Burks, Will Sr.
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
"My parents names was Katherine Hill and Bill Burks. They had five boys and three girls. Their owners fur as I knows was Frank and Polly Burks. They had a heap of slaves. They was good white folks. My folks stayed on two or three years. They was both field hands. They had to go to the house and Master Frank Burks told em they was free. In 1880 Judge Scott paid their way and I come wid them to Forrest City. There was a crowd. He bought em out here to farm. We come Christmas 1880. I never will forgit that. It was jes different in a new country and left some of our folks an all that.
"I was born close to Columbia, Tennessee. I used to see the soldiers pass long the big road, both sides. Seem lack theyd be in strings a mile long. I never heard much bout the war. They wouldn't let white nor black children set round and hear what they was talkin' bout. Why they send em off to play—build playhouses outer rocks and hay, leaves, any little thing they throw way we take it to play house. White children played together then cause it was a long ways between white folks house, and colored children raised up wid em. I don't see none that now.
"One thing I done a long time was stay at the toll gate. They had a heap of em when I was a boy. The fences was rock or rail and big old wooden gates round and on it marked, "Toll Gate." I'd open and shut the gate. Walkers go free. Horseback riders—fifteen cents. Buggies—twenty-five cents. Wagons—fifty cents. The state broke that up and made new roads. Some they changed a little and used. After that I stand 'bout on roads through fields—short ways folks went but where the farmers had to keep closed up on count of the crops. I open and shut the gate. They'd throw me a nickel. That was first money I made—stayin' at toll gates about Columbia, Tennessee.
"Ku Klux come to our house and took my papa off wid em. Mama was cryin', she told us children they was goiner hurt him. I recollect all bout it. They thought my papa knowed about some man bein' killed. My papa died wid knots on his neck where they hung him up wid ropes. It hurt him all his life after that. It made him sick what all they done to him tryin' to make him tell who killed somebody. He was laid up a long time. I recollect that. When they found out papa didn't know nothin' bout it, they said they was sorry they done him so mean.
"I vote a Republican ticket lack my papa till I cluded it not the party, it is the man that rules right. I voted fur Mr. Roosevelt. I know he is. (A Democrat) I know'd it when I voted for him. Times is tough but they was worse 'fo he got elected. Things you buy gets higher and higher that makes it bad. We got two hogs, one cow, few chickens and a home. I owns my home for a fact. My wife is 73. I am purty nigh 75 years old. What make it hard on us, we is bout wore out.
"I been farmin' and carpenterin' all my life. Last years I been farmin' wid Mr. L.M. Osborne at Osborne. We work forty acres and made 57 bales. I had a team and he had a team. So I worked it on halves. That was long time ago. In 1929 I believe. Best farmin' I ever done. We got twenty cents pound."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives