Part 5 out of 6
but the general run is bad. I've seen the time you could go to a white
man and he would help you but these young white folks, they turn from
Interviewer: Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: J.N. Brown
3500 West 7th Ave.
Pine Bluff, Ark.
Occupation: Sells peanuts from wagon
"Yes'm, I was livin' in slavery times--musta been--I was born in 1858,
near Natchez, Mississippi--in town.
"Old Daniel Virdin was my first master. I can halfway remember him. Oh
Lord, I remember that shootin'. Used to clap my hands--called it
foolishness. We kids didn't know no better.
"I was in Camden, Arkansas when we was freed. Colored folks in them days
was sold and run. My father was in Camden when we got free--he was sold.
My mother was sold too.
"I heared em say they had a good master and mistis. Man what bought em
was named Brown. They runned us to Texas durin' the war and then come
back here to Camden.
"I never went to school. I was the oldest chile my father had out a
sixteen and I had to work. We had a kinda hard time. I stayed in Camden
till I was eighteen and then I runned off from my folks and went to
Texas. Times was so tight in Arkansas, and a cattleman come there and
said they'd give me twenty-five dollars a month in Texas. I thought that
would beat just something to eat. I been workin' for the white folks and
just gettin' a little grub and not makin' any money.
"In Texas I worked for some good white folks. John Worth Bennet was the
man who owned the ranch. I stayed there seven years and saved my money.
I was just nacherly a good nigger. That was in Hopkins County, Texas.
"I've got a good memory. That's all I got to study bout is how to take
care of the situation. I was livin' there in that country in 1882, fore
the Spanish-American War.
"I come back here to Arkansas in 1900. My father was named Nelson Brown.
He preached. My mother's name was Sally Brown.
"Long in that time we tried to vote but we didn't know 'zactly what we
was doin. I think I voted once or twice, but if a man can't read or
write and have to have somebody make out his ticket, he don't know what
he's votin', so I just quit tryin' to vote.
"Now about this younger generation, you've asked me a question it's hard
for me to answer. With all these nineteenth century niggers, the more
education they got, the bigger crooks they is.
"We colored people are livin' under the law, but we don't make no laws.
You take a one-armed man and he can't do what a two-armed man can. The
colored man in the south is a one-armed man, but of course the colored
man can't get along without the white folks. But I've lived in this
world long enough to know what the cause is--I know why the colored man
is a one-armed man."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Lewis Brown
708 Oak Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Yes'm my name is Brown--Lewis Brown. Yes'm I lived durin' slavery
times. I was born in 1854.
"I been workin' this mornin'. I been diggin' up the ground to bed up
some onions. No I don't work every day. Sometimes I feel ailin'--don't
feel like doin' nothin'.
"I wasn't big enough to 'member 'bout the war. All I 'member is seein'
the soldiers retirin' from the war. They come by my old master's
plantation. The Yankees was in front--they was the horsebackers. Then
come the wagons and then the southern soldiers comin' along in droves.
"I was born in Arkansas. My mother and father belonged to Dr. Jordan. He
was the biggest slaveholder in Arkansas. He was called the 'Nigger
Ruler'. If the overseer couldn't make a slave behave, the old doctor
went out with a gun and shot him. When the slaves on other plantations
couldn't be ruled, they was sold to Dr. Jordan and he ruled 'em or
"I don't 'member much else 'bout my old master but I 'member my old
mistress. The last crop she made before freedom, she had two plantations
with overseers on 'em and on one plantation they didn't 'low no kind a
slave 'cept South Carlinans. But on the other plantation the slaves come
from different places.
"After the war we went to Texas and I 'member my old mistress come down
there to get her old colored folks to come back to Arkansas. Lots of 'em
went back with her. She called herself givin' 'em a home. I don't know
what she paid--I never heard a breath of that but she hoped 'em to get
back. I didn't go--I stayed in Texas and growed up and married there and
then come back to Arkansas in 1882.
"Oh yes'm--the Ku Klux was plentiful after peace. They went about
"Some of the colored folks thought they was better off when they was
slaves. They was the ones that had good masters. Some of the masters
didn't 'low the overseers to 'buke the slaves and some wouldn't have
"I never did vote for no President, just for home officers. I don't know
what to say 'bout not letting the colored folks vote now. They have to
pay taxes and 'spenses and I think they ought to have something to say
"'How did you lose your arm?' It was shot off. I got into a argument
with a fellow what owed me twenty-four dollars. He decided to pay me off
that way. That was when I was 'bout seventy. He's dead now.
"I think the people is more wickeder now. The devil got more chances
than he used to have and the people can't do right if they want to."
Name of interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Subject: Humorous Tales of Slavery Days
"I was born in 1854 and 'co'se I wasn't big enough to work much in
slavery times, but one thing I did do and that was to tote watermelons
for the overseer and pile 'em on the porch.
"I 'member he said if we dropped one and broke it, we'd have to stop
right there and eat the whole thing. I know I broke one on purpose so I
could eat it and I 'member he made me scrape the rind and drink the
juice. I know I eat till I was tired of that watermelon.
"And then there was a lake old master told us to stay out of. If he
caught you in it, he'd take you by the shirt collar and your heels and
throw you back in.
"I know he nearly drowned me once."
This information given by: Lewis Brown
Place of residence: 808 W. Eighth, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Occupation: Retired minister
Name of interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Subject: Child Rearing Customs of Early Days
"In them days, folks raised one another's chillun. If a child was at
your house and misbehaved, you whipped him and sent him home and his
mother give him another whippin'.
"And you better _not 'spute_ your parents!"
This information given by: Lewis Brown
Place of residence: 802 W. Eighth. Pine Bluff. Arkansas
Occupation: None, retired minister
Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
1. Name and address of informant--Lewis Brown, 2100 Pulaski Street,
2. Date and time of interview--
3. Place of interview--2100 Pulaski Street, Little Hock, Arkansas
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--
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--Lewis Brown, 2100 Pulaski Street, Little
1. Ancestry--father, Lewis Bronson; mother, Millie Bronson.
2. Place and date of birth--Born April 14, 1855 in Kemper County,
3. Family--Five children.
4. Places lived in, with dates--Lived in Mississippi until the eighties,
then moved to Helena, Arkansas. Moved from Helena to Little Rock.
5. Education, with dates--
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Farming.
7. Special skills and interests--
8. Community and religious activities--Belongs to Baptist Church.
9. Description of informant--
10. Other points gained in interview--Facts concerning child life,
status of colored girls, patrollers, marriage and sex relationships,
churches and amusements.
Text of Interview (Unedited)
NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor
ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas
NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT--Lewis Brown, 2100 Pulaski Street, Little
"I was born in 1855, April 14, in Kemper County, Mississippi, close to
Meridian. I drove gin wagons in the time of the war in a horse-power
gin. I carried matches and candles down to weigh cotton with in slavery
"They had to pick cotton till dark. They had to tote their weight
hundred pounds, two pounds, whatever it was down to the weighing place
and they had to weigh it. Whatever you lacked of having your weight, you
would get a lick for. On down till they called us out for the war, that
was the way it was. They were goin' to give my brother fifty lashes but
they come and took him to the army, and they didn't git to whip him.
"My father was Lewis Bronson. He come from South Carolina. My mother was
stole. The speculators stole her and they brought her to Kemper County,
Mississippi, and sold her. My mother's name was Millie. My father's
owner was Elijah McCoy. Old Elijah McCoy was the owner, but they didn't
take his name. They went back to the old standard mark after the
surrender. They went back to the people where they come from, and they
changed their names--they changed off of them old names. McCoys was my
masters, but my father went back to the name of the people way back over
in there in South Carolina, where he come from. I don't know nothin'
bout them. He was the father of nine children. He had two wives. One of
them he had nine by, and the other one he had none by. So he went back
to the one he had the nine children by.
"I was ten years old when war was ended. I had to carry matches and
candles to the cotton pickers. It would be too dark for them to weigh
up. They couldn't see. They had tasks and they would be picking till
late to git their tasks done. Matches and candles come from the big
house, and I had to bring it down to them. That was two years before the
"I wasn't big enough to do nothing else, only drive to the gin. I drove
horse-power to the gin.--drove mules to the gin. I would drive the cows
out to the pasture too. The milk women would milk them. Lawd, I could
not do no milking. I was too small. The milk women would milk them and I
would drive the cows one way and the calves another so that they
couldn't mix. And at night I would go git them and they would milk them
again. The milk women milked them. What would I know bout milkin.
"I never did any playin', 'cept plain marbles and goin' in swimmin'.
"The white girls and boys learned us our A-B-C's after the war. They had
a free school in Kemper County there. My children I learnt them myself
or had it done. You couldn't hardly ever find one in Kemper Country that
could spell and go on. They didn't have no time for that. Some few of
them learned their A-B-C's before the war. But that is all. They learned
what they learned after the war in the free government schools mostly.
They would not do nothin' to you if they caught you learnin' in slave
time. Sometimes the white children would teach you your A-B-C's.
Status of Colored Girls
"They had mighty mean ways in that country. They would catch young
colored girls and whip them and make them do what they wanted. There
wasn't but one mean one on our place. He was ordered to go to war and he
didn't; so they pressed him. He was the one that promised my brother a
whipping. He left like this morning and come back a week from today
dead. The rest of them was pretty good. The mean one was Elijah.
"Old man McCoy had four sons; Elijah, that was the mean one, Redder,
"Sometimes the pateroles would do the devil with you if they caught you
out without a pass. You could go anywhere you pleased if you had a pass.
But if you didn't have a pass, they'd give you the devil.
Marriage and Sex Relationships
"You could have one wife over here and another one over there if you
wanted to. My daddy had two women. And he quit the one that didn't have
no children. People weren't no more 'n dogs them days,--weren't as much
Mother and Father's Work
"In slavery time, my father worked at the field. Plowed and hoed and
made cotton and corn--what else was he goin' to do. My mother was a
"My master fed us and clothed us and give us something to eat. Some of
them was hell a mile. Some of them was all kinds of ways. Our people was
good. One of them was mean.
"My father's brother belonged to Elijah. I had an auntie over in there
too. I don't know what become of them all. They were all in Kemper
"The white people had churches in slavery times just like they have now.
The white people would have service one a month. But like these street
cars. White people would be at the front and colored would fill up back.
They'll quit that after a while. Sometimes they would have church in the
morning for the white folks and church in the evening for the colored.
They would baptize you just like they would anybody else.
"I'll tell you what was done in slave time. They'd sing and pray. The
white folks would take you to the creek and baptize you like anybody
"Sometimes the slaves would be off and have prayer meetings of their
own--nothing but colored people there. They soon got out uh that.
"Sometimes they would turn a tub or pot down. That would be when they
were making a lot of fuss and didn't want to bother nobody. The white
people wouldn't be against the meeting. But they wouldn't want to be
disturbed. If you wanted to sing at night and didn't want nobody to hear
it, you could just take an old wash pot and turn it down--leave a little
space for the air, and nobody could hear it.
"The grown folks didn't have much amusement in slavery times. They had
banjo, fiddle, melodian, and things like that. There wasn't no baseball
in those days. I never seed none. They could dance all they wanted to
their way. They danced the dotillions and the waltzes and breakdown
steps, all such as that. Pick banjo! U-umph! They would give corn
huskins; they would go and shuck corn and shuck so much. Get through
shucking, they would give you dinner. Sometimes big rich white people
would give dances out in the yard and look at their way of dancing, and
doing. Violin players would be colored.
"Have cotton picking too sometimes at night, moonshiney nights. That's
when they'd give the cotton pickings. Say you didn't have many hands,
then they'd go and send you one hand from this place and one from that
place. And so on. Your friends would do all that for you. Between 'em
they'd git up a big bunch of hands. Then they'd give the cotton picking,
and git your field clared up. They'd give you something to eat and
whiskey to drink.
How Freedom Came
"Notice was given to my father that he was free. White people in that
country give it to him. I don't know what they said to my father. Then
the last gun was fired. I don't know where peace was declared. Notice
come how that everybody was free. Told my daddy, 'You're just as free as
I am.' Some went back to their daddy's name. Some went back to their
master's name. My daddy went back to his old master's name.
Right after the War
"First year after the war, they planted a crop. Didn't raise no cotton
during the war, from the time the war started till it ended, they didn't
raise no cotton.
"After the war, they give the colored people corn and cotton, one-third
and one-fourth. They would haul a load of it up during the war I mean,
during the time before the war, and give it to the colored people.
"They had two crops. No cotton in the time of the war, nothing but corn
and peas and potatoes and so on. All that went to the white people. But
they divided it. They give all so much round. Had a bin for the white
and a bin for the colored. The next year they commenced with the third
and fourth business--third of the cotton and fourth of the corn. You
could have all the peanuts you wanted. You could sell your corn but they
would only give you fifty cents for it--fifty cents a bushel.
"My father farmed and sharecropped for a while after the war. He changed
from his master's place the second year and went on another place. He
farmed all his life. He raised all his children and got wore out and
pore. He died in Kemper County, Mississippi. All his children and
everything was raised there.
Life Since the War
"I came to Arkansas in the eighties. Come to Helena. I did carpenter and
farm work in Helena. I made three crops, one for Phil Maddox, two with
Miss Hobbs. I come from Helena here.
"I married in Mississippi in Roland Forks, sixty miles this side of
Vicksburg. I had two boys and three girls. Two girls died in Helena. One
died in Roland Forks before I come to Helena. Nary one of the boys
"I don't do no work now. This rheumatism's got me down. I call that age.
If I could work, I couldn't git nothing worth while. These niggers here
won't pay you nothing they promise you. My boy's got me to feed as long
as I live now. I did a batch of work for the colored people round here
in the spring of the year and I ain't got no money for it yit.
"I belong to the Mount Zion Baptist Church; I reckon I do. I got down
sick so I couldn't go and I don't know whether they turned me OUT OR NO.
I tell you, people don't care nothin about you when you get old or
stricken down. They pretend they do, but they don't. My mind is good and
I got just as much ambition as I ever had. But I don't have the
"I haven't got but a few more days to lag round in this world. When you
get old and stricken, nobody cares, children nor nobody else."
Interviewer: Miss Bailie C. Miller
Person interviewed: Mag Brown, Clarksville, Arkansas
"I was born in North Carolina and come South with my white folks. They
was trying to git out of the war and run right into it. My mother died
when I was a baby. I don't remember my mother no more than you do. I
left my white folks. When I was 14 years old, we lived out in the
country. They was willing to keep me but after the war they was so poor.
The girls told me if I could come to town and find work I had better do
it. Two of them come nearly to town with me. They told me I was free to
come to town and live with the colored folks. I didn't know what it
meant to be free. I was just as free as I wanted to be with my white
folks. When I got to town I stayed with your aunt awhile then she sent
me down to stay with your grandma. A white girl who lived with them,
like one of the family, learned me how to cook and iron. I knew how to
"I don't know anything about the present generation. I ain't been able
to git out for the last year or two. I think I broke my foot, for I had
to go on crutches a long time.
"The white folks always sung but I don't know what they sung. I didn't
pay no tention to it then."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mary Brown, Clarendon, Arkansas
Age: Born in 1860
"Mama was born in slavery but never sold. Grandma and her husband was
sold and brung eleven children to Crystal Springs. They was sold to Mr.
Munkilwell. I was born there. Grandma was born in Virginia. Her back was
cut all to pieces where she had been beat by her master. Both of them
was whooped. He was a hostler and blacksmith.
"When grandma was a young woman she didn't have no children, so her
master thought sure she was barren. He sold her to Taylors. Here come
'long eleven children. Taylor sold them. After freedom she had another.
He was her onliest boy. That was so funny to hear her tell it. I never
could forgit it long as I ever know a thing. Grandma's baby child was
seventy-four years old, 'cepting that boy what was a stole child. She
died not long ago at Carpendale, Mississippi. I got the letter two weeks
ago. But she had been dead a while 'fore they writ to me. Her name was
Aunt Miny. She didn't have no children.
"Grandma said the first time she was sold--the first day of July--they
put her in a trader yard in Virginia. She was crying and says, 'Take me
back to my mama.' An old woman said, 'You are up to be sold.'
"Aunt Helen, her sister, was taking her husband something in the field.
They fooled her away from her five little children. Grandma said she
never was seen no more. She was much older than grandma. Grandma stayed
with her slavery husband till he died.
"Since freedom some people tried to steal my mama. She was a fast runner
and could dance. They wanted to make money out of her. They would bet on
her races. At Lernet School they took about thirty-six children off in
wagons. Never could get trace of them. Never seen nor heard of a one of
them again. That was in this state at Lernet School years ago but since
"I was born during the War soon after Master Munkilwell took mama over.
He didn't ever buy her. Mama died young but grandma lived to be over a
hundred years old. She told me all I know about real olden times.
"I just looks on in 'mazement at this young generation. They is happy
all right. Times not hard for them glib and well as they seems. Times
have changed a sight since I was born in this world and still changing.
Sometimes it seems like they are all right. Ag'in times is tough on old
folks like me. This is all in the Bible--about the times and folks
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mattie Brown. Helena. Arkansas
"I heard mother say time and ag'in I was a year and two months old the
year of the surrender. I was born in Montgomery, Alabama. Mother was a
milker and a house woman. Father died when I was a baby. Mother never
married. There was three of us to raise. I'm the youngest.
"Sister was the regular little nurse girl for mother's mistress. I don't
recollect her name. The baby was sickly and fretful. My sister set and
rocked that baby all night long in a homemade cradle. Mother said she'd
nod and go on. Mother thought she was too young to have to do that way.
Mother stole her away the first year of the Civil War and let her go
with some acquaintances of hers. They was colored folks. Mother said she
had good owners. They was so good it didn't seem like slavery. The
plantation belong to the woman. He was a preacher. He rode a circuit and
was gone. They had a colored overseer or foreman like. She wanted a
overseer just to be said she had one but he never agreed to it. He was a
"Mother said over in sight on a joining farm the overseers whooped
somebody every day and more than that sometimes. She said some of the
white men overseers was cruel.
"Mother quilted for people and washed and ironed to raise us. After
freedom mother sent for my sister. I don't recollect this but mother
said when she heard of freedom she took me in her arms and left. The
first I can recollect she was cooking for soldiers at the camps at
Montgomery, Alabama. They had several cooks. We lived in our own house
and mother washed and ironed for them some too. They paid her well for
"I recollect some of the good eating. We had big white rice and big soda
crackers and the best meat I ever et. It was pickled pork. It was
preserved in brine and shipped to the soldiers in hogheads (barrels). We
lived there till mother died and I can recollect that much. When mother
died we had a hard time. I look back now and don't see how we made it
through. We washed and ironed mostly and had a mighty little bit to eat
and nearly nothing to wear. It was hard times for us three children. I
was the baby child. My brother hired out when he could. We stuck
together till we all married off."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Molly Brown
Age: 90 or over Brinkley, Ark.
One morning early I (Irene Robertson) got off the bus and started up
Main Street. I hadn't gone far before I noticed a small form of a woman.
She wore men's heavy shoes, an old dark dress and a large fringed woolen
shawl; the fringe was well gone and the shawl, once black, was now brown
with age. I passed her and looked back into her face. I saw she was a
Negro, dark brown. Her face was small with unusually nice features for a
woman of her race. She carried a slick, knotted, heavy walking stick--a
very nice-looking one. On the other arm was a rectangular split basket
with wires run through for a handle and wrapped with a dirty white rag
to keep the wire from cutting into her hand or arm.
I stopped and said, "Auntie, could you direct me to Molly Brown's
"I'm her," she replied.
"Well, I want to go home with you."
"What you want to go out there for?"
"I want you to tell me about times when you were a girl," I said.
"I'm not going home yet. I got to get somethin' for dinner."
"Well, you go ahead and I'll follow along."
"Very well," she said.
I window shopped outside, and I noticed she had a box of candy, but it
was a 25c box and had been opened, so I thought it may be nearly
anything just put in the box. The next store she went into was a
nice-looking meat market and grocery combined, I followed in behind her.
A nice-looking middle-aged man gave her a bundle that was large enough
to hold a 50c meat roast. It was neatly tied, and the wrapping paper was
white, I observed. She thanked him. She turned to me and said, "Give me
I said, "I don't have one." Then I said teasingly, "Why you think I have
She said, "You look like it."
I opened my purse and gave her a dime. She went over to the bread and
picked up a loaf or two, feeling it. The same man said, "Let that
The old woman slowly went on out. I was amazed at his scolding. Then he
said to me, "She begs up and down this street every day, cold or hot,
rain or shine, and I have to watch her from the time she enters that
door till she leaves. I give her scrap meat," he added.
"How old is she?"
"She was about fifty years old sixty years ago when she came to
Brinkley. She is close to a hundred years. People say she has been here
since soon after the town started." He remarked, "She won't spend that
dime you gave her."
"Well, I will go tell her what to buy with it," I replied.
I hurried out lest I loose her. She had gained time on me and was
crossing the Cotton Belt Ry. tracks. I caught up with her before she
went into a small country grocery store on #70 highway. She had passed
several Negro stores, restaurants, etc, "I want a nickel's worth of
meal, please, sir."
I said, "Auntie, buy a dime's worth of meal."
"I don't want but a nickel's worth." The man handed it to her to put in
the basket. "Give me a piece candy." The merchant gave her a nice hard
stick. She broke it half in to and offered me a piece.
I said, "No, thank you, Auntie." She really wanted me to have it, but I
She blowed her nose on her soiled old white underskirt. She wormed and
went on out.
I asked the merchant "How old is she?"
"Bless her heart, I expect she is ninety years old or more. I give her
some hard candy every time she comes in here. I give her a lot of
things. She spends her money with me."
Then I asked if she drew an Old Age Pension.
He said, "I think she does, but that is about 30c and it runs out before
she gets another one. She begs a great deal."
I lagged behind. The way she made her way across the Broadway of America
made me scringe. I crossed and caught up with her as she turned off to a
path between a garage and blacksmith shop.
I said, "Auntie, let me take your basket." She refused me. I said, "May
I carry your meal or your meat?"
"I don't know you." she said shortly.
A jolly man at the side of the garage heard me. I said, "I'm all right,
am I not" to the man.
He said, "Aunt Molly, let her help you home. She is all right. I'm
I followed the path ahead of her. When we turned off across a grassy
mesa the old woman said, "Here," and handed over her basket. I carried
it. When we got to her house across a section of hay land at least a
mile from town, she said, "Push that door open and go to the fire."
An old Negro man, not her husband and no relation, got a very
respectable rocking chair for me. He had a good fire in the fireplace.
The old woman sat on a tall footstool. She was so cold.
She said, "Bring me some water, please."
A young yellow boy stepped out and gave her a cup of water. She drank it
all. She put the meat bones and scrap meat on the coals in an iron pot
in some water. She had the boy scald the meal, sprinkle salt in it and
add a little cold water to it. He put it in an iron pan and put a heavy
iron lid over it. The kettle was iron. The boy set it aside and put the
bread on hot embers. She sat down and said, "I'm hungry."
I said, "Auntie, what have you in that box?"
She reached to her basket, untied some coins from the corner of the
soiled rag--three pennies and a nickel. She untied her ragged hose--she
wore two pairs--tied above the knee with a string, and slipped the money
to the foot and in her heavy shoes. It looked safe. Then the old Negro
man came in with an armfull of scrub wood and placed it by the fireplace
on the floor.
He said, "The Government sent me here to live and take care of Aunt
Molly. She been sick. I build her fires, and me and that boy wait on
I asked, "Is the boy kin".
He said, "No'm, she's all alone."
He went away and the boy went away. The old woman called them and
offered them candy. She had twelve hard pieces of whitish, stale
chocolate candy in the box. The boy refused and went away, but the old
man took three pieces. I observed it well, when she passed it to me, for
worms. I refused it. It seemed free from bugs though. She ate greedily
and the old man went away.
We were alone and she was warm. She talked freely till the old Negro man
returned at one o'clock for dinner. Notwithstanding the fact the meal
hadn't been sifted and the meat not washed, it looked so brown and nice
in two pones and the meat smelled so good I left hurriedly before I
weakened, for I was getting hungry from the aroma.
"I was born at Edgefield County, South Carolina, and lived there till
after I married."
"Did you have a wedding?"
"I sure did."
"Tell me about it."
"I married at home, at night, had a supper, had a nice dance."
"Did a colored man marry you?"
"Colored preacher--Jim Woods."
"Did he say the ceremony?"
"He read it out of a little book."
"Did you have a nice supper?"
"Course I did! White folks helped fix my weddin' supper. Had turkey,
chickens, baked shoat, pies and cake--a table piled up full. Mama helped
cook it. It was all cooked on fireplace.
"How were you dressed?"
"Dressed like folks dressed to marry."
"How was that?"
"I wore three or four starched underskirts trimmed in ruffles and a
white dress over em. I wore a long lacy vail of net."
"Did you go away?"
"I lived close to my ma and always lived close bout her. I was called a
first class lady then."
"My parents name Tempy Harris and Albert Harris. She was a cook. He was
a farmer. They had five children. The reason I come to Arkansas was
cause brother Albert and Caroline come here and kept writin' for us to
come. My folks belong to the Harrises. I don't know nothin' bout
em--been too long--and I never fooled round their houses. Some my folks
belong to the Joneses. They kinfolks of the Harrises.
"No, I never saw no one sold nor hung neither.
"Remember grandpa. His daddy was a white man. His wife was a black
woman. Mama was a brown woman like I is.
"I ain't had narry child. My mother died here in this house. Way me an
my husband paid for the house, he farmed for Jim Black and Mr. Gunn. I
cooked for Jim Woodfin. Then I run a roomin' house till four years ago.
Four years ago I went to South Carolina to see my auntie. Her name
Julia. They all had more 'n I had. She'd dead now. All of em dead bout
it. She was a light woman--Julia. Her pa was a white man; her ma a light
woman. Julia considered wealthy.
"I don't know nothin' bout freedom. I seen the soldiers. I seen both
kinds. The white folks was good to us. We stayed on. Then we went to
Albany, Georgia. We lived there a long time--lived in Florida a long
time, then come here.
"The Joneses and Harrises had two or three families all I know. They
didn't have no big sight of land. They was good to us. I picked up
chips, put em in the boxes. Picked em up in my dress, course; I fetched
up water. We had rocked wells and springs, too. We lived with man named
Holman in Georgia. We farmed. I used to be called a smart woman, till I
done got not able. My grandpa was a white man; mama's pa.
"What I been doin' from 1864-1937? What ain't I done! Farmin', I told
you. Buildin' fences was common. Feedin' hogs, milkin' cows, churnin'.
We raised hogs and cows and kept somethin' to eat at home. I knit sox. I
spin. I never weaved. Folks wore clothes then. They don't wear none now.
Pieced quilts. Could I sew? Course I did! Got a machine there now.
(pointed to an old one.)
"I never seen no Ku Klux. I hid if they was about. I sure did hear bout
em. They didn't never come on our place.
"I told you I never knowed when freedom come on.
"I went to school in South Carolina. I went a little four or five years.
I could read, spell, cipher on a slate. Course I learned to write.
Course I got whoopins; got a heap o' whoopins. People tended to childern
then. What kind books did we have? I read and spelled out of the Blue
Back Speller. We had numbers on our slates. The teacher set us copies.
We wrote with soapstone. Some teachers white and some colored.
"Well, course I got a Bible. (disgusted at the question). I go to church
and preachin' every Sunday. Yes. ma'am, now.
"I don't study votin'. I don't vote. (disgusted). I reckon my husband
and pa did vote. I ain't voted.
"Course I go to town. I go to keep from gettin' hungry.
"Me and this old man get demodities and I get some money.
"I told you I don't bother young folks business. I thought I told you I
don't. If I young I could raise somethin' at home that the reason I go
hungry. I give down. I know I do get hungry.
"One thing I didn't tell you. I made tallow candles when I was a young
"I don't know nothin' bout that Civil War."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Peter Brown. Helena, Arkansas
"I was born on the Woodlawn place. It was owned by David and Ann Hunt. I
was born a slave boy. Master Hunt had two sons and one girl. Bigy and
Dunbar was the boys' names. Annie was the girl's name.
"My parents' names was Jane and William Brown. Papa said he was a little
shirt tail boy when the stars fell. Grandma Sofa and Grandpa Peter Bane
lived on the same place. I'm named after him. My papa come from
Tennessee to Mississippi. I never heard ma say where she come from.
"My remembrance of slavery is not at tall favorable. I heard the master
and overseers whooping the slaves b'fore day. They had stakes fixed in
the ground and tied them down on their stomachs stretched out and they
beat them with a bull whoop (cowhide woven). They would break the
blisters on them with white oak paddles that had holes in it so it would
suck. They be saying, 'Oh pray, master.' He'd say, 'Better pray fer
yourself.' I heard that going on when I was a child morning after
morning. I wasn't big enough to go to the field. I didn't have a hard
time then. Ma had to work when she wasn't able. Pa stole her out and one
night a small panther smelled them and come on a log up over where they
slept in a canebrake. Pa killed it with a bowie knife. Ma had a baby out
there in the canebrake. Pa had stole her out. They went back and they
never made her work no more. She was a fast breeder; she had three sets
of twins. They told him if he would stay out of the woods they wouldn't
make her work no more, take care of her children. They prized fast
breeders. They would come to see her and bring her things then. She had
ten children, three pairs of twins. Jonas and Sofa, Peter and Alice,
Isaac and Jacob.
"When I was fifteen years old, mother said, 'Peter, you are fifteen
years old today; you was born March 1, 1852.' She told me that two or
three times and I kept up wid it. I am glad I did; she died right after
"Ma and pa et dinner, well as could be. Took cholera, was dead at twelve
o'clock that night. It was on Monday. Ike and Jake took it. They got
over it. I waited on the little things. One of them said, 'Peter, I'm
hungry.' I broiled some meat, made a ash cake and put the meat in where
I split the ash cake. He et it and went to sleep. He started mending.
Sister come and got the children and took them to Lake Providence. I
fell in the hands then of some cruel people. They had a doctor named Dr.
Coleman come to see ma and pa. He said, 'Don't eat no fruit, no
vegetables.' He said, 'Eat meat and bread.' I et green plums and peaches
like a boy fifteen years old then would do. I never did have cholera. A
boy fifteen years old didn't know as much as boys do now that age. The
master died b'fore the cholera disease come on. We had moved from the
hill place to a place in the bottoms. It was on the same place. None of
his family hod cholera but neighbors had it. We buried ma and pa on the
neighbor's place. We had kin folks on the Harris place. While we was at
the graveyard word come to dig two or three more graves.
"Master's house was set on fire, the smokehouse emptied, the gin burned
and the cotton. The mules was drove out of the lot. That turned me
ag'in' the Yankees. We helped raise that meat they stole. They left us
to starve and fed their fat selves on what was our living. I do not
believe in parts of slavery. That whooping was cruel, but I know that
the white man helped the slave in ways. The slaves was worked too hard.
Men was no better than they are now.
"My owner had two fine black horses name Night and Shade. Clem was a
white driver. We lived close to Fiat where they had horse races. He told
Clem to get Night ready to win some money. He told Clem not to let
nobody have their hand on the horse. Clem slept in the stable with the
horse. They had three horses on the track. They made three rounds. Night
lost three times, but on Friday Night come in and won the money. He made
two or three thousand dollars and paid Clem. I never heard how much.
"Some men come to our house searching for arms. We had a chest. They
threw things winding. Said it was freedom. We didn't think much of such
freedom. Had to take it. We didn't have no arms in the house. We never
seen free times and didn't know what to look for nohow. We never felt
times as good. We moved to the bottoms and I lost my parents.
"I fell in the hands of some mean people. They worked me on the frozen
ground barefooted. My feet frostbit. I wore a shirt dress and a britches
leg cap on my head and ears. I had no shoes, no underwear. I slept on a
bed made in the corner of a room called a bunk. It had bagging over
straw and I covered with bagging. Aunt July (Julie) and Uncle Mass
Harris come for me. Sister brought my horse pa left for me. They took me
from, them folks to stay at Mr. W.C. Winters. He was good to me. He give
me fifty dollars and fed me and my horse. He give me good clothes and a
house in his yard. I was hungry. He fattened me and my horse both.
"They broke the Ku Klux up by putting grapevines across the roads. I
know about that? I never seen one of them in my life.
"Election days years gone by was big times. I did vote. I voted regular
a long time. The last President I voted for was Wilson.
"I farmed and worked on steamboats on the Mississippi River. I was what
they called rousterbout. I loaded and unloaded freight, I worked on the
Choctaw, Jane White, Kate Adams, and other little boats a few days at a
time. Kate Adams burnt at Moons Landing. I stopped off here at Helena
for Christmas. Some people got drowned and some burned to death. The mud
clerk got lost. He went in and got two bags of silver money, put them in
his pockets. The stave plank broke and he went down and never come up.
He was at the shore nearly but nobody knew he had that silver in his
pockets. He never come up and he drowned. People seen him go in but the
others swum out. He never come up. They missed him and found him dead
and the two bags of silver. I was due to be on there but I wanted to
spend Christmas with grandma and my wife. The Choctaw carried ten
thousand bales of cotton at times. I worked at the oil mill sixteen or
seventeen years. I night watched on the transfer twenty-two years. I
come to Helena when I was thirty years old. I'm eighty-six now. The
worst thing I ever done was drink whiskey some. I done quit it. I have
asthma. The doctors say whiskey is bad on that disease. I don't tetch it
"I think the present generation is crazy. I wish I had the chance they
have now. The present times is getting better. I ask the Lord to spare
me to be one hundred years old. I'm strong in the faith. I pray every
day. He will open the way. The times have changed in my life."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: William Brown, Hazen, Arkansas
I was born in Virginia but I was born after slavery. I heard my folks
talk a heap about oldern times. The way I come here was Dr. Hill brought
bout 75 families down to Mississippi to work on farms. I come to Deer
Creek close to Sunflower, Mississippi. I lived there 11 years and I
drifted to Arkansas.
I don't remember if they was in any uprisings or not. If they was any
rebellion cept the big rebellion I don't recall it. My whole families
was in de heat of the war.
My mother and father's owner was John Smith. I recollects hearin them
talk bout him well as if it was yesterday--we worked on McFowell place
close to Petersburg, Virginia when I was little. Then I worked for Miss
Bessie and Mr. John Stewart last fore I come with Dr. Hill. I had lived
up there but he come and settled down in Mississippi.
The first place I worked on in Arkansas was the John Reeds bout 3 miles
from Danville. I stayed there 3 years. My folks stayed on there but I
rambled to Little Rock. I worked with Mr. L.C. Merrill. I milked cows
and cut grass, fed cows. He has a automobile company in Little Rock now.
I farmed bout all my life. Now I don't own nothing. I stays at my
daughters. I been married twice. Both my wives dead.
The times change so much I don't know whether they any better or not.
The black race ain't never had nuthin--some few gets a little headway
once in a while.
I used to vote some--didn't care nuthin bout it much. Never seed no good
come of it. Heap of them vote tickets like somebody tell em or don't
know how dey vote.
The young generations better off than the old folks now. The things
change so fast I don't know how they will get by.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: William Brown
409 W. Twenty-Fifth Street
North Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: U.S. Dictatorship Predicted]
"I was born in Arkansas in Cross County at the foot of Crowley's Ridge
on the east side of the Ridge and just about twelve miles from Old
Wittsburg, on May 3, 1861. I got the date from my mother. She kept dates
by the old family Bible. I don't know where she got her learning. She
had a knowledge of reading. I am about her sixth child. She was the
mother of thirteen.
"My mother's master was named Bill Neely. Her mistress was named Mag
"My mother was one of the leading plow hands on Bill Neely's farm. She
had a old mule named Jane. When the Yankees would come down, Bill Neely
and all his friends would leave home. They would leave when they would
hear the cannon, because they said that meant the Yankees were coming.
When Neely went away, he would carry my mother to do his cooking.
"She would leave the children there and carry just the baby when she
went. Old Aunt Malinda--she wasn't our aunt; she was just an old lady we
called Aunt Malinda who cooked for the kitchen--would cook for us while
she was gone. When the Yankees had passed through, my mother and the
master would all come back.
"My original name was not Brown. It was Pope. I became Brown after the
War was over. I moved on the old Barnes' farm. When the soldiers were
mustered out in the end of the War, a lot of soldiers worked on that
place. Peter Brown, an old colored soldier mustered out from Memphis,
met my mother, courted her, and married her. All the other children that
were born to her were called Brown, and the people called her Brown, and
just called all the other children Brown too, including me. And I just
let it go that way. But my father was named Harrison Pope. He died in
the Confederate army out there somewheres around Little Rock. He had
violated some of the military laws, and they put him in that thing they
had to punish them by, and when they taken him out, he contracted
pneumonia and died. I don't know where he is buried. I would to God I
did! You know when these Southern armies went along they carried colored
stevedores to do the work for them.
"I was a little fellow in the time of the pateroles. If the slaves
wanted to go out anywhere, they had to get a pass and they had to be
back at a certain time. If they didn't get back, it would be some kind
of punishment. The pateroles was a mighty bad thing. If they caught you
when you were out without a pass, they would whip you unmercifully, and
if you were out too late they would whip you. Wherever colored people
had a gathering, them pateroles would be there looking on to see if they
could find anybody without a pass. If they did find anybody that
couldn't show a pass, they would take him right out and whip him then
"I know the Ku Klux must have been in use before the War because I
remember the business when I was a little bit of a fellow. They had a
place out there on Crowley's Ridge they used to meet at. They tried to
make the impression that they would be old Confederate soldiers that had
been killed in the battle of Shiloh, and they used to ride down from the
Ridge hollering, 'Oh! Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!' They would have on those old
uniforms and would call for water. And they would have some way of
pouring the water down in a bag or something underneath their uniforms
so that it would look like they could drink four or five gallons.
"One night when they come galloping down on their horses hollering 'Oh!
Lordy, Lordy' like they used to, some Yankee soldiers stationed nearby
tied ropes across the road and killed about twenty-five of the horses
and broke legs and arms of about ten or fifteen. They never used the
ridge any more after that.
"My father's master was Shep Pope and his wife was named Julia Pope. I
can't remember where my father was born but my mother was born in
Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. I don't know the names of my grandfather and
grandmother on either side.
"The old slave house was a log house built out of hewed logs. The logs
were scalped on each side to give it the appearance of a box house. And
they said the logs would fit together better, too. They would chink up
the cracks with grass and dirt--what they called 'dob'. That is what
they called chinking to keep the wind and rain out.
"I was born in a one-room hut with a clapboard room on one side for the
kitchen and storeroom. They would go out in the woods and split out the
clapboards. My mother had eight of we children in that room at one time.
"As to furniture, well, we had benches for chairs. They were made out of
punching four holes in a board and putting sticks in there for legs.
That is what we sat on. Tables generally were nailed up with two legs
out and with the wall to support the other side. The beds were made in a
corner with one leg out and the two walls supporting the other sides.
They called that bed the 'Georgia Horse'. We had an old cupboard made up
in a corner.
"Food was generally kept in the old cupboard my mother had. When she had
too much for the cupboard, she put it in an old chist.
Right After the War
"My mother had eight children to feed. After the emancipation she had to
hustle for all of them. She would go up to work--pick cotton, pull corn,
or what not, and when she came home at night she had on old dog she
called 'Coldy'. She would go out and say, 'Coldy, Coldy, put him up.'
And a little later, we would hear Coldy bark and she would go out and
Coldy would have something treed. And she would take whatever he
had-'possum, coon, or what not-and she would cook it, and we would have
it for breakfast the next morning.
"Mother used to go out on neighboring farms and they would give her the
scraps when they killed hogs and so on. One night she was coming home
with some meat when she was attacked by wolves. Old Coldy was along and
a little yellow dog. The dogs fought the wolves and while they were
fighting, she slipped home. Next morning old Coldy showed up cut almost
in two where the wolves had bitten him. We bandaged him up and took care
of him. And he lived for two or more years. The little yellow dog never
did show up no more. Mother said that the wolves must have killed and
"I put in about one month schooling when I was a boy about six or seven
years old. Then I moved into St. Francis County and went two weeks to a
subscription school a few miles below Forrest City. Later I went back
and took the examination in Cross County and passed it, and taught for a
year. I got the bulk of my education by lamp light reading. I have done
some studying in other places--three years in Shorter College where I
got the degreee of B.D. and D.D. at the age of fifty-five. I have
preached for fifty-seven years and actually pastored for forty-four
years. I followed farming in my early days. When I first married my
wife, we farmed there for ten or twelve years before I entered the
ministry. I have been married fifty-seven years.
"I was married January 15, 1882. I am now in the fifty-seventh year of
marriage. My wife was named Mary Ellen Stubbs. She was from Baldwyn,
Mississippi. They moved from Mississippi about the winter of 1880 and
they made one crop in Arkansas before we married. They stopped in our
county and attended our church. I met her in that way. The most
remarkable thing was that during the time I was acquainted with her our
pastor became incapacitated and I took charge of the church. I ran a
revival and she was converted during the revival. But she joined the
C.M.E. Church. I belong to the A.M.E.
"I remember my mother carrying the children from the Bill Neely place to
the Pope place. That Saturday evening after we got there, there came
along some slave traders. They had with them as I remember some ten or
twelve boys and girls and some old folks that were able to work. They
had them chained. I asked my mother what they were going to do with them
and she said they were carrying them to Louisiana to work on a cane
farm. One boy cried a lot. The next morning they put those slaves in the
road and drove them down to Wittsbarg the same as you would drive a
drove of cattle, Wittsburg was where they caught the boat to go down to
Louisiana. That was the best mode of travel in those days.
"In a few words, my opinion of the present is that our existence as
Democrats and Republicans is about played out.
"If Mr. Roosevelt is elected for a third term, I think we will go into a
dictatorship just as Russia, Germany, and Italy have already done. I
think we are nearer to that now than we heve ever been before. I do not
think that Mr. Roosevelt will become a dictator, but I do believe that
his being elected a third time will cause some one else to become
dictator. My opinion is that he is neither Democrat nor Republican.
"Our young people are advancing from a literary point of view, but I
claim that they are losing out along moral lines. I don't believe that
we value morals as well as the people did years ago who didn't know so
much. I believe that the whole nation, white and black, is losing moral
stamina. They do not think it is bad to kill a man, take another man's
wife or rob a bank, or anything else. They desecrate the churches by
carrying anything into the church. There is no sacred place now.
Carnivals and everything else are carried to the church.
"If Mr. Roosevelt is not reelected again, the country is going to have
one of the bloodiest wars it has ever had because we have so many
European doctrines coming into the United States. I have been living
seventy-eight years, and I never thought that I would live to see the
day when the government would reach out and take hold of things like it
has done--the WPA, the FERA, and the RFC, and other work going on today.
We are headed for communism and we are going to get in a bloody war.
There are hundreds of men going 'round who believe in communism but who
don't want it to be known now."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Maggie Broyles. Forrest City. Arkansas
Age: About 80?
"I was born in Decatur, Tennessee. Mother was sold on the block at
public auction in St. Louis. Master Bob Young bought a boy and a girl.
My father was a full-blood Irishman. His name was Lassiter. She didn't
have no more children by him. He was hired help on Bob Young's place.
"Bob Young had one thousand five hundred acres of land. He had several
farms. Little Hill and Creek farms. They had a rock walk from the
kitchen to the house. I slept in a little trunnel bed under my mother's
mistress' bed. The bed was corded and had a crank. They used no slats in
them days. We called Master Bob Young's wife Miss Nippy; her name was
Par/nel/i/py. They was good old people. His boys was rough. They drunk
and wasted the property.
"The white folks had feather beds and the slaves had grass beds. We'd
pull grass and cure it. It made a'good bed. Miss Nippy learnt us to
work. I know how to do near 'bout anything now. She kept an ash hopper
dripping all the time. We made all our soap and lye hominy by the
washpots full. Mother cooked and washed and kept house. She took the
lead wid the house-work. Miss Nippy ride off when she got ready. Mother
went right on wid the work. I took care of the chickens and took the
cows to the pasture. I helped to wash clothes. I stood on a block to
turn meat. We had a brick stove and a grill to fry meat on. We had good
clothes and good to eat. After I was grown I'd go back to see Miss
Nippy. She raised me. She say, 'I thought so much of your mama. I love
you. I hope you live a long time.' Mama had a hard time and Miss Nippy
knowd all about it.
"After Bob Young bought mother he went back and bought Aunt Sarah. They
growed up together. They could dance with a glass of water on their
heads and never spill a drap.
"Ma said when she married they had a corn shucking and a big dinner four
o'clock in the morning. Her name was Luiza. She had two children by him.
Aunt Jane on Welches place took him away from her. He quit mother cold
to go wid her. After freedom she married Ben Pitts. The way she married
at the corn shucking, they jumped over the broom back'ards and Master
Bob Young 'nounced it. She was killed no time after freedom, but she had
had six children. Miss Nippy kept me. She was good to me and trained me
to read. We all never left after freedom. I never left till I was good
"I always thought Master Bob Young buried his money during the War.
Children wasn't allowed to watch and ask questions. I was standing in
the chimney corner and seen him bury a box of something in the flower
garden. I was in Miss Nippy's room. I never did know if it was money or
what. He had a old yaller dog followed him all the time. Truman was a
speckled dog set about on the front porch to bark.
"Sam, the boy that was bought when I was in St. Louis, was hard to
control. Bob Young beat him. He died. They said he killed him. They
buried him in the white folks' cemetery.
"They celebrated Christmas visiting and big parties. We would have
eggnog and ten or fifteen cakes. Master Bob Young was a consumptive. He
had it thirty-five years. They all died out with it. They kept a big ten
or fifteen gallon demijohn with willow woven around the bottom full of
whiskey, all the time upstairs. They kept the door locked.
"I stole miny ah drink. Find the door unlocked. I got too much one time.
It made me sick. I thought I had a chill. She thought I been upstairs.
They was particular with the children, both black and white then. They
put the children to bed by sundown and they would set around the fire
and talk. She raised Elnora and the baby Altona after mother got killed.
She give them good clothes and good to eat. Their papa took the boy. He
left after mother got killed. We took a pride in the place like it was
our own. We didn't know but what it was our very own.
"We had a acre in garden. We raised everything. We had three or four
thousand pounds of meat and three cribs of corn. I ketched it when I
left them. I made thirty-three crops in my life. My children all grown
and gone. My son-in-law died. He had dropsy eight months. He had a dead
liver. I've wanted since he died. I've had a hard time since he died. He
was a worker and so good to us all.
"Mother worked with a white woman. Mother was full-blood Indian herself.
The woman's husband got to dealing with his daughter. She had three
babies in all. They said they put them up in the ceiling, up in a loft.
This old man got mad with Bob Young and burnt his gin. Mother seen him
slipping around. They ask her but she wouldn't tell on him, for she
didn't see him set it on fire. They measured the tracks. He got scared
mother would tell on him. One night a colored man on the place come
over. Her husband was gone somewhere and hadn't got home. She was
cooking supper. They heard somebody but thought it was a pig come
around. Hogs run out all time. The step was a big limestone rock. She
opened the door and put the hot lid of the skillet on it to cool. Stood
it up sideways. Then they heard a noise at that door. It was pegged. So
she went along with the cooking. It wasn't late. He found a crack at the
side of the stick and dirt chimney, put the muzzle of the gun in there
and shot her through her heart. The man flew. She struggled to the edge
of the bed and fell. The children was asleep and I was afraid to move.
The moon come up. I couldn't get her on the bed. I put a pillow under
her head and a quilt over her, but I didn't think she was dead. The baby
cried in the night. I was so scared I put the eight-months-old baby down
under there to nurse. It nursed. She was dead then, I think now. When
four o'clock come it was daylight. The little brother said, 'I know
what's the matter, our mama's dead.' I went up to Mr. Bob Young's. He
brought the coroners. I was so young I was afraid they was going to take
us to jail. I asked little brother what they said they was going to do.
He said, 'They are going to bury mama in a heep (deep) hole. They set
out after her husband and chased him clear off. They thought he shot her
by him not coming home that night and her cooking supper for him.
"This white man left and went to Texas. His wife said the best woman in
Decatur had been killed. They put him on the gallows for killing his
daughter's babies, three of them and put them in the loft. He told how
he killed mother. He had murdered four. He was afraid mother would tell
about him. She knowd so much. She didn't tell. Indians don't tell. She
was with his girl when the first baby was born, but she thought it died
and she thought the girl come home visiting, so his wife said she had
told her to keep her from telling. It was a bad disgrace. His wife was a
good, humble, kind woman.
"Master Bob Young sent for Ben Pitts after they'd run him off, and he
let him have his pick of us. He took the boy and lived on the place. Her
other husband come and got his two children. Miss Nippy took our baby
girl and the other little girl. I was raised up at her house, so she
kept me on. Kept us all till we married off.
"I'd feel foolish to go try to vote. I'm too old now.
"I don't get help from the government yet. We are having a hard time to
scratch around and not go hungry."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Ida Bryant, Hazea. Arkansas
(Very very black Negro woman)
"My mother was Hulda Williams. Grandpa was Jack Williams. Her mistress
was a widow woman in slavery times. They lived in Louisiana. I was born
close to Bastrop in Morehouse Parish. My father died when I was ten
years old. He was old. I was a child. Things look different to you then
you know. Grandpa was Hansen Terry, grandma Aggie Terry. They called pa
Major Terry but he belong to Bill Talbot. Hansen Terry was a free man.
_He molded his own money._ He died in South Carolina. Pa come from
Edgefield, South Carolina to Alabama. Stayed there awhile then come on
to Louisiana. He slipped off from his master. Between South Carolina and
Louisiana he walked forty miles. He rode all the other time. My folks
"Times have been getting some better all along since I was a chile.
Times is a heap better now than I ever seen in my life. The young men
depends on their wives to cook and make a living. They don't work
much--none of em. We old niggers doin' the wash in' and the young women
doin' cookin' and easy jobs. None of the men ain't workin' to do no
good! A few months in the year ain't no workin'.
"I get commodities. I owns this house now. I bout paid it out. I washes
three washin's a week. The rest of the time I pieces up quilts for
myself. I need cover."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Belle Buntin, Marianne, Arkansas
Age: Up in 80's
"I never was sold. I was born in Oakland, Mississippi. My master said he
wanted all he raised. He never sold one. He bought my mother in
Lexington County. She was a field hand. Our owners was Master Johnson
Buntin and Mistress Sue Buntin. They had two children--Bob and Fannie.
He had a big plantation and four families of slaves. Charlotte was the
cook. Myra worked at the house and in the field. He had seven little
colored boys and two little colored girls. I spent most of my time up at
the house playing with Bob and Fannie. When mistress whooped one she
whooped all three. She would whoop us for stealing her riding horse out.
We would bridle it and all three ride and ride. We got several whoopings
"I have seen colored folks sold at Oakland. They had a block and nigger
traders come. One trader would go and see a fine baby. He keep on till
he got it. I've seen them take babies from the mother's arm and if the
mother dare cry, they would git a beatin'. They look like they bust over
"If you was out after seven o'clock the patrollers git you. They would
beat and take you home. Some masters say to them, 'You done right,' and
some say, 'You bring my hands home; I'll whoop them myself.'
"The patrollers caught one of Gaddises women and whooped her awful for
coming to town on Sunday. I never did know why she went to town that
"That selling was awful and crowds come to see how they sell. They acted
like it was a picnic. Some women was always there, come with their
husbands. Some women sold slaves and some bought them.
"I never did see none sell naked. I seen men took from their wives and
mothers and children. Let me tell you they didn't have no squalling
around or they would get took off and a beating.
"Master Alex Buntin was Dr. Buntin. He said, 'I worked like one of my
slaves and bought my slaves with what I made and I am not going to have
them 'bused by the patrollers. George and Kit and Johnson was his
cousins. Kit wasn't so good to his slaves.
"It was my job to brush the flies off the table. I had a fly brush. I
would eat out of Bob's and Fannie's plates. Miss Sue say, 'Bell, I'm
going to whoop you.' I say, 'Miss Sue, please don't, I'm hungry too.'
She say, 'You stop playing and eat first next time.' Then she'd put some
more on their plates. We sat on a bench at the table. We et the same the
white folks did all cooked up together.
"One time Dr. Buntin got awful mad. The dogs found some whiskey in a
cave one of his slaves had hid there. They would steal and hide it in a
cave. He got a beating and they washed it in salt water to keep them
from getting sore and stiff.
"Some folks kept dogs trained to hunt runaway niggers. They was fat, and
you better not hit one or hurt it if it did bite or you would git a
"Master Alex was a legislator. He had to leave when the Yankees come
through. They killed all the legislators. I loved him. He run a store
and we three children went to the store to see him nearly every day. He
took us all three on his knees at the some time. I loved him. When he
was gone, I said, 'Miss Sue, where is Master Alex?' She say, 'Maybe he
be back pretty soon.' While he was gone they had a battle in a little
skirt of woods close by. We hung to Miss Sue's skirt tail. I seen the
Yankees run by on horses and some walking. Mr. Jordan, a southern
soldier, was shot in his ribs. Mr. Buford was shot in his knee. Some of
the other southern soldiers drug them up to our house. Miss Sue nursed
them. I think they got well and went home.
"Three days before Master Alex left they sent all the stock off and put
the turkeys and geese under the house, and chickens too. It was dark so
they kept pretty quiet. When the Yankees got there they stripped the
smoke-house. We had a lots of meat and they busted the storehouse open
and strowed (strewed) meat and flour all along the road. They hired
Mammy (Charlotte) to cook a big meal for them. She told the man she was
'fraid Miss Sue whoop her. He said, 'Whooping time near 'bout out.' He
asked her 'bout some chickens but she wasn't goin' to tell him 'cause it
was her living too for them to waste up. They never found the geese,
turkeys, and chickens. They rambled all through the house looking for
Master Alex and went through every drawer and closet upstairs and down.
It was scandalous. They had Miss Sue walking and crying and us three
children clinging to her skirt tail scared to death and crying too. When
they left, the big lieutenant rode off ahead on a fine gray horse. They
come back when we just got the table sot and et every crumb of our
dinner. They was a lively gang. I hate 'em. I was hungry. Rations was
scarce. They wasted the best we had. Master Alex hod three stores and he
kept the middle one.
"Mistress told all Master Alex's slaves they had been freed. The men all
left. My mother left and took me. I got mad and went back and lived
there till I married. Master Alex come back after two weeks. My mother
soon died after the surrender. She died at Batesville, Mississippi. Lots
of the slaves died. Their change of living killed lots of 'em. My father
lived on Sam Bronoy's (Branough's) place. Master Alex wanted to buy him
but he took him on to Texas before I was born. I never did see him.
"I been farming, cooking, wash and iron along. I been in Arkansas twelve
or fourteen years.
"How am I supported? I'm not much supported. My boy don't have work much
of the time. I don't get the pension. I trusts in the Lord. I belong to
New Bethel Baptist Church down here.
"Times--I don't know what to think. My race is the under folks and I
don't never say nothing to harm 'em. I'm one of 'em. Times is hardest in
my life. I have to sit. I can't walk a step--creeping paralysis."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Parson interviewed: Jeff Burgess, Clarendon, Arkansas
Age: Born in 1664 or 1865, forgot which
"I was born in Granville, Texas. My master was Strathers Burgess and
mistress Polly Burgess. My master died 'fore I was born. He died on the
way to Texas, trying to save his slaves. Keep them from leaving him and
from going into the war. They didn't want to fight. His son was killed
in the war. My folks didn't know they was free till three years after
the war was over. They come back to Caloche Bay, the old home place.
There was a bureau at De Valls Bluff. They had to let the slaves go and
they was citizens then. My folks wasn't very anxious to leave the white
owners because times was so funny and they didn't have nowhere to go.
The courts was torn up powerful here in Arkansas.
"Heap of meanness going on right after the war. One man tell you do this
and another man say you better not do that you sho get in trouble. It
was hard to go straight. They said our master was a good man but awful
rough wid his slaves and the hands overseeing too. Guess he was rough
wid his family too.
"Times is hard with me, I gits $10 pension every month. I got no home
now. I got me three hogs. I lives three miles from here (Clarendon).
"If I wasn't so old and no account I'd think the times the best ever.
It's bad when you get old. I jess sees the young folks. I don't know
much about them. Seems lack they talk a lot of foolish chat to me. I got
a lot and a half in town. They tore down my house and toted it off for
fire wood. It was rented. Then they moved out and wouldn't pay no rent.
They kept doing that way. I never had a farm of my own.
"I was good with a saw and axe. I cleared land and farmed. Once I worked
on the railroad they was building. I drove pile mostly. Farming is the
best job and the best place to make a living. I found out that myself."
Interviewer: Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Norman Burkes
2305 West Eleventh Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I didn't quite make slavery. Me and freedom came here together.
"I was born in Union County, Arkansas. My mother was born in Virginia
and my father was an Alabamian.
"I've heered 'em say how they done in slavery times. Whupped 'em and
worked 'em and didn't feed 'em much. Said they'd average about three
pounds of meat a week and a peck of meal, a half gallon of molasses.
That was allowed the hands for a week. No sugar and no coffee. And
they'd issue flour on Saturday so they could have Sunday morning
"My father was sold to Virginia and he and my mother was married there
and they moved with their white people here to Arkansas.
"They called their owner old Master. Yes'm, I can remember him. Many
times as he whipped me I ought to remember him. I never will forget that
old man. They claimed he was pretty good to 'em. He didn't whup 'em
much, I don't think.
"If my mother was livin' she could tell you everything about Virginia.
She was one hundred and two when she died. My folks is long livers.
"My oldest brother was sold in Virginia and shipped down into Texas
about ten years before I was born and I ain't never seen him.
"They sold wives from their husbands and children from their parents and
they couldn't help it. Just like this war business. Come and draft 'em
and they couldn't help it.
"I think the way things is now, they're goin to build up another war."
I was interviewing this man on the front porch and at this point, he got
up and went into the house, so the interview was ended as far as he was
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertaon
Person interviewed: Will Burks, Sr.
Pine City, Ark.--5 mi. from Holly Grove
"My parents names was Katherine Hill and Bill Burks. They had five boys
and three girls. Their owners fur as I knows was Frank and Polly Burks.
They had a heap of slaves. They was good white folks. My folks stayed on
two or three years. They was both field hands. They had to go to the
house and Master Frank Burks told em they was free. In 1880 Judge Scott
paid their way and I come wid them to Forrest City. There was a crowd.
He bought em out here to farm. We come Christmas 1880. I never will
forgit that. It was jes different in a new country and left some of our
folks an all that.
"I was born close to Columbia, Tennessee. I used to see the soldiers
pass long the big road, both sides. Seem lack theyd be in strings a mile
long. I never heard much bout the war. They wouldn't let white nor black
children set round and hear what they was talkin' bout. Why they send em
off to play--build playhouses outer rocks and hay, leaves, any little
thing they throw way we take it to play house. White children played
together then cause it was a long ways between white folks house, and
colored children raised up wid em. I don't see none that now.
"One thing I done a long time was stay at the toll gate. They had a heap
of em when I was a boy. The fences was rock or rail and big old wooden
gates round and on it marked, "Toll Gate." I'd open and shut the gate.
Walkers go free. Horseback riders--fifteen cents. Buggies--twenty-five
cents. Wagons--fifty cents. The state broke that up and made new roads.
Some they changed a little and used. After that I stand 'bout on roads
through fields--short ways folks went but where the farmers had to keep
closed up on count of the crops. I open and shut the gate. They'd throw
me a nickel. That was first money I made--stayin' at toll gates about
"Ku Klux come to our house and took my papa off wid em. Mama was cryin',
she told us children they was goiner hurt him. I recollect all bout it.
They thought my papa knowed about some man bein' killed. My papa died
wid knots on his neck where they hung him up wid ropes. It hurt him all
his life after that. It made him sick what all they done to him tryin'
to make him tell who killed somebody. He was laid up a long time. I
recollect that. When they found out papa didn't know nothin' bout it,
they said they was sorry they done him so mean.
"I vote a Republican ticket lack my papa till I cluded it not the party,
it is the man that rules right. I voted fur Mr. Roosevelt. I know he is.
(A Democrat) I know'd it when I voted for him. Times is tough but they
was worse 'fo he got elected. Things you buy gets higher and higher that
makes it bad. We got two hogs, one cow, few chickens and a home. I owns
my home for a fact. My wife is 73. I am purty nigh 75 years old. What
make it hard on us, we is bout wore out.
"I been farmin' and carpenterin' all my life. Last years I been farmin'
wid Mr. L.M. Osborne at Osborne. We work forty acres and made 57 bales.
I had a team and he had a team. So I worked it on halves. That was long
time ago. In 1929 I believe. Best farmin' I ever done. We got twenty
Interviewer: Mrs. Annie L. LaCotts
Person interviewed: Adeline Burris, DeWitt, Arkansas
Adeline Burris is a little old white-haired wrinkled-faced mulatto or
yellow Negro woman who says she was old enough to be working in the
fields when the war began. According to her story she must have been
about 14 then, which would make her at least 90 years old now. She looks
as though she might be a hundred. She is stooped and very feeble but can
get around some days by the help of a stout walking stick; at other
times she cannot leave her bed for days at a time. She owns nothing and
is living in the home of her daughter-in-law who is kind to her and
cares for her as best she can. She says she was born in Murry County,
Tennessee. Columbia was the county seat. When asked if she was born
during slavery time she said, "Yes, honey, my mammy was one of de slaves
what belonged to Mr. Billie and Miss Liza Renfroe. Lord bless her heart
she was good to my mammy and her chillun! I had two little brothers,
twins, and when dey come to dis world I can remember how our old
mistress would come every day to see about dem and my mammy. She'd bring
things to eat, clothes for the babies and everything else. Yes sir! My
mother didn't want for _anything_ as long as she stayed with Miss
Liza, not even after de Negroes was _freed_. When I was a little
girl I was give to my young mistress, and I stayed with her till my
folks was coning to Arkansas and I come too."
"Why did your folks move to Arkansas?"
"Well, you see we heard this was a good country and there was a white
man come there to get a lot of niggers to farm for him down on the river
and we come with him. He brought a lot of families on a big boat called
a flatboat. We were days and nights floating down the river. We landed
at St. Charles. I married in about two years and haven't ever lived
anywhere else but Arkansas County and I've always been around good white
folks. I'd been cold and hungry a lot of times if it wasn't for some of
dese blessed white folkes' chillen; dey comes to see me and brings me
things to eat and clothes too, sometimes."
"How many tines did you marry, Aunt Add.?"
"Just one time; and I just had four chillen, twins, two times. One child
died out of each sit--just left me and Becky and Bob. Bob and Dover, his
wife, couldn't get along but I think most of it's his fault, for Dover's
just as good to me as she can be. My own child couldn't be better to me
den she is.
"I don't know, honey, but looks to me like niggers was better off in dem
days den they are now. I know dey was if dey had good white folks like
we did. Dey didn't have to worry about rent, clothes, nor sumpin to eat.
Dat was there for them. All they had to do was work and do right. Course
I guess our master might not of been so good and kind ef we had been
mean and lazy, but you know none of us ever got a whippin' in our life.
"Honey, come back to see Aunt Add. sometime. I likes to talk to you."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Jennie Butler
3012 Short Main Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: Between 103 and 107
[HW: Nurses ? ? ?][TR: Illegible]
"I was born February 10, 1831 in Richmond, Virginia. I was a nurse
raised by our white folks in the house with the Adamses. Sue Stanley
(white and Indian) was my godmother, or 'nursemother' they called em
then. She was a sister-in-law to Jay Goold's wife. She married an Adams.
I wasn't raised a little nigger child like they is in the South. I was
raised like people. I wasn't no bastard. My father was Henry Crittenden,
an Indian full blooded Creek. He was named after his father, Henry
Crittenden. My mother's name was Louisa Virginia. Her parents were the
Gibsons, same nationality as her husband. My 'nursemother' was a white
woman, but she had English and Indian blood in her. My mother and father
were married to each other just like young people are nowadays. None of
my people were slaves and none of them owned any slaves.
"In Richmond, they lived in a little log cabin. Before I had so much
trouble I could tell you all about it, but I never forget that little
log cabin. That is near Oak Grove where Lincoln and Garfield and Nat
Turner met and talked about slavery.
"We had oak furniture. We had a tall bed with a looking glass in the
back of it, long bolsters, long pillow cases just like we used to make
long infant dresses. There were four rooms in the cabin. It was in the
city. The kitchen was a little off from the house. You reached it by
going through a little portico.
"We ate bananas, oranges, hazelnuts, apples, fruit for every month in
the year for breakfast, batter cakes, egg bread. The mornings we had egg
bread we had flesh. For dinner and supper we had milk and butter and
some kind of sweetness, and bread, of course. We had a boiled dinner. We
raised everything-even peanuts.
"We made everything we wore. Raised and made the cloth and the leather,
and the clothes and the shoes.
Contacts with Slaves and Slave Owners
"I don't know nothin' about slavery. I didn't have nothin' to do with
them folks. We picked em up on our way in our travels and they had been
treated like dogs and hadn't been told they were free. We'd tell em they
was free and let em go.
"All I can tell you is that we come on down and never stopped until we
got to Memphis, and we tarried there twenty-five years. We came through
Louisiana and Georgia on our way out here and picked up many slaves who
didn't know they was free. They was using these little boats when we
came out here. In Louisiana and Georgia when we came out here, they
weren't thinkin' bout telling the niggers they were free. And they
weren't in Clarksville either. We landed in Little Rock and made it our
"Christian work has been the banner of my life-labor work, giving
messages about the Bible, teaching. Mostly they kept me riding--I mean
with the doctors. When we were riding, the doctors didn't go in a
mother's room; he sent the rider in. They call em nurses now and handle
them indifferently. The doctor jus' stopped in the parlor and made his
money jus' sitting there and we women did all the work. In 1912, I gave
up my riding license. It was too rough for me in Arkansas. And then they
wouldn't allow me anything either.
"Now I have a poor way of making a living because they have taken away
everything from me. I prays and lives by the Bible. I can't get nothin'
from my husband's endowment. He was an old soldier in the Civil War on
the Confederate side and I used to get $30 a month from Pine Bluff. He
was freed there. Wilson was President at the time I put in for an
increase for him in the days of his sickness. He was down sick thirty
years and only got $30 a month. The pension was increased to $60 for
about one year. He died in 1917, March 10, and was in his ninetieth year
or more from what he told me. The picture shows it too.
"Paying my taxes was the votin' I ever done. They never could get me to
gee nor haw. There wasn't any use voting when you can see what's on the
future before you. I never had many colored friends. None that voted.
And very few Indians and just a few others. And them that stood by me
all the while, they're sleeping.
Thoughts of Young People
"Don't know nothin' bout these young folks today. Don't nothin' spoil a
duck but his bill. I have had a hard time. I am heavy and I'm jus'
walkin' bout. A little talk with Jesus is all I have. I'll fall on my
knees and I'll walk as Jesus says. My heart's bleeding. I know I'm not
no more welcome than a dog.
"I pays for this little shack and when you come to see me, you might as
well come to that kitchen door. I ain't going to use no deceit with
nobody. I'll show you the hole I have to go in."
I understand that Sister Butler gets a pension of $5 a month. Although
her voice is vigorous, her mental powers are somewhat weak. She cannot
remember the details of anything at all.
She evidently had heard something about Nat Turner, but it would be hard
to tell what. The Nat Turner Rebellion, so called, a fanatical affair
which was as much opposed by the Negroes as by the whites, took place in
Southampton County, Virginia, in August and September 1831, the same
year in which Jennie Butler claims birth. She would naturally hear
something about it, but she does not remember what.
She had a newspaper clipping undated and minus the reading matter
showing her husband's picture, and another showing herself, February 10,
1938, The Arkansas Democrat.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: E.L. Byrd
618 N. Cedar, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in 1862. I just can remember the Yankees. They come through
there and got horses and money and anything else they wanted. To my
reasoning that's the reason the North has got more now. They got all the
money they could find. And they took one fellow belonged to the same man
"My owner's name was Jack Byrd. We stayed with him about a year and then
we farmed for ourselves.
"I never went to school much.
"My mother was a widow woman and I had to work. That was in South
"I come to Arkansas in 1890. I didn't marry till I was about
thirty-seven. I got one child living. That's my daughter; I live with
her. She's a bookkeeper for Perry's Undertaking Company.
"When I come to Arkansas I stopped down here in Ashley County. I farmed
till I come to Pine Bluff. I been here forty years. I worked at the
stave mills. I just worked for three different firms in forty years.
"I used to own this place, but I had to let it go on account of taxes.
Then my daughter bought it in.
"I been tryin' to get a pension but don't look like I'm go in' to get
"I have to stay here with these children while my daughter works. It
takes all she makes to keep things goin'."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson.
Person interviewed: Emmett Augasta Byrd, Marianna, Arkansas
"I was born in Washington County, Missouri. I'm eighty-three years old.
Mother's owner was William Byrd. He got killed in a dispute over a
horse. A horse trader shot him. His name was Cal Dony.[TR: There is a
mark that may be a line over the 'o' or a tilde over the 'n'.] Father's
owner was Byrd too. Mother was Miss Harriett Byrd's cook. Yes, I knowed
her very well. I was nine years old when I was stole.
"Me and my older brother was both stole. His name was Hugh Byrd. We was
just out. It was in September. A gang out stealing horses stole us. It
was when Price made his last raid to Missouri. It was some of the
soldiers from his gang. We was playing about. They overtook us and let
us ride, then they wouldn't let us git off. They would shot us if we
had. In a few days we was so far off. We cried and worried a heap.
"It was eighteen years before I see my mother. The old snag I was riding
give out and they was leading so they changed me. I cried two or three
days. They didn't pay my crying no 'tention. They had a string of nigger
men and boys, no women, far as from me 'cross to that bank. I judge it
is three hundred yards over there.
"After the battle of Big Blue River my man got killed and another man
had charge of me and somebody else went off with my brother. I never
seen him. That battle was awful, awful, awful! Well, I certainly was
scared to death. They never got out of Missouri with my brother. In 1872
he went to St. Louis to my mother. She was cooking there. My father went
with the Yankees and was at Jefferson Barracks in the army during the
War. He was there when we got stole but she went later on before he
died. He was there three months. He took pneumonia. They brought me in
to Kansas and back by Ft. Smith.
"Talking about hard times, war times is all the hard times I ever seen.
No foolin'! It was really hard times. We had no bread, shoot down a cow
and cut out what we wanted, take it on. We et it raw. Sometimes we would
cook it but we et more raw than cooked. When we got to Ft. Smith we
struck good times. Folks was living on parched corn and sorghum
molasses. They had no mills to grind up the corn. Times was hard they
thought. Further south we come better times got. When we landed at
Arkadelphia we stayed all night and I was sold next day. Mr. Spence was
the hotel keeper. He bought me. He give one hundred fifty dollars and a
fine saddle horse for me. I never heard the trade but that is what I
heard 'em say afterwards. Mr. Spence was a cripple man. John Merrican
left me. He been mean to me. He was rough. Hit me over the head, beat
me. He was mean. He lived down 'bout Warren, down somewhere in the
southern part of the state. I never seen him no more. Mr. Spence was
good to me since I come to think about it but then I didn't think so. We
had plenty plain victuals at the hotel. He meant to be good to me but I
expected too much I reckon. Then it being a public place I heard lots
what was said around. I come to think I ought to be treated good as the
boarders. Now I see it different. Mr. Spence walked on a stick and a
crutch. He couldn't be very cruel to me if he had wanted to. He wasn't
mean a bit. I was the bellboy and swept 'round some and gardened.
"In 1866, in May, I run off. I went to Dallas County across Ouachita
River. I stayed there with Matlocks and Russells and Welches till I was
good and grown. Mr. Spence never tried to find me. I hoped he would.
They wasn't so bad but I had to work harder. They never give me nothing.
I seen Mr. Spence twice after I left but he never seen me. If he did he
never let on. I never seen his wife no more after I left her. I didn't
see him for four years after I left, then in three more years I seen him
but the hotel had burned.
"Mr. Spence told me I was free. I didn't leave. I didn't have sense to
know where to go. I didn't know what freedom was. So he went to the free
mens' bureau and had me bound to him till I was twenty-one years old. He
told me what he had done. He was to clothe me, feed me, send me to
school so many months a year, give me a horse and bridle and saddle and
one hundred fifty dollars when I was twenty-one years old. That would
have been eight or nine years. Seemed too long a time to wait. I thought
I could do better than that. I never done half that good. I never went
to school a day in my life. I was sorry I run off after it was too late.