The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
STATE-Arkansas NAME OF WORKER-Samuel S. Taylor ADDRESS-Little Rock, Arkansas DATE-December, 1938 SUBJECT-Ex-slave
[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
Circumstances of Interview
1. Name and address of informant-Mary Watson, 1500 Cross Street, Little Rock.
2. Date and time of interview-
3. Place of interview-1500 Cross Street, Little Rock.
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with informant-
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you-
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.-
Personal History of Informant
1. Ancestry-father, Abram McCoy; mother, Louise McCoy.
2. Place and date of birth-Mississippi. No date.
4. Places lived in, with dates-Lived in Mississippi until 1891 then moved to Arkansas.
5. Education, with dates-
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates-
7. Special skills and interests-
8. Community and religious activities-
9. Description of informant-
10. Other points gained in interview-This person tells very little of life, but tells of her parents.
Text of Interview (Unedited)
"My mother and father were McCoys. His name was Abram and her name was Louise. My mother died right here when Brewer was Pastor of Wesley. You ought to remember her. My mother died in 1928. My father died in 1897 when Joe Sherrill was pastor. Joe Sherrill went to Africa, you know. He was a missionary.
"My mother was owned by Bill Mitchell. He came from Alabama. I can't call the name of the town, just now. Yes, I can; it was Tuscaloosa. My father came from South Carolina. McCoy was his owner. But how come him to leave South Carolina he was sold after his master died and the property was divided. He was sold away from his family. He had a large family-about nine children. My mother was sold away from her mother too. She was little and couldn't help herself. My grandma didn't want to come. And she managed not to; I don't know how she managed it.
"Before freedom my father was a farmer. My mother was a farmer too. My mother wasn't so badly treated. She was a slave but she worked right along with the white children. She had two brothers. The other sister stayed with her mother. She was sold-my mother's mother. But I don't know to whom.
"My father was a preacher. He could word any hymn. How could he do it, I don't know. On his Sunday, when the circuit rider wasn't there, he would have me read the Bible to him and then he could get up and tell it to the people. I don't know how he managed it. He didn't know how to read. But he had a wonderful memory. He always had his exhorting license renewed and he exhorted the people both Methodists and Baptists. After freedom, when I went to school I knew and always helped him.
"My father voted on the election days all the time. Be was a Republican, and he rallied to them all the time. Before the war, my father farmed. He commenced in the early fall hauling the cotton from Abbeville, South Carolina to Augusta, Georgia. That was his business-teamster, hauling cotton. He never did talk like his owners were so mean to him. Of course, they weren't mean. When her master died and the property had to be sold, his master bought her and her babies.
"My father met my mother before the war started. Colored people were scarce in the locality where she lived. These white people saw my father and liked him. And they encouraged her to marry him. She was only seventeen. My father was much older. He remembered the dark day in May and when the stars fell.
"He didn't show his age much though till he came to Little Rock. He had been used to farming and city life didn't agree with him. He left about seven years after coming here.
"My father and mother met and married in Mississippi. He came from South Carolina and she came from Alabama. They had nine children. All of them were born after the war. I am the oldest. Lee McCoy is my youngest brother. You know him, I'm sure. He is the president of Rust College. I was born right after the war. Don't put me down as no ex-slave. I was born right after the war.
"Right after the war, my father farmed in Mississippi. He took a notion to come to Arkansas in 1891. He brought his whole family with him. And I have been out here ever since.
"I never saw any slave houses. I wasn't a slave. I have been to the place where my mother was raised. I was teaching school near there and just wanted to see. After her master died, Sam McCallister, his cousin, took the slave children and was their guardian. Years later it come up in court and they took all his land. Bill Mitchell was her first master. He died during slave time. McCallister was made administrator of the estate. He was made guardian of all the children too. He was made guardian of the white children and of the colored children. He raised them all. There was Ma and her auntie and three or four children of her auntie's. Later on, way after the war, there was a lawsuit. I was grown then. The courts made him pay the white children their share as far as he was able. Of course, the colored children got nothing because they were slaves when he took them.
"I don't know nothing about the Ku Klux Klan bothering my family. I don't remember anything except that I hear them talking about the Ku Klux and the Pateroles. I wasn't here.
"Don't put me down as an ex-slave. I am not an ex-slave. I was born after the war. I don't know nothing about slavery except what I heard others say. I expect I have talked too much anyway."
The constant reiteration of the phrase, "I'm not an ex-slave" roused my curiosity and drove me to a superficial investigation. Persons who are acquainted with her and her family estimate that Mary Watson is nearer eighty than seventy. She started her story pleasantly enough. But when she got the obsession that she would be put down as an ex-slave, she refused to tell more.
There is one thing not to be overlooked. Mary Watson has a mind that is still keen. She tells what she wants to tell, and she doesn't state a thing that she does not want to state. The hidden facts are to be discerned only by subtle inference. This trait interested me, for her younger brother, mentioned in the story, is a distinguished character, President of Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi, and known to be experienced and efficient in his work. Whatever she may have reserved or stated, in reading her story, we are reading at least a sidelight on a family of which some of the members have done some fine work within the race.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives