The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Malindy Maxwell, Madison, Arkansas Age: Up in 80's
"I was born close to Como and Sardis, Mississippi. My master and mistress was Sam Shans and Miss Cornelia Shans. I was born a slave. They owned mama and Master Rube Sanders owned pa. Neither owner wouldn't sell but they agreed to let ma and pa marry. They had a white preacher and they married out in the yard and had a big table full of weddin' supper, and the white folks et in the house. They had a big supper too. Ma said they had a big crowd. The preacher read the ceremony. Miss Cornelia give her a white dress and white shoes and Miss Cloe Wilburn give her a veil. Miss Cloe was some connection of Rube Sanders.
"They had seven children. I'm the oldest-three of us living.
"After 'mancipation pa went to see about marrying ma over agen and they told him that marriage would stand long as ever he lived.
"Mama was sold at twelve years old in Atlanta, Georgia. Ma and pa was always field hands. Grandma got to be one of John Sanders' leading hands to work mong the women folks. They said John Sanders was meanest man ever lived or died. According to pa's saying, Mars Ruben was a good sorter man. Pa said John Sanders was too mean a man to have a wife. He was mean to Miss Sarah. They said he beat her, his wife, like he beat a nigger woman.
"Miss Sarah say, 'Come get your rations early Saturday morning, clean up your house, wash and iron, and we'll go to preaching tomorrow-Sunday. I want you to all come out clean Monday morning.' They go ask Mars John Sanders if they could go to preaching. I recken from what they said they walked. Mars John, when they git their best clothes on, make them turn round and go to the field and work all day long. He was just that mean. Work all day long Sunday.
"Miss Sarah was a Primitive Baptist and that is what I am till this day. Some folks call us Hardshell Baptist. The colored folks set in the back of the church. The women all set on one side and the men on the other. If they had a middle row, there was a railing dividing mens' seats from the womens' seats on the very same benches.
"Miss Cloe, Miss Cornelia, and Miss Sarah cook up a whole lot of good things to eat and go to camp meeting. Sometimes they would stay a week and longer. They would take time bout letting the colored folks go long. We had big times. My grandpa took a gingercake cutter with him and sold gingercakes when they come out of the church. He could keep that money his own. I don't know how he sold them. My sister has the cutter now I expect. My girl has seen it. It was a foot long, this wide (5 inches), and fluted all around the edges, and had a handle like a biscuit cutter. They was about an inch thick. He made good ones and he sold all he could ever make. Grandpa took carpet sacks to carry his gingercakes in to sell them. I remember that mighty well. (The shape of the cutter was like this: ) He purt nigh always got to go to all the camp meetings. Folks got happy and shouted in them days. It would be when somebody got religion. At some big meetings they didn't shout.
"When I was born they had a white mid-wife, Miss Martin. My mistress was in the cabin when I was born. I was born foot foremost and had a veil on my face and down on my body a piece. They call it a 'caul.' Sometimes I see forms and they vanish. I can see some out of one eye now. But I've always seen things when my sight was good. It is like when you are dreaming at night but I see them at times that plain in day.
"I don't know how old I am but I was a good size girl when 'mancipation come on. Miss Cornelia had my age in her Bible. They done took me from the cabin and I was staying at the house. I slept on a trundle bed under Miss Cornelia's bed. Her bed was a teaster-way high up, had a big stool to step on to go up in there and she had it curtained off. I had a good cotton bed and I slept good up under there. Her bed was corded with sea grass rope. It didn't have no slats like beds do now.
"Colored folks slept on cotton beds and white folks-some of em at least-picked geese and made feather beds and down pillows. They carded and washed sheep's wool and put in their quilts. Some of them, they'd be light and warm. Colored folks' bed had one leg. Then it was holes hewed in the wall on the other three sides and wooden slats across it. Now that wasn't no bad bed. Some of them was big enough for three to sleep on good. When the children was small four could sleep easy cross ways, and they slept that way.
"They had shelves and tables and chairs. They made chests and put things in there and set on top of it too. White folks had fine chests to keep their bed clothes in. Some of them was made of oak, and pine, and cypress. They would cook walnut hulls and bark and paint them dark with the tea.
"I recollect a right smart of the Civil War. We was close nough to hear the roar and ramble and the big cannons shake the things in the house. I don't know where they was fighting-a long ways off I guess.
"I saw the soldiers scouting. They come most any time. They go in and take every drop of milk out of the churn. They took anything they could find and went away with it. I seen the cavalry come through. I thought they looked so pretty. Their canteens was shining in the sun. Miss Cornelia told me to hide, the soldiers might take me on with them. I didn't want to go. I was very well pleased there at Miss Cornelia's.
"I seen the cavalry come through that raised the 'white sheet.' I know now it must have been a white flag but they called it a white sheet to quit fighting. It was raised a short time after they passed and they said they was the ones raised it. I don't know where it was. I reckon it was a big white flag they rared up. It was so they would stop fighting.
"Mars Sam Shan didn't go to no war; he hid out. He said it was a useless war, he wasn't going to get shot up for no use a tall, and he never went a step. He hid out. I don't know where. I know Charles would take the baskets off. Charles tended to the stock and the carriage. He drove the wagon and carriage. He fetched water and wood. He was a black boy. Mars Sam Shan said he wasn't goiner loose his life for nothing.
"Miss Cornelia would cook corn light bread and muffins and anything else they had to cook. Rations got down mighty scarce before it was done wid. They put the big round basket nearly big as a split cotton basket out on the back portico. Charles come and disappear with it.
"Chess and Charles was colored overseers. He didn't have white overseers. Miss Cornelia and Miss Cloe would walk the floor and cry and I would walk between. I would cry feeling sorry for them, but I didn't know why they cried so much. I know now it was squally times. War is horrible.
"Mars Sam Shan come home, went down to the cabins-they was scattered over the fields-and told them the War was over, they was free but that they could stay. Then come some runners, white men. They was Yankee men. I know that now. They say you must get pay or go off. We stayed that year. Another man went to pa and said he would give him half of what he made. He got us all up and we went to Pleasant Hill. We done tolerable well.
"Then he tried to buy a house and five acres and got beat out of it. The minor heirs come and took it. I never learnt in books till I went to school. Seem like things was in a confusion after I got big nough for that. I'd sweep and rake and cook and wash the dishes, card, spin, hoe, scour the floors and tables. I would knit at night heap of times. We'd sing some at night.
"Colored folks couldn't read so they couldn't sing at church lessen they learnt the songs by hearing them at home. Colored folks would meet and sing and pray and preach at the cabins.
"My first teacher was a white man, Mr. Babe Willroy. I went to him several short sessions and on rainy days and cold days I couldn't work in the field. I worked in the field all my life. Cook out in the winter, back to the field in the spring till fall again.
"Well, I jes' had this one girl. I carried her along with me. She would play round and then she was a heap of help. She is mighty good to me now.
"I never seen a Ku Klux in my life. Now, I couldn't tell you about them.
"My parents' names was Lou Sanders and Anthony Sanders. Ma's mother was a Rockmore and her husband was a Cherokee Indian. I recollect them well. He was a free man and was fixing to buy her freedom. Her young mistress married Mr. Joe Bues and she heired her. Mr. Joe Bues drunk her up and they come and got her and took her off. They run her to Memphis before his wife could write to her pa. He was Mars Rockmore.
"Grandma was put on a block and sold fore grandpa could cumerlate nough cash to buy her for his wife. Grandma never seen her ma no more. Grandpa followed her and Mr. Sam Shans bought her and took her to Mississippi with a lot more he bought.
"My pa's ma b'long to John Sanders and grandpa b'long to Rube Sanders. They was brothers. Rube Sanders bought grandpa from Enoch Bobo down in Mississippi. The Bobo's had a heap of slaves and land. Now, he was the one that sold gingercakes. He was a blacksmith too. Both my grandpas was blacksmiths but my Indian grandpa could make wagons, trays, bowls, shoes, and things out of wood too. Him being a free man made his living that way. But he never could cumolate enough to buy grandma.
"My other grandma was blacker than I am and grandpa too. When grandpa died he was carried back to the Bobo graveyard and buried on Enoch Bobo's place. It was his request all his slaves be brought back and buried on his land. I went to the burying. I recollect that but ma and pa had to ask could we go. We all got to go-all who wanted to go. It was a big crowd. It was John Sanders let us go mean as he was.
"Miss Cornelia had the cistern cleaned out and they packed up their pretty china dishes and silver in a big flat sorter box. Charles took them down a ladder to the bottom of the dark cistern and put dirt over it all and then scattered some old rubbish round, took the ladder out. The Yankees never much as peared to see that old open cistern. I don't know if they buried money or not. They packed up a lot of nice things. It wasn't touched till after the War was over.
"I been farming and cooking all my life. I worked for Major Black, Mr. Ben Tolbert, Mr. Williams at Pleasant Hill, Mississippi. I married and long time after come to Arkansas. They said you could raise stock here-no fence law.
"I get $8 and commodities because I am blind. I live with my daughter here."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives