The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
El Dorado District FOLKLORE SUBJECTS [HW: Customs] Name of Interviewer: Pernella Anderson Subject: Customs-Slavery Days [Nov 30 1936]
This information given by: Alice Dixon Place of Residence: Rock Island quarters Occupation: None Age: 80 (approx) [TR: Personal information moved from last page of interview.]
Well honey ah can't tell jes when ah wuz born. De white fokes have mah age. Ah blong tuh de Newtons. As near as ah can get at mah age ahm bout 74 now but ah wuz big nough to member the soldiers comin aroun atter surrender.
Mah mutha had ten chillun but ah can't member but two uv mah sisters and one uv mah bruthes. We staid wid de Newtons till we wuz set free and I nuss fuh de Newtons aftuh we wuz set free. De Newtons wuz awful good ter me and dey wuz good tuh mah ma too. Ah slept up in de big house wid de Newtons. Ah nevah went ter school. Ah didn' have a chance. Ah went ter church jes sometimes. We didn have churches. We jes had meetin in our house we lived in. We cooked on fire places. We cooked our bread in what we called oven bout so high. We had chickens and eggs, peas, tatoes, meat and bread but ah didn know there was no sich thing as cake an pie till ah got to be an oman. Ah can't recollect jes how ole ah wuz in slave time but ah shore can recollect dem Yankees riding dem hosses and ah ask may ma what dey was doin and she said gatherin up cotton dey made in slave time an ah kin recollect an oman a gin. Yo know we had steps made of blocks saved from trees and she wuz a goin ovah em steps er shoutin and singin "Ah am free, at last, ah am free at last, ah'm free at last, thank Gawd a Mighty ah'm free at last." She wuz so glad ter be free.
My ma in huh time would make cloth. She had a loom. Hit wuz a high thing and th thread would go ovah th top and come down jes so in what we call shickle. She'd have a bench so high. The loom was high as dis door and my ma would set on the bench and her foots wuz on somethin like a bicycle and when she put her foots on de pedal dat shickle would come open and make a blum blum an that would make a yard of cloth, an she'd mash the pedal agin and another yard of cloth. Jes so we'd make eight and ten yards of cloth in one day. An when hit wuz made we would carry hit to de white fokes. Dey would make us clo'es outn dat cloth. Ifn dey wanted colored cloth dey would dye de thread. Dey had what we called a loom dat would make, le' me see now, Card would card the cotton, and de looms would make de thread and de shickle would make de cloth, as well as ah can recollect we would make little roll uv cotton on de cards an put it on de loom and make thread. De looms was jes so long. Ever time the wheel would say o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o we had a spool uv thread. Ah don' know whar dey got the spools, made em tho ah guess. Ah jes caint tell you how hit wuz hits so much.
De Newton's nevah did whup me. She started to whup me tho one day. Ah kin recollect bout de dogs. There wuz one dog whut wuz called Dinah. But yo know dey had ten uv em. One day ole Uncle Henry Jones done somethin and run off and climbed a tree and de Newton's miss him so dey called de dogs and dey went on to de tree. Dat very tree wha he wuz and stopped. Uncle Henry had been gone all dat mornin and dem dogs track him right dere, to de spot and wouldn let him down till de Newtons come. An chile dem Newtons whip de skin off Uncle Herny's [TR: Henry's] back. Dem dogs would git yo.
Mrs. Newton nevah got outn de bed no time. Ah would lift her from one bed to de utha to make de beds and when she got ready to get dressed ah would bath her and dress huh all de times.
Ah'll tell yo nother funny joke bout Henry Johnson. He had ter clean up mos uv de time. So Mrs. Newton's dress wuz hangin in de room up on de wall and when he come out he said to ole Uncle Jerry, he said: "Jerry guess whut ah done" and Jerry said: "Whut?" And Uncle Henry said: "Ah put mah han undah ole Mistess dress." Uncle Jerry said: "Whut did she say?" Uncle Henry say: "She didn' say nothin." So Uncle Jerry cided he'd try hit. So he went draggin on in de house. Set down on de floor by ole mistess. Ater while he run his han' up under huh dress and old marster jumped up and jumped on Jerry and like to beat him ter death. Jerry went out cryin and got out and called Henry. He said: "Henry ah though yo said yo put yo hand undah ole Mistess's dress and she didn' say nothin." Uncle Henry said: "Ah did and she didn' say nuthin." Jerry said: "Ah put mah han' undah huh dress and ole marster like tuh beat me ter death." Uncle Henry said: "Yo crazy thing huh dress wuz hangin up on de wall when ah put mah han up undah hit."
We didn' eat eggs only on Sunday mornin. Me and mah sis et together in de same plate. We didn know whut knives and forkes wuz den. We et wid our fingahs.
Ah had a good ole pa too. He died a long time ago. Ah member one night he started tuh whoop mah brudder and mah pa and mah brudder had hit. So mah brudder runned off, an de marster called ole Dinah, Dinah wuz a dog yo know but Dinah was a big dog ovah the other dogs yo know and dem dogs went and got me brudder and dem Newtons sho did beat him. But twasnt long befo mah pa taken sick and died aftuh dat. An when we wuz goin ter bury mah pa lamme tell yo what happened: Two turtle doves flew roun the wagon three times, den dey flew right on top uv mah pa's coffin box an hollered three times; and yo know mah sistuh died bout three days aftuh dat. Ah didn' bleave in signs till den. Ah know mah pa always bleaved in signs cause ah know when hit would start lightnin and thunderin round dat place of ourn mah pa would always make us stop. He say twas bad luck. An ah know when evah a dove would holler at night he'd tell us jes tuh tie a knot in th' south cornuh uv de sheet and he would hush. An we would do hit an he would hush. Yo kno hits bad luck fuh dem tuh holler roun yo place.
Oh we use ter have lots o sheep, at least ole mistess did. We made all of our wool clothes from dem sheeps wool and let me tell yo somethin else, ah think ah got some sheep wool in mah trunk now ah had hit fifty years. Hits good fer sores if yo has er cut on yo han' or feet or if blood poison set up jes take a little piece of dat wool an put a piece of fire on hit and [HW: put] some [HW: on] the sore parts and chile, honey, hit will git well right now.
Chile ah had use ter ruther go ter dances than ter eat. Ah'd go ter dances an git early dare and heah dem fiddles. Uh, my! ah jus couldn make mah foots act right. We use ter dance sixteen sets. We'd be er dancing and hit would sound so good. Someone would say swing de one yo love bes but ah wouldn swing de one ah love best cause ah didn want anyone tah know him.
On Sunday mornin dats when we play. Ole marster would put a rope cross fer us ter jump and we'd line up. The rope wuz bout five feet high and chile if we didn' jump it we'd catch hit. O-o-o-o-oooo. We had ter run. He line up two at a time an he say one fuh de money, two fuh de show, three tuh make ready and fo' tuh go. An yo talk bout runnin. We had ter run. He would make us box and de one dat git whooped is de one dat would haft ter box till he got whooped and we had ter whoop three times befo' stoppin. Oh chile, ah had a time when ah miz a chile.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives