The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Minerva Davis, Biscoe, Arkansas Age: 56
"My father was sold in Richmond, Virginia when he was eighteen years old to the nigger traders. They had nigger traders and cloth peddlers and horse traders all over the country coming by every few weeks. Papa said he traveled to Tennessee. His job was to wash their faces and hands and fix their hair-comb and cut and braid their hair and dress them to be auctioned off. They sold a lot of children from Virginia all along the way and he was put up in Tennessee and auctioned off. He was sold to the highest bidder. Bill Thomas at Brownsville, Tennessee was the one bought him. Papa was a large strong man.
"He run off and went to war. He had learned to cook and he was one-eyed and couldn't fight. All the endurin' time he cooked at the camps. Then he run off from war when he got a chance before he was mustered out and he never got a pension because of that. He said he come home pretty often and mama was expecting a baby. He thought he was needed at home worse. He was so tired of war. He didn't know it would be valuable to him in his old days. He was sorry he didn't stay till they got him mustered out. He said it was harder in the war than in slavery. They was putting up tents and moving all the time and he be scared purt nigh to death all the time. Never did know when they would be shot and killed.
"Mama said the way they bought grandma was at a well. A drove of folks come by. It was the nigger traders. She had pulled up her two or three buckets. She carried one bucket on her head and one in each hand. They said, 'Draw me up some water to drink.' She was so smart they bragged on her. They said, 'She such a smart little thing.' They went to see her owner and bought her on the spot. They took her away from her people and she never heard tell of none of them no more. She said there was a big family of them. They brought her to Brownsville, Tennessee and Johnny Williams bought her. That was my grandma.
"Mother was born there on Johnny Williams' place and she was heired by his daughter. His daughter married Bill Thomas, the one what done bought my papa. Her young mistress was named Sallie Ann Thomas. Mama got married when she was about grown. She said after she married she'd have a baby about the same time her young mistress had one. Mama had twelve children and raised eleven to be grown. Four of us are living yet. My sister was married when I was born. White folks married young and encouraged their slaves to so they have time to raise big families. Mama died when I was a year old but papa lived on with Johnny Williams where he was when she died. I lived with my married sister. I was the baby and she took me and raised me with her children.
"The Ku Klux wanted to whoop my papa. They all called him Dan. They said he was mean. His white folks protected him. They said he worked well. They wouldn't let him be whooped by them Ku Kluxes.
"Miss Sallie Ann was visiting and she had mama along to see after the children and to help the cook where she visited. They was there a right smart while from the way papa said. The pattyrollers whooped somebody on that farm while she was over there. They wasn't many slaves on her place and they was good to them. That whooping was right smart a curiosity to mama the way papa told us about it.
"When mama and papa married, Johnny Williams had a white preacher to read out of a book to them. They didn't jump over no broom he said.
"They was the biggest kind of Methodist folks and when mama was five years old Johnny Williams had all his slaves baptized into that church by his own white preacher. Papa said some of them didn't believe niggers had no soul but Johnny Williams said they did. (The Negroes must have been christened-ed.)
"Papa said folks coming through the country would tell them about freedom. Mama was working for Miss Sallie Ann and done something wrong. Miss Sallie Ann says, 'I'm a good mind to whoop you. You ain't paying 'tention to a thing you is doing the last week.' Mama says, 'Miss Sallie Ann, we is free; you ain't never got no right to whoop me no more care what I do.' When Bill come home he say, 'How come you to sass my wife? She so good to you.' Mama say, 'Master Bill, them soldiers say I'm free.' He slapped her. That the first time he laid hands on her in his life. In a few days he said, 'We going to town and see is you free. You leave the baby with Sallie Ann.' It was the courthouse. They questioned her and him both. Seemed like he couldn't understand how freedom was to be and mama didn't neither. Then papa took mama on Johnny Williams' place. He come out to Arkansas and picked cotton after freedom and then he moved his children all out here.
"Uncle Albert and grandpa take nights about going out. Uncle Albert was courting.
"They put potatoes on fire to cook when next morning they would be warm ready to eat. The fire popped out on mama. She was in a light blaze. Not a bit of water in the house. Her sisters and brothers peed (urinated) on her to put out the fire. Her stomach was burned and scarred. They was all disappointed because they thought she would be a good breeder. Miss Sallie Ann took her and cured her and when Miss Sallie Ann was going to marry, her folks didn't want to give her Minerva. She tended (contended) out and got her and Agnes both. Agnes died at about emancipation.
"I'm named for my mother. I'm her youngest child.
"I recollect my grandmother and what she told, and papa's mind went back to olden times the older he got to be. When folks would run down slavery he would say it wasn't so bad with them-him and mama. He never seen times bad as times is got to be now. Then he sure would wanted slavery back some more. He was a strong hard laboring man. He was a provider for his family till he got so no 'count.
"Times is changing up fast. Folks is worse about cutting up and carousing than they was thirty years ago to my own knowledge. I ain't old so speaking."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives