Rooks, William Henry
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: William Henry Rooks Baptist Preacher; Brinkley, Arkansas Age: 84
The slaves didn't spect nothing but freedom. Jes freedom! In Africa they was free as wild animals and then they was so restricted. Jes put in bondage for no reason at all.
No plantations was divided. I was born a slave and I remembers right smart how it was.
My master was John Freeman and his wife's name was Fannie. I went to Como, Mississippi twice a week to get the mail all durin the war. It was eight miles. I rode a pony.
If you go to church you have to have a pass from the master. The pattyrollers see you and you have to show it to them. It was just a note. If you didn't have it they take or send you home. If they catch you any more without a pass they whip you. They come to the church and in all public places like the police stands around now. They rode around mostly. Sometimes they went in droves.
They would let you go visiting sometimes and exchange work. Some masters was good and some was mean jess like they are now and some slaves good and some bad. That is the way they are now.
Some of the white men had a hundred slaves and had plenty money. The war broke nearly all of them. The very worse thing I ever knowed about it was some white men raised hands to sell like they raise stock now. It was hard to have your child took off and never see or hear tell of it. Mean man buy it and beat it up. Some of them was drove off to be sold at auction at New Orleans. That was where some took them cause they could get big money for them.
I never knowed of a master to give the slaves a dime when they become free. They never promissed them nothing. The Yankees might have to toll them off. The hands all stayed on John Freeman's place and when it was over he give them the privilege of staying right on in their houses. Some left after awhile and went somewhere they thought they could do better.
They didn't have the Ku Klux but it was bout like it what they had. They wore caps shine de coons eye and red caps and red garments. Red symbolize blood reason they wore red. They broke up our preaching. Some folks got killed. Some was old, some young-old devlish ones. They was like a drove of varments. I guess you be scared. They run the colored folks away from church a lot of times. That was about equalization after the freedom. That was the cause of that.
There was uprisings like I'm telling you but the colored folks didn't have nothing to go in a gun if he had one. White folks make them give up a gun.
The first votin I done I was workin for young Henry Larson back in Mississippi. He give my mother $120 a year to cook for his young wife and give her what she eat and I worked on his farm. He told me to go vote, it was election day. I ask him how was I going to know how to vote. I could read a little. I couldn't write. The ballot box was at Pleasant Mount. Ozan set over the box. He was a Yankee. He was the only one kept the box. It was a wooden box nailed up and a slit in the top. A.R. Howe and Captain Howe was two more Yankee white men there watching round all day. Ozan was the sheriff at Sardis, Mississippi soon after the war. Some more colored folks come up to vote. We stood around and watched. We saw D. Sledge vote; he owned half of the county. We knowed he voted Democrat so we voted the other ticket so it would be Republican. I voted for President Grant. I don't believe in women voting. They used to have the Australian Ballot System. It's a heap more the man that's elected than it is the party. We all voted for Hoover; he was a Republican and foe he got one term served out we was about on starvation. I ain't voted since. That President claim to be a Democrat. He ain't no Democrat. I don't know what he be.
I been farming and preaching. I started preaching in Mississippi. I joined the conference in Arkansas in 1886 and started preaching at Surrounded Hill (Biscoe). I come here in 1884 from Pinola County. Mississippi. I had some stock and they was fencing up everything over there. I had no land so I come to an open country. It wasn't long before they fenced it in. I come to Brinkley and worked for Gun and Black sawmill and I been here forty or fifty years. I don't know jess how long. I couldn't starve to death in a whole year here. The people wouldn't let me. I got lot of friends, both black and white, here.
I married December 17, 1874 in the Baptist church. Glasco Wilson was the preacher married me. My wife died here in dis house nine years ago. We had ten children but jes two livin now. My girl married a preacher and live at Hope. Arkansas. My son preaches in Parson, Kansas.
I supports my own self. I works and I preaches a little yet. I saved up some money but it nearly give out. The young generation, some of them, do mighty bad. Some of them is all right. Some of them don't do much and don't save nothing. I owns this house and did own another one what burned down. A lamp exploded and caught it while I was going off up the road but I never looked back or I would have seen it. It seem lack now it takes more money to do than it ever did in times before. Seems like money is the only thing to have and get. Folks gone scottch crazy over money, money! Both is changing. The white folks, I'm speaking bout, the white folks has changed and course the colored folks keeping up wid them. The old white and colored neither can't keep up wid the fast times. I say it's the folks that made this depression and it's the folks keeping the depression. The little fellow is squeezed clear out. It out to be stopped. Folks ain't happy like they used to be. Course they sung songs all the time. Religious choruses mostly.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives