The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins Person Interviewed: Emma Sanderson Home: 617 Wade Street, Hot Springs. Aged: 75
"Emma Sanderson"-"Wade Street". That was all the prospective interviewer could learn. "Emma Sanderson-ex-slave!" "Wade Street"-"Why it's way off that way. You go sort of thatta way, and then thatta way."
A city map disclosed no Wade Street. Maps belonging to a local abstractor helped not a whit. "Insurance maps are in more detail." someone advised, "Wade Street," mused the young woman at the desk, "I've heard of it. We have written a policy for someone there." The head of the department was new to the city, but he was eager to help. After about five minutes search-from wall maps to bound volumes of blocks and back again it appeared that "Wade Street" more frequently known as "Washington Street" meanders wanderingly from Silver Street, in the colored section out to the "Gorge addition" inhabited by low economic level whites.
Down Malvern Avenue (Hot springs' Beale Street) went the interviewer. On she went past the offices of a large Chicago packing house. For better then a block she trudged by dilapidated shops which a few seasons back had housed one of the key transient centers of the U.S.A. Down the street she walked, pausing for a moment to note that coffee colored faces decorated the placards in the beauty shop window-two well groomed mulatto girls sitting inside, evidently operators. Her course took her past sandwich joints and pool halls. Nails, she noted as she drifted along, had been driven into the projection beneath the plate glass window of the brick bank (closed during the depression-a building and bank built, owned and operated by negro capital) to keep loungers away. The colored theater (negroes are admitted only to the balconies of theaters in Hot Springs-one section of the balcony at the legitimate theater) she noticed was now serving as a religious gathering place. The well built and excellently maintained Pythian Bath house (where the hot waters are made available to colored folk) with the Alice Eve Hospital (45 beds, 5 nurses, 2 resident physicians-negro doctors thruout the town cooperating-surgical work a specialty) stood out in quiet dignity. For the rest, buildings were an indiscriminate hodge-podge of homes, apartment houses, shacks, and chain groceries. At the corner where "the street turns white" the interviewer turned east.
The Langston High School (for colored-with a reputation for turning out good cooks, football players and academicians) stands on Silver Street. A few paces from the building the interviewer met a couple of plump colored women laughing and talking loudly.
"I beg your pardon," was her greeting, "can you tell me where Wade Street is?" They could and did. They were so frankly interested in knowing why the white women wanted Emma Sanderson that she told them her mission. They were not taken aback-there was no servility-no resentment they were frankly charmed with the idea. Their directions for finding Mrs. Sanderson became even more explicit.
When the proper turn off was found the question of Wade versus Washington Street was settled. A topsy-turvy sign at the intersection announced that Wade Street was ahead. Emma Sanderson's grandson lived a couple of blocks down the road.
Only the fact that she could hear someone inside moving about kept the interviewer hammering on the door. Finally she was rewarded by a voice. "Is that somebody a' knockin'?" In a moment the door opened. The question, "Were you a slave" no matter how delicately put is a difficult one to ask, but Mrs. Sanderson was helpful, if doubtful that her story would do much good. "I was just so little when it all happened." But the interviewer was invited in and placed in a chair near the fire.
"No ma'am. He ain't my grandson-I's the third grandmother. No son, you ain't three-you's five. Don't you remember what I told you? Yes, he stays with me, ma'am. I take care of him while the rest of 'em works.
"It's hard for me to remember. I was just so little. Yes, ma'am, I was born a slave-but I was so little. Seems to me like I remember a big, big house. We was sort of out in the country---out from Memphis. I know there was my father and my mother and my uncles and my aunts. I know there was that many. How many more of us old man Doc Walker had-I just don't know. They must have took good care of us tho. My mother was a house nigrah.
"When the war was ready to quit they gave us our pick. We could stay on and work for wages or we could go. The folks decided that the'd go on in to Memphis. My Mother and Father didn't live together none after we went to town. First I lived with Mother and then when she died my Father took me. My mother died when I was 9. She worked at cooking and washing. When I was big enough I went to school. I kept on going to school after my Father took me. He died when I was about 15. By that time I was old enough to look out after myself.
"What did I do? I stayed in folkses houses. I cooked and I washed. Then when I was about 16, I married. After that I had a man to take care of me. He was a carpenter.
"We been here in Hot Springs a long time-you maybe heared of Sanderson-he took up platering and he was good too. How long I been in Hot Springs-law I don't know-'cept I was a full grown women when we come.
"I's had four children-all of 'em is dead. I lives with my grandson. The little fellow, he'll be old enough to go to school in a year or two. A dime for him ma'am-an' 2 cents besides? Now son you keep the dime and you can spend the pennies. I always tries to teach him to save. Then when he gets big he'll know what to do."
Dining room and living room joined one another by means of a high and wide arch. The stove was sensibly set up in this passage. Both rooms were comfortably furnished with products which had in all probability been bought new. The child stood close by thruout the entire conversation. There was no whit of timidity about him, nor was he the least impertinent. He was frankly interested and wanted to know what was being said. He received the dime and the pennies with a pleasant grin and a (grandmother prompted) "Thank you". But the gift didn't startle him. Dimes must have been a fairly usual part of his life. But a few minutes before the interviewer left she dropped her pencil. It was new and long and yellow. The child's eyes clung to it as he returned it. "Would you like to have it." the young woman asked, "would you like a pencil of your very own, to draw with?" Would he! The child's whole face beamed. Dimes were as nothing compared to shiney new pencils. The third grandchild was overjoyed with his new plaything. Ella Sanderson was delighted with her great grandchild's pleasure. The interviewer received a warm and friendly "Good-bye".
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives