma married a slave, and when she growed up, my mother married a slave; but my mother's parents were both Indians, and one of my father's parents was white, so you see about three-fourths of me is something else. My grandmother's name before her first marriage was Courtney and my mother's first name was Parthenia.
"When they were stolen, they were made slaves. Nick Toliver bought 'em. He was their first master, far as I heard 'em say. After old man Nick Toliver died, Tom Brewer bought my mother. Toliver and Brewer were the only two masters she had.
"After freedom came, my grandma took back her own name, Gillespie. Grandma's second husband was named Berry Green. She was free and in the Indian reservation when she married Gillespie, but she was a slave when she married Berry Green.
"After my mother came to be of age, she married a man named Willis. He was a slave. That is why I am like I am now. If my grandma had stayed in the nation, I never would have been a slave, and I wouldn't need to be beatin' around here trying to get just bread and meat.
"After freedom, she taken her mother's name by her free husband, Gillespie, and she made her husband take it too. That how I got the name of Gillespie."
Occupation of Forefathers
"After they were made slaves, my grandmother cooked and my mother waited table and worked as a house girl. My grandma used to make clothes too, and she could work on one of these big looms."
"My mother told me that when the boys would go out to a dance, they would tie a rope across the road to make the horses of the patrollers stumble and give the dancers time to get away. Sometimes the horses' legs would be broken."
"I wants to work and can't get work; so they ain't no use to worry. I used to cook. That is all I did for a living. I cooked as long as I could get something for it. I can't get a pension."
"I didn't see no log houses when I growed up. Everything was frame."
Right After the War
"Right after the War, my mother stayed around the house and continued to work for her master. I don't know what they paid her. I can't remember just how they got free but I think the soldiers gave 'em the notification. They stayed on the place till I was big enough to work. I didn't do no work in slave time because I wasn't old enough."
Choked on Watermelon Seeds
"One day I was stealing watermelons with some big boys and I got choked on some seeds. The melon seeds got in my throat. I yelled for help and the boys ran away. Old Tom Brewer made me get on my hands and jump up and down to get the seeds out."
"I was a small boy, might have been seven or eight years old, when I left Galveston. We came to Bradley County, here in Arkansas. From Bradley my mother took me to Pine Bluff. After I got big I went back to Texas. Then I came from Texas here fifty-three years ago, and have been living here ever since, cooking for hotels and private families.
"I never was arrested in my life. I never been in trouble. I never had a fight. Been living in the same place ever since I first came here—right here at 1112 Park Street. I belong to the Christian Church at Thirteenth and Cross Streets. I quit working around the yard and the building because they wouldn't pay me anything. They promised to pay me, but they wouldn't do it."
Gillespie has an excellent reputation, as indeed have most of the ex-slaves in this city. He is clear and unfaltering in his memory. He is deliberate and selects what he means to tell. He is never discourteous. He is a little nervous and cannot be held long at a time. Indian characteristics in him are not especially prominent, but you note them readily after learning of his ancestry. He is brown but slightly copper in color, and his profile has the typical Indian appearance. He is a little taciturn, and sometimes acts on his decisions before he announces them. I cultivated him about three weeks.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Will Glass 715 W. Eighth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 50 Occupation: All phases of paving work [HW: [Bit Dog's Foot Off]]
"My grandfather was named Joe Glass. His master was named Glass. I forget the first name. My grandfather on my mother's side was named Smith. His old master was named Smith. The grandfather Joe was born in Alabama. Grandfather Smith was born in North Carolina."
"There were good masters and mean masters. Both of my old grandfathers had good masters. I had an uncle, Anderson Fields, who had a tough master. He was so tough that Uncle Anderson had to run away. They'd whip him and do around, and he would run away. Then they would get the dogs after him and they would run him until he would climb a tree to get away from them. They would come and surround the tree and make him come down and they would whip him till the blood ran, and sometimes they would make the dogs bite him and he couldn't do nothing about it. One time he bit a dog's foot off. They asked him why he did that and he said the dog bit him and he bit him back. They whipped him again. They would take him home at night and put what they called the ball and chain on him and some of the others they called unruly to keep them from running away.
"They didn't whip my grandfathers. Just one time they whipped Grandfather Joe. That was because he wouldn't give his consent for them to whip his wife. He wouldn't stand for it and they strapped him. He told them to strap him and leave her be. He was a good worker and they didn't want to kill him, so they strapped him and let her be like he said."
"Both of my grandfathers said their masters used to give picnics. They would have a certain day and they would give them all a good time and let them enjoy themselves. They would kill a cow or some kids and hogs and have a barbecue. They kept that up after freedom. Every nineteenth of June, they would throw a big picnic until I got big enough to see and know for myself. But their masters gave them theirs in slavery times. They gave it to them once a year and it was on the nineteenth of June then.
"Grandfather Joe said when he wanted to marry Jennie, she was under her old master, the man that Anderson worked under. Old man Glass found that Grandfather Joe was slipping off to old man Field's to see Grandma Jennie, who was on Field's place, and old man Fields went over and told Glass that he would either have to sell Glass to him or buy Jennie from him. Old man Glass bought Jennie and Grandfather Joe got her.
"After old man Glass bought Jennie, he held up a broom and they would have to jump over it backwards and then old man Glass pronounced them man and wife.
"Grandfather Joe died when I was a boy ten years old. Grandfather Smith died in 1921. He was eighty years old when he died. Grandfather Joe was seventy-two years old when he died. He died somewhere along in 1898."
"I heard them speak of the Ku Klux often. But they didn't call them Ku Klux; they called them whitecaps. The whitecaps used to go around at night and get hold of colored people that had been living disorderly and carry them out and whip them. I never heard them say that they whipped anybody for voting. If they did, it wasn't done in our neighborhood."
"Uncle Anderson said that old man Fields didn't allow them to sing and pray and hold meetings, and they had to slip off and slip aside and hide around to pray. They knew what to do. People used to stick their heads under washpots to sing and pray. Some of them went out into the brush arbors where they could pray and shout without being disturbed.
"Grandfather Joe and Grandfather Smith both said that they had seen slaves have that trouble. Of course, it never happened on the plantations where they were brought up. Uncle Anderson said that they would sometimes go off and get under the washpot and sing and pray the best they could. When they prayed under the pot, they would make a little hole and set the pot over it. Then they would stick their heads under the pot and say and sing what they wanted."
"Grandfather Joe and Grandfather Smith used to say that when a child was born if it was a child that was fine blooded they would put it on the block and sell it away from its parents while it was little. Both of my grandfathers were sold away from their parents when they were small kids. They never knew who their parents were.
"When my oldest auntie was born, my mother said she was sold about two years before freedom. Aunt Emma was only two years old then when she was sold. Mother never met her until she was married and had a family. They would sell the children slaves of that sort at auction, and let them go to the highest bidder."
"My grandfather brought me up strictly. I don't know what they thought about the young people of their day, but I know what I think. I will tell you. At first I searched myself. Kids in the time I came along had to go by a certain rule. They had to go by it.
"We don't see to our children doing right as our parents saw to our doing. It would be good if we could get ourselves together and bring these young people back where they belong. What ruined the young folks is our lack of discipline. We send them to school but that is all, and that is not enough. We ought to take it on ourselves to see that they are learning as they ought to learn and what they ought to learn.
"I belong to Bethel A. M. E. Church. I married about 1919, November 16. I have just one kid and two grand kids."
—- 13 1937 Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Frank William Glenn Des Arc, Arkansas Age: 73
"I was born June 1864 in Des Arc. My parents named Richard Lewis Glenn and Pleasant Glynn. My mama died when I was small. I recollect hearing em say the southern women oughtn't marry the Yankee men, there was so much difference in their lives. A few widows and girls did marry Yankee men, very few. Southern folks jes' hated em.
"Master Wash Glenn had a son named Boliver. He may had more. I don't know much about em. We stayed there after the war for a long time then went to work for Mr. Bedford Bethels father. We worked there a long time then went to work for Mr. Jim Erwin. My papa always farmed. I heard my mama say she washed and sewed during slavery. There was three boys and one girl in our famlee. I heard bout the bushwhackers and Ku Klux. I was too young to tell bout what they did do. I never did see none dressed up.
"I don't fool wid votin' much. I have voted. I don't understand votin' much and how they run the govermint. My time of usefulness is nearly gone.
"The present time serves me hard. I got my leg caught in a wagon wheel and so sprained I been cripple ever since. The rheumatiz settles in it till I can't sleep at night. My wife quit me. I got two boys in Chicago, the girl and her ma in Brinkley. They sho don't help me. I have to rent my house. I don't own nuthin'. I work all I'm able.
"The present generation is selfish and restless. I don't know what goner become of em. Times is changing too fast for me. I jess look on and wonder what going to come on next."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Ella Glespie Brassfield, Arkansas Age: 71
"I was born the third year after the surrender. I was born in Okolona, Mississippi. My parents was Jane Bowen and Henry Harrison. Ma had seven children. They lived on the Gates place at freedom. I'm the onliest one of my kin living anywheres 'bout now. Ma never was sold but pa was.
"Parson Caruthers brought pa from Alabama. He was a good runner and when he was little he throwd his hip outer j'int running races. Then Parson Caruthers learnt him a trade—a shoemaker. When he was still nothing but a lad he was sold for quite a sum of money. When emancipation come on he could read and write and make change.
"So den he was out in the world cripple. He started teaching school. He had been a preacher, too, durin' slavery. He preached and taught school. He was justice of the peace and representative for two terms from Chickasaw County in the state legislature. I heard them talk about that and when I started to school Mr. Suggs was the white man principal. Pa was one teacher and there was some more teachers. He was a teacher a long time. He was eighty odd and ma was sixty odd when she died. Both died in Mississippi.
"My folks said Master Gates was good. I knowd my pa's young Master Gates. Pa said he never got a whooping. They made a right smart of money outen his work. He said some of the boots he made brung high as twenty dollars. Pa had a good deal of Confederate bills as I recollects. Ma said some of them on Gates' place got whoopings.
"When they would be at picnics and big corn shellings or shuckings either, all Gates' black folks was called 'Heavy Gates'; they was fed and treated so well. I visited back at home in Mississippi. Went to the quarters and all nineteen years ago. I heard them still talking about the 'Heavy Gates'. I was one the offspring.
"Ma cooked for her old mistress years and years. Mrs. Rogers in South Carolina give ma to Miss Rebecca, her daughter, and said, 'Take good care of her, you might need her.' They come in ox wagons to Mississippi. Ma was a little girl then when Miss Rebecca married Dr. Bowen. Ma hated to leave Miss Rebecca Bowen 'cause in the first place she was her half-sister. She said Master Rogers was her own pa. Her ma was a cook and house girl ahead of her. Ma was a fine cook. Heap better than I ever was 'cause she never lacked the stuff to fix and I come short there.
"I heard ma tell this. Wherever she lived and worked, at Dr. Bowen's, I reckon. The soldiers come one day and took their sharp swords from out their belts and cut off heads of turkeys, chickens, geese, ducks, guineas, and took a load off and left some on the ground. They picked up the heads and what was left and made a big washpot full of dumplings. She said the soldiers wasted so much.
"When I was young I seen a 'style block' at Holly Springs, Mississippi. I was going to Tucker Lou School, ten miles from Jackson. That was way back in the seventies. A platform was up in the air under a tree and two stumps stood on ends for the steps. It was higher than three steps but that is the way they got up on the platform they tole me.
"I think times are a little better. I gits a little ironing and six dollars and commodities. The young generation is taking on funny ways. I think they do very well morally 'cepting their liquor drinking habits. That is worse, I think. They are advancing in learning. I think times a little better.
"My husband had been out here. We married and I come here. I didn't like here a bit but now my kin is all dead and I know folks here better. I like it now very well. He was a farmer and mill man."
Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins Person Interviewed: Joe Golden Age: 86 Home: 722 Gulpha Street, Hot Springs, Ark.
"Yes, ma'am to be sure I remembers you. I knew your father and all his brothers. I knew your mother's father and your grandmother, and all the Denglers. Your grandpappy was mighty good to me. Your grandmother was too. Many's the day your uncle Fred followed me about while I was hunting. I was the only one what your grandpappy would let hunt in his garden. Yes, ma'am! If your grandmother would hear a shot across the hill in the garden, she'd say, 'Go over and see who it is.' And your grandfather would come. He'd chase them away. But if it was me, he'd go back home and he'd tell her, 'It's just Joe. He's not going to carry away more than he can eat. Joe'll be all right.'
"Yes, ma'am. I was born down at Magnet Cove. I belonged to Mr. Andy Mitchell. He was a great old man, he was. Did he have a big farm and lots of black folks? Law, miss, he didn't have nothing but children, just lots of little children. He rented me and my pappy and my mother to the Sumpters right here in Hot Springs.
"I can remember Hot Springs when there wasn't more than three houses here. Folks used to come thru and lots of folks used to stay. But there wasn't more than three families lived here part of the time.
"Yes, ma'am we worked. But we had lots of fun too. Them was exciting times. I can remember when folks got to shooting at each, other right in the street. I run off and taken to the woods when that happened.
"No, miss, we didn't live in Hot Springs all thru the war. When the Federals taken Little Rock they taken us to Texas. We stayed there until '68. Then we come back to Hot Springs.
"Yes, miss, Hot Springs was a good place to make money. Lots of rich folks was coming to the hotels. Yes, ma'am, I made money. How'd I make it? Well lots of ways. I used to run. I was the fastest runner what was. Folks would bet on us, and I'd always win. Then I used to shine shoes. Made money at it too. Lots of days I made as much as $4 or $5. Sometimes I didn't even stop to eat. But I was making money, and I didn't care.
"Then there was a feller, a doctor he was. He give me a gun. I used to like to hunt. Hunted all over these mountains, hunted quail and hunted squirrel and a few times I killed deers. The man what gave me the gun he promised me twenty five cents apiece for all the quail I could bring him. Lots of times I came in with them by the dozen.
"I tried to save my money. Didn't spend much. I'd bring it home to my mother. She'd put it away for me. But if my pappy knowed I got money he'd take it away from me and buy whiskey. You might know why, miss. He was part Creek—yes ma'am, part Creek Indian.
"Does you remember chinquapins? They used to be all over the hill up yonder. I used to get lots of them. Sell them too. One time I chased a deer up there. Got him with a knife, didn't have a gun. The dogs cornered him for me. Best dog I ever had, his name was Abraham Lincoln. He was extra good for a possom dog. Once I got a white possom in the same place I got a deer. It was way out yonder—that place there ain't nothing but rocks. Yes, ma'am, Hell's Half Acre.
"Yes, miss, I has made lots of money in my time. Can't work none now. Wish you had got to me three years ago. That was before I had my stroke. Can't think of what I want to say, and can't make my mouth say it. You being patient with me. I got to take time to think.
"Me and my wife we gets along pretty well. We have our home, and then I got other property. We was real well off. I had $1200 in the bank—Webb's Bank when it failed. Never got but part of my money back.
"When I sold out my bootblack stand I bought a butcher shop. I made a lot of money there. I had good meat and folks, black folks and white folks came to buy from me. So you remembers my barbecue, do you? Yes, miss, I always tried to make it good. Yes, I remembers your pappy used to always buy from me.
"Your grandmother was a good woman. I remember when your Uncle Freddy had been following me around all day while I was hunting—it was in your grandpappy's garden—his vineyard too—it was mighty big. I told Freddy he could have a squirrel or a quail. He took the squirrel and I gave him a couple of quail too. Went home with him and showed your grandmother how they ought to be fixed.
"I can remember before your father lived in Hot Springs. He and his brothers used to come thru from Polk County. They'd bring a lot of cotton to sell. Yes, ma'am lots of folks came thru. They'd either sell them here or go on to Little Rock. Lots of Indians—along with cotton and skins they'd bring loadstone. Then when your pappy and his brothers had a hardware store I bought lots of things from them. Used to be some pretty bad men in Hot Springs—folks was mean in them days. I remember when your father kept two men from killing each other. Wish, I wish I could remember better. This stroke has about got me.
"Yes, miss, that was the garden. I used to sell garden truck too. Had a bush fence around it long before a wire one. Folks used to pass up other folks to buy truck from me. Your mother did.
"Life's been pretty good to me. I've lived a long time. And I've done a lot. Made a lot of money, and didn't get beyond the third grade. Can't cultivate the garden now. My wife does well enough to take care of the yard. She's a good woman, my wife is.
"So you're going to Fayetteville to see Miss Adeline? I remember Miss Adeline. She worked for your pappy's brother didn't she. Yes, I knowed her well. I liked her.
"Yes miss, I'm sort of tired. It's hard to think. And I can't move about much. But I got my home and I got my wife and we're comfortable. Thank you."
I left him sitting and rocking gently in a home-made hickory stationary swing eyes half closed looking out across his yard and basking in the warm sunshine of late afternoon.
 Units of Hot Springs National Park.
 Spot without soil or vegetation—broken talus rock.
 Home clean, well painted and cared for, two story, large lot. Rental cottage, good condition, negro neighborhood.
 Bank owned and operated for and by negroes—affiliated with headquarters of large national negro lodge.
 No public schools in Hot Springs until the late 70s.
 The Adeline Blakely of another Arkansas interview with slaves.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Jake Goodridge Clarendon, Arkansas Age: 97? 87 is about correct Born August 4, 1857
"I was born close to Jackson, Tennessee in Madison County. My master was Hatford Weathers. His wife's name was Susan Weathers. They had a big family—John, Lidy, Mattie, Polly, Betty, and Jimmy, that I recollect and there might er been some more.
"My parents' names was Narcissus and Jacob Goodridge. I had one brother that was a Yankee soldier, and five sisters. One sister did live in Texas. They all dead fur as I know. We got scattered. Some of us got inherited fore freedom. Jake Goodridge took me along when he went to the army to wait on him. Right there it was me an' my brother fightin' agin one 'nother.
"When we come to St. Charles we come to Memphis on freight boxes—no tops—flat cars like. There a heap more soldiers was waiting. We got on a boat—a great big boat. There was one regiment—Indiana Cavalry, one Kansas, one Missouri, one Illinois. All on deck was the horses. There was 1,200 men in a regiment and four regiments, 4,800 horses and four cannons. There was not settin' down room on the boat. They captured my master and sent him to prison. First they put him in a callaboose and then they sent him on to prison and they took me to help them. They made a waitin' boy of me. I didn't lack none of 'em. They cussed all the time. I heard they paroled my master long time after the war.
"They would shoot a cannon, had a sponge on a long rod. They wipe it out and put in another big ball, get way back and pull a rope. The cannon fire agin. Course I was scared. I was scared to death bout two years, that 'bout how long I was in the war. I was twelve or fourteen years old. I recollect it as well as if it was yesterday. They never had a battle at St. Charles while I was there. They loaded up the boat and took us to Little Rock. They mustered out there. The Yankee soldiers give out news of freedom. They was shouting 'round. I jes' stood around to see whut they goiner do next. Didn't nobody give me nuthin'. I didn't know what to do. Everything going. Tents all gone, no place to go stay and nothin' to eat. That was the big freedom to us colored folks. That the way white folks fightin' do the colored folks. I got hungry and naked and cold many a time. I had a good master and I thought he always treated me heap better than that. I wanted to go back but I had no way. I made it down to St. Charles in 'bout a year after the surrender. I started farmin'. I been farmin' ever since. In Little Rock I found a job in a tin pin alley, pickin' up balls. The man paid me $12 a month, next to starvation. I think his name was Warren Rogers.
"I went to Indian Bay 'bout 1868 and farmed for Mr. Hathway, then Mr. Duncan. Then I come up to Clarendon and been here ever since.
"One time I owned 40 acres at Holly Grove, sold it, spent the money.
"I too old, I don't fool wid no votin'. I never did take a big stock in sich foolishness.
"I live wid my daughter and white folks. The Welfare give me $8 a month. We got a garden. No cow. No hog. No chickens.
"The present conditions seem pretty bad. Some do work and some don't work. Nobody savin' that I sees. Takes it all to live on. I haben't give the present generation a thought."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: John Goodson (Goodrum) Des Arc, Arkansas Age: Born in 1865
"My master was Bill Goodrum. I was born at Des Arc out in the country close by here. My mother was a house woman and my father was overseer. I was so little I don't remember the war. I do remember Doc Rayburn. I seed him and remember him all right. He was a bushwacker and a Ku Klux they said. I don't remember the Ku Klux. Never seed them.
"I heard my parents say they expected the government to divide up the land and give them a start—a home and some land. They got just turned out like you turn a hog out the pen and say go on I'm through wid you.
"I heard them set till midnight talking 'bout whut all took place during the Civil War. The country was wild and it was a long ways between the houses. There wasn't many colored folks in this country till closin' of the war. They started bringing 'em here. Men whut needed help on the farms.
"All my life I been cooking. I cooked at hotels and on boats. I cooked some in restaurants. They say it was the heat caused me to go blind. I cooked up till 1927. The last folks I cooked for was on a boat for Heckles and Wade Sales up at Augusta, Arkansas. I done carpentry work some when I was off of a cooking job. I never liked farmin' much. I have done a little of that along between times too. My main job is cooking.
"I voted along when I could see. I ain't voted lately. I sho lacks this President.
"I had a house and lot—this one, but I couldn't pay taxes. We still living in it. We got a garden. No hog, no cow. We made our home when I cooked and my wife washed and ironed.
"I think this new generation of colored folks is awful. They can get work if they would do it. Times is gettin' worse. They work some if the price suit 'em, if it don't, they steal. They spend 'bout all they make for shows, whiskey and I don't know whut all.
"The Social Welfare gives me $8 a month. My wife does all the washing and ironin' she can get. We are doing very well.
"I don't understand much 'bout votin' and picking out canidates. It don't hurt if the women want to vote.
"Only songs I ever heard was corn songs. I don't remember none. They make 'em up out in the fields. Some folks good at making up songs. One I used to hear a whole heap was 'It goiner be a hot time in the old time tonite.' Another one 'If you liker me liker I liker you. We both liker the same.' I don't remember no more them songs. I used to hear 'em a whole lots. Yes out in the fields."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Pages 58 to 62 have been withdrawn after numbering.
Interviewer: Thomas Elmore Lucy Person interviewed: George Govan Russellville, Arkansas Age: 52
"George Govan is my name, and I was born in Conway County somewheres in December 1886—I guess it was about de seventeenth of December. We lived there till 1911, when I come to Pope County. Both my parents was slaves on de plantation of a Mr. Govan near Charleston, South Carolina. Dat's where we got our name. Folks come to Arkansas after dey was freed. No sir, I ain't edicated—never had de chance. Parents been dead a good many years.
"Yas suh, my folks used to talk a heap and tell me lots of tales of slavery days, and how de patrollers used to whip em when dey wanted to go some place and didn't have de demit to go. Yas suh, dey had to have a demit to go any place outside work hours. Dey whipped my mother and father both sometimes, and dey sure was afraid of dem patrollers. Used to say, 'If you don't watch out de patrollers'll git you.' Dey'd catch de slaves and tie em up to a tree or a pos' and whip em wid buggy whips and rawhides.
"Some of de slaves was promised land and other things when dey was freed, and some wasn't promised nothin'. Some got land and a span of mules, and some didn't get nothin'. No suh, my daddy didn't farm none at first after he was freed because he didn't have no money to buy land, but he done odd jobs here and there till he come to Arkansas seven or eight years after the War.
"Yes, I owns my own home; been livin' in it for ten years, since I've been workin' as janitor at dis Central Presbyterian Church. I belongs to de Missionary Baptis' Church, but my parents were both Methodists.
"Sure did have lots of good songs in de old days, like 'Old Ship of Zion' and 'On Jordan's Stormy Banks.' Used to have one that begins 'Those that 'fuse to sing never knew my God.' It was a purty piece; and then there was another one about a 'Rough, rocky road.'
"De young people today has much better opportunities than when I was a child, and much better than dey had in slavery days, because dar ain't no patrollers to whip em. Most of em dese days has purty good behavior, and I think dey're better than in de old days.
"I has always voted regularly since I come of age—votes de Republican ticket. Can't read but a little, but I never had any trouble about votin'."
NOTE: George Govan is an intelligent Negro, fairly neat in his dress, very tall and erect in stature. Brogue quite noticeable, and occasional idioms that make his interview interesting and personal.
#712 Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Julia Grace 819 N. Spruce Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 75
"I was seventy-four this last past fourth of July. I was born in Texas. My mother was sent to Texas to keep from bein' freed.
"Ad March and Spruce McCrary is the onliest white folks I remember bein' with. I don't know whether they was our owners or not.
"My father was sent to North Carolina and I never did see him no more.
"After freedom they brought us back here from Texas and we worked on the McCrary plantation.
"In slavery days mama said she and my father stayed in the woods most of the time. That's when they was whippin' 'em.
"My mother come from Richmond, Virginia. Petersburg was her town. She belonged to the Wellses over there.
"After her master got his leg broke, the rest was so mean to her she run off a couple times, so they sold her. Put her up on the tradin' block—like goin' to make a speech. Stripped 'em naked. The man bid 'em off like you'd bid off oxen.
"Mama told me her missis, after her husband died, got so mean to her she run off till her old missis sold her. They weighed 'em and stripped 'em naked to see if they was anything wrong with 'em and how they was built and then bid 'em off.
"Mama said she never would a been in Arkansas if they hadn't been so mean to her. They were too compulsive on 'em—you know, hard taskmasters.
"After freedom Ad March went back to North Carolina and Spruce McCrary come here to Pine Bluff.
"Fust time I moved here in town was in 1888. I stayed ten months, then I went back to the country. I aimed to go to Fort Smith but I got to talkin' with my playmates and I didn't have too much money, and I stayed till I didn't have enough money left to keep me till I could get a job. So I stayed here and worked for Mrs. Freemayer till I got so I couldn't work. She's the one got me on this relief.
"I went to school one session in 1886. Sam Caeser, he was a well-known teacher. He got killed here in Pine Bluff.
"I can't sweep and I can't iron. I got a misery in my back. I washes my clothes and spreads 'em out till they dry. Then I puts 'em on and switches into church and ever'body thinks they has been ironed.
"They ain't but one sign I believes in and that's peckerwoods. Just as sure as he pecks three times, somebody goin' to move or somebody goin' to die. Just as sure as you live somebody goin' out.
"One time one of my grandchildren and a friend of mine was walkin' through the woods and we missed the main road we aimed to ketch, and we got into a den of wild hogs. I said, 'Lord, make 'em stand still till we get out of here.' One of 'em was that tall and big long ears hung down over his eyes. That was the male, you know. I reckon they couldn't see us and we walked as easy as we could and we got away and struck the main road. I reckon if they could a seen us we would a been 'tacked but we got away. I had heard how they made people take to trees, and I was scared.
"Have you ever seen a three-legged cow? Well, I have. I looked at her good. She was grown and had a calf."
—- 11 1938 Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Charles Graham 616 W. 27th Street, North Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 79 [HW: [Freed in '63]]
"I was born September 27, 1859, Clarksville, Tennessee. I don't remember the county. There are several Clarksvilles throughout the South. But Clarksville, Tennessee is the first and the oldest.
"I got a chance to see troops after the Civil War was over. The soldiers were playing, boxing, and the like. Then I remember hearing the cannons roar—long toms they used to call 'em. My uncle said, 'That is General Grant opening fire on the Rebels.'
"The first clear thing I remember was when everybody was rejoicing because they were free. The soldiers were playing and boxing and chucking watermelons at one another. They had great long guns called muskets. I heard 'em say that Abraham Lincoln had turned 'em loose. Where I was at, they turned 'em loose in '63. Lincoln was assassinated in '65. I heard that the morning after it was done. We was turned loose long before then.
"I was too young to pay much attention, but they were cutting up and clapping their hands and carrying on something terrible, and shouting, 'Free, free, old Abraham done turned us loose.'
"I was here in them days! Heard those long toms roar! General Grant shelling the Rebels!"
"I don't remember much about the patrollers except that when they been having dances, and some of them didn't have passes, they'd get chased and run. If they would get catched, them that didn't have passes would get whipped. Them that had them, they were all right."
"They had barbecues. That's where the barbecues started from, I reckon, from the barbecues among the slaves.
"They would have corn shuckings. They would have a whole lot of corn to shuck, and they would give the corn shucking and the barbecue together. They would shuck as many as three or four hundred bushels of corn in a night. Sometimes, they would race one another. So you know that they must have been some shucking done.
"I don't believe that I know of anything else. People were ignorant in those days and didn't have many amusements."
"I used to be a regular miller until they laid the men off. Now I don't have no kind of job at all."
Right after the War
"Some of the slaves went right up North. We stayed in Clarksville and worked there for a year or two. In 1864, we went to Warren County, Illinois. They put me in school. My people were just common laborers. They bought themselves a nice little home.
"My mother's name was Anna Bailis and my father's name was Charles Morrill. I don't remember the names of their masters.
"I was raised by my uncle, Simon Blair. His master used to be a Bailis. My father, so I was told, went off and left my mother. She was weak and ailing, so my uncle took me. He took me away from her and carried me up North with them. My father ran away before the slaves were freed. I never found out what became of him.
"I stayed in Illinois from the time I was five or six years old up until I was twenty-one. I left there in 1880. That is about the time when Garfield ran for President. I was in Ohio, seen him before he was assassinated in 1882. Garfield and Arthur ran against Hancock and English. They beat 'em too."
"I used to go from place to place working first one place and then another—going down the Mississippi on boats. Monmouth, Illinois, where I was raised—they ain't nothing to that place. Just a dry little town!"
"The young people nowadays are all right. There is not so much ignorance now as there was in those days. There was ignorance all over then. The Peckerwoods wasn't much wise either. They know nowadays though. Our race has done well in refinement.
"I find that the Negro is more appreciated in politics in the North and West than in the South. I don't know whether it will grow better or not.
"I'll tell you something else. The best of these white people down here don't feel so friendly toward the North."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: James Graham 408 Maple Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 75 [HW: ["Free Negroes"]]
"I was born in South Carolina, Lancaster County, about nine miles from Lancaster town. My father's name was Tillman Graham and my mother's name was Eliza.
"I have seen my grandfathers, but I forget their names now. My father was a farmer. My father and mother belonged to this people, that is, to the Tillmans.
"On my father's side, they called my people free Negroes because they treated them so good. On my mother's side they had to get their education privately. When the white children would come from school, my mother's people would get instruction from them. My mother was a maid in the house and it was easy for her to get training that way."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Marthala Grant 2203 E. Barraque, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 77
"All I can remember is some men throwin' us up in the air and ketchin' us, me and my baby brother. Like to scared me to death. They had on funny clothes. Me and my brother was out in the yard playin'. They just grabbed us up and throwed us up and ketched us.
"My mother would tell us bout the war. She had on some old shoes—wooden shoes. Her white folks name was Hines. That was in North Carolina. I emigrated here when they was emigratin' folks here. I was grown then.
"Durin' the war I heered the shootin' and the people clappin' their hands.
"My mother said they was fightin' to free the people but I didn't know what freedom was. I member hearin' em whoopin' and hollerin' when peace was 'clared and talkin' bout it.
"Yes'm I went to school some—not much. I learned a right smart to read but not much writin'.
"We'd go up to the white folks house every Sunday evenin' and old mistress would learn us our catechism. We'd have to comb our heads and clean up and go up every Sunday evenin'. She'd line us up and learn us our catechism.
"We stayed right on there after the war. They paid my mother. I picked cotton and nussed babies and washed dishes.
"I was married when I was twenty. Never been married but once and my husband been dead nigh bout twenty years."
"When I come here this town wasn't much—sure wasn't much. Used to have old car pulled by mules and a colored man had that—old Wiley Jones. He's dead now.
"I had eleven childen. All dead but five. My boy what's up North went to that Spanish War. He stayed till peace was declared.
"After we come to Arkansas my husband voted every year and worked the county roads. I guess he voted Republican.
"I can't tell you bout the younger generation. They so fast you can't keep up with them. I really can't tell you."
#731 Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Wesley Graves 817 Hickory Street, North Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 70 [HW: [Father Taught Night School]]
"My father's white folks were named Tal Graves. My mother was a McAdoo. Her white folks were McAdoos. Some of them are over the river now. He's a great jewelryman now.
"I was born in Trenton, Tennessee. My father was born 'round in Humboldt, Tennessee. My mother was born in Paris, Tennessee and moved out in the country near Humboldt. He met my mother out there and married her just a little bit before the War. He was a slave and she was too.
"He didn't go to the War; he went to the woods. He got to chasing 'round. His young mistress married. She married a Graves. That was the name we was freed under. She was a Shane.
"She educated my father. When she come from school, she would teach him and just carry him right on through the course that way. That was a good while before the War. Her father gave him to her when she married Graves. He was a little boy and she kept him and educated him. Graves ran a farm. I don't know just what my father did when he was little. He was raised up as a house boy. Very little he ever done in the field. I don't know what he did after he grew up and before freedom came. After peace was declared, he taught in night school. He preached too. His first farming was done a little after he come out here. I was about seven years old then. That was in the year 1873.
"My mother's full name was Adeline McAdoo. Before freedom she did housework. She was a kind a pet with the white folks. She didn't do much farming. My mother and father had six children—five boys and one girl. All born after freedom. There were three ahead of me. The oldest was born before the War, not afterward.
"In my country where I was raised the Negroes weren't freed until 1865. My uncle, Jim Shane—that is the only name I ever knew him by—, he ran away and come to this country and made money enough to come back and buy his freedom. Just about time he got himself paid for, the War closed and he would have been freed anyway. The money wouldn't have done him no good anyhow because it was all Confederate money, and when the War closed, that wasn't no good.
"My father ran away when the War broke out. His master wanted to carry him to the army with him and he run off and stayed in the woods three years. He stayed until his little mistress wrote him a letter and told him she would set him free if he would come home. He stayed out till the War closed. He wouldn't take no chances on it.
"The pateroles made my father do everything but quit. They got him about teaching night school. That was after slavery, but the pateroles still got after you. They didn't want him teaching the Negroes right after the War. He had opened a night school, and he was doing well. They just kept him in the woods then."
"There was a bunch of Ku Klux that a colored man led. He was a fellow by the name of Fount Howard. They would come to his house and he would call himself showing them how to catch old people he didn't like. He told them how to catch my old man. I have heard my mother tell about it time and time again. The funny part of it was there was a cornfield right back of the kitchen. Just about dusk dark, he got up and taken a big old horse pistol and shot out of it, and when he fired the last shot out of it, a white man said, 'Bring that gun here.' Believe me he cut a road through that field right now.
"They stayed 'round for a little while and tried to bully his people. But the old lady stood up to them, so they finally carried her and her children in the house and told her to tell him to come on back they wouldn't hurt him. And they didn't bother him no more.