The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Pernella Anderson Person interviewed: Frank Fikes, El Dorado, Arkansas Age: About 88
"My name is Frank Fikes. I live between El Dorado and Strong and I am 79 years old if I make no mistake. I know my mama told me years ago that I was born in watermelon time. She said she ate the first watermelon that got ripe on the place that year and it made her sick. She thought she had the colic. Said she went and ate a piece of calamus root for the pain and after eating the root for the pain behold I was born. So if I live and nothing happens to me in watermelon time I will be eighty this year. I was a boy at surrender about the age of fourteen or fifteen.
"My work was very easy when I was a little slave. Something got wrong with my foot when I first started to walking and I was crippled. I could not get around like the other children, so my work was to nurse all of the time. Sometimes, as fast as I got one baby to sleep I would have to nurse another one to sleep. We belonged to Mars Colonel Williams and he had I guess a hundred families on his place and nearly every family had a baby, so I had a big job after all. The rest of the children carried water, pine, drove up cows and held the calves off and made fires at old mar's house.
"I had to keep a heap fire so the boys wouldn't have to beat fire out of rocks and iron. Old miss did the cooking while all of the slaves worked. The slaves stood around the long back porch and ate. They ate out of wooden bowls and wooden spoons. They ate greens and peas and bread. And old miss fed all of us children in a large trough. She fed us on what we called the licker from the greens and peas with bread mashed in it. We children did not use spoons. We picked the bread out with our fingers and got down on our all fours and sipped the licker with our mouth. We all had a very easy time we thought because we did not know any better then.
"I never went to church until after surrender. Neither did we go to school but the white children taught me to read and count.
"I recollect as well today as if it had been yesterday the soldiers passing our house going to Vicksburg to fight. The reason I recollect it so well they all was dressed in blue suits with pretty gold buttons down the front. They passed a whole day and we watched them all day.
"Old miss and mars was not mean to us at all until after surrender and we were freed. We did not have a hard time until after we were freed. They got mad at us because we was free and they let us go without a crumb of anything and without a penny and nothing but what we had on our backs. We wandered around and around for a long time. Then they hired us to work on halves and man, we had a hard time then and I've been having a hard time ever since.
"Before the War we lived in log cabins. There was a row of log cabins a quarter of a mile long. No windows and no floor. We had grass to sit on. Our beds was made of pine poles nailed to the wall and we slept on hay beds. My mama and other slaves pulled grass and let it dry to make the beds with. Our cover was made from our old worn out clothes.
"On Sunday evenings we played. We put on clean clothes once a week. In summer we bathed in the branch. We did not bathe at all in winter. I went in my shirt tail until I was eleven or twelve years old. Back in slavery time boys did not wear britches. They wore shirts and our hair was long. The slaves say if you cut a child's hair before he or she was ten or twelve years old they won't talk plain until they are that old."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives