The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Warren Taylor 3200 W. Seventeenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 74
My people are all from Richmond, Virginia. I was just four years old when they come here. My father was in charge of all the machinery. He ran the gin. Didn't do anything else. My mother was a house girl. The kids learned her everything they learned in school. She knew everything. My father died when I was young. My mother lived till she was eighty. But the time she was fifty, I bought her a home and sat her down on Pulaski Street in that home. And that is why I have so little trouble.
"My ma belonged to Hoffman. He sold her to Wiley Adams. He carried her to Mississippi. She stayed there for a short time and then came to Arkansas. He settled in a little place called Tulip, Arkansas. Then freedom came and we came to Little Rock and settled at what is now Seventh and Ringo Streets; but then it was just a stage road leading to Benton, Arkadelphia, and other places. Stages passed twice a day with passengers and freight. No railroads at all then. The government kept the roads up. They had the arsenal hall where the city park is and had a regiment of soldiers there. The work on that road was kept up by the soldiers. That was under Grant's administration. I never saw but three presidents-three Democratic presidents-Cleveland, Wilson, and Roosevelt.
"My father's master was named Lee. He married my mother back in Virginia. My daddy's people when he was freed was named Taylor. He died when I was young and he never gave me any details about them.
"The Adamses were good to my mother. And they help her even after freedom. Charlie Adams and Mack Adams of Malvern, Arkansas. John was the sheriff and ran a store. Mack was a drummer for the Penzl Grocery. When my mother was ill, he used to bring her thirty dollars at a time. Every two months she had to go down to Malvern when she was well and carry an empty trunk and when she would come back it would be full. My mother was wet-nurse to the Adamses and they thought the world and all of her.
"They had a good opinion of their house servants. That is how she and my father came to belong to different families. One white man would say to the other, 'I got a good boy. I'm going to let him come over to see your girl.' He would be talking about a Negro man that worked around his house and a Negro girl that worked for the other man. That would be all right. So that's the way my father went to see my mother. He was married in the way they always married in those days. You know how it was. There was no marriage at all. They just went on out and got the woman and the white man said, 'There she is. You are man and wife.'
Right After the War
"My father died before freedom. My mother lived with him until her folks moved away from his folks. Then she was separated from him and left him in Mississippi. She belonged to one white man and he to another, and that could happen any time.
"Right after freedom, she stayed with these white people, doing the house work. She had the privilege of raising things for herself. She made a garden, and raised vegetables and such like.
"My brother who had run off during slavery time and who later became a preacher in the North invited us to live in the city with him.
"I wasn't fourteen years old when I was tending to flowers for the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. That was a railroad which later became Missouri Pacific. They beautified everything. There wasn't any bridge. They had a boat to take you into the town of Argenta then, and when the trains came through, the same boat would carry the cars across. An engine would be on the other side to finish the journey with them.
"There is one engineer living now who was active in that time, Charlie Seymour, retired, of Little Rock. He used to run the first train over the Baring Cross Bridge, and then he ran the first engine over the new bridge here. He had already been retired when they finished the new bridge, but they had him pull the first train over the new bridge because he had pulled the first one over the old bridge. They wanted to give him that honor.
"My manager in that time was Superintendent A.E. Buchanan.
"From this work, I was advanced to the office and stayed there twenty years. I served under Commissioner Thomas Essex and later under Commissioner J.A. Dean. This service included twenty years in various departments.
"After that I billed freight for the Missouri Pacific at the Baring Cross Storerooms under Mr. H.S. Turner for eight months or more. Then I was transferred, because the location was not good for my health, to De Soto, Missouri, forty-five miles this side of St. Louis. Sedentary work had proved bad for me and I needed more active work. I waited on the master mechanic there. After that I came back to Little Rock and worked for the Pacific Express Company under Mr. G.F. Johnson, superintendent. After that, I worked for the Quapaw Club[HW?] during its heyday when Johnie Boyle, Hollenberg, Acie Bragg, Will Mitchell, Mr. Cottman, Captain Shaw, and oodles of others were members. Mr. Moorehead White was secretary. After that I went to doing my own work.
"Now I am past my prime and I do the best I can with what little help I get from the government. I get eight dollars a month and commodities. Mr. Roosevelt has got guts. Mighty few men would attempt to do what he has done. He is the greatest humanitarian president the country has ever had.
"But I've got a pile of recommendations. I've got recommendations from
Thomas Essex, Land Commissioner, St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railway
W.S. Thomas, Geologist, St. Louis, Iron Mountain, Southern
J.H. Harvey, General Foreman of Bridges and Building
G.A.A. Deane, Land Commissioner succeeding Essex, St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern
S.W. Moore, General Secretary, Railway Y.M.C.A.
Arthur B. Washburn, Superintendent, Arkansas Deaf Mute Institute
A.C. St. Clair, Manager of the College of Physicians and Surgeons
(Note comment) [TR: No additional comment found.] You can read these for yourself, and you see what they say. They can't get me work now, but it's great to know you did good work and be able to prove it.
"The same commodities they give now were given in 1870. They had what they called the Freedman's Bureau. They used to have what they called the LICK SKILLET on Spring Street from Fifth to Seventh. Leastwise, the colored people called it that. Bush and a lots of other big niggers used to go there and get free lodgings until they were able to get along alone without help. The niggers they call BIG NIGGERS now stayed in wagon yards when they first come here.
"There was a time when a low-down person, colored or white, couldn't stay in the community. They would give him a ticket and send him to Memphis or somewhere else.
"Reuben White built the First Baptist Church. In those days, people were Christian. White baptized one hundred fifty people twice a month. You didn't have to put a lock on your door then.
"I haven't been married; marriage holds a man back. A woman won't do as she is told.
Successful Negroes in Little Rock
"They had three Negro aldermen in this city: one of them was Green Thompson; but the Negroes butchered him. He was murdered as he came in from a festival. M.W. Gibbs, Land Office Man for the Government, was the only nigger here who wasn't bothered by no one-by no colored person. Dr. Smith was the leading colored dentist once, and the leading dentist of the city in his day. Almost all the white people went to him. Colored people had the barber shops. McNair had a barber shop on Main between Second and Third. His boy killed him-no good reason. His boy went to school with us; he was always stubborn and mean.
"Henry Powell was jailer here once. Sam Wilkins, a man that weighed about three hundred pounds, was the turnkey at the penitentiary. He lived in one of the finest houses in the town at that time. Nigger bands had all the music then. I have seen white organizations like the Odd Fellows and Masons follow Negro bands. Nigger orchestras played here all the big to-dos among white people. White people used to get nigger dancers to come here to dance and show them so that they could learn the late steps.
"Colored caterers had the big jobs. Henry Miller was one of them. He's going pretty strong still. You get some smart niggers 'round the Marion Hotel right now. We used to have some smart cooks. But they did too much peddling out of the back door. Dishonesty put them back. White people have taken all that work now. The nigger ruined himself in this town. They are paying white men now for what they know. They used to pay niggers for what they knowed.
"If the government would give you a job today, niggers would be up to take you out of it tomorrow. Niggers are dirty, and these 'round here are ignorant.
"The parents don't teach the children, and the children can't amount too anything. If children are not taught to work, they will never have nothing. A bunch of these young people don't mean to work. They just lay 'round waiting for the old people to die so they can get what little the old folks accumulated and run through it. But a man never keeps what he himself doesn't earn. He can't.
"The children are raised now without manners. When I have to go past Capitol Hill School, I have to get off the sidewalk. Ain't nothin' but these graduates teachin' now, young graduates that don't know nothin' but runnin' about. When I come along, the carpetbaggers were teaching and they knew their business. Mrs. Stephens went to Fisk and finished there. Mrs. Spight graduated from Union High School. We had all white teachers at first. Miss Sarah Henley used to teach with old ex-slaves where the Bethel A.M.E. Church is now. There wasn't no church there then-just a little shanty. I was just five years old. My mother used to take me there and leave me, but she taught me herself at home. She taught me just like I see you teach your kids.
"Boys don't do nothing but play now. They had to hustle then. They can't do nothing now. They have this departmental system now. They didn't have it then. The different temperaments ruin children. They used to review, now they don't. They change text-books so fast the old ones can't be sold."
Warren Taylor holds recommendations from a number of prominent people referring to his excellent character, high morals, unusual intelligence, wide information, industry, thrift, honesty, and trustworthiness. Some of the names occur in the interview. The letters and documents proving his long service and good record were brought out during the interview and given to me to read.
He has an unusual memory and penetrating insight into conditions.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives