Person Interviewed: Bert Luster
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Watson County, Tennessee
Date of Birth: 1853
I’ll be jest frank, I’m not for sho’ when I was born, but it was in 1853. Don’t know the month, but I was sho’ born in 1853 in Watson County, Tennessee. You see my father was owned by Master Luster and my mother was owned by Masters Joe and Bill Asterns (father and son). I can remember when Master Astern moved from Watson County, Tennessee he brought me and my mother with him to Barnum County Seat, Texas. Master Astern owned about twelve slaves, and dey was all Astern ‘cept Miriah Blmore’s son Jim. He owned ’bout five or six hundred acres of ground, and de slaves raised and shucked all de corn and picked all de cotton. De whites folks lived in a big double log house and we slaves lived in log cabins. Our white folks fed us darkies! We ate nearly ever’thing dey ate. Dey ate turkey, chickens, ducks, geese, fish and we killed beef. pork, rabbits and deer. Yes, and possums too. And whenever we killed beef we tanned the hide and dare was a white man who made shoes for de white folks and us darkies. I tell you I’m not gonna lie, den white folks was good to us darkies. We didn’t have no rean overseer. Master Astern and his son jest told us niggers what to do and we did it, but 50 miles away den niggers had a mean overseer, and dey called him “poor white trash”. “old whooser”, and sometime “old red neck”, and he would sho’ beat ‘em turrible iffen dey didn’t do jest like he wanted ‘em to.
Seen like I can hear des “nigger hounds” barking now. You see whenever a darky would get a permit to go off and wouldn’t come back dey would put de “nigger hounds” on his trail and run dat nigger down.
De white women wove and spin our clothes. You know dey had looms, spins, and weavers. Us darkies would stay up all night sometime sep’rating cotton from the seed. When dam old darkies got sleepy dey would prop their eyes open wid straws.
Sho’. we wore very fine clothes for dam days. You know day dyed the cloth with poke berries.
We cradled de wheat on pins, caught the grain, carried it to de will and had it ground. Sho’. I ate biscuits and cornbread too. Keep telling you dot we ate.
We got de very best of care when we got sick. Don’t you let nobody tell you dam white folks tried to kill out des darkies ’cause when a darkey took sick day would send and git de very best doctors round dat country. Dey would give us ice water when we got sick. You see we put up ice in saw dust in winter and when a slave got sick day give him ice water. sometimes sage tea and chicken gruel. Dey wanted to keep den darkies fat so dey could git top price for ‘em. I never saw a slave sold, but my half brother’s white folks let him work and buy hisself.
I was about 14, and I milked the cows, packed water, seeded cotton, churned milk up at de Big House and jest first one chore and den another. My mother cooked up at de Big House.
Dey was a lot of talk ’bout conjure but I didn’t believe in it. Course den darkies could do everything to one another, and have one another scared, but dey couldn’t conjure dat overseer and stop him from beating ‘em near to death. Course he didn’t flog ‘em till dey done sumping.
I married my women, Hannie Wilkerson, 58 years ago. Dat was after slavery, and I love her. honest to God I does. Course in dem days we didn’t buy no license, we jest got permits from old Master and jumped over a broom stick and jest got married.
I sho’ did hate when de Yanks come ’cause our white folks was good to us, and jest take us right along to church with ‘em. We didn’t work on Sad’days or Christmas.
We raised gardens, truck patches and such for spending change.
I sho’ caught bell after dem Yanks come. Befo’ de war, you see de patroller rode all nite but wouldn’t bother a darkey iffen he wouldn’t run off. Why dem darkeys would run off I jest couldn’t see.
Dose Yanks treated old master and mistress so mean. Dey took all his hams, chickens, and drove his cattle out of the pasture, but didn’t bother us niggers honest. Dey drove old master Aster off’n his own plantation and we all hid in de corn field.
My mother took me to Greenville, Texas, ’cause my step-pappy was one of dem half smart niggers round dere trying to preach and de Ku Klus Klah beat him half to death.
Dare was some white folks who would take us to church wid ‘em – dis dis was aftah the war now — and one night we was all sitting up thar and one old woman with one leg was dah and when den Klans shot in amongst us niggers and white folks aunt Mandy beat all of us home. Yes suh.
My first two teachers was two white men, and des Klans shot in de hotel what dey lived in, but dey had school for us niggers jest de same. After dat, dose Klans got so bed Uncle Sam sent soljers down dere to keep peace.
After de soljers come and run de Klans out we worked hard dat fall and made good crops. ‘Bout three years later I came to Indian Territory in search of educating my kids.
I landed here 46 years ago on a farm not far from now Oklahoma City. I got to be a prosperous farmer. My bale of cotton amongst 5,000 bales won the blue ribbon at Quthrie, Oklahoma, and dat bale of cotton and being a good democrat won for me a good job as a clerk on the Agriculture Board at the State Capitol. All de white folks liked me and still like me and called me “cotton king.”
I have jest three chillun living. Walter is parcel post clerk here at de post office downtown. Belie Jenkins, my daughter is a housewife and Cleo Luckett. my other daughter, a common laborer.
Have been a christian 20 years. Jest got sorry for my wicked ways. I am a member of the Church of God. My wife is a member of the Church of Christ. I’m a good democrat and she is a good republican.
My fav’rite songs is: “Dark Was the Mite, and Cold the Ground” and “Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray.”
I’m glad slavery is over, but I don’t think den white folks was fighting to free us niggers. God freed us. Of course, Abraham Lincoln was a pretty fine man. Don’t know much about Jeff Davis. Never seen him. Yes, and Booker T. Washington. He was one of the Negro leaders. The first Negro to represent the Negroes in Washington. He was a great leader.
During slavery time never heerd of a cullud man committing ‘sault on a white woman. The white and cullud all went to church together too. Niggers and white shouted alike.
I remember some of the little games we played now: “Fox in the wall”, “Mollie, Mollie Bride”, and “Hide and go seek.”