Slaves on Other Places
"I seen the slaves outside the colonies. I was little and didn't pay any attention to them. Slaves would run away. They had a class of white people known as patrollers. They would catch the slaves and whip them. I never saw that done. I heard them talking about it. I was only a child and never got a chance to see the slaves on the places of other people, but just heard the folks talking about them.
Within the Yankee Lines
"When the War broke out, the free colored people became fearful. There was a great deal of stuff taken away from them by the Confederate soldiers. They moved into the Yankee lines for protection. My family moved also. They lost live stock and feed. They lost only one horse and then they came back home. I can see that old horse right now. He was a sorrel horse, with a spot in his forehead, and his name was John. My father was inside the Yankee lines when he volunteered for the service. I don't know how much he got or anything about it except that I know the Yankees were holding Portsmouth, Norfolk, Hampton Roads, and all that country.
Expectations of the Slaves
"I could hear my mother and uncle talk about what the slaves expected. I know they was expecting to get something. They weren't supposed to be turned out like wild animals like they were. I think it was forty acres and a mule. I am not sure but I know they expected something to be settled on them.
What They Got
"If any of them got anything in Virginia, I don't know anything about it. They might have been some slaves that did get something—just like they was here in Arkansas.
"Old Man Wilfong, when he freed Andy Wilfong in Bradley County, Arkansas, gave Andy plenty. He did get forty acres of land. That is right down here out from Warren. Wilfong owned that land and a heap more when he died. He hasn't been dead more than six or seven years. I pastored him in 1904 and 1905. There were others who expected to get something, but I don't know any others that got it. Land was cheap then. Andy bought land at twenty-five and fifty cents an acre, and sold the timber off of it at the rate of one thousand dollars for each forty acres. He bought hundreds of acres. He owned a section and a section and one-half of land when he was my member. He had seven boys and two girls and he gave them all forty acres apiece when they married. Then he sold the timber off of four forties. Whenever a boy or girl was married he'd give him a house. He'd tell him to go out and pick himself out a place.
"He sold one hundred and sixty acres of timber for four thousand dollars, but if he had kept it for two years longer, he would have got ten thousand dollars for it. The Bradley Lumber Company went in there and cut the timber all through.
"Wilfong's master's name was Andrew Wilfong, same as Andy's. His master came from Georgia, but he was living in Arkansas when freedom came. Later on Andy bought the farm his master was living on when freedom came. His master was then dead.
Right After the War
"My mother came back home and we went on farming just like we did before, raising stuff to eat. You know I can't remember much that they did before the War but I can remember what they did during the War and after the War,—when they came back home. My folks still own the old place but I have been away from there sixty-one years. A whole generation has been raised up and died since I left.
"I came out with one of my cousins and went to Georgia (Du Pont) following turpentine work. It was turpentine farming. You could cut a hole in the tree known as the box. It will hold a quart. Rosin runs out of that tree into the box. Once a week, they go by and chip a tree to keep the rosin running. Then the dippers dip the rosin out and put it in barrels. Them barrels is hauled to the still. Then it is distilled just like whiskey would be. The evaporation of it makes turpentine; the rosin is barreled and shipped to make glass. The turpentine is barreled and sold. I have dipped thousands of gallons of turpentine.
"I came to South Carolina in 1880 and married. I stayed there seven years and came to Arkansas in 1888. I came right to North Little Rock and then moved out into the country around Lonoke County,—on a farm. I farmed there for five years. Then I went to pastoring. I started pastoring one year before I quit making cotton. I entered the ministry in 1892 and continued in the active service until November 1937. I put in forty-five years in the active ministry.
"I first went to school at a little log school in Suffolk, Virginia. From there I went to Hampton, Virginia. I got my theological training in Shorter College under Dr. T.H. Jackson.
"I never had any experience with the Ku Klux Klan. I seen white men riding horses and my mother said they was Ku Kluxes, but they never bothered us as I remember. They had two sets of white folks like that. The patrollers were before and during the War and the Ku Klux Klan came after the War. I can't remember how the Ku Klux I saw were dressed. The patrollers I remember. They would just be three or four white men riding in bunches.
Nat Turner Rebellion
"I have heard the 'Nat Turner Rebellion' spoken of, but I don't know what was said. I think the old people called it the 'Nat Turner War.'
"Lawyer Whipper was one of the best criminal lawyers in the state. He was a Negro. The Republican party had the state then and the Negroes were strong. Robert Small was a noted politician and was elected to go to Congress twice. The last time he ran, he was elected but had a hard fight. The election was so close it was contested but Small won out. He was the last nigger congressman. I heard that there were one or two more, but I don't remember them.
"When I first went to South Carolina, them niggers was bad. They organized. They used to have an association known as the Union Laborers, I think. The organization was like the fraternal order. I don't know's they ever had any trouble but they were always in readiness to protect themselves if any conflict arose. It was a secret order carried on just like any other fraternal order. They had distress calls. Every member has an old horn which he blew in time of trouble. I think that sane kind of organization or something like it was active here when I came. The Eagles (a big family of white people in Lonoke County) had a fight with members of it once and some of the Eagles were killed a year or two before I came to this state.
Voting and Political Activities
"I voted in South Carolina, but I wasn't old enough to vote in Georgia. However, I stumped Taliaferro County for Garfield when I was in Georgia. I lived in a little town by the name of McCray. The town I was in, they had never had more than fifteen or twenty Republican votes polled. But I polled between two hundred and three hundred votes. I was one of the regular speakers. The tickets were in my care too. You see, they had tickets in them days and not the long ballots. They didn't have long ballots like they have now. The tickets were sent to me and I took care of them until the election. In the campaign I was regularly employed through the Republican Campaign Committee Managers.
"According to preparation and conditions there were less corruption then than there is now. In them days, they had to learn the tricks. But now they know them. Now you find the man and he already knows what to do.
"Back in that period, nearly all the songs the Negro sang considerably were the spirituals: 'I'm Going Down to Jordan,' 'Roll Jordan Roll.'"
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: J.F. Boone 1502 Izard, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 66
[HW: A Union Veteran]
"My father's name was Arthur Boone and my mother's name was Eliza Boone, I am goin' to tell you about my father. Now be sure you put down there that this is Arthur Boone's son. I am J.F. Boone, and I am goin' to tell you about my father, Arthur Boone.
"My father's old master was Henry Boone. My mother came from Virginia—north Virginia—and my father came from North Carolina. The Boones bought them. I have heard that my father, Arthur Boone, was bought by the Boones. They wasn't his first masters. I have heard my father say that it was more than a thousand dollars they paid for him.
"He said that they used to put up niggers on the block and auction them off. They auctioned off niggers accordin' to the breed of them. Like they auction off dogs and horses. The better the breed, the more they'd pay. My father was in the first-class rating as a good healthy Negro and those kind sold for good money. I have heard him say that niggers sometimes brought as high as five thousand dollars.
"My father don't know much about his first boss man. But the Boones were very good to them. They got biscuits once a week. The overseer was pretty cruel to them in a way. My father has seen them whipped till they couldn't stand up and then salt and things that hurt poured in their wounds. My father said that he seen that done; I don't know whether it was his boss man or the overseer that done it.
"My father said that they breeded good niggers—stud 'em like horses and cattle. Good healthy man and woman that would breed fast, they would keep stalled up. Wouldn't let them get out and work. Keep them to raise young niggers from. I don't know for certain that my father was used that way or not. I don't suppose he would have told me that, but he was a mighty fine man and he sold for a lot of money. The slaves weren't to blame for that.
"My father said that in about two or three months after the War ended, his young master told them that they were free. They came home from the War about that time. He told them that they could continue living on with them or that they could go to some one else if they wanted to 'cause they were free and there wasn't any more slavery.
"I was born after slavery. Peace was declared in 1865, wasn't it? When the War ended I don't know where my father was living, but I was bred and born in Woodruff near Augusta in Arkansas. All the Booneses were there when I knew anything about it. They owned hundreds and hundreds of acres of ground. I was born on old Captain Boone's farm.
"My father was always a farmer. He farmed till he died. They were supposed to give him a pension, but he never did get it. They wrote to us once or twice and asked for his number and things like that, but they never did do nothing. You see he fit in the Civil War. Wait a minute. We had his old gun for years. My oldest brother had that gun. He kept that gun and them old blue uniforms with big brass buttons. My old master had a horn he blowed to call the slaves with, and my brother had that too. He kept them things as particular as you would keep victuals.
"Yes, my father fit in the Civil War. I have seen his war clothes as many times as you have hairs on your head I reckon. He had his old sword and all. They had a hard battle down in Mississippi once he told me. Our house got burnt up and we lost his honorable discharge. But he was legally discharged. But he didn't git nothin' for it, and we didn't neither.
"My father was whipped by the pateroles several times. They run him and whipped him. My daddy slipped out many a time. But they never caught him when he slipped out. They never whipped him for slippin' out. That was during the time he was a slave. The slaves wasn't allowed to go from one master to another without a pass. My father said that sometimes, his young master would play a joke on him. My father couldn't read. His young master would give him a pass and the pass would say, 'Whip Arthur Boone's —- and pass him out. When he comes back, whip his —- again and pass him back.' His young master called hisself playin' a joke on him. They wouldn't hit him more than half a dozen licks, but they would make him take his pants down and they would give them to him jus' where the pass said. They wouldn't hurt him much. It was more devilment than anything else. He would say, 'Whut you hittin' me for when I got a pass?' and they would say, 'Yes, you got a pass, but it says whip your —-.' And they would show it to him, and then they would say, 'You'll git the res' when you come back.' My father couldn't read nothin' else, but that's one word he learnt to read right well.
"My father was quite a young man in his day. He died in 1891. He was just fifty-six years old. I'm older now than he was when he died. My occupation when I was well was janitor. I have been sick now for three years and ain't done nothin' in all that time. If it wasn't for my wife, I don't know whut I would do.
"I was born in 1872, on December the eighth, and I am sixty-six years old now. That is, I will be if the Lord lets me live till December the eighth, this year.
"Now whose story are you saying this is? You say this is the story of Arthur Boone, father of J.F. Boone? Well, that's all right; but you better mention that J.F. Boone is Arthur Boone's son. I rent this house from Mr. Lindeman. He has the drug store right there. If anybody comes lookin' for me, I might be moved, but Mr. Lindeman will still be there."
If you have read this interview hastily and have missed the patroller joke on page three, turn back and read it now. The interviewer considers it the choicest thing in the story.
That and the story of an unpensioned Union veteran and the insistence on the word "son" seemed to me to set this story off as a little out of the ordinary.
Interviewer: Mrs. Annie L. LaCotts Person interviewed: Jonas Boone, St, Charles. Arkansas Age: 86
Most any day in St. Charles you can see an old Negro man coming down the street with a small sack made of bed ticking hanging shot-pouch fashion from his shoulder. This is old Uncle Jonas Boone who by the aid of his heavy cane walks to town and makes the round of his white folks homes to be given some old shoes, clothes, or possibly a mess of greens or some sweet potatoes—in fact whatever he may find.
"Jonas, can you remember anything about the war or slavery time?"
"Yes mam I was a great big boy when the slaves were sot free."
"Do you know how old you are?"
"Yes mam I will be 87 years old on March 15th. I was born in Mississippi at Cornerville. My mother belonged to Mr. L.D. Hewitt's wife. She didn't have many slaves—just my parents and my two uncles and their families. My daddy and two uncles went to the war but our mistress' husband Mr. Hewitt was too old to go. I guess my daddy was killed in de war, for he never come home when my uncles did. We lived here in Arkansas close to St. Charles. Our mistress was good to her slaves but when they were free her husband had got himself drowned in big LaGrue when de water was high all over the bottoms and low ground; he was trying to cross in a boat, what you call a dug out. You know it's a big log scooped out till it floats like a boat. Then after that our mistress wanted to go back to her old home in Mississippi and couldn't take us with her cause she didn't have any money, so we stayed here. My mammy cried days and nights when she knew her mistress was going to leave her here in Arkansas. We moved down on de Schute and worked for Mr. Mack Price. You know he was Mr. Arthur's and Miss Joe's father."
"Jonas, if your owners were Hewitts why is your name Boone?"
"Well you see, miss, my daddy's daddy belonged to Mr. Daniel Boone, Mr. John Boone's and Miss Mary Black's grandpa, and I was named Boone for him, my granddaddy. I been married twice. My last wife owns her home out close to de church west of St. Charles. I haven't been able to work any for over two years but my wife makes us a living. She's 42 or 43 years old and a good worker and a good woman. I've been all de time wanting some of this help other folks been getting but dey won't give me nothing. The woman what goes to your house to see if you needs relief told me I was better off den most folks an' of course I know I'd rather have my wife and home than have to be like lots of dese niggers who's old and can't work and got nothing but what de Government give 'em."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person Interviewed: John Bowdry, Clarendon, Arkansas Age: 75
"I was born at Baldwyn, Mississippi not for from Corinth. When my mother was last seen she was going away with a bunch of Yankees. I don't know what it was. She was a dark woman. Pa was light. I was born in 1865. I was left when I was two or three months old. I never seen no pa. They left me with my uncle what raised me. He was a slave but too young to go to war. His master was named Porter. Master Stevenson had sold him. He liked Porter the best. He took the name of Stanfield Porter at freedom. Porters had a ordinary farm. He wasn't rich. He had a few slaves. Stevenson had a lot of slaves. Grandfather was in Charleston, South Carolina. Him and my uncle corresponded. My uncle learnet to read and write but I guess somebody done his writing for him at the other end.
"My Uncle Stanfield seen a heap of the War. He seen them fight, come by in droves a mile long. They wasted their feed and living too.
"At freedom Master Porter told them about it and he lived on there a few years till I come into recollection. I found out about my pa and mother. They had three sets of children in the house. They was better to them. All of them got better treatment 'en I did. One day I left. I'd been making up my mind to leave. I was thirteen years old. Scared of everything. I walked twenty miles to Middleton, Tennessee. I slept at the state line at some stranger's but at black folks' house. I walked all day two days. I got a job at some white folks good as my parents. His name wae J.D. Palmer. He was a big farmer. I slept in a servant's house and et in his own kitchen. He sont me to school two two-month terms. Four months all I got. I got my board then four months. I got my board and eight dollars a month the other months in the year. He died.
"I come to Forrest City when I was twenty years old.
"I been married. I got a girl lives wid me here. My girl, she married.
"I ain't got no complaint again' the times. My life has been fair. I worked mighty hard."
Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson Subject: Ex-Slave—History
This information given by: Jack Boyd Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas Occupation: Light jobs now. AGE: 72 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
[HW: The Boyd Negroes]
Jack Boyd was born a slave. Miss Ester's mother was a Boyd and married a Donnahoo. Miss Ester Donnahoo married Jim Shed. The Boyd's lived in Richmond, Virginia. They sold Jack Boyd's grandmother, grandfather, mother, and father a number of times. One time they were down, in Georgia not far from Atalnta. They were being ill treated. The new master had promised to be good to them so he wasn't and the news had gotten back to Virginia as it had a time or two before so the Boyds sent to Georgia and brought them back and took them back home to Virginia. The Boyds always asked the new masters to be good to them but no one was never so good to them as the Boyds were, and they would buy them back again. When freedom was declared three of the Boyd brothers and Miss Ester's husband Jim Shed, was the last master of Charlie Boyd. Jack's father came to Waco, Texas. They may have been there before for they were "big ranchmen" but that is when Jack Boyds whole family came to Texas. There were thirty six in his family. The families then were large. When Jack grew up to be about ten years old there wasn't anything much at Waco except a butcher shop and a blacksmith shop. Jim Shed alone had 1800 acres of land his own. He used nine cowboys, some white and some black. The first of January every year the cattle was ready to be driven to Kansas City to market. They all rode broncos. It would rain, sometimes hail and sometimes they would get into thunder storms. The cattle would stampede, get lost and have to be found.
They slept in the open plains at night. They had good clothes. They would ride two or three weeks and couldn't get a switch. Finally in about June or July they would get into Kansas City. The white masters were there waiting and bought food and supplies to take back home. They would have started another troop of cowboys with cattle about June and meet them in Kansas City just before Christmas. Jack liked this life except it was a hard life in bad weather. They had a good living and the Masters made "big money." Jack said he always had his own money then. His people are scattered around Waco now, "the Boyd negroes." He hasn't been back since he came to Arkansas when he was about eighteen. He married here and had "raised" a big family. The plains were full of rattle snakes, rabbits, wild cats and lots of other wild animals. They never started out with less than 400 head of cattle. They picked cattle that would travel about together. It would all be grown or about the same age. The worst thing they had to contend with was a lack of water. They had to carry water along and catch rainwater and hunt places to water the cattle. His father's and grandfather's masters names were Gillis, Hawkins, and Sam Boyd. They were the three who came to Texas and located the ranch at Waco. Jack thinks they have been dead a long time but they have heirs around Waco now. Jack Boyd left Waco in 1881.
Circumstances Of Interview
NAME OF WORKER—Bernice Bowden
ADDEESS—1006 Oak Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
DATE—November 2, 1938
1. Name and address of informant—Mal Boyd, son of slaves
2. Date and time of interview—November 1, 1938, 9:45 a.m.
3. Place of interview—101 Miller Street
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with informant—None. I saw him sitting on porch as I walked along.
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you—None
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.—Frame house. Sat on porch. Yard clean—everything neat. Near foundry on graveled street in suburbs of west Pine Bluff.
Text of Interview
"Papa belonged to Bill Boyd. Papa said he was his father and treated him just like the rest of his children. He said Bill Boyd was an Irishman. I know papa looked kinda like an Irishman—face was red. Mama was about my color. Papa was born in Texas, but he came to Arkansas. I member hearin' him say he saw 'em fight six months in one place, down here at Marks' Mill. He said Bill Boyd had three sons, Urk and Tom and Nat. They was in the Civil War. I heered Tom Boyd say he was in behind a crew of men in the war and a Yankee started shootin' and when he shot down the last one next to Tom, he seen who it was doin' the shootin' and he shot him and saved his life. He was the hind one.
"I've farmed mostly and sawmilled.
"I use to get as high as three and five dollars callin' figgers for the white folks."
NAME OF WORKER—Bernice Bowden
NAME AND ADDRESSS OF INFORMANT—Mal Boyd, 101 Miller Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Subscribes to the Daily Graphic and reads of world affairs. Goes to a friend's house and listens to the radio. Lives with daughter and is supported by her. House belongs to a son-in-law. Wore good clothing and was very clean. He hoped that the United States would not become involved in a war.
Personal History of Informant
NAME OF WORKER—Bernice Bowden
ADDRESS—1006 Oak Street
DATE—November 2, 1938
NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT—Mal Boyd, 101 Miller Street, Pine Bluff, Ark.
1. Ancestry—Father, Tol Boyd; Mother, Julia Dangerfield.
2. Place and date of birth—Cleveland County, August 4, 1873
3. Family—Lives with daughter. Has one other daughter. Mother one-half Indian, born in Alabama, he thinks.
4. Places lived in, with dates—Ouachita County, Dallas County. Bradley County, Jefferson County.
5. Education, with dates—Began schooling in 1880 and went until twelve or thirteen.
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates—Farmed till 21, public work? Sawmill work.
7. Special skills and interests—None
8. Community and religious activities—Ward Chapel on West Sixth.
9. Description of informant—Gray hair, height 5 ft. 9 in., high cheekbones. Gray hair—practically straight says like father.
10. Other points gained in interview—Says father was part Irish. Belonged to Bill Boyd. Stayed there for years after freedom.
Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson Subject: EX-SLAVE—HISTORY—OLD SAYINGS
This information given by: George Braddox Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas Occupation: Farmer AGE: 80 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
George Braddox was born a slave but his mother being freed when he was eipht years old they went to themselves—George had one sister and one brother. He doesn't know anything about them but thinks they are dead as he is the youngest of the three. His father's name was Peter Calloway He went with Gus Taylor to the war and never came back to his family. George said he had been to Chicago several times to see his father where he was living. But his mother let her children go by that name. She gave them a name Braddox when they were freed. Calloways lived on a joining plantation to John and Dave Gemes. John Gemes was the old master and Dave the young. George said they were mean to him. He can remember that Gus Taylor wes overseer for the Gemes till he went to war. The Gemes lived in a brick house and the slaves lived in log houses. They had a big farm and raised cotton and corn. The cotton was six feet tall and had big leaves. They had to pull the leaves to let the bowls get the sun to open. They topped the cotton too. They made lots of cotton and corn to an acre. Dave Gemes had several children when George moved away, their names were Ruben, John, Margaret, Susie and Betty. They went to school at Marshall, Texas.
John Gemes had fine carriages, horses and mules. He had one old slave who just milked and churned. She didn't do anything else. When young calves had to be attended to somebody else had to help her and one man did all the feeding. They had lots of peafowles, ducks, geese and chickens.
They had mixed stock of chickens and guineas—always had a drove of turkeys. Sometimes the turkeys would go off with wild turkeys. There were wild hogs and turkeys in the woods. George never learned to read or write. He remembers they built a school for white children on the Calloway place joining the Gemes place but he thought it was tuition school. George said he thought the Gemes and all his "kin" folks came from Alabama to Texas, but he is not sure but he does know this. Dr. Hazen came from Tennessee to Texas and back to Hazen, Arkansas and settled. His cousin Jane Hodge (colored) was working out near here and he came here to deer hunt and just stayed with them. He said deer was plentiful here. It was not cleared and so close to White Cache, St. Francis and Mississippi rivers.
George said his mother cooked for the Gemes the first he could remember of her. That was all she had time to do. It was five miles to Marshall. They lived in Harrison County and they could buy somethings to eat there if they didn't raise enough. They bought cheese by the cases in round boxes and flour in barrels and sugar in barrels. They had fine clothes for Sunday. After his mother left the Gemes they worked in the field or did anything she could for a living.
George married after he came to Arkansas and bought a farm 140 acres of land 4 miles north of Hazen and a white man, — —- closed a mortgage out on him and took it. He paid $300.00 for a house in town in which he now lives. His son was killed in the World War and he gets his son's insurance every month.
George said when he came to Arkansas it was easy to live if you liked to hunt. Ship the skins and get some money when you couldn't be farming. Could get all the wood you would cut and then clear out land and farm. He hunted 7 or 8 years with Colonel A.F. Yopp and fed Colonel's dogs. He hunted with Mr. Yopp but he didn't think Colonel was a very good man. I gathered from George that he didn't approve of wickedness.
It is bad luck to dig a grave the day before a person is buried, or any time before the day of the burying. Uncle George has dug or helped to dig lots of graves. It is bad luck to the family of the dead person. The grave ought not to be "left open" it is called. He has always heard this and believes it, yet he can't remember when he first heard it.
He thinks there are spirits that direct your life and if you do wrong the evil fates let you be punished. He believes in good and evil spirits. Spirits right here among us. He says there is "bound to be spirits" or "something like 'em."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: George Braddox, Hazen, Arkansas Age: 81
Most of the old songs were religious. I don't remember none much. When the war broke out my papa jess left and went on off with some people and joined the Yankee army. I went to see him since I been at Hazen. He lived in Chicago. Yes mam he's been dead a long time ago. Gus Taylor and Peter Calloway (white) took my papa with them for their helper. He left them and went with the Yankee army soon as he heard what they was fighting about. Peter Calloway lived on a big track of land joining Dave Genes land. It show was a big farm. Peter Calloway owned my papa and Dave Genes my mama. Gus Taylor was Dave Genes overseer. Peter Calloway never come back from the war. My folks come from Alabama with Dave Genes and his son John Genes. I was born in Harrison county, Texas. Gus Taylor was a great big man. He was mean to us all. The Yankees camped there. It was near Marshall. I had some good friends among the Yankees. They kept me posted all time the war went on. Nobody never learnt me nothing. I can cipher a little and count money. I took that up. I learned after I was grown a few things. Just learned it myself. I never went to school a day in my life. The Genes had a brick, big red brick house. They sent their children to schools. They had stock, peafowls, cows, guineas, geese, ducks and chickens, hogs and everything. Old woman on the place just milked and churned. That is all she done.
I never heard of no plantations being divided. They never give us nothing, not nothing. Right after the war was the worse times we ever have had. We ain't had no sich hard times since then. The white folks got all was made. It was best we could do. The Yankees what camped down there told us about the surrender. If the colored folks had started an uprisin the white folks would have set the hounds on us and killed us.
I never heard of the Ku Klux Klan ever being in Texas. Gus Taylor was the ridin boss and he was Ku Klux enough. Everybody was scared not to mind him. He rode over three or four hundred acres of ground. He could beat any fellow under him. I never did see anybody sold. I never was sold. We was glad to be set free. I didn't know what it would be like. It was just like opening the door and lettin the bird fly out. He might starve, or freeze, or be killed pretty soon but he just felt good because he was free. We show did have a hard time getting along right after we was set free. The white folks what had money wouldn't pay nothing much for work. All the slaves was in confusion.
A cousin of mine saw Dr. Hazen down in Texas and they all come back to work his land. They wrote to us about it being so fine for hunting. I always liked to hunt so I rode a pony and come to them. The white folks in Texas told the Yankees what to do after the surrender; get off the land. We didn't never vote there but I voted in Arkansas. Mr. Abel Rinehardt always hope me. I could trust him. I don't vote now. No colored people held office in Texas or here that I heard of.
I got nothing to say bout the way the young generation is doing.
I farmed around Hazen nearly ever since the Civil War. I saved $300 and bought this here house. My son was killed in the World War and I get his insurance every month. I hunted with Colonel Yapp and fed his dogs. He never paid me a cent for taking care of the dogs. His widow never as much as give me a dog. She never give me nothing!
I'm too old to worry bout the present conditions. They ain't gettin no better. I sees dot.
Interviewer: Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: Edward Bradley 115 South Plum Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 70
"I was seventy years old this last past June, the sixth day. Lots of people say I don't look that old but I'm sure seventy and I've done a lot of hard work in my day. One thing, I've taken good care of myself. I never did lose much sleep.
"I farmed forty years of my life. Been in this State thirty-seven years. I was born in Hardin County, Tennessee. I disremember what age I was when I left Tennessee.
"My mother was named Mary Bradley and my father was named Hilliard Bradley. They originated in Alabama and was sold there, and they was free when they come to Tennessee.
"Bradley was the last man owned 'em. I think Beaumont sold 'em to Bradley. That's the way I always heered 'em talk. I think they claimed their owners was pretty good to 'em. I know I heered my father say he never did get a whippin' from either one of 'em.
"Of course my mother wasn't a Bradley fore she married, she was a Murphy.
"I had one brother four years older than I was. He was my half-brother and I had a whole brother was two years older than I.
"First place I lived in Arkansas was near Blytheville. I lived there four years. I was married and farmin' for myself.
"I went from Hardin County, Tennessee to Blytheville, Arkansas by land. Drove a team and two cows. I think we was on the road four days. My wife went by train. You know that was too wearisome for her to go by land.
"I had been runnin a five-horse crop in Tennessee and I carried three boys that I used to work with me.
"The last year I was there I cleared $1660.44. I never will forget it. I made a hundred and ten bales of cotton and left 2000 pounds of seed cotton in the field cause I was goin' to move.
"My folks was sick all the time. Wasn't any canals in that country, and my wife had malaria every year.
"After I got my crop finished I'd get out and log. I was raised in a poor county and you take a man like that, he's always a good worker. I rented the land—365 acres and I had seven families workin for me. I was responsible for everything. I told 'em that last year that if I cleared over a $1000, I'd give 'em ten dollars a piece. And I give it to 'em too. You see they was under my jurisdiction.
"Next place I lived was Forrest City. They all went with me. Had to charter a car to move 'em. It was loaded too.
"I had 55 hogs, 17 head of cattle, 13 head of mules and horses. And I had killed 1500 pounds of hogs. You see besides my family I had two-month-hands—worked by the month.
"I own a home in Forrest City now. I'm goin back right after Christmas. My children had it fixed up. Had the waterworks and electric lights put in.
"Two of my daughters married big school teachers. One handles a big school in Augusta and the other in Forrest City. One of 'em is in the Smith-Hughes work too.
"I've done something no other man has done. I've educated four of my brothers and sisters after my father died and four of my wife's brothers and sisters and one adopted boy and my own six children—fifteen in all. A man said to me once, "Why any man that's done that much for education ought to get a pension from the educator people."
"I never went to school six months in my life but I can read and write. I'm not extra good in spelling—that's my hindrance, but I can figger very well.
"We always got our children started 'fore they went to school and then I could help 'em in school till they got to United States money.
"Another thing I always would do, I would buy these block A, B, C's. Everyone learned their A, B, C's fore they went to school.
"I reckon I'm a self-made man in a lot of things. I learnt my own self how to blacksmith. I worked for a man for nothin' just so I could learn and after that for about a year I was the best plow sharpener. And then I learned how to carpenter.
"My mother was awful good on head countin' and she learnt me when I was a little fellow. My oldest brother use to help me. We'd sit by the fire, so you see you might say I got a fireside education.
"When I left Forrest City I moved to England and made one crop and moved to Baucum and made one crop and then I moved on the Sheridan Pike three miles the other side of Dew Drop. I got the oil fever. They was sellin' land under that headin'. Sold it to the colored folks and lots o' these Bohemians. They sho is fine people to live by—so accommodatin'.
"Then I came here to Pine Bluff in 1921. I hauled wood for two years. Then I put in my application at the Cotton Belt Shops. That was in 1923 and I worked there fifteen years. I retired from the shops this year and took a half pension. I think I'll get about fifteen dollars a month. That's my thoughts.
"I have two daughters in Camden. One teaches school and one operates a beauty parlor.
"All six of my children finished high school and three graduated from college.
"I think the younger generation is livin' too fast. I know one thing, they has done—they 'bout wore out the old folks. Old folks educate 'em and can't accumulate anything.
"They don't settle much now till they marry. Seems like the young folks don't have much accommodation.
"I'll tell you another thing, the children aren't carryin' out things like they use to. I think when us old folks plays out this world is goin' to be in a bad shape.
"I belong out here to the Catholic Church—the oldest church in the world. I use to belong to the Methodist Church, but they got along so bad I got tired, so I went to the Catholic. I like it out there—everthing so quiet and nice."
Name of Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Rachel Bradley. 1103 State Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 107?
Upon arriving at the humble unpainted home of Rachel Bradley I found her sitting in the doorway on a typical split-oak bottomed chair watching the traffic of State Street, one of our busiest streets out of the high rent district. It is a mixture of white and Negro stores and homes.
After asking her name to be sure I was really talking to Rachel Bradley, I said I had been told she was a former slave. "Yes'm, I used to be a slave." She smiled broadly displaying nearly a full set of teeth. She is of a cheerful, happy disposition and seemed glad to answer my questions. As to her age, she said she was "a little girl on the floor whan the stars fell." I looked this up at the public library and found that falling stars or showers of meteors occur in cycles of thirty-three years. One such display was recorded in 1833 and another in 1866. So if Rachel Bradley is really 107 years old, she was born in 1830. It is a question in my mind whether or not she could have remembered falling stars at the age of three, but on the other hand if she was "a little girl on the floor" in 1866 she would be only somewhere between seventy-five and eighty years of age.
Her master and mistress were Mitchell and Elizabeth Simmons and they had two sons and two daughters. They lived on a plantation about twelve miles from Farmersville, Louisiana.
Rachel was a house girl and her mother was the cook. Besides doing house work, she was nursemaid and as she grew older did her mistress' sewing and could also weave and knit. From the way she smiled and rolled her eyes I could see that this was the happiest time of her life. "My white folks was so good to me. I sat right down to the same table after they was thru."
While a child in the home of her white folks she played with her mistress' children. In her own words "My mistress give us a task to do and when we got it done, we went to our playhouse in the yard."
When the war came along, her master was too old to go but his two sons went and both lived through the war.
Questioned about the Yankees during the war she said, "I seen right smart of the Yankees. I seen the 'Calvary' go by. They didn't bother my white folks none."
Rachel said the ABC's for me but cannot read or write. She said her mistress' children wanted to teach her but she would rather play so grew up in ignorance.
After the war Rachel's white folks moved to Texas and Rachel went to live with her mistress' married daughter Martha. For her work she was paid six dollars a month. She was not given any money by her former owners after being freed, but was paid for her work. Later on Rachel went to work in the field making a crop with her brother, turning it over to the owner of the land for groceries and other supplies and when the cotton was weighed "de white folks taken out part of our half. I knowed they done it but we couldn't do nothin bout it."
Rachel had four husbands and eleven children. Her second husband abandoned her, taking the three oldest and leaving five with her. One boy and one girl were old enough to help their mother in the field and one stayed in the house with the babies, so she managed to make a living working by the day for the white people.
The only clash with the Ku Klux Klan was when they came to get an army gun her husband had bought.
Being a woman, Rachel did not know much about politics during the Reconstruction period. She had heard the words "Democrat," "Radical" and "Republican" and that was about all she remembered.
Concerning the younger generation Rachel said: "I don't know what goin' come of 'em. The most of 'em is on the beat" (trying to get all they can from others).
After moving to Arkansas, she made a living working in the field by the day and as she grew older, washing and ironing, sewing, housecleaning and cooking.
Her long association with white people shows in her speech which is quite plain with only a few typical Negro expressions, such as the following:
"She died this last gone Sattiday and I hope (help) shroud her."
"When white lady find baby, I used to go hep draw the breas'."
"Heap a people."
The Welfare Department gives Rachel $8.00 a month. She pays $2.00 a month for two rooms with no drinking water. With the help of her white friends she manages to exist and says she is "pendin on the Lord" to help her get along.
She sang for me in a quavering voice the following songs reminiscent of the war:
"Homespun dresses plain I know. And the hat palmetto too. Hurrah! Hurrah! We cheer for the South we love so dear, We cheer for the homespun dresses The Southern ladies wear!"
"Who is Price a fightin'? He is a fightin', I do know. I think it is old Curtis. I hear the cannons roa'"
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Elizabeth Brannon, Biscoe, Arkansas (Packed to move somewhere else) Age: 40 plus
"I was born in Helena, Arkansas. Grandma raised me mostly. She was born up in Virginia. Her name was Mariah Bell.
"Grandmother was sold more than once. When she was small she and her mother were sold together to different buyers. The morning she was sold she could see her mother crying through the crowd, and the last she ever seen her mother she was crying and waving to her. She never could forget that. We all used to sit around her and we would all be crying with her when she told that so many, many times. Grandmother said she was five years old then and was sold to a doctor in Virginia. He made a house girl of her and learned her to be a midwife.
"She told us about a time when the stars fell or a time about like it. Her master got scared in Virginia. His niece killed herself 'cause she thought the world was coming to on end. Mama of the baby was walking, crying and praying. Grandmama had the baby. She said it was a terrible morning.
"When grandmama was sold away from her own mother she took the new master's cook for her mother. I live to see her. Her name was Charity Walker. She was awful old. Grandmama didn't remember if her mother had other children or not. She was the youngest.
"Grandmama was sold again. Her second master wasn't good as her doctor master. He didn't feed them good, didn't feed the children good neither. He told his slaves to steal. Grandmama had two children there. She was pregnant again. Grandpa stole a shoat. She craved meat. Meat was scarce then and the War was on. Grandpa had it cut up and put away. Grandmama had the oldest baby in the box under her bed and the youngest child asleep in her bed. She was frying the meat. She seen the overseer across the field stepping that way. Grandpa left and grandmama put the skillet of meat in the bed with the baby and threw a big roll of cotton in the fire. The overseer come in and looked around, asked what he smelled burning. She told him it was a sack of motes (cotton lumps). Grandpa was Jim Bell. His master learnet him to steal and lie. He got better after freedom.
"Grandmama never would let us have pockets in our aprons and dresses. Said it was a temptation for us to learn to steal. She thought that was awful and to lie too.
"Grandmama and grandpa and mama and her sister, the baby, died. Come with soldiers from Virginia to Helena, Arkansas on a big boat. They nursed soldiers in the hospital in the last of the War. Grandpapa died in 1895. He had heart trouble. He was seventy-five years old then. Grandmama died in 1913. She was awful, awful old. Grandmama said they put her off on College and Perry streets but that wasn't the names of the streets then. She wore a baggin dress and brogan shoes. Brass-toed shoes and brass eyelets. She would take grease and soot and make shoe polish for them. We all wore that dress and the shoes at times. I wore them to Peabody School in Helena and the children made so mich fun of their cry (squeaking) till I begged them to get me some better looking shoes for cold rainy spells of weather. I wore the dress. It was strong nearly as leather.
"When she was sold the last time she got a marble box and it had a small lock and key. It was square and thick, size of four men's shoe boxes. When she come to Arkansas she brought it filled with rice on the boat. She kept her valuable papers in it. Our house burned and the shoes and box both got away from me. Her oldest girl died after the surrender and was never married. Never had children.
"On College and Perry streets the hospital was cleared away and grandpa bought the spot. It has had two houses rot down of his own on it. It has been graded down and a big brick house stands there now.
"She used to tell how when meat was so scarce she'd be cooking. She'd wipe her girls' faces with the dishrag. One of them would lick her lips. Make other children hungry for meat to see them so greasy. They hadn't had any meat.
"Grandmama told me her doctor master bought them shoes for her, and I think they gave her the marble box. The children teased me so much grandmama bought me some limber sole shoes.
"Auntie was good they said and mama was mean so they said. Auntie died after surrender. We'd tell grandmama she ought to put the skillet on mama. She said the good Lord took care of her baby that time. Mama would get so mad. She would whoop us for saying she ought to put the hot skillet on her.
"Grandmama was a midwife with black and white for forty-five years in Helena. She worked for Joe Horner, Mr. Leifer, Mrs. E.M. Allen. Mama had seven children, and grandmama raised Will Marshal (colored). He works at D.T. Hargraves & Sons store now in Helena. He started a delivery boy but now he is their main repair man.
"Grandmama was a strong woman. Mama worked out at some places I told you. Grandmama worked. Grandmama always had a pretty flower yard. She did love pretty flowers.
"Mama minded grandmama like one of us. She was a good woman. None of us, not even the boys, ever had pockets in our clothes. Grandmama made them for us. She taught us not to lie and steal. She thought it was the worse thing you could do. She was loved and respected by white and black till she died down at Helena in 1913. They are all buried down there."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Mack Brantley, Brinkley, Arkansas Age: 80
"I was born in Dallas County close to Selma, Alabama. My mother's owners was Miss Mary Ann Roscoe and her husband was Master Ephriam Roscoe. They had a good size gin and farm. We would gather 'round and tell ha'nt tales till we would be scared to go home in the dark. The wind would turn the old-fashioned screw and make a noise like packing cotton. We older children would run and make out we thought it was the spirits. We knowed better but the little children was afraid.
"My parents was Lucindy Roscoe. My pa belong to Warren Brantley. His name was Silica Brantley.
"I was a stole chile. Ma had a husband the master give her and had children. My pa lived on a joining farm. She wasn't supposen to have children by my pa. That is why I'm called Mack Brantley now. Mama died and Green Roscoe, my older brother, took me to Howell's so they would raise me. They was all kin. I was six months old when ma died. My sister nursed me but Miss Mary Ann Roscoe suckled me wid Miss Minnie. When Miss Minnie got grown and married she went to Mobile, Alabama to live. Later Brother Silica give me to Master Henry Harrell. They sent me to school. I never went to colored school. We went to Blunt Springs three months every year in the summer time. When we come home one year Mr. Hankton was gone and he never come back. He was my only teacher. The white population didn't like him and they finally got him away.
"They was good white people. I had a pallet in the room and in the morning I took it up and put it away in a little room. I slept in the house till I was good and grown. I made fires for them in the winter time. Mr. Walter died three years ago. He was their son. He had a big store there. Miss Carrie married Charlie Hooper. He courted her five years. I bring her a letter and she tore it up before she read it. He kept coming. He lived in Kentucky. The last I heard they lived in Birmingham. Miss Kitty Avery Harrell was my mistress at freedom and after, and after boss died. I had four children when I left. If Mr. Walter was living I'd go to him now. Mr. Hooper would cuss. Old boss didn't cuss. I never liked Mr. Hooper's ways. Old boss was kinder. All my sisters dead. I reckon I got two brothers. Charles Roscoe was where boss left him. He was grown when I was a child. Jack Roscoe lives at Forrest, Mississippi. Brother Silica Roscoe had a wife and children when freedom come on. He left that wife and got married to another one and went off to Mississippi. Preachers quit their slavery wives and children and married other wives. It wasn't right. No ma'am, it wasn't right. Awful lot of it was done. Then is when I got took to my Miss Kitty. After freedom is right.
"I tole you I was a stole chile. I never seen my own pa but a few times. He lived on a joining farm. Ma had a husband her master give her the first time they had been at a big log rolling and come up for dinner. They put the planks out and the dinner on it. They kept saying, 'Mack, shake hands with your papa.' He was standing off to one side. It was sorter shame. They kept on. I was little. I went over there. He shook hands with me. I said, 'Hi, papa! Give me a nickel.' He reached in his pocket and give me a nickel. Then they stopped teasing me. He went off on Alabama River eighteen miles from us to Caholba, Alabama. I never seen him much more. Ma had been dead then several years.
"Green, my brother, took me to Miss Mary Ann Roscoe when mama died. She was my ma's owner. I stayed there till Green died. A whole lot of boys was standing around and bet Green he couldn't tote that barrel of molasses a certain piece. They helped it up and was to help him put it down and give him five dollars. That was late in the ebenin'. He let the barrel down and a ball as big as a goose egg of blood come out of his mouth. The next day he died. Master got Dr. Blevins quick as he could ride there. He was mad as he could be. Dr. Blevins said it weighed eight hundred pounds. It was a hogshead of molasses. Green was much of a man. He was a giant. Dr. Blevins said they had killed a good man. Green was good and so strong. I never could forget it. Green was my standby.
"The Yankees burnt Boss Henry's father's fine house, his gin, his grist mill, and fifty or sixty bales of cotton and took several fine horses. They took him out in his shirt tail and beat him, and whooped his wife, trying to make them tell where the money was. He told her to tell. He had it buried in a pot in the garden. They went and dug it up. Forty thousand dollars in gold and silver. Out they lit then. I seen that. He lived to be eighty and she lived to be seventy-eight years old. He had owned seven or eight or ten miles of road land at Howell Crossroads. Road land is like highway land, it is more costly. He had Henry and Finas married and moved off. Miss Melia was his daughter and her husband and the overseer was there but they couldn't save the money. I waited on Misa Melia when she got sick and died. She was fine a woman as ever I seen. Every colored person on the place knowed where the pot was buried. Some of them planted it. They wouldn't tell. We could hear the battles at Selma, Alabama. It was a roar and like an earthquake.
"Freedom—I was a little boy. I cried to go with the bigger children. They had to tote water. One day I heard somebody crying over 'cross a ditch and fence covered with vines and small trees. I heard, 'Do pray master.' I run hid under the house. I was snoring when they found me. I heard somebody say, 'Slave day is over.' That is all I ever knowed about freedom. The way I knowed, a Yankee. We was in the road piling up sand and a lot of blue coats on horses was coming. We got out of the road and went to tell our white folks. They said, 'Get out of their way, they are Yankees.'
"When I left Alabama I went to Mississippi. I worked my way on a steamboat. I had been trained to do whatever I was commanded. The man, my boss, said, 'Mack, get the rope behind the boiler and tie it to the stob and 'dead man'. I tied it to the stob and I was looking for a dead man. He showed me what it was. Then I tied it. I went to Vicksburg then. I had got mixed up with a woman and run off.
"I been married once in my life. I had eighteen children. Nine lived. I got a boy here and a girl in Pine Bluff. My son's wife is mean to me. I don't want to stay here. If I can get my pension started, I want to live with my daughter.
"I used to vote Republican. They claimed it made times better for my race. I found out better. I don't vote now. Wilson was good as Mr. Roosevelt, I think. I voted about eight years ago, I reckon. I didn't vote for Mr. Roosevelt.
"I wish I was young and had the chance this generation has got. Times is better every way for a good man unless he is unable to work like I am now. (This old man tends his garden, a large nice one—ed.) My son supports me now."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Ellen Brass 1427 W. Eighth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: About 82
[HW: White Folks want Niggers]
"I was born in Alabama in Green County. I was about four years old when I came from there; so I don't know much about it. I growed up in Catahoula, Louisiana. My mother's name was Caroline Butler and my father's name was Lee Butler. One of my father's brothers was named Sam Butler. I used to be a Butler myself, but I married. My father and mother were both slaves. They never did any slave work.
Father Free Raised
"My father was free raised. The white folks raised him. I don't know how he became free. All that I know is that he was raised right in the house with the white folks and was free. His mother and father were both slaves. I was quite small at the time and didn't know much. They bought us like cattle and carried us from place to place.
"The slaves lived in log cabins with one room. I don't know what kind of house the white folks lived in. They, the colored folks, ate corn bread, wheat bread (they raised wheat in those times), pickled pork. They made the flour right on the plantation. George Harris, a white man, was the one who brought me out of Louisiana into this State. We traveled in wagons in those days. George Harris owned us in Louisiana.
"We were sold from George Harris to Ben Hickinbottom. They bought us then like cattle. I don't know whether it was a auction sale or a private sale. I am telling it as near as I know it, and I am telling the truth. Hickinbottom brought us to Catahoula Parish in Louisiana. Did I say Harris brought us? Well, Hickinbottom brought us to Louisiana. I don't know why they went from one place to the other like that. The soldiers were bad about freeing the slaves. From Catahoula Parish, Hickinbottom carried us to Alexandria, Louisiana, and in Alexandria, we was set free.
How Freedom Came
"According to my remembrance the Yankees come around and told the people they was free. I was in Alexandria, Louisiana. They told the colored folks they was free and to go and take what they wanted from the white folks. They had us all out in the yard dancing and playing. They sang the song:
'They hung Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree While we all go marching on.'
It wasn't the white folks on the plantation that told us we was free. It was the soldiers their selves that came around and told us. We called 'em Yankees.
Right After the War
"Right after the War, my folks farmed—raised cotton and corn. My mother had died before I left Alabama. They claimed I was four years old when my mother died in Alabama. My father died after freedom.
"My first occupation was farming—you know, field work. Sometimes I used to work around the white people too—clean house and like that.
"The white folks ain't got no reason to mistreat the colored people. They need us all the time. They don't want no food unless a nigger cooks it. They want niggers to do all their washing and ironing. They want niggers to do their sweeping and cleaning and everything around their houses. The niggers handle everything they wears and hands them everything they eat and drink. Ain't nobody can get closer to a white person than a colored person. If we'd a wanted to kill 'em, they'd a all done been dead. They ain't no reason for white people mistreating colored people."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Alice Bratton, Wheatley, Arkansas Age: 56
"I was born a few miles from Martin, Tennessee. Mama was born in Virginia. She and her sister was carried off from the Witherspoon place and sold. She was Betty and her sister was named Addie.
"Their mama had died and some folks said they would raise them and then they sold them. She said they never did know who it was that carried them off in a big carriage. They brought them to Nashville, Tennessee and sold them under a big oak tree. They was tied with a hame string to a hitching ring. Addie wanted to set down and couldn't. She said, 'Betty, wouldn't our mama cry if she could see us off like this?' Mama said they both cried and cried and when the man come to look at them he said he would buy them. They felt better and quit crying. He was such a kind looking young man.
"They lived out from Nashville a piece then. He took them home with him, on a plank across the wagon bed. He was Master Davy Fuller. He had a young wife and a little baby. Her name was Mistress Maude and the baby was Carrie. She was proud of Betty and Addie. They told her their mama died. Mama said she was good to them. She died the year of the surrender and Master Davy took them all to his mother's and his papa put them out to live with a family that worked on his place.
"They went to see Carrie and played with her till Addie married and mama come close to Martin to live with them. Addie took consumption and died, then mama married Frank Bane and he died and I was born.
"My pa was a white man. He was a bachelor, had a little store, and he overcome mama. She never did marry no more. I was her only child. I don't remember the man but mama told me how she got tripped up and nearly died and for me never to let nobody trip me up that way. I sorter recollect the store. It burned down one night. We lived around over there till I was sixteen years old. We moved to a few miles of Corinth, Mississippi on a farm. Mr. Cat Madford was the manager. I got married. I married Will Bratton. We had a home wedding on Sunday evening. It was cold and freezing and the freeze lasted over a week. Will Bratton was black as night. I had one little boy. After mama died Will Bratton went off with another woman. He come back but the place was mine. Mama left it to me. I wouldn't let him stay there. I let him go on where he pleased.
"Times been growing slacker for a long time. People live slack. Young folks coming on slacker and slacker every day. Don't know how to do, don't want to know. They get by better 'en I did. I work in the field and I can't hardly get by. I see folks do nothing all the time. Seem like they happy. Times is hard for some, easy for some. I want to live in the country like I is 'cause I belongs there. I can work and be satisfied! I did own my home. I reckon I still do. I got a little cow and some chickens."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Frank Briles 817 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: About 82 or 83
[HW: Gives up the Ghost]
"I was born right here in Arkansas. My father's name was Moses Briles. My mother's name was Judy Briles. Her name before she was married I don't know. They belonged to the Briles. I don't know their first name either.
"My father was under slavery. He chopped cotton and plowed and scraped cotton. That is where I got my part from. He would carry two rows along at once. I was little and couldn't take care of a row by myself. I was born down there along the time of the War, and my father didn't live long afterwards. He died when they was settin' them all free. He was a choppin' for the boss man and they would set them up on blocks and sell them. I don't know who the man was that did the selling, but they tell me they would sell them and buy them.
"I am sick now. My head looks like it's goin' to bust open.
"I have heard them tell about the pateroles. I didn't know them but I heard about them. Them and the Ku Klux was about the same thing. Neither one of them never did bother my folks. It was just like we now, nobody was 'round us and there wasn't no one to bother you at all at Briles' plantation. Briles' plantation I can't remember exactly where it was. It was way down in the west part of Arkansas. Yes, I was born way back south—east—way back. I don't know what the name of the place was but it was in Arkansas. I know that. I don't know nothing about that. My father and mother came from Virginia, they said. My father used to drive cattle there, my mother said. I don't know nothin' except what they told me.
"I learnt a little some thing from my folks. I think of more things every time I talk to somebody. I know one thing. The woman that bossed me, she died. That was about—Lord I was a little bitty of a fellow, didn't know nothin' then. She made clothes for me. She kept me in the house all the time. She was a white woman. I know when they was setting them free. I was goin' down to get a drink of water. My father said. 'Stop, you'll be drowned.' And I said, 'What must I do?' And he said, 'Go back and set down till I come back.' I don't know what my father was doing or where he was going. There was a man—I don't know who—he come 'round and said, 'You're all free.' My mama said, 'Thank God for that. Thank God for that.' That is all I know about that.
"When I got old enough to work they put me in the woods splitting rails and plowing. When I grew up I scraped cotton and worked on the farm. That is where my father would come and say, 'Now, son, if anybody asks you how you feel, tell them the truth.'
"I went to school one session and then the man give down. He got sick and couldn't carry it no longer. His pupils were catching up with him I reckon. It was time to get sick or somethin'.
"I never did marry. I was promised to marry a woman and she died. So I said, 'Well, I will give up the ghost. I won't marry at all.'
"I ain't able to do no work now 'cept a little pittling here and there. I get a pension. It's been cut a whole lot."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Mary Ann Brooks James Addition, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 90
"I was born here in Arkansas. Durin' the war we went to Texas and stayed one year and six months.
"My old master was old Dr. Brewster. He bought me when I was a girl eight yeers old. Took me in for a debt. He had a drug store. I was a nurse girl in the house. Stayed in the house all my life.
"I stayed here till Dr. Brewster—Dr. Arthur Brewster was his name—stayed here till he carried me to his brother-in-law Dr. Asa Brunson. Stayed there awhile, then the war started and he carrled us all to Texas.
"I seen some Yankeee after we come back to Arkansas. I wes scared of em.
"I don't knew nothln' bout the war. I wasn't in it. I was livin' but we was in Texas.
"The Ku Klux got after us twice when we was goin' to Texas. We had six wagons, a cart, and a carriage. Old Dr. Brunson rode in the carriage. He'd go ahead and pilot the way. We got lost twice. When we come to Red River it was up and we had to camp there three weeks till the water fell.
"We took some sheep and some cows so we could kill meat on the way. I member we forded Saline River. Dr. Brunson carried us there and stayed till he hired us out.
"After the war ceasted he come after us. Told as we didn't belong to him no more—said we was free as he was. Yankees sent him after us. All the folks come back—all but one famlly.
"I had tolerable good owners. Miss Fanny Brewster good to me.
"Old master got drunk so much. Come home sometimes muddy as a hog. All his chillun was girls. I nursed all the girls but one.
"I was a mighty dancer when I was young—danced all night long. Paddyrollers run us home from dancin' one night.
"I member one song we used to sing:
'Hop light lady Cake was all dough— Never mind the weather, So the wind don't blow.'
"How many chillun I have? Les see—count em up. Ida, Willie, Clara—had six.
"Some of the young folks nowadays pretty rough. Some of em do right and some don't.
"Never did go to school. Coulda went but papa died and had to go to work.
"I thinks over old times sometimes by myself. Didn't know what freedom was till we was free and didn't hardly know then.
"Well, it's been a long time. All the Brewsters and the Bransons dead and I'm still here—blind. Been blind eight years."
Waters Brooks 1814 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, Ark. Retired railroad worker, No. Pac. 75 [TR: Information moved from bottom of each page.]
[HW: A Railroad Work History]
I was only three years old when peace (1865) was declared. I was born in 1862. Peace was declared in 1865. I remember seeing plenty of men that they said the white folks never whipped. I remember seeing plenty of men that they said bought their own freedom.
I remember a woman that they said fought with the overseer for a whole day and stripped him naked as the day he was born. She was Nancy Ward. Her owner was named Billie Ward. He had an overseer named Roper. Her husband ran away from the white folks and stayed three years. He was in the Bayou in a boat and the bottom dropped out of it. He climbed a tree and hollered for someone to tel his master to come and get him if he wanted him.
My father's master was John T. Williams. He went into the army—the rebel army—and taken my father with him. I don't know how long my father stayed in the army but I was only 6 months old when he died. He had some kind of stomach trouble and died a natural death.
My mother and father both belonged to Joe Ward at first but Ward died and his widow married Williams. My mother told me and not only told me but showed me knots across her shoulder where they whipped her from seven in the morning until nine at night. She went into the smoke house to get some meat and they closed in on her and shut the door and strung her up by her hands (her arms were crossed and a rope run from her wrists to the hook in the ceiling on which meat was hung). There were three of them. One would whip until he was tired, and then the other would take it up.
Some years after she got that whipping, her master's child was down to the bayou playing in the water. She told the child to stop playing in the water, and it did not. Instead it threw dirt into the water that had the bluing in it. Then she took the child and threw it into the Bayou. Some way or other the child managed to scramble out. When the child's aunt herd it from the child, she questioned my mother and asked her if she did it. My mother told her "Yes". Then she said. "Well what do you want to own it for? Don't you know if they find it out they will kill you?"
HOW FREEDOM CAME
My mother said that an old white man came through the quarters one morning and said that they were all free—that they could go away or stay where they were or do what they wanted to. If you will go there, I can send you to an old man eighty-six years old who was in General Sherman's army. He came from Mississippi. I don't know where he was a slave. But he can tell you when peace was declared aad what they said and everything.
WHAT THE SLAVES EXPECTED
The slaves were not expecting much but they were expecting more than they got. I am not telling you anything I read in history but I have heard that there was a bounty in the treasury for the ex-slaves, and them alone. And some reason or other they did not pay it off, but the time was coming when they would pay it off. And every man or woman living that was born a slave would benefit from it. They say that Abraham Lincoln principally was killed because he was going to pay this money to the ex-slaves end before they would permit it they killed him. Old man White who lives out in the west part of town was an agent for some Senator who was in Washington, and he charged a dime and took your name and age and the place where you lived.
KU KLUX KLAN
They called the K.K.K. "White Cape". Right there in my neighborhood, there was a colered man who hadn't long come in. The colored man was late coming into the lot to get the mule for the white man and woman he was working for. The white man hit him. The Negro knocked the white man down and was going to kill him when the white man begged him off, telling him that he wouldn't let anybody else hurt him. He (the Negro) went on off and never came back. That night there were two hundred White Caps looking for him but they didn't find him.
Another man got into an argument. They went to work and it started to rain. The Negro thought that they would stop working because of the rain; so he started home. The man he was working for met him and asked him where he was going. When he told him he started to hit him with the butt end of the gun he was wearing. The Negro knocked his gun up, took it away from him, and drawed down and started to kill him when another Negro knocked the gun up, and saved the white man's life. But the Nigger might as well have killed him because that night seventy-five masked men hunted him. He was hid away by his friends until he got a chance to get away. This man was named Matthew Collins.
There was another case. This was a political one. The colored man wanted to run for representative of some kind. He had been stump speaking. He lived on a white man's place, and the owner came to him and told him he had better get away because a mob was coming after him (not just K.K.K.). He told his wife to go away and stay with his brother but she wouldn't. He hid himself in a trunk and his wife was under the floor with his two children. The white men fired into the house and that didn't do anything, so they throwed a ball of fire into the house and burned his wife and children. Then he rose up and came out of the trunk and hollered, "Look out I'm coming", and he fired a load of buck shot and tore one man nearly in two and ran away in the confusion. The next day he went to the man on whose place he lived, but he told him he couldn't do anything about it.
Another man by the name of Bob Sawyer had a farm near my home and another farm down near Maginty's place. He worked the ????[TR: Illegible] Niggers from one farm to the other.
His boy would ride in front with a rifle and he would be in the rear with a big gun swinging down from his hip. There wae one Nigger who got out and went down to Alexandria (Louisiana). He wrote to the officers and they caught the Nigger and put him into the stocks and brought him back, and the man hadn't done a thing but run away. After that they worked him with a chain holding his legs together so that he could only make short steps.
They had an old white man who worked there and they treated him so mean he ran away and left his wife. They treated the poor whites about as bad as they treated the colored.
If Bob met a Negro carrying cotton to the Gin, he would ask "Whose cotton is that?", and if the Nigger said it was some white man's, he would let him alone. But if he said. "Mine", Bob would tell him to take it to some Gin where he wanted it taken. He was the kind of man that if you seen him first, you wouldn't meet him.
One night he slipped up on a Nigger man that had left his place and killed him as he sat at supper. I had an aunt with five or six children who worker with him. He married my young Mistress after I was freed.
I saw him do this. The white folks had a funeral at the church down there one Sunday. He came along and young Billie Ward (white man) was sitting in a buggy driving with his wife. When he saw Billie, he jumped down out of his buggy and horse-whipped him until he ran away. All the while, Sawyer's mother-in-law was sitting in his buggy calling out, "Shoot him, Bob, shoot him." this was because Billie and another man had done some talk about Bob.
I came to Brinkley, Arkansas, March 4, 1900, and have been in Arkansas ever since. Why I came, the postmaster where I was rented farm on which I was farming. In March he put hands in my field to pick my cotton. All that was in the field was mine. I knew that I couldn't do anything about it so I left. A couple of years before that I rented five acres of land from him for three dollars as acre (verbal agreement) sowed it down in cotton. It done so well I made five bales of cotton on it. He saw the prospects were so good that he went to the man who furnished me supplies and told him that I had agreed to do my work on a third and fourth (one-third of the seed and one-fourth of the cotton to go to the owner). He get this although if he had stuck to the agreement he would not have gotten but fifteen dollars. So he dealt me a blow there, but I got over it.
Before this I had bought a piece of timber land in Moorehouse parish (Louisiana) and was expecting to get the money to finish paying for it from my cotton. The cost was $100.00. So when he put hands in my field, it made me mad, and I left. (Brooks would have lost most of his cotton if the hands had picked it.)
At Brinkley, I farmed on halves with Will Carter, one of the richest men in Monroe County (Arkansas). I done $17.50 worth of work for Carter and he paid me for it. Then he turned around and charged me up with it. When we came to settle up, we couldn't settle. So finally, he said, "Figures don't lie." and I said, "No, figures don't lie but men do." When I sed that I stepped out and didn't get scared until I was half way home. But nobody did anything. He sent for me but I wouldn't go back because I knew what he was doing.
After that I went to Wheatley, Arkansas, about five miles west of Brinkley. I made a crop for Goldberg. Jake Readus was Goldberg's agent. The folks had told the white folks I wasn't no account, so I couldn't get nothing only just a little fat meat and bread, and I got as naked as a jaybird. About the last part of August, when I had done laid by and everything. Jake Readus came by and told me what the Niggers had said and said he knowed it was a lie because I had the best crop on the place.
When Goldberg went to pay me off, he told Dr. Beauregard to come and get his money. I said. "You give me my money; I pay my own debts. You have nothing to do with it." When I said that you could have heard a pin drop. But he gave it to me. Then I called the Doctor and gave him his money and he receipted me. I never stayed there but one year.
I moved then down to Napel[TR: Possibly Kapel] Slough on Dr. West's place. I wanted to rent but Dr. West wouldn't advance me anything unless he took a mortgage on my place; so I wouldn't stay there. I chartered a car and took my things back to Brinkley at a cost of ten dollars. I stayed around Brinkley all the winter.
While I was at Wheatley, there was a man by the name of Will Smith who married the daughter of Dr. Paster, druggist at Brinkley. Now Jim Smith, poor white trash, attempted to assault Will Thomas' daughter. Negro girl. When Thomas heard it, he hunted Jim with a Winchester. When that got out, Deputy Sheriff arrested Will and they said that he was chained when he was brought to trial. He got away from them somehow and went to Jonesboro. I took my horse and rid seven or eight miles to carry his clothes. Another Nigger who had promised to make a crop when he left had the blood beat out of his back because he didn't do it.
The winter, I worked at the Gin and Black Saw Mills. That spring I pulls up and goes to Brises. That was in the year 1903. I made a crop with old man Wiley Wormley one of the biggest Niggers there. I fell short. George Walker furnished what I had.
Then I left and went back to Brinkley and worked at the Sawmill again. That was in 1904. I went to Jonesboro. I had just money enough to go to Jonesboro, and I had a couple of dollars over. I had never been out before that; so I spent that and didn't get any work. I stayed there three days and nights and didn't get anything to eat. Lived in a box car. Then I went to work with the Cotton Belt.
My boarding mistress decided to go up to fifteen dollars for board. I told her I couldn't pay her fifteen dollars for that month, but would begin next month. She wouldn't have that and got the officers to look for my money so I caught the train and went back to Brinkley and worked on the railroad again from the Cotton Belt to the Rock Island.
I was getting along all right and I done my job, but when the foreman wanted me to work on the roof and I told him if that was all he had for me to do he could pay me off because that was off the ground and I was fraid of falling. He said that I was a good hand and that he hated to lose me.
In March, 4, 1907, I came here (Little Rock) and at first rolled concrete in Niemeyer's at $1.50 a day where the other men were getting from two to two and a half dollars. They quit for more wages and I had to quit with them. Then I worked around till May 24 when I was hired at the Mountain Shops as Engine wiper for about six or eight months, then painted flues for three or four months, then was wood hauler for about thirteen or more years, then took care of the situation with shavings and oil, then stayed in wash room six or seven years until I was retired. I had control of the ice house, too.
IDEAS ABOUT THE PRESENT
Young people are just going back to old Ante-Bellum days. They are going to destruction. They got a way of their own and you can't tell them anything. They don't educate anything but their heads. The heart isn't educated and if my heart is black as my hat, can I do anything for God? The old people are not getting a square deal. Some of them are being moved.
I did not get much schooling. Between the time I was old enough to go to school and the time I went to the field, I got a little. I would go to school from July to September, and also about six weeks in January.
They had public school taught by some of the people. I went to a white man once. An old white woman taught there before him. I went to a Negro woman, Old Lady Abbie Lindsay. She lives here now down on State Street. She is about ninety years old. I went to Jube Williams (white), Current Lewis, Abbie Lindsay, and A.G. Mertin. They did n't paas you by grades then. I got through the fourth reader. If you got through, they would go back and carry you through again. They had the old Blue Back Speller. I got ready for the fifth reader but I quit. I had just begun to cipher, in arithmetic, but I had to quit because they could n't spare me out of the field. In fact they put me into the field when I was eight years old, but I managed to go to school until I was about twelve years old or something like that. I never got a year's schooling all put together. My mother was a widow and had five or six children, none of them able or big enough to work but my oldest sister. She raised five of us.
If I had done as she told me, I might have been a good scholar. But I played around and went off with the other children. I learnt way afterwards when I was grown how to write my name. I could work addition and I could work some in multiplication, but I couldn't work division and couldn't work subtraction. Come around any time, specially on Sunday afternoons.
Name of Interviewer: Velma Sample Subject: NEGRO LORE—THE STORY OF CASIE JONES BROWN
Casie Jones Brown was a dearly loved Negro servant. He was known for his loving kindness toward children, both black and white. Lots of the white children would say, "Casie sure is smart" because Casie was a funny and witty old darkie. Casie has a log house close to his master, Mr. Brown. They live on what is called the Brown Plantation. The yard had large old cedars planted all around it. They were planted almost a century ago. The plantation is about six miles from Paragould, [TR: possibly Baragould] Arkansas, where the hills are almost mountains. There have been four generations living in the old house. They have the big sand stone fireplaces. Casie has a spiritual power that makes him see and hear things. He says that sometimes he can hear sweet voices somewhere in his fireplace. In the winter time he does all of his cooking in a big black kettle with three legs on it, or a big iron skillet. And when he first settled there he did not have a stove to cook on except the fireplace. He says the singing that comes from somewhere about the fireplace is God having his angels entertain him in his lonely hours. Casie is 91 years old and has been in that settlement as long as he can remember.
The little white boys and girls like to be entertained by Casie. He tells them stories about the bear and peter rabbit. Also he has subjects for them to ask questions about and he answers them in a clever way. He was kind enough to let me see the list and the answers. He cannot write but he has little kids to write them for him. He cannot read, but they appoint one to read for him, and he has looked at the list so much that he has it memorized.
Casie, what does hat mean or use hat for a subject. "De price ob your hat ain't de medjer ob your brain."
Coat—"Ef your coat tail catch afire don't wait till you kin see de blaze 'fo' you put it out."
Graveyard—"De graveyard is de cheapes' boardin' house."
Mules—"Dar's a fam'ly coolness 'twix' de mule an' de single-tree."
Mad—"It pesters a man dreadful when he git mad an' don' know who to cuss."
Crop—"Buyin' on credit is robbin' next 'er's crop."
Christmas—"Christmas without holiday is like a candle without a wick."
Crawfish—"De crawfish in a hurry look like he tryin' to git dar yastiddy."
Lean houn'—"Lean houn' lead de pack when de rabbit in sight."
Snow Flakes—"Little flakes make de deepes' snow."
Whitewash—"Knot in de plank will show froo de whitewash."
Yardstick—"A short yardstick is a po' thing to fight de debbul wid."
Cotton—"Dirt sho de quickes' on de cleanes' cotton."
Candy—"De candy-pullin' din call louder dan de log-rollin'."
Apple—"De bes' apple float on de top o' 'ligion heaps de half-bushel."
Hoe—"De steel hoe dat laughs at de iron one is like de man dat is shamed of his grand-daddy."
Mule—"A mule kin tote so much goodness in his face dat he don't hab none lef' for his hind legs."
Walks—"Some grabble walks may lead to de jail."
Cow bell—"De cow bell can't keep a secret."
Tree—"Ripe apples make de tree look taller."
Rose—"De red rose don't brag in de dark."
Billy-goat—"De billy-goat gits in his hardes' licks when he looks like he gwine to back out of de fight."
Good luck—"Tis hard for de bes' an' smartes' fokes in de wul' to git 'long widout a little tech o' good luck."
Blind horse—"Blind horse knows when de trough empty."
Wagon—"De noise of de wheels don't medjer de load in de wagon."
Hot—"Las' 'ear's hot spell cools off mighty fast."
Hole—"Little hole in your pocket is wusser'n a big one at de knee."
Tim o' day—"Appetite don't regerlate de time o' day."
Quagmire—"De quagmire don't hang out no sign."
Needle—"One pusson kin th'ead a needle better than two."
Pen—"De pint o' de pin is de easier in' to find."
Turnip—"De green top don't medjer de price o' de turnip."
Dog—"Muzzle on de yard dog unlocks de smokehouse."
EQUAL TO THE EMERGENCY
Hebe: "Unc Isrul, mammy says, hoocume de milk so watery on top in de mornin'."
Patriarch: "Tell you' mammy dat's de bes' sort o' milk, dat's de dew on it, de cows been layin' in de dew."
Hebe: "An' she tell me to ax you what meck it so blue."
Patriarch: "You ax your mammy what meck she so black."
Here are some of Casie's little rhymes that he entertained the neighbor children with:
Look at dat possum in dat holler log. He hidin' he know dis nigger eat possum laik a hog.
Hear dat hoot owl in dat tree. Dat old hoot owl gwine hoot right out at yew.
Rabbit, rabbit, do you know; I can track you in de snow.
One young man lingered at the gate after a long visit, but a lots ob sweethearts do det. His lady love started to cry. He said, "Dear, don't cry; I will come to see you again." But she cried on. "Oh, darling don't cry so; I will come back again, I sure will." Still she cried. At last he said: "Love, did I not tell you that I would soon come again to see you?" And through her tears she replied: "Yes, but I am afraid you will never go; that is what is the matter with me. We must all go."
Uncle Joshua was once asked a great question. It was: "If you had to be blown up which would you choose, to be blown up on the railroad or the steamboat?" "Well," said Uncle Joshua, "I don't want to be blowed up no way; but if I had to be blowed up I would rather be blowed up on de railroad, because, you see, if you is blowed up on de railroad, dar you is, but if you is blowed up on de steamboat, whar is you?"
Casie tells me of some of his superstitions:
If you are the first person a cat looks at after he has licked hisself, you are going to be married.
If you put a kitten under the cover of your bed and leave it until it crawls out by itself, it will never leave home.
If you walk through a place where a horse wallows, you will have a headache.
If a woodpecker raps on the house, someone is going to die.
If an owl screeches, turn the pocket of your apron inside out, tie a knot in your apron string, and he will stop.
If a rabbit runs across the road in front of you, to the left, it is a sign of bad luck; if it goes to the right, it is a sign of good luck.