Contributed by Kim
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with
TYPEWRITTEN RECORDS PREPARED BY
THE FEDERAL WRITERS'
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PROJECT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
SPONSORED BY THE
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Illustrated with Photographs
the Federal Writers' Project of
the Works Progress
for the State of Arkansas
A Work in progress
on page 2
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I was born in Chickashaw County, Mississippi.
Ely Abbott and Maggie Abbott
was our owners. They had three girls and two boys�Eddie and Johnny. We played
together till I was grown. I loved em like if they was brothers. Papa and Mos
Ely went to war together in a two-horse top buggy. They both come back when they
"There was eight of us children and none was s
old, none give way. My parents
name Peter and Mahaley Abbott. My father never was sold but my mother was sold
into this Abbott family for a house girl. She cooked and washed and ironed.
No'm, she wasn't a wet nurse, but she tended to Eddie and Johnny and me all
alike. She whoop them when they needed, and Miss Maggie whoop me. That the way
we grow'd up. Mos Ely was 'ceptionly good I recken. No'm, I never heard of him
drinkin' whiskey. They made cider and 'simmon beer every year.
"Grandpa was a soldier in the war. He fought
in a battle. I don't know the
battle. He wasn't hurt. He come home and told us how awful it was.
"My parents stayed on at Mos Ely's and my unc
le's family stayed on. He give
my uncle a home and twenty acres of ground and my parents same mount to run a
gin. I drove two mules, my brother drove two and we drove two more between us
and run the gin. My auntie seen somebody go in the gin one night but didn't
think bout them settin' it on fire. They had a torch, I recken, in there. All I
knowed, it burned up and Mos Ely had to take our land back and sell it to pay
for four or five hundred bales of cotton got burned up that time. We stayed on
and sharecropped with him. We lived between Egypt and Okolona, Mississippi.
Aberdeen was our tradin' point.
"I come to Arkansas railroading. I railroaded f
orty years. Worked on the
section, then I belong to the extra gang. I help build this railroad to
"I did own a home but I got in debt and had to sel
l it and let my money
"Times is so changed and the young folks differ
ent. They won't work only
nough to get by and they want you to give em all you got. They take it if they
can. Nobody got time to work. I think times is worse than they ever been, cause
folks hate to work so bad. I'm talking bout hard work, field work. Jobs young
folks want is scarce; jobs they could get they don't want. They want to run
about and fool around an get by.
"I get $8.00 and provisions from the government."
Lucian Abernathy, Marvell,
Interviewer: Watt McKinney
"I was borned in de 'streme norf part of Mississippi nigh de Tennessee line.
You mought say dat it was 'bout straddle of de state line and it wasn't no great
piece from where us libed to Moscow what was de station on de ole Memfis en
Charston Railroad. My white folks was de Abernathys. You neber do hear 'bout
many folks wid dat name these times, leastwise not ober in dis state, but dere
sure used to be heap of dem Abernathys back home where I libed and I spect dat
mebbe some dere yit en cose it's bound to be some of the young uns lef' dar
still, but de ole uns, Mars Luch en dem, dey is all gone.
"Mars Luch, he was my young boss. Though he name was Lucian us all called him
Luch and dat was who I is named for. Ole mars, he was name Will and dat was Mars
Luch's pa and my ole miss, she name Miss Cynthia and young miss, her name Miss
Ellen. Ole mars an' ole miss, dey just had de two chillun, Mars Luch and Miss
Ellen; dat is what libed to be grown. Mars Luch, he 'bout two year older dan me
and Miss Ellen, she 'bout two year older dan Mars Luch. Miss Ellen, she married
er gentman from Virginny and went dar to lib and Mars Luch, he married Miss
"Miss Fannie's folks, dey libed right nigh us on to 'j'ining place and dem
was my ole man's peoples. Yas sah, boss, dat ole man you see settin' right dar
now in dat chere. She was Ella Keith, dats zackly what her named when us married
and she named fer Miss Fannie's ma. Dat she was. Us neber did leave our folkses
eben atter de War ober and de niggers git dey freedom, yit an' still a heap of
de niggers did leave dey mars' and a heap of dem didn' an' us stayed on an
farmed de lan' jus' like us been doin' 'cept dey gib us a contract for part de
crop an' sell us our grub 'gainst us part of de crop and take dey money outen us
part of de cotton in de fall just like de bizness is done yit and I reckon dat
was de startin' of de sharecrop dat is still goin' on.
"Soon atter Mars Luch good and grown an' him an' Miss Fannie done married,
ole mars and ole miss, dey bofe died and Mars Luch say he gwine sell out an'
lebe 'cause de lan' gittin' so poor and wore out and it takin' three an' more
acres to make a bale and he tell us all dat when we wind up de crop dat fall and
say, 'You boys mebbe can stay on wid whoever I sell out to er if not den you can
fin' you homes wid some one close if you wants to do dat.' And den he says dat
he gwine fin' him some good lan' mebbe in Arkansas down de riber from Memfis.
Mighty nigh all de ole famblys lef' de place when Mars Luch sole it out.
"My pappy and my mammy, dey went to Memfis and me wid 'em. I was growed by
den and was fixin' to marry Ella just es soon es I could fin' a good home. I was
a country nigger en liked de farm an' en cose wasn't satisfied in town, so
'twasn't long 'fore I heered 'bout han's beein' needed down de riber in
Mississippi and dats where I went en stayed for two years and boss, I sure was
struck wid dat lan' what you could make a bale to a acre on an' I just knowed
dat I was gwine git rich in a hurry an' so I writ er letter to Ella en her
peoples tellin' dem 'bout de rich lan' and 'vising dem to come down dere where I
was and I was wantin' to marry Ella den. Boss, and you know what, 'twasn't long
afore I gits er letter back an' de letter says dat Ella an' her peoples is down
de riber in Arkansas from Memfis at Bledsoe wid Mars Luch an' Miss Fannie where
Mars Luch had done moved him an' Miss Fannie to a big plantation dey had bought
"Dat was a funny thing how dat happened an' Bledsoe, it was right 'cross de
riber from where I was en had been for two years an' just soon es I git dat
letter I 'range wid a nigger to take me 'cross da riber in er skift to de
plantation where dey all was and 'bout fust folkses dat I see is Ella an' her
peoples en lots of de famblys from de ole home place back in Tennessee an' I
sure was proud to see Mars Luch en Miss Fannie. Dey had built demselves a fine
house at a p'int dat was sorter like a knoll where de water don' git when de
riber come out on de lan' in case of oberflow and up de rode 'bout half mile
from de house, Mars Luch had de store en de gin. Dey had de boys den, dat is
Mars Luch and Miss Fannie did, and de boys was named Claude an' Clarence atter
Miss Fannie's two brudders.
"Dem was de finest boys dat one ever did see. At dat time Claude, he 'bout
two year old and Clarence, he 'bout four er mebbe little less. Ella, she worked
in da house cooking for Miss Fannie an' nussin' de chillun and she plumb crazy
'bout de chillun an' dey just as satisfied wid her as dey was wid dere mama and
Ella thought more dem chillun dan she did anybody. She just crazy 'bout dem
boys. Mars Luch, he gibe me job right 'way sort flunkying for him and hostling
at de lot an' barn and 'twasn't long den 'fore Ella and me, us git married an'
libs in a cabin dat Mars Luch had built in de back of de big house.
"Us git 'long fine for more dan a year and Mars Luch, he raise plenty cotton
an' at times us ud take trip up to Memfis on de boat, on de Phil Allin what was
'bout de fineist boat on de riber in dem days and de one dat most frequent put
in at us landin' wid de freight for Mars Luch and den he most ginally sont he
cotton an' seed to Memfis on dis same Phil Allin.
"I jus' said, boss, dat us git 'long fine for more dan a year and us all
mighty happy till Miss Fannie took sick an' died an' it mighty nigh killed Mars
Luch and all of us and Mars Luch, he jus' droop for weeks till us git anxious
'bout him but atter while he git better and seam like mebbe he gwine git ober he
sadness but he neber was like he used to be afore Miss Fannie died.
"Atter Miss Fannie gone, Mars Luch, he say, 'Ella, you an' Luch mus' mobe in
de big house an' make you a bed in de room where de boys sleep, so's you can
look atter 'em good, 'cause lots nights I gwine be out late at de gin an' store
an' I knows you gwine take plumb good care of dem chillun.' An' so us fixed us
bed in de big house an' de boys, dey sleeped right dar in dat room on dere bed
where us could take care of 'em.
"Dat went on for 'bout two years an' den Mars Luch, he 'gun to get in bad
health an' jus' wasted down like and den one night when he at de store he took
down bad and dey laid him down on de bed in de back room where he would sleep on
sich nights dat he didn' come home when he was so busy an' he sont a nigger on a
mule for me to come up dar an' I went in he room an' Mars Luch, he say, 'Lissen,
Luch, you is been a good faithful nigger an' Ella too, an' I is gonna die
tonight and I wants you to send er letter to Miss Ellen in Virginny atter I is
daid en tell her to come an' git de boys 'cause she is all de kin peoples dat
dey habe lef' now cepn cose you an' Ella an' it mought be some time afore she
gits here so you all take good en faithful care dem till she 'rives an' tell her
she habe to see dat all de bizness wind up and take de boys back wid her an'
keep dem till dey is growed,'
"Well, boss, us done jus' like Mars Luch tell us to do an' us sure feel sorry
for dem two little boys. Dey jus' 'bout five an' seben year old den and day sure
loved dere pa; day was plumb crazy 'bout Mars Luch and him 'bout dem too.
"'Bout two weeks from time dat Mars Luch daid, Miss Ellen come on de boat one
night an' she stayed some days windin' up de bizness and den she lef' an' take
de boys 'way wid her back to Virginny where she libed. Us sure did hate to 'part
from dem chillun. Dat's been nigh on to sixty years ago but us neber forgit dem
boys an' us will allus lobe dem. Dey used to sen' us presents an' sich every
Christmas for seberal years and den us started movin' 'bout an' I reckon dey
don' know where we's at now. I sure would like to see dem boys ag'in. I betcha
I'd know dem right today. Mebbe I wouldn't, it's been so long since I seen 'em;
but shucks, I know dat dey would know me."
R.F.D., Holly Grove, Arkansas
Receives mail at Clarendon,
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"My mama was named Eloise Rogers. She was born in Missouri. She was sold and
brought to three or four miles from Brownsville, Tennessee. Alex Rogers bought
her and my papa. She had been a house girl and well cared for. She never got in
contact wid her folks no more after she was sold. She was a dark woman. Papa was
a ginger cake colored man. Mama talked like Alex Rogers had four or five hundred
acres of land and lots of niggers to work it. She said he had a cotton factory
"Mistress Barbara Ann was his wife. They had two boys and three girls. One
boy George went plumb crazy and outlived 'em all. The other boy died early. Alex
Rogers got my papa in Richmond, Virginia. He was took outer a gang. We had a big
family. I have eight sisters and one brother.
"Pa say they strop 'em down at the carriage house and give 'em five hundred
lashes. He say they have salt and black pepper mixed up in er old bucket and put
it all on flesh cut up with a rag tied on a stick (mop). Alex Rogers had a
nigger to put it on the place they whooped. The Lord puts up wid such wrong
doings and den he comes and rectifies it. He does that very way.
"Pa say they started to whoop him at the gin house. He was a sorter favorite.
He cut up about it. That didn't make no difference 'bout it. Somehow they scared
him up but he didn't git whooped thater time.
"They fed good on Alex Rogers' place. They'd buy a barrel of coffee, a barrel
molasses, a barrel sugar. Some great big barrels.
"Alex Rogers wasn't a good man. He'd tell them to steal a hog and git home
wid it. If they ketch you over there they'll whoop you. He'd help eat hogs
"One time papa was working on the roads. The neighbor man and road man was
fixing up their eating. He purty nigh starved on that road work. He was hired
"Mama and papa spoke like they was mighty glad to get sat free. Some believed
they'd git freedom and others didn't. They had places they met and prayed for
freedom. They stole out in some of their houses and turned a washpot down at the
door. Another white man, not Alex Rogers, tole mama and papa and a heap others
out in the field working. She say they quit and had a regular bawl in the field.
They cried and laughed and hollered and danced. Lot of them run offen the place
soon as the man tole 'em. My folks stayed that year and another year.
"What is I been doing? Ast me is I been doing? What ain't I been doing be
more like it. I raised fifteen of my own children. I got four living. I living
wid one right here in dis house wid me now. I worked on the farm purty nigh all
my life. I come to dis place. Wild, honey, it was! I come in 1901. Heap of
changes since then.
"Present times� Not as much union 'mongst young black and white as the old
black and white. They growing apart. Nobody got nothin' to give. No work. I used
to could buy second-handed clothes to do my little children a year for a little
or nothin'. Won't sell 'em now nor give 'em 'way neither. They don't work hard
as they used to. They say they don't git nothin' outen it. They don't want to
work. Times harder in winter 'cause it cold and things to eat killed out. I cans
meat. We dry beef. In town this Nickellodian playing wild wid young colored
folks�these Sea Bird music boxes. They play all kind things. Folks used to stay
home Saturday nights. Too much running 'round, excitement, wickedness in the
world now. This generation is worst one. They trying to cut the Big Apple dance
when we old folks used to be down singing and praying, 'Cause dis is a wicked
age times is bad and hard."
Interviewer's Comment: Mulatto, clean, intelligent.
Home: 101 Rock Street, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Interviewer: Mrs. Zillah Cross Peel
"I was born a slave about 1848, in Hickmon County, Tennessee," said Aunt
Adeline who lives as care taker in a house at 101 Rock Street, Fayetteville,
Arkansas, which is owned by the Blakely-Hudgens estate.
Aunt Adeline has been a slave and a servant in five generations of the Parks
family. Her mother, Liza, with a group of five Negroes, was sold into slavery to
John P.A. Parks, in Tennessee, about 1840.
"When my mother's master come to Arkansas about 1849, looking for a country
residence, he bought what was known as the old Kidd place on the Old Wire Road,
which was one of the Stage Coach stops. I was about one year old when we came.
We had a big house and many times passengers would stay several days and wait
for the next stage to come by. It was then that I earned my first money. I must
have been about six or seven years old. One of Mr. Parks' daughters was about
one and a half years older than I was. We had a play house back of the fireplace
chimney. We didn't have many toys; maybe a doll made of a corn cob, with a dress
made from scraps and a head made from a roll of scraps. We were playing church.
Miss Fannie was the preacher and I was the audience. We were singing "Jesus my
all to Heaven is gone." When we were half way through with our song we
discovered that the passengers from the stage coach had stopped to listen. We
were so frightened at our audience that we both ran. But we were coaxed to come
back for a dime and sing our song over. I remember that Miss Fannie used a big
leaf for a book.
"I had always been told from the time I was a small child that I was a Negro
of African stock. That it was no disgrace to be a Negro and had it not been for
the white folks who brought us over here from Africa as slaves, we would never
have been here and would have been much better off.
"We colored folks were not allowed to be taught to read or write. It was
against the law. My master's folks always treated me well. I had good clothes.
Sometimes I was whipped for things I should not have done just as the white
"When a young girl was married her parents would always give her a slave. I
was given by my master to his daughter, Miss Elizabeth, who married Mr. Blakely.
I was just five years old. She moved into a new home at Fayetteville and I was
taken along but she soon sent me back home to my master telling him that I was
too little and not enough help to her. So I went back to the Parks home and
stayed until I was over seven years old. My
master made a bill of sale for me to his daughter, in order to keep account of
all settlements, so when he died and the estate settled each child would know
how he stood.
"I was about 15 years old when the Civil War ended and was still living with
Mrs. Blakely and helped care for her little children. Her daughter, Miss Lenora,
later married H.M. Hudgens, and I then went to live with her and cared for her
children. When her daughter Miss Helen married Professor Wiggins, I took care of
her little daughter, and this made five generations that I have cared for.
"During the Civil War, Mr. Parks took all his slaves and all of his fine
stock, horses and cattle and went South to Louisiana following the Southern army
for protection. Many slave owners left the county taking with them their slaves
and followed the army.
"When the war was over, Mr. Parks was still in the South and gave to each one
of his slaves who did not want to come back to Arkansas so much money. My uncle
George came back with Mr. Parks and was given a good mountain farm of forty
acres, which he put in cultivation and one of my uncle's descendants still lives
on the place. My mother did not return to Arkansas but went on to Joplin,
Missouri, and for more than fifty years, neither one of us knew where the other
one was until one day a man from Fayetteville went into a restaurant in Joplin
and ordered his breakfast, and my mother who was in there heard him say he lived
in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He lived just below the Hudgens home and when my
mother enquired about the family he told her I was still alive and was with the
family. While neither of us could read nor write we corresponded through
different people. But I never saw her after I was eleven years old. Later Mr.
Hudgens went to Joplin to see if she was well taken care of. She owned her own
little place and when she died there was enough money for her to be buried.
"Civil War days are vivid to me. The Courthouse which was then in the middle
of the Square was burned one night by a crazy Confederate soldier. The old men
in the town saved him and then put him in the county jail to keep him from
burning other houses. Each family was to take food to him and they furnished
bedding. The morning I was to take his breakfast, he had ripped open his feather
bed and crawled inside to get warm. The room was so full of feathers when I got
there that his food nearly choked him. I had carried him ham, hot biscuits and a
pot of coffee.
"After the War many soldiers came to my mistress, Mrs. Blakely, trying to
make her free me. I told them I was free but I did not want to go anywhere, that
I wanted to stay in the only home that I had ever known. In a way that placed me
in a wrong attitude. I was pointed out as different. Sometimes I was threatened
for not leaving but I stayed on.
"I had always been well treated by my master's folks. While we lived at the
old Kidd place, there was a church a few miles from our home. My uncle George
was coachman and drove my master's family in great splendor in a fine barouche
to church. After the war, when he went to his own place, Mr. Parks gave him the
old carriage and bought a new one for the family.
"I can remember the days of slavery as happy ones. We always had an abundance
of food. Old Aunt Martha cooked and there was always plenty prepared for all the
white folks as well as the colored folks. There was a long table at the end of
the big kitchen for the colored folks. The vegetables were all prepared of an
evening by Aunt Martha with someone to help her.
"My mother seemed to have a gift of telling fortunes. She had a brass ring
about the size of a dollar with a handwoven knotted string that she used. I
remember that she told many of the young people in the neighborhood many strange
things. They would come to her with their premonitions.
"Yes, we were afraid of the patyroles. All colored folks were. They said that
any Negroes that were caught away from their master's premises without a permit
would be whipped by the patyroles. They used to sing a song:
'Run nigger run,
Will get you.'
"Yes'm, the War separated lots of families. Mr. Parks' son, John C. Parks,
enlisted in Colonel W.H. Brooks' regiment at Fayetteville as third lieutenant.
Mr. Jim Parks was killed at the Battle of Getysburg.
"I do remember it was my mistress, Mrs. Blakely, who kept the Masonic
Building from being burned. The soldiers came to set it on fire. Mrs. Blakely
knew that if it burned, our home would burn as it was just across the street.
Mrs. Blakely had two small children who were very ill in upstairs rooms. She
told the soldiers if they burned the Masonic Building that her house would burn
and she would be unable to save her little children. They went away."
While Aunt Adeline is nearing ninety, she is still active, goes shopping and
also tends to the many crepe myrtle bushes as well as many other flowers at the
She attends to the renting of the apartment house, as caretaker, and is taken
care of by members of the Blakely-Hudgens families.
Aunt Adeline talks "white folks language," as they say, and seldom associates
with the colored people of the town.
This statement can be verified by the will made by John P.A. Parks, and filed in
Probate Court in the clerk's office in Washington County.
405 W. Pullen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
"I was born three years 'fore surrender. That's what my people told me. Born
in Mississippi. Let me see what county I come out of. Smith County�that's where
I was bred and born.
"I know I seen the Yankees but I didn't know what they was. My mama and papa
and all of 'em talked about the War.
"My papa was a water toter in durin' the War. No, he didn't serve the
army�just on the farm.
"Mama was the cook for her missis in slavery times.
"I think my folks went off after freedom and then come back. That was after
they had done been sot free. I can remember dat all right.
"I registered down here at the Welfare and I had to git my license from
Mississippi and I didn't remember which courthouse I got my license, but I sent
letters over there till I got it up. I got all my papers now, but I ain't never
got no pension.
"I been through so much I can't git much in my remembrance, but I was
here�that ain't no joke�I been here.
"My folks said their owners was all right. You know they was 'cause they come
back. I remember dat all right.
"I been farmin' till I got disabled. After I married I went to farmin'. And I
birthed fourteen head of chillun by dat one man! Fourteen head by dat one man!
Stayed at home and took care of 'em till I got 'em up some size, too. All dead
but five out of the fourteen head.
"My missis' name was Miss Catherine and her husband named Abe Carr.
"I went to school a little bit�mighty little. I could read but I never could
"And I'm about to go blind in my old age. I need help and I need it bad.
Chillun ain't able to help me none 'cept give me a little bread and give me some
medicine once in a while. But I'm thankful to the Lord I can get outdoors.
"I don't know what to think of this young race. That baby there knows more
than I do now, nearly. Back there when I was born, I didn't know nothin'.
"I know they said it was bad luck to bring a hoe or a ax in the house on your
shoulder. I heard the old folks tell dat�sure did.
"And I was told dat on old Christmas night the cows gets down on their knees
and gives thanks to the Lord.
"I 'member one song:
'I am climbin' Jacob's ladder
I am climbin' Jacob's ladder
I am climbin'
For the work is almost done.
'Every round goes higher and
Every round goes higher and higher
Every round goes higher and higher
my work is almost done.
'Sister, now don't you get worried
Sister, now don't
you get worried
Sister, now don't you get worried
For the work is almost done.'
My mother used to sing dat when she was spinnin' and cardin'. They'd spin and
dye the thread with some kind of indigo. Oh, I 'member dat all right."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"My mother was born in southwest Georgia close to
the Alabama line. Her
mother come from Virginia. She was sold with her mother and two little brothers.
Her mother had been sold and come in a wagon to southwest Georgia. They was all
field hands. They cleaned out new ground. They was afraid of hoop-snakes. She
said they look like a hoop rolling and whatever they stuck a horn or their tail
in it died. They killed trees.
"Mama said she druther plough than chop. She was a big w
oman and they let her
plough right along by her two little brothers, Henry and Will Keller. Will et so
many sweet potatoes they called him 'Tater Keller.' After he got grown we come
out here. Folks called him 'Tate Keller.' Henry died. I recollect Uncle
"I was born close to Mobile, Alabama. Mama was named S
arah Keller. Grandma
was called Mariah. Banks Tillman sold her the first time. Bill Keller bought
them all the last time. His wife was named Ada Keller. They had a great big
family but I forgot what they said about them. Mack clem up in a persimmon tree
one day and the old man hollered at him, 'Get out of that tree 'fore you fall.'
'Bout then the boy turned 'loose and fell. It knocked the breath out him. It
didn't kill him. Three or four of Miss Ada's children died with congestive
chills. Mama said the reason they had them chills they played down at the gin
pond all the time. It was shady and a pretty place and they was allowed to play
in the pond. Three or four of them died nearly in a heap.
"One of the boys had a pet billy-goat. It got up on
top mama's house one
time. It would bleat and look down at them. They was afraid it would jump down
on them if they went out. It chewed up things Aunt Beanie washed. She had them
put out on bushes and might had a line too. They fattened it and killed it. Mama
said Mr. Bill Keller never had nothing too good to divide with his niggers. I
reckon by that they got some of the goat.
"They lived like we live now. Every family done his
own cooking. I don't know
how many families lived on the place.
"I know about the Yankees. They come by and every one of
the men and boys
went with them but Uncle Cal. He was cripple and they advised him not to start.
Didn't none of the women go. Mama said she never seen but one ever come back.
She thought they got killed or went on some place else.
"Mr. Keller died and Miss Ada went back to her folks.
They left everything in
our care that they didn't move. She took all her house things. They sold or took
all their stock. They left us a few cows and pigs. I don't know how long they
stayed after the old man died. His children was young; he might not been so
"I recollect grandma. She smoked a pipe nearly all the t
ime. My papa was a
livery stable man. He was a fine man with stock. He was a little black man. Mama
was too big. Grandma was taller but she was slick black. He lived at Mobile,
Alabama. I was the onliest child mama had. Uncle 'Tate Keller' took grandma and
mama to Mobile. He never went to the War. He was a good carpenter and he worked
out when he didn't have a lot to do in the field. He was off at work when all
the black men and boys left Mr. Bill. He never went back after they left till
"They didn't know when freedom took place. They was
all scattering for two
years about to get work and something to eat. Tate come and got them. They went
off in a wagon that Tate made for his master, Bill Keller. We come to Tupelo,
Mississippi from Mobile when I was a little bit of a girl. Then we made one crop
and come to Helena. Uncle Tate died there and mama died at Crocketts Bluff. My
papa died back in Mobile, Alabama. He was breaking a young horse and got throwed
up side a tree. He didn't live long then.
"I got three boys now and I had seben�all boys. They f
arms and do public
work. Tom is in Memphis. Pete is in Helena and I live wid Macon between here
(Wheatley) and Cotton Plant. We farm. I done everything could be thought of on a
farm. I ploughed some less than five year ago. I liked to plough. My boy ploughs
all he can now and we do the chopping. We all pick cotton and get in the corn.
We work day laborers now.
"If I was young the times wouldn't stand in my way. I c
ould make it. I don't
know what is the trouble lessen some wants too much. They can't get it. We has a
living and thankful for it. I never 'plied for no help yet.
"I still knits my winter stockings. I got knitting nee
dles and cards my own
mother had and used. I got use for them. I wears clothes on my body in cold
weather. One reason you young folks ain't no 'count you don't wear enough
clothes when it is cold. I wear flannel clothes if I can get holt of them.
"Education done ruint the world. I learnt to read a lit
tle. I never went to
school. I learnt to work. I learnt my boys to go with me to the field and not to
be ashamed to sweat. It's healthy. They all works."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"My mother's old owner named Master Sanders. She born somewhere in Tennessee.
I heard her say she lived in Mississippi. I was born in Tennessee. My pa was
born in Mississippi. I know he belong to the Duncans. His name George Washington
Duncan. There ain't nary drap white blood in none us. I got four brothers. I do
remembers grandma. She set and tell us tales bout old times like you want to
know. Been so long I forgotten. Ma was a house girl and pa a field hand. Way
grandma talked it must of been hard to find out what white folks wanted em to
do, cause she couldn't tell what you say some times. She never did talk
"They was glad when freedom declared. They said they was hard on em. Whoop
em. Pa was killed in Crittenden County in Arkansas. He was clearin' new ground.
A storm come up and a limb hit him. It killed him. Grandma and ma allus say like
if you build a house you want to put all the winders in you ever goin' to want.
It bad luck to cut in and put in nother one. Sign of a death. I ain't got no
business tellin' you bout that. White folks don't believe in signs.
"I been raisin' up childern�'dopted childern, washin', ironin', scourin',
hoein', gatherin' corn, pickin' cotton, patchin', cookin'. They ain't nothin'
what I ain't done.
"No'm, I sure ain't voted. I don't believe in women votin'. They don't know
who to vote for. The men don't know neither. If folks visited they would care
more bout the other an wouldn't be so much devilment goin' on."
2422 Center Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Interviewer: Samuel S.
[HW: Helps Build Railroad]
"I was born in the country several miles from Charlotte in Macklenberg,
County, North Carolina in 1864.
"My father's name was John Alexander and my mother was Esther McColley. That
was her maiden name of course.
"My father's master was named Silas Alexander and my mother belonged to Hugh
Reed. I don't know just how she and my father happened to meet. These two
slaveholders were adjoining neighbors, you might say.
"My father and my mother married during the war. I was the first child. I had
three half brothers and three half sisters from the father's side. I didn't have
no whole brothers and sisters. I am the only one on my mother's side. My father
was not in the war.
"I don't know that the pateroles bothered him very much. My father and mother
were well treated by our master and then both she and my father were quiet and
their masters were good to them naturally.
"During slavery times, my father was a farmer. My mother farmed too. She was
a hand in the field. They lived in a little log cabin, one room. They had a bed
in there, a few chairs and a homemade table. They had a plank floor. I only know
what I heard my people speak of. I don't know what was what for myself because I
was too young.
"From what I can understand they had a big room at the house and the slaves
came there and ate there. They had a colored woman who prepared their meals. The
children mostly were raised on pot liquor. While the old folk were working the
larger young uns mongst the children would take care of the little ones.
"Their masters never forced any breeding. I have heard of that happening in
other places but I never heard them speak of it in connection with our
"When the master came back from the war, they told the slaves they were free.
After slavery my people stayed on and worked on the old plantation. They didn't
get much. Something like fifty cents a day and one meal. My folks didn't work on
"Back there in North Carolina times got tight and it seemed that there wasn't
much doing. Agents came from Arkansas trying to get laborers. So about seven or
eight families of us emigrated from North Carolina. That is how my folks got
"The Ku Klux were bad in North Carolina too. My people didn't have any
trouble with them in Arkansas, though. They weren't bothered so much in North
Carolina because of their owners. But they would come around and see them. They
came at night. We came to Arkansas in the winter of 1897.
"I went to public school after the war, in North Carolina. I didn't get any
further than the eighth grade. My father and mother didn't get any schooling
till after the war. They could read a little but they picked it up themselves
during slavery. I suppose their Master's children learned it to them.
"My father never did see any army service. I have heard him speak of seeing
soldiers come through though. They looted the place and took everything they
wanted and could carry.
"When I first come to this state, I settled in Drew County and farmed. I
farmed for three years. During the time I was there, I got down sick with slow
fever. When I got over that I decided that I would move to higher ground. There
was a man down there who recommended Little Rock and so I moved here. I have
been here forty-nine years. That is quite a few days.
"I belong to the Presbyterian Church and have been a member of that church
for fifty-five years. I have never gotten out publicly, but I even do my little
preaching round in the house here.
"When I came to Little Rock, I came in a very dull season. There wasn't even
a house to be rented. It was in the winter. I had to rent a room at "Jones" hall
on Ninth and Gaines streets and paid one dollar a day for it. I stayed there
about a month. Finally there was a vacant house over on Nineteenth street and
Common and I moved there. Then I commenced to look for work and I walked the
town over daily. No results whatever. Finally I struck a little job with the
contractor here digging ditches, grubbing stumps, grading streets and so forth.
I worked with him for three years and finally I got a job with the street car
company, as laborer in the Parks. I worked at that job two years. Finally I got
a job as track laborer. I worked there a year. Then I was promoted to track
foreman. I held that seven years.
"I quit that then and went to the railroads. I helped to build the Choctaw
Oklahoma and Gulf Railway. When the road was completed, I made the first trip
over it as Porter. I remained there till August 9, 1928. During that time I was
operated on for prostatitis and doctors rendered me unfit for work, totally
disabled; so that is my condition today.
"I think the future looks bright. I think conditions will get better. I
believe that all that is necessary for betterment is cooperation.
"I believe the younger generation�the way it looks�is pretty bad. I think we
haven't done anything like as much as we could do in teaching the youngsters. We
need to give them an idea of things. They don't know. Our future depends on our
children If their minds aren't trained, the future will not be bright. Our
leaders should lecture to these young people and teach them. We have young
people who dodge voting because of the poll tax. That is not the right attitude.
I don't know what will become of us if our children are not better instructed.
The white people are doing more of this than we are.
"There was a time when children didn't know but what the foot was all there
was of a chicken. The foot was all they had ever seen. But young folks nowaday
should be taught everything."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I was born in Mississippi close to Bihalia. Our owner was Myers(?) Bogan. He
had a wife and children. Mama was a field woman. Her name was Sarah Bogan and
papa's name was Hubberd Bogan.
"I heard them talk about setting the pot at the doors and having singing and
prayer services. They all sung and prayed around the room. I forgot all the
things they talked about. My parents lived on the same place after freedom a
long time. They said he was good to them.
"Dr. Bogan in Forrest City, Arkansas always said I was his brother's child.
He was dead years ago, so I didn't have no other way of knowing.
"The only thing I can recollect about the War was once my mistress took me
and her own little girl upstairs in a kind of ceiling room (attic). They had
their ham meat and jewelry locked up in there and other fine stuff. She told us
to sit down and not move, not even grunt. Me and Fannie had to be locked up so
long. It was dark. We both went to sleep but we was afraid to stir. The Yankees
come then but I didn't get to see them. I didn't want to be took away by 'em. I
was big enough to know that. I heard 'em say we was near 'bout eat out at the
closing of the War. I thought it muster been the Yankees from what they was
talking about, eating us out.
"I been washing and ironing and still doing it. All my life I been doing that
'ceptin' when I worked in the field.
"Me and my daughter is paying on this house (a good house). I been making my
own living�hard or easy. I don't get no relief aid. Never have. I 'plied for the
old people's pension. Don't get it."
Interviewer's Comment: This must be Myers Bogan, yet she told me Bogan
Myers. Later she said Dr.
Bogan of Forrest City was thus and so.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I was an orphant child. My mother-in-law told me during slavery she was a
field hand. One day the overseer was going to whoop one of the women 'bout
sompin or other and all the women started with the hoes to him and run him clear
out of the field. They would killed him if he hadn't got out of the way. She
said the master hadn't put a overseer over them for a long time. Some of 'em
wouldn't do their part and he put one of the men on the place over the women. He
was a colored foreman. The women worked together and the men worked together in
different fields. My mother-in-law was named Alice Drummond. She said they would
cut the hoecakes in half and put that in your pan, then pour the beef stew on
top. She said on Christmas day they had hot biscuits. They give them flour and
things to make biscuit at home on Sundays. When they got through eating they
take their plate and say, 'Thank God for what I received.' She said they had
plenty milk. The churns was up high�five gallon churns. Some churns was cedar
wood. The children would churn standing on a little stool. It would take two to
churn. They would change about and one brushed away the flies. She lived close
to Meridian and Canton.
"My mother talked the bright side to her children. She was born in Tennessee.
She had two older sisters sold from her. She never seen them no more. They was
took to Missouri. Mother was never sold. She was real bright color. She died
when I was real little. From what I know I think my parents was industrious.
Papa was a shoemaker. He worked on Sunday to make extra money to buy things
outside of what his master give them for his family. Now I can remember that
much. My papa was a bright color like I am but not near as light as mama. He had
a shop when I was little but he wasn't 'lowed to keep it open on Sunday. I heard
him tell about working on Sundays during slavery and how much he made sometimes.
He tanned his own leather.
"I went to Mississippi and married. Folks got grown earlier than they do now
and I married when I was a young girl 'bout seventeen. We come to Arkansas. I
sewed for white and colored. I cooked some. I taught school in the public
schools. I taught opportunity school two years. I had a class at the church in
day and at the schoolhouse at night. I had two classes.
"John Hays was mama's owner in Tennessee."
1708 High Street. Little Rock, Arkansas
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
"I been married three times and my last name was Lucretia Alexander. I was
twelve years old when the War began. My mother died at seventy-three or
seventy-five. That was in August 1865�August the ninth. She was buried August
twelfth. The reason they kept her was they had refugeed her children off to
different places to keep them from the Yankees. They couldn't get them back. My
mother and her children were heir property. Her first master was Toliver. My
mother was named Agnes Toliver. She had a boy and a girl both older than I were.
My brother come home in '65. I never got to see my sister till 1869.
"My father died in 1881 and some say he was one hundred twelve and some say
one hundred six. His name was Beasley, John Beasley, and he went by John Beasley
till he died.
"My mother died and left four living children. I was the youngest.
"I got religion in 1865. I was baptized seventy-three years ago this
"I ain't got nary living child. My oldest child would have been sixty-four if
he were living. They claim my baby boy is living, but I don't know. I have four
"The first overseer I remember was named Kurt Johnson. The next was named
Mack McKenzie. The next one was named Pink Womack. And the next was named Tom
Phipps. Mean! Liked meanness! Mean a man as he could be. I've seen him take them
down and whip them till the blood run out of them.
"I got ten head of grandchildren. And I been grandmother to eleven head. I
been great-grandmother to twelve head of great-grandchildren. I got one
twenty-three and another nineteen or twenty. Her father's father was in the
army. She is the oldest. Lotas Robinson, my granddaughter, has four children
that are my great-grandchildren. Gayden Jenkins, my grandson, has two girls. I
got a grandson named Dan Jenkins. He is the father of three boys. He lives in
Cleveland. He got a grandson named Mark Jenkins in Memphis who has one boy. The
youngest granddaughter�I don't remember her husband's name�has one boy. There
are four generations of us.
"I been here. You see I took care of myself when I was young and tried to do
right. The Lord has helped me too. Yes, I am going on now. I been here a long
time but I try to take care of myself. I was out visiting the sick last time you
come here. That's the reason I missed you. I tries to do the best I can.
"I am stricken now with the rheumatism on one side. This hip.
"My mother was treated well in slavery times. My father was sold five times.
Wouldn't take nothin'. So they sold him. They beat him and knocked him about.
They put him on the block and they sold him 'bout beatin' up his master. He was
a native of Virginia. The last time they sold him they sold him down in
Claiborne County, Mississippi. Just below where I was born at. I was born in
Copiah County near Hazlehurst, about fifteen miles from Hazlehurst. My mother
was born in Washington County. Virginia. Her first master was Qualls Tolliver.
Qualls moved to Mississippi and married a woman down there and he had one son,
Peachy Toliver. After he died, he willed her to Peachy. Then Peachy went to the
Rebel army and got killed.
"My mother's father was a free Indian named Washington. Her mother was a
slave. I don't know my father's father. He moved about so much and was sold so
many times he never did tell me his father. He got his name from the white
folks. When you're a slave you have to go by your owner's name.
"My master's mother took me to the house after my mother died. And the first
thing I remember doing was cleaning up. Bringing water, putting up
mosquito-bars, cooking. My master's mother was Susan Reed. I have done
everything but saw. I never sawed in my life. The hardest work I did was after
slavery. I never did no hard work during slavery. I used to pack water for the
plow hands and all such as that. But when my mother died, my mistress took me to
"But Lawd! I've seen such brutish doin's�runnin' niggers with hounds and
whippin' them till they was bloody. They used to put 'em in stocks. When they
didn't put 'em in stocks, used to be two people would whip 'em�the overseer and
the driver. The overseer would be a man named Elijah at our house. He was just a
poor white man. He had a whip they called the BLACK SNAKE.
"I remember one time they caught a man named George Tinsley. They put the
dogs on him and they bit 'im and tore all his clothes off of 'im. Then they put
'im in the stocks. The stocks was a big piece of timber with hinges in it. It
had a hole in it for your head. They would lift it up and put your head in it.
There was holes for your head, hands and feet in it. Then they would shut it up
and they would lay that whip on you and you couldn't do nothin' but wiggle and
holler, 'Pray, master, pray!' But when they'd let that man out, he'd run away
"They would make the slaves work till twelve o'clock on Sunday, and then they
would let them go to church. The first time I was sprinkled, a white preacher
did it; I think his name was Williams.
"The preacher would preach to the white folks in the forenoon and to the
colored folks in the evening. The white folks had them hired. One of them
preachers was named Hackett; another, Williams; and another, Gowan. There was
five of them but I just remember them three. One man used to hold the slaves so
late that they had to go to the church dirty from their work. They would be
sweaty and smelly. So the preacher 'buked him 'bout it. That was old man Bill
"The niggers didn't go to the church building; the preacher came and preached
to them in their quarters. He'd just say, 'Serve your masters. Don't steal your
master's turkey. Don't steal your master's chickens. Don't steal your master's
hawgs. Don't steal your master's meat. Do whatsomeever your master tells you to
do.' Same old thing all the time.
"My father would have church in dwelling houses and they had to whisper. My
mother was dead and I would go with him. Sometimes they would have church at his
house. That would be when they would want a real meetin' with some real
preachin'. It would have to be durin' the week nights. You couldn't tell the
difference between Baptists and Methodists then. They was all Christians. I
never saw them turn nobody down at the communion, but I have heard of it. I
never saw them turn no pots down neither; but I have heard of that. They used to
sing their songs in a whisper and pray in a whisper. That was a prayer-meeting
from house to house once or twice�once or twice a week.
"Old Phipps whipped me once. He aimed to kill me but I got loose. He whipped
me about a colored girl of his'n that he had by a colored woman. Phipps went
with a colored woman before he married his wife. He had a girl named Martha Ann
Phipps. I beat Martha 'bout a pair of stockings. My mistress bought me a nice
pair of stockings from the store. You see, they used to knit the stockings. I
wore the stockings once; then I washed them and put them on the fence to dry.
Martha stole them and put them on. I beat her and took them off of her. She ran
and told her father and he ran me home. He couldn't catch me, and he told me
he'd get me. I didn't run to my father. I run to my mistress, and he knew he'd
better not do nothin' then. He said, 'I'll get you, you little old black some
thin'.' Only he didn't say 'somethin'.' He didn't get me then.
"But one day he caught me out by his house. I had gone over that way on an
errand I needn't have done. He had two girls hold me. They was Angeline and
Nancy. They didn't much want to hold me anyhow. Some niggers would catch you and
kill you for the white folks and then there was some that wouldn't. I got loose
from them. He tried to hold me hisself but he couldn't. I got away and went back
to my old mistress and she wrote him a note never to lay his dirty hands on me
again. A little later her brother, Johnson Chatman, came there and ran him off
the place. My old mistress' name was Susan Chatman before she married. Then she
married Toliver. Then she married Reed. She married Reed last�after Toliver
"One old lady named Emily Moorehead runned in and held my mother once for
Phipps to whip her. And my mother was down with consumption too. I aimed to git
old Phipps for that. But then I got religion and I couldn't do it. Religion
makes you forgit a heap of things.
"Susan Reed, my old mistress, bought my father and paid fifteen hundred
dollars for him and she hadn't never seen 'im. Advertising. He had run away so
much that they had to advertise and sell 'im. He never would run away from Miss
Susan. She was good to him till she got that old nigger beater Phipps. Her
husband, Reed, was called a nigger spoiler. My father was an old man when Phipps
was on overseer and wasn't able to fight much then.
"Phipps sure was a bad man. He wasn't so bad neither; but the niggers was
scared of him. You know in slave times, sometimes when a master would git too
bad, the niggers would kill him�tote him off out in the woods somewheres and git
rid of him. Two or three of them would git together and scheme it out, and then
two or three of them would git him way out and kill 'im. But they didn't nobody
ever pull nothin' like that on Phipps. They was scared of him.
"One time I saw the Yankees a long way off. They had on blue uniforms and was
on coal black horses. I hollered out, 'Oh, I see somethin'.' My mistress said,
'What?' I told her, and she said, 'Them's the Yankees.' She went on in the house
and I went with her. She sacked up all the valuables in the house. She said,
'Here,' and she threw a sack of silver on me that was so heavy that I went right
on down to the ground. Then she took hold of it and holp me up and holp me carry
it out. I carried it out and hid it. She had three buckskin sacks�all full of
silver. That wasn't now; that was in slavery times. During the War, Jeff Davis
gave out Confederate money. It died out on the folks' hands. About twelve
hundred dollars of it died out on my father's hands. But there wasn't nothin'
but gold and silver in them sacks.
"I heard them tell the slaves they were free. A man named Captain Barkus who
had his arm off at the elbow called for the three near-by plantations to meet at
our place. Then he got up on a platform with another man beside him and declared
peace and freedom. He p'inted to a colored man and yelled, 'You're free as I
am.' Old colored folks, old as I am now, that was on sticks, throwed them sticks
away and shouted.
"Right after freedom I stayed with that white woman I told you about. I was
with her about four years. I worked for twelve dollars a month and my food and
clothes. Then I figured that twelve dollars wasn't enough and I went to work in
the field. It was a mighty nice woman. Never hit me in her life. I never have
been whipped by a white woman. She was good to me till she died. She died after
I had my second child�a girl child.
"I have been living in this city fifteen years. I come from Chicot County
when I come here. We come to Arkansas in slavery times. They brought me from
Copiah County when I was six or eight years old. When Mrs. Toliver married she
came up here and brought my mother. My mother belonged to her son and she said,
'Agnes (that was my mother's name), will you follow me if I buy your husband?'
Her husband's name was John Beasley. She said, 'Yes.' Then her old mistress
bought Beasley and paid fifteen hundred dollars to get my mother to come with
her. Then Peachy went to war and was shot because he come home of a furlough and
stayed too long. So when he went back they killed him. My mother nursed him when
he was a baby. Old man Toliver said he didn't want none of us to be sold; so
they wasn't none of us sold. Maybe there would have been if slavery had lasted
longer; but there wasn't.
"Mother really belonged to Peachy, but when Peachy died, then she fell to her
"I have been a widow now for thirty years. I washed and ironed and plowed and
hoed�everything. Now I am gittin' so I ain't able to do nothin' and the Relief
keeps me alive. I worked and took care of myself and my last husband and he
died, and I ain't married since. I used to take a little boy and make ten bales
of cotton. I can't do it now. I used to be a woman in my day. I am my mother's
"I don't buy no hoodoo and I don't believe in none, but a seventh child can
more or less tell you things that are a long way off. If you want to beat the
devil you got to do right. God's got to be in the plan. I tries to do right. I
am not perfect but I do the best I can. I ain't got no bottom teeth, but my top
ones are good. I have a few bottom ones. The Lawd's keepin' me here for somepin.
I been with 'im now seventy-three years."
Interviewer's Comment: I'll bet the grandest moment in the life of Sister
Alexander's mother was
when her mistress said, "Agnes, will you follow me if I buy your husband?"
Fifteen hundred dollars to buy a rebellious slave in order to unite a slave
couple. It's epic.
Ed Allen, Des Arc,
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I know that after freedom they took care of my pa and ma and give em a home
long as they lived. Ma died wid young mistress here in Des Arc.
"The present generation is going to the bad. Have dealings wid em, not good
to you. Young folks ain't nice to you like they used to be.
"White boys and colored boys, whole crowd of us used to go in the river down
here all together, one got in danger help him out. They don't do it no more. We
used to play base ball together. All had a good time. We never had to buy a ball
or a bat. Always had em. The white boys bought them. I don't know as who to
blame but young folk changed."
Marked Tree, Arkansas
With children at Biscoe, Arkansas
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"Ma was a slave in Arkansas. She said she helped grade a hill and help pile
up a road between Wicksburg and Wynne. They couldn't put the road over the hill,
so they put all the slaves about to grade it down. They don't use the road but
it's still there to show for itself.
"She was a tall rawbony woman. Ma was a Hillis and pa's name was Adam Hillis.
He learned to trap in slavery and after freedom he followed that for a living.
Ma was a sure 'nough field hand. Mama had three sets of children. I don't know
how many she did have in all. I had eleven my own self. Grandma was named Tempy
and I heard them tell about when she was sold. She and mama went together. They
used to whoop the slaves when they didn't work up peart.
"When the 'Old War' come on and the Yankees come they took everything and the
black men folks too. They come by right often. They would drive up at mealtime
and come in and rake up every blessed thing was cooked. Have to go work scrape
about and find something else to eat. What they keer 'bout you being white or
black? Thing they was after was filling theirselves up. They done white folks
worse than that. They burned their cribs and fences up and their houses too
about if they got mad. Things didn't suit them. If they wanted a colored man to
go in camp with them and he didn't go, they would shoot you down like a dog. Ma
told about some folks she knowd got shot in the yard of his own quarters.
"Us black folks don't want war. They are not war kind of folks. Slavery
wasn't right and that 'Old War' wasn't right neither.
"When my children was all little I kept Aunt Mandy Buford till she died. She
was a old slave woman. Me and my husband and the biggest children worked in the
field. She would sit about and smoke. My boys made cob pipes and cut cane j'ints
for 'er to draw through. Red cob pipes was the prettiest. Aunt Mandy said her
master would be telling them what to do in the field and he say to her, 'I
talking to you too.' She worked right among the men at the same kind of work.
She was tall but not large. She carried children on her right hip when she was
so young she dragged that foot when she walked. The reason she had to go with
the men to the field like she did was 'cause she wasn't no multiplying woman.
She never had a chile in all her lifetime. She said her mother nearly got in bad
one time when her sister was carrying a baby. She didn't keep up. Said the
riding boss got down, dug a hole with the hoe to lay her in it 'cause she was so
big in front. Her mother told him if he put her daughter there in that hole
she'd cop him up in pieces wid her hoe. He found he had two to conquer and he
let her be. But he had to leave 'cause he couldn't whoop the niggers.
"If I could think of all she tole I'd soon have enough to fill up that book
you're getting up. I can't recollect who she belong to, and her old talk comes
back to me now and then. She talked so much we'd get up and go on off to keep
from hearing her tell things over so many times.
"Folks like me what got children think the way they do is all right. I don't
like some of my children's ways but none of us perfect. I tells 'em right far as
I knows. Times what makes folks no 'count. Times gets stiff around Biscoe. Heap
of folks has plenty. Some don't have much�not enough. Some don't have
"I don't believe in women voting. That ruined the country. We got along very
well till they got to tinkering with the government."
Name of Interviewer: Pernella Anderson
Subject: Early Days in
Caledonia�Early days in El Dorado
Ah wuz bo'n de first year niggers wuz free. Wuz born in Caledonia at de Primm
place. Mah ma belonged tuh George Thompson. After mah ma died ah stayed wid de
Wommacks, a while. Aftuh dat mah pa taken me home. Pa's name wuz Jesse Flueur.
Ah worked lak er slave. Ah cut wood, sawed logs, picked 400 pounds uv cotton
evah day. Ah speck ah married de first time ah wuz about fo'teen years ole. Ah
been mahrid three times. All mah husband's is daid. Ole man England and ole man
Cullens run business places and ole man Wooley. His name wuz reason Wooley. De
Woolies got cemetery uv dey own right dar near de Cobb place. No body is buried
in dar but de fambly uv Wooleys. Ole man Allen Hale, he run er store dar too. He
is yet livin right dar. He is real ole. De ole Warren Mitchell place whar ah use
tuh live is Guvment land. Warren Mitchell, he homesteaded the place. We lived
dar and made good crops. De purtiest dar wuz eround, but not hit's growed up.
Don lived dar and made good crops. De purtiest dar wuz eround. Dar is whah all
mah chillun wuz bo'n. Ah use tuh take mah baby an walk tuh El Dorado to sevice.
Ah use tuh come tuh El Dorado wid a oman by de name of Sue Foster. Nothin but
woods when dey laid de railroad heah. Dey built dem widh horses and axes. Ah saw
em when dey whoop de hosses and oxen till dey fall out working dem when dey laid
dat steel. Ah wuz at de first buryin uv de fust pussen buried in Caledonia
graveyard. Huh name wuz Joe Ann Polk. We set up wid huh all night and sing and
pray. An when we got nearly tuh de church de bells started tolling and de folks
started tuh singin. When evah any body died dey ring bells tuh let yo know some
body wuz daid. A wuz born on Christmas day, an ah had two chilluns born on
Christmas Day. Dey wuz twins and one uv em had two teeth and his hair hung down
on her shoulders when hit wuz born but hit did not live but er wek.
Age: 77 or 78, not sure
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I was born in Bloomfield, Kentucky. My parents had the same owners. Mary and
Elgin Anderson was their names. They was owned by Isaac Stone. Davis Stone was
their son. They belong to the Stones as far back as they could remember. Mama
was darker than I am. My father was brighter than I am. He likely had a white
father. I never inquired. Mama had colored parents. Master Stone walked with a
big crooked stick. He nor his son never went to war. Masters in that country
never went. Two soldiers were drafted off our place. I saw the soldiers, plenty
of them and plenty times. There never was no serious happenings.
"The Federal soldiers would come by, sleep in the yard, take our best horses
and leave the broken down ones. Very little money was handled. I never seen
much. Master Stone would give us money like he give money to Davis. They prized
fine stock mostly. They needed money at wheat harvest time only. When a
celebration or circus come through he give us all twenty-five or thirty cents
and told us to go. There wasn't many slaves up there like down in this country.
The owners from all I've heard was crueler and sold them off oftener here.
"Weaving was a thing the women prided in doing�being a fast weaver or a fine
hand at weaving. They wove pretty coverlets for the beds. I see colored spreads
now makes me think about my baby days in Kentucky.
"Freedom was something mysterious. Colored folks didn't talk it. White folks
didn't talk it. The first I realized something different, Master Stone was going
to whip a older brother. He told mama something I was too small to know. She
said, 'Don't leave this year, son. I'm going to leave.' Master didn't whip
"Master Stone's cousin kept house for him. I remember her well. They were all
very nice to us always. He had a large farm. He had twenty servants in his yard.
We all lived there close together. My sister and mama cooked. We had plenty to
eat. We had beef in spring and summer. Mutton and kid on special occasions. We
had hog in the fall and winter. We had geese, ducks, and chickens. We had them
when we needed them. We had a field garden. He raised corn, wheat, oats, rye,
"Once a year we got dressed up. We got shirts, a suit, pants and shoes, and
what else we needed to wear. Then he told them to take care of their clothes.
They got plenty to do a year. We didn't have fine clothes no time. We didn't eat
ham and chicken. I never seen biscuit�only sometimes.
"I seen a woman sold. They had on her a short dress, no sleeves, so they
could see her muscles, I reckon. They would buy them and put them with good
healthy men to raise young slaves. I heard that. I was very small when I seen
that young woman sold and years later I heard that was what was done.
"I don't know when freedom came on. I never did know. We was five or six
years breaking up. Master Stone never forced any of us to leave. He give some of
them a horse when they left. I cried a year to go back. It was a dear place to
me and the memories linger with me every day.
"There was no secret society or order of Ku Klux in reach of us as I ever
"I voted Republican ticket. We would go to Jackson to vote. There would be a
crowd. The last I voted was for Theodore Roosevelt. I voted here in Helena for
years. I was on the petit jury for several years here in Helena.
"I farmed in your state some (Arkansas). I farmed all my young life. I been
in Arkansas sixty years. I come here February 1879 with distant relatives. They
come south. When I come to Helena there was but one set of mechanics. I started
to work. I learned to paint and hang wall paper. I've worked in nearly every
house in Helena.
"The present times are gloomy. I tried to prepare for old age. I had a
apartment house and lost it. I owned a home and lost it. They foreclosed me
"The present generation is not doing as well as I have.
"My health knocked me out. My limbs swell, they are stiff. I have a bad
"I asked for help but never have got none. If I could got a little relief I
never would lost my house. They work my wife to death keeping us from starving.
She sewed till they cut off all but white ladies. When she got sixty-five they
let her go and she got a little job cooking. They never give us no
Street H, West Memphis, Arkansas
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I was born at Sanitobia, Mississippi. Mother died when I was a child. I was
three months old, they said, when I lost her. Father lived to be very old. My
mother was Ella Geeter and my stepmother was Lucy Evans. My father's name was Si
Hubbard. My parents married after the War. I remembers Grandma Harriett Hubbard.
She said she was sold. She was a cook and she raised my papa up with white
folks. Her children was sold with her. Papa was sold too at the same time. Papa
fired a steam gin. They ground corn and ginned cotton.
"I stayed with Sam Hall's family. She was good to me. I had a small bed by
the fireplace. She kept me with two of her own children. Some of the girls and
boys I was raised up with live at Sanitobia now and have fine homes. When we
would be playing they would take all the toys from me. Miss Fannie would say,
'Poor Nancy ain't got no toys.' Then they would put them on the floor and we
would all play. They had a little table. We all eat at it. We had our own
plates. We all eat out of tin plates and had tin cups.
"They couldn't keep me at home when papa married. I slipped off across the
pasture. There was cows and hogs in there all the time. I wasn't afraid of them.
I would get behind Miss Fannie and hide in her dress tail when they come after
me. They let me stay most of the time for about five years. Sam Hall was good to
my father and Miss Fannie about raised me after my mother died. She made me mind
but she was good to me.
"Grandma lived with papa. She was part Indian. As long as papa lived he share
cropped and ginned. He worked as long as he was able to hit a lick. He died four
miles east out from Sanitobia on Mr. Hayshaws place. What I told you is what I
know. He said he was sold that one time. Hubbards had plenty to eat and wear. He
was a boy and they didn't want to stunt the children. Papa was a water boy and
filed the hoes for the chopping hands. He carried a file along with them hoeing
and would sharpen their hoes and fetch 'em water in their jugs. Aunt Sallie, his
sister, took keer of the children.
"Papa went to the War. He could blow his bugle and give all the war signals.
He got the military training. Him and his friend Charlie Grim used to step
around and show us how they had to march to orders. His bugle had four joints. I
don't know what went with it. From what they said they didn't like the War and
was so glad to get home.
"Between the big farms they had worm fences (rail fences) and gates. You had
to get a pass from your master to go visiting. The gates had big chains and
locks on them. Some places was tollgates where they traveled over some man's
land to town. On them roads the man owned the place charged. He kept some boy to
open and shut the gate. They said the gates was tall.
"Some of the slaves that had hard masters run off and stay in the woods. They
had nigger dogs and would run them�catch 'em. He said one man (Negro) was
hollowing down back of the worm fence close to where they was working. They all
run to him. A great long coachwhip snake was wrapped 'round him, his arms and
all, and whooping him with its tail. It cut gashes like a knife and the blood
poured. The overseer cut the snake's head off with his big knife and they
carried him home bleeding. His master didn't whoop him, said he had no business
off in the woods. He had run off. His master rubbed salt in the gashes. It
nearly killed him. It burnt him so bad. That stopped the blood. They said sut
(soot) would stopped the blood but it would left black mark. The salt left white
marks on him. The salt helped kill the pison (poison). Some masters and
overseers was cruel. When they was so bad marked they didn't bring a good price.
They thought they was hard to handle.
"Aunt Jane Peterson, old friend of mine, come to visit me nearly every year
after she got so old. She told me things took place in slavery times. She was in
Virginia till after freedom. She had two girls and a boy with a white daddy. She
told me all about how that come. She said no chance to run off or ever get off,
you had to stay and take what come. She never got to marry till after freedom.
Then she had three more black children by her husband. She said she was the
cook. Old master say, 'Jane, go to the lot and get the eggs.' She was scared to
go and scared not to go. He'd beat her out there, put her head between the slip
gap where they let the hogs into the pasture from the lot down back of the barn.
She say, 'Old missis whip me. This ain't right.' He'd laugh. Said she bore three
of his children in a room in the same house his family lived in. She lived in
the same house. She had a room so as she could build fires and cook breakfast by
four o'clock sometimes, she said. She was so glad freedom come on and soon as
she heard it she took her children and was gone, she said. She had no use for
him. She was scared to death of him. She learned to pray and prayed for freedom.
She died in Cold Water, Mississippi. She was so glad freedom come on before her
children come on old enough to sell. Part white children sold for more than
black children. They used them for house girls.
"I don't know Ku Klux stories enough to tell one. These old tales leave my
mind. I'm 66 and all that was before my time.
"Times is strange�hard, too. But the way I have heard they had to work and do
and go I hardly ever do grumble. I've heard so much. I got children and I do the
best I can by them. That is all I can do or say."
oute 4, Box 68 (near Granite)
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
[HW: The Brooks-Baxter War]
"I was born in Little Rock along about Seventeenth and Arch Streets. There
was a big plantation there then. Dr. Wright owned the plantation. He owned my
mother and father. My father and mother told me that I was born in 1862. They
didn't know the date exactly, so I put it the last day in the year and call it
December 30, 1862.
"My father's name was William Anderson. He didn't go to the War because he
was blind. He was ignorant too. He was colored. He was a pretty good old man
when he died.
"My mother's name was Minerva Anderson. She was three-fourths Indian, hair
way down to her waist. I was in Hot Springs blacking boots when my mother died.
I was only about eight or ten years old then. I always regretted I wasn't able
to do anything for my mother before she died. I don't know to what tribe her
"Dr. Wright was awful good to his slaves.
"I don't know just how freedom came to my folks. I never heard my father say.
They were set free, I know. They were set free when the War ended. They never
bought their freedom.
"We lived on Tenth and near to Center in a one-room log house. That is the
earliest thing I remember. When they moved from there, my father had accumulated
enough to buy a home. He bought it at Seventh and Broadway. He paid cash for
it�five hundred and fifty dollars. That is where we all lived until it was sold.
I couldn't name the date of the sale but it was sold for good money�about three
thousand eight hundred dollars, or maybe around four thousand. I was a young man
"I remember the Brooks-Baxter War.
"I remember the King White fooled a lot of niggers and armed them and brought
them up here. The niggers and Republicans here fought them and run them back
where they come from.
"I know Hot Springs when the main street was a creek. I can't remember when I
first went there. The government bath-house was called 'Ral Hole', because it
was mostly people with bad diseases that went there.
"After the War, my father worked for a rich man named Hunter. He was yardman
and took care of the horse. My mother was living then.
"Scipio Jones and I were boys together. We slept on pool tables many a time
when we didn't have no other place to sleep. He was poor when he was a boy and
glad to get hold of a dime, or a nickel. He and I don't speak today because he
robbed me. I had a third interest in my place. I gave him money to buy my place
in for me. It was up for sale and I wanted to get possession. He gave me some
papers to sign and when I found out what was happening, he had all my property.
My wife kept me from killing him."
Occupation: Grocer, bartender, porter, general work
3815 W. Second Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
"I don't know when I was born. When the Civil War ended, I was bout four or
five years old.
"I jes' remember when the people come back�the soldiers�when the War ended.
We chillun run under the house. That was the Yankees.
"I was born in Bibb County, Georgia. That's where I was bred and born.
"I been in Arkansas ever since I was fourteen. That was shortly after the
Civil War, I reckon. We come here when they was emigratin' to Arkansas. I'm
tellin' you the truth, I been here a long time.
"I member when the soldiers went by and we chillun run under the house. It
was the Yankee cavalry, and they made so much noise. Dat's what the old folks
told us. I member dat we run under the house and called our self hidin'.
"My master was Madison Newsome and my missis was Sarah Newsome. Named after
her? Must a done it. Ma and her chillun was out wallowin' in the dirt when the
Yankees come by. Sometimes I stayed in the house with my white folks all
"My mother and father say they was well treated. That's what they say.
"Old folks didn't low us chillun round when they was talkin' bout their
business, no ma'am.
"We stayed with old master a good while after freedom�till they commenced
emigratin' from Georgia to Arkansas. Yes ma'am!
"I'm the mother of fourteen chillun�two pairs of twins. I married young�bout
fifteen or sixteen, I reckon. I married a young fellow. I say we was just chaps.
After he died, I married a old settled man and now he's dead.
"I been livin' a pretty good life. Seems like the white folks just didn't
want me to get away from their chillun.
"All my chillun dead cept one son. He was a twin."
Holly Grove, Arkansas
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I was born near Decatur, Alabama and lived there till I was fifteen years
old. Course I members hearin' em talk bout Mars Newt. I named fur my ma's old
mistress�Miss Selie Thompson and Mars Newt Thompson. Pa died when I was three
years old. He was a soldier. Ma had seven children. They have bigger families
then than they have now. Ma name Emmaline Thompson. Pa name Sam Adair. I can't
tell you about him. I heard em say his pa was a white man. He was light skinned.
Old folks didn't talk much foe children so I don't know well nough to tell you
bout him. Ma was a cook and a licensed midwife in Alabama. She waited on both
black and white. Ma never staid at home much. She worked out. I come to
Mississippi after I married and had one child. Ma and all come. Ma went to Tom
McGehee's to cook after freedom. She married old man named Lewis Chase and they
worked on where he had been raised. His name was Lewis Sprangle. He looked after
the stock and drove the carriage. Daniel Sprangle had a store and a big farm. He
had three girls and three boys, I was their house girl. Mama lived on the place
and give me to em cause they could do better part by me than she could. I was
six years old when she give me to em. They lernt me to sweep, knit, crochet,
piece quilts. She lernt her children thater way sometimes. Miss Nancy Sprangle
didn't treat me no different from her own girls. Miss Dora married Mr. Pitt
Loney and I was dressed up and held up her train (long dress and veil). I stayed
with Miss Dora after she married. One of the girls married Mr. John Galbreth. I
married and went home then come to Mississippi. Mrs. Gables, Mr. Gables was old
people but they had two adopted boys. I took them boys to the field to work wid
my children. She sewed for me and my children. Her girls cooked all we et in
busy times. They done work at the house but they didn't work in the field.
"I been married five times. Every time I married I married at home. Mighty
little marryin' goin' on now�mighty little. Mama stayed wid Mr. Sprangle till we
all got grown. Miss Nancy's girls married so that all the way I knowd how to do.
I had a good time. I danced every chance I got. I been well blessed all my life
till I'm gettin' feeble now.
"Papa run the gin on Mr. Sprangle's place, then he went to war, come back foe
he died. I recken he come home sick cause he died pretty soon.
"I jess can member this Ku Klux broke down our door wid hatchets. It scared
us all to death. They didn't do nuthin' to us. They was huntin' Uncle Jeff. He
wasn't bout our house. He was ox driver fer Mr. Sprangle. Him and a family of
pore white folks got to fussin' bout a bridle. Some of em was dressed up when
they come to our house ma said. After that Mr. Kirby killed him close to his
home startin' out one mornin' to work. His name was Uncle Jeff Saxon. Ma knowd
it was some of the men right on Mr. Sprangle's place whut come to our house.
"I live wid my daughter. I get $8 from the Welfare.
"If they vote for better it be all right. I never seen no poles. I don't know
how they vote. I'm too old to start up votin'.
"Lawd you got me now. The times changed and got so fast. It all beyond me. I
jes' listens. I don't know whut goner happen to this young generation."
W.A. Anderson (dark
3200 W. 18th Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Occupation: House and yard man
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
"I don't know nothin' about slavery. You know I wouldn't know nothin' bout it
cause I was only four years old when the war ended. All I know is I was born in
slavery; but I don't know nothin' bout it.
"I don't remember nothin' of my parents. Times was all confused and old folks
didn't talk before chilun. They didn't have time. Besides, my mother and father
"I was born in Arkansas and have lived here all my life. But I don't gossip
and entertain. I just moved in this house last week. Took a wheelbarrow and
brought all these things here myself.
"Those boys out there jus' threw a stone against the house. I thought the
house was falling. I work all day and when night comes, I'm tired.
"I don't have no wife, no children, nothin'; nobody to help me out. I don't
ask the neighbors nothin' cept to clear out this junk they left here.
"I ain't goin' to talk about the Ku Klux. I got other things to think about.
It takes all my time and strength to do my work and live a Christian. Folks got
so nowadays they don't care bout nothin'. I just live here and serve the
Anderson is separated from his wife who left him. He lost his home a short
time ago. A few months ago, he was so sick he was expected to die. He supports
himself through the friendliness of a few white people who give him odds and
ends of work to do.
I made three calls on him, helped him set up his stoves and his beds and
clear up his house a little bit since he had just moved into it and had a good
deal of work to do. His misfortunes have made him unwilling to talk just now,
but he will give a good interview later I am certain.
R.F.D. #1 Biscoe, Arkansas
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
"I was born at Jackson, North Carolina. My master and mistress named Betsy
and Jason Williams but my pa's name was Anthony. My young master was a orderly
seargent. He took me wid him to return some mules and wagons. He showed me what
he want done an I followed him round wid wagons. The wagons hauled ammunition
and provisions. Pa worked for the master and ma cooked. They got sold to Lausen
Capert. When freedom come they went back and stayed a month or two at Williams
then we all went back to John Odom. We stayed round close and farmed and worked
till they died. I married and when I had four or five children I heard ob dis
country. I come on immigration ticket to Mr. Aydelott here at Biscoe. Train full
of us got together and come. One white man got us all up and brought us here to
Biscoe. I farmed for Mr. Aydelott four or five years, then for Mr. Bland, Mr.
"I never went to school a day in my life. I used to vote here in Biscoe right
smart. I let the young folks do my votin. They can tell more about it. I sho do
not think it is the woman's place to vote an hold all the jobs from the men.
Iffen you don't in the Primary cause you don't know nuf to pick out a man, you
sho don't know nuthin er tall bout votin in the General lection. In fact it
ain't no good to our race nohow.
"The whole world gone past my judgment long ago. I jess sets round to see
what they say an do next. It is bad when you caint get work you able to do on
that's hard on the old folks. I could saved. I did save right smart. Sickness
come on. Sometimes you have a bad crop year, make nuthin, but you have to live
on. Young folks don't see no hard times if they keep well an able to work.
"I get commodities and $6 a month. I do a little if I can.
"One time my son bought a place fo me and him. He paid all cept $70. I don't
know whut it cost now. It was 47 acres. I worked on it three years. He sold it
and went to the sawmill. He say he come out square on it. I didn't wanter sell
it but he did."
815 W. Thirteenth, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
"I am eighty years old. My name 'fore I was a Arbery was Baxter. My mother
was a Baxter. Born in Union County.
"My mother's first people was Baxter and my grandmother was a Baxter and they
just went by that name; she never did change her name.
"The boss man (that was what they called our master) his name was Paul McCall.
He was married twice. His oldest son was Jim McCall. He was in the War. Yes
ma'am, the Civil War.
"Paul McCall raised me up with his chillun and I never did call him master,
just called him pappy, and Jim McCall, I called him brother Jim. Just raised us
all up there in the yard. My grandmother was the cook.
"There wasn't no fightin' in Union County but I 'member when the Yankees was
goin' through and singin'
'The Union forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah
We'll rally 'round the flag, boys,
the battle cry of freedom.'
(She sang this-ed.)
And I 'member this one good:
'Old buckwheat cakes and good strong butter
To make your lips go flip, flip,
Look away, look away, look away, Dixie land.'
"Pappy used to play that on his fiddle and have us chillun tryin' to dance.
Used to call us chillun and say, 'You little devils, come up here and dance' and
have us marchin'.
"My cousin used to be a quill blower. Brother Jim would cut fishin' canes and
plat 'em together (they called 'em a pack) five in a row, just like my fingers.
Anybody that knowed how could sure make music on 'em. Tom Rollins, that was my
baby uncle, he was a banjo picker.
"I can remember a heap a things that happened, but 'bout slavery, I didn't
know one day from another. They treated us so nice that when they said freedom
come, I thought I was always free.
"I heered my grandmother talk about sellin' 'em, but I was just a little kid
and I didn't know what they was talkin' about. I heered 'em say, 'Did you know
they sold Aunt Sally away from her baby?' I heered 'em talkin', I know that
"After freedom, our folks stayed right on Paul McCall's place. My grandmother
cooked for the McCalls till I was eight or nine years old, then she cooked for
the McCrays ( they was all relatives) till I was twenty-one. Then I married.
"Paul McCall first married in the Baxter family and then he married into the
McCray family. I lived on the McCall place till I was grown. They all come from
Alabama. Yes'm, they come befo' the war was.
"Chillun in dem days paid attention. People raised chillun in dem
days. Folks just feeds 'em now and lets 'em grow up.
"I looks at the young race now and they is as wise as rabbits.
"I never went to school but three months, but I never will forget that old
blue back McGuffey's. Sam Porter was our teacher and I was scared of him. I was
so scared I couldn't learn nothin'.
"As far as I can remember I have been treated nice everywhere I been. Ain't
none of the white folks ever mistreated me.
"Lord, we had plenty to eat in slavery days, and freedom days too.
"One time when my mother was cookin' for Colonel Morgan and my oldest brother
was workin' some land, my mother always sent me over with a bucket of milk for
him. So one day she say. 'Snooky, come carry your brother's milk and hurry so he
can have it for dinner.' I was goin' across a field; that was a awful deer
country. I had on a red dress and was goin' on with my milk when I saw a old
buck lookin' at me. All at once he went 'whu-u-u', and then the whole drove come
up. There was mosely trees (I think she must have meant mimosa-ed.) in the field
and I run and climbed up in one of 'em. A mosely tree grows crooked; I don't
care how straight you put it in the ground, it's goin' to grow crooked. So I
climb up in the mosely tree and begin to yell. My brother heard me and come
'cause he knowed what was up. He used to say, 'Now, Snipe, when you come 'cross
that mosely field, don't you wear that old red dress 'cause they'll get you down
and tear that dress off you.' I liked the dress 'cause he had give it to me. I
had set the milk down at the foot of the tree and it's a wonder they didn't
knock it over, but when my brother heard me yell he come a runnin', with a gun
and shot one of the deer. I got some of the venison and he give some to Colonel
Morgan, his boss man. Colonel Morgan had fought in the war.
"The reason I can't tell you no more is, since I got old my mind goes this
and that a way.
"But I can tell you all the doctors that doctored on me. They give me up to
die once. I had the chills from the first of one January to the next We had Dr.
Chester and Dr. McCray and Dr. Lewis (his name was Perry) and Dr. Green and Dr.
Smead. Took quinine till I couldn't hear, and finally Dr. Green said, 'We'll
just quit givin' her medicine, looks like she's goin' to die anyway.' And then
Dr. Lewis fed me for three weeks steady on okra soup cooked with chicken. Just
give me the broth. Then I commenced gettin' better and here I am.
"But I can't work like I used to. When I was young I could work right along
with the men but I can't do it now. I wish I could 'cause they's a heap a things
I'd like that my chillun and grandchillun can't get for me.
"Well, good-bye, come back again sometime."
802 Schiller Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
"I couldn't tell you when I was born. I was born a good while before freedom.
I was a boy about ten years old in the time of the Civil War. That would make me
about eighty-five or six years old.
"My father's name was Cy Armstrong. My mother's name was Gracie Armstrong. I
don't know the names of my grandparents. They was gone when I got here. My
sister died right there in the corner of the next room.
House and Furniture
"I used to live in an old log house. Take dirt and dob the cracks. The floors
were these here planks. We had two windows and one door. That was in Georgia, in
Houston County, on old Dempsey Brown's place. I know him�know who dug his
"They had beds nailed up to the side of the house. People had a terrible time
you know. White folks had it all. When I come along they had it and they had it
ever since I been here. You didn't have no chance like folks have nowadays. Just
made benches and stools to sit on. Made tables out of planks. I never saw any
cupboards and things like that. Them things wasn't thought about then. The house
was like a stable then. But them log houses was better than these 'cause the
wind couldn't get through them.
Work as a Boy
"I wasn't doin' nothin' but totin' water. I toted water for a whole year when
I was a boy about eight years old. I was the water boy for the field hands.
Later I worked out in the fields myself. They would make me sit on my mammy's
row to help keep her up.
"You better not say you were free them days. If you did, they'd tell you to
get out of there. You better not stop on this side of the Mason Dixie Line
either. You better stop on the other side. Whenever a nigger got so he couldn't
mind, they'd take him down and whip him. They'd whip the free niggers just the
same as they did the slaves.
"You see that broom there? They just lay that broom down and step over it.
That was all the marriage they knowed about.
"The boys used to just get down and raise a holler and shuck that corn. Man,
they had fun! They sure liked to go to those corn shuckings. They danced and
went on. They'd give 'em whiskey too. That's all I know about it.
"They'd weigh the stuff out and give it to you and you better not go back.
They'd give you three pounds of meat and a quart of meal and molasses when
they'd make it. Sometimes they would take a notion to give you something like
flour. But you had to take what they give you. They give out the rations every
Saturday. That was to last you a week.
"I was at a ball one night. They had fence rails in the fire. Patroller
knocked at the door, stepped in and closed it behind him. Nigger pulled a rail
out of the fire and stuck it 'gainst the patroller and that patroller stepped
aside and let that nigger get by. Niggers used to tie ropes across the road so
that the patrollers' horses would trip up.
"I never seed any mulattoes then. That thing is something that just come up.
Old Dempsey Brown, if he seed a white man goin' 'round with the nigger women on
his place, he run him away from there. But that's gwine on in the full now.
"That ought not to be. If God had wanted them people to mix, he'd have mixed
'em. God made 'em red and white and black. And I'm goin' to stay black. I ain't
climbed the fence yet and I won't climb it now. I don't know. I don't believe in
that. If you are white be white, and if you are black be black. Children need to
go out and play but these boys ought not to be 'lowed to run after these
"Your overseer carried their straps with them. They had 'em with 'em all the
time. Just like them white folks do down to the County Farm. Used to use a man
just like he was a beast. They'd make him lay down on the ground and whip him.
They'd had to shoot me down. That is the reason I tend to my business. If he
wouldn't lay down they'd call for help and strap him down and stretch him out.
Put one man on one arm and another on the other. They'd pull his clothes down
and whip the blood out of him. Them people didn't care what they done since they
didn't do right.
"When I first heard them talking about freedom, I didn't know what freedom
was. I was there standin' right up and looking at 'em when they told us we was
free. And master said, 'You all free now. You can go where you want to.'
"They never give you a thing when they freed you. They give you some work to
do. They never looked for nothin' only to go to work. The white folks always had
the best of it.
"When Abe Lincoln first freed 'em, they all stood together. If this one was
ill the others went over and sit up with him. If he needed something they'd
carry it to him. They don't do that now. They done well then. As soon as they
quit standing together then they had trouble.
"Fellow said to me, 'Campbell, I want you to split up them blocks and pile
'em up for me.' I said, 'What you goin' to pay me?' He said, 'I'll pay you what
is right.' I said, 'That won't do; you have to tell me what you goin' to give me
before I start to work.' And he said to me, 'You can git to hell out of
Selling and Buying Slaves
"They'd put you up on the block and sell you. That is just what they'd
do�sell you. These white folks will do anything,�anything they want to do.
They'd take your clothes off just like you was some kind of a beast.
"You used to be worth a thousand dollars then, but you're not worth two bits
now. You ain't worth nothin' when you're free.
"They used to come to my place in droves. Wagons would start coming in in the
morning and they wouldn't stop coming in till two or three in the evening.
They'd just be travelin' to keep out the way of the Yankees. They caught old
Jeff Davis over in Twiggs County. That's in Georgia. Caught him in Buzzard's
Roost. That was only about four or five miles from where I was. I was right down
yonder in Houston County. Twigg County and Houston County is adjoinin'. I never
saw any of the soldiers but they was following them though.
"I have seen plenty of niggers voting. I wasn't old enough to vote in
Georgia. I come in Arkansas and I found out how the folks used themselves and I
come out that business. They was selling themselves just like cattle and I
wouldn't have nothing to do with that.
"I knew Jerry Lawson, who was Justice of Peace. He was a nigger, a low-down
devil. Man, them niggers done more dirt in this city. The Republicans had this
city and state. I went to the polls and there was very few white folks there. I
knew several of them niggers�Mack Armstrong, he was Justice of Peace. I can't
call the rest of them. Nothing but old thieves. If they had been people, they'd
been honest. Wouldn't sell their brother. It is bad yet. They still stealin'
"That's another devil. Man, I'll tell you we seen terrible times. I don't
know nothing much about 'em myself. I know one thing. Abe Lincoln said, 'Kill
him wherever you see him.'
Self-Support and Support of Aged Slaves in Slave Times
"A white man asked me how much they givin' me. I said, 'Eight dollars.' He
said, 'You ought to be gittin' twenty-five.' I said, 'Maybe I ought to be but I
"I ain't able to do no work now. I ain't able to tote that wood hardly. I
don't git as much consideration as they give the slaves back yonder. They didn't
make the old people in slavery work when they was my age. My daddy when he was
my age, they turned him out. They give him a rice patch where he could make his
rice. When he died, he had a whole lot of rice. They stopped putting all the
slaves out at hard labor when they got old. That's one thing. White folks will
take care of their old ones. Our folks won't do it. They'll take a stick and
kill you. They don't recognize you're human. Their parents don't teach them.
Folks done quit teaching their children. They don't teach them the right thing
no more. If they don't do, then they ought to make them do.
"I been here about twenty years in Little Rock. I went and bought this place
and paid for it. Somebody stole seventy-five dollars from me right here in this
house. And that got me down. I ain't never been able to git up since.
"I paid a man for what he did for me. He said, 'Well, you owe me fifteen
cents.' When he got done he said, 'You owe me fifty cents.' You can't trust a
man in the city.
"I was living down in England. That's a little old country town. I come here
to Little Rock where I could be in a city. I done well. I bought this place.
"I reckon I lived in Arkansas about thirty years before I left and come here
to Little Rock. When I left Georgia, I come to Arkansas and settled down in
Lonoke County, made crops there. I couldn't tell you how long I stayed there. I
didn't keep no record of it at all. I come out of Lonoke County and went into
"Man, I was never in such shape as I am in now. That devilish stock law
killed me. It killed all the people. Nobody ain't been able to do nothin' since
they passed the stock law. I had seventy-five hogs and twenty cows. They made a
law you had to keep them chickens up, keep them hogs up, keep them cows up. They
shoots at every right thing, and the wrong things they don't shoot at. God don't
uphold no man to set you up in the jail when you ain't done nothin'. You didn't
have no privilege then (slave time), and you ain't got none now."
Cora Armstrong, colored.
Interviewer: Pernella Anderson, colored.
El Dorado Division
Federal Writers' Project
EX-SLAVE AND RIDDLES
"I was born in the Junction city community and belonged to the Cooks. I was
ten years old at surrender. Mother and father had 12 children and we lived in a
one room log cabin and cooked on a fireplace and oven. Mos and Miss Cook did not
allow ma and pa to whip me. When ever I do something and I knew I was going to
get a whipping I would make it to old Miss. She would keep me from getting that
whipping. I was a devilish boy. I would do everything in the world I could think
of just for devilment. Old mos was sure good to his slaves. I never went to
school a day in my life. Old Miss would carry me to church sometimes when it was
hot so we could fan for her. We used palmeter fan leaves for fans. We ate pretty
good in slavery time, but we did not have all of this late stuff. Some of our
dishes was possum stew, vegetables, persimmon pie and tato bread. Ma did not
allow us to sit around grown folks. When they were talking she always made us
get under the bed. Our bed was made from pine poles. We children slept on
pallets on the floor. The way slaves married in slavery time they jumped over
the broom and when they separated they jumped backward over the broom. Times
were better in slavery time to my notion than they are now because they did not
go hungry, neither necked. They ate common and wore one kind of clothes."
A duck, a bullfrog and a skunk went to a circus, the duck and the bullfrog
got in, why didn't the skunk get in?
(Answer). The duck had a bill, the bullfrog had a greenback but the skunk had
nothing but a scent.
If your father's sister is not your aunt what kin is she to you? (your
What is the difference between a four quart measure and a side saddle?
(Answer). They both hold a gallon. (a gal on)