Part 2 out of 6
"They had beds nailed up to the side of the house. People had a terrible
time you know. White folks had it all. When I come along they had it and
they had it ever since I been here. You didn't have no chance like folks
have nowadays. Just made benches and stools to sit on. Made tables out
of planks. I never saw any cupboards and things like that. Them things
wasn't thought about then. The house was like a stable then. But them
log houses was better than these 'cause the wind couldn't get through
Work as a Boy
"I wasn't doin' nothin' but totin' water. I toted water for a whole year
when I was a boy about eight years old. I was the water boy for the
field hands. Later I worked out in the fields myself. They would make me
sit on my mammy's row to help keep her up.
"You better not say you were free them days. If you did, they'd tell you
to get out of there. You better not stop on this side of the Mason Dixie
Line either. You better stop on the other side. Whenever a nigger got so
he couldn't mind, they'd take him down and whip him. They'd whip the
free niggers just the same as they did the slaves.
"You see that broom there? They just lay that broom down and step over
it. That was all the marriage they knowed about.
"The boys used to just get down and raise a holler and shuck that corn.
Man, they had fun! They sure liked to go to those corn shuckings. They
danced and went on. They'd give 'em whiskey too. That's all I know about
"They'd weigh the stuff out and give it to you and you better not go
back. They'd give you three pounds of meat and a quart of meal and
molasses when they'd make it. Sometimes they would take a notion to give
you something like flour. But you had to take what they give you. They
give out the rations every Saturday. That was to last you a week.
"I was at a ball one night. They had fence rails in the fire. Patroller
knocked at the door, stepped in and closed it behind him. Nigger pulled
a rail out of the fire and stuck it 'gainst the patroller and that
patroller stepped aside and let that nigger get by. Niggers used to tie
ropes across the road so that the patrollers' horses would trip up.
"I never seed any mulattoes then. That thing is something that just come
up. Old Dempsey Brown, if he seed a white man goin' 'round with the
nigger women on his place, he run him away from there. But that's gwine
on in the full now.
"That ought not to be. If God had wanted them people to mix, he'd have
mixed 'em. God made 'em red and white and black. And I'm goin' to stay
black. I ain't climbed the fence yet and I won't climb it now. I don't
know. I don't believe in that. If you are white be white, and if you are
black be black. Children need to go out and play but these boys ought
not to be 'lowed to run after these girls.
"Your overseer carried their straps with them. They had 'em with 'em all
the time. Just like them white folks do down to the County Farm. Used to
use a man just like he was a beast. They'd make him lay down on the
ground and whip him. They'd had to shoot me down. That is the reason I
tend to my business. If he wouldn't lay down they'd call for help and
strap him down and stretch him out. Put one man on one arm and another
on the other. They'd pull his clothes down and whip the blood out of
him. Them people didn't care what they done since they didn't do right.
"When I first heard them talking about freedom, I didn't know what
freedom was. I was there standin' right up and looking at 'em when they
told us we was free. And master said, 'You all free now. You can go
where you want to.'
"They never give you a thing when they freed you. They give you some
work to do. They never looked for nothin' only to go to work. The white
folks always had the best of it.
"When Abe Lincoln first freed 'em, they all stood together. If this one
was ill the others went over and sit up with him. If he needed something
they'd carry it to him. They don't do that now. They done well then. As
soon as they quit standing together then they had trouble.
"Fellow said to me, 'Campbell, I want you to split up them blocks and
pile 'em up for me.' I said, 'What you goin' to pay me?' He said, 'I'll
pay you what is right.' I said, 'That won't do; you have to tell me what
you goin' to give me before I start to work.' And he said to me, 'You
can git to hell out of here.'
Selling and Buying Slaves
"They'd put you up on the block and sell you. That is just what they'd
do--sell you. These white folks will do anything,--anything they want to
do. They'd take your clothes off just like you was some kind of a beast.
"You used to be worth a thousand dollars then, but you're not worth two
bits now. You ain't worth nothin' when you're free.
"They used to come to my place in droves. Wagons would start coming in
in the morning and they wouldn't stop coming in till two or three in the
evening. They'd just be travelin' to keep out the way of the Yankees.
They caught old Jeff Davis over in Twiggs County. That's in Georgia.
Caught him in Buzzard's Roost. That was only about four or five miles
from where I was. I was right down yonder in Houston County. Twigg
County and Houston County is adjoinin'. I never saw any of the soldiers
but they was following them though.
"I have seen plenty of niggers voting. I wasn't old enough to vote in
Georgia. I come in Arkansas and I found out how the folks used
themselves and I come out that business. They was selling themselves
just like cattle and I wouldn't have nothing to do with that.
"I knew Jerry Lawson, who was Justice of Peace. He was a nigger, a
low-down devil. Man, them niggers done more dirt in this city. The
Republicans had this city and state. I went to the polls and there was
very few white folks there. I knew several of them niggers--Mack
Armstrong, he was Justice of Peace. I can't call the rest of them.
Nothing but old thieves. If they had been people, they'd been honest.
Wouldn't sell their brother. It is bad yet. They still stealin' yet.
"That's another devil. Man, I'll tell you we seen terrible times. I
don't know nothing much about 'em myself. I know one thing. Abe Lincoln
said, 'Kill him wherever you see him.'
Self-Support and Support of Aged Slaves in Slave Times
"A white man asked me how much they givin' me. I said, 'Eight dollars.'
He said, 'You ought to be gittin' twenty-five.' I said, 'Maybe I ought
to be but I ain't.'
"I ain't able to do no work now. I ain't able to tote that wood hardly.
I don't git as much consideration as they give the slaves back yonder.
They didn't make the old people in slavery work when they was my age. My
daddy when he was my age, they turned him out. They give him a rice
patch where he could make his rice. When he died, he had a whole lot of
rice. They stopped putting all the slaves out at hard labor when they
got old. That's one thing. White folks will take care of their old ones.
Our folks won't do it. They'll take a stick and kill you. They don't
recognize you're human. Their parents don't teach them. Folks done quit
teaching their children. They don't teach them the right thing no more.
If they don't do, then they ought to make them do.
"I been here about twenty years in Little Rock. I went and bought this
place and paid for it. Somebody stole seventy-five dollars from me right
here in this house. And that got me down. I ain't never been able to git
"I paid a man for what he did for me. He said, 'Well, you owe me fifteen
cents.' When he got done he said, 'You owe me fifty cents.' You can't
trust a man in the city.
"I was living down in England. That's a little old country town. I come
here to Little Rock where I could be in a city. I done well. I bought
"I reckon I lived in Arkansas about thirty years before I left and come
here to Little Rock. When I left Georgia, I come to Arkansas and settled
down in Lonoke County, made crops there. I couldn't tell you how long I
stayed there. I didn't keep no record of it at all. I come out of Lonoke
County and went into Jefferson.
"Man, I was never in such shape as I am in now. That devilish stock law
killed me. It killed all the people. Nobody ain't been able to do
nothin' since they passed the stock law. I had seventy-five hogs and
twenty cows. They made a law you had to keep them chickens up, keep them
hogs up, keep them cows up. They shoots at every right thing, and the
wrong things they don't shoot at. God don't uphold no man to set you up
in the jail when you ain't done nothin'. You didn't have no privilege
then (slave time), and you ain't got none now."
Interviewer: Pernella Anderson, colored.
El Dorado Division
Federal Writers' Project
Union County. Arkansas
_EX-SLAVE AND RIDDLES_
"I was born in the Junction city community and belonged to the Cooks. I
was ten years old at surrender. Mother and father had 12 children and we
lived in a one room log cabin and cooked on a fireplace and oven. Mos
and Miss Cook did not allow ma and pa to whip me. When ever I do
something and I knew I was going to get a whipping I would make it to
old Miss. She would keep me from getting that whipping. I was a devilish
boy. I would do everything in the world I could think of just for
devilment. Old mos was sure good to his slaves. I never went to school
a day in my life. Old Miss would carry me to church sometimes when it
was hot so we could fan for her. We used palmeter fan leaves for fans.
We ate pretty good in slavery time, but we did not have all of this late
stuff. Some of our dishes was possum stew, vegetables, persimmon pie and
tato bread. Ma did not allow us to sit around grown folks. When they
were talking she always made us get under the bed. Our bed was made from
pine poles. We children slept on pallets on the floor. The way slaves
married in slavery time they jumped over the broom and when they
separated they jumped backward over the broom. Times were better in
slavery time to my notion than they are now because they did not go
hungry, neither necked. They ate common and wore one kind of clothes."
A duck, a bullfrog and a skunk went to a circus, the duck and the
bullfrog got in, why didn't the skunk get in?
(Answer). The duck had a bill, the bullfrog had a greenback but the
skunk had nothing but a scent.
If your father's sister is not your aunt what kin is she to you? (your
What is the difference between a four quart measure and a side saddle?
(Answer). They both hold a gallon. (a gal on)
--Cora Armstrong, colored.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Lillie Baccus, Madison, Arkansas
"I'll tell you what I heard. I was too little to remember the Civil War.
Mama's owner was ---- Dillard. She called him 'Master' Dillard. Papa's
owner was ---- Smith. He called him 'Master' Smith. Mama was named Ann
and papa Arthur Smith. I was born at West Point, Mississippi. I heard ma
say she was sold. She said Pattick sold her. She had to leave her two
children Cherry and Ann. Mama was a field hand. So was grandma yet she
worked in the house some she said. After freedom Cherry and Ann come to
mama. She was going to be sold agin but was freed before sold.
"Mama didn't live only till I was about three years old, so I don't know
enough to tell you about her. Grandma raised us. She was sold twice. She
said she run out of the house to pick up a star when the stars fell.
They showered down and disappeared.
"The Yankees camped close to where they lived, close to West Point,
Mississippi, but in the country close to an artesian well. The well was
on their place. The Yankees stole grandma and kept her at their tent.
They meant to take her on to wait on them and use but when they started
to move old master spicioned they had her hid down there. He watched out
and seen her when they was going to load her up. He went and got the
head man to make them give her up. She was so glad to come home. Glad to
see him cause she wanted to see him. They watched her so close she was
afraid they would shoot her leaving. She lived to be 101 years old. She
raised me. She used to tell how the overseer would whip her in the
field. They wasn't good to her in that way.
"I have three living children and eleven dead. I married twice. My first
husband is living. My second husband is dead. I married in day time in
the church the last time. All else ever took place in my life was hard
work. I worked in the field till I was too old to hit a tap. I live wid
my children. I get $8 and commodities.
"I come to Arkansas because they said money was easy to get--growed on
bushes. I had four little children to make a living for and they said it
"I think people is better than they was long time ago. Times is harder.
People have to buy everything they have as high as they is, makes money
scarce nearly bout a place as hen's teeth. Hens ain't got no teeth. We
don't have much money I tell you. The Welfare gives me $8."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Joseph Samuel Badgett
1221 Wright Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: Mother was a Fighter]
"My mother had Indian in her. She would fight. She was the pet of the
people. When she was out, the pateroles would whip her because she
didn't have a pass. She has showed me scars that were on her even till
the day that she died. She was whipped because she was out without a
pass. She could have had a pass any time for the asking, but she was too
proud to ask. She never wanted to do things by permission.
"I was born in 1864. I was born right here in Dallas County. Some of the
most prominent people in this state came from there. I was born on
Thursday, in the morning at three o'clock, May the twelfth. My mother
has told me that so often, I have it memorized.
Persistence of Slave Customs
"While I was a slave and was born close to the end of the Civil War, I
remember seeing many of the soldiers down here. I remember much of the
treatment given to the slaves. I used to say 'master' myself in my day.
We had to do that till after '69 or '70. I remember the time when I
couldn't go nowhere without asking the 'white folks.' I wasn't a slave
then but I couldn't go off without asking the white people. I didn't
know no better.
"I have known the time in the southern part of this state when if you
wanted to give an entertainment you would have to ask the white folks.
Didn't know no better. For years and years, most of the niggers just
stayed with the white folks. Didn't want to leave them. Just took what
they give 'em and didn't ask for nothing different.
"If I had known forty years ago what I know now!
First Negro Doctor in Tulip, Arkansas
"The first Negro doctor we ever seen come from Little Rock down to
Tulip, Arkansas. We were all excited. There were plenty of people who
didn't have a doctor living with twenty miles of them. When I was
fourteen years old, I was secretary of a conference.
"What little I know, an old white woman taught me. I started to school
under this old woman because there weren't any colored teachers. There
wasn't any school at Tulip where I lived. This old lady just wanted to
help. I went to her about seven years. She taught us a little every
year--'specially in the summer time. She was high class--a high class
Christian woman--belonged to the Presbyterian church. Her name was Mrs.
"I went to school to Scipio Jones once. Then they opened a public school
at Tulip and J.C. Smith taught there two years in the summer time. Then
Lula Baily taught there one year. She didn't know no more than I did.
Then Scipio came. He was there for a while. I don't remember just how
"After that I went to Pine Bluff. The County Judge at that time had the
right to name a student from each district. I was appointed and went up
there in '82 and '83 from my district. It took about eight years to
finish Branch Normal at that time. I stayed there two years. I roomed
with old man John Young.
"You couldn't go to school without paying unless you were sent by the
Board. We lived in the country and I would go home in the winter and
study in the summer. Professor J.C. Corbin was principal of the Pine
Bluff Branch Normal at that time. Dr. A.H. Hill, Professor Booker, and
quite a number of the people we consider distinguished were in school
then. They finished, but I didn't. I had to go to my mother because she
was ill. I don't claim to have no schooling at all.
"Forty Acres and a Mule"
"My mother received forty acres of land when freedom came. Her master
gave it to her. She was given forty acres of land and a colt. There is
no more to tell about that. It was just that way--a gift of forty acres
of land and a colt from her former master.
"My mother died. There is a woman living now that lost it (the home).
Mother let Malinda live on it. Mother lived with the white folks
meanwhile. She didn't need the property for herself. She kept it for us.
She built a nice log house on it. Fifteen acres of it was under
cultivation when it was given to her. My sister lived on it for a long
time. She mortgaged it in some way I don't know how. I remember when the
white people ran me down there some years back to get me to sign a title
to it. I didn't have to sign the paper because the property had been
deeded to Susan Badgett and HEIRS; lawyers advised me not to sign it.
But I signed it for the sake of my sister.
Father and Master
"My mother's master was named Badgett--Captain John Badgett. He was a
Methodist preacher. Some of the Badgetts still own property on Main
Street. My mother's master's father was my daddy.
"I was married July 12, 1889. Next year I will have been married fifty
years. My wife's name was Elizabeth Owens. She was born in Batesville,
Mississippi. I met her at Brinkley when she was visiting her aunt. We
married in Brinkley. Very few people in this city have lived together
longer than we have. July 12, 1938, will make forty-nine years. By July
1939, we will have reached our fiftieth anniversary.
Patrollers, Jayhawkers, Ku Klux, and Ku Klux Klan
"Pateroles, Jayhawkers, and the Ku Klux came before the war. The Ku Klux
in slavery times were men who would catch Negroes out and keep them if
they did not collect from their masters. The Pateroles would catch
Negroes out and return them if they did not have a pass. They whipped
them sometimes if they did not have a pass. The Jayhawkers were highway
men or robbers who stole slaves among other things. At least, that is
the way the people regarded them. The Jayhawkers stole and pillaged,
while the Ku Klux stole those Negroes they caught out. The word 'Klan'
was never included in their name.
"The Ku Klux Klan was an organization which arose after the Civil War.
It was composed of men who believed in white supremacy and who regulated
the morals of the neighborhood. They were not only after Jews and
Negroes, but they were sworn to protect the better class of people. They
took the law in their own hands.
"I'm not so certain about the amount of work required of slaves. My
mother says she picked four hundred pounds of cotton many a day. The
slaves were tasked and given certain amounts to accomplish. I don't know
the exact amount nor just how it was determined.
"It is too bad that the young Negroes don't know what the old Negroes
think and what they have done. The young folks could be helped if they
would take advice."
Badgett's distinctions between jayhawkers, Ku Klux, patrollers, and Ku
Klux Klan are most interesting.
I have been slow to catch it. All my life, I have heard persons with
ex-slave background refer to the activities of the Ku Klux among slaves
prior to 1865. I always thought that they had the Klux Klan and the
Badgett's definite and clear-cut memories, however, lead me to believe
that many of the Negroes who were slaves used the word Ku Klux to denote
a type of persons who stole slaves. It was evidently in use before it
was applied to the Ku Klux Klan.
The words "Ku Klux" and "Ku Klux Klan" are used indiscriminately in
current conversation and literature. It is also true that many persons
in the present do, and in the past did, refer to the Ku Klux Klan simply
as "Ku Klux."
It is a matter of record that the organization did not at first bear the
name "Ku Klux Klan" throughout the South. The name "Ku Klux" seems to
have grown in application as the organization changed from a moral
association of the best citizens of the South and gradually came under
the control of lawless persons with lawless methods--whipping and
murdering. It is antecedently reasonable that the change in names
accompanying a change in policy would be due to a fitness in the prior
use of the name.
The recent use of the name seems mostly imitation and propaganda.
Histories, encyclopedias, and dictionaries, in general, do not record a
meaning of the term Ku Klux as prior to the Reconstruction period.
Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
1. Name and address of informant--Jeff Bailey, 713 W. Ninth Street,
2. Date and time of interview--
3. Place of interview--713 W. Ninth Street, Little Rock.
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.
Personal History of Informant
NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT--Jeff Bailey, 713 W. Ninth Street, Little
1. Ancestry--father, Jeff Wells; mother, Tilda Bailey.
2. Place and date of birth--born in 1861 in Monticello, Arkansas.
4. Places lived in, with dates--reared in Monticello. Lived in Pine
Bluff thirty-two years, then moved to Little Rock and has lived here
5. Education, with dates--
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Hostler
7. Special skills and interests--
8. Community and religious activities--
9. Description of informant--
10. Other points gained in interview--
Text of Interview (Unedited)
NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT--Jeff Bailey, 713 W. Ninth Street, Little
[HW: A Hostler's Story]
"I was born in Monticello. I was raised there. Then I came up to Pine
Bluff and stayed there thirty-two years. Then I came up here and been
here thirty-two years. That is the reason the white folks so good to me
now. I been here so long, I been a hostler all my life. I am the best
hostler in this State. I go down to the post office they give me money.
These white folks here is good to me.
"What you writing down? Yes, that's what I said. These white folks like
me and they good to me. They give me anything I want. You want a drink?
That's the best bonded whiskey money can buy. They gives it to me. Well,
if you don't want it now, come in when you do.
"I lost my wife right there in that corner. I was married just once.
Lived with her forty-three years. She died here five months ago. Josie
Bailey! The white folks thought the world and all of her. That is
another reason they give me so much. She was one of the best women I
"I gits ten dollars a month. The check comes right up to the house. I
used to work with all them money men. Used to handle all them horses at
the post office. They ought to give me sixty-five dollars but they
don't. But I gits along. God is likely to lemme live ten years longer. I
worked at the post office twenty-two years and don't git but ten dollars
a month. They ought to gimme more.
"My father's name was Jeff Wells. My mother's name was Tilda Bailey. She
was married twice. I took her master's name. Jeff Wells was my father's
name. Governor Bailey ought to give me somethin'. I got the same name he
has. I know him.
"My father's master was Stanley--Jeff Stanley. That was in slavery time.
That was my slave time people. I was just a little bit of a boy. I am
glad you are gittin' that to help the colored people out. Are they goin'
to give the old slaves a pension? What they want to ask all these
questions for then? Well, I guess there's somethin' else besides money
that's worth while.
"My father's master was a good man. He was good to him. Yes Baby! Jeff
Wells, that my father's name. I was a little baby settin' in the basket
'round in the yard and they would put the cotton all 'round me. They
carried me out where they worked and put me in the basket. I couldn't
pick no cotton because I was too young. When they got through they would
put me in that big old wagon and carry me home. There wasn't no trucks
then. Jeff Wells (that was my father), when they got through pickin' the
cotton, he would say, 'Put them children in the wagon; pick 'em up and
put 'em in the wagon.' I was a little bitty old boy. I couldn't pick no
cotton then. But I used to pick it after the surrender.
"I remember what they said when they freed my father. They said, 'You're
free. You children are free. Go on back there and work and let your
children work. Don't work them children too long. You'll git pay for
your work.' That was in the Monticello courthouse yard. They said,
'You're free! Free!'
"My mistress said to me when I got back home, 'You're free. Go on out in
the orchard and git yoself some peaches.' They had a yard full of
peaches. Baby did I git me some peaches. I pulled a bushel of 'em.
Ku Klux Klan
"The Ku Klux run my father out of the fields once. And the white people
went and got them 'bout it. They said, 'Times is hard, and we can't have
these people losin' time out of the fields. You let these people work.'
A week after that, they didn't do no mo. The Ku Klux didn't. Somebody
laid them out. I used to go out to the fields and they would ask me,
'Jeff Bailey, what you do in' out here?' I was a little boy and you jus'
ought to seen me gittin' 'way frum there. Whooo-eeee!
"I used to pick cotton back yonder in Monticello. I can't pick no cotton
now. Naw Lawd! I'm too old. I can't do that kind of work now. I need
help. Carl Bailey knows me. He'll help me. I'm a hostler. I handle
horses. I used to pick cotton forty years ago. My mother washed clothes
right after the War to git us children some thin' to eat. Sometimes
somebody would give us somethin' to help us out.
"Tilda Bailey, that was my mother. She and my father belonged to
different masters. Bailey was her master's name. She always called
herself Bailey and I call myself Bailey. If I die, I'll be Bailey. My
insurance is in the name of Bailey. My father and mother had about eight
children. They raised all their children in Monticello. You ever been to
Monticello? I had a good time in Monticello. I was a baby when peace was
declared. Just toddling 'round.
"My father drank too much. I used to tell him about it. I used to say to
him, 'I wouldn't drink so much whiskey.' But he drank it right on. He
drank hisself to death.
"I believe Roosevelt's goin' to be President again. I believe he's goin'
to run for a third term. He's goin' to be dictator. He's goin' to be
king. He's goin' to be a good dictator. We don't want no more Republic.
The people are too hard on the poor people. President Roosevelt lets
everybody git somethin'. I hope he'll git it. I hope he'll be dictator.
I hope he'll be king. Yuh git hold uh some money with him.
"You couldn't ever have a chance if Cook got to be governor. I believe
Carl Bailey's goin' to be a good governor. I believe he'll do better.
They put Miz Carraway back; I believe she'll do good too."
NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT--Jeff Bailey, 713 W. Ninth Street, Little
Jeff Bailey talked like a man of ninety instead of a man of seventy-six
or seven. It was hard to get him to stick to any kind of a story. He had
two or three things on his mind and he repeated those things over and
over again--Governor Bailey, Hostler, Post Office. He had to be pried
loose from them. And he always returned the next sentence.
Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins.
Person Interviewed: James Baker Aged: 81
Home: With daughter who owns home at 941 Wade St.
The outskirts of eastern Hot Springs resemble a vast
checkerboard--patterned in Black and White. Within two blocks of a house
made of log-faced siding--painted a spotless white and provided with
blue shutters will be a shack which appears to have been made from the
discard of a dozen generations of houses.
Some of the yards are thick with rusting cans, old tires and
miscelaneous rubbish. Some of them are so gutted by gully wash that any
attempt at beautification would be worse than useless. Some are
swept--farm fashion--free from surface dust and twigs. Some
attempt--others achieve grass and flowers. Vegetable gardens are far
less frequent then they should be, considering space left bare.
The interviewer frankly lost her way several times. One improper
direction took her fully half a mile beyond her destination. From a
hilltop she could look down on less elevated hills and into narrow
valleys. The impression was that of a cheaply painted back-drop designed
for a "stock" presentation of "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch."
Moving along streets, alleys and paths backward "toward town" the
interviewer reached another hill. Almost a quarter of a mile away she
spied an old colored man sunning himself on the front porch of a well
kept cottage. Somthing about his white hair and erectly-slumped bearing
screamed "Ex-slave" even at that distance. A negro youth was passing.
"I beg your pardon, can you tell me where to find Wade Street and James
Baker?" "Ya--ya--ya--s ma'am. Dat--dat--dat's de house over
da--da--da--da--r. He--he--he lives at his daughter's" "Could that be he
on the porch?" "Ya--ya--yas ma'am. Dat--dat--dat's right."
"Yes, ma'am I'm James Baker. Yes ma'am I remembers about the war. You
want to talk to me about it. Let me get you a chair. You'd rather sit
right there on the step? All right ma'am.
I was born in Hot Spring county, below Melvern it was. I was borned on
the farm of a man named Hammonds. But I was pretty little when he sold
me to some folks named Fenton. Wasn't with them so very long. You know
how it goes--back in them days. When a girl or a boy would marry, why
they'd givem them as many black folks as they could spare. I was give to
one of the daughters when she married. She was Mrs. Samuel Gentry.
I wasn't so very big before the war. So I didn't have to work in the
fields. Just sort of played around. Can't remember very much about what
happened then. We never did see no fighting about. They was men what
passed through. They was soldiers. They come backwards and forewards. I
was about as big as that boy you see there"--pointing to a lad about 8
years old--"some of them they was dressed in blue--sort of blue. We was
told that they was Federals. Then some of them was in grey--them was the
No, we wasn't scared of them--either of them. They didn't never bother
none of us. Didn't have anything to be scared of not at all. It wasn't
really Malvern we was at--that was sort of before Malvern come to be.
Malvern didn't grow up until after the railroad come through. The town
was across the river, sort of this side. It was called Rockport.
Ma'am--you know about Rockport"--a delighted chuckle. "Yes, ma'am, don't
many folks now-a-days know about Rockport. Yes ma'am the river is pretty
shoaly right there. Pretty shoaly. Yes ma'am there was lots of doings
around Rockport. Yes ma'am. Dat's right. Before Garland county was made,
Rockport was the capitol O--I mean de county seat of Hot Spring County.
Hot Springs was in that county at that time. There was big doings in
town when they held court. Real big doings.
No, ma'am I didn't do nothing much when the war was over. No, I didn't
go to be with my daddy. I moved over to live with a man I called Uncle
Billy--Uncle Billy Bryant he was. He had all his family with him. I
stayed with him and did what he told me to--'til I grew up. He was
always good to me--treated me like his own children.
Uncle Billy lived at Rockport. I liked living with him. I remember the
court house burned down--or blowed down--seems like to me it burned
down. Uncle Billy got the job of cleaning bricks. I helped him. That was
when they moved over to Malvern--the court house I mean. No--no they
didn't. Not then, that was later--they didn't build the railroad until
later. They built it back--sort of simple like--built it down by Judge
No ma'am. I don't remember nothing about when they built the railroad.
You see we lived across the river--and I guess--well I just didn't know
nothing about it. But Rockport wasn't no good after the railroad come
in. They moved the court house and most of the folks moved away. There
wasn't nothing much left.
I started farming around there some. I moved about quite a bit. I lived
down sort of by Benton too for quite a spell. I worked around at most
any kind of farming.
'Course most of the time we was working at cotton and corn. I's spent
most of my life farming. I like it. Moved around pretty considerable.
Sometimes I hired out--sometimes I share cropped--sometimes I worked
thirds and fourths. What does I mean by hired out--I means worked for
wages. Which way did I like best--I'll take share-cropping. I sort of
I been in Hot Springs for 7 years. Come to be with my daughter." (An
interruption by a small negro girl--neatly dressed and bright-eyed. Not
content with watching from the sidelines she had edged closer and
squatted comfortably within a couple of feet of the interviewer. A wide,
pearly grin, a wee pointing forefinger and, "Granddaddy, that lady's got
a tablet just like Aunt Ellen. See, Granddaddy.") "You mustm't bother
the lady. Didn't your mother tell you not to stop folks when they is
talking."--the voice was kindly and there was paternal pride in it. A
nickle--tendered the youngster by the interviewer--and guaranteed to
produce a similar tablet won a smile and childish silence.
"Yes, ma'am, I lives with my daughter--her name is Lulu Mitchell. She
owns her house--yes ma'am it helps. But it's sure hard to get along.
Seems like it's lots harder now than it used to be when I was gitting
started. Lulu works--she irons. Another daughter lives right over there.
Her name's Ellen. She works too--at what she can get to do. She owns her
Three of my daughters is living. Been married twice--I has. Didn't stay
with the last one long. Yes ma'am I been coming backwards and forewards
to Hot Springs all my life--you might say. 'Twasn't far over and I kept
a'coming back. Been living all around here. It's pretty nice being with
my daughter. She's good to me. I loves my granddaughter. We has a pretty
hard time--Harder dan what I had when I was young--but then it do seem
like it's harder to earn money dan what it was when I was young."
Interviewer: R.S. Taylor
Person Interviewed: Uncle William Baltimore
Resident: Route #1, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Jefferson County. Age: 103.
"You wants to know how old I is? I'se lived a long time. I'se goin' on
104. My gran'mammy was over 100 years. My mamma was 100. My pappy was
96. They was twelve chilluns. I don't know if any of my sisters or
brothers is livin'. Don't know if one of my friends back in my boy days
is livin'. I'se like a poor old leaf left hangin' to a tree.
"Yes--I sho do member back befo' the war. I was borned on the Dr. Waters
place about twelve miles out of Pine Bluff on the east side of Noble
Lake. My gran'mammy and gran'pappy and my mamma and my pappy were slaves
on de Walker plantation. I was not bought or sold--just lived on de old
plantation. I wasn't whipped neither but once I mighty near got a
beatin'. Want to hear about it? I likes to tell.
"Dr. Waters had a good heart. He didn't call us 'slaves'. He call us
'servants'. He didn't want none of his niggers whipped 'ceptin when
there wasn't no other way. I was grown up pretty good size. Dr. Waters
liked me cause I could make wagons and show mules. Once when he was
going away to be gone all day, he tole me what to do while he was gone.
The overseer wasn't no such good man as old master. He wanted to be boss
and told me what to do. I tole him de big boss had tole me what to do
and I was goin' to do it. He got mad and said if I didn't do what he
said I'd take a beating. I was a big nigger and powerful stout. I tole
the overseer fore he whipped me he's show himself a better man than I
was. When he found he was to have a fight he didn't say no more about
"I worked on de plantation till de war broke. Then I went into the army
with them what called themselves secesh's. I didn't fight none, never
give me a gun nor sword. I was a servant. I cooked and toted things. In
1863 I was captured by the Yankees and marched to Little Rock and sworn
in as a Union Soldier. I was sure enough soldier now. I never did any
fighting but I marched with the soldiers and worked for them whatever
"We marched from Pine Bluff on through Ft. Smith and the Indian
Territory of Oklahoma. Then we went to Leavenworth Kansas and back to
Jefferson County, Arkansas. And all that walking I did on these same
foots you see right here now.
"On this long march we camped thirty miles from Ft. Smith. We had gone
without food three days and was powerful hongry. I started out to get
something to eat. I found a sheep, I was tickled. I laughed. I could
turn the taste of that sheep meat under my tongue. When I got to camp
with the sheep I had to leave for picket duty. Hungrier than ever, I
thought of that sheep all the time. When I got back I wanted my chunk of
meat. It had been killed, cooked, eat up. Never got a grease spot on my
finger from my sheep.
"When time come for breaking up the army I went back to Jefferson county
and set to farmin'. I was free now. I didn't do so well on the land as I
didn't have mules and money to live on. I went to Dersa County and
opened up a blacksmith shop. I learned how to do this work when I was
with Dr. Waters. He had me taught by a skilled man. I learned to build
"I made my own tools. Who showed me how? Nobody. When I needed a hack
saw I made it out of a file--that was all I had to make it of. I had to
have it. Once I made a cotton scraper out of a piece of hardwood. I put
a steel edge on it. O yes I made everything. Can I build a wagon--make
all the parts? Every thing but the hubs for the wheels.
"You say I don't seem to see very well. Ha-ha! I don't see nuthin' at
all. I'se been plum blind for 23 years. I can't see nothin'. But I
patches my own clothes. You don't know how I can thread the needle? Look
here." I asked him to let me see his needle threader. He felt around in
a drawer and pulled out a tiny little half arrow which he had made of a
bit of tin with a pair of scissors and fine file. He pushed this through
the eye of the needle, then hooked the thread on it and pulled it back
again threading his needle as fast as if he had good eyesight. "This is
a needle threader. I made it myself. Watch me thread a needle. Can't I
do it as fast as if I had a head full of keen eyes? My wife been gone
twenty years. She went blind too. I had to do something. My patches may
not look so pretty but they sure holt (hold).
"You wants to know what I think of the way young folks is doing these
days? They'se goin' to fast. So is their papas and mammas. Dey done
forgot dey's a God and a day of settlin'. Den what dances pays de
fiddler. I got religion long time ago--jined de Baptist church in 1870
and haven't never got away from it. I'se tried to tote fair with God and
he's done fair by me.
"Does I get a pension? I shure do. It was a lucky day when de Yankees
got me. Ef they hadn't I don't know what'd become of me. After I went
blind I had hard times. Folks, white folks and all, brought me food. But
that wasn't any good way to get along. Sometimes I ate, sometimes I
didn't. So some of my white, friends dug up my record with the Yankees
and got me a pension. Now I'm setting pretty for de rest of my life.
Yes--O yes I'se older dan most folks get. Still I may be still takin' my
grub here when some of these young whiskey drinkin razzin' around young
chaps is under the dirt. It pays to I don know of any bad spots in me
yet. It pays to live honest, work hard, stay sober. God only knows what
some of these lazy, triflin' drinkin' young folks is comin' to."
Interviewer: Pernella M. Anderson
Person interviewed: Mose Banks
Douglas Addition, El Dorado, Arkansas
"My name is Mose Banks and I am sixty-nine years old. I was born in
1869. I was born four years after freedom but still I was a slave in a
way. My papa stayed with his old miss and master after freedom until he
died and he just died in 1918, so we all stayed with him too. I had one
of the best easiest times in my life. My master was name Bob Stevenson
and he was a jewel. Never meaned us, never dogged, never hit one of us
in his life. He bought us just like he bought my papa. He never made any
of the girls work in the field. He said the work was too hard. He always
said splitting rails, bushing, plowing and work like that was for men.
That work makes no count women.
"The girls swept yards, cleaned the house, nursed, and washed and
ironed, combed old miss' and the children's hair and cut their finger
and toe nails and mended the clothes. The womens' job was to cook,
attend to the cows, knit all the socks for the men and boys, spin
thread, card bats, weave cloth, quilt, sew, scrub and things like that.
"The little boys drove up the cows, slopped the hogs, got wood and pine
for light, go to the spring and get water. After a boy was twelve then
he let him work in the fields. My main job was hitching the horse to the
buggy for old Miss Stevenson, and put the saddle on old master's saddle
"I was very small but when the first railroad come through old master
took us to see the train. I guess it was about forty or fifty miles
because it took us around four days to make the round trip. The trains
were not like they are now. The engine was smaller and they burned wood
and they had what they called a drum head and they didn't run very fast,
and could not carry many cars. It was a narrow gauge road and the rails
were small and the road was dirt. It was not gravel and rocks like it is
now. It was a great show to me and we all had something to talk about
for a long time. People all around went to see it and we camped out one
night going and coming and camped one night at the railroad so we could
see the train the next day. A man kept putting wood in the furnace in
order to keep a fire. Smoke come out of the drum head. The drum head was
something like a big washpot or a big old hogshead barrel. An ox team
was used for most all traveling. You did not see very many horses or
"The white children taught us how to read and I went to school too.
"I went to church too. We did not have a church house; we used a brush
arbor for service for a long time. In the winter we built a big fire in
the middle and we sat all around the fire on small pine logs. Later they
built a log church, so we had service in there for years.
"We did not live near a school, so old mistress and the children taught
us how to read and write and count. I never went to school in my life
and I bet you, can't none of these children that rub their heads on
college walls beat me reading and counting. You call one and ask them to
divide ninety-nine cows and one bob-tailed bull by two, and they can't
answer it to save their lives without a pencil and paper and two hours'
figuring when it's nothing to say but fifty.
"Wasn't no cook stoves and heaters until about 1890 or 1900. If there
was I did not know about them. They cooked on fireplace and fire out in
the yard on what they called oven and we had plenty of plain grub. We
stole eggs from the big house because we never got any eggs.
"The custom of marrying was just pack up and go on and live with who you
wanted to; that is the Negroes did--I don't know how the white people
married. This lawful marrying came from the law since man made law.
"When anybody died everybody stopped working and moaned and prayed until
after the burying.
"I can say there is as much difference between now and sixty years ago
as it is in day and night."
Interviewer: S. S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Henry Banner
Little Rock, Ark.
[HW: Forty Acres and a Mule]
"I was sold the third year of the war for fifteen years old. That would
be in 1864. That would make my birthday come in 1849. I must have been
12 year old when the war started and sixteen when Lee surrendered. I was
born and raised in Russell County, Ol' Virginny. I was sold out of
Russell County during the war. Ol' Man Menefee refugeed me into
Tennessee near Knoxville. They sold me down there to a man named Jim
Maddison. He carried me down in Virginny near Lynchburg and sold me to
Jim Alec Wright. He was the man I was with in the time of the surrender.
Then I was in a town called Liberty. The last time I was sold, I sold
for $2,300,--more than I'm worth now.
"Police were for white folks. Patteroles were for niggers. If they
caught niggers out without a pass they would whip them. The patteroles
were for darkies, police for other people.
"They run me once, and I ran home. I had a dog at home, and there wasn't
no chance them gettin' by that dog. They caught me once in Liberty, and
Mrs. Charlie Crenchaw, Ol' John Crenchaw's daughter, came out and made
them turn me loose. She said, 'They are our darkies; turn them loose.'
"One of them got after me one night. I ran through a gate and he
couldn't get through. Every time I looked around, I would see through
the trees some bush or other and think it was him gaining on me. God
knows! I ran myself to death and got home and fell down on the floor.
"The slaves weren't expecting nothing. It got out somehow that they were
going to give us forty acres and a mule. We all went up in town. They
asked me who I belonged to and I told them my master was named Banner.
One man said, 'Young man, I would go by my mama's name if I were you.' I
told him my mother's name was Banner too. Then he opened a book and told
me all the laws. He told me never to go by any name except Banner. That
was all the mule they ever give me.
"I started home a year after I got free and made a crop. I had my gear
what I had saved on the plantation and went to town to get my mule but
there wasn't any mule.
"Before the war you belonged to somebody. After the war you weren't
nothin' but a nigger. The laws of the country were made for the white
man. The laws of the North were made for man.
"Freedom is better than slavery though. I done seed both sides. I seen
darkies chained. If a good nigger killed a white overseer, they wouldn't
do nothin' to him. If he was a bad nigger, they'd sell him. They raised
niggers to sell; they didn't want to lose them. It was just like a mule
killing a man.
"Yellow niggers didn't sell so well. There weren't so many of them as
there are now. Black niggers stood the climate better. At least,
everybody thought so.
"If a woman didn't breed well, she was put in a gang and sold. They
married just like they do now but they didn't have no license. Some
people say that they done this and that thing but it's no such a thing.
They married just like they do now, only they didn't have no license.
"Ol' man came out on April 9, 1865. and said, 'General Lee's whipped now
and dam badly whipped. The war is over. The Yankees done got the
country. It is all over. Just go home and hide everything you got.
General Lee's army is coming this way and stealing everything they can
get their hands on.' But General Lee's army went the other way.
"I saw a sack of money setting near the store. I looked around and I
didn't see nobody. So I took it and carried it home. Then I hid it. I
heard in town that Jeff Davis was dead and his money was no good. I took
out some of the money and went to the grocery and bought some bread and
handed her five dollar bill. She said, 'My goodness, Henry, that money
is no good; the Yankees have killed it.' And I had done gone all over
the woods and hid that money out. There wasn't no money. Nobody had
anything. I worked for two bits a day. All our money was dead.
"The Yankees fed the white people with hard tacks (at Liberty,
Virginia). All around the country, them that didn't have nothin' had to
go to the commissary and get hard tacks.
"I started home. I went to town and rambled all around but there wasn't
nothin' for me.
"I was set free in April. About nine o'clock in the morning when we went
to see what work we would do, ol' man Wright called us all up and told
us to come together. Then he told us we were free. I couldn't get
nothing to do; so I jus' stayed on and made a crop."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: John W. H. Barnett, Marianna, Arkansas
"I was born at Clinton Parish, Louisiana. I'm eighty-one years old. My
parents and four children was sold and left six children behind. They
kept the oldest children. In that way I was sold but never alone. Our
family was divided and that brought grief to my parents. We was sold on
a block at New Orleans. J.J. Gambol (Gamble?) in north Louisiana bought
us. After freedom I seen all but one of our family. I don't recollect
why that was.
"For three weeks steady after the surrender people was passing from the
War and for two years off and on somebody come along going home. Some
rode and some had a cane or stick walking. Mother was cooking a pot of
shoulder meat. Them blue soldiers come by and et it up. I didn't get any
I know that. They cleaned us out. Father was born at Eastern Shore,
Maryland. He was about half Indian. Mother's mother was a squaw. I'm
more Indian than Negro. Father said it was a white man's war. He didn't
go to war. Mother was very dark. He spoke a broken tongue.
"We worked on after freedom for the man we was owned by. We worked crops
and patches. I didn't see much difference then. I see a big change come
out of it. We had to work. The work didn't slacken a bit. I never owned
land but my father owned eighty acres in Drew County. I don't know what
become of it. I worked on the railroad section, laid crossties, worked
in stave mills. I farmed a whole lot all along. I hauled and cut wood.
"I get ten dollars and I sells sassafras and little things along to help
out. My wife died. My two sons left just before the World War. I never
hear from them. I married since then.
"Present times--I can't figure it out. Seems like a stampede. Not much
work to do. If I was young I reckon I could find something to do.
"Present generation--Seem like they are more united. The old ones have
to teach the young ones what to do. They don't listen all the time. The
times is strange. People's children don't do them much good now seems
like. They waste most all they make some way. They don't make it regular
like we did farming. The work wasn't regular farming but Saturday was
ration day and we got that."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Josephine Ann Barnett,
R.F.D., De Valls Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 75 or 80
"I do not knows my exact age. I judge I somewhere between 75 and 80
years old. I was born close to Germantown, Tennessee. We belong, that is
my mother, to Phillip McNeill and Sally McNeill. My mother was a milker.
He had a whole heap of hogs, cattle and stock. That not all my mother
done. She plowed. Children done the churnin'.
"The way it all come bout I was the onliest chile my mother had. Him and
Miss Sallie left her to help gather the crop and they brought me in the
buggy wid them. I set on a little box in the foot of the buggy. It had a
white umbrella stretched over it. Great big umbrella run in between
them. It was fastened to the buggy seat. When we got to Memphis they
loaded the buggy on the ship. I had a fine time coming. When we got to
Bucks Landing we rode to his place in the buggy. It is 13 miles from
here (De Valls Bluff). In the fall nearly all his slaves come out here.
Then when my mother come on. I never seen my papa after I left back home
[TR: Crossed out: (near Germantown)]. My father belong to Boston Hack.
He wouldn't sell and Mr. McNeill wouldn't sell and that how it come.
"I muster been five or six years old when I come out here to Arkansas.
My grandma was a midwife. She was already out here. She had to come with
the first crowd cause some women was expecting. I tell you it sho was
squally times. This country was wild. It was different from Tennessee or
close to Germantown where we come from. None of the slaves liked it but
they was brought.
"The war come on direckly after we got here. Several families had the
slaves drove off to Texas to save them. Keep em from following the
Yankee soldiers right here at the Bluff off. I remember seein' them come
up to the gate. My mother and two aunts went. His son and some more men
drove em. After freedom them what left childern come back. I stayed with
my grandma while they gone. I fed the chickens, shelled corn, churned,
swept. I done any little turns they sent me to do.
"One thing I remember happened when they had scrimmage close--it mighter
been the one on Long Prairie--they brought a young boy shot through his
lung to Mr. Phillip McNeill's house. He was a stranger. He died. I felt
so sorry for him. He was right young. He belong to the Southern army.
The Southern army nearly made his place their headquarters.
"Another thing I remember was a agent was going through the country
settin' fire to all the cotton. Mr. McNeill had his cotton--all our crop
we made. That man set it afire. It burned more than a week big. He
burned some left at the gin not Mr. McNeill's. It was fun to us children
but I know my grandma cried and all the balance of the slaves. Cause
they got some Christmas money and clothes too when the cotton was sold.
"The slaves hated the Yankees. They treated them mean. They was having a
big time. They didn't like the slaves. They steal from the slaves too.
Some poor folks didn't have slaves.
"After freedom my mother come back after me and we come here to De Valls
Bluff and I been here ever since. The Yankee soldiers had built shacks
and they left them. They would do. Some was one room, log, boxed and all
sorts. They give us a little to eat to keep us from starvin'. It sho was
a little bit too. My mother got work about.
"The first schoolhouse was a colored school. We had two rooms and two
teachers sent down from the North to teach us. If they had a white
school I didn't know it. They had one later on. I was bout grown. Mr.
Proctor and Miss Rice was the first teachers. We laughed bout em. They
was rough looking, didn't look like white folks down here we'd been used
to. They thought they sho was smart. Another teacher come down here was
Mr. Abner. White folks wouldn't have nothin' to do with em. We learned.
They learned us the ABC's and to write. I can read. I learned a heap of
it since I got grown just trying. They gimme a start.
"Times is hard in a way. Prices so high. I never had a hard time in my
life. I get $40 a month. It is cause my husband was a soldier here at De
"I do not vote. I ain't goiner vote.
"I don't know what to think of the young generation. They are on the
road to ruin seems like. I speakln' of the real young folks. They do
like they see the white girls and boys doin'. I don't know what to
become of em. The women outer stay at home and let the men take care of
em. The women seems like taking all the jobs. The colored folks cookin'
and making the living for their men folks. It ain't right--to me. But I
don't care how they do. Things ain't got fixed since that last war."
Interviewer: Mrs. Rosa B. Ingram
Person interviewed: Lizzie Barnett; Conway, Arkansas
"Yes; I was born a slave. My old mammy was a slave before me. She was
owned by my old Miss, Fanny Pennington, of Nashville, Tennessee. I was
born on a plantation near there. She is dead now. I shore did love Miss
"Did you have any brothers and sisters, Aunt Liz.?"
"Why, law yes, honey, my mammy and Miss Fanny raised dey chillun
together. Three each, and we was jes' like brothers and sisters, all
played in de same yard. No, we did not eat together. Dey sot us niggers
out in de yard to eat, but many a night I'se slept with Miss Fanny.
"Mr. Pennington up and took de old-time consumption. Dey calls it T.B.
now. My mammy nursed him and took it from him and died before Mr. Abe
Lincoln ever sot her free.
"I have seen hard times, Miss, I shore have.
"In dem days when a man owned a plantation and had children and they
liked any of the little slave niggers, they were issued out to 'em just
like a horse or cow.
"'Member, honey, when de old-time war happened between the North and
South, The Slavery War. It was so long ago I just can 'member it. Dey
had us niggers scared to death of the Bluejackets. One day a man come to
Miss Fanny's house and took a liking to me. He put me up on a block an'
he say, 'How old is dis nigger?' An' she say 'five' when she know well
an' good I was ten. No, he didn't get me. But I thought my time had
"Yes, siree, I was Miss Fanny's child. Why wouldn't I love her when I
sucked titty from her breast when my mammy was working in the field? I
shore did love Miss Fanny.
"When de nigger war was over and dey didn't fit (fight) any longer, Abe
Lincoln sot all de niggers free and den got 'sassinated fer doin it.
"Miss, you don't know what a hard life we slaves had, cause you ain't
old enough to 'member it. Many a time I've heard the bull whips
a-flying, and heard the awful cries of the slaves. The flesh would be
cut in great gaps and the maggits (maggots) would get in them and they
would squirm in misery.
"I want you to know I am not on Arkansas born nigger. I come from
Tennessee. Be sure to put that down. I moved to Memphis after Miss Fanny
"While I lived in Memphis, de Yellow Fever broke out. You have never
seed the like. Everything was under quarantine. The folks died in piles
and de coffins was piled as high as a house. They buried them in
trenches, and later they dug graves and buried them. When they got to
looking into the coffins, they discovered some had turned over in dey
coffins and some had clawed dey eyes out and some had gnawed holes in
dey hands. Dey was buried alive!
"Miss, do you believe in ha'nts? Well, if you had been in Memphis den
you would. Dey was jes' paradin' de streets at nite and you'd meet dem
comin at you round de dark corners and all de houses everywhere was
ha'nted. I've seed plenty of 'em wid my own eyes, yes, siree.
"Yes, the times were awful in Memphis endurin the plague. Women dead
lying around and babies sucking their breasts. As soon as the frost came
and the quarantine was lifted, I came to Conway, 1867. But I am a
"When I cams to Conway there were few houses to live in. No depot. I
bought this piece of land to build my shanty from Mr. Jim Harkrider for
$25.00. I worked hard for white folks and saved my money and had this
little two-room house built (mud chimney, and small porch and one small
window). It is about to fall down on me, but it will last as long as I
live. At first, I lived and cooked under a bush (brush) arbor. Cooked on
the coals in an iron skillet. Here it it, Miss.
"Part ob de time after de nigger war (Civil) I lived in Hot Springs.
President 'Kinley had a big reservation over there and a big hospital
for the sick and wounded soldiers. Den de war broke out in Cuba and dere
was a spatch (dispatch) board what de news come over dat de war was on.
Den when dat war was over and 'Kinley was tryin to get us niggers a
slave pension dey up and 'sassinated him.
"After Mr. Lincoln sot de slaves free, dey had Northern teachers down
South and they were called spies and all left the country.
"I don't know 'sactly how old I am. Dey say I am 100. If Miss Fanny was
livin' she could settle it. But I have had a hard life. Yes mam. Here I
is living in my shanty, 'pendin' on my good white neighbors to feed me
and no income 'cept my Old Age Pension. Thank God for Mr. Roosevelt. I
love my Southern white friends. I am glad the North and South done shook
hands and made friends. All I has to do now is sit and look forward to
de day when I can meet my old mammy and Miss Fanny in the Glory Land.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Spencer Barnett (blind), Holly Grove, Ark.
"I was born April 30, 1856. It was wrote in a old Bible. I am 81 years
old. I was born 3 miles from Florence, Alabama. The folks owned us was
Nancy and Mars Tom Williams. To my recollection they had John, William,
and Tom, boys; Jane, Ann, Lucy, and Emma, girls. In my family there was
13 children. My parents name Harry and Harriett Barnett.
"Mars Tom Williams had a tanning yard. He bought hides this way: When a
fellow bring hides he would tan em then give him back half what he
brought. Then he work up the rest in shoes, harness, whoops, saddles and
sell them. The man all worked wid him and he had a farm. He raised corn,
cotton, wheat, and oats.
"That slavery was bad. Mars Tom Williams wasn't cruel. He never broke
the skin. When the horn blowed they better be in place. They used a
twisted cowhide whoop. It was wet and tied, then it mortally would hurt.
One thing you had to be in your place day and night. It was confinin'.
"Sunday was visiting day.
"One man come to dinner, he hit a horse wid a rock and run way. He
missed his dinner. He come back fo dark and went tole Mars Tom. He
didn't whoop him. I was mighty little when that took place.
"They worked on Saturday like any other day. One man fixed out the
rations. It didn't take long fer to go git em.
"The women plowed like men in plow time. Some women made rails. When it
was cold and raining they spun and wove in the house. The men cut wood
under a shed or side the barn so it knock off the wind. Mars Tom
Williams had 12 grown men and women. I was too little to count but I
heard my folks call am over by name and number more times en I got
fingers and toes. He would hire em out to work some.
"When freedom come on I was on Hawkin Lankford Simpson place. It was 3
or 5 miles from town. They had a big dinner-picnic close by. It was 4 or
5 day of August. A lot of soldiers come by there and said, 'You niggers
air free.' It bout broke up the picnic. The white folks broke off home.
Them wanted to go back went, them didn't struck off gone wild. Miss Lucy
and Mr. Bob Barnett give all of em stayed some corn and a little money.
Then he paid off at the end of the year. Then young master went and
rented at Dilly Hunt place. We stayed wid him 3 or 4 years then we went
to a place he bought. Tom Barnett come to close to Little Rock. Mars
William started and died on the way in Memphis. We come on wid the
family. Guess they are all dead now. Wisht I know or could find em. Tom
never married. He was a soldier. One of the boys died fo the war
"My brother Joe married Luvenia Omsted and Lewis Omsted married my
sister Betsy and Mars Tom Williams swapped the women. My ma was a cook
for the white folks how I come to know so much bout it all. Boys wore
loose shirts till they was nine or ten years old. The shirt come to the
calf of the leg. No belt.
"We had plenty common eating. They had a big garden and plenty milk.
They cooked wid the eggs mostly. They would kill a beef and have a week
of hog killing. They would kill the beef the hardest weather that come.
The families cooked at night and on Sunday at the log cabins. They cook
at night for all next day. The old men hauled wood.
"When I was a little boy I could hear men runnin' the slaves wid hounds
in the mountains. The landmen paid paddyrollers to keep track of slaves.
Keep em home day and night.
"We took turns bout going to white church. We go in washin' at the creek
and put on clean clothes. She learned me a prayer. Old mistress learned
me to say it nights I slept up at the house. I still can say it:
'Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die fo I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.'
"The slaves at our places had wheat straw beds. The white folks had fine
goose feather beds. We had no idle days. Had a long time at dinner to
rest and rest and water the teams. Sometimes we fed them. Old mistress
had two peafowls roosted in the Colonial poplar trees. She had a pigeon
house and a turkey house. I recken chicken and goose house, too. When
company come you take em to see the farm, the garden, the new leather
things jes' made and to see the little ducks, calves, and colts. Folks
don't care bout seeing that now.
"The girls went to Florence to school. All I can recollect is them going
off to school and I knowed it was Florence.
"The Yankees burned the big house. It was a fine house. Old mistress
moved in the overseer's house. He was a white man. He moved somewhere
else. The Yankees made raids and took 15 or 20 calves from her at one
time. They set the tater house afire. They took the corn. Old mistress
cried more on one time. The Yankees starved out more black faces than
white at their stealing. After that war it was hard for the slaves to
have a shelter and enough eatin' that winter. They died in piles bout
after that August I tole you bout. Joe Innes was our overseer when the
"The Ku Klux come to my house twice. They couldn't get filled up wid
water. They scared us to death. I heard a lot of things they done.
"I don't vote. I voted once in all my life fo some county officers.
"I been in Arkansas since February 5, 1880. I come to Little Cypress. I
worked for Mr. Clark by the month, J.W. Crocton's place, Mr. Kitchen's
place. I was brakeman on freight train awhile. I worked on the section.
I farmed and worked in the timber. I don't have no children; I never
been married. I wanted to work by the month all my life. I sells mats
(shuck mats) $1.00 and I bottom chairs 50c. The Social Welfare gives me
$10.00. That is 10c a meal. That woman next door boards me--table
board--for 50c a day. I make all I can outer fust one thing and
another." (He is blind--cataracts.)
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Emma Barr, Madison, Arkansas
"My parents belong to two people. Mama was born in Mississippi I think
and papa come from North Carolina. Papa's master was Lark Hickerson.
Mama was sold from Dr. Ware to Dr. Pope. She was grown when she was
sold. She was the mother of twenty-seven children. She had twins three
"During the Civil War she was run from the Yankees and had twins on the
road. They died or was born dead and she nearly died. They was buried
between twin trees close to Hernando, Mississippi. Her last owner was
Dr. Pope, ten miles south of Augusta, Arkansas. I was born there and
raised up three miles south of Augusta, Arkansas.
"When mama was sold she left her people in Mississippi but after freedom
her sisters, Aunt Mariah and Aunt Mary, come here to mama. Aunt Mariah
had no children. Aunt Mary had four boys, two girls. She brought her
children. Mama said her husband when Dr. Ware owned her was Maxwell but
she married my papa after Dr. Pope bought her.
"Dr. Ware had a fine man he bred his colored house women to. They didn't
plough and do heavy work. He was hostler, looked after the stock and got
in wood. The women hated him, and the men on the place done as well.
They hated him too. My papa was a Hickerson. He was a shoemaker and
waited on Dr. Pope. Dr. Pope and Miss Marie was good to my parents and
to my auntees when they come out here.
"I am the onliest one of mama's children living. Mama was sold on the
block and cried off I heard them say when they lived at Wares in
Mississippi. Mama was a house girl, Aunt Mary cooked and my oldest
sister put fire on the skillet and oven lids. That was her job.
"Mama was lighter than I am. She had Indian blood in her. One auntee was
half white. She was lighter than I am, had straight hair; the other
auntee was real dark. She spun and wove and knit socks. Mama said they
had plenty to eat at both homes. Dr. Pope was good to her. Mama went to
the white folks church to look after the babies. They took the babies
and all the little children to church in them days.
"Mama said the preachers told the slaves to be good and bedient. The
colored folks would meet up wid one another at preaching same as the
white folks. I heard my auntees say when the Yankees come to the house
the mistress would run give the house women their money and jewelry and
soon as the Yankees leave they would come get it. That was at Wares in
"I heard them talk about slipping off and going to some house on the
place and other places too and pray for freedom during the War. They
turned an iron pot upside down in the room. When some mens' slaves was
caught on another man's place he was allowed to whoop them and send them
home and they would git another whooping. Some men wouldn't allow that;
they said they would tend to their own slaves. So many men had to leave
home to go to war times got slack.
"It was Judge Martin that owned my papa before he was freed. He lived
close to Augusta, Arkansas. When he was freed he lived at Dr. Pope's. He
was sold in North Carolina. Dr. Pope and Judge Martin told them they was
free. Mama stayed on with Dr. Pope and he paid her. He never did whoop
her. Mama told me all this. She died a few years ago. She was old. I
never heard much about the Ku Klux. Mama was a good speller. I was a
good speller at school and she learned with us. I spelled in Webster's
Blue Back Speller.
"We children stayed around home till we married off. I nursed nearly all
my life. Me and my husband farmed ten years. He died. I don't have a
child. I wish I did have a girl. My cousin married us in the church. His
name was Andrew Baccus.
"After my husband died I went to Coffeeville, Kansas and nursed an old
invalid white woman three years, till she died. I come back here where I
was knowed. I'm keeping this house for some people gone off. Part of the
house is rented out and I get $8 and commodities. I been sick with the
Interviewer: S.S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Robert Barr
3108 West 18th St.
Little Rock, Ark.
[HW: A Preacher Tells His Story]
"I am a minister of the Gospel. I have been preaching for the last
thirty years. I am batching here. A man does better to live by himself.
Young people got the devil in them now a days. Your own children don't
want you around.
"I got one grand-daughter that ain't never stood on the floor. Her
husband kicked her and hit her and she ain't never been able to stand up
since. I got another daughter that ain't thinking about marrying. She
just goes from one man to the other.
"The government gives me a pension. The white folks help me all along.
Before I preached, I fiddled, danced, shot craps, did anything.
"My mother was born in Chickasaw, Mississippi. She was born a slave. Old
man Barr was her master. She was a Lucy Appelin and she married a Barr.
I don't know whether she stood on the floor and married them as they do
now or not. They tell me that they just gave them to them in those days.
My mother said that they didn't know anything about marriage then. They
had some sort of a way of doing. Ol' Massa would call them up and say,
'You take that man, and go ahead. You are man and wife.' I don't care
whether you liked it or didn't. You had to go ahead. I heard em say:
'Nigger ain't no more'n a horse or cow,' But they got out from under
that now. The world is growing more and more civilized. But when a
nigger thinks he is something, he ain't nothin'. White folks got all the
laws and regulations in their hands and they can do as they please. You
surrender under em and go along and you are all right. If they told a
woman to go to a man and she didn't, they would whip her. You didn't
have your own way. They would make you do what they wanted. They'd give
you a good beating too.
"My father was born in Mississippi. His name was Simon Barr. My mother
and father both lived on the same plantation. In all groups of people
they went by their master's name. Before she married, my mother's master
and mistress were Appelins. When she got married--got ready to
marry--the white folks agreed to let them go together. Old Man Barr must
have paid something for her. According to my mother and father, that's
the way it was. She had to leave her master and go with her husband's
"According to my old father and mother, the Patteroles went and got the
niggers when they did something wrong. They lived during slave time.
They had a rule and government over the colored and there you are. When
they caught niggers out, they would beat them. If you'd run away, they'd
go and get you and beat you and put you back. When they'd get on a
nigger and beat him, the colored folks would holler, 'I pray, Massa.'
They had to have a great war over it, before they freed the nigger. The
Bible says there is a time for all things.
"My mother and father said they got a certain amount when they was
freed. I don't know how much it was. It was only a small amount. After a
short time it broke up and they didn't get any more. I get ten dollars
pension now and that is more than they got then.
"I heard Old Brother Page in Mississippi say that the slaves had heard
em say they were going to be free. His young mistress heard em say he
was going to be free and she walked up and hocked and spit in his face.
When freedom came, old Massa came out and told them.
"I have heard folks talk of buried treasure. I'll bet there's more money
under the ground than there is on it. They didn't have banks then, and
they put their money under the ground. For hundreds of years, there has
been money put under the ground.
"I heard my mother talk about their dances and frolics then. I never
heard her speak of anything else. They didn't have much freedom. They
couldn't go and come as they pleased. You had to have a script to go and
come. Niggers ain't free now. You can't do anything; you got nothin'.
This whole town belongs to white folks, and you can't do nothin'. If
nigger get to have anything, white folks will take it.
"We raised our own food. We made our own flour. We wove our own cloth.
We made our clothes. We made our meal. We made our sorghum cane
molasses. Some of them made their shoes, made their own medicine, and
went around and doctored on one another. They were more healthy then
than they are now. This generation don't live hardly to get forty years
old. They don't live long now.
"I came to Arkansas about thirty-five years ago. I got right into
ditches. The first thing I did was farm. I farmed about ten years. I
made about ten crops. Mississippi gave you more for your crops than
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Matilda Bass
1100 Palm Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes ma'am, I was eight years old when the Old War ceasted.
"Honey, I've lived here twenty years and I don't know what this street
"I was born in Greenville, Mississippi. They took my parents and carried
'em to Texas to keep 'em from the Yankees. I think they stayed three
years 'cause I didn't know 'em when they come back.
"I 'member the Yankees come and took us chillun and the old folks to
Vicksburg. I 'member the old man that seed after the chillun while their
parents was gone, he said I was eight when freedom come. We didn't know
nothin' 'bout our ages--didn't have 'nough sense.
"My parents come back after surrender and stayed on my owner's
place--John Scott's place. We had three masters--three brothers.
"I been in Arkansas twenty years--right here. I bought this home.
"I married my husband in Mississippi. We farmed.
"The Lord uses me as a prophet and after my husband died, the Lord sent
me to Arkansas to tell the people. He called me out of the church. I
been out of the church now thirty-three years. Seems like all they think
about in the churches now is money, so the Lord called me out."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Emmett Beal, Biscoe, Arkansas
"I was born in Holloman County, Bolivar, Tennessee. Master Dr. Jim May
owned my set er folks. He had two girls and two boys. I reckon he had a
wife but I don't recollect seeing her. Ma suckled me; William May with
me. Ely and Seley and Susie was his children.
"I churned for mama in slavery. She tied a cloth around the top so no
flies get in. I better hadn't let no fly get in the churn. She take me
out to a peach tree and learn me how to keep the flies outen the churn
"Mama was Dr. May's cook. We et out the dishes but I don't know how all
of 'em done their eating. They eat at their houses. Dr. May had a good
size bunch of hands, not a big crowd. We had straw beds. Made new ones
every summer. In that country they didn't 'low you to beat yo' hands up.
I heard my folks say that more'n one time.
"Dr. May come tole 'em it was freedom. They could get land and stay--all
'at wanted to. All his old ones kept on wid him. They sharecropped and
some of them got a third. I recollect him and worked for him.
"The Ku Klux didn't bother none of us. Dr. May wouldn't 'low them on his
"Mama come out here in 1880. I figured there better land out here and I
followed her in 1881. We paid our own ways. Seem like the owners ought
to give the slaves something but seem like they was mad 'cause they set
us free. Ma was named Viney May and pa, Nick May.
"Pa and four or five brothers was sold in Memphis. He never seen his
brothers no more. They come to Arkansas.
"Pa and Dr. May went to war. The Yankees drafted pa and he come back to
Dr. May after he fit. He got his lip split open in the War. Dr. May come
home and worked his slaves. He didn't stay long in war.
"I reckon they had plenty to eat at home. They didn't run to the stores
every day 'bout starved to death like I has to do now. Ma said they
didn't 'low the overseers to whoop too much er Dr. May would turn them
"Er horse stomped on my foot eight years ago. I didn't pay it much
'tention. It didn't hurt. Blood-p'ison come in it and they took me to
the horsepital and my leg had to come off, (at the knee).
"We have to go back to Africa to vote all the 'lections. Voting brings
up more hard feelings."
Interviewer: Pernella Anderson, colored.
Yes I was born in slavery time. I was born September 2, 1862 in the
field under a tree. I don't know nothing about slavery. I was too young
to remember anything about slavery. But I tell you this much, times
ain't like they used to be. There was easy living back in the 18 hundred
years. People wore homemade clothes, what I mean homespun and lowell
clothes. My ma spun and weaved all of her cloth. We wore our dresses
down to our ankles in length and my dresses was called mother hubbards.
The skirts had about three yards circumference and we wore plenty of
clothes under our dress. We did not go necked like these folks do now.
Folk did not know how we was made. We did not show our shape, we did not
disgrace ourself back in 1800. We wore our hair wrapped and head rags
tied on our head. I went barefooted until I was a young missie then I
wore shoes in the winter but I still went barefooted in the summer. My
papa was a shoemaker so he made our shoes. We raised everything that we
ate when I was a chap. We ate a plenty. We raised plenty of whippowell
peas. That was the only kind of peas there was then. We raised plenty
Moodie sweet potatoes they call them nigger chokers now. We had cows so
we had plenty of milk and butter. We cooked on the fireplace. The first
stove I cooked on was a white woman's stove, that was 1890.
I never chanced to go to school because where we lived there wasn't no
school. I worked all of the time. In fact that was all we knew. White
people did not see where negroes needed any learning so we had to work.
We lived on a place with some white people by the name of Dunn. They
were good people but they taken all that was made because we did not
know. I ain't never been sick in my life and I have never had a doctor
in my life. I am in good health now.
We traveled horseback in the years of 1800. We did not ride straddle the
horse's back we rode sideways. The old folks wore their dreses dragging
the ground. We chaps called everybody old that married. We respected
them because they was considered as being old. Time has made a change.
--Dina Beard, Douglas Addition.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Annie Beck, West Memphis, Arkansas
"I was born in Mississippi. Mama was born in Alabama and sold to
Holcomb, Mississippi. Her owner was Master Beard. She was a field woman.
They took her in a stage-coach. Their owner wanted to keep it a secret
about freedom. But he had a brother that fussed with him all the time
and he told the slaves they was all free. Mama said they was pretty good
always to her for it to be slavery, but papa said his owners wasn't so
good to him. He was sold in Richmond, Virginia to Master Thomas at
Grenada, Mississippi. He was a plain farming man."
Interviewer: Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: J.H. Beckwith
619 North Spruce Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"No ma'm I was not born in the time of slavery. I was sixty-eight last
Friday. I was born November 18, 1870 in Johnson County, North Carolina.
"My mother was born in Georgia and her name was Gracie Barum. Father was
born in North Carolina. His name was Rufus Beckwith. He belonged to
Doctor Beckwith and mother, I think, belonged to Tom Barum. Barum was
just an ordinary farmer. He was just a second or third class
farmer--just poor white folks. I think my mother was the only slave he
"My father had to walk seven miles every Saturday night to see my mother,
and be back before sunrise Monday.
"My parents had at least three or four children born in slavery. I know
my father said he worked at night and made shoes for his family.
"My father was a mulatto. He had a negro mother and a white father. He
had a mechanical talent. He seemed to be somewhat of a genius. He had a
productive mind. He could do blacksmithing, carpenter work, brick work
and shoe work.
"Father was married twice. He raised ten children by each wife. I think
my mother had fifteen children and I was the the thirteenth child. I am
the only boy among the first set, called to the ministry. And there was
one in the second set. Father learned to read and write after freedom.
"After freedom he sent my oldest brother and sister to Hampton, Virginia
and they were graduated from Hampton Institute and later taught school.
They were graduated from the same school Booker T. Washington was. He
got his idea of vocational education there.
"I haven't had much education. I went as far as the eighth grade. The
biggest education I have had was in the Conference.
"I joined the Little Rock General Conference at Texarkana in 1914. This
was the Methodist Episcopal, North, and I was ordained as a deacon and
later an elder by white bishops. Then in 1930 I joined the African
"By trade I am a carpenter and bricklayer. I served an apprentice under
my father and under a German contractor.
"I used to be called the best negro journeyman carpenter between Monroe,
Louisiana and Little Rock, Arkansas.
"I made quite a success in my trade. I have a couple of United States
Patent Rights. One is a brick mold holding ten bricks and used to make
bricks of concrete. The other is a sliding door. (See attached drawings)
[TR: Drawings missing.]
"I was in the mercantile business two and one-half years in Sevier
County. I sold that because it was too confining and returned to the
carpenter's trade. I still practice my trade some now.
"I have not had to ask help from anyone. I have helped others. I own my
home and I sent my daughter to Fisk University where she was graduated.
While there she met a young man and they were later married and now live
in Chicago. They own their home and are doing well.
"In my work in the ministry I am trying to teach my people to have
higher ideals. We have to bring our race to that high ideal of race
integrity. I am trying to keep the negro from thinking he is hated by
the upper class of white people. What the negro needs is
self-consciousness to the extent that he aspires to the higher
principles in order to stand on an equal plane in attainment but not in
a social way.
"At present, the negro's ideals are too low for him to visualize the
evils involved in race mixture. He needs to be lifted in his own
estimation and learn that a race cannot be estimated by other races--by
anything else but their own ideals.
"The younger generation is off on a tangent. They'll have to hit
something before they stop.
"The salvation of our people--of all people--white and colored, is
leadership. We've got to have vision and try to give the people vision.
Not to live for ourselves but for all. The present generation is
selfish. The life should flow out and as it flows out it makes room for
more life. If it does not flow out, it congeals and ferments.
Selfishness is just like damming a stream.
"I think Woodrow Wilson won the World War with his fourteen points of
democracy. If the people of foreign countries had not that old
imperialism sentiment, the Jew would not be where he is today."
This man is the best informed and most sensible negro I have
interviewed. In the room where I interviewed him, were a piano, a radio,
many ferns, a wool rug, chairs, divan, and a table on which were books
including a set of the Standard History of the World. I asked if he had
read the history and he replied, "Not all of it but I have read the
volumes pertaining to the neolithic age."
On the walls were several pictures and two tapestries.
The house was a good frame one and electric current was used.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Enoch Beel; Green Grove, Hazen, Arkansas
"Yes maam I was born a slave, born in slavery times. I wer born in
Hardman County, Tennessee. My own daddy was a Union soldier and my mama
was a cook fer the mistress. We belonged to Miss Viney and Dr. Jim Mass.
My daddy drawed a pension fer bein a soldier till he die. He went off to
wait on some men he know. Then he met some men wanted him to join the
army. They said then he get paid and get a bounty. No maam he never got
a red cent. He come back broke as he went off. He say he turned loose
soon as he could and mustered out and lef them right now. He had no time
to ax em no questions. That what he said! We stayed on that place till I
was big nuf to do a days work. We had no other place to go. There was
plenty land and no stock. Houses to stay in got scarce. If a family had
a place to stay at when that war ended he counted hisself lucky I tell
you. Heap of black an white jes ramlin round through the woods an over
the roads huntin a little to eat or a little sumpin to do. If you stay
in the field workin about puttin back the fences an round yo own house
you wouldn't be hurt.
"The Ku Kluxes war not huntin work theirselves. They was keepin order at
the gatherins and down the public roads. Folks had came toted off all
the folks made in the crops till they don't call nuthin stealin'. They
whooped em and made em ride on rails. I don't know all the carrings on
did take place. I sho would been scared if I seed em comin to me. We
left Dr. Mass and went to Grain, Tennessee. I had three sisters and
half-brothers. I don't remember how many, some dead. I farmed all my
life. Everybody said the land was so much better and newer out in
Arkansas. When I married I come to Tomberlin and worked fer Sam Dardnne
bout twelve years. Then I rented from Jim Hicks at England. I rented
from one of the Carlley boys and Jim Neelam. When I very fust come here
I worked at Helena on a farm one year. When I got my leg taken off it
cost bout all I ever had cumlated. I lives on my sister's place. Henry
Bratcher's wife out at Green Grove. The Wellfare give me $8 cause I
caint get bout.
"I don't know bout the times. It is so unsettled. Folks want work caint
get it and some won't work that could. You caint get help so you can
make a crop of your own no more, fer sometimes is close."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Sophie D. Belle, Forrest City, Arkansas
"I was born near Knoxville, Georgia. My mother was a professional pastry
cook. She was a house woman during slavery. She was owned by Lewis Hicks
and Ann Hicks. They had Saluda, Mary, Lewis, and Oscar.
"Mother was never sold. Mr. Hicks reared her. She was three-fourths
Indian. Her father was George Hicks. Gordon carried him to Texas. Mr.
Bob Gordon was mean. He asked Mr. Hicks to keep mother and auntie while
he went to Texas, Mr. Gordon was so mean. My mother had two little girls
but my sister died while small.
"I never saw any one sold. I never saw a soldier. But I noticed the
grown people whispering many times. Mother explained it to me, they had
some news from the War. Aunt Jane said she saw them pass in gangs. I
heard her say, 'Did you see the soldiers pass early this morning?' I was
asleep. Sometimes I was out at play when they passed.
"Master Hicks called us all up at dinner one day to the big house. He
told us, 'You are free as I am.' I never had worked any then. No, they
cried and went on to their homes. Aunt Jane was bad to speak out, she
was so much Indian. She had three children. She went to another place to
live. She was in search of her husband and thought he might be there at
"Mother stayed on another year. Mr. Hicks was good to us. None of the
children ever worked till they was ten or twelve years old. He had a lot
of slaves and about twenty-five children on the place growing. He had
just a big plantation. He had a special cook, Aunt Mariah, to cook for
the field hands. They eat like he did. Master Hicks would examine their
buckets and a great big split basket. If they didn't have enough to eat
he would have her cook more and send to them. They had nice victuals to
eat. He had a bell to ring for all the children to be put to bed at
sundown and they slept late. He said, 'Let them grow.' Their diet was
milk and bread and eggs. We had duck eggs, guinea eggs, goose eggs, and
"I don't know what all the slaves had but mother had feather beds. They
saved all kind of feathers to make pillows and bed and chair cushions.
We always had a pet pig about our place. Master Hicks kept a drove of
pea-fowls. He had cows, goats, sheep. We children loved the lambs.
Elvira attended to the milk. She had some of the girls and boys to milk.
Uncle Dick, mother's brother, was Mr. Hicks' coachman. He was raised on
the place too.
"I think Master Hicks and his family was French, but, though they were
light-skin people. They had light hair too, I think.
"One day a Frenchman (white) that was a doctor come to call. My Aunt
Jane said to me, 'He is your papa. That is your papa.' I saw him many
times after that. I am considered eight-ninth white race. One little
girl up at the courthouse asked me a question and I told her she was too
young to know about such sin. (This girl was twenty-four years old and
the case worker's stenographer.)
"Master Hicks had Uncle Patrick bury his silver and gold in the woods.