The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Victoria McMullen 1416 E. Valmar, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 54 Occupation: Seamstress
"My mother was born March 16, 1865, and knew nothing of slavery.
"Both my grandmothers and both grandfathers were slaves. My father was born in the same year as my mother and like my mother knew nothing of slavery although both of them might have been born slaves.
"I knew my mother's mother and father and my father's mother, but I didn't know my father's father.
"He was from Texas and he always stayed there. He never did come out to Louisiana where I was born. My mother was born in Louisiana, but my father was born in Texas. I don't know what county or city my father was born in. I just heard my grandmother on his side say he was born in Texas.
"During the War (he was born in '65 when the War ceased), Grandmother Katy-that was her name, Katy, Katy Elmore-she was in Louisiana at first-she was run out in Texas, I suppose, to be hidden from the Yankees. My father was born there and my grandfather stayed there. He died in Texas and then Grandma Katy come back to Louisiana with my father and settled in Ouachita Parish.
"Grandma Katy was sold from South Carolina into Louisiana to Bob McClendon, and she kept the name of Elmore who was her first owner in South Carolina. It was Bob McClendon who run her out in Texas to hide her from the Yankees. My grandfather in Texas kept the name of Jamison. That was the name of his master in Texas. But grandma kept the name of Elmore from South Carolina because he was good to her. He was better than Bob McClendon. The eastern states sold their slaves to the southern states and got all the money, then they freed the slaves and that left the South without anything.
"Grandma Katy had Creek Indian blood in her. She was of medium size and height, copper colored, high cheek bones, small squinchy eyes, black curly hair. Her hair was really pretty but she didn't curl it. It was just naturally curly. She was a practical nurse as they call it, but she did more of what some people call a midwife. They call it something else now. They got a proper word for it.
"They got it in these government agencies. That is what she was even in slavery times. She worked for colored people and white people both. That was after she was freed until she went blind. She went blind three years before she died. She died at the age of exactly one hundred years. She treated women and babies. They said she was a real good doctor in her day. That is been fifty-four years ago. [I will be fifty-four years old tomorrow-September 18, 1938.] In slavery times my grandma was almost as free as she was in freedom because of her work.
"She said that Bob McClendon was cruel to her. Sometimes he'd get angry and take the shovel and throw hot ashes on the slaves. And then he'd see them with blisters on them and he would take a handsaw or a flat plank and bust the blisters. Louisiana was a warm country and they wouldn't have much clothes on. When the slaves were freed, he went completely broke. He had scarcely a place to live.
"I seen him once. Be look like on old possum. He had a long beard down to his waist and he had long side burns too. Just a little of his face showed. He was tall and stooping and he wore his hair long and uncut down on his neck. You know about what he looked like. He had on blue jeans pants and brogan shoes and a common shirt-a work shirt. He wore very common clothes. When they freed the Negroes, it broke him up completely. He had been called a 'big-to-do' in his life but he wasn't nothing then. He owned Grandma Katy.
"Grandma Katy had a sister named Maria and a brother named Peter. He owned all three of them. I have seen all of them. Grandma Katy was the oldest. She and Uncle Peter stayed close together. He didn't have no wife and she didn't have no husband. But Aunt Maria had a husband. She lived off from them after freedom. It was about twelve miles away. My great-aunt and great-uncle-they were Maria and Peter-that was what they were. Uncle Peter died first before I left Louisiana, but Aunt Maria and Grandma Katy died after I came to Arkansas. Grandma Katy lived four years after I came here.
"After they was free and my father had gotten large enough to work and didn't have no horse, my grandma was going 'round waiting on women-that is all she did-all the rest of the people had gotten large and left home. Papa made a crop with a hoe. He made three bales of cotton and about twelve loads of corn with that hoe. He used to tell me, 'You don't know nothin' 'bout work. You oughter see how I had to work.' After that he bought him a horse. Money was scarce then and it took something to buy the place and the horse both. They were turned loose from slavery without anything. Hardly had a surname-just Katy, Maria, and Peter.
"I knew more about the slave-time history of my mother's folks than I did about my father's but I'll tell you that some other time. My grandmother on my mother's side was born in Richmond, Virginia. She was owned by a doctor but I can't call his name. She gets her name from her husband's owners. They came from Virginia. They didn't take the name of their owners in Louisiana. They took the name of the owners in Virginia. She was a twin-her twin was a boy named June and her name was Hetty. Her master kept her brother to be a driver for him. She was sent from Virginia to Louisiana to people that were related to her Virginia people. She called her Louisiana mistress 'White Ma;' she never did call her 'missis.' The white folks and the colored folks too called her Indian because she was mixed with Choctaw. That's the Indian that has brown spots on the jaw. They're brownskin. It was an Indian from the Oklahoma reservation that said my mother belonged to the Choctaws.
"She rode from Virginia to Louisiana on a boat at the age of twelve years. She was separated from her mother and brothers and sisters and never did see them again. She was kept in the house for a nurse. She was not a midwife. She nursed the white babies. That was what she was sent to Louisiana for-to nurse the babies. The Louisiana man that owned her was named George Dorkins. But I think this white woman came from Virginia. She married this Louisiana man, then sent back to her father's house and got grandma; she got her for a nurse. She worked only a year and a half in the field before peace was declared. After she got grown and married, my grandfather-she had to stay with him and cook and keep house for him. That was during slavery time but after George Dorkins died. Dorkins went and got hisself a barrel of whiskey-one of these great big old barrels-and set it up in his house, and put a faucet in it and didn't do nothin' but drink whiskey. He said he was goin' to drink hisself to death. And he did.
"He was young enough to go to war and he said he would drink hisself to death before he would go, and he did. My grandma used to steal newspapers out of his house and take them down to the quarters and leave them there where there were one or two slaves that could read and tell how the War was goin' on. I never did learn how the slaves learned to read. But she was in the house and she could steal the papers and send them down. Later she could slip off and they would tell her the news, and then she could slip the papers back.
"Her master drank so much he couldn't walk without falling and she would have to help him out. Her mistress was really good. She never allowed the overseer to whip her. She was only whipped once in slave time while my father's mother was whipped more times than you could count.
"Her master often said, 'I'll drink myself to death before I'll go to war and be shot down like a damn target.' She said in living with them in the house, she learned to cuss from him. She said she was a cussin' soul until she became a Christian. She wasn't 'fraid of them because she was kin to them in some way. There was another woman there who was some kin to them and she looked enough like my grandma for them to be kin to each other. We talked it over several times and said we believed we were related; but none of us know for sure.
"When the slaves wanted something said they would have my grandma say it because they knew she wouldn't be whipped for it. 'White Ma' wouldn't let nobody whip her if she knew it. She cussed the overseer out that time for whipping her.
"When grandma was fourteen or fifteen years old they locked her up in the seed house once or twice for not going to church. You see they let the white folks go to the church in the morning and the colored folks in the evening, and my grandma didn't always want to go. She would be locked up in the seed bin and she would cuss the preacher out so he could hear her. She would say, 'Master, let us out.' And he would say, 'You want to go to church?' And she would say, 'No, I don't want to hear that same old sermon: "Stay out of your missis' and master's hen house. Don't steal your missis' and master's chickens. Stay out of your missis' and master's smokehouse. Don't steal your missis' and master's hams." I don't steal nothing. Don't need to tell me not to.'
"She was tellin' the truth too. She didn't steal because she didn't have to. She had plenty without stealin'! She got plenty to eat in the house. But the other slaves didn't git nothin' but fat meat and corn bread and molasses. And they got tired of that same old thing. They wanted something else sometimes. They'd go to the hen house and get chickens. They would go to the smokehouse and get hams and lard. And they would get flour and anything else they wanted and they would eat something they wanted. There wasn't no way to keep them from it.
"The reason she got whipped that time, the overseer wanted her to help get a tree off the fence that had been blown down by a storm. She told him that wasn't her work and she wasn't goin' to do it. Old miss was away at that time. He hit her a few licks and she told old miss when she came back. Old 'White Ma' told the overseer, 'Don't never put your hands on her no more no matter what she does. That's more than I do. I don't hit her and you got no business to do it.'
"Her husband, my grandfather, was a blacksmith, and he never did work in the field. He made wagons, plows, plowstocks, buzzard wings-they call them turning plows now. They used to make and put them on the stocks. He made anything-handles, baskets. He could fill wagon wheels. He could sharpen tools. Anything that come under the line of blacksmith, that is what he did. He used to fix wagons all the time I knowed him. In harvest time in the fall he would drive from Bienville where they were slaves to Monroe in Ouachita Parish. He kept all the plows and was sharpening and fixing anything that got broke. He said he never did get no whipping.
"His name was Tom Eldridge. They called him 'Uncle Tom'. They was the mother and father of twelve children. Six lived and six died. One boy and five girls lived. And one girl and five boys died-half and half. He died at the age of seventy-five, June 6, 1908. She died January 1920.
"I came out here in January 1907. I lived in Pine Bluff. From Louisiana I came to Pine Bluff in 1906. In 1907 I went to Kerr in Lonoke County and lived there eight years and then I came to Little Rock. I farmed at Kerr and just worked 'round town those few months in Pine Bluff. Excusing the time I was in Pine Bluff and Little Rock I farmed. I farmed in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives