The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: James Reeves 2419 W. Twentieth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 68 Occupation: Preacher
"I was born in 1870 down in Ouachita County about fourteen miles south of Camden going on toward El Dorado. They didn't have no railroad then. I was a young man when they put the branch through. You see, I was born five years after slavery, but I remember my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. They taken me and talked to me freely and I know everything they knew.
Great-Grandmother on Mother's Side
"My great-grandmother belonged to the Goodmans. Her master was named Bob Goodman. She lived to get one hundred thirteen years old. From the children of the old master, I got the information concerning her age. I looked it up after emancipation. One of old master's sons was named Frank Goodman, and another was named Norphleet Goodman, and there was another whose name I don't recall.
"My grandmother, great-grandmother, was named Frankie Goodman. I wasn't here in slavery time, but I knew her after emancipation.
Grandmother on Mother's Side
"My grandmother was named Hannah Goodman. These were different Goodmans but they were kin to these others. There was a large family of them. I don't know the correct age of my grandmother but she was up in the eighties when she died.
"My mother was born a Goodman, but she married Reeves, my father. The record of their marriage I ain't got. Back there, they didn't keep up like you and I do, and we don't keep up like these younger folks do. Near as I could get it, she lived to be about seventy-one years old.
"My father was named Adam Reeves. His master was named Rick Reeves. My father was born in Union County about ten miles from El Dorado. You might say north of El Dorado because he lived south of Camden. He lived there all his life. I have known him to move out of Ouachita County into Union, and from Union back to Ouachita.
Grandfather on Mother's Side
"My grandfather on my mother's aide was Henry Goodman. His mistress was a woman by the name of Lucy Goodman. She was the same woman who owned my mother. There was a big family of them Goodmans.
"His age-he lived to be about eighty years old. He died in Hot Spring County.
Grandmother on Father's Side
"My grandmother on my father's side was named Hetty. Her master was named Sam Abbott. She lived right close to seventy-four or seventy-five years. She been gone quite a while now. She used to live with papa.
"I don't know so much about another of my ancestors.
"My wife didn't have many people. She knows her mother, her mother's mistress, and all. Her ma was named Martha Henson. That was her married name. Her mistress' last name was Stribling. Martha Henson was a well-treated slave. The Striblings lived in Rockport, Arkansas, but their native home was Georgia. I don't know where the Striblings are now. The old man died before the Civil War broke out. I guess they are all dead and in torment. My wife's grandmother and grandfather on her mother's side were gone so far back that neither she nor I know anything about them.
"My great-grandmother on my mother's side was in Union County when I knew anything of her-close to El Dorado. I was about twenty-two years old when she died. She was tall and spare built, dark ginger cake color. Coarse straight black hair that had begun to mingle with gray. She never did get real gray, and her hair was never white. Even when she died, at a hundred and thirteen years, her hair was mostly black mingled with gray.
"The overseer knocked her in the head in slavery times, and they had to put a silver half-dollar in her head to hold her brains in. I have seen the place myself. When I was a little fellow she used to let me feel the place and she would say, 'That's where the overseer knocked granny in the head, son. I got a half-dollar in there.' I would put her hair aside-my but she had beautiful hair!--and look at the place.
"My wife could tell you what my mother told her. She has seen the marks on my mother's back and has asked, 'Mama, what's all these marks on your back?' And mama would say, 'That's where I was whipped in slavery times, daughter.' She never did like to tell the details. But the scars were awful.
"My grandmother was roughly treated and she had pretty near lost her eyesight from the ill treatment. She got so before she died that she could hardly see to go nowhere. I don't know what it was they done to her that made her eyesight bad, but she insisted that it was due to bad treatment in slavery time.
"I have heard that the pateroles used to run the slaves if they didn't have a pass from their mistress and master. The pateroles would run them and catch them and whip them.
How Freedom Came
"All my mother knew was that it got out that the Negroes were free. The day before the old woman told them that they were free, my grandfather, Henry Goodman who was a teamster, old mis' called him and told him to tell all the darkies to come up to the house the next day.
"Next morning, she said, 'Henry, you forgot what I told you. I want you to call all the darkies up here this morning.' Henry had a voice like a fog-horn. He started hollering. I wish I could holler the way he did, but I got to consider the neighbors. He hollered. 'Tention, 'tention, hey; Miss Lucy says she wants you all up to the big house this morning. She's got somepin to tell you.'
"They all come up to the yard before the house. When they got there, she says to him-not to them; she wouldn't talk to them that morning; maybe she was too full-'Henry, you all just as free now as I am. You can stay here with Miss Lucy or you can go to work with whomsoever you will. You don't belong to Miss Lucy no more.'
"She had been sick for quite a bit, and she was just able to come to the door and deliver that message. Three weeks after that time, they brought her out of the house feet foremost and took her to the cemetery. The news killed her dead. That's been seventy years ago, and they just now picking up on it!
Slave Time Amusements
"The old people say they used to have breakdowns in slave time-breakdown dances with fiddle and banjo music. Far after slavery, they had them. The only other amusement worth speaking about was the churches. Far as the churches was concerned, they had to steal out and go to them. Old man Balm Whitlow can tell you all about the way they held church. They would slip off in the woods and carry a gang of darkies down, and the next morning old master would whip them for it. Next Sunday they would do the same thing again and get another whipping. And it went on like that every week. When old man Whitlow came out from slavery, he continued to preach. But the darkies didn't have to steal out then. He's dead now, him and the old lady both.
"The slaves lived in old log houses. Some of them would be hewed and put up well. I have seen lots of them. Sometimes they would dob the cracks with mud and would have box planks floors, one by eight or one by ten, rough lumber, not dressed. Set 'em as close together as they could but then there would be cracks in them. I can carry you to some old log houses down in Union County now if they haven't been torn down recently.
"One old log house there used to be old lady Lucy Goodman's home. It has four rooms. It has a hall running through it. It was built in slave times. There is a spring about two hundred yards from it. That is about ten or twelve feet deep. There is a big cypress tree trunk hollowed out and sunk down in it to make a curbing. That cypress is about two or three feet across. The old man, Henry Goodman, sunk that cypress down in there in slavery time. He drove an ox team all the time. That is all the work he done. She would tell all the overseers, 'Now, don't you fool with Henry because we ain't never whipped him ourselves.'
"I don't know who it is that is living now. It's been fifty years ago since I was there.
Right After Freedom
"Right after freedom, when the surrender came, my mother was just a girl 'bout fifteen or sixteen. She married after freedom. Her and her husband farmed for a living-you know, sharecropped.
Ku Klux Klan
"The Ku Klux and the pateroles were the same thing, only the Klan was more up to date. It's all set up with a hellish principle. It's old Pharaoh exactly.
"The Ku Klux Klan didn't have no particular effect on the Negro except to scare him.
"When the emancipation came about, the people of the South went to work to see what they could do about it. The whole South was under martial law. Some of the people formed the Ku Klux Klan to keep the Negro down. I never remember that they bothered any of our family or the people in our house. But they scared some and whipped more, and killed some.
Political Trouble about 1888
"The darkies and the white folks in Union County had an insurrection over the polls about the year 1888. In them days, when you wanted to put a Republican man in, you didn't have to do much campaigning. They just went to the polls and put him in. Everybody that could vote was Republican. In the fall of 1888 they had a great trouble down there, and some of them got killed. They went around and commanded the Negroes not to go to the polls the next day. Some of the Negroes would tell them, 'Well, I am going to the polls tomorrow if I have to crawl.' And then some of them would say, 'I'd like to know how you goin' to vote.' The nigger would ask right back, 'How you goin' to vote?' The white man would say, 'I'm goin' to vote as I damn please.' Then the nigger would say, 'I'm going to do the same thing.' That started the trouble.
"On Sunday before the election on Monday, they went around through that county in gangs. They shot some few of the Negroes. As the Negroes didn't have no weapons to protect theirselves, they didn't have no chance. In that way, quite a few of the Negroes disbanded their homes and went into different counties and different portions of the state and different states. Henry Goodman, my grandfather, came into Hot Spring County in this way.
"Roosevelt has got himself in a predicament. They are drunk and don't know what to do. The whole world is stirred up over why one-fourth of the world should rule the other three-fourths. One-fourth of the world is white. The Bible says a house divided can't stand. The people don't know what to do. Look how they fight the Wage Hour Bill. Look at the excitement they raised when it was first suggested that the Union and Confederate veterans meet together.
"We were savages when we came over here. Everything we got and everything we know, good and bad, we got from the white folks. Don't know how they can get impatient with us when everything we do they learnt us.
"Roosevelt has done more than any Democrat that has ever been in the Chair. He had to do something to keep down a rebellion. Then we like to had one as it is through the labor question.
"The poor white man always has been in a tight [HW: place]. He was almost as much oppressed as the Negro.
"The young people of today ain't got no sense. They don't give no thought to nothing. They don't know how to think at all. All the schools and education they give don't make them think. If I had as much education as they have, I would be able to accomplish something. The teachers don't press down on them and make them know what they go over. There is a whole lot of things happening now.
Old People in Pulaski County
"Out in Pulaski County, going west out the Nineteenth Street Pike till you strike the Saline County line, there are quite a few old colored people. I guess you would find no leas than twenty-five or thirty out that way. There is one old man named Junius Peterson out that way who used to run a mill. If you find him, he is very old and has a good memory. He is a mulatto. You could get out to him by going down till you come to a place that is called the Henderson Lane. You turn to the right and go off the pike less than a mile and you come to a big one-story house settin' on a hill where Peterson lives. Right on beyond that about three-fourths of a mile on the right side of the road, you come to George Gregory's. The mother of my church is about eighty-one years old but she is over in Saline County. Her name is Jane Joyner.
"There are quite a few old persons around Woodson that can give you information. But that is in Saline County, I think. Sweet Home, Wrightsville, Toltec-all of them have a few old colored persons on the farm that was here in slavery times."
Reeves' story was taken because of his clear memories of his parents and grandparents. He described to me an old log house still standing in Union County.
I got all agog with excitement. I asked him for the exact location. He gave it. Then I suggested that maybe he would go down with me sometime to visit it. He agreed. Then at the last moment caution began to assert itself, and I said, "When was the last time you saw the cabin?"
He reflected a moment; then he said, "Waal, I guess it was a little more 'an fifty years ago."
I lost my enthusiasm.
Reeves told the Phill-la-me-york story which was told by Austin Pen Parnell. You will find it in his story. The only difference between his story and Parnell's is that Reeves had the conclusion. He claimed that the old master got in a fight with one of the slaves present and yelled out his identity when he was getting badly beaten. The story sounds like it came from the Arkansas folklore collection or from someone who contributed it to that collection.
An aftermath of Reeves' story is finding out that most people consider Henry Banner, whose story has been previously given and whose age was given as eighty-nine, is considered by many persons to be ninety-four.
Neely, one of the adult school-teachers, says that he has gone over Banner's life carefully with him, and that he must have been twenty-one or twenty-two at the close of the War because during slavery, he had experience at logging, or rather at logrolling, a work so difficult that only full-grown men were used at it. Since Banner is slightly built, there is scarcely a possibility that he did such work before the normal time.
[HW: Cf. 30715 for interview with Parnell.]
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives