Tidwell, Emma (Bama?)
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
[HW: Curtis, Ark. Emma (Bama?) Tidwell]
OLD SLAVE STORIES
Ah'm one uv dem ole timers. Ah been here since way back yonder. Fust thing ah kin member is a bad storm an mah ma put us undah de baid. She wuz skeered hit would blow us away. Ah use tuh play till ah got bigger nuff tuh work. Ah member we use tuh play runnin. We'd play walkin tuh see which one uv us could walk de fastest tuh de field tuh carry dinner. We use tuh jump an we use tuh ride stick hosses an limbs offn trees.
Ole boss learnt mah pa how tuh make shoes an de way he done: Dey kilt a cow an a deer an take dey hides an tanned dem. De way he tanned hit wuz tuh take red oak bark an white oak bark an put in vats. Dese vats wuz somethin like troughs dat helt water an he put a layer uv oak ashes an or layer uv ashes an a layer uv leather till he got hit all in an covered wid water. Aftuh dat dey let hit soak till de hair come offn de hide den dey would take de hide oft an hit wuz ready fuh tannin. Den de hide wuz put tuh soak in wid de redoak bark. Hit stayed in de water till de hide turnt tan den pa took de hide out uv de redoak dye an hit would be a purty tan. Hit didn' have tuh soak so long. Den he would git his pattern an cut an make tan shoes outn dat tanned hide. We called dem brogans. We all wore shoes cause mah pa made em.
We planted indigo an hit growed jes like wheat. When hit got ripe we gathered hit an we would put hit in a barrel an let hit soak bout er week den we would take de indigo stems out an squeeze all de juice outn dem, put de juice back in de barrel an let hit stay dere bout nother week, den we jes stirred an stirred one whole day. We let hit set three or four days den drained de water offn hit an dat left de settlings an de settlings wuz blueing jes like we have dese days. We cut ours in little blocks. Den we dyed clothes wid hit. We had purty blue cloth. De way we set de color we put alumn in hit. Dat make de color stay right dere.
Ah'll tell yuh how tuh dye. Er little beech bark dyes slate color set wid copper. Hickory bark an bay leaves dyes yellow set wid chamber lye; bamboo dyes turkey red, set color wid copper. Pine straw an sweetgum dyes purple, set color wid chamber lye. Ifn yuh dont bleave hit try em all.
Mah ma made cloth while mah pa made shoes. Ah member jes as good when dey handcuff mah ma's two brothers tuh keep um from runnin off when dey got ready tuh sell em. Ah seed um handcuff as many as eight tugethuh when dey marched dem tuh de pen. Yuh know dey had uh pen kinder like de pond pen fer cows an hosses. Well dey would drive us niggers tuh de pond pen an dey had er big block in de pen an dey put one uv us niggers on hit at a time. Bid us off tuh de highest bidder. Mah ole boss wuz a gambler. People talk bout dis gamblin an drinkin bein a late thing-dem white fokes done hit way back yonder 90 years ergo, cause mah ole boss gambled me off, ah clare he did. Gambled me off one Sunday mornin'. Ole Boss made whiskey jes like dey do tuhday.
Black preachers couldn' preach tuh us. Ole boss would tie em tuh a tree an whoop em if dey caught us eben praying. We had er big black washpot an de way we prayed we'd go out an put our mouths to der groun an pray low an de sound wud go up under de pot an ole boss couldn' bear us. De white preacher would call us under a tree Sunday evenin tuh preach tuh us. Dis is whut his text would be: "Mind yo mistress." Den he would ceed tuh preach-"Don't steal der potatoes; don't lie bout nothin an don' talk back tuh yo boss; ifn yo does yo'll be tied tuh a tree an stripped neckid. When dey tell yuh tuh do somethin run an do it." Dat's de kind uv gospel we got.
We cooked on fiuhplaces in er iron pot; cooked bread in a ubben. We had ash cakes. We et purty good.
Ah didn go tuh school. Ah wuz awful sly. Ah wanted tuh learn tuh read so ah hung eroun ole mistess when she wuz teachin huh chillun tuh read. Ah listened an when she put de book down an went out ah got de book. Ah kep' hit up till ah learnt tuh read. Ah been teachin one Bible class in Curtis 42 years. Some uv em dare ask me how ah learnt tuh read so good an ah tole dem dat a person dat couldn' learn tuh read in a hunnert years ought tuh be daid.
Ah wuz twenty-two when de silver war broke. Ah know when hit started but ah don' know whut hit wuz erbout. All I know Jeff Davis an Abraham Lincoln wuz de two presidents. Lincoln wuz somethin like regular president an Jeff Davis wuz somethin like er confedric president or somethin. Ah didn' know jes how hit wuz. Jeff Davis ah think wuz er rebel and Lincoln republic. When de fight come up dey wuzn fightin tuh set de niggers free, ah don' think. At de time dey wuz fightin ovah de Union but aftuh de slave owners wuz gwianter take de innocent slaves an make dem fight on dey side. Den Lincoln said hit wouldn' be. So dat when he sot em free. Whoopee! Yo ought ter seed dem Yankees fightin. Aftuh de battle wuz ovah we would walk ovah de battle groun' an look at de daid bones, skellums ah think dey called em. Aftuh de white fokes tole us we wuz free dey didn' give us nothin. Turnt us out widout a place tuh stay, no clo'es but whut we had on our back an nuthin tuh eat. We jes slept undah trees an roun bout. Didn' have nuthin tuh eat cept parched corn. We stole dat. Had tuh do somethin. De nex year de white fokes let us make a crop wid den fuh somethin tuh eat an clo'es an de women could work fuh a few clo'es an somethin tuh eat. So in er year er two niggers went tuh tryin tuh duh somethin fuh demselves, an been tryin tuh help dey selfs evah since. Ah know all bout hit. Ah wuz tall an ah is now when dey cried "Free!" Ain't growed nairy nother inch.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives