Memories of Slavery
Recollections of lives of slavery and emancipation.
Edited by Dina C. McBride
Interview with Louis Davis
Interview with Sally Dixon
Interview with Lizzie Norfleet
Interview with Smith Simmons
Interview with Maria White
Interview with Callie Rolley
Interview with Mollie Williams
Interview with Jeff Johnson
Interview with Charlie Bell
Interview with Lula Coleman
Interview with Simon Hare
Interview with Berry Smith
Interview with Charlie Holman
Interview with Frank Brown
Interview with Louis Davis
As near as I can calculate, I was born about the year 1858.The way is recon is this:when peace was declared, I was a little fellow about seven or eight years old.I might have been older, cause I was big enough to remember most everything that happened.I was born on the Leabough plantation in Arkansas, about eight miles from Little Rock.
My pa, Anthony Davis, and my ma, Sally Leabough, was brought from Virginia by old Master Cates.I had three brothers, Dave, John Wesley, and Jurden; three half-brothers, Billy, Leabough, and Dan Hackett; three sisters, Calline, Virginia, and Elmira; three half-sisters, Belle, Fannie, and Hallie Hackett.All of my half-sisters and brothers was born after the war.They was all children of my ma's second husband, Hackett.My ma was the mother of eighteen head of children.Some of them died before I was born and I can't tell more about them.
All the slaves lived in the quarters, in warm log houses with brick chimneys.My pa made the brick right there on the place.Our beds was made of canvas, nailed to the wall on one side, and legs on the other side.We had plenty of cover to keep us warm.My grandpa and grandma and all their children came from Virginia, too.They lived until I was about grown, so I remember them well.
I was not old enough to do any work.Ole Miss believed in letting children get big before working them.Them what did work didn't earn no money, they didn't know nothing about such as that.
We always had plenty of something to eat:meat, cornbread, milk, and all kinds of vegetables.The garden was made for the colored and the whites together so each person did not have to worry about making one for himself.My ma cooked for all the slaves, both grown-ups and children.Everybody ate in the big cook kitchen.There was a big brick oven where the bread was baked.The other food was cooked in an open fireplace.We never did have no possum, or game of no kind.Maybe there warn't no hunters on the place.
In the summer time all the clothes we wore was a long rough jeans shirt.The cloth was made on the place, and it wasn't smooth like cloth of today.Everybody went barefooted.When the cold weather came, we wore pants and warm woolen underclothes.The grown folks always had shoes.Sometimes the children didn't have none.My pa was the shoemaker and I speck he couldn't make them fast enough.Shoes was kinda tedious to make, cause the soles had to be put on with wooden pegs, and that took a long time.
Ole Miss and her husband separated long years before I knowed her.Her name was Maria Leabough.Her two boys was named, Henry and Bousy.Her girls names was Helen, Tody, and Celia.They lived in a great big old log house.There wasn't anything fine about it, but it was comfortable and warm.There wasn't no overseer, and my grandpa, Abram was the slave driver.He done all the whipping that was done.There wasn't no poor whites living around in the country in them days.
I just can't say how much land there was in that plantation.You see it was like this.Old Man Cates bought all this land in Arkansas.Him and his family moved down from Virginia and brought all their slaves with them.When his children married, he would give them a part of his place, and enough slaves to run it.My Ole Miss was his daughter, and he gived her the land right next to him.Some of his sons places was a mile or two away.There was hundreds of slaves.The way they done with the work was to take the hands from one place to the other if any of them got behind in their work.
Everybody worked from daylight till dark.The work hands was out before the children got up, and sometimes us would be in bed asleep when they got home.Grandpa went from house to house in the quarters to see that all got up.At dinnertime they blowed a big horn for to stop work and eat.
Never heard no complaint about working too hard.Everybody seemed well satisfied, but sometimes the slaves would kinda play off from their work and grandpa would have to give them a licking.After that everything would be all right.the only other time I ever knowed them to get whipped about was for stealing hogs.One day he did whip my ma, for burning up all the coffee she was parching.She was his own child, but everybody said grandpa whipped justly and they didn't think no more about it than a child who gets a whipping that he needs.
There warn't no jails, and I never even heard about them until after the war.No slave dealers ever passed our way, and I never saw a slave with a chain on, nor is I ever seen one sold.
The only slave I ever heard of that could read and write, was a man by the name of Clayborn.He was the carriage driver, and carried the white children to school.he had to stay all day to bring the children back when school was out.While he was there, he was learning what they was learning.He was kinda kin to me, and he sure could read cause I is heard him.My grandma went to the white folks Methodist church.There wasn't no church on the place, and we didn't hear nothing out of the Bible, no spirituals or baptizings.When a slave died, there wasn't no Christian burial, and there wasn't no ceremony of any kind.
None of the slaves ever ran off to the north.My pa ran off once to keep from going to Texas.Miss' oldest son, Henry, was moving out there to live.He was going to carry some of the slaves with him, but my pa didn't want to go , so he ran off and hid.They searched everywhere for him and had the patrollers looking for him, too.When he thought they had got off, here he comes back.The big covered wagons was already to start when somebody spied my pa.Master Henry called to him to get in one of the wagons and drive it to Texas.they didn't have time to punish him or nothing, he got in the wagon, picked up the reins, and before you could bat your eye, they had left out of there.
There wasn't no way of getting news around, except by what is called the grapevine way.That is, one hands it on to the other.We was allowed to visit on all of the places that had been owned by Old Man Cates, without a pass.They knowed all the slaves, and we could come and go as we pleased.When we made these visits, we exchanged all the news we heard.If we went on anybody else's place, we had to slip off.Saturday night was the time they picked to slip away and do that visiting.None of them ever did get caught, cause they couldn't tell where they was at, and by morning they was in their bed asleep.
The colored and the whites got along mighty peaceful together.There warn't never no trouble of any kind between them.
When the day's work was over, everybody was ready to take his rest.Saturday was the only night we took for frolicking.My pa was a mighty fine banjo picker, and he furnished the music for the folks to dance.He could all but make that old box talk.Slaves from the other places was always slipping over to us dances.That's when the patrollers would get after them, but it was mighty seldom when anybody ever got caught.As far as I can recollect, the work went on all day Saturday, same as other days.Sunday we didn't have to do nothing.We visited around in the quarters, cracked walnuts and eat them.Lolled under the shade trees in the summer time.
Wasn't much difference in the customs then and now except for the church going.The Christmas them days was not like it is now.We knowed when it come, and that was all.The children didn't even know nothing about hanging up their stockings.We had corn shucking, but it wasn't made to be a party.We done the shucking in the daytime, and everybody was sent to the crib together.They would sing and have a good time, but they didn't have no prizes.The song they liked best was:
Once I was so lucky, Old Master set me free, Sent me to Kentucky
To see what I could see, Mean old Banjo Thomas, Mean old Banjo Joe
Going away to Kentucky, won't come back no more.
The only big celebration I can remember was the wedding of Ole Miss' daughter, Miss Celia.She got married to a man by the name of Mason.He didn't have but one leg, but he sure looked fine all dressed up in a dark suit.Miss Celia had on a long white dress made out of some kind of cloth that was real shiny.They let every slave on the place come in the house to see the marriage.Us all had to get bathed and put on clean clothes from the skin out.There warn't so many white folks there, but that house was sure packed with us niggers.When the time come to eat, I stayed in the kitchen.You never seen the like of food there was in that kitchen:turkey, chicken, and hog meat, with all the dressings what goes with each one.There wasn't no decorations or flowers, but everything was cleaned up spick and pan.
The thing us little boys liked better than anything was to shoot marbles.We would get under them big trees and shoot all day.That's the only game we liked to play.
The biggest thing that was used to keep off diseases was asafetida bags.I heard the old folks say that lead was mighty good, too.Lots of folks uses that now, and they say it helped them for lots of ailments.
They used to scare us children with ghosts and haints to make us behave ourselfs.I ain't never seen one, but I was riding a mule one night, and what that mule seen, I ain't never knowed.I rode to the gate of the graveyard, and when I got there, that mule reared and pitched till he fell down.when he fell to ground he trembled and quivered all over.Never seen nothing like it, but I got him up and away from there so quick I didn't have time to see nothing.You couldn't get no nigger to stay in no house where a man had been killed.One fellow was killed in the gin house, and ever after, queer noises could be heard there at night.
When there was any sickness on the place, the old folks cared for the sick persons.Ole Miss always went herself to see about them, and she always gave the medicine, too.Every morning us children took Jerusalem Oak tea for worms, as that was the most what was ever the matter.Sometimes we had chills, but for them we took quinine and calomel.The smallpox hadn't started up in them days like it did later.
Ole Miss told us the very day freedom came.She called us all up, and she says, "You is all free, but nobody don't have to leave here lessen he wants to.Go on about your work now, and stay right where you is."Us was all mighty glad that we had a good place to stay."
We didn't know nothing about no war, there wasn't none of it going on in Arkansas, at least not anywhere near our place.I never heard but one shot in the whole four years, and that came from across the river.When the war was over, the Yankees came riding through our place.They tore down the gate and broke down the fences all around.That was the first time I ever seen a blue jacket.I run in the house and under the bed I went.When they came to the house, I went through the window and down to the cornfield where I stayed all night.Couldn't nobody on the place find me, but next day when I came home, the soldiers had left.I sure was glad, cause I didn't have no business to contract with none of them Yankees.One thing we was thankful for, the Ku Klux Klan never did come our way.We didn't ever hear nothing about them.I stayed on that place until I was about twenty years old.Everybody stayed because we was paid for our work and we was all satisfied.
One change what come after the war was schools for the colored children.White folks did the teaching.My ma bought me a school book, but I never went to school.
About the time I was grown, I got married to a woman by the name of Mary Morgan.We had four children, but she and all the children are dead.I next married Lola Davis, and we have been living together now for thirty-nine years.Her health ain't no good, and she has to stay in bed most of the time.We ain't never had no children and I ain't got no grandchildren.In fact, I can't got no living kin.I didn't have no big "to do" neither time when I was married.The preacher just said the words that made us man and wife.
I knows a lot about Abraham Lincoln.They say he is the man that set the niggers free.He might have done that for some of them, but he wasn't the one to set me free.Ole Miss was the one that set all of us free, and Mr. Lincoln didn't have nothing to do with it.All of us belonged to Ole Miss, and if she hadn't said we was free we would have still belonged to her, regardless of what Mr. Lincoln said.There was another great man in what they called the Rebel Army, his name was Robert E. Lee.Some like him and some don't.Some says it was him that tried to keep the niggers slaves.That wasn't what the war was about.That slavery didn't have nothing to do with it.You see it was this way:Jefferson Davis wanted to let the slaves go up to the north, and Abraham Lincoln wouldn't allow it, cause he didn't want no slaves up there, and that's what the whole thing was about.The colored folks was a lot better off in slavery time than they is now.They needs teaching and caring for.They was made to look after theirself better.Slave holders cared more for their slaves than the slaves cared for theirself.
I don't know nothing about Booker T. Washington.I hears a lot about what he done for the colored race.If you ask me, the man what really done something for them was President Wilson.When that man was in office, us all had plenty of money and we ain't had none since.Another thing I didn't like about Abraham Lincoln, when the war was over, we was told they couldn't make us stay on the places we was at.Ole Miss didn't make us stay, and we didn't receive nothing.If we had to leave, where was we going?Nowhere to go, nothing to eat, if Ole Miss had drove us off we yet wouldn't have been free.She wouldn't do the like of what like them Yankees wanted her to do.
I don't know nothing about reconstruction days, but I can remember heaps of times I is voted.I voted the Republican ticket at first, but afterwards I voted for the Democrats.I don't know whether the colored folks can vote now or not.I don't take no more interest in politics.All my life I is been a farmer.When I left Arkansas, I came to Panola County, Mississippi.But I was only there till cotton picking time, then I came up here to the Sherard place.After several years I bought me a piece of property near Cleveland.I farmed there for a long time and got along mighty well till my wife taken sick.When I found I had to put her in the hospital I sold my place and moved to Memphis.When we left there, we came back to Coahoma County where I has been ever since.First one place then on another.
I is too old to farm now, so I have moved to town.When the weather is good I picks a little cotton.I does all right while I is picking, but the next day I ain't no count at all.Its pretty hard on a man that worked all his life to have to give up cause he's getting old.I wasn't brought up like this present generation.They just come up theirselves, and if they makes three dollars by Saturday night picking cotton, they not got enough to last them through Sunday.
I is a member of the Sanctified Church.I joined it because it teaches you to be dutiful, and too, God's church must be sanctified.
Interview with Sally Dixon
I has just a misty recollection of my first Mistress, Miss Sally White.I was born on her place near Macon, Georgia.She was a widow lady and lived in a great big beautiful house.My ma, Louise, cooked for her, and when I was born she named me Sally after her.That was many years before the Civil War.Ole Miss was old and not very strong, and one morning we got the news that she done died.I never will forget that funeral, cause I ain't never seen one like it.Instead of buring her in the ground, like all folks is buried, they buried her in something what looked like a big brick wall.
Miss had two sons, Mr. Frank and Mr. Crawford.They was living on their farms near Como, Mississippi.We, my family, was left to Mr. Crawford, cause Ole Miss had done put it in her will that he was to have us.He carried us to his place in big covered wagons.Besides my pa, Frank, and ma, Louise, there was four boys and six girls.The boys was named:Larkin, Floyd, Doc, and Ed.The girls was:Dosia, Lucy, Pokie, Tooly, Rebecca, and me.
I never will forget that trip.There was so many children in the wagons that when us comed to the toll gates they would make us all lay down real still int he bottom of the wagon so they wouldn't have to pay toll for us all.Mr. Crawford wasn't married nad he lived most of the time with his brother, Frank, and had an overseer to look after his place.He was clearing this place up on the Bogue, and we went to work at daylight and worked till dark.The nights the big logs was burning, someone would have to sit up and watch the fire.
We stayed there on that place for seven years, and when the big overflow came, they had to take us all back to the hills.I don't know nothing about what year it was, children wasn't taught about years and months like they is now.That's how come I don't know how old I is.Mistress didn't tell me or my ma what date she had put down in the book.I expect if she had told her she couldn't have kept all them children's dates in her head.My grandpa, old Uncle Essex White, knowed a lot about figures, but he stayed down in Georgia, and we never seen him again after we left there.
The house we lived in was made of logs and chinked with clay.The chimneys was made of the same clay, and was good and warm.The women on the place wove the cloth our clothes was made of, and every night my ma had to spin six cuts of cotton before she went to bed.Some of the cloth was dyed in colored stripes, and sure was beautiful, but most of it was left white.We wore the same clothes in the winter that we wore in the summer, except more of them.
Every family cooked for theirself.We didn't have no central kitchen like they had in the old home place in Georgia, except for the children, and my ma cooked for them.There was always plenty to eat; meat, molasses, peas, bread, taters, and greens.The big old smokehouse was always filled with meat, caused we raised hogs and cured the meat.My pa brought home all the game we wanted, and about the only thing the Master had to buy for us was shoes, and he sure did get us good ones.
The overseer was poor white trash, but Master didn't allow him to whip none of us.When any of us done wrong, old Master would tend to us with a light brushing.That was the only form of punishment, cause they wasn't any jails or county farms in them days.Nobody ever came near that place with slaves to sell.I expect it was too far in the back woods.I is seen them slave dealers with many a one for sale down in Georgia.Once they had a big camp filled with them just accross the road from us.They was handcuffed together so they couldn't run away.
I never is heard of no trouble between the colored and whites.We had us a little fiddling and dancing on Saturday night, and just so we didn't kill one another, Master didn't care how much fun we had, because that was the only form of amusement.There wasn't no church except white folks church and that was way off.We didn't know nothing about the Bible, and if we had a Bible none of us knowed how to read it.We didn't even know when Christmas came, there wasn't no celebration of any kind.
Nobody ever studied about running off to the North or to anywhere else for that matter.We knowed well and good them patrollers would catch us if we even started.We would hear about such as that going on once in a while from some of the folks that would come to our dances.That was the only way there was to catch the news.
There wasn't no hoodoo doctors on the place, and if there was ever a haint seen, the one what seen it sure kept it to hisself.It might have been because nobody ever died out there.I don't believe in the like of that nohow.
I don't know how long the war had been going on when we went back to Mr. Frank's place to get away from the overlow.We hadn't been there so very long when the Yankee soldiers came marching by, put us all in wagons, and carried us up to Memphis.They had a place for us to stay and we was fed out of the commissary.Memphis had already been taken by the Yankees.They made my pa a soldier, and he stayed in the army at Memphis till the war was over.The day peace was declared, a big music boat came up the Mississippi River.The band was playing, and everybody on it was singing, "We done hung Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree."Jeff Davis was the rebel man who was trying to keep us slaves, and Abraham Lincoln was the man what freed us.We was told when we got freed we was going to get forty acres and a mule.Instead of that we didn't get nothing.I couldn't tell much difference, we was doing pretty good anyhow.
The KKK started up about that time, but they never once came my way.I think they just got after the folks they didn't like.when my pa got let out of the army, we all came back to Mississippi and went to farming on Mrs. Bullock's place near Senatobia.I was living there when I married Dock Dixon, and from there we moved to Sumner.From there we moved to Mr. Studervant's place.My husband got into trouble there, and was sent to the country farm for two years.After that we separated; he went back to the hills, and we never went back together.We had seven children, six boys and one girl.They is all dead excusing John and Tom.I don't know where John is, he is always moving about.Tom is farming on the Lee place near Clarksdale.
I had saved my money that I made cooking and farming so I decided to buy this little house.I is been living in it twenty or thirty years.It was in the middle of the cotton patch, but now I has neighbors on all sides.These children around me just raises themselves.I is always talking about their mas just putting them in the street and they gone.Heaps of the white folks ain't raising theirs no better.Just yesterday one of them poor white children called me "old nigger."
I can't do much work now, and I can't hear and see so good.I has me a little garden and sometimes I sells greens and sweet potatoes out of it.The government helps me along, but it don't take much for me to live on as I lives here all alone.When I is well enough I goes to the Baptist Church that I has joined, and when I ain't able to go I just stays home where I can be quiet and peaceful.
Interview with Lizzie Norfleet
There ain't no need for me to try to tell you how old I is, cause I don't know, and nobody don't know.When the folks with learning figures it out, one says one thing and one says another, so I just decided if they can't make their calculations come out the same, they don't know a bit more about it than me.While the war was going on I was a good big girl, old enough to carry water to the fields for twenty-five hands, and to drive the mule around to run the gin.Children was more apt in them days, and they learned more.Off-handed, I would say in the neighborhood of twelve years old, but I don't know.
I was born on the Norfleet place in Quitman County.My Pa, Jack Flagg, and my Ma, Sally, came from Tennessee.I never had but one brother, Bob.He died when he was a baby, but I had two sisters, Lou and Nellie.All of us belonged to Mr. Ferd Norfleet, even my grandpa and grandma.I can remember when my grandma, Aggie died, but I can't recall my grandpa, Bob.
All the houses where the slaves lived was made of logs, and was long side of each other.They was known as the quarters.We had homemade beds to sleep in and the mattresses was made of hay.They wasn't bad, because they was thick enough to be soft.
We was fed on whatsoever was raised on the place.Each family had a garden over by the edge of the woods.Our meal was made from the corn raised in the field.It made good bread and we liked it.The smokehouse was always kept full of hog meat.My Pa had good dogs and did a heap of hunting.We was always well supplied with possums, coons, and rabbits.He was a good fisherman, too, and would bring home the prettiest string of fish you ever seen.Everybody did their own cooking in their own house, over the big log fire.Every morning before day, the overseer blowed the horn for to wake the hands up.They had to dress, cook the breakfast, and be ready to work by daybreak.
They had three different overseers that I knowed of:Mr. Dickerson, Mr. Waddell, and the last one, Mr. Polk.They was pretty nice till they got mad, then they was sure fractous.All our clothes was made on the place.The cloth was wove right there, too, that they was made of.The dresses for the women was beautiful, one dark stripe and one bright stripe.Folks them days knowed how to mix pretty colors.In the summer we didn't wear nothing but slip-on shirts, but in the winter we had real heavy underclothes to keep us warm.Our shoes was bought, and they was made of thick leather with brass tips over the toes.The brass sure did dress them off.they don't put brass on shoes anymore and I can't see why; they lasted heaps longer and looked so much better.
Master Ferd Norfleet, and his wife, Miss Elvira, had three children.One girl, Miss Boyd, and two sons, George and Tom.They lived in Memphis and only come now and then occasionally down to the place to see how things was going.Master built a big house where the overseer lived, and kept part of it for hisself and family whensoever they cared to come to the plantation.
Mister Tom always come down for New Years and brought a lot of young folks with him.He would invite all the neighbors in, get the old fiddler to play for them to dance, and call they self seeing the new year in.The house looked mighty pretty all glowing with lights.It was a nice house, built out of lumber like they use now, but no log house like the ones we lived in.The yard was filled with pecan trees and the grass was always mowed.Master's place wasn't no scrubbery place, I tell you that, and there wasn't no poor whites living no where near us, nothing but niggers.How many I don't know, but there was sure a heap of them.The place was so big it took a many a one to work it.I wouldn't have no idea how many acres Master owned.
During cotton picking time everybody stopped work before dark, so as to get the cotton they had picked to the gin house to be weighed.They carried in in wheel barrows, and everybody had to stay until his cotton was weighed to see if they had enough for a day's work.Sometimes the lanterns would have to be lit to see to weight the last of the cotton.
When the cotton was ginned, all the seed that was kept for planting was put in the seed house, and the rest of them was piled up outside.Whenever my feet got cold I would dig a hole in the seed pile and put my feet in it.They will get just as warm that way as putting them to the fire.Old Sterling Flagg, who helped me drive the mule to run the gin learned me that.
The overseer was the one that done the punishing.We never heard of such things as jails.If a person wouldn't work, or if he ran off, he would get whipped for that, and if he did it the second time, he got whipped harder.I can remember two that ran off; one was a cripple woman, and one was my Uncle.They got them both back and both of them got whipped.I never is seen no slave with chains on, nor has I ever seen any bought or sold.I is heard my Ma tell how she was put on the block and auctioned off to the highest bidder, but I never seen none of that.
None of us could read or write, and we never had nobody to learn us.When Master and Ole Miss came down from Memphis, they always brought us shoes and clothes.Old Master call himself giving us a lecture.He would get us all together and tell us we must be good.He say he is a Christian and he ain't going to be cruel to nobody, nor allow no mistreatment to none of his slaves.
There wasn't no church of no kind on the place, but the old people would go to one another's house and sing and pray.There was an old man on the place that was a kind of preacher.They whipped him one day but he wouldn't deny.He said that was his victory over hell, and if they whipped him to death, when they turned him loose he was going on the same way.We didn't have no Bible readings, no baptizings, and no preaching.If a slave died there wasn't no Christian burial, just a box with the corpse in it that was taken to the grave yard in a wagon.All the slaves went to the grave, and from there they went back to work.There wasn't no song, no prayer, or no nothing over the dead.
Another thing I is never heard of is any trouble of no kind between the whites and the colored.If a slave ran off, he didn't go to the North, he only went to the woods and hid.The patrollers and night riders didn't interfere on our place, we didn't know nothing about them.
The Fourth of July was the day for the big barbecues.First on one place then on another.Like this year we would hold it on our place,.and the neighbors would all come.Next year they would hold it, and us all would go.We liked that getting together because it was the only way we had of passing the news, then we meet up one to the other.At that time it was mighty little we ever heard.Sometimes we held dances on the place Saturday nights, and for the music one man would beat on a tin pan and two would blow quills.That was fine to dance by, so we would cup up and have a good time.
No work was done on Saturday after dinner, except washing the clothes, and none at all on Sunday.We would do whatever we wanted to on that day.In the fall of the year we liked to go to the woods and gather nuts and persimmons.Christmas day was just like Sunday.We didn't work and we didn't have no celebration, not even for the children.On rainy days we had corn shuckings, but that wasn't no party.Course we liked it cause we was all together, laughing, singing, and having a good time.At that the corn had to be shucked just the same.
Slaves didn't have no weddings with a preacher and all that.Had nothing to do but let Master know it, and he tell you can be man and wife.
The children on the place had a good time.They was carefree till they get old enough to work.They was looked after careful and made to obey.They wasn't allowed to be sassy and impertinent to old folks.The girls would ring up their little games and the boys play marbles.The old folks told them ghost stories that scared them most to death.Our house was near a graveyard, and on rainy nights I wouldn't take my eyes off that graveyard looking out for some of them haints that walk at night.Some folks can't see them, and I is one of that kind.Even when I hears them I can't see them.One night I was sick and was staying at my Ma's house so she could take care of me.I heard something fall in the middle of the floor, and I sat up straight in bed and I couldn't see nothing.I just says to myself, "If you is a spirit you ain't going to do nothing to me and I cain't going to do nothing to you."He was passing on wheresoever he was going to.
When the slaves got sick, a doctor from Friar's Point was sent for to tend them.The old women on the place looked after them till they was up and about.The old women looked after the babies and children, too, cause they had done learned about different herbs, and how to make tea out of them for the babies.The older children had their worm medicine put in molasses so they wouldn't mind eating it.Every child wore an asafetida bag round the neck to keep from catching disease, for in them days they didn't know nothing about no charms or nothing of the kind.The asafetida bag was the only dependence.
There wasn't no big to do when freedom come.We knowed it by the change in the work.Instead of working for nothing, we was told we was going to get two-thirds of the crop.Outside of that we didn't know no difference.Old Master didn't even come down to the place, and we never seen no Yankee soldiers, but the Rebel soldiers camped in Master's house.The Ku Klux Klan and the night riders never came to interrupt the Norfleet place.I heard of them, but never seen them.We only made one crop on the place after freedom, cause we moved on Mrs. Page's place.Dr. Peace wanted to get us on his place, cause he had knowed all my family on account of being the doctor for the Norfleet's.He made some sort of satisfaction agreement with Mrs. Page, and moved us all on to his place.I lived there till I was grown and married, and all my children was born there.Years later, my husband bought a forty acre block on the Irvin place, but after we moved up there, he found in place of buying, we was paying ten dollars an acre, and they couldn't sell cause there was too many heirs.My husband then bought this little home on the Reinhart place, and I has been living in it ever since.
I married Jim Norfleet some years after the war.We didn't have no big wedding, we just got the license from the courthouse at Friar's Point, and Nat Black, the preacher, married us at Berry Moore's house where prayer meeting was held.After the meeting we stayed and was married.I had six children, three boys:Henry, Tom, and Richard; and three girls:Nellis, Jettie, and Charity.Nellie and Richard are dead.Henry lives here in the house with me; Tom across the road; Jetting at Lyon; and Charity at Shufordsville.All of them farms by the day.How many grandchildren I got I couldn't begin to tell.These little ones playing around is my great-grandchildren.I has got a heap of them, too, and I keeps some of them while their Ma is picking cotton.
I ain't never met my husband till after the surrender, when he come to the Peace place when we was attached.He bought in the war on the North side, and when he died, twelve years ago, he left me this house in the clear.The government pays me a pension of forty dollars a month.I was getting fifty but they has done cut it to forty.
The report came out after the war that every family was going to get forty acres and a mule to start them out, but I ain't never seen nobody what received nothing.All I seen is transferring from plantation to plantation.You wasn't made to stay nowhere, so they all moved about.
There was a lot of talk after the war about Abraham Lincoln.Lord, that's been so far back I can't recollect much about it, except he worked for freedom.The colored was all under bondage, and they was afraid to speak till after freedom, and for that cause very little was said.If we heard a cannon go off, we speak low about it, just kinda whisper it under our hands, one to another.There wasn't much said about Jefferson Davis.According to the Bible, he was wrong.The Lord said, "The world was made sufficient for all to have a living."He never intended bondage for nobody, that's why he made the world big enough for everybody to have a home.Booker T. Washington's occupation was right.He taught slavery was no good.I don't know nothing about that reconstruction.The men folks might know, because I is heard them say they voted, but I don't know if they did or not.There was colored man by the name of Brown that held a big public office at Friar's Point.If I don't mistake, he was the High Sheriff.That caused a big riot, and they made him leave out of there, and he ain't never been heard of in this part of the country since.
Long after the war, schools was started for the colored, and lots of them went, and learned to read and write.Nearly all of this younger generation is got some education, but with that, they ain't brought up like I come.The world done changed, and the young ones brings their own self up now.The women don't tend to their children no more.Not none of them.
Ever since I was a young woman I has been a church member.I belongs to the Liberty Baptist Church, but I don't go to services very often now, cause I is getting old and don't get about much.Everbody is better off if they have a good rebellioin to depend on, so when they go away from here, they will be ready to find that better place.
Interview with Smith Simmons
I came to Coahoma County from the hills.I was born in Montgomery County, about six miles from Winona.I never heard anybody say what year I was born, and I don't know how old I was when the Civil War was fought, but I wasn't big enough to work, I knows that, but I had sense enough to know what was going on.Seems like all the little things stays with me better than the bigs ones do.I can remember good and well going out with one of the Master's sons and catching birds under a trap and cooking them in the field.I will never forget that because it was the most fun I ever had.
My Pa, Charles, and my Ma, Calline, was both from North Carolina.I had four brothers:Frank, Sollie, Murry, and Bryan; and four sisters:Minerva, Susie, Mollie, and Margaret.The last time I heard from my brother Murry, he was living somewhere up North.He may be dead now, if so, I ain't heard of it.All of the rest of my brothers and sisters is dead.The place we lived on was small.There was only three large families on it, and each family ate in their own house.There wasn't no quarters or eating kitchen like the big places had.Our beds was homemade steads, with rope cords to hold the mattress.I never seen my grandpa and grandma, and never heard much about them.The place had a great big garden for the white folks and the slaves.We was always fed mighty good; peas, greens, meat, lasses, and plenty of milk.I liked everything to eat and still does.Above everything, I is a crank about my milk.I likes it yet as well as I did then.We didn't have no game like possum and rabbits; didn't have no way to kill them.
In them days they wasn't no money paid for work, cause everybody worked for their owner for their keep.The clothes we had wasn't nothing to brag on, the children wore shirt tails the year round.When the weather was cold, they put one on over the others.The grown folks had good shoes, cause they had to go outside to work.
My master's name was Mr. Dick Blaylock, and his wife's name was Miss Janie.They had seven children.I don't remember the names of all them children, but I remembers well the oldest daughter, Miss Mollie, cause me and her was the same age.My white folks lived in a common box house, and they was very respectable people, but they don't care for no fine doings.They didn't have no overseer or driver, cause Master looked after everything hisself.I don't believe there was more than one hundred acres on the place.Master blowed the horn at daylight for the field hands to get up, but the children lay in bed as long as they pleased.Master sure wasn't hard on nobody, and there was very little punishment that went on; if any of the slaves got whipped I is never heard of it.Such a thing as jails was not known.They didn't need such as that for slaves.They was taught better than to do all the things people is put in jail for now.
The folks was always telling about slave dealers travelling around auctioning off their slaves.I is heard my Ma tell about it a many a time but I is never seen it.None of them ever came anywhere near us.
None of the slaves on our place could read or write.None of them knowed so much as the A.B.C., cause there wasn't nobody to teach them.Ole Miss and Master couldn't so much as write their own name, and the only person with any learning was one of Master's daughters.She was the one that visited around, and in that way she got her learning just catch as could.
We didn't know nothing about religion.There wasn't no church to go to, and we never as much as heard about the Bible and baptizings.None of the slaves died to my memberance, so I can't say how a funeral would be held.
It was very seldom a slave ever ran off.My oldest brother tried that once, but he was caught by the patrollers and brought back so quick he never tried that no more.My Pa lived on a different place from us, cause my Master didn't own him.He had a pass to come to our place so there wasn't no trouble about that.Any of us could visit around if we had a pass, and when we do the visiting, we tell all the news we knowed and received news the same way.We kept up pretty good with what was going on.The white folks and the colored got along mighty peaceful together, and never has been no trouble between them.
Saturday at twelve o'clock we was let off from work, and the women did the washing, but the men didn't do nothing.Saturday nights we most always had a dance.The banjo and the pat of the hands was the music we had.Sundays was rest and play do, no church to go to, no work to do.In the summer the grown folks walked about and visited, and the children had a rail they skinned the cat on, and a plant across a long for to see-saw.My Ma sang a song she had learned in North Carolina:
Come ye that love the Lord, and let your joy be known.
Everything was lazy like and peaceful the whole day Sunday, and the old folks told ghost stories to the children.They would think about them ghosts every time dark would come, and that's how come folks grow up to believe in them.I am going to come clean and say straight out, I got no faith in such as that.If them things could be seen, I would run across one of them some time or another, but I ain't, so I telling you, I got no faith in it.I don't believe in them hoodoo doctors neither.I don't pay them no attention when I hears all this and that about what they can do.I just says to myself, "Seeing is believing," and I ain't never seen.All that came along after slavery.When a slave got sick a white doctor was sent for to cure him, and they always did it.If they was just a little sick, the old women what nursed them could cure them with tea made from the bark of a dogwood tree or with wild sage tea.They didn't use no charms, they came out in later years.The asafetida bags that was worn was different.They could keep off sickness and they would sure do it.
We never did have no sort of celebration on our place.Christmas and New Years was spent like Sundays.On a place about a mile away from us they held big corn shuckings.We would about the enjoyment of it, but none of us didn't never get to go.While the war was going on, I remember one day my Ma was working in the field, and who should come riding up on beautiful horses but two black soldiers.Everybody said they was Yankees, and they stop right where Ma was working and said they had come to get all our horses.My Ma called herself hiding the horses, but that didn't do no good, cause they got them just the same.When the soldiers got to the big road a flock of geese was crossing, them soldiers shot every goose and left them there in the big road.That was as much as I seen of the war.The fighting wasn't near enough to ever hear it, and we didn't know much about it till it was all over.Master called all the slaves up and said, "You is just as free as I am, you can stay and go as you please."We all stayed, but my Pa left his Master and come to live at my Ma's home.The story got around, the colored folks was going to get twenty acres and a mule, but they didn't get it.Master gave my Ma a head of corn and a right smart meat, but I didn't see no money pass, I recon she used that for money, but we all understood if we didn't like that we could go.
About that time the Ku Klux Klan started up, and if you get into something you got no business, or be where you don't belong, that Klan catch you and whip you.They said they was to keep order.School started up for colored folks, and they had white teachers.
The colored was allowed to vote, but I wasn't old enough for that so I didn't pay no attention.I is voted, but not for several years.They stopped the colored folks from voting, but I ain't never heard the reason for it.
I has farmed all my life, and most of the time right around Winona.When I was grown I married Ella Wilson.No big wedding, the preacher married us at home.We had three children, but all of them is dead.I is got one grandchild that is farming near Indianola.In 1925 me and my wife moved to Coahoma County.We lived first on Mr. Myers place and then on Mr. Herrins.Six years ago my wife died, and since that time I has been working by the day and picking cotton.I never is been much of a hand to keep up with the great men like Abraham Lincoln, and Mr. Jefferson Davis.I known who they is and what they each done and I know that of the two, Mr. Lincoln was liked the best cause he was for freedom.Sometimes I think freedom is better and sometimes I don't.In slavery times the old folks was cared for and now there ain't no one to see to them.I belongs to the Baptist Church, and I thinks everybody is better off if they joins it.When you see a fellow got no religion, as a rule he ain't no good, but the better ones outnumbers the poor members.There is such a big stir in the church now about money that it keeps it all tore up.
The younger generation that is coming on is the same as old ones.Some is nice and some ain't.I sees a whole lots and I can't explain it all, about the rough company some of them keeps.Its mighty bad, but I just goes ahead on and pays them no mind.Someday they might get the true light.Until then I got no comment to make.
Interview with Maria White
Is you ever heard of a paralysis stroke?That's what they say struck me about sixteen years ago, and since that time I done lost my power in half my body.I was born in the year 1853.The folks all say I don't know how old I is, and I don't, but I is certain I was born in the year 1853, cause my Ma always kept up with it.She gave the number to me, and told me, don't never forget it.
My Ma's name was Judai and my Pa's name was William.They didn't have but two children, me and my sister Hannah.We was both born on Mr. Low Fletcher's place near Kosciusko.Master Low was a mighty fine man, and treated us all good.He looked after his place hisself, and didn't have no overseer or driver till the war broke out.
Soon as that war started, Master Low joined the Army, and he was a captain in it.That kept him away from home all the time except when he could slip away at night and come home to see his family.Master Low's wife, Miss Nancy, was the boss of things after Master left.She got an oversser to see that the work went on.He was old poor white trash, but he sure would do what Miss told him.He got the slaves up at the crack of dawn, and worked them till dark.
Miss Nancy had six children when the war was over.I don't know how many she had after that.She took me in the house to learn me how to nurse the baby, but she sure was a fractious lady.When I didn't do things to suit her, she would whack me over the head with whatever she had in her hand.I slept on the floor by the baby's crib, and when she called me to get up, if I didn't hear her, she would throw a glass of water in my face, no matter how cold the weather was.
You couldn't never leave the place unless Ole Miss gave you a pass to go.If you did leave, them patrollers would sure bring you back, and they wouldn't take no foolishness off nobody.One day Miss gave the order to have one of them women whipped.The next day Master came home, and he sure got mad about the whipping.He said they was his slaves, that they came from his folks, and he wouldn't stand for having nobody whip them.
Master's place wasn't very large, but it was big enough to raise all the food we needed.Us had a garden, cows, and hogs.There was plenty of game such as possums, rabbits, and coons.Old Aunt Minta cooked for all of the slaves.She fed all the children before night so they would rest well.My Grandma, Charity, and my Ma, did the spinning of the thread and the weaving of the cloth.They had a big loom that the cloth was made on.Besides making the cloth for our clothes, they made it for soldiers, too.They used dye to color the soldier's clothes, but ours was just left natural.We wore the same little slips in winter that we wore in the summer.The hardest thing to get was shoes.They would buy them for the work hands in the winter, but us children had to go barefooted.
My owners was kinda young folks.They wasn't so rich and the house they lived in wasn't nothing to brag on, but they was good livers.I is heard my Ma tell many times about the slave dealers.She said they would take the slaves from place to place all chained together, and they would make them sing to attract attention.Some of them would be crying about leaving their children.Ma said my Pa was put on a block and sold just like stock would be.One day a dealer brought a big drove of slaves, and among them was a real yellow nigger that could read and write.The folks wouldn't believe he was a nigger cause he could read and write, and they wouldn't let the man stop there long.They kept him going.
None of us had ever been taught anything in the way of book learning.We wasn't taught no Bible neither.The grown ups could go to the white folks church on Sunday, but they wouldn't let the children go.The whites and the colored got along mighty peaceful together.I never is heard of any trouble between them.There was one man on the place named Henry, and he was the terriblest fellow about running off.He had been caught many times by the patrollers and brought back.The last time he ran off, he went to the North and we never seen that man again.
When we had our quilting parties, we invited our neighbors to come, same way with the dances on Saturday nights.Nobody ever attended what ain't got no pass, cause them patrollers is sure looking out for that.Everbody would tell the news they heard on their place, as that was the only way we had for the word to get about.There wasn't much celebration on Christmas like there is these days.The children was given some cakes and candy, and that was about all there was to it.Maybe that's why we had so little sickness, as there wasn't all that trash to eat.Then, too, the children all wore asafetida bags around their necks, which helped to keep off diseases.We didn't wear charms and all such as that like they do now.I never even heard about a hoodoo doctor till long years after the war.The only person that ever died was Old Aunt Minta and my Pa.They was carried off the place somewhere to be buried, but I can't recollect much about it, except that it was the second year of the war.
We often saw big regiments of Yankee soldiers passing by.Once when Master was home, some of them came on the place looking for him, but they never did catch him.He always managed to dodge them somehow.I heard the old folks say the white folks tried to keep us from hearing about freedom, but they couldn't keep that from our ears, because there was so much talk going on.Quick as my Ma heard it she left that place and took me and my sister with her.Ole Miss was in the bed with a young baby, but none of us didn't go hear her to say goodbye, cause none of us didn't care if we never seen her again.
We didn't get any land like we thought we was going to get, but we found a home on another big plantation where they was in need of hands.I stayed there until I married Louis Jefferson.I had one child by him named Emma, but she died when she was eleven months old, and I has never had no more children.After my first husband died I married Columbus White, and he had one child, Lucille when I married him.I is living with her now, and has been ever since Columbus died.All my days I has done nothing but farm.You know how colored folks is about going here and yonder.Well, that's how we happened to come to the Delta, just changing about, trying to better ourselves.
I has lived here now about sixten years.I is a member of the Methodist Church, but before I joined it, I was a Baptist, but confusion and one thing and another caused me to change.I still like the Baptist religion best of all.This younger generation that's coming on now sure is much better brought up than us was.They is got fine schools where they can get learning, and nice brick churches where they hears the word of God.If they don't turn out right, there ain't no excuse for them.I sometimes wonder what I would have thought when I was young, if I could have waked up some morning and seen the world just like it stands today.
Interview with Callie Rolley
I was born in Shelby County, Tennessee.What year I just can't say, but it was before the Civil War broke out.When that war started I was old enough to plow, so I must have been somewhere in the neighborhood of fourteen or fifteen years old.My ma came from Atlanta, Georgia, and she was sold, with her two children to Mister Thomas Saddler.Her husband didn't have the same Master as my Ma had, so he was not sold with her.Mr. Saddler's wife was Miss Beckie, and they had a big family of children:three girls and five boys.
They lived in an old log house, which wasn't much better than the old shack what we lived in.Them white folks was poor white trash, and they worked in the field same as the slaves, and they sure didn't know nothing about how to treat a nigger.Their little old place wasn't much account, and they didn't even have enough money to buy a man to work it.Us was the only family he owned.I never is heard how my Master in Atlanta happened to seel us to such folks as the Saddlers.I expect we must have been bought by slave dealers, who brought us to Tennessee.
My Pa's name was Isam Books.He lived on the place next to us, and his white folks was the same kind that we had.I had four sisters:Minnie, Maline, Mary, and Belle.And four brothers:Isaac, Jhonah, Phiet, and Tom.All of them children was born right there except the two what came from Atlanta.My Mistress, Miss Beckie, had such a big family of her own to care for, she didn't have much time for anything else.
Every Sunday morning the rations for the week was weighed out for us.When my ma came in from the field she done the cooking, till we got big enough to help.The children was left in the house by theirself, with the older ones taking care of the younger ones.Mr. Saddler sold one of my little sisters when she was five years old, and we ain't never seen her since.My Master sure was a mean man.One Christmas day he sent my little brother to keep the cows out of the wheat.He was a little chap, not more than nine years old, and while he was watching them cows, the little children on the next place started shooting some little firecrackers.Childlike, he went where they was at and forgot all about the wheat patch.But them cows didn't forget it.The first thing you knowed they was all in there tearing that field to pieces, and when my Master seen that, he was so mad he beat that child near to death.That was on a Monday when they brought that boy in and put him in the bed.That blood ain't never stopped running out of his mouth and nose till he died on Friday.
Master always had plenty for us to eat, and his smoke house was filled with meat.Every time the Yankee soldiers came by, they stole some of the meat out of that smoke house, and they stole everything else they could find to eat.
One day Master's boys caught two Yankees.They carried them to the house and put them upstairs where they could guard them.After two nights them boys got mighty sleepy, just sitting there watching them Yankees take their rest, and the first thing they knowed, they had dropped off to sleep, and when they woke up, them Yankees had left out of there.That was shortly before the war ended.
When peace was declared Master told us about it.He didn't try to smother it or nothing of the king, he just said, "You is all going to be set free, and if you want to stay on you can."We didn't have no place in particular to go, so we said we would finish out the year.We could come and go as we pleased, and make plenty of money picking cotton all around.
The next year us all left, and my family moved on to another and better farm.I started cooking for a white gentleman what had just got married, and he had a mighty nice wife.They sure was good, kind people, but I had to see to their cow.Old Red was the worst cow I ever seen about breaking out, and one day she got away.While I was out looking for her, I came to the place where Mr. Puryear used to tie his slaves to the trees and whip them.The folks had done told me to stay away from there, but I didn't pay them no mind, besides I had to find old Red, so I walked on careless like till I approached them trees.Then I heard something go, "Swasher!M--M--M--Swasher!M--M--M!"You ain't never heard such moans as them in your life.I says, Lord, let me get away from here.Lord I sure ain't the one what done that whipping, and so I gets myself away from them trees, and never again is I been by that neck of the woods.
I is seen a many a ghost in my life.One used to follow me every night when I was keeping company what I knowed was wrong.When I would open the gate and go in, that haint would step right back, which meant I better not go in.The nearest I ever came to being hoodooed was by a man that was trying to make me marry him.He fixes a bag with some hair, a bone from a dead man's finger, and some dirt from the graveyard.He put it under the ground under my doorsteps.I didn't know it was there, so I walked right up them steps into the house.Pretty soon that man came along to see what had happened, but he walked over it hisself.He hadn't got in the house good when he fell out, and said he was dying.I called myself doing everything for him I knowed how, but he didn't get no better till he told my ma about that bag and she went and dug it out.We had to get an old lady to come break that spell before he got entirely well.
After Master Saddler died, colored folks moved into his house, but they couldn't stay there, the haints bothered them so.Some folks said he had money buried there, but if he did its sure going to stay there, cause there ain't nobody going to that haunted house after it.They even have Squinch Owls in that yard.The kind what shivers when they calls.You sure better leave them birds along, because when they starts that shivering, there ain't no iron in the fire or turning of shoes what's going to keep you from dying.
I remember how come us to move to the Delta, cause we came such a long time ago.I has been married three times, and two of my husbands is dead.Andy, the one is is living with now is making a crop here on the Stovall place.He says he ain't so old as he is, but he looks like he is older.I has two girls living, they is both married and making a crop on the place, too.My three grandchildren all live in Memphis.
We is all good Baptist people.I didn't get no religion learning in my young days, but now the church done give me light to live right, and I don't know nothing else.It is outrageous the way the young folks is brought up now.They is grown before they gets away from the floor.
I is been on this place thirty or forty years, and let me tell you what happened to me when I was on my way home from church the other Sunday.When I gets nearly home, my feets sorter gets to trembling, and they ain't so steady no way.One of these young boys was coming along in his car, and I asks him how much he charge me for to take me on up to my house.He said he would take me for twenty-five cents.I ain't made him no reply till yet, I just put my foot in the road and started for home.Such as him is the ones that say they got all the knowledge.They can tell you all about Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Booker T. Washington, folks I just knows the name of, but when it comes to knowing about manners and politeness, Old Callie could learn them more than their little heads could ever hold.
Interview with Mollie Williams
If I lives till next September fifteenth, I'll be eighty-four.I was born about three miles from Utica on the Newsome place.Me and my Pappy and brother Hamp belonged to Master George Newsome.Master George was named after George Washington up in Virginia where he come from.Miss Margurite was our mistress.My Mammy?Well, I'll have to tell you how about her.
You see Master George come off down here from Virginia like young folks venturing about and married Miss Margurite and wanted to start up living right over there near Utica where I was born.But Master George was poor and he sure found out you can't make no crop without a start of darkies, so he wrote home to Virginia for to get some darkies.All they sent him was four mens and old Aunt Harriet for to cook.
The day Master George and his uncle, Mr. John Davenport, now there was a rich man for you - why he had two carriage drivers, and they rode over to Grand Gulf where they was selling slaves off the block, and Mr. John told Master George to pick himself out a pair of darkies for to chop his cotton and the like.So Master George pick out my Pappy first.My Pappy come from North Carolina.Then he seen my Mammy and she was big and strengthy and he wanted her powerful bad, but like I told you, he didn't have enough money to buy them both, so his Uncle John say he'd buy Mammy and then he would loan her over to Master George for Pappy.The first child would be Mr. John's and the second Master George's and likewise.Mammy was a Missourian named Marilyn Napier Davenport, and Pappy was Martin Newsome.
Darkies lived in little old log houses with dirt chimneys.That is, the rest of the darkes did.They kept me up in the big house, being mammyless like.Mostly I slept in a trundle bed with Miss Mary Ann till I got so bad they had to make a pallett on the floor for me.They was Mr. Bryant, Mr. A.D., Miss Martha, Miss Ann, Miss Helen, Miss Mary Jane, and Mr. George, all belonging to Master George and Miss Margurite.
Mammy was a field hand.She could plow and work in the fields just like a man and my Pappy he done the same.Mammy, she hated house work like me.I just naturally loves to be out running around in the fields and about.I never liked to work round the house none at all.
We wore lowell clothes and toed brogans.Miss Margurite made our dress and like and after Aunt Harriet died she done the cooking, too, for all the slaves and the family.She fixed up dinner for the field hands and I taken it to them.Master George had an old powder horn he blowed mornings to get the darkies up before day good and they come in about sundown.
We growed corn and taters and cotton plentiful, and we had grand orchards and peanuts.The sheeps and hots and cows and like.
Miss Marguerite had a piano, an accordian, a flutena, and a fiddle.She could play a fiddle as good as a man.Law, I heard many as three fiddles going in that house many a time.And I can just see her little ole fair hands now, playing just as fast as lightening, tune about:
My father he cried, my mother she cried,, I wasn't cut out for the army.O, Captain Gink, my horse me think, But feed my horse on corn and beans, and support the gals by any means.Cause I'm a Captain in the army.
All us children begged her to play that and we all sing and dance, great goodness . . One song I remember Mammy singing:
Let me nigh, be my cry, Give me Jesus.You may have all this world, But give me Jesus.
Singing and shouting.She had religion all right.She belonged to old Farrett back in Missouri.
We didn't get sick much but Mammy made yeller top tea for chills and fever and give us.Then if it didn't do no good Miss Marguerite called for Dr. Hunt like she done when her own children were sick.
None of the darkies on that place could read or write.Guess Miss Helen and Miss Ann would have learned me but I was just so bad and didn't like to set still no longer than I had to.
I seen plenty of darkies whipped.Master George buckled my Mammy down and whipped her when she ran off.Once when Master George seen Pappy stealing a bucket of molasses and toting it to a gal on another place he whipped him, but didn't stake him down.Pappy told him to whip him but not to stake him, he'd stand for it without the staking, so I remember he looked like he was jumping a rope and hollering, "Pray Master," every time the strop hit him.
I heard about some people what nailed their darkies ears to a tree and beat them, but I never seen one whipped that way.
I never got no whippings from Master George cause he didn't whip the children none.Little darky children played along with the white children.If the old house is still there I expect you can find mud cakes up under the house what we made out of eggs we stole from the hen nests.Then we milked just anybody's cows we could catch and churn it.All time into some mischief.
There was plenty of dancing among the darkies on Master George's place and on ones nearby.They danced reels and like in the moonlight:
Mamma's got the whopping cough, Daddy's got the measels, That's where the money goes, Pop goes the weasel!
Buffalo gals, can't you come out tonight, Come out tonight, and dance by the light of the moon?
Gennie put the kettle on, Sally boil the water strong, Gennie put the kettle on, and let's have tea.
Run tell Coleman, Run tell everybody, that the niggers is arising
Run nigger run, the patrollers catch you, Run nigger run, for it's almost day, The nigger run, the nigger flew; the nigger lost his big old shoe.
When the war come, Master George went to fight back in Virginia.Us all thought the Yankees was some kind of devils and we was scared to death of them.
One day Miss Mary Jane, Helen, and me was playing and we seen mens all dressed in blue coats with brass buttons on they bosums riding on big fine horses, drive right up to our porch and say to Aunt Delia where she was sweeping and say, "Good morning Madam, no mens about?"When we told them no mens was about they ask for the keys to the smoke house and went out and helped they selfs and loaded they wagons.Then they went out int he pasture amongst the sheeps and killed off some of them.Next they went in the buggy house and all together struck down the carriage so as we never could use it no more.Yessu, they done right smart of mischief around there.
Some of the darkies went off with the Yankees.My brother Howard did and we ain't heard tell of him since.I'll tell you about it.You see Mr. Davenport owned him and when he heard about the Yankees coming this way he sent his white driver and Howard in the carriage with all his valuables to the swamp to hide, and while they was there the white driver he went off to sleep and Howard was prowling around and we all just reconed he went off with the Yankees.
You mean hoodoo?That's what my Pappy done to my Mammy.You see they was always fussing about first one thing, then another, and Mammy got so mad cause Pappy slipped her clothes out of her chest and taken them over to other gals for to dance in, and when he brought them back Mammy would see fingerprints on them where he'd been turning them around, and she sure be made and fight him.She could lick him, too, cause she was bigger.One day Pappy come in and say to Mammy, "Does you want to be bigger and stronger than what you already is?"And Mammy say she did.So next day he brought her a little bottle of something blood red and something looked like a gourd seed in the middle of it and he told her to drink it if she wanted to be really strong.From the first drink she fell off instead of walking off, she just stumbled and got worser and worser until she plumb lost her mind.For a long time they had to tie her to a tree.Then after the war she left Mr. Davenport and just traveled about over the country.I stayed on with Miss Marguerite helping her just like I had been doing.One dayMammy came after me and I run and hid under a pile of quilts, and liked to have smothered to death waiting for her to go on off.
Next time she come she brung a written letter to Miss Marguerite from the Freeman's Board and took me with her.We just went from place to place till I got married and settled down for myself.I had three children but ain't none of them living now.
Interview with Jeff Johnson
Tain't talking no big talk missus.My papa named me Jeff Johnson for our Master.I was born in Cartersville, Georgia.That's where we lived, but I didn't grow up there.About time I can start to remember, Master sent the wagon for us and took us out to the plantation.They was several families living there.Us little fellers went to school over to Finley's quarters; that was about three miles.They was a colored man school teacher, I expect he was a preacher.
But tell you the truth Missus, I was so little, I don't recollect much about it.Mama and Papa, they worked in the field, and when they come in at dark we be's sleepy and didn't pay them no mind.I expect they talked about the soldiers and the Yankees, but I ain't never see no Yankee.The white gentlemen must have run all that trash out of the country by time I can start to recollect.
Georgia was where I lived till I was about fifteen.We danced some in them days.My Papa was sort of what you call a ginger-cake colored nigger and he had a brother just like him what got left a place up in Chattanooga.He was my uncle and when I was about fifteen, I decided to follow him to Chattanooga, and after awhile I got there sure enough.I worked a while and then I moved on, just drifting around, and after while I got to Meridian.I worked at the furnace at the brickyard and I worked at Mr. Sturgis Company feedhouse, and I worked the streets some.I ain't never worked in prison though.
I married in, well, some say it's Kemper.Me and her separated.Yessum we had children Missus.I don't know exactly; well, you count them Missus while I call them off.They was Jeff and Liza, that's two ain't it?And Sarafin and Carter.How many is that, Missus?Four, yessum.My wife was named Sally and she was - and Queen Esther!Did I call off Queen Esther's name, Missus?Well, they was her, too.Five children, yessu, that's right.They don't none of them live here.
I stay out here in that old two-story house on 34th Avenue with old lady Jane Scott.She ain't there though; she stay in Memphis.I can't walk around now account of my rheumatism.I superintends around there at the "Help-Yourself-Store" on the corner where you sees me sitting by the side door.I picks up slop and trash and they pays me a little something and I buys my little something to eat.
I'm a Missionary Baptist.I was baptized up in Alabama, out a piece from York.I was baptized in the creek, yessum.Sometimes, if they's a meeting close around I goes, but I can't get far now account of my rheumatism.
They is too much change now days.I used to be a mighty cotton-picker.I seen the time when I could pick six hundred pounds a day, plenty of days, and I could cut five cords of four foot wood a day, and put it up, too.Mr. John Lutz, you knows him, he turn me off once because he say I cut too much in one day.He say it would break the First National Bank to pay me.Course he intended that for a joke, but he ain't never took me back.
But I got white folks.Mr. Big Boss Williams and Mr. Casper Phillips; they is the best two white men ever lived.Big Boss, he give me two bits most every morning, and Mr. Casper, he give me this here for my rheumatism.Yessu, Sal Hepatica, he call it something like that.
Yessum, thank you Missus, thank you.Good morning, Missus.
Interview with Charlie Bell
I belonged to Mr. Moore of Poplarville in Pearl River County.They was about four hundred slaves and upwards of six hundred acres in cultivation; it ain't no telling how many acres they was in all.I don't remember his first name cause I wasn't but nine years old when the surrender come in sixty-five, and Mr. Moore's girl married, and me and my Mama and Daddy and six others was part of her setting out, so we just stayed on.She married Mr. Long-Bell, Lumber Company Bell, and that's how come my name is Bell instead of Moore.
My mother was born between Poplarville and Picayune, and my father was born at Red Church, forty miles below New Orleans.I have heard my grandfather was born there, too.My father was a carpenter and a blacksmith, could make a whole wagon, go out and cut him a gum tree and make a whole wooden wagon, and hubs and everything.That's how come they didn't take him to the war; leave him home to make mule shoes and things.He was a powerful worker.
I tended to the cows and calves - give them water - and fed the chickens what roots in the big henhouse.But before I got big enough to do that, I stay in the long house with the other little fellows.It was just hewed out of logs.They was notched to fit, and daubed with mud and pine straw, wouldn't never wash out.Three of the old women tended to the children and cooked their something to eat.They'd pour syrup in every one of them's plates and every one of them had a tin cup to theyself for they milk.They had a big oven like a frog-stool house made out of mud.In the summer they moved it out in the yard cause the children didn't stay in the long house except in the winter.It was plumb full then though, and Miss Moore, she come out everyday and teached us out of a Blue Back Speller.
Mr. Moore built a log church for his labor on the plantation.A white preacher come twice a month to speak to us.His text would always be:"Obey your Master and Mistress that your days may be lingering upon God's green earth what he give you."We didn't have no nigger preaching to us when I was little.
Some of the colored folks was pretty sociable.Some of them was pretty good scholars; could read well enough to go anywhere and enjoy theirselfs.The niggers on the plantation danced a heap, seemed to me like it was most every night.You takes a coon skin and make a drum out of it, stretch it over a keg, a sawed off one, that make a fine drum.And banjos and fiddles!Didn't have no mandolins and guitars then.
I've heard say they didn't never buy medicine.Whenever one of them got sick, they give them peach tree leaves for chills and fever and billiousness; it was boiled and steeped.And they give them red oak bark for dysentery; put it in a glass and pour cold water over it and drink off of it all day.For just plain sprains, they'd make a poultice out of akra leaves; it would sure draw you!You know what they'd put on a bad sprain?Put a dirt-dauber's next and vinegar.When the children had them bad colds like they has now, they give them hickory bark tea, drink it kind of warm, drink it night and morning.They kept that cough from bothering them.
Mr. Moore went to the war and come back all right.Found things on the plantation just like he left them.You see, when you has servants around your house they keeps it whether your presence or your absence is there.I show you what I means.After Mr. Mr. Moore come back from the Civil War, he had all the barns overhauled and banked everything; turnips and everything, so he'd be able to take care of all of his labor he had on the place.Didn't but a few niggers leave.They all stayed with him until he died.After he died, they scattered.
When the Yankees come during the time of the war, I remember them coming by and giving us candy.There must have been a hundred small children of us there.I say to the old colored woman what looked after us, I say:"Look here, they ain't got no wagons like we got."They wagons wasn't made like ours.The Yankees didn't bother nothing on the plantation.After I got grown I found out why they didn't bother us, cause Mrs. Moore was a Eastern Star Sister and the General wouldn't let them bother us.I tell you in a minute what his name was.He was a small-like stout man, had a little beard.I'd know him right now if I was to see him.Name, Sherman, that was it.
I first come to Meridian when I was a grown boy.It ain't no piece over to Poplarville from here.I could walk it in a day.Of course when I was a little feller our largest city was Mobile or maybe Biloxi, but it's different now.It took eight days to go to Mobile in an ox-wagon through the country; it was the cotton market.We'd bring back coffee and cloth and shoes and things.
Miss Bell went to Arkansas to live after she married and took us niggers with her.Mr. Bell raised me from then on right from his table.They'd go north to spend the summer, or to California sometimes, and I go with them wheresoever they go . . I shined his shoes and put his clothes in the pressing club everyday.I was with him thirty some years before he died.I had three thousand dollars worth of stock in the Long-Bell Lumber Company.After while the lumber business got mighty bad and everybody lost they money, white folks and niggers, too.I got these here gold teeth after I come to Meridian.Its been my headquarters off and on like you know you has headquarters in a big place.
I've worked for my bread and meat all my life.I works now for Mr. McQuillan Beer Distributing Company.But John Barleycorn, he a bad feller.Can't no man beat John Barleycorn, cause he whips every man that jumps on him.Heap of folks is sick of that and if it ain't that its something else.I ain't been sick any too much, ain't took a dose of Epsom Salts since 1914.
Me and my wife separated.She spent all the money I had and when the lumber business got bad and I couldn't get no more, she told me I wasn't any good.So I just walk off and left her.I just lives with a family in Royal Alley.I has children - about fourteen head of them, but they ain't no good.They all grown and living away from here.I expect I got a right smart of grandchildren.
Interview with Lula Coleman
I says I was born at Livingston, cause that's where we get off the train now when I goes to see the folks.But I was born sure enough on the Lowden plantation between Epps and Gainesville that belonged to Mr. Jerry Brown.He owned nearly all of Alabama, what he didn't belong to Master Hugh Lide.He was Jerry Brown's son-in-law.They houses wasn't very far apart.We'd run back and forth to play.Master Hugh owned all up there and my Pappy belonged to him, but my Mama and me belonged to Master Jerry Brown.
My grandfather didn't live on nobody's place before the surrender.Couldn't nobody own him.They called him a run-away nigger, but didn't nobody know where he come from.His name was John Ren and he lived in a cave by himself.He wouldn't allow nobody to live int he same place with him.He was a little old man, didn't look like folks hardly; went in his shirt-tail all time.Wouldn't wear pants, say the ones what did the work was the only ones that had to wrap up the legs.He acted proud like, like he hadn't never done work, was used to having other folks do for him.He didn't talk like we did, and white folks couldn't understand what he say, but we could understand him.We had to.He'd set on a box, grand like and move his hands back and forth or up and down, and then, if nobody bring himwhat he wanted he'd say something and then we'd hop.Wasn't that he was big enough to hurt you.He was a little bitty man, had a face, right hairy, legs and all he was hairy, and not having on no pants, you know …But seemed like he had the right to make folks do for him, and they did.Besides we didn't know whether it was something good or bad he had in his box.
We didn't know till after he was dead what was in that bos, and we still don't know if it was good or bad.Maybe it was a good thing we ain't never cross him.My grandfather knowed when he was going to die.That was after the surrender.He had a place of his own then.Forty acres and a house.He bought it.I don't know how he had money to buy a place.Maybe he had it hid in that cave where he stayed at.Some folks said he had a castle full of gold and jewels where he come from and kept some of it hid in his stomach all time, but I expect that was just talk.Maybe he have something in that box would tell him where to find money when he need it, I don't know about that.But he had a place after the surrender and started to live in it like other folks on his own place.He always set at the head of the table, but he didn't eat with the rest of us; he just set there.But one day he refused it and say he wanted to see how his son would look setting at the head of the table.That was his oldest son.Mr. Joe Hellman at Livingston kept coffins to seel and my grandfather he went and bought himself a coffin on Tuesday, but he didn't tell nobody.He had a little house kind of like a - but shucks, you don't know what a smoke house looks like.Well, he had a little house kind of like a smoke house, out a piece from the regular house.It didn't have no floor, just the ground; he wouldn't put his foots on a floor.He had a little bed and a box in it, that box I been telling you about.It was a rough box almost three feet square, with wooden hinges.It wasn't painted, it was old like and had been rubbed a heap.He kept his things in it and didn't nobody dare go around it till he was dead, but we knowed he had a book in there couldn't nobody read.Then his son, the one he had to set at the head of the table, he opened it, and there was some clothes and some breastpins like; they wasn't breastpins but little fancy things like, you know.His clothes was made out of white lowell cloth.And that day he left his son setting at the head of the table and say, "Come see me before you go," and he put on pants and socks, something he ain't never wore before, and that book was laid on his chest and he was stiff dead when they found him.They went to buy him a coffin to Mr. Joe Hellman's and Mr. Joe say, "Who this for?" and they tell him, "For John Ren, he dead."Mr. Joe say, "You won't have to, he bought it himself last Tuesday."And this was the very next Sunday.I don't know how old he was but he'd point up at the stars and point at us and say-like that he was a grown man with other grandchildren besides us that itme the starts fell.(1833).
My Mama was his own daughter, but I don't know how many others he had except my Mother was the oldest and they was three girls besides Mama and one brother, he was the baby, and three or four children by another woman that I knows of.Fact of the business is, I couldn't tell you about his children cause he had them around on different plantation, you know, they didn't have to marry.Folks didn't buy licenses in them days.Maybe white folks did, but the niggers didn't.You'd just go and ask your Master for your wife, and if he give her to you, on the day you pick out to marry, he just read the Bible over you and you was married.And if you want somebody on another plantation, your Master would buy her for you.
Mama and me worked in the field.We danced outdoors on the ground.They clapped hands for us to dance by and played homemade banjos and harps.Not harps you pick, but harps made out of little pieces of reeds; you blow in them.They made pretty music.Master Jerry didn't allow no overseer to whip us.Master Eddie used to come riding in the field with his boots shining - that was young Master Eddie, his only son, and he'd have candy in his saddle bags and give us some.
Where there was so many hands, bound to be some of them sick right along.For dysentery you make tea out of sweetgum buds; you get them way down in the leaves like, and make tea and put a little flour in it for babies.For pneumonia, you make hog hoof tea; them them off and parch them and pound it up and put it in a bottle and make tea.But you use sage tea for fever.But Lord!That's what we do now when folks gets sick, wasn't just in slavery times.Maybe it started then I don't know about that, but folks get sick now same as they did then, and we heals them the same way.
The Yankees burnt up my Master's barn, going on of the war, and they stole everything they could lay hands on.Master Jerry had to hide out in the quarters to keep the Yankees from killing him.The soldiers didn't no nothing to us but we was afraid of them.Master Jerry didn't go to the war.I reckon maybe he was kind of old, and anyhow, he had too many folks to take care of and to feed and see after.Young Master Eddie didn't go cause couldn't nobody make him do nothing.
We stayed at Lowden's a long time after the surrender, but my grandmother stay there till she die.Her name was Pomilla, and Miss Addie wouldn't never let nobody have her.She was Miss Addie's cook back in slavery times.Miss Addie she say, "No, couldn't nobody have Miller, cause wouldn't nobody take care of her like she would."She died in the cabin right at the back door.I been back to see Miss Addie a heap of times.I have to set there a right smart time and talk to her right persuading like, and after awhile she know me.She died last year and I won't never go back no more.
The first marrying I done, we had left this town and lived in the Delta in Washington County, right on the Mississippi River.I was married but I still live-like with my mama and papa.Children didn't get grown like they do now.My first husband, he died and we come back to Meridian and I marry again after mama and papa had been dead a long time; marry Coleman.He ain't dead, but I don't know nothing about him, I don't know where he's at, I'm man-free.I had seven children, all by my first husband.They all died when they was little.
They say I got high blood pressure, and I knows I got a bad knee, and a pain right in here.The doctor give me a scription for it for some kind of balm.I call the name in a minute - Anna Jesus Balm (Anagesic Balm), that's it.But I washes for my living right on.
Interview with Simon Hare
If you knows where North Carolina is, you knows where I was born.That was where, close to Newman, and it was eight-eight years ago because that's how old I is.
My Master was Dr. Dick Hare.He had three hundred head of laborers, and about two sections of land.It was close to a tobacco factory at Newman.My mother stripped tobacco, name Maria, and my fahter opened up land for Dr. Hare, name Oliver.The country was just opening up.It was new and full of woods.I don't reckon you would call it a plantation, it was more just kind of lumbering and stripping tobacco.We had colored foremen, didn't have no overseer like they call the white foreman in Alabama.Dr. Hare and his family had a house, just a house you know, but the hands didn't have no houses, just kind of shelters they throw together.The young children had a trench to eat in like hogs.We was glad to get it.Kept us fat.Didn't none of them get sick.
We had winter time sure!Had a big log fires outdoors.See, hadn't nobody lived in that section much, we had to open up the country.We had a old lady to take care of the young children.There was seven of us brothers and sisters.Children play sure!Wallow around in the ditch like an old sow, get sleepy, go to sleep right there till old lady come rustle us up.White children didn't play with us.Dr. Hare had children, but we didn't really never see no white child close up till we start to Alabama.
White folks didn't have no company much, except the mail rider.It was wild out there.Dr. Hare, he was gone up and down the road most of the time, sort of prospecting you might call it.I don't know what kind of doctor he call himself.Didn't never doctor on us.Maybe he knowed we go down to the branch and get things that we grow in the branch for medicine.See one of them looking bad, old lady go to the branch and get bullrush and make tea for sore throat, and some kind of seed for bowel trouble.
They wasn't no dancing much in North Carolina, wasn't what you might say wild much.They work them too close.Sing some, sing:
Am I born to die today,
To lay this body down?
Didn't know nothing about no sure enough church in them days.Colored folks just kind of raised them up a colored preacher to preach to them.Didn't have nobody to ordain nobody.Built a shelter of sticks with a place for the preacher to stand, throwed little bushy trees on top of it for a roof.Some of the white folks from around carry on in there till noon a heap of Sundays.I didn't know what kind of preaching they had, wasn't none of us allowed to go around while the white folks was there.Didn't no white preacher ever preach to us.But the evenings belonged to the colored, every Sunday and other times, too.The sisters had their skirts dragging their feet then.The preacher preach and they rear up like goats.Preacher had a Blue Back Speller and a Bible.That was when I learn:
I can read my titles clear.
First they call it Baptist, then after a while, some new hands come in and they get to calling it Methodist.Didn't have nobody old enough in the faith to baptize them anyhow, so they give up calling us Baptist.
I don't know much what the white folks do with themselfs in them days.We didn't never see no white folks much, except the mail, always bust our legs getting to see him.But us had to keep out of sight, cause the Missus sent to meet the mail, quick as she hear him play that tune on a bugle like.We children would lay down in the grass behind the fence and peep through the panks and watch him coming.Drove a surrey with two horses, but he didn't stop, he throwed off Master's mail, come from Mobile.Sometimes he bring iron same as letters; he had to get it from Mobile, too.The mail was a white man.Sure, but he was all bundled up seem like.We chldren try hard to see him, but we couldn't get so close.He might have done rest below on the road, but didn't never rest there.We got the notion he just go on and on, just keep going all the time.
Before the war they drove us out.We'd done cleaned up that section.Dr. Hare, looking for new land, bought more lands in Alabama.Drove us before him all the way to Alabama.I was ten years old, held the horses when the white folks get out to get uncamped from sitting so long in the wagon.They was horses to the wagon, and the baby was in the cradle setting up in the wagon, just rocking along.Young Master John Hare rode a mule and the other wagons had mules pulling them.The hands walked, them that could walk.One of them get sick, sure enough sick, and couldn't go no further, so they let him get up in a wagon.Roads was sure bad; they called them roads.You couldn't have drove no automobile over them.
When we got to where we was going, there was a old house on the land for the white folks and just little shanties for the colored.But we wasn't used to houses and we thought they was all right.Had to open up the country just like they done in North Carolina.Dr. Hare say his hands spend more time hunting deers and snakes and panthers than they did pulling the cross-saw, and he make the formens tighten up.Course he hunted, and young Master John, too.When they got the land cleared they put in cotton and corn; didn't bother much about pulling stumps in them days.
Didn't see white folks much, seldom see a white man.But we was more happy in Alabama.Had banjos, pick with your hands.Say "Balance right!"I hear them hollering back and forth, and they understood what to do.Say "Right wheel!"They'd handle it, too.We children stand around and watch them.I can see them plain, their clothes and all; clothes had a kind of speck in it, call it osnaburg.
The main thing bothered us - we was used to the Doctor and his ways - the main thing bothered us was the patrollers.Didn't know nothing about patrollers till we get to Alabama.They get on their mules and ride to the crossing, like the railroad crossing, down here at the Fertilizer Plant, and catch you if you was getting away from your master.Return them to thy owner, and owner would pay him for catching him.Patrollers didn't whip them, your master would do that when he got you back.The Doctor he'd be setting on his horse waiting for you.Had a big old horse named Stonewall, mighty fine saddle.He'd rear, then, then old master would get on him, he'd go.
After we been in Alabama a year or two, the war come and young master John went off to it and took my Uncle Robert with him.Told him he was taking him to hold his horse, but bless God!When they got there, he put Uncle Robert out in front at the breastworks where he suppoed to be himself.Master John didn't come back, must have got killed somehow or another.
The Doctor was getting kind of old by then.Come a bunch of them, a whole set of folks, Yankees or something, come and take Old Master's stuff and drove off all his hands, drove us before them to the Noxubee River and put us to working they cotton, and the Doctor couldn't help himself.But they couldn't rule Aunt Harriet, she was pretty tought.She was a powerful big woman and wasn't scared of nobody.Yankees couldn't do nothing with her.They had a time!She wouldn't travel, and they hung her up in the door to the storehouse where the piece stick out, where the chain hang down, where they hoists the seed bags and fodder you know, and left her there.We didn't never see her no more.
Come the surrender, colored folks had a bad time.Didn't know how to trade no more than nothing.Didn't have nothing, not even a hat.My mother make us hats, twist rushes what they shuttle up.She make clothes, too, make something that would do me.I was little then, it wouldn't wear out.Wish I had some of that cloth she make now.Some was glad to be free, some was sorry cause they was worse off.Work a whole year and get nothing.Master just said, "You all is free," and he didn't do no more for us.Colored folks didn't have the sense enough to know how to get on, wasn't used to doing by theyselfs.Had a bad time.We stayed right there.It done got to be called Geiger by that time.I stayed on till I got grown.Mother's buried there.
Sure!Everybody knowed about the Ku Kluxes!One bunch of them came through one night riding mules.Had things over they eyes.You'd think it was the devil.Get you off and whip you so you be scared to show your face and not go messing with white folks' business.
We heard most everything going on from my father.He was pretty lively and got around considerable.It was a bunch of colored people, my father went around with the bunch and did like they did.If he voted I don't know if, but we found out the difference between Radicals and Democrats, but I don't remember just how it was now.It was Abe Lincoln said we was free, I think, and every man free to attend to his own business.Trouble was, we didn't know how to.
I met Jefferson Davis!We toted him, right here in Meridian, toted him on our shoulders, didn't let him put his feets on the ground - toting him from the train to the courthouse.He was going to make a speech.He was a old gentleman, looked mild.He got off the train at the Ragsdale Hotel.I was greasing boxcars then.They had little small engines and had smokers on top of them - great big things.The first little engines the A&V run, throwed wood in there.My foreman said, "Knock off and go see our President."He had one lady with him, Miss Winnie, say she was his daughter.He made a speech at the courthouse.Say, "You belong to us.You ain't free."Say, "You can't hurt a nigger, all he needs is keep him full of something to eat and work him hard.He sure steal if he get hungry, he steal him a hog and carry it home.Feed him and work him, that's all."
I married a Geiger, named Maria, too, just like my mother.Things started getting slow around there and I come on to Meridian.They'd meet you when you get off the cars and put you to work on the railroad - hands was scarce.But I didn't get off at Meridian like I was supposed to.They had thirty on the trail and I was scared plumb to death.When I see the train light coming, I run, and me married two years.Old gentleman say, "Where you going, boy?"Cause I done gone and hid behind a dirt bank till the train could get by."Boy, ain't you got your chedk?"And I pull out everything I had in my poclet and give it to him.He call a porter and say, "Hold this boy.If he hadn't bought his check I'd carry him free, cause he so scared."I liked to vomit.
When we get close to Meridian and stop for water, porter give a old watchman half a gallon of whiskey to take care of me till morning.He kept a little smoke down close to the spur track.Come day, he take me back to the main line and say, "Anybody know this boy?"Old man come and say, "Look like I know him."Ask me who I was, and when I say I'm married to Peter Simpson's girl, he say he know him and Aunt Martha; she was my grandmother, live right here in Meridian.Old colored man come along with a yoke of oxen to a two-wheel wagon full of wood.He say he take me to her, but he tooke me to West End, give me one meal a day and no money at all, and I cut wood like a dog for him, and come Saturday he took me to town to sell the wood.I slips out at the Fertilizer Plant where a heap of colored folks was living and I calls out, "Anybody live round here name Martha Simpson?"Sure enough there she was.She take me to her place and say, "I got a little piece of a boy here, let him lay down a spell and rest hisself."And the very next day, here come the railroad folks and got me and I haste on and work for them.From then on I worked on the railroad, greasing cars for thirty-five years.Before I quit I was the oldest colored workman they had then.That was the Northeastern before they changed up the shops.Then they say my eyes got too weak and they pull me off.
I done bought me a house in Savannah Grove in the negro quarter close to the Fertilizer Plant by that time, since President Harrison was President.I was getting ninety cents a day and bought my home and I'm still living right there.
I has ten children.They scattered around up north and in Birmingham.Five of my grandchildren live with me and just his one and that one, you know.I scratch around in my patch.Times is sure bad since the relief done quit.I got pecans all set out on my place.The relif folks say I ought to see them, but shucks, we eats them.I asked the high sheriff could the relief refuse me cause I let the children eat my pecans instead of selling them, but he just laugh.
Interview with Berry Smith
I was born and bred in Sumter County, Alabama, in the prarie land, six miles from Gainesville.That's where I hauled cotton.It was close to Livingston, Alabama, where we lived.
I was twelve years old when the stars fell.They fell late in the night and they lighted up the whole earth.All the children was running around grabbing for them, but none of us ever caught one.It's a wonder some of them didn't hit us, but they didn't.They never hit the ground at all.
When they run the Injuns out of the country, me and another chap caught one of them Injun ponies and caught him up in the grape vines.He said it was his pony and I said it was mine.
Master Bob's boy told us his daddy was going to whip us for stealing that pony, so we hid out in the cane for two nights.Mast Bob and his brother whipped us till we didn't want to see no more Injuns or their ponies either.
I was born a slave to Old Master Jim Harper and I fell to Master Bob.Master Jim bought my pa and ma from a man by the name of Smith, and Pa kept that name.That's how cime I is Berry Smith.
They didn't have no schools for us and didn't teach us nothing but work.The bullwhip and the paddle was all the teaching we got.The white preachers used to preach to the niggers sometimes in the white folks church, but I didn't go much.
We had fun in them days in spite of everything.The pranks we used to play on them patrollers!Sometimes we tied ropes across the bridge and the patrollers hit it and go into the creek.Maybe we'd be fiddling and dancing on the bridge (that was for the grown folks, but we children would come, too) and they'd say, "Here come the patrollers!"Then we'd put out.If we could get to the Master's house we was all right.Master Bob wouldn't let no patroller come on his place.Master Alf wouldn't either.They said it was all right if we could get home without being caught, but we had to take that chance.
At the big house they had spinning wheels and a loom.They made all the clothes on the place.Homespun was what they called the goods.My ma used to spin and weave in the loom room at the big house.
There was two plantations in the Master's land and they worked a heap of niggers.I was a house boy and didn't go to the field much.
We had overseers on the place, but they was just hired men.They was poor white folks and only got paid about three or four hundred dollars a year.
When we left Alabama we come to Mississippi.We went to the Denham place near Garlandsville.We brought eighteen niggers.We walked a hundred miles and it took five days and nights.The women and children rode on the wagons, and the men and the big boys walked.My Pa and Ma come along.
We stayed on the Denham place about three years.Then we moved to Homewood and stayed five years.I hung the boards for Master Bob's house in Homewood.
Then we come to Forest.They brought all the family over here; all my brothers and sisters.There were five of them; Wash and East is the two I remember.All of us belonged to the Harper family.Master Bob owned us.My Ma and my Pa both died here in Forest.
I helped to build this house for Master Bob.I cleaned the land and left the trees where he tole me.He lived in a little old shack while we build the big house.
Mr. M.D. Graham put up the first store here and the second was put up by my Master.
I worked in the fields some, but mostly I was a house servant.I used to go all over the country hunting eggs and chickens for the family on account they was so much company at the house.
A heap of white folks was good to their niggers, just as good as they could be, but a heap of them was mean, too.My Missus was good to us and so was Master Jim Harper.He wouldn't let the boys abuse us while he lived, but when he died they was mean and cruel.They was hard taskmasters.We was fed good three times a day, but we was whipped too much.That got me.I couldn't stand it.The old Master gave us good dinners at Christmas, but the young ones stopped all that.
The first train I ever seen was in Brandon.I went therre to carry some horses for my Master.It sure was a fine looking engine.I was looking at it out of a upstairs window and when it whistled I would have jumped out of the window if Captain Harper didn't grab me.
I didn't see no fighting in the war.When General Sherman came through here, he come by Hillsboro.Master Bob didn't go to the war.He enlisted but he come right back and went to getting out cross ties for the railroad.He wasn't no soldier.Colonel Harper, that was Master Alf, he was the soldier.He wasn't scared of nothing or nobody.
The Yankees asked me to go to the war, but I told them I wasn't no rabbit to live in the woods.My Master gives me three good meals a day and a good house and I ain't going.Master Bob used to feed us fine and he was good to us.He wouldn't let no overseer touch his niggers, but he whipped us himself.
Then the Yankees told me I was free, same as they was.I come and told Master Bob I was going.He say, "If you don't go to work, nigger, you going to get whipped."So I run away and hid out in the woods.The next day I went to Meridian.I cooked for the soldiers two months, then I come back to Forest and worked spiking ties for the railroad.
I heard a heap of talk about Jeff Davis and Abe Lincoln, but didn't know nothing about them.We heard about the Yankees fighting to free us, but we didn't believe it till we heard about the fighting at Vicksburg.
I voted the Republican ticket after the surrender, but I didn't bother with no politics.I didn't want none of them.
The Ku Kluxes was bad up above here, but I never seen any.I heard tell of them whipping folks, but I don't know nothing about it much.
Most all the niggers that had good owners stayed with them, but the others left.Some of them come back and some didn't.
I heard a heap of talk about every nigger getting forty acres and a mule.They had us fooled about it, but I never seen nobody get nothing.
I hope they won't be no more war in my time.That one was terrible.They can all go that wants to but I ain't going.
I seen General Grant at Vicksburg after the war.He was a little short man.All the niggers went there for something, and me among them, but I don't know what we went for.
I took to steamboating at Vicksburg cause I could cut cotton so good.I could cut cotton now with a cotton hook if I wasn't so old.
I steamboated between New Orleans and St. Louis on the Commonwealth, a freight packet, way up yonder in St. Louis.I don't know what country that was in.But the rousters had a big fight one night in New Orleans, shooting and cutting, so I left.When I got back to Vicksburg, I quit.
I picked cotton in the Delta for awhile, but the folks, white and black was too hard.They don't care for nothing!I was in Greenville when the water come.I heard a noise like the wind and I asked them niggers if it was a storm.They said, "No, that's the river coming through and you'd better come back before the water catch you."I say, "If it catch me its going to catch me on my way home."I ain't been back since.
I come back here and went to farming, and I been here ever since.I bought forty-seven acres and a nice little house.The house burned down, but the white folks built me a better one.They say I'm a good man.
My wife was six years old at the surrender.She belonged to Master Alf, but we was free when we married.We had sixteen children.Most of them live around here.Some in Newton, some in Scott, and some in Texas.My wife died two years ago last March.
Master Bob died right here in this house.He died a poor man.If my ole Missus had been here she wouldn't have let them treat him like they done.If I had been here I wouldn't have let them done like that either.
I have been living by myself since my wife died.My son, Oscar, lives on the land and rents it from me.
I don't know what's going to happen to the young folks these days.They know better but they is wild and don't care about nothing.I ain't got no time to fool with them.Looks like they don't care about working at nothing.
I've been working all my life, and I've seen good times and bad times.I loves to work yet.I'm going out now soon as I get my dinner and help finish picking that patch of cotton.I can pick two hundred pounds a day and I'm one hundred and sixteen years old.I pick with both hands and I don't have to stoop much.My back don't ever ache me at all.My Mammy teached me to pick cotton.She took a pole to me if I didn't do it right.I been picking ever since.I'd rather pick cotton than eat any day.
But I've seen enough.I'm just waiting for the call to meet all my folks in Heaven.They's a better place than this and I'm trying to treat everybody right so I can get to go to it.
I'm listening hard for the call and I know it won't be long in coming.
Interview with Charlie Holman
All my white folks that owned me, or knowed anything about me is all dead now.The records got destroyed somehow.I says I'm 83, but of course I don't know that's correct.I was born in Carroll County.
My Papa was Albert Holman, from South Carolina, and my Mama was Beckie Holman.Don't remember where she come from.Joe Holman, my only brother, is someplace in Louisiana.Ain't heard from him in seven or eight years.
My Master was Sammie Holman, and I just don't remember old Missus name.Crick and Dock was their children.Master didn't have no overseer either.He don't his own bossing.
During slavery days we lived in little one-room log houses and slept on homemade bed with straw mattresses.My job was piddling around the house, bringing in stove wood and toting water.
Our white folks was always mighty good to us.They give us plenty to eat.Master give my Daddy and his other hands little patches we would work on Saturday evenings.He did never make his niggers work on weekends or holidays.
There was plenty of patrollers around us in slavery days, but they never did bother us causemy boss' small colored children and large ones, too, stayed at home and didn't bother nobody.
I remember seeing the Yankees when they come through.They was dressed in blue caps and coats.They didn't stop at our place, but our white folks had us hide their best stock out in the woods.
Young folks now don't know nothing about work.I've carded many a roll of cotton for my Mama to spin.These younger folks now has a mighty good time, but in slavery days we didn't have no responsibility.Didn't have to worry about feeding ourselves or nothing.People in my da didn't do as much devilment as they do now.In them days there wasn't near as much friction between the blacks and whites as now.I've never had no trouble in my life.
I went to the white folks church all the time during slavery days.My Papa joined their church.The white and colored all belonged to the same church before the surrender.
When news come that we was free, we left.They said they was going to give us so much land and a mule, but we never did get that.We went to some more of the Holman folks.Never did get far from the family.
I married Rose Drain when I was 21.We had eighteen children and they's all dead now but Alber, John, and Anna Bell Dooley.They all lives here around Eupora.Albert farms and the other two does day labor.
I never have voted, but it was my own fault, cause I didn't.I just didn't insist.
The first job I ever held for myself was farming.I always followed that till a few years back.When my boys left me I played out, too.I've been supported by relief and relief jobs since 1933.
My Embry, a white man, built me a home here near Eupora.That was before the town was built, and promised me I could have a home long as he lived, but then he died I was pushed back.Course I wasn't able to hold my place among the workers.
I never did get to go to school much.What little I learned, I learned it at home.
I tell you, when the wasps builds their nexts close to the ground and you see thick chucks on thecorn, you can know they's a cold hard winter coming.We just well get ready for some bad weather now.I've been here long enough to know.
Interview with Frank Brown
I was born in Webster County, eight miles west of Bellefontaine, on the Clark place, what is now going on 86 years ago.My Papa was Guy Brown and my Mama's name was Hannah.
Mama, she was bred and born in Virginia and papa in South Carolina.They was small and wasn't big enough to remember much about their native states.My brothers and sisters was Joe, Andy, Willis Johnson, Ann Bettye, Nellie, Ellen, Polly, and Alice.I'm the only child of the bunch living now.
During slavery days we lived in a little old log house daubed with mud and with plenty of air holes left.Pallets was all we ever knowed to sleep on during them days and we was lucky to have them.
Our Master was Tommy Clark, and Missus was Ann Philady.Their children was Woody, John, Ann Philady, Milly, Lucendy, Sammy, and Tommy.
I was small but I sure remembers my Papa being put up on the block and sold to the highest bidder.Squire Brown bought him for $1,200.00.He carried him down close to Eupora and kept him till the surrender.
I had to work in the field some during slavery days, but I spent most of my time trying to get out of work.My white folks kept me setting under a bush to keep me from fighting the other children.They'd come take me to dinner and I'd slip in the barn loft and let the wasps sting me all over the face.They'd soon say:"Let's go to the field."I'd say, "I can't see, wasps stung me when ole Missus sent me in the loft for eggs."Ole Miss, course never sent me.I went to get stung so I'd get out of that hot sun.I never did do too much work in the field till after the surrender.
We always had plenty of pot likker and bread, or plenty milk and bread.They fed all us children together in a big pen.We never did have shoes to wear or nothing else much.Ole Miss give us out of her garden what she wanted us to have.
Master didn't have no overseer on his place.When a slave done wrong he called that nigger up and "shucked" him.He never did whip me but one time I've got a scar on my leg from that now.His boy, John, accused me of getting his knife.Master says, "I'm going to kill you or make you tell."I says, "Kill me, I didn't get it though."Missus tried to tell him I was telling the truth, but it was the next day before he found out for sure I didn't do it.
Field hands went to the field by the time they could see and stayed till dark.On each side of us was Mr. greenlee and Mrs. Edwards' farms.I could hear the overseer whipping their niggers every morning.They killed several.Just whipped them to death.
I never went to the schoolhouse in my life.Master had us reading to the tune of a hoe handle, plow handle, or axe handle.We had corn shuckings but you sure had to have that pass.I run several miles one night to keep the patrollers from getting me.
They was one doctor in the community and that didn't give no medicine except some kind of herb.One man was sickly and couldn't eat.This doctor come to see him one day, got a barrel of boiling water, steamed him with a blanket over this barrel, and give him a dose of herb medicine.Next day this nigger, Jurden, was dead.The folks say he just killed him.They got after him after that and run him plumb out of the country.In slavery days when a nigger was bured, if they was anybody there that could pray, they prayed, if not, they'd just put him in the ground without it.I didn't know what praying was for until after the surrender.
When the Yankees come through they didn't come to the woods where I was staying.They got my brother, William, though, who was living at old Greensboro at that time.I thought he'd come back but he never did.
I remember we was coming out of the cotton patch when Master told us to eat dinner and come back, he wanted to talk to us.We eat scared to death, wondering what he wanted.When he told us we was free, we looked at each other and wondered what he meant.He said, "You ain't got no Master and Missus, but if you all stay on with me I'll give you something to eat and a few clothes to wear, and next year I'll divide the land with you.He owned thirty niggers and we didn't think there would be ten acres of land apiece for us.My Papa come after us on Christmas night.We moved to Mrs. Edwards' place then.I stayed on there three years.Went to work for myself pretty soon and then married.Some said I was eighteen and some said eleven.I just couldn't say, I know I ought to have been whipped for it though, cause I was big enough to look men in the eye.I thought I was grown.My wife was Esther Garvin and we had seven children.They all dead now but Molly Dumas, the one I lives with.Harvey, Jim, Ella, Nora Ann, and Willie.They all lives in Oklahoma and up north except Molly.She's the only one I've seen in ten years.I've lived in this country all my life but nine years I lived in Oklahoma.Got down and out nine years ago and been living with Molly ever since.My second wife was Beckie Williams and we didn't have no children.She been dead several years.
I always farmed for a living until the last two years.The government sometimes give me a little something to eat and a little something to wear, but no money.I has to depend on my daughter, Molly, for everything else.
The frist time I ever boted was when I voted for Hays and Wheeler about 1876.Voted from then on till all the niggers what couldn't read and write was stopped.
The tightest place I ever was in was once when I was summoned to court to testify against a white man I saw commit a crime.The white man called me to one side and told me if I wanted to live and do well, to tell the court it happened a dark night and I couldn't tell if the man was white or black.The truth was it was broad daylight and I seen him and knowed him well.I didn't know what to do.To lie would be wrong and not to would be death.I done just what this fellow said and he was turned loose.Before I left the courthouse, a bunch of white men made me up $45.00 in money and gave me a quart of whiskey.I put the whiskey in my shirt and run my mule home as fast as he could go.Me and another fellow drunk that whiskey and got drunk as could be.Course I was ashamed of it when we got sober, but that's one time it payed me not to tell the truth.
I done one thing though I just couldn't lie about.A white man told me about a heap of nice quilts a certain white lady had.I went out one night and stole them.Carried them to the nigger's house I was living with and ask him to keep them for me, but he wouldn't.Then I took them to the cotten pen and hid them under cotton.Officers come with a search warrant and found the quilts.Another nigger was supected and questioned, but he denied it.Then I was called.I confessed and was fined $50.00.Mr. Pittman, a white man paid it off for me.I lived with him nine years and made seven and eight bales of cotton every year.The only thing I ever got was a pair of brogan shoes a year, a few clothes, and a little something to eat.When I finally left him he sure got mad and tried to make the white fellow I was living with then pay that $50.00, but that's one debt I feels like I paid.I learned it's best to always tell the truth.