Brown, F. H.
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
[HW: Builds Church and School]
"I was born in Marion County, Mississippi. Columbus is the county-seat. My father's name was Hazard Brown, and my mother's name was Willie Brown. She was a Rankin before she married. My mother was born in Lawrence County, Mississippi, and married father there. My father was born in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. I was born in three feet of the line in Louisiana. I was born in the old slave quarters. The house was just across the line between Mississippi and Louisiana. The lower room was in Louisiana and the other was in Mississippi. There was a three foot hall between the rooms. It was a matter of convenience that I was born in Mississippi. I might have been just as well born in Louisiana. The house was in both states.
"My father's master was Black Bill Warren. Black Bill was just a title they give him. I think that his name was Joe Warren, but they nicknamed him Black Bill, and everybody called him that. My mother belonged to the Rankinses.
"My mother's mother was named Dolly Ware. My father's mother was named Maria. Their papa's father was named Thomas, and I forget my mother's father's name. I know it but I forget it just now. I haven't thought over it for a long time.
"My father when he died was eighty-five years old. He was treated pretty good in slavery time. He did farm work. His mars had about ninety slaves, that is, counting children and all. When I was a boy, I was in those quarters and saw them. I went back there and though it was some time afterward, taught in them. And later on, I preached in them, since I have been a preacher, of course. I have a cousin there now. He is about a hundred years old. He belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church.
"My father lived to see freedom. He has been dead more than twelve years. He died at my home.
"He was so close to the fighting that he could hear the guns and the firing. When they was freed, some white people told him, 'You are just as free as we are.' I was born after the Emancipation proclamation. The proclamation was issued in September and I was born in October. It didn't become effective till January first. So I was born a slave any way you take it.
"The farm my father worked on was on the Pearl River. It was very fertile. It was in Mississippi. A very big road runs beside the farm. The road is called the Big Road. The nigger quarters were across the road on the south side.
"My mother's folks treated her nicely too. Mr. Rankins didn't have any slaves but Mrs. Rankins had some. Her people gave them to her. My grandma who belonged to her had twenty-six children. She got her start off of the slaves her parents gave her, and finally she had about seventy-five. She ran a farm. My mother's work was house woman. She worked in the house. Her mistress was good to her. The overseer couldn't whip the niggers, except in her presence, so that she could see that it wasn't brutal. She didn't allow the women to be whipped at all. When an overseer got rough, she would fire him. Slaves would run away sometimes and stay in the woods if they thought that they would get a whipping for it. But she would send word for them to come on back and they wouldn't be whipped. And she would keep her word about it. The slaves on her place were treated so good that they were called free niggers by the other white people. When they were whipped, they would go to the woods.
"I have heard them speak of the pateroles often. They had to get a pass and then the pateroles wouldn't bother them. They would whip you and beat you if you didn't have a pass. Slavery was an awful low thing. It was a bad system. You had to get a pass to go to see your wife. If you didn't have that pass, they would whip you. The pateroles carried on their work for a good while after slavery was over, and the Civil War had ended.
"I was pretty good when I was a boy. So I never had any trouble then. I was right smart size when I saw the Ku Klux. They would whip men and women that weren't married and were living together. On the first day of January, they would whip men and boys that didn't have a job. They kept the Negroes from voting. They would whip them. They put up notices, 'No niggers to come out to the polls tomorrow.' They would run them off of government land which they had homesteaded. Sometimes they would just persuade them not to vote. A Negro like my father, they would say to him, 'Now, Brown, you are too good to get messed up. Them other niggers 'round here ain't worth nothing, but you are, and we don't want to see you get hurt. So you stay 'way from the polls tomorrow.' And tomorrow, my father would stay away, under the circumstances. They had to depend on the white people for counsel. They didn't know what to do themselves. The other niggers they would threaten them and tell them if they came out they would kill them.
"Right after the war, we farmed on shares. When we made our last share-crop, father farmed on Senator Bilbo's mother's farm on the State line. I nursed Senator Bilbo when he was a baby. Theoda Bilbo. He is the one who says Negroes should be sent to Africa. Then there wouldn't be nobody here to raise people like him. He fell into the mill pond one day and I pulled him out and kept him from drowning. If it weren't for that, he wouldn't be here to say, 'Send all the Negroes to Africa.' If I'd see him right now, he'd give me ten dollars.
"Mrs. Bilbo's first husband was a Crane. He killed himself. He didn't intend to. It was in a horse race. The horse ran away with him and killed him. Then Theoda's father married her. He was a poor man. He married that widow and got up in the world. They had a gin mill, and a grist mill, and a sawmill. They got business from everybody. That was Theoda's daddy—old man Bilbo.
"In 1870, we stayed on Elisha McGhee's farm. We called him Elisha but his name was Elijah. I began to remember them. The next year, we farmed for old man William Bilbo. But we didn't get along so well there because daddy wouldn't let anybody beat him out of anything that was his. That was Theoda's gran'daddy. Then we went to (Mississippi) Miss Crane's. The next year she married Theoda Bilbo's daddy and in 1874, my daddy moved up on his own place at Hurricane Creek. There he built a church and built a school, and I went to the school on our own place. He stayed there till 1880. In 1880, we moved to Holly Springs. That was right after the yellow fever epidemic. I went to school there at Shaw University. I stayed in that school a good while. It's called Rust College now. It's named after the Secretary of the Freedman's Aid Society. Rust was the greatest donor and they named the school after him. I went to the state school in my last year because they would give you a lifetime certificate when you finished there. I mean a lifetime teaching certificate for Mississippi. I finished the course and got the certificate. There is the diploma up there on the wall. J.H. Henderson was the principal and he was one of my teachers too. Henderson was a wonderful man. You know he died out here in the county hospital sometime ago. Sometime I'll tell you all about him. He was a remarkable man. He taught there behind Highgate, a Northern man. I'll tell you all about him sometime.
"I farmed with my father in the early part of my life. When I went to Holly Springs in 1881, I worked for Dr. T.J. Malone, a banker there, and a big farmer—President of the Holly Springs Bank. I worked for him mornings and evenings and slept at home of nights. I would work in vacation times too at whatever I could find to do till I got about able to teach. When I first commenced to teach, I taught in several counties—Lincoln, Simpson, Pike, Marion (the place I went to school), and Copiah. I built the school at Lawrence County. I organized the Folsom High School there. It was named after President Cleveland's wife. I taught there nine years. I married there. My wife's name was Narcissa Davis. She was a teacher and graduated from the same school I did. She lived in Calhoun County. She died in 1896, in Conway.
"I taught school at Conway in Faulkner County, and joined the ministry as a local preacher, in 1896. I moved from there to White County and taught in Searcy one term. Taught at Beebe ten years. Married again in 1898—Annie Day. I taught at Beebe and lived in White County. Then I bought me a home at Higginson, and went into the ministry solely. I left Higginson and taught and pastored seven years at Des Arc. I know practically everybody in Des Arc. I was thinking today about writing Brick Williams. He is the son of old man Williams, the one you know I think. Then I come to what is called Sixteen Section three miles from Galloway and taught there seven years and pastored. I presided too as Elder some of those years—North Little Rock District. Then I went back and pastored there and taught at West Point, Arkansas four years. Then I pastored at Prescott and was on the Magnolia District as Presiding Elder two years. Then I presided over the North Little Rock District again. Pastored St. Luke Circuit in southwest part of Arkansas below Washington. Then I built a church at Jonesboro. I pastored twenty-nine years altogether, built five churches, and have been responsible for five hundred conversions.
"I think the prospects of the country and the race are good. I don't see much dark days ahead. It is just a new era. You are doing something right now I never saw done before in my life. Even when they had the census, I didn't see any colored people taking it.
"I don't get any assistance in the form of money from the government. I have been trying to get it but I can't. Looks like they cut off a lot of them and can't reach it. Won't let me teach school. Say I am too old for WPA teaching. Superannuate me in the church, and say I'm too old to preach, and still I haven't gotten anything from my church since last January. I get some commodities from the state. I belong to the C.M.E. Church. I have lived in this community twenty-five years."
Hanging on the wall was the old man's diploma from the Mississippi State Normal School for colored persons. It was dated May 30, 1888, and it bore the signatures of J.R. Preston, State Superintendent; E.D. Miller, County Superintendent (both members of the Board of Directors); J.H. Henderson, Principal; Narcissa Hill and Maria Rabb, faculty members.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives