Mrs. Henrietta Jackson, Fort Wayne resident, is distinguished for two reasons; she is a centennarian and an ex-slave. Residing with her daughter, Mrs. Jackson is very active and helps her daughter, who operates a restaurant, do some of the lighter work. At the time I called, an August afternoon of over 90 degrees temperature, Mrs. Jackson was busy sweeping the floor. A little, rather stooped, shrunken
body, Mrs. Jackson gets around slowly but without the aid of a cane or support of any kind. She wears a long dark cotton dress with a bandanaon her head with is now quite gray. Her skin is walnut brown her eyes peering brightly through the wrinkles. She is intelligent, alert, cordial, very much interested in all that goes on about her.
Just how old Mrs. Jackson is, she herself doesn't know, but she thinks she is about 105 years old. She looks much younger. Her youngest child is 73 and she had nine, two of whom were twins. Born a slave in Virginia, record of her birth was kept by the master. She cannot remember her father as he was soon sold after Mrs. Jackson's death [TR: birth?]. When still a child she was taken from her mother and sold. She remembers the auction block and that she brought a good price as she was strong and healthy. Her new master, Tom Robinson, treated her well and never beat her. At first she was a plough hand, working in the cotton fields, but then she was taken into the house to be a maid. While there the Civil War broke out. Mrs. Jackson remembers the excitement and the coming and going.
Gradually the family lost its wealth, the home was broken up. Everything was destroyed by the armies. Then came freedom for the slaves. But Mrs. Jackson stayed on with the master for awhile. After leaving she went to Alabama where she obtained work in a laundry "ironing white folks' collars and cuffs." Then she got married and in 1917 she came to live with her daughter in Fort Wayne. Her husband, Levy Jackson, has been dead 50 years. Of her children, only two are left. Mrs. Jackson is sometimes very lonesome for her old home in "Alabamy", where her friends lived, but for the most part, she is happy and contented.
(Source: Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with Former Slaves, North Carolina Narratives, Vol. XI, Part 2. Vol. XI,
Publ. 1941. The Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938. Library of Congress.
Contributed by Kim Paterson)