Parker, J. M.
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Subject: Ex-slavery Story: Birth, Parents, Master.
Person Interviewed: J.M. Parker, (dark brown) Address: 1002 Ringo Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Occupation: Formerly a carpenter Age: 76 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
"I was born in South Carolina, Waterloo, in Lawrence County, [HW: Laurens Co.] in 1861, April 5th. Waterloo is a little town in South Carolina. I believe that fellow shot the first gun of the war when I was born. I knew then I was going to be free. Of course that is just a lie. I made that up. Anyway I was born in 1861.
"Colonel Rice was our master. He was in the war too. The name Parker came in by intermarriage, you see. My mother belonged to Rice. She could have been a Simms before she married. My father's name was Edmund Parker. He belonged to the Rices also. That was his master; Colonel Rice and him were boys together. He went down there to Charleston, South Carolina to build breastworks. While down there, he slipped off and brought a hundred men away from Charleston back to Lawrence County where the men was that owned them. He was a business man, father was. Brought 'em all through the swamps. They were slaves and he brought 'em all back home. They all followed his advice.
"My mother's name was Rowena Parker after she married.
"Colonel Rice was a pretty fair man-a pretty good fellow. He was a colonel in the war and stood pretty high. Bound to be that way by him being a colonel. Seemed like him and my father had about the same number of kids. He thought there was nobody like my mother. He never whipped the slaves himself but his overseer would sometimes jump on them. The Rice family was very good to our people. The men being gone they were left in the hands of the mistress. She never touched anybody. She never had no reason to.
"Patterollers didn't bother us, but we were in that country. During the war, most of the men that amounted to anything were in the war and the patrolers didn't bother you much. The overseer didn't have so much power over me than. That pretty well left the colored people to come up without being abused during the war. The white folks was forced to go to the war. They drafted them just like they do now. They'd shoot a po' white man if he didn't come.
"My master didn't force men and women to marry. He didn't put 'em together just to get more slave. Some times other people would have women and men just for that purpose. But there wasn't much of it in my country.
House, Stock, Parents' Occupations
"Our house was a frame building, boxed in with one-by-twelve like we have here in the country. That was a good house with regular flooring, tongue and groove. We was raised up in a good house. Old Colonel Rice had to protect his standing. He had good stock. My father was a carriage man. He had to keep those horses clean and they always looked good. That carriage had to shine too. Colonel Rice was a high stepper. He'd take his handkerchief and rub it over the horses hair to see if they were really clean. He would always find 'em clean though when the old man got through with them. He would drive fine stock. Had some fine horses. Couldn't trust 'em with just anybody.
"My mother was cook. She helped Mrs. Rice take care of the kids, and cooked around the house. She took care of her kids, too.
"The house we was born and bred in was built for a carriage house, but somehow or 'nother they give it to us to live in. My mother being a cook, she got what she wanted. That was a good house too. It was sealed. It had good floors. It had two rooms. It had about three windows and good doors to each room.
"We had just common furniture. Niggers didn't have much then. My father was a good mechanic though and he would make anything he wanted. We didn't have much, just common things. But all my people were mechanics, harness makers, shoemakers,-they could make anything. Young Sam Parker could make any kind of shoe. He made shoes for the white folks; Young Jacob was a blacksmith; he made horseshoes and anything else out of iron. He may still be living. In fact, he made anything he could get his hands on. My young uncles on my mother's side, I don't know much about them, because they were all mechanics. My grandfather on my mother's side could make baskets-any kind-could make baskets that would hold water.
"My father had thirteen children. Three of them are living now. My brother lives here in the city. He was born during the war and his mother was supposed to be free when he was born.
Right After the War
"That's what my mother told me. I can remember a long ways back myself. After the war, it wasn't long before they began to open up schools. They used to run school three or four months a year. Both white and colored in the country had about three or four months. That is all they had. There weren't so very many white folks that took an interest in education during slave time. Colored people got just about as much as they did right after the war. What time we went to school we went the whole day. We would come home and work in the evening like. We had pretty fair teachers. All white then at first. They didn't have no colored till afterwards. If they did, they had so few, I never heard of them.
"The first teacher I had was Katie Whitefold (white). That was in Waterloo. Miss Richardson was our next teacher. She was white too. We went to school two terms under white women. After that we began to get teachers from Columbia, South Carolina, where the normal school was.
"The white teachers who taught us were people who had been raised right around Waterloo. We never had no Northern teachers as I knows of. Our first colored teacher was Murry Evans. He a preacher. He was one of our leading preachers too. After him our colored women began to come in and stand examination wasn't so hard at that time, but they made a good showing. There were good scholars.
"I went to school too much. I went to school at Philander Smith College some, too. I went a good piece in school. Come pretty near finishing the English course (high school). I finished Good[HW: sp.?] Brown's 'Grammer of Grammers'. Professor Backensto (the spelling is the interviewer's) sent away and got it and sold it to us. We was his students. He was a white man from the North and a good scholar. We got in those grammars and got the same lessons they give him when he was in school-nine pages a lesson and we had to repeat that lesson three times. When my mother died, I was off in the normal school.
"Right after the war, my parents farmed. He followed his trade. That always gave us something to eat you know. When we farmed, we sharecropped-a third and a fourth-that is, we got a third of the cotton and a fourth of the corn. Potatoes and things like that went free. All women got an acre free. My mother always got an acre and she worked it good too. She always had her bale of cotton. And if she didn't have a bale, she laid it next to the white folks' and made it out. They knew it and they didn't care. She stood well with the white people. Helped all of 'em raise their children, and they all liked that.
"I went along with my father whenever he had a big job and needed help. I got to be as good a carpenter as he was.
"I married out here. About eighty-five. People were emigrating to this country. There was a boom to emigrating then. Emigrating was a little dangerous when a man was trying to get hands. White folks would lay traps and kill men that were taking away their hands-they would kill white just as quick as they would black. I started out under a white man-I can't remember his name. He turned me over to Madden, a colored man who was raised in Waterloo. We came from there to Greenwood, South Carolina where everything was straight. After that we had nothing to do but get on the train and keep coming. We was with our agent then and we had no more trouble after that.
"I got off at Brinkley over at Minor Gregory's farm. He needed hands then and was glad to get us. He is dead now. I stayed in Brinkley the space of about a year. Then he gave us transportation to Little Rock. The train came from Memphis, and we struck out for Little Rock. I married after I come to Little Rock. I forget what year. But anyway my wife is dead and gone and all the children. So I'm single now.
Opinions of the Present
"I think times are about dead now. Things ought to get better. I believe things are going to get better for all of us. People have got to think more. People have got to get together more. War doesn't always make thing better. It didn't after the Civil War. And it didn't after the World War. The young people are all right in their way. It would just take another war to learn 'em a lesson.
"I can't do any work now. I get a little help from the welfare. It doesn't come regular. I need a check right now. I think it's due now. But they haven't sent it out yet. That is, I haven't got it.
"I'm a Christian. All my family were Methodists. I belong to Wesley.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives