The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Subject: Ex-slavery [May 11 1938]
Person Interviewed: Orleans Finger Negro (Apparently octoroon or quadroon) Address: 2804 West Fifteenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas. Occupation: Formerly field hand and housekeeper Age: 79 [TR: Personal information moved from bottom of first page.] [TR: In text of interview, informant's name is given as Orleana.]
Birth, Family, and Master
"I was born in Mississippi in Tippa County not far from the edge of Tennessee. I wasn't raised in Arkansas, but all my children was raised here. I really don't know just where in Tippa county I was born. My mother's name was Ann Toler. Toler was my step father. My real father, I don't know. My mother never told me nothin' bout him and I don't know that; I can't tell what I don't know.
"My grandfather on my mother's side was Captain Ellis. That is the one come after me when I was small to carry me back to my folks. I didn't know him, and I said 'I don't want to go 'way with them strange Niggers'. He's dead now. They're all dead long ago. I have got children over fifty years old myself. I am the mother of nine children-three of them living. One of the living ones is Arthur Finger. He lives in St. Louis. I expected to hear from him today, but didn't. Cornelius Finger. (He is a brownskin boy, spare made), lives in Palestine, Arkansas, near Forrest City. Arthur is my baby boy. Elmira was my baby girl. She's the one you met. She's married and has children of her own.
"Captain Ellis' wife was named Minerva. She was my mother's mother. She's been dead years. I got children older than she was when she died. She died in Mississippi. I got a cousin named Molly Spight. She's dead. My mother's sister was named Emmaline; she is dead now too.
"My mother was colored. I don't know nothin' about my father, and my mother never taught me nothin' 'bout him.
"My step father and mother were both field hands. They worked in the field.
"I don't know just when I was born, but I am just sure that it was before the war. I remember hearing people talk about things in the war.
"My mother's master was named Whitely, I think, because she was named Whitley before she married.
"I have been married three times. The first man I married was 'Lijah Gibbs. The second time I married, I married Joe Finger. The third time I married Will Reese. He warn't no husband at all. They're all dead. Folks always called me Finger after my second husband died, because I didn't live with my third husband long.
"They had log houses. You would never see no brick chimney nor nothing of that kind. The logs were notched down and kinda kivered flat-no roof like now. They might have rafters on them, but the top was almost flat. Wouldn't be any steep like they is now. In them times they wouldn't have many rooms. Sometimes they would have two. They wouldn't have so many windows. Just old dirt chimneys. They'd take and dig a hole and stick sticks up in it. Then they'd make up the dirt and put water in it and pull grass and mix it in the dirt. They'd build a frame on the sticks and then put the mud on. The chimney couldn't catch fire till the house got old and the mud would fall off. When it got old and the mud got to fallin off, then they would be a fire. I've seen that since I been in Arkansas.
"Sometimes they would get big rocks and put them inside the fireplace to take the place of bricks. You could get rocks in the forest.
"Used to have ropes and they would cord the bed stead. The cords would act in place of springs. When you move you would have a heap of trouble because all that would have to be undone and done up again. You have to take the cords out and them put it together again. The cords would be run through the sides of the bed and stuck in with pegs.
"They used to have spinning wheels and looms. They made clothes and they made the cloth for the clothes and they spun the thread they made the cloth our of. They'd card and spin the thread. There's lots of other things I can't remember.
"The Yankess used to come in and have the people cook for them. They'd kill chickens and geese and things. The old people used to take their horses out and tie them out in the woods-hiding them out to keep the Yankees from getting them. The Yankees would ride up, take a good horse and leave the old worn-out one.
"There never was any fighting round where I lived. None of my folks was soldiers in the war.
Right After the War
"I don't remember just what my folks did right after the war. They were field hands and I guess they did that. My mother worked in the field that's all I know.
Life Since the War
"I have been in Arkansas a long time. I have been here ever since I left Mississippi. My first marriage was in Mississippi. The second and last ones was in Arkansas-Forrest City. My second husband had been dead since 1921. I don't know that I count Reese. We married in June and separated in September. He's dead now, and I don't hold nothin' against him.
"I am not able to work now. I do a little 'round the house and dig a little in the garden. I haven't worked in the field since way before 1921. I don't get no help at all from the Welfare. My daughter does what she can for me. I always have lived before I ever heard about the old age pension and I suppose God will take care of me yet somehow.
Cured by Prayer
"I'm puny and no'count. Aint able to do much. But I was crippled. I had a hurting in my leg and I couldn't walk without a stick. Finally, one day I went to go out and pick some turnips. I was visiting my son in Palestine. My leg hurt so bad that I talked to the Lord about it. And it seemed to me, he said 'Put down your stick.' I put it down and I aint used it since. I put it down right thar and I aint used it since. God is a momentary God. God knowed what I wanted and he said, 'Put down that sick,' and I aint been crippled since. It done me so much good. Looks like to me when I get to talking about the Lord, aint nobody a stranger to me.
"I know I been converted but that made me stronger. My son is a siner. He knowed about how I was crippled. He said you ought use your stick. He didn't know what to think about it. Young folks don't believe because they aint had no experience with prayer and they don't know what can happen.
"I done told you all I know. I don't want to tell you anything I don't know. If you don't know nothing, it is best to say you don't."
Everything which Orleana Finger states has the earmarks of being true. There are a great many things which she does not state which I believe that she could state if she wished. She evidently has a long list of things which she things should be unmentioned. She has two magic phrases with which she dismisses all subjects which she does not wich to discuss:
"I don't remember that."
"I better quit talking now before I start lying."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives