Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States by Work Projects Administration

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

hide under the house. They go on off. He'd come out. When he was sold he
went under there. He come out and went on off when they found him and
told him he was sold to this man. Grandma said he was obedient. They
never hit him. He was her best husband. They never sold grandma and she
couldn't 'count for him being let go. Grandma had another husband after
freedom and two more children. They left there in a crowd and all come
to Arkansas. Grandma was a cook for the field hands. She had charge of
ringing a big dinner-bell hung up in a tree. She was black as charcoal.
Mama and grandma said Master Coon and old Mistress Mollie was good to
them. That the reason grandpa would go under the house. He didn't want
to be sold. He never was seen no more by them.

"Grandma said sometimes the meals was carried to the fields and they fed
the children out of troughs. They took all the children to the spring
set them in a row. They had a tubful of water and they washed them dried
them and put on their clean clothes. They used homemade lye soap and
greased them with tallow and mutton suet. That made them shine. They
kept them greased so their knees and knuckles would ruff up and bleed.

"Grandma and mama stopped at Fourche Dam. They was so glad to be free
and go about. Then it scared them to hear talk of being sold. It divided
them and some owners was mean.

"In my time if I done wrong most any grown person whoop me. Then mama
find it out, she give me another one. I got a double whooping.

"Times is powerful bad to raise up a family. Drinking and gambling, and
it takes too much to feed a family now. Times is so much harder that way
then when I was growing."

Interviewer: Miss Sallie C. Miller
Person interviewed: Ann May, Clarksville, Arkansas
Age: 82

"I was born at Cabin Creek (Lamar now, but I still call it Cabin Creek.
I can't call it anything else). I was sold with my mother when I was a
little girl and lived with our white folks until after the war and was
freed. We lived on a farm. My father belong to another family, a
neighbor of ours. We all lived with the white folks. My mother took care
of all of them. They was always as good as they could be to us and after
the war we stayed on with the white folks who owned my father and worked
on the farm for him. His master gave us half of everything we made until
we could get started our selves, then our white folks told my father to
homestead a place near him, and he did. We lived there until after
father died. We paid taxes and lived just like the white folks. We did
what the white folks told us to do and never lost a thing by doing it.
After I married my husband worked at the mill for your father and made a
living for me and I worked for the white folks. Now I am too old to cook
but I have a few washin's for the white folks and am getting my old age
pension that helps me a lot.

"I don't know what I think about the young generation. I aim at my
stopping place.

"The songs we sang were

'Come ye that love the Lord and let your Joys be known'
'When You and I Were Young, Maggie'
'Just Before the Battle, Mother'
'Darling Nellie Gray'
'Carry Me Back to Old Virginia'
'Old Black Joe'

Of course we sang 'Dixie.' We had to sing that, it was the leading

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Joe Mayes, Madison, Arkansas
Age: ?

"I was born a slave two years. I never will forget man come and told
mother she was free. She cooked. She never worked in the field till
after freedom. In a few days another man come and made them leave. They
couldn't hold them in Kentucky. The owners give her provisions, meat,
lasses, etc. They give her her clothes. She had four children and I was
her youngest. The two oldest was girls. Father was dead. I don't
remember him. Mother finally made arrangements to go to Will Bennett's

"Another thing I remember: Frank Hayes sold mother to Isaac Tremble
after she was free. She didn't know she was free. Neither did Isaac
Tremble. I don't know whether Frank Mayes was honest or not. The part I
remember was that us boys stood on the block and never was parted from
her. We had to leave our sisters. One was sold to Miss Margaret Moxley,
the other to Miss Almyra Winder. (He said "Miss" but they may have been
widows. He didn't seem to know--ed.) Father belong to a Master Mills.
All our family got together after we found out we had been freed.

"The Ku Klux: I went to the well little after dark. It was a good piece
from our house. I looked up and saw a man with a robe and cap on. It
scared me nearly to death. I nearly fell out. I had heard about the
'booger man' and learned better then. But there he was. I had heard a
lot about Ku Klux.

"There was a big gourd hanging up by the well. We kept it there. There
was a bucket full up. He said, 'Give me water.' I handed over the gourd
full. He done something with it. He kept me handing him water. He said,
'Hold my crown and draw me up another bucket full.' I was so scared I
lit out hard as I could run. It was dark enough to hide me when I got a
piece out of his way.

"The owners was pretty good to mother to be slavery. She had clothes and
enough to eat all the time. I used to go back to see all our white folks
in Kentucky. They are about all dead now I expect. Mother was glad to be
free but for a long time her life was harder.

"After we got up larger she got along better. I worked on a steamboat
twelve or thirteen years. I was a roustabout and freight picker. I was
on passenger boats mostly but they carried freight. I went to school
some. I always had colored teachers. I farmed at Hughes and Madison ever
since excepting one year in Mississippi.

"I live alone. I get $8 and commodities from the Sociable Welfare.

"The young folks would do better, work better, if they could get work
all time. It is hard at times to get work right now. The times is all
right. Better everything but work. I know colored folks is bad managers.
That has been bad on us always.

"I worked on boats from Evansville, St. Louis, Memphis to New Orleans
mostly. It was hard work but a fine living. I was stout then."

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Jesse Meeks
707 Elm Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 76
Occupation: Minister

"I am seventy-six. 'Course I was young in slavery times, but I can
remember some things. I remember how they used to feed us. Put milk and
bread or poke salad and corn-meal dumplin's in a trough and give you a
wooden spoon and all the children eat together.

"We stayed with our old master fourteen years. They were good folks and
treated us right. My old master's name was Sam Meeks--in Longview, Drew
County, Arkansas, down here below Monticello.

"I got a letter here about a month ago from the daughter of my young
mistress. I wrote to my young mistress and she was dead, so her daughter
got the letter. She answered it and sent me a dollar and asked me was I
on the Old Age Pension list.

"As far as I know, I am the onliest one of the old darkies living that
belonged to Sam Meeks.

"I remember when the Ku Klux run in on my old master. That was after the
War. He was at the breakfast table with his wife. You know in them days
they didn't have locks and keys. Had a hole bored through a board and
put a peg in it, and I know the Ku Klux come up and stuck a gun through
the auger hole and shot at old master but missed him. He run to the door
and shot at the Ku Klux. I know us children found one of 'em down at the
spring bathin' his leg where old master had shot him.

"Oh! they were good folks and treated us right."

Name of Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Subject: Superstitions

This information given by: Jesse Meeks
Place of residence: 707 Elm Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Occupation: Minister
Age: 76
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]

"I remember there was on old man called Billy Mann lived down here at
Noble lake. He said he could 'give you a hand.' If you and your wife
wasn't gettin' along very well and you wanted to get somebody else, he
said he could 'give you a hand' and that would enable you to get anybody
you wanted. That's what he said.

"And I've heard 'em say they could make a ring around you and you
couldn't get out.

"I don't believe in that though 'cause I'm in the ministerial work and
it don't pay me to believe in things like that. That is the work of the

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Jeff Metcalf
R.F.D., Brinkley, Arkansas
Age: 73

"My mother's name was Julia Metcalf and my father's name was Jim
Metcalf. They belong to an old bachelor named Bill Metcalf. I think I
was born in Lee County, Mississippi. They did not leave when the war was
over. They stayed on the Bill Metcalf place till they died. I reckon I
do remember him.

"I can't tell you 'bout the war nor slavery. I don't know a thing 'bout
it. I heard but I couldn't tell you it been so long ago. They didn't
expect nothing but freedom. They got along in the Reconstruction days
about like they had been getting along. Seemed like they didn't know
much about the war. They heard they was free. I don't remember the Ku
Klux Klan. I heard old folks talk 'bout it.

"I don't know if my father ever voted but I guess he did. I have voted
but I don't vote now. In part I 'proves of the women votin'. I think the
men outer vote and support his family fur as he can.

"I come here in 1914 from Mississippi. I got busted farmin'. I knowed a
heap o' people said they was doing so well I come too. I come on the

"I ain't got no home, no land. I got a hog. No garden. Two times in the
year now is hard--winter and simmer. In some ways times is better. In
some ways they is worser. When a trade used to be made to let you have
provisions, you know you would not starve. Now if you can't get work you
'bout starve and can't get no credit. Crops been good last few years and
prices fair fur it. But money won't buy nothin' now. Everything is so
high. Meat is so high. Working man have to eat meat. If he don't he get

"The young folks do work. They can't save much farmin'. If they could do
public work between times it be better. I had a hard time in July and
August. I got six children, they grown and gone. My wife is 72 years
old. She ain't no 'count for work no more. The Government give me an'
her $10 a month between us two. Her name is Hannah Metcalf.

"I wish I did know somethin' to tell you, lady, 'bout the Civil War and
the slavery times. I done forgot 'bout all I heard 'em talkin'. When you
see Hannah she might know somethin'."

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Hardy Miller
702-1/2 W. Second Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 85
Occupation: Yardman

"Mistress, I'll tell you what my mother said. She said she birthed me on
Christmas morning in 1852 in Sumpter County, Georgia. It was on her old
master's place. Bright Herring was his name. Old mistress' name was Miss
Lizzie. My father belonged to a different owner.

"Mac McClendon and John Mourning was two nigger traders and they brought
my mother and sister Nancy and sister Liza and my sister Anna and Hardy
Miller--that's me--out here on the train from Americus, Georgia to
Memphis and put us on a steamboat and brought us here to Pine Bluff and
sold me to Dr. Pope. He was a poor white man and he wanted a pair of
niggers. He bought me and Laura Beckwith. In them days a doctor examined
you and if your heart was sound and your lungs was sound and you didn't
have no broken bones--have to pay one hundred dollars for every year you
was old. That was in 1862 and I was ten years old so they sold me for
one thousand dollars and one thousand dollars for Laura cause she was
sound too. Carried us down to Monticello and when I got free my mammy
come after me.

"Fore I left Georgia, my daddy belonged to a man named Bill Ramsey. You
see niggers used the name of their masters.

"I can remember when I was a boy Bill Ramsey set my father free and give
him a free pass and anybody hire him have to pay just like they pay a
nigger now. My daddy hired my mammy from her master. My mammy was her
master's daughter by a colored woman.

"My daddy had a hoss named Salem and had a cart and he would take me and
my mammy and my sister Liza and go to Americus and buy rations for the
next week.

"I member when the war started in 1861 my mammy hired me out to Mrs.
Brewer and she used to git after me and say, 'You better do that good or
I'll whip you. My husband gone to war now on account of you niggers and
it's a pity you niggers ever been cause he may get killed and I'll never
see him again.'

"I member seein' General Bragg's men and General Steele and General
Marmaduke. Had a fight down at Mark's Mill. We just lived six miles from
there. Seen the Yankees comin' by along the big public road. The Yankees
whipped and fought em so strong they didn't have time to bury the dead.
We could see the buzzards and carrion crows. I used to hear old mistress
say, 'There goes the buzzards, done et all the meat off.' I used to go
to mill and we could see the bones. Used to got out and look at their
teeth. No ma'm, I wasn't scared, the white boys was with me.

"Dr. Pope was good to me, better to me than he was to Master Walter and
Master Billy and my young Miss, Aurelia, cause me and Laura was scared
of em and we tried to do everything they wanted.

"When the war ended in 1865 we was out in the field gettin' pumpkins.
Old master come out and said, 'Hardy, you and Laura is free now. You can
stay or you can go and live with somebody else.' We stayed till 1868 and
then our mammies come after us. I was seventeen.

"After freedom my mammy sent me to school. Teacher's name was W.H.
Young. Name was William Young but he went under the head of W.H. Young.

"I went to school four years and then I got too old. I learned a whole
lot. Learned to read and spell and figger. I done pretty good. I learned
how to add and multiply and how to cancel and how to work square root.

"What I've been doin' all my life is farmin' down at Fairfield on the
Murphy place.

"Vote? Good lord! I done more votin'. Voted for all the Presidents.
Yankees wouldn't let us vote Democrat, had to vote Republican. They'd be
there agitatin'. Stand right there and tell me the ones to vote for. I
done quit votin'. I voted for Coolidge--we called him College--that's
the last votin' I did. One of my friends, Levi Hunter, he was a colored
magistrate down at Fairfield.

"Ku Klux? What you talkin' about? Ku Klux come to our house. My sister
Ellen's husband went to war on the Yankee side durin' the war--on the
Republican side and fought the Democrats.

"After the war the Ku Klux came and got the colored folks what fought
and killed em. I saw em kill a nigger right off his mule. Fell off on
his sack of corn and the old mule kep' on goin'.

"Ku Klux used to wear big old long robe with bunches of cotton sewed all
over it. I member one time we was havin' church and a Ku Klux was hid up
in the scaffold. The preacher was readin' the Bible and tellin' the
folks there was a man sent from God and say an angel be here directly.
Just then the Ku Klux fell down and the niggers all thought 'twas the
angel and they got up and flew.

"Ku Klux used to come to the church well and ask for a drink and say, 'I
ain't had a bit of water since I fought the battle of Shiloh.'

"Might as well tell the truth--had just as good a time when I was a
slave as when I was free. Had all the hog meat and milk and everything
else to eat.

"I member one time when old master wasn't at home the Yankees come and
say to old mistress, 'Madam, we is foragin'.' Old mistress say, 'My
husband ain't home; I can't let you.' Yankees say, 'Well, we're goin' to
anyway.' They say, 'Where you keep your milk and butter?' Old mistress
standin' up there, her face as red as blood and say, 'I haven't any milk
or butter to spare.' But the Yankees would hunt till they found it.

"After a battle when the dead soldiers was layin' around and didn't have
on no uniform cause some of the other soldiers took em, I've heard the
old folk what knowed say you could tell the Yankees from the Rebels
cause the Yankees had blue veins on their bellies and the Rebels didn't.

"Now you want me to tell you bout this young nigger generation? I never
thought I'd live to see this young generation come out and do as well as
they is doin'. I'm goin' tell you the truth. When I was young, boys and
girls used to wear long white shirt come down to their ankles, cause it
would shrink, with a hole cut out for their head. I think they is doin'
a whole lot better. Got better clothes. Almost look as well as the white
folks. I just say the niggers dressin' better than the white folks used

"Then I see some niggers got automobiles. Just been free bout
seventy-two years and some of em actin' just like white folks now.

"Well, good-bye--if I don't see you again I'll meet you in Heaven."

Interviewer: Beulah Sherwood Hagg
Person interviewed: [HW: Henry Kirk] H.K. Miller
1513 State Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: 86

"No ma'am, it will not bother me one bit if you want to have a long
visit with me.... Yes, I was a little busy, but it can wait. I was
getting my dishes ready for a party tomorrow night.

"Yes ma'am, I was born during slavery. I was born at a little place
called Fort Valley in Georgia, July 25, 1851. Fort Valley is about 30
miles from Macon. I came to Little Rock in 1873. My old mistress was a
widow. As well as I can remember she did not have any slaves but my
father and mother and the six children. No ma'am, her name was not
Miller, it was Wade.... Where did I get my name, then? It came from my
grandfather on my father's side.... Well, now, Miss, I can't tell you
where he got that name. From some white master, I reckon.

"We got free in Georgia June 15, 1865. I'll never forget that date. What
I mean is, that was the day the big freedom came. But we didn't know it
and just worked on. My father was a shoemaker for old mistress. Only one
in town, far as I recollect. He made a lot of money for mistress. Mother
was houseworker for her. As fast as us children got big enough to hire
out, she leased us to anybody who would pay for our hire. I was put out
with another widow woman who lived about 20 miles. She worked me on her
cotton plantation. Old mistress sold one of my sisters; took cotton for
pay. I remember hearing them tell about the big price she brought
because cotton was so high. Old mistress got 15 bales of cotton for
sister, and it was only a few days till freedom came and the man who had
traded all them bales of cotton lost my sister, but old mistress kept
the cotton. She was smart, wasn't she? She knew freedom was right there.
Sister came right back to my parents.

"Just give me time, miss, and I'll tell you the whole story. This woman
what had me hired tried to run away and take all her slaves along. I
don't remember just how many, but a dozen or more. Lots of white folks
tried to run away and hide their slaves until after the Yankee soldiers
had been through the town searching for them what had not been set free.
She was trying to get to the woods country. But she got nervous and
scared and done the worst thing she could. She run right into a Yankee
camp. Course they asked where we all belonged and sent us where we
belonged. They had always taught us to be scared of the Yankees. I
remember just as well when I got back to where my mother was she asked
me: "Boy, why you come here? Don't you know old mistress got you rented
out? You're goin' be whipped for sure." I told her, no, now we got
freedom. That was the first they had heard. So then she had to tell my
father and mother. She tole them how they have no place to go, no
money,--nothing to start life on; they better stay on with her. So my
father and mother kept on with her; she let them have a part of what
they made; she took some for board, as was right. The white ladies what
had me between them fixed it up that I would serve out the time I was
rented out for. It was about six months more. My parents saved money and
we all went to a farm. I stayed with them till I was 19 years old. Of
course they got all the money I made. I married when I was 20, still
living in Georgia. We tried to farm on shares. A man from Arkansas came
there, getting up a colony of colored to go to Arkansas to farm. Told
big tales of fine land with nobody to work it. Not half as many Negroes
in Arkansas as in Georgia. Me and my wife joined up to go.

"Well, ma'am, I didn't get enough education to be what you call a
educated man. My father paid for a six months night course for me after
peace. I learned to read and write and figure a little. I have used my
tablespoon full of brains ever since, always adding to that start. I
learned everything I could from the many white friends I have had. Any
way, miss, I have known enough to make a good living all these years.

"Now I'll get on with the story. First work I got in Arkansas was
working on a farm; me and her both; we always tried to stay together. We
could not make anything on the Garner farm, and it was mighty unhealthy
down in Fourche bottoms. I carried her back to Little Rock and I got
work as house man in the Bunch home. From there I went to the home of
Dudley E. Jones and stayed there 28 years. That was the beginning of my
catering. I just naturally took to cooking and serving. White folks was
still used to having colored wait on them and they liked my style. Mr.
Jones was so kind. He told his friends about how I could plan big
dinners and banquets; then cook and serve them. Right soon I was
handling most of the big swell weddings for the society folks. Child, if
I could call off the names of the folks I have served, it would be
mighty near everybody of any consequence in Little Rock for more than 55
years. Yes ma'am, I'm now being called on to serve the grandchildren of
my first customers.

"During the 28 years I lived in Mr. Jones' family I was serving
banquets, big public dinners, all kinds of big affairs. I have had the
spring and fall banquets for the Scottish Rite Masons for more than 41
years. I have served nearly all the Governor's banquets, college
graduation and reunion parties; I took care of President Roosevelt--not
this one, but Teddy----. Served about 600 that day. Any big parties for
colored people?... Yes ma'am! Don't you remember when Booker T.
Washington was here?... No ma'am. White folks didn't have a thing to do
with it, excepting the city let us have the new fire station. It was
just finished but the fire engines ain't moved in yet. I served about
600 that time. Yes ma'am, there was a lot of white folks there. Then, I
have been called to other places to do the catering. Lonoke, Benton,
Malvern, Conway--a heap of places like that.

"No miss, I didn't always have all the catering business; oh, no. There
was Mr. Rossner. He was a fine man. White gentleman. I used to help him
a lot. But when he sold out to Bott, I got a lot of what business Mr.
Rossner had had, Mr. Bott was a Jew. All that time my wife was my best
helper. I took a young colored fellow named Freeling Alexander and
taught him the business. He never been able to make it go on his own,
but does fine working on salary. He has a cafeteria now.

"Well thank you miss, speaking about my home like that. Yes ma'am, I
sure do own it. Fifty-two years I been living right here. First I bought
the lot; it took me two years to pay for it. Next I build a little
house. The big pin oak trees out front was only saplings when I set them
out. Come out in the back yard and see my pecan tree.... It is a giant,
ain't it? Yes ma'am, it was a tiny thing when I set it out fifty-two
years ago. Our only child was born in this house,--a dear daughter--and
her three babies were born here too. After my wife and daughter died, me
and the children kept on trying to keep the home together. I have taught
them the catering business. Both granddaughters are high school
graduates. The boy is in Mexico. Before he went he signed his name to a
check and said: "Here, grandpa. You ain't going to want for a thing
while I'm gone. If something happens to your catering business, or you
get so you can't work, fill this in for whatever you need." But thank
the good Lord, I'm still going strong. Nobody has ever had to take care
of H.K. Miller. Now let me tell you something else about this place. For
more than ten years I have been paying $64.64 every year for my part of
that asphalt paving you see out in front. Yes ma'am, the lot is 50 foot
front, and I am paying for only half of it; from my curb line to the
middle of the street. Maybe if I live long enough I'll get it paid for

"I haven't tried to lay by much money. I don't suppose there is any
other colored man--uneducated like me--what has done more for his
community. I have given as high as $80 and $100 at one time to help out
on the church debt or when they wanted to build. I always help in times
of floods and things like that. I've helped many white persons in my

"Well, now, I'll tell you what I think about the voting system. I think
this. Of course we are still in subjection to the white people; they are
in the majority and have most of the government on their side. But I
think that, er,--er,--well I'll tell you, while it is all right for them
to be at the head of things, they ought to do what is right. Being
educated, they ought to know right from wrong. I believe in the Bible,
miss. Look here. This little book--Gospel of St. John--has been carried
in my pocket every day for years and years. And I never miss a day
reading it. I don't see how some people can be so unjust. I guess they
never read their Bible. The reason I been able to make my three-score
years and ten is because I obeys what the Good Book says.

"Now, let me see. I can remember that I been voting mighty near ever
since I been here. I never had any trouble voting. I have never been
objected from voting that I remember of.

"Now you ask about what I think of the young people. Well, I tell you. I
think really that the young people of today had better begin to check
up, a little. They are going too fast. They don't seem to have enough
consideration. When I see so many killed in automobile accidents, and
know that drinking is the cause of so many car accidents,--well, yes
ma'am, drinking sure does have a lot to do with it. I think they should
more consider the way they going to make a living. Make a rule to look
before they act. Another thing--the education being given them--they are
not taking advantage of it. If they would profit by what they learn they
could benefit theirselves. A lot of them now spend heap of time trying
to get to be doctors and lawyers and like that. That is a mistake. There
is not enough work among colored people to support them. I know. Negroes
do not have confidence in their race for this kind of business. No
ma'am. Colored will go for a white doctor and white lawyer 'cause they
think they know more about that kind of business. I would recommend as
the best means of making a living for colored young people is to select
some kind of work that is absolutely necessary to be done and then do it
honestly. The trades, carpentering, paper hanging, painting, garage
work. Some work that white people need to have done, and they just as
soon colored do it as white. White folks ain't never going to have Negro
doctors and lawyers, I reckon. That's the reason I took up
catering--even that long ago. Fifty-five years ago I knew to look around
and find some work that white folks would need done. There's where your
living comes from.

"Yes, miss, my business is slack--falling off, as you say. Catering is
not what it used to be. You see, 30 or 40 years ago, people's homes were
grand and big; big dining rooms, built for parties and banquets. But for
the big affairs with 500 or 600 guests, they went to the hotels. Even
the hotels had to rent my dishes, silver and linens.... Oh, lord, yes,
miss. I always had my own. It took me ten years to save enough money to
start out with my first 500 of everything.... You want to see them?...
Sure, I keep them here at home.... Look. Here's my silver chests, all
packed to go. I have them divided into different sizes. This one has
fifty of every kind of silver, so if fifty guests are to be provided
for. I keep my linens, plates of different sizes, glasses and everything
the same way. A 200-guest outfit is packed in those chests over there.
No, ma'am, I don't have much trouble of losing silver, because it all
has my initials on; look: H.K.M. on every piece. Heap of dishes are
broken every time I have a big catering. I found one plate
yesterday--the last of a full pattern I had fifteen years ago. About
every ten years is a complete turnover of china. Glassware goes faster,
and of course, the linen is the greatest overhead. Yes ma'am, as I was
telling you, catering is slack because of clubs. So many women take
their parties to clubs now. Another thing, the style of food has
changed. In those old days, the table was loaded with three four meats,
fish, half dozen vegetable dishes, entrees, different kinds of wine, and
an array of desserts. Now what do they have? Liquid punch, frozen punch
and cakes. In June I had a wedding party for 400, and that's all they
served. I had to have 30 punch bowls, but borrowed about half from my
white friends.

"You have got that wrong about me living with my grandchildren. No
ma'am! They are living with me. They make their home with me. I don't
expect ever to marry again. I'm 86. In my will I am leaving everything I
have to my three grandchildren.

"Well, miss, you're looking young and blooming. Guess your husband is
right proud of you? Say you're a widow? Well, now, my goodness. Some of
these days a fine man going to find you and then, er--er, lady, let me
cater for the wedding?"

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Henry Kirk Miller [HW: Same as H.K. Miller]
1513 State Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age 87 [HW: 86]

"I am eighty-six years old-eighty-six years and six months. I was born
July 25, 1851. I was a slave. Didn't get free till June 1865. I was a
boy fifteen years old when I got free.

"I have been living in this house fifty years. I have been living in
Arkansas ever since 1873. That makes about sixty-five years.

"The engineer who got killed in that wreck the other day (a wreck which
occurred February 7, 1938, Monday morning at three and in which the
engineer and five other people were killed) came right from my town,
Fort Valley, Georgia. I came here from there in 1873. I don't know
anybody living in Fort Valley now unless it's my own folks. And I don't
'spect I'd know them now. When I got married and left there, I was only
twenty-one years old.

Parents and Relatives

"My mother and father were born in South Carolina. After their master
and missis married they came to Georgia. Back there I don't know. When I
remember anything they were in Georgia. They said they came from South
Carolina to Georgia. I don't know how they came. Both of my parents were
Negroes. They came to Arkansas ahead of me. I have their pictures." (He
carried me into the parlor and showed me life-sized bust portraits of
his mother and father.)

"There were eighteen of us: six boys and twelve girls. They are all dead
now but myself and one sister. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia. I am older
than she is.


"I am a caterer. I have been serving the Scottish Rite Masons in their
annual reunion every six months for forty-one years. We are going to the
Seventh Street Entrance this Friday. One of the orders will have a
dinner and I am going down to serve it. I served the dinner for Teddy
Roosevelt there, thirty years ago. This Roosevelt is a cousin of his.


"My parents' master was named Wade. When he died, I was so little that
they had to lift me up to let me see into the coffin so I could look at
him. I went to his daughter. My name is after my father's father. My
grandfather was named Miller. I took his name. He was a white man.

"Wade's daughter was named Riley, but I keep my grandfather's name. My
mother and father were then transferred to the Rileys too, and they took
the name of Riley. It was after freedom that I took the name Miller from
my original people. Haven Riley's father was my brother." (Haven Riley
lives in Little Rock and was formerly an instructor at Philander Smith
College. Now he is a public stenographer and a private teacher.)

"Wade owned all of my brothers and sisters and parents and some of my
kin--father's sister and brother. There might have been some more I
can't remember. Wade was a farmer.

"I remember once when my mother and father were going to the field to
work, I went with them as usual. That was before Wade died and his
daughter drew us.

"My wife died six years ago. If she had lived till tomorrow, she would
have been married to me sixty years. She died on the tenth of February
and we were married on the sixth. We just lacked five years of being
married sixty years when she died.


"For food, I don't know anything more than bread and meat. Meal, meat,
molasses were the only rations I saw. In those times the white people
had what was known as the white people's house and then what was known
as nigger quarters. The children that weren't big enough to work were
fed at the white people's house. We got milk and mush for breakfast.
When they boiled cabbage we got bread and pot-liquor. For supper we got
milk and bread. They had cows and the children were fed mostly on milk
and mush or milk and bread. We used to bake a corn cake in the ashes,
ash cake, and put it in the milk.

"The chickens used to lay out in the barn. If we children would find the
nests and bring the eggs in our missis would give us a biscuit, and we
always got biscuits for Christmas.

Houses in the Negro Quarters

"In the nigger quarters there were nothing but log houses. I don't
remember any house other than a log house. They'd just go out in the
woods and get logs and put up a log house. Put dirt and mud or clay in
the cracks to seal it. Notch the logs in the end to hitch them at
corners. Nailed planks at the end of the logs to make a door frame.

"My people all ate and cooked and lived in the same room. Some of the
slaves had dirt floors and some of them had plank floors.

"Food was kept in the house in a sort of box or chest, built in the wall
sometimes. Mostly it was kept on the table.

"In cooking they had a round oven made like a pot only the bottom would
be flat. It had an iron top. The oven was a bought oven. It was shaped
like a barrel. The top lifted up. Coal was placed under the oven and a
little on top.

Tables and Chairs

"Tables were just boards nailed together. Nothing but planks nailed
together. I don't remember nothing but homemade benches for chairs. They
sometimes made platted or split-bottom chairs out of white oak. Strips
of oak were seven feet long. They put them in water so they would bend
easily and wove them while they were flexible and fresh. The whole chair
bottom was made out of one strip just like in caning. Those chairs were
stouter than the chairs they make now."

(To be continued) [TR: No continuation found.]

Interviewer: Mrs. Annie L. LaCotts
Person interviewed: Matilda Miller
Humphrey, Ark.
Age: 79

The day of the interview Matilda, a nice clean-looking Negro woman, was
in bed, suffering from some kind of a pain in her head. She lives in a
little two-room unpainted boxed house beside the highway in Humphrey.
Her house is almost in the shadow of the big tank which was put up
recently when the town acquired its water system.

When told that the visitor wanted to talk with her about her early life,
Matilda said, "Well, honey, I'll tell you all I can, but you see, I was
just a little girl when the war was, but I've heard my mother tell lots
of things about then.

"I was born a slave; my mother and daddy both were owned by Judge
Richard Gamble at Crockett's Bluff. I was born at Boone Hill--about
twelve miles north of DeWitt--and how come it named Boone Hill, that
farm was my young mistress's. Her papa give it to her, just like he give
me to her when I was little, and after she married Mr. Oliver Boone and
lived there the farm always went by the name of 'Boone Hill.' The house
is right on top of a hill, you know, it shure was a pretty place when
Miss Georgia lived there, with great big Magnolia trees in the front
yard. I belonged to Miss Georgia, my young mistress, and when the
niggers were freed my mamma staid on with her. She was right there when
both of his chillun were born, Mr. John Boone and Miss Mary, too. I
nursed _both_ of them chillun. You know who Miss Mary is now, don't you?
Yes'um, she's Mr. Lester Black's wife and he's good, too.

"I was de oney child my mother had till twelve years after the
surrender. You see, my papa went off with Yankees and didn't come back
till twelve years after we was free, and then I had some brothers and
sisters. Exactly nine months from the day my daddy come home, I had a
baby brother born. My mother said she knew my daddy had been married or
took up with some other woman, but she hadn't got a divorce and still
counted him her husband. They lived for a long time with our white
folks, for they were good to us, but you know after the boys and girls
got grown and began to marry and live in different places, my parents
wanted to be with them and left the white folks.

"No mam, I didn't see any fighting, but we could hear the big guns
booming away off in the distance. I was married when I was 21 to Henry
Miller and lived with him 51 years and ten months; he died from old age
and hard work. We had two chillun, both girls. One of them lives here
with me in that other room. Mamma said the Yankees told the Negroes when
they got em freed they'd give em a mule and a farm or maybe a part of
the plantation they'd been working on for their white folks. She thought
they just told em that to make them dissatisfied and to get more of them
'to join up with em' and they were dressed in pretty blue clothes and
had nice horses and that made lots of the Negro men go with them. None
of em ever got anything but what their white folks give em, and just
lots and lots of em never come back after the war cause the Yankees put
them in front where the shooting was and they was killed. My husband
Henry Miller died four years ago. He followed public work and made
plenty of money but he had lots of friends and his money went easy too.
I don't spect I'll live long for this hurtin' in my head is awful bad

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Nathan Miller, Madison, Arkansas
Age: Born in 1868

"Lady, I'll tell you what I know but it won't nigh fill your book.

"I was born in 1862 south of Lockesburg, Arkansas. My parents was
Marther and Burl Miller.

"They told me their owners come here from North Carolina in 1820. They
owned lots of slaves and lots of land. Mother was medium light--about my
color. See, I'm mixed. My hair is white. I heard mother say she never
worked in the field. Father was a blacksmith on the place. He wasn't a
slave. His grandfather willed him free at ten years of age. It was tried
in the Supreme Court. They set him free. Said they couldn't break the
dead man's will.

"My father was a real bright colored man. It caused some disturbance.
Father went back and forth to Kansas. They tried to make him leave if he
was a free man. They said I would have to be a slave several years or
leave the State. Freedom settled that for me.

"My great grandmother on my mother's side belong to Thomas Jefferson. He
was good to her. She used to tell me stories on her lap. She come from
Virginia to Tennessee. They all cried to go back to Virginia and their
master got mad and sold them. He was a meaner man. Her name was Sarah
Jefferson. Mariah was her daughter and Marther was my mother. They was
real dark folks but mother was my color, or a shade darker.

"Grandmother said she picked cotton from the seed all day till her
fingers nearly bled. That was fore gin day. They said the more hills of
tobacco you could cultivate was how much you was worth.

"I don't remember the Ku Klux. They was in my little boy days but they
never bothered me.

"All my life I been working hard--steamboat, railroad, farming. Wore
clean out now.

"Times is awful hard. I am worn clean out. I am not sick. I'm ashamed to
say I can't do a good day's work but I couldn't. I am proud to own I get
commodities and $8 from the Relief."

Interviewer: Thomas Elmore Lacy
Person interviewed: Sam Miller, Morrilton, Arkansas
Age: 98

"I is ninety-eight years old, suh. My name's Sam Miller, and I was born
in Texas in 1840--don't know de month nor de day. My parents died when I
was jes' a little chap, and we come to Conway County, Arkansas fifty
years ago; been livin' here ever since. My wife's name was Annie
Williamson. We ain't got no chillun and never had none. I don't belong
to no chu'ch, but my wife is a Baptis'.

"Can't see to git around much now. No, suh, I can't read or write,
neither. My memory ain't so good about things when I was little, away
back yonder, but I sure members dem Ku Klux Klans and de militia. They
used to ketch people and take em out and whup em.

"Don't rickolleck any of de old songs but one or two--oh, yes, dey used
to sing 'Old time religion's good enough for me' and songs like dat.

"De young people! Lawzy, I jest dunno how to take em. Can't understand
em at all. Dey too much for me!"

NOTE: The old fellow chuckled and shook his head but said very little
more. He could have told much but for his faulty memory, no doubt. He
was almost non-committal as to facts of slavery days, the War between
the States, and Reconstruction period. Has the sense of humor that seems
to be a characteristic of most of the old-time Negroes, but aside from a
whimsical chuckle shows little of the interest that is usually
associated with the old generation of Negroes.

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: W.D. Miller, West Memphis, Arkansas
Age: 65?

"Grandpa was sold twice in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was sold twice to
the same people, from the Millers to the Robertsons (Robersons,
Robinsons, etc.?). He said the Robertsons were not so very good to him
but the Millers were. Grandma was washing when a Yank come and told them
they had been sot free. They quit washing and went from house to house
rejoicing. My parents' names was Jesse and Mary Miller, and Grandma
Agnes and Grandpa Peter Miller. The Robertsons was hill wheat farmers.
The Millers had a cloth factory. Dan Miller owned it and he raised
wheat. Mama was a puny woman and they worked her in the factory. She
made cloth and yarn.

"I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina or close by there. My father's
uncle John House brought about one hundred families from North Carolina
to Quittenden County, Mississippi. I was seven years old. He said they
rode mules to pick cotton, it growed up like trees. We come in car
boxes. I came to Heath and Helena eleven years ago. Papa stayed with his
master Dan Miller till my uncle tolled him away. He died with smallpox
soon after we come to Mississippi.

"It is a very good country but they don't pick cotton riding on mules,
at least I ain't seed none that way."

El Dorado District
Name of Interviewer: Pernella Anderson
Subject: Slavery Customs

Information given by: Mose Minser--Farmer--Age--78
Place of Residence: 5 miles from El Dorado--Section 8
[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]

Ah use ter could tawk an tell a thing plum well but ah been broke up by
a cah. Cah run ovah mah haid an ah couldn' tawk fuh 30 days. So now ah
aint no good fuh nothin. Ah recollect one night ah dream a dream. De
dream at ah dreamt, next morning dat dream come true. Jes like ah dreamt
hit. Yes hit did. Ah wuz heah in slavery time. Ah membuh when dey freed
us niggers. Se here, ah wuz a purty good size kid when dey free us. Ah
kin membuh our house. Sot dis way. An ole Marster called all his niggers
up. Dey all come along roun in a squad on de porch. Ah did not heah whut
he said tuh em. But mah step-pa wuz dere an tole us we wuz free. Ah
atter dey freed mah step-pa ah recollect he went on home and fried some
aigs (eggs) in de ubben. Know we didn have no stove we cooked on de
fiuhplace. As ah said cook dem aigs, gimme some uv hit, an he lef' den.
Went east and ah aint nevah seed dat man since. Ah membuhs once ah got a
whoopin bout goin tuh de chinquepin tree. Some uv um tole me ole master
wuz gwianter let us quit at dinnuh an so in place uv me goin ter dinnuh
ah went on by de chinquepin tree tuh git some chanks. Ah had a brothuh
wid me. So ah come tuh fine out dat dey gin tuh callin us. Dey hollered
tuh come on dat we wuz gointer pick cotton. So in place uv us goin on
tuh de house we went on back tuh de fiel'. Our fiel wuz bout a mile fum
de house. Ole Moster waited down dere at de gate. He call me when ah got
dere an wanted tuh know why ah didn come and git mah dinnah sos ah could
pick cotton. So he taken mah britches down dat day. Mah chinks all run
out on de groun' an he tole mah brothah tuh pick um up. Ah knocked mah
brothuh ovah fuh pickin um up an aftuh ah done dat ole moster taken his
red pocket han'cher out and tied hit ovah mah eyes tuh keep me fum seein
mah brothuh pick um up.

So when he got through wid me and put mah britches back on me ah went on
tuh de fiel and went tuh pickin cotton. Dat evenin when us stop pickin
cotton ah took mah brothah down and taken mah chinquapins.

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Gip Minton, Des Arc, Arkansas
Age: 84

"I was born at Jackson, Alabama on the Tennessee River. It was sho a
putty river. I never did know my grandfolks. I think my father was a
soldier. My master was a soldier, I think. He was in de war. I do
remember the Civil War. I remember the last battle at Scottsboro. There
was several but one big battle and they got to Belfontain. That is where
it seemed they were trying to go. I don't recollect who won the battle.
I heard them fighting and saw the smoke and after they went on saw the
bodies dead and all that was left was like a cyclone had swept by. There
was a big regiment stationed at Scottsboro. It was just like any war
fought with guns and they lived in tents. They took everything they
could find. Looked like starvation was upon de land.

"I had two sisters and one brother and my mother died when I was a baby.
I come out here to Arkansas with my mothers old master and mistress and
never did see nor hear of none of them. No I never did hear from none of
them. I come out here when I was ten or twelve years old. It was, it was
right after the war. I recken I was freed, but I was raised by white
folks and I stayed right on wid em. Dat freedom ain't never bothered me.

"My master and mistress names was Master Alfred Minton. Dey call me Gip
for him. Gip Minton is what they always called me. My mistress was Miss
Annie Minton. I stayed right wid em. They raised me and I come on here
wid em. I don't know nothin about that freedom.

"I recken they was good to me. I et in de kitchen when they got through
or on a table out in de back yard sometimes. I slept in an outhouse they
fixed up mostly, when I got up big.

"We come on the train to Memphis and they come on thater way to Lonoke
whar we settled. Don Shirley was the man I come on horseback with from
Memphis to Lonoke. He was a man what dealt in horses. Sure he was a
white man. He's where we got some horses. I don't remember if he lived
at Lonoke or not.

"I have voted, yes ma'am, a heap of times. I don't remember what kind er
ticket I votes. I'm a Democrat, I think so. I ain't voted fur sometime
now. I don't know if I'll vote any more times or not. I don't know what
is right bout votin and what ain't right.

"When I was a boy I helped farm. We had what we made. I guess it was
plenty. I had more to eat and I didn't have as many changes of clothes
as folks has to have nowdays bout all de difference. They raised lots
more. They bought things to do a year and didn't be allus goin to town.
It was hard to come to town. Yes mam it did take a long time, sometimes
in a ox wagon. The oxen pulled more over muddy roads. Took three days to
come to town and git back. I farmed one-half-for-the-other and on shear
crop. Well one bout good as the other. Bout all anybody can make farmin
is plenty to eat and a little to wear long time ago and nows the same
way. The most I reckon I ever did make was on Surrounded Hill (Biscoe)
when I farmed one-half-fur-de-udder for Sheriff Reinhardt. The ground
was new and rich and the seasons hit just fine. No maam I never owned no
farm, no livestock, no home. The only thing I owned was a horse one
time. I worked 16 or 17 years for Mr. Brown and for Mr. Plunkett and
Son. I drayed all de time fur em. Hauled freight up from the old depot
(wharf) down on the river. Long time fore a railroad was thought of. I
helped load cotton and hides on the boats. We loaded all day and all
night too heap o'nights. We worked till we got through and let em take
the ship on.

"The times is critical for old folks, wages low and everything is so
high. The young folks got heap better educations but seems like they
can't use it. They don't know how to any avantage. I know they don't
have as good chances at farmin as de older folks had. I don't know why
it is. My son works up at the lumber yard. Yes he owns this house.
That's all he owns. He make nough to get by on, I recken. He works hard,
yes maam. He helps me if he can. I get $4 a month janitor at the Farmers
and Merchants Bank (Des Arc). I works a little garden and cleans off
yards. No maam it hurts my rheumatism to run the yard mower. I works
when I sho can't hardly go. Nothin matter cept I'm bout wo out. I plied
for the old folks penshun but I ain't got nuthin yet. I signed up at the
bank fur it agin not long ago. I has been allus self sportin. Didn't
pend on no livin soul but myself."

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: A.J. Mitchell
419 E. 11th Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 78
Occupation: Garbage hauler

"I was 'bout seven when they surrendered. I can remember when my old
master sold Aunt Susan. She raised me. I seen old master when he was
tryin' to whip old Aunt Susan. She was the cook. She said, 'I ain't
goin' let you whip me' and I heard my sister say next day he done sold
Aunt Susan. I ain't seed her since. I called her ma. My mother died when
I was two years old. She was full Injun. My father was black but his
hair was straight. His face was so black it shined. Looked like it was
greased. My father said he was freeborn and I've seen stripes on his
back look like the veins on back of my hand where they whipped him
tryin' to make him disown his freedom.

"Old Jack Clifton was my master. Yes ma'm, that was his name.

"I 'member when they had those old looms--makin' cloth and old shuttle
to put the thread on. I can see 'em now.

"I can 'member when this used to be a Injun place. I've seen old Injun
mounds. White folks come and run 'em out and give 'em Injun Territory.

"I heered the guns in the war and seed the folks comin' home when the
war broke. They said they was fitin' 'bout freedom, tryin' to free the
people. I 'member when they was fitin' at Marks Mill. I know some of the
people said that was where they was sot free.

"I don't know as I seed any Ku Klux when they was goin' round. Hearin'
'bout 'em scared me. I have a good recollection. I can remember the
first dream I ever had and the first time I whistled. I can remember
when I was two or three years old. Remember when they had a big old
conch shell. Old master would blow it at twelve o'clock for 'em to come

"Old master was good to us but I 'member he had a leather strap and if
we chillun had done anything he'd make us younguns put our head 'tween
his legs and put that strap on us. My goodness! He called me Pat and
called his own son Bug--his own son Junie. We played together. Old
master had nicknames for everybody.

"My first mistress was named Miss Mary but she died. I 'member when old
master married and brought Miss Becky home.

"Marse John (he was old master's oldest son) he used to tote me about in
his saddle bags. He was the overseer.

"I 'member old master's ridin' hoss--a little old bay pony--called him
Hardy. I never remember nobody else bein' on it--that was his ridin'

"Old master had dogs. One was Gus and one named Brute (he was a red bone
hound). And one little dog they called Trigger. Old master's head as
white as cotton.

"I do remember the day they said the people was free--after the war
broke. My father come and got me.

"Now I'm givin' you a true statement. I've been stayin' by myself
twenty-three years. I been here in Pine Bluff--well I jest had got here
when the people was comin' back from that German war.

"My God, we had the finest time when we killed hogs--make sausage. We'd
eat cracklin's--oh, we thought they wasn't nothin' like cracklin's. The
Lord have mercy, there was an old beech tree set there in my master's
yard. You could hear that old tree pop ever' day bout the same time,
bout twelve o'clock. We used to eat beech mass. Good? Yes ma'm! I think
about it often and wonder why it was right in old master's yard.

"I've cast a many a vote. Not a bit of trouble in the world. Hope elect
most all the old officers here in town. I had a brother was a constable
under Squire Gaines. Well of course, Miss, I don't think it's right when
they disfranchised the colored people. I tell you, Miss, I read the
Bible and the Bible says every man has his rights--the poor and the free
and the bound. I got good sense from the time I leaped in this world. I
'member well I used to go and cast my vote just that quick but they got
so they wouldn't let you vote unless you could read.

"I've had 'em to offer me money to vote the Democrat ticket. I told him,
no. I didn't think that was principle. The colored man ain't got no
representive now. Colored men used to be elected to the legislature and
they'd go and sell out. Some of 'em used to vote the Democrat ticket.
God wants every man to have his birthright.

"I tell you one thing they did. This here no fence law was one of the
lowest things they ever did. I don't know what the governor was studyin'
'bout. If they would let the old people raise meat, they wouldn't have
to get so much help from the government. God don't like that, God wants
the people to raise things. I could make a livin' but they won't let me.

"The first thing I remember bout studyin' was Junie, old master's son,
studyin' his book and I heard 'em spell the word 'baker'. That was when
they used the old Blue Back Speller.

"I went to school. I'm goin' tell you as nearly as I can. That was,
madam, let me see, that was in sixty-nine as near as I can come at it.
Miss, I don't know how long I went. My father wouldn't let me. I didn't
know nothin' but work. I weighed cotton ever since I was a little boy. I
always wanted to be weighin'. Looked like it was my gift--weighin'

"I'm a Missionary Baptist preacher. Got a license to preach. You go down
and try to preach without a license and they put you up.

"Madam, you asked me a question I think I can answer with knowledge and
understanding. The young people is goin' too fast. The people is growin'
weaker and wiser. You take my folks--goin' to school but not doin'
anything. I don't think there's much to the younger generation. Don't
think they're doin' much good. I was brought up with what they called
fireside teachin'."

Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Bernice Bowden
ADDRESS--1006 Oak Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
DATE--November 2, 1938
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]

1. Name and address of informant--Gracie Mitchell

2. Date and time of interview--November 1, 1938, 3:00 p.m.

3. Place of interview--117 Worthen Street

4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
informant--Bernice Wilburn, 101 Miller Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--None

6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--A frame house
(rented), bare floors, no window shades; a bed and some boxes and three
straight chairs. In an adjoining room were another bed, heating stove,
two trunks, one straight chair, one rocking chair. A third room the
kitchen, contained cookstove and table and chairs.

Text of Interview

"They said I was born in Alabama. My mother's name was Sallie and my
father was Andrew Wheeler. I couldn't tell when I was born--my folks
never did tell me that. Belonged to Dr. Moore and when his daughter
married he give my mother to her and she went to Mobile. They said I
wasn't weaned yet. My grandmother told me that. She is dead now. Don't
know nothin' bout nary one o' my white folks. I don't recollect nothin'
bout a one of 'em 'cept my old boss. He took us to Texas and stayed till
the niggers was all free and then he went back. Good to me? No ma'm--no
good there. And if you didn't work he'd see what was the matter. Lived
near Coffeyville in Upshaw county. That's whar my husband found me. I
was living with my aunt and uncle. They said the reason I had such a
good gift makin' quilts was cause my mother was a seamstress.

"I cooked 'fore I married and I could make my own dresses, piece quilts
and quilt. That's mostly what I done. No laundry work. I never did farm
till I was married. After we went to Chicago in 1922, I took care of
other folks chillun, colored folks, while they was working in laundries
and factories. I sure has worked. I ain't nobody to what I was when I
was first married. I knowed how to turn, but I don't know whar to turn
now--I ain't able.

"I use to could plow just as good as any man. I could put that dirt up
against that cotton and corn. I'd mold it up. Lay it by? Yes ma'm I'd
lay it by, too.

"They didn't send me to school but they learned me how to work.

"I had a quilt book with a lot o' different patterns but I loaned it to
a woman and she carried it to Oklahoma. Mighty few people you can put
confidence in nowdays.

"I don't go out much 'cept to church--folks is so critical.

"You have to mind how you walk on the cross;
If you don't, your foot will slip,
And your soul will be lost."

"I was a motherless chile but the Lord made up for it by givin' me a
good husband and I don't want for anything."

Interviewer's Comment

According to her husband, Gracie spends every spare moment piecing
quilts. He said they use to go fishing and that Gracie always took her
quilt pieces along and if the fish were not biting she would sew. She
showed me twenty-two finished quilt tops, each of a different design and
several of the same design, or about thirty quilts in all. Two were
entirely of silk, two of applique design which called "laid work". They
were folded up in a trunk and as she took them out and spread them on
the bed for me to see she told me the name of the design. The following
are the names of the designs:

1. Breakfast Dish
2. Sawtooth (silk)
3. Tulip design (Laid work)
4. "Prickle" Pear
5. Little Boy's Breeches
6. Birds All Over the Elements
7. Drunkard's Path
8. Railroad Crossing
9. Cocoanut Leaf ("That's Laid Work")
10. Cotton Leaf
11. Half an Orange
12. Tree of Paradise
13. Sunflower
14. Ocean Wave (silk)
15. Double Star
16. Swan's Nest
17. Log Cabin in the Lane
18. Reel
19. Lily in de Valley (Silk)
20. Feathered Star
21. Fish Tail
22. Whirligig

Gracie showed me her winter coat bought in Chicago of fur fabric called
moleskin, and with fur collar and cuffs.

She sells the quilt tops whenever she can. Many are made of new material
which they buy.

Personal History of Informant

1. Ancestry--Father, Andrew Wheeler; Sallie Wheeler, mother.

2. Place and date of birth--Alabama. No date known, about 80 years old.

3. Family--Husband and one grown son.

4. Places lived in, with dates--Alabama, Texas till 1897, Arkansas
1897-1922, Chicago, 1922 to 1930. Arkansas 1930 to date.

5. Education, with dates--No education.

6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Cooked before marriage
at 16; farmed after marriage; home sewing.

7. Special skills and interests--Quilt making and knitting.

8. Community and religious activities--Assisted husband in ministry.

9. Description of informant--Hair divided into many pigtails and wrapped
with rags. Skin, dark. Medium height, slender, clothing soiled.

10. Other points gained in interview--Spends all her time piecing
quilts, aside from housework.

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Hettie Mitchell (mulatto)
Brinkley, Arkansas
Age: 69

"I am sixty-nine years old. I was raised in Dyersburg, Tennessee. I can
tell you a few things mother told us. My own grandma on mother's side
was in South Carolina. She was stole when a child and brought to
Tennessee in a covered wagon. Her mother died from the grief of it. She
was hired out to nurse for these people. The people that stole her was
named Spence. She was a house woman for them till freedom. She was never
sold. Spences was not cruel people. Mother was never sold. She was the
mother of twelve and raised nine to a good age--more than grown. The
Spences seemed to always care for her children. When I go to Dyersburg
they always want us to come to see them and they treat us mighty well.

"Mother was light. She said she had Indian strain (blood) but father was
very light and it was white blood but he never discussed it before his
children. So I can't tell you excepting he said he was owned by the
Brittians in South Carolina. He said his mother died soon after he was
sold. He was sold to a nigger trader and come in the gang to Memphis,
Tennessee and was put on the block and auctioned off to the highest
bidder. He was a farm hand.

"Mother married father when she was nineteen years old. She was a house
girl. She lived close to her old mistress. She was very, very old before
she died she nearly stayed at my mother's house. Her mind wasn't right
and mother understood how to take care of her and was kind to her. The
Spences heard about grandma. They wrote and visited years after when
mother was a girl.

"The way that father found out about his kin folks was this: One day a
creek was named and he told the white man, 'I was born close to that
creek and played there in the white sand and water when I was a little
boy.' The white man asked his name, said he knew the creek well too.
Father told him he never was named till he was sold and they named him
Sam--Sam Barnett. He was sold to Barnett in Memphis. But his dear own
mother called him 'Candy.' The white man found out about his people for
him and they found out his own dear mother died that same year he was
taken from South Carolina from grief. He heard from some of his people
from that time on till he died.

"I worked on the farm in Tennessee till I married. I ironed, washed, and
have kept my own house and done the work that goes along with raising a
small family. We own our home. We have saved all we could along. I have
never had a real hard time like some I know. I guess my time is at hand
now. I don't know which way to turn since my husband got down sick.

"I don't vote. Seem like it used to not be a nice place for women to go
where voting was taking place. Now they go mix up and vote. That is one
big change. Time is changing and changing the people. Maybe it is the
people is changing up the world as time goes by. We colored folks look
to the white folks to know the way to do. We have always done it."

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mary Mitchell, Hazen, Arkansas
Age: 60

"I was born in Trenton, Tennessee. My parents had five children. They
were named William and Charlotte Wells. My father ran away and left my
mother with all the children to raise. By birth mother was a
Mississippian. She had been a nurse and my father was a timber man and
farmer. My mother said she had her hardest time raising her little
children. She was taken from her parents when a small girl and put on a
block and sold. She never said if her owners was bad to her, but she
said they was rough on Uncle Peter. He would fight. She said they would
tie Uncle Peter and whoop him with a strap. From what she said there was
a gang of slaves on Mr. Wade's place. He owned her. I never heard her
mention freedom but she said they had a big farm bell on a tall post in
the back yard and they had a horn to blow. It was a whistle made of a
cow's horn.

"She said they was all afraid of the Ku Klux. They would ride across the
field and they could see that they was around, but they never come up
close to them."

Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Bernice Bowden
ADDRESS--1006 Oak Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
DATE--November 3, 1938
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]

1. Name and address of informant--Moses Mitchell, 117 Worthen Street

2. Date and time of interview--November 1, 1938, 1:00 p.m.

3. Place of interview--117 Worthen Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

4. Place and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
informant--Bernice Wilburn, 101 Miller Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--None

6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--A frame house
(rented), bare floors, no window shades; a bed and some boxes and three
straight chairs. In an adjoining room were another bed, heating stove,
two trunks, one straight chair, one rocking chair. A third room, the
kitchen, contained cookstove and table and chairs.

Text of Interview

"I was born down here on White River near Arkansas Post, August, 1849. I
belonged to Thomas Mitchel and when they (Yankees) took Arkansas Post,
our owners gathered us up and my young master took us to Texas and he
sold me to an Irishman named John McInish in Marshall for $1500. $500 in
gold and the rest in Confederate money. They called it the new issue.

"I was twelve years old then and I stayed in Texas till I was
forty-eight. I was at Tyler, Texas when they freed us. When they took us
to Texas they left my mother and baby sister here in Arkansas, down here
on Oak Log Bayou. I never saw her again and when I came back here to
Arkansas, they said she had been dead twenty-eight years. Never did hear
of my father again.

"I'm supposed to be part Creek Indian. Don't know how much. We have one
son, a farmer, lives across the river. Married this wife in 1873.

"My wife and I left Texas forty-one years ago and came back here to
Arkansas and stayed till 1922. Then we went to Chicago and stayed till
1930, and then came back here. I'd like to go back up there, but I guess
I'm gettin' too old. While I was there I preached and I worked all the
time. I worked on the streets and the driveways in Lincoln Park. I was
in the brick and block department. Then I went from there to the asphalt
department. There's where I coined the money. Made $6.60 in the brick
and block and $7.20 a day in the asphalt. Down here they don't know no
more about asphalt than a pig does about a holiday. _A man that's from
the South and never been nowhere, don't know nothin', a woman either_.

"Yes ma'm, I'm a preacher. Just a local preacher, wasn't ordained. The
reason for that was, in Texas a man over forty-five couldn't join the
traveling connection. I was licensed, but of course I couldn't perform
marriage ceremonies. I was just within one step of that.

"I went to school two days in my life. I was privileged to go to the
first free school in Texas. Had a teacher named Goldman. Don't know what
year that was but they found out me and another fellow was too old so
they wouldn't let us go no more. But I caught my alphabet in them two
days. So I just caught what education I've got, here and there. I can
read well--best on my Bible and Testament and I read the newspapers. I
can sorta scribble my name.

"I've been a farmer most of my life and a preacher for fifty-five years.
I can repair shoes and use to do common carpenter work. I can help build
a house. I only preach occasionally now, here and there. I belong to the
Allen Temple in Hoboken (East Pine Bluff).

"I think the young generation is gone to naught. They're a different cut
to what they was in my comin' up."

Interviewer's Comment

This man and his wife live in the outskirts of West pine Bluff. They
receive a small sum of money and commodities from the County Welfare
Department. He has a very pleasant personality, a good memory and
intelligence above the ordinary. Reads the Daily Graphic and Arkansas
Gazette. Age 89. He said, "_Here's the idea, freedom is worth it all_."

Personal History of Informant

1. Ancestry--Father, Lewis Mitchell; Mother, Rhoda Mitchell

2. Place and date of birth--Oak Log Bayou, White River, near Arkansas
Post, Ark.

3. Family--Wife and one grown son.

4. Places lived in, with dates--Taken to Texas by his young master and
sold in Marshall during the war. Lived in Tyler, Texas until forty-eight
years of age; came back to Arkansas in 1897 and stayed until 1922; went
to Chicago and lived until 1930; back to Jefferson County, Arkansas.

5. Education, with dates--Two days after twenty-one years of age. No

6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Farmer, preacher, common
carpenter, cobbler, public work on streets in Chicago, farmed and
preached until he went to Chicago in 1922. The he worked in the
maintenance department of city streets of Chicago and of Lincoln Park,

7. Special skills and interests--Asphalt worker

8. Community and religious activities--Licensed Methodist Preacher. No
assignment now.

9. Description of informant--Five feet eight inches tall; weight, 165
pounds, nearly bald. Very prominent cheek bones. Keen intelligence.
Neatly dressed.

10. Other points gained in interview--Reads daily papers; knowledge of
world affairs.

Pine Bluff District
Name of Interviewer: Martin - Barker
Subject: Negro Customs

Information by: Ben Moon
[TR: Information moved from bottom of second page.]

I was born on the Walker place, in 1869. My father was a slave to Mr.
Bob. I used to drive Miss Lelia (Eulalie) to the Catholic church here in
Pine Bluff. She used to let me go barefooted, and bare headed.

Miss Lelia was the daughter of Col. Creed Taylor. All during slavery
time I drove her gins. We had eight mules. Eight at a time hitched to
each lever, they would weave in an out but they was so hitched that they
never got in any body's way. They just walked around and round like they
did in those days. We had herds of sheep, we sheared them and wove yarn
for socks. We raised wheat, when it was ripe we laid a canvas cloth on
the ground and put wheat on it, then men and women on horse back rode
over it, and thrashed it that way. They called it treading it. Then we
took it to the mill and ground it and made it into flour. For breakfast,
(we ate awful soon in the morning), about 4 AM, then we packed lunch in
tin buckets and eat again at daylight. Fat meat, cornbread and molasses.
Some would have turnip greens for breakfast.

Summertime, Miss Lelia would plant plenty of fruit, and we would have
fried apples, stewed peaches and things.

Sunday mornings we would have biscuit, butter, molasses, chicken, etc.

For our work they paid us seventy-five cents a day and when come cotton
picking time old rule, seventy five cents for pickin cotton. Christmas
time, plenty of fireworks, plenty to eat, drink and everything. We would
dance all Christmas.

All kind of game was plentiful, plenty of coon, possum, used up
everything that grew in the woods. Plenty of corn, we took it to the
grist mill every Saturday.

Ark. riv. boats passed the Walker place, and dey was a landing right at
dere place, and one at the Wright place, that is where the airport is

All de white folks had plenty of cattle den and in de winter time dey
was all turned in on the fields and with what us niggers had, that made
a good many, and you know yorself dat was good for de ground.

Mother was a slave on the Merriweather place, her marster was Mick[TR:
name not clear] Merriweather. My granma was Gusta Merriweather, my
mother Lavina and lived on the Merriweather place in what was then
Dorsey county, near Edinburg, now Cleveland Co. My grandfather was Louis
Barnett, owned by Nick Barnett of Cleveland co., then Dorsey co. Fathers
people was owned by Marse Bob Walker. Miss Lelia (Eulalie) was mistis.
Miss Maggie Benton was young mistis.

I dont believe in ghosts or spirits.

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Emma Moore
3715 Short West Second, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 80
Occupation: Laundry work

"I'se born in slavery times. When my daddy come back from the War, he
said I was gwine on seven or eight.

"He stayed in the War three years and six months. I know that's what he
always told us. He went with his master, Joe Horton. Looks like I can
see old Marse Joe now. Had long sandy whiskers. The las' time I seed him
he come to my uncle's house. We was all livin' in a row of houses.
Called em the quarters. I never will fergit it.

"I was born on Horton's Island here in Arkansas. That's what they told

"I know when my daddy went to war and when he come back, he put on his
crudiments (accoutrements) to let us see how he looked.

"I seed the soldiers gwine to war and comin' back. Look like to me I was
glad to see em till I seed too many of em.

"Yankees used to come down and take provisions. Yes, 'twas the Yankees!

"My granddaddy was the whippin' boss. Had a white boss too named Massa

"Massa Joe used to come down and play with us chillun. His name was Joe
Horton. Ever'body can tell you that was his name. Old missis named Miss
Mary. She didn't play with us much.

"Yes ma'am, they sure did take us to Texas durin' of the War--in a ox
wagon. Stayed down there a long time.

"We didn't have plenty to eat but we had to eat what we did. I member
they wouldn't give us chillun no meat, jus' grease my mouf and make my
mother think we had meat.

"Now my mother told me, at night some of the folks used to steal one of
old massa's shoats and cook it at night. I know when that pot was on the
rack but you better not say nothin' bout it.

"All us chillun stayed in a big long log house. Dar is where us chillun
stayed in the daytime, right close to Miss Mary.

"I used to sit on the lever at the gin. You know that was glory to me to
ride. I whipped the old mule. Ever' now and then I'd give him a tap.

"When they pressed the cotton, they wet the press and I member one time
they wet it too much. I don't say they sont it back but I think they
made em pay for it. And they used to put chunks in the bale to make it
weigh heavy. Right there on that lake where I was born.

"Used to work in the field. These white folks can tell you I loved to
work. I used to get as much as the men. My mammy was a worker and as the
sayin' is, I was a chip off the old block.

"The first teacher I went to school to was named Mr. Cushman. Didn't go
only on rainy days. That was the first school and you might say the las'
one cause I had to nuss them chillun.

"You know old massa used to keep all our ages and my daddy said I was
nineteen when I married, but I don't know what year 'twas--honest I

"I been married three times.

"I member one time I was goin' to a buryin'. I was hurryin' to get
dressed. I wanted to be ready when they come by for me cause they say
it's bad luck to stop a corpse. If you don't know that I do--you know if
they had done started from the house.

"My mama and daddy said they was born in Tennessee and was bought and
brought here.

"I been goin' to one of these gov'ment schools and got my eyes so weak I
can't hardly see to thread a needle. I'se crazy bout it I'm tellin' you.
I sit up here till God knows how long. They give me a copy to practice
and they'd brag on me and that turned me foolish. I jus' thought I was
the teacher herself almos'. That's the truf now.

"I can't read much. I don't fool with no newspaper. I wish I could,
woman--I sure do.

"I keep tellin' these young folks they better learn somethin'. I tell em
they better take this chance. This young generation--I don't know much
bout the whites--I'm tellin' you these colored is a sight.

"Well, I'm gwine away from here d'rectly--ain't gwine be here much
longer. If I don't see you again I'll meet you in heaven."

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Patsy Moore, Madison, Arkansas
Age: 74

"My mother was sold in Jamestown, Virginia to Daphney Hull. Her white
folks got in debt. My papa was born in Georgia. Folks named Williams
owned him. Ma never seen her ma no more but William Hull went to
Virginia and bought her two sisters.

"I was named Patsy after grandma in Virginia. She had twenty-one
children to ma's knowing. Ma was a light color. Pa was a Molly Glaspy
man. That means he was Indian and African. Molly Glaspy folks was nearly
always free folks. Ma was named Mattie. If they would have no children
they got trafficked about.

"Daphney Hull was good but William Hull and his wife was both mean. They
lived on the main road to Holly Springs. Daphney Hull was a Methodist
man, kind-hearted and good. He was a bachelor I think. He kept a woman
to cook and keep his house. Auntie said the Yankees was mean to Mr.
William Hull's wife. They took all their money and meat. They had their
money hid and some of the black folks let the Yankees find out where it
was. They got it.

"Papa was a soldier. He sent for us. We come to Memphis, Tennessee in a
wagon. We lived there five or six years. Pa got a pension till he died.
Both my parents was field hands in slavery. Ma took in washing and
ironing in Memphis.

"I was born in De Sota County, Mississippi. I remember Forrest's battle
in Memphis. I didn't have sense to be scared. I seen black and white
dead in the streets and alleys. We went to the magazine house for
protection, and we played and stayed there. They tried to open the
magazine house but couldn't.

"When freedom come, folks left home, out in the streets, crying,
praying, singing, shouting, yelling, and knocking down everything. Some
shot off big guns. Den come the calm. It was sad then. So many folks
done dead, things tore up and nowheres to go and nothing to eat, nothing
to do. It got squally. Folks got sick, so hungry. Some folks starved
nearly to death. Times got hard. We went to the washtub onliest way we
all could live. Ma was a cripple woman. Pa couldn't find work for so
long when he mustered out.

"I do recollect the Civil War well.

"I live with my daughter. I have a cough since I had flu and now I have
chills and fever. My daughter helps me all I get. She lives with me.

"Some of the young folks is mighty good. I reckon some is too loose
acting. Times is hard. Harder in the winter than in summer time. We has
our garden and chickens to help us out in summer."

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Ada Moorehead
2300 E. Barraque, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 82?

"I was here in slavery times, honey, but I don't know exactly how old I
am. I was born in Huntsville, Alabama but you know in them days old
folks didn't tell the young folks no thin' and I was so small when they
brought me here. I don't know what year I was born but I believe I'm
about eighty-two. You know when a person ain't able to work and dabble
out his own clothes, you know he's gone a long ways.

"My white folks was Ad White what owned me. Called him Marse Ad. Don't
call folks marse much now-days.

"My father was sold away from us in Alabama and we heard he was here in
Pine Bluff so Aunt Fanny brought us here. She just had a road full of us
and brought us here to Arkansas. We walked. We was a week on the road. I
know we started here on Monday morning and we got here to the courthouse
on the next Monday round about noon. That was that old courthouse. I
reckon that ground is in the river now.

"When we got here I saw my father. He took me to his sister--that was my
Aunt Savannah--and dropped me down.

"Mrs. Reynolds raised me. She come to Aunt Savannah's house and hired me
the very same day I got here. I nursed Miss Katie. She was bout a month
old. You know--a little long dress baby. Don't wear then long dresses
now--gettin' wiser.

"Mrs. Reynolds she was good to me. And since she's gone looks like I'm
gone too--gone to the dogs. Cause when Mrs. Reynolds got a dress for
Miss Katie--got one for me too.

"My father was a soldier in the war. Last time I heard from him I know
he was hauling salt to the breastworks. Yes, I was here in the war. That
was all right to me but I wished a many a time I wasn't here.

"I went to school two or three days in a week for about a term. But I
didn't learn to read much. Had to hire out and help raise my brother and
sister. I'm goin' to this here government school now. I goes every

"Since I got old I can think bout the old times. It comes to me. I
didn't pay attention to nothin' much when I was young.

"Oh Lord, I don't know what's goin' to become of us old folks. Wasn't
for the Welfare, I don't know what I'd do.

"I was sixteen when I married. I sure did marry young. I married young
so I could see my chillun grown. I never married but once and I stayed a
married woman forty-nine years to the very day my old man died. Lived
with one man forty-nine years. I had my hand and heart full. I had a
home of my own. How many chillun? Me? I had nine of my own and I raised
other folks' chillun. Oh, I been over this world right smart--first one
thing and then another. I know a lot of white folks. They all been
pretty good to me."

Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins
Person Interviewed: Mrs. Mary Jane (Mattie) Mooreman
Home: with son
Age: 90

"Yes, ma'am. I've been in Hot Springs, been in Hot Springs 57 years.
That's a long time. Lots of changes have come--I've seen lots of changes
here--changed from wooden sidewalks and little wood buildings.

"Your name's Hudgins? I knew the Hudginses--knew Miss Nora well. What's
that? Did I know Adeline? Did I know Adeline! Do you mean to tell me
she's still alive? Adeline! Why Miss Maud," (addressing Mrs. Eisele, for
whom she works--and who sat nearby to help in the interview) "Miss
Maude, I tell you Adeline's WHITE, she's white clean through!" (see
interview with Adeline Blakeley, who incidentally is as black as "the
ace of spades"--in pigmentation.) "Miss Maude, you never knew anybody
like Adeline. She bossed those children and made them mind--just like
they was hers. She took good care of them." (Turning to the interviewer)
"You know how the Hudgins always was about their children. Adeline
thought every one of 'em was made out of gold---made out of pure GOLD.

"She made 'em mind. I remember once, she was down on Central Avenue with
Ross and he did southing or other that, wasn't nice. She walked over to
the umbrella stand, you remember how they used to have umbrellas for
sale out in front of the stores. She grabbed an umbrella and she whipped
Ross with it--she didn't hurt him. Then she put it back in the stand
and said to the man who ran the store, 'If that umbrella's hurt, just
charge it to Harve Hudgins.' That's the way Adeline was. So she's still
alive. Law how I'd like to see her. Bring me a picture of her. Oh Miss
Mary, I'd love to have it.

"Me? I was born on Green river near Hartford, Kentucky. Guess I was
about a year and a half, from what they told me when my mistress
married. Don't know how she ever met my master. She was raised in a
convent and his folks lived a long way from hers. But anyhow she did.
She was just 13 when she married. The man she married was named Charles
Mooreman M-O-O-R-E-M-A-N. They had a son called Charles Wycliff
Mooreman. He was named for his mother's people. I got a son I called
Charles Wycliff too. He works at the Arlington. He's a waiter. They say
he looks just like me. Mr. Charles Wycliff Mooreman--back in Kentucky.
I still gets letters from him.

"Miss Mary I guess I had a pretty easy time in slavery days. They was
good to us. Besides I was a house niggah." (Those who have been "house
niggahs" never quibble at the word slave or negro. A subtle social
distinction brewed in the black race to separate house servants from
field hands as far as wealthy planters from "poor white trash.".) "Once
I heard a man say of my mother, 'You could put on a white boiled shirt
and lie flat down on the floor in her kitchen and not get dirty.'"

"Cook? No, ma'am!" (with dignity and indignation) "I never cooked until
after I was married, and I never washed, never washed so much as a rag.
All I washed was the babies and maybe my mistress's feet. I was a lady's
maid. I'd wait on my mistress and I'd knit sox for all the folks. When
they would sleep it was our duty--us maids--to fan 'em with feathers
made out of turkey feathers--feather fans. Part of it was to keep 'em
cool. Then they didn't have screens like we have today. So part of it
was to keep the flies off. I remember how we couldn't stomp our feet to
keep the flies from biting for fear of waking 'em up.

"No, Miss Mary, we didn't get such, good food. Nobody had all the kinds
of things we have today. We had mostly buttermilk and cornbread and fat
meat. Cake? 'Deed we didn't. I remember once they baked a cake and Mr.
Charles Wycliff--he was just a little boy--he got in and took a whole
fistful out of the cake. When Miss found out about it, she give us all
doses of salts--enough to make us all throw up. She gave it to all the
niggahs and the children--the white children. And what did she find out?
It was her own child who had done it.

"Yes ma'am we learned to read and write. Oh, Miss Maude now--I don't
want to recite. I don't want to." (But she did "Twinkle, Twinkle Little
Star" and "The Playful Kitten"--the latter all of 40 lines.) "I think, I
think they both come out of McGuffey's second Reader. Yes ma'am I
remember's McGuffey's and the Blueback speller too.

"No, Miss Mary, there wasn't so much of the war that was fought around
us. I remember that old Master used to go out in the front yard and
stand by a locust tree and put his ear against it. He said that way he
could hear the cannon down to Bowling Green. No, I didn't never hear any
shooting from the war myself.

"Yes ma'am, the Confederates used to come through lots. I remember how
we used to go to the spring for water for 'em. Then we'd stand with the
buckets on our heads while they drank--drank out of a big gourd. When
the buckets was empty we'd go back to the spring for more water.

"Once the Yankees come by the place. It was at night. They went out to
the quarters and they tried to get 'em to rise up. Told 'em to come on
in the big house and take what they wanted. Told 'em to take anything
they wanted to take, take Master's silver spoons and Miss' silk dress.
'If they don't like it, we'll shoot their brains out,' they said. Next
morning they told Master. He got scared and moved. At that time we was
living at Cloverport.

"It was near the end of the war and we was already free, only we didn't
know it. He moved on up to Stephensport. That's on the Ohio too. He took
me and a brother of mine and another black boy. While we was there I
remember he took me to a circus. I remember how the lady--she was
dressed in pink come walking down a wire--straight on down to the
ground. She was carrying a long pole. I won't never forget that.

"Not long afterwards I was married. We was all free then. My husband
asked my master if he could marry me. He told him 'You're a good man.
You can come and live on my farm and work for me, but you can't have
Mattie.' So we moved off to his Master's farm.

"A little while after that his Master bought a big farm in Arkansas. He
wanted to hire as many people as he could. So we went with him. He
started out well, but the first summer he died. So everything had to be
sold. A man what come down to bid on some of the farm tools and
stock--come to the auction, he told us to come on up to Woodruff county
and work for him. We was there 7 years and he worked the farm and I took
care of myself and my babies. Then he went off and left me.

"I went in to Cotton Plant and started working there. Finally he wrote
me and tried to get me to say we hadn't never been married. Said he
wanted to marry another woman. The white folks I worked for wouldn't let
me. I'd been married right and they wouldn't let me disgrace myself by
writing such a letter.

"Finally I came on to Hot Springs. For a while I cooked and washed. Then
I started working for folks, regular. For 9 years, tho, I mostly washed
and ironed.

"I came to Hot Springs on the 7th of February--I think it was 57 years
ago. You remember Miss Maud--it was just before that big hail storm. You
was here, don't you remember--that hail storm that took all the windows
out of all the houses, tore off roofs and swept dishes and table-cloths
right off the tables. Can't nobody forget that who's seen it.

"Miss Mary, do you know Miss Julia Huggins? I worked for her a long
time. Worked for her before she went away and after she came back.
Between times I cooked for Mrs. Button (Burton--but called Button by
everyone) Housley. When Miss Julia come back she marches right down to
Mrs. Housley's and tells me she wants me to work for her again. 'Can't
get her now,' says Mrs. Housley, 'Mattie's done found out she's black.'
But anyhow I went to see her, and I went back to work for her, pretty
foxy Miss Julia was.

"I been working for Mrs. Eisele pretty near twenty five years. Saw her
children grow up and the grand children. Lancing, he's my heart. Once
when Mr. and Mrs. Eisele went to see Mrs. Brown, Lancing's mother, they
took me with them. All the way to Watertown, Wisconsin. There wasn't any
more niggas in the town and all the children thought I was somthing to
look at. They'd come to see me and they'd bring their friends with 'em.
Once while we was there, a circus come to town. The children wanted me
to see it. Told me there was a negro boy in it. Guess they thought it
would be a treat to me to see another niggah. I told 'em, 'Law, don't
you think I see lots, lots more than I wants, everyday when I is at

"It used to scare me. The folks would go off to a party or a show and
leave me alone with the baby. No, Miss Mary, I wasn't scared for myself.
I thought somebody might come in and kidnap that baby. No matter how
late they was I'd sit on the top step of the stairs leading
upstairs--just outside the door where Lansing was asleep. No matter what
time they come home they'd find me there. 'Why don't you go on in your
bedroom and lie down?' they'd ask me. 'No,' I'd tell 'em, 'somebody
might come in, and they would have to get that baby over my dead body.'

"Jonnie, that's my daughter" (Mrs. D.G. Murphy, 338 Walnut Street, a
large stucco house with well cared for lawn) "she wants me to quit work.
I told her, 'You put that over on Mrs. Murphy--you made her quit work
and took care of her. What happened to her? She died! You're not going
to make me old.'

"Twice she's got me to quit work. Once, she told me it was against the
law. Told me there was a law old folks couldn't work. I believed her and
I quit. Then I come on down and I asked Mr. Eisele" (an important
business executive and prominent in civic affairs, [HW: aged 83]) "He
rared back and he said, 'I'd like to see anybody stop me from working.'
So I come on back.

"Another time, it was when the old age pensions come in. They tried to
stop me again. Told me I had to take it. I asked Mr. Eisele if I could
work just the same. 'No,' he says 'if you take it, you'll have to quit
work.' So I stamped my foot and I says, 'I won't take nobody's pension.'

"The other day Jonnie called up here and she started to crying. Lots of
folks write her notes and say she's bad to let me work. Somebody told
her that they had seen me going by to work at 4 o'clock in the morning.
It wasn't no such. I asked a man when I was on the way and it was 25
minutes until 5. Besides, my clock had stopped and I couldn't tell what
time it was. Yes, Miss Mary, I does get here sort of early, but then I
like it. I just sit in the kitchen until the folks get up.

"You see that picture over there, it's Mr. Eisele when he was 17. I'd
know that smiling face anywhere. He's always good to me. When they go
away to Florida I can go to the store and get money whenever I need it.
But it's always good to see them come back. Miss Maud says I'm sure to
go to Heaven, I'm such a good worker. No, Miss Mary, I'm not going to
quit work. Not until I get old."

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Evelina Morgan
1317 W. Sixteenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: App. 81
[TR: Original first page moved to follow second page per
HW: Insert this page before Par. 1, P. 3]

"I was born in Wedgeboro, North Carolina, on the plantation of--let me
see what that man's name was. He was an old lawyer. I done forgot that
old white man's name. Old Tom Ash! Senator Ash--that's his name. He was
good to his slaves. He had so many niggers he didn't know them all.

"My father's name was Alphonso Dorgens and my mother's name was Lizzie
Dorgens. Both of them dead. I don't know what her name was before she
married. My pa belonged to the Dorgens' and he married my ma. That is
how she come to be a Dorgen. Old Man Ash never did buy him. He just
visited my mother. They all was in the same neighborhood. Big
plantations. Both of them had masters that owned lots of land. I don't
know how often he visited my mother after he married her. He was over
there all the time. They were right adjoining plantations.

"I was born in a frame house. I don't know nothin' about it no more than
that. It was j'ined to the kitchen. My mother had two rooms j'ined to
the kitchen. She was the old mistress' cook. She could come right out of
the kitchen and go on in her room.

"My father worked on the farm. They fed the slaves meat and bread. That
is all I remember--meat and bread and potatoes. They made lots of
potatoes. They gave 'em what they raised. You could raise stuff for
yourself if you wanted to.

"My mother took care of her children. We children was on the place there
with her. She didn't have nobody's children to take care of but us.

"I was six years old during of the War. My ma told me my age, but I
forgot it; I never did have it put down. The only way I gits a pension,
I just tells 'em I was six years old during of the War, and they figures
out the age. Sorta like that. But I know I was six years old when the
Rebels and the Yankees was fighting.

Book of the day: