Vaughn, Adelaide J.
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Name of Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person Interviewed: Adelaide J. Vaughn 1122 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 69
"I was born in Huntsville, Alabama. My mother brought me from there when I was five years old. She said she would come to Arkansas because she had heard so much talk about it. But when she struck the Arkansas line, she didn't like it and she wanted to go back. I have heard her say why but I don't remember now; I done forgot. She thought she wouldn't like it here, but she did after she stayed a while.
"My bronchial tubes git all stopped up and make it hard for me to talk. Phlegm gits all around. I been bothered with them a good while now.
"My mother, she was sold from her father when she was four years old. The rest of the children were grown then. Master Hickman was the one who bought her. I don't know the one that sold her. Hickman had a lot of children her age and he raised her up with them. They were nice to her all the time.
"Once the pateroles came near capturing her. But she made it home and they didn't catch her.
"Mr. Candle hired her from her master when she was about eighteen years old. He was nice to her but his wife was mean. Just because mother wouldn't do everything the other servants said Mis' Candle wanted to whip her. Mother said she knew that Mis' Candle couldn't whip her alone. But she was 'fraid that she would have Sallie, another old Negro woman slave, and Kitty, a young Negro woman slave, to help whip her.
"One day when it was freezing cold, she wanted mother to stand out in the hall with Sallie and Clara and wash the glasses in boiling hot water. She was making her do that because she thought she was uppity and she wanted to punish her. When mother went out, she rattled the dishes 'round in the pan and broke them. They was all glasses. Mis' Candle heard them breaking and come out to see about it. She wanted to whip mother but she was 'fraid to do it while she was alone; so she waited till her husband come home. When he come she told him. He said she oughtn't to have sent them out in the cold to wash the glasses because nobody could wash dishes outside in that cold weather.
"The first morning she was at Mis' Candle's, they called her to eat and they didn't have nothing but black molasses and corn bread for mother's meal. The other two ate it but mother didn't. She asked for something else. She said she wasn't used to eating that--that she ate what her master and mistress ate at home.
"Mis' Candle didn't like that to begin with. She told my mother that she was a smart nigger. She told mother to do one thing and then before she could do it, she would tell her do something else. Mother would just go on doing the first thing till she finished that, and Mis' Candle would git mad. But it wasn't nobody's fault but her own.
"She asked mother to go out and git water from the spring on a rainy day. Mother wouldn't go. Finally mother got tired and went back home. Her mistress heard what she had to tell her about the place she'd been working. Then she said mother did right to quit. She had worked there for three or four months. They meant to keep her but she wouldn't stay. Mis' Hickman went over and collected her money.
"When mother worked out, the people that hired her paid her owners. Her owners furnished her everything she wanted to eat and clothes to wear, and all the money she earned went to them.
"Mis' Candle begged Mr. Hickman to let him have mother back. He said he'd talk to his wife and she wouldn't mistreat her any more but mama said that she didn't want to go back and Mrs. Hickman said, 'No, she doesn't want to go back and I wouldn't make her.' And the girls said, 'No, mama, don't let her go back.' And Mis' Hickman said, 'No, she was raised with my girls and I am not going to let her go back.'
"The Hickmans had my mother ever since she was four years old. My grandfather was allowed to go a certain distance with her when she was sold away from him. He walked and carried her in his arms. Mama said that when he had gone as far as they would let him go, he put her in the wagon and turned his head away. She said she wondered why he didn't look at her; but later she understood that he hated so bad to 'part from her and couldn't do nothing to prevent it that he couldn't bear to look at her.
"Since I have been grown I have worked with some people at Newport. I stayed with them there and married there, and had all my children there.
"I heard the woman I lived with, a woman named Diana Wagner, tell how her mistress said, 'Come on, Diana, I want you to go with me down the road a piece.' And she went with her and they got to a place where there was a whole lot of people. They were putting them up on a block and selling them just like cattle. She had a little nursing baby at home and she broke away from her mistress and them and said, 'I can't go off and leave my baby.' And they had to git some men and throw her down and hold her to keep her from goin' back to the house. They sold her away from her baby boy. They didn't let her go back to see him again. But she heard from him after he became a young man. Some one of her friends that knowed her and knowed she was sold away from her baby met up with this boy and got to questioning him about his mother. The white folks had told him his mother's name and all. He told them and they said, 'Boy, I know your mother. She's down in Newport.' And he said, 'Gimme her address and I'll write to her and see if I can hear from her.' And he wrote. And the white people said they heard such a hollering and shouting goin' on they said, 'What's the matter with Diana?' And they came over to see what was happening. And she said, 'I got a letter from my boy that was sold from me when he was a nursing baby.' She had me write a letter to him. I did all her writing for her and he came to see her. I didn't get to see him. I was away when he come. She said she was willing to die that the Lord let her live to see her baby again and had taken care of him through all these years.
"My father's name was Peter Warren and my mother was named Adelaide Warren. Before she was married she went by her owner's name, Hickman. My daddy belonged to the Phillips but he didn't go in their name. He went in the Warren's name. He did that because he liked them. Phillips was his real father, but he sold him to the Warrens and he took their name and kept it. They treated him nice and he just stayed on in their name. He didn't marry till after both of them were free. He met her somewheres away from the Hickman's. They married in Alabama.
"Mama was born and mostly reared in Virginia and then come to Alabama. That's where I was born, in Alabama. And they left there and came here. I was four years old when they come here.
"I never did hear what my father did in slavery time. He was a twin. The most he took notice of he said was his brother and him settin' on an old three-legged stool. And his mother had left some soft soap on the fire. His brother saw that the pot was goin' to turn over and he jumped up. My father tried to get up too but the stool turned over and caught him, caught his little dress and held him and the hot soap ran over his dress and on to his bare skin. It left a big burn on his side long as he lived. His mother was there close to the house because she knowed the soap was on and those two little boys were in there. She heard him crying and ran in and carried him to her master. He got the doctor and saved him. My father's mother didn't do nothing after that but 'tend to that baby. Her master loved those little boys and kept her and didn't sell her because of them. (The underscoring is the interviewer's--ed.) That was his last master--Warren. Warren loved him more than his real father did. Warren said he knew my father would never live after he had such a burn. But he did live. They never did let him do much work after the accident.
"I think my father's master, Warren--I can't remember his first name--farmed for a living.
"My father and mother had five children. I don't know how many brothers my father had. I have heard my mother say she had four sisters. I never heard her say nothin' 'bout no brothers--just sisters.
"I had six children. Got three living and three dead. They was grown though when they died. I had three boys and three girls. I got two boys living and one girl. The boy in St. Louis does pretty well. But the other in Little Rock doesn't have much luck. If he'd get out of Little Rock, he would find more to do. The one in St. Louis don't make much now because they done cut wages. He's a dining-car waiter. This girl what's here, she does all she can for me. She has a husband and my husband is dead. He's been dead a long time.
"I belong to Bethel A.M.E. Church. You know where that is. Rev. Campbell is a good man. We had him eight years. Then we got Brother Wilson one year and then they put Campbell back.
"I don't know what to think of these young people. Some of them is running wild.
"When I was working for myself, I was generally a maid. But that is been a long time ago. I washed and ironed and done laundry work when I was able a long time ago. But I can't do it now. I can't do it for myself now. I washed for myself a little and I got the flu and got in bad health. That was about four years ago. I reckon it was the flu; I never did have no doctor. When I take the least little cold, it comes back on me."
This old lady appears nearer eighty than sixty-nine, and she speaks with the sureness of an eyewitness.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives