The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
FOLKLORE SUBJECTS Interviewer: S.S. Taylor Subject: Slave memories-Birth, Mother, Father, Separation House Subject: Slaves-Dwellings, Food, Clothes Subject: Corn Shucking, Dances, Quiltings, Weddings among Slaves Subject: Slaves-Fight with Master (junior); Slave uprisings Subject: Confederate Army Negroes; Ex-slave Occupations Story:-Information
This information given by: Eliza Washington Place of Residence: 1517 West Seventeenth Little Rock, Arkansas Occupation: Washing and Ironing (When able) Age: About 77 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.] [TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
The first thing I remember was living with my mother about six miles from Scott's Crossing in Arkansas, about the year 1866. I know it was 1866 because it was the year after the surrender, and we know the surrender was in 1865. I know the dates after 1866. You don't know nothin' when you don't know dates. If you get up in court and say somethin', the lawyers ask you when it happened and then they ask you where did it happen, and if you can't tell them, they say "Witness is excused. You don't know nothin'."
Mother and Father
My mother was born in North Carolina in Mecklinberg in Henderson County. I don't know when she came to Arkansas, and I don't know when she went to Tennessee.
My father was born in Tennessee. I don't know the county like I did in North Carolina. I don't know the town either, but I think it was in the rurals somewhere. The white folks separated my mother and father when I was a little baby in their arms. The people to whom my father belonged stayed in Tennessee, but my mother's people came to Arkansas. It must have been along in the time of the war that they come to Arkansas.
My mother lived in a log house chinked with wood chinks. The chinks looked like gluts. You know what a glut is? No? Well a glut looks like the pattern of a shoe. They lay the logs together, and then chink up the cracks with wood blocks made up like the pattern of a shoe. These were chinks, wooden things about a foot long, shaped like a wedge. They were used for chinking. After the logs were laid together, chinks would be needed to stop up the holes between the logs. After the chinking was finished, clay was stuffed in to stop up the cracks and make the house warm. I've seen a many a one built.
Wide planks were used for the floors. The doors were hung on wooden hinges. The doors were never locked. They didn't have any looks on them. You could bar them on the inside if you wanted to. They didn't have no fear of burglars in them days. People wasn't bad then as they is now. They had just one window and one door in the house. The chimney was built up like a ladder and clay and straw was stuffed in the framework.
I have seen such houses built right down here in Scott's. My mother was a field hand. She lived in such a house in Tennessee. There wasn't no brick about the house, not even in the chimney. In later years, they have covered up all those logs with weather boards and made the houses look like what they call "modern", but theyr'e the same old log houses.
My mother said her white folks fed her well. She had whatever they had. When she came to Arkansas, they issued rations, but she never was issued rations before. When they issued rations, they gave them so much food each week-so much corn meal, so much potatoes, so much cabbage, so much molasses, so much meat-mostly rubbish-like food. We went out in the garden and dug the potatoes and got the cabbage.
But in Tennessee, my mother got what ever she wanted whenever she wanted it. If she wanted salt, she went and got it. If she wanted meat, she went to the smokehouse and got it. Whatever she wanted, she went and got it, and they didn't have no times for issuing out.
Social Affairs-Corn Shuckings, Quiltings and Dances
The biggest time I remember on the plantations was corn shucking time. Plenty of corn was brought in from the cribs and strowed along where everybody could get to it freely. Then they would all get corn and shuck it until near time to quit. The corn shucking was always at night, and only as much corn as they thought would be shucked was brought from the cribs. Just before they got through, they would begin to sing. Some of the songs were pitiful and sad. I can't remember any of them, but I can remember that they were sad. One of them began like this:
"The speculator bought my wife and child And carried her clear away." When they got through shucking, they would hunt up the boss. He would run away and hide just before. If they found him, two big men would take him up on their shoulders and carry him all around the grounds while they sang. My mother told me that they used to do it that way in slave time.
They didn't dance then like they do now all hugged up and indecent. In them days, they danced what you call square dances. They don't do those dances now, they're too decent. There were eight on a set. I used to dance those myself.
I heard mother say she went to a lot of quiltings. I suppose they had them much the same as they do now. Everybody took a part of the quilt to finish. They talked and sang and had a good time. And they had somethin' to eat at the close just as they did in the corn shucking. I never went to a quilting.
Some of the Niggers went to church then just as they do now, and some of them weren't allowed to go.
Reverend Winfield used to preach to the colored people that if they would be good niggers and not steal their master's eggs and chickens and things, that they might go to the kitchen of heaven when they died.
An old lady once said to me, "I would give anything if I could have Maria in heaven with me to do little things for me." My mother told me that the niggers had to turn the pots down to keep their voices from sounding when they were praying at night. And they couldn't sing at all.
I can remember that they used to have weddings when I was a child around the years 1867 and 1868. My mother told me of marriages and weddings. She never saw no paint on anybody's face. They used to have powder, but they never used any paint. Girls were better then than they are now.
Fight with Master
My mother's first master was named Rasly, and her second was named Neely. She and her young master, John McNeely, who was raised with her and who was about the same age as she was, got to fighting one day and she whipped him clear as a whistle. After she whipped him that fight went all over the country. She was between sixteen and seventeen years old an he was about the same. She had never been whipped by the white folks.
She was in the kitchen. I don't know what the trouble started over. But they had an argument. There were some other white boys in the kitchen with her young master, and they kept pushing the two of them up to fight. He wanted to show off; so he told her what he would do to her if she didn't hush her mouth. She told him to just try it, and the fight was on. So they fought for about an hour, and the other white boys egged them on.
She said that her old master never did whip her, and she sure wasn't going to let the young one do it. I never heard that they punished her for whipping her young master. I never heard her say that anybody tried to whip her at any other time. My mother was a strong woman. She could lift one end of a log with any man.
My mother used to say that when she was about fourteen years old, (That was about the time that the stars fell, and the stars fell in 1833 [HW:*]. So she must have been born in 1819. In 1833, she was sold for a fourteen year old girl. That was the only time that she ever was sold. That left her about eighty-three years old when she died in 1903.) She used to say that when she was about fourteen years old, and was living in North Carolina in Mecklinburg Co, in Henderson County, that the white folks called all the slaves up to the big house and kept them there a few days. There wasn't no trouble on my mother's place, but they had heard that there was an uprising among the slaves, and they called all the Niggers up to the house. They didn't do nothin' to them. They just called them up to the house, and kept them there. It all passed over soon. I don't know nothin' else about it.
Confederate Army Negroes
I've "heered" old Brother Zachary who used to belong to Bethel Church tell about the surrender. Brother Zachary is dead now. He was a soldier In the Confederate army. He fought all through the war and he used to tell lots of stories about it.
You know, Lee was a tall man, fine looking and dignified. Grant was a little man and short. Those two generals walked up to each other with a white flag in their hands. And they talked and agreed just when they would fight. And then they both went back to their armies, and they fought the awfulest battle you ever "heered" of. The men lay dead in rows and rows and rows. The dead men covered whole fields. And General Lee said that there wasn't any use doing any more fighting. General Grant let all the rebels keep their guns. He didn't take nothin' away from them.
I saw General Grant when he came to Little Rock. There was an old white man who had never been to Little Rock in his life. He said "I just had to come up here to see this great general that they are talking about."
We always worked in the field in slave time. I don't know nothin about share cropping because I always did days work. I used to get four and five dollars a week for washing. But now they wants the young folks and they don't pay them five dollars for everything. I can't get a pension. Why you reckon they won't give me one. They don't understand that that little house I own doesn't even keep itself up. My daughter-in-law is good to me but she needs everything she makes. I can't get much to do now, and what little I gets, they don't pay me much for.
I don' remember nothin' else.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives