The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Amanda Ross 817 Schiller Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 82
"I was nine years old in the time of the surrender. I know I was here in that time. I don't know nothin' 'bout their carryin'-on. I know they whipped them with hobble rods. You don't know what hobble rods is!!! Ain't you seen these here long thin hick'ry shoots? They called hobble rods. I don't know why they called 'em hobble rods. I know they made you hobble. They'd put 'em in the fire and roast 'em and twist 'em. I have seen 'em whip them till the blood run down their backs. I've seen 'em tie the women up, strip 'em naked to their waist and whip 'am till the blood run down their backs. They had a nigger whipper, too.
"I was born in Salem, Alabama. I came up here about twenty-five years ago.
"Isaac Adair was the name of the old man who owned me. He owned my mother and father too, Hester and Scip. Their last name was Adair, the same as their master's.
"I don't remember the names of my grandfather and grandmother, 'cause we was crossed up, you see, One of my grandmothers was named Crecie and the other was named Lydia. I don't remember my grandfather's name. I spect I used to call 'im master. I used to remember them but I don't no more. Nobody can't worry me 'bout them old folks now. They ast me all them questions at the Welfare. They want to know your gran'pa and your gran'ma. Who were they, what did they do, where did they live, where are they now? I don't know what they did. That's too far back for me.
"My mother and father had nine children. I have only one sister living. All the others done gone to heaven but me and her.
"My mother and father lived in a log cabin. They had one-legged beds nailed to the wall. They had benches and boxes and blocks and all sich as that for chairs. My daddy made the table we used. He made them one-legged beds too. They kept the food in boxes and gourds. They had these big gourds. They could cut holes in the top of them and put things in them. My mammy had a lot of 'em and they were nice and clean too. Wisht I had one of them now.
"Some folks didn't have that good. We had trundle beds for the children that would run under the big bed when they wasn't sleeping in it. We made a straw mattress. You know the white folks weren't goin' to let 'em use cotton, and they didn't have no chickens to git feathers from; so they had to use straw. Oh, they had a hard time I'm tellin' you. My mother pulled greens out of the garden and field, and cured it up for the mattress.
"For rations, we'd eat onions and vegetables. We et what was raised. You know they didn't have nothin' then 'cept what they raised. All the cookin' was done at one house, but there was two cooks, one for the colored folks and one for the white folks. My grandma cooked for the white people. They cooked in those big old washpots for the colored people. We all thought we had a pretty good master.
"We didn't know nothin' about a master.
"I ain't positive what time the hands ate breakfast. I know they et it and I know they et at the same time and place. I think they et after sunrise. They didn't have to eat before sunrise.
"When they fed the children, they cook the food and put it in a great big old tray concern and called up the children, 'Piggee-e-e-e-e, piggee-e-e-e-e.' My cousin was the one had to go out and call the children; and you could see them runnin' up from every which way, little shirt tails flyin' and hair sticking out. Then they would pour the food out in different vessels till the children could git around them with those muscle-shell spoons. Many of them as could get 'round a vessel would eat out of it and when they finished that one, they'd go to another one, and then to another one till they all got fed.
"My master worked seventy hands they said. He had two colored overseers and one white one. He didn't allow them overseers to whip and slash them niggers. They had to whip them right. Didn't allow no pateroles to bother them neither. That's a lot of help too. 'Cause them pateroles would eat you up. It was awful. Niggers used to run away to keep from bein' beat up.
"I knowed one gal that ran away in the winter time and she went up into the hollow of a tree for protection. When she came in, she was in sich a bad condition they had to cut off both her legs. They had froze out there. They taken care of her. They wanted her to work. She was jus' as nice a seamstress as you ever saw. And she could do lots of things. She could get about some. She could go on her knees. She had some pads for them and was just about as high as your waist when she was goin' along on her hands and knees, swinging her body between her arms.
Ate in the Big House
"The cooks and my mother stayed in the white folks' yard. They weren't in the quarters. My mother was seamstress and she was right in the house all the day long sewing. The children like me and my sister, they used us 'round the house and yard for whatever we could do. They didn't never whip none of my father's children. If we done something they thought we ought to been whipped for, they would tell father to whip us, and if he wanted to, he would; and if he didn't want to, he wouldn't. They made a big difference for some reason.
"They married in that time by standing up and letting someone read the ceremony to them. My master was a Christian. There wasn't no jumpin' over a broomstick on my master's place. The white folks didn't have no nigger preacher for their churches. But the colored folks had 'em. They preached out of these little old Blue Back Spellers-leastways they was little blue back books anyhow.
"My folks was on the road refugeeing from Magnolia, Arkansas to Pittsburg, Texas when the news came that the colored folks was free. And my master came 'round and told the niggers they was free as he was. I didn't hear him. I don't know where I was. I'm sure I was out playin somewheres.
Slave Wages and Experiences after the War
"My father worked in a blacksmith shop right after the War. Before the War, he went far and near to work for the white folks. They'd risk him with their money and everything. They would give him part of it; I don't know how much. He brought money to them, and they sure give him money.
"We didn't have to wear the things the other slave children had to wear. He would order things for his family and my father would do the same for us. When old master made his order, my father would put his in with it.
"I am the mother of fifteen children-ten girls and five boys. That was enough for me. I am willing to quit off. My husband is dead. He's been dead for thirty-five years.
"I don't know what to say about these young people. Mine are pretty good. So, I'm 'fraid to say much about the others.
"Lord, I don't know what we'll do if we don't get some rain.
When I was able I washed and ironed. I didn't have to do nothin' till after my father and husband died. Then I washed and ironed and cooked till the white folks set me out. They said I was too old. That is one thing I hates to think of. They had the privilege to say I couldn't work; they ought to a seen that I got somethin' to live on when I wasn't able to work no more."
You can't get the whole story by reading the words in this interview. You have to hear the tones and the accents, and see the facial expressions and bodily movements, and sense the sometimes almost occult influence; you have to feel the utter lack of resentment that lies behind the words that sound vehement when read. You marvel at the quick, smooth cover-up when something is to be withheld, at the unexpected vigor of the mind when the bait is attractive enough to draw it out, and at the sweetness of the disposition. Some old people merely get mellowed and sweetened by the hardships through which they have passed. Sometimes, you wonder if some of the old folk don't have dispositions that they can turn off or on at will.
It is not hard to realize the reason why Amanda was treated better than other children when you remember that she called her grandpa "Master".
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives