The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Columbus Williams Temporary: 2422 Howard Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Permanent: Box 12, Route 2, Ouachita County, Stevens, Arkansas Age: 98
"I was born in Union County, Arkansas, in 1841, in Mount Holly.
"My mother was named Clora Tookes. My father's name is Jordan Tookes. Bishop Tookes is supposed to be a distant relative of ours. I don't know my mother and father's folks. My mother and father were both born in Georgia. They had eight children. All of them are dead now but me. I am the only one left.
"Old Ben Heard was my master. He come from Mississippi, and brought my mother and father with him. They were in Mississippi as well as in Georgia, but they were born in Georgia. Ben Heard was a right mean man. They was all mean 'long about then. Heard whipped his slaves a lot. Sometimes he would say they wouldn't obey. Sometimes he would say they sassed him. Sometimes he would say they wouldn't work. He would tie them and stake them out and whip them with a leather whip of some kind. He would put five hundred licks on them before he would quit. He would buy the whip he whipped them with out of the store. After he whipped them, they would put their rags on and go on about their business. There wouldn't be no such thing as medical attention. What did he care. He would whip the women the same as he would the men.
"Strip 'em to their waist and let their rags hang down from their hips and tie them down and lash them till the blood ran all down over their clothes. Yes sir, he'd whip the women the same as he would the men.
"Some of the slaves ran away, but they would catch them and bring them back, you know. Put the dogs after them. The dogs would just run them up and bay them just like a coon or 'possum. Sometimes the white people would make the dogs bite them. You see, when the dogs would run up on them, they would sometimes fight them, till the white people got there and then the white folks would make the dogs bite them and make them quit fighting the dogs.
"One man run off and stayed twelve months once. He come back then, and they didn't do nothin' to him. 'Fraid he'd run off again, I guess.
"We didn't have no church nor nothing. No Sunday-schools, no nothin'. Worked from Monday morning till Saturday night. On Sunday we didn't do nothin' but set right down there on that big plantation. Couldn't go nowhere. Wouldn't let us go nowhere without a pass. They had the paterollers out all the time. If they caught you out without a pass, they would give you twenty-five licks. If you outrun them and got home, on your master's plantation, you saved yourself the whipping.
"The black people never had no amusement. They would have an old fiddle-something like that. That was all the music I ever seen. Sometimes they would ring up and play 'round in the yard. I don't remember the games. Sing some kind of old reel song. I don't hardly remember the words of any of them songs.
"Wouldn't allow none of them to have no books nor read nor nothin'. Nothin' like that. They had corn huskin's in Mississippi and Georgia, but not in Arkansas. Didn't have no quiltin's. Women might quilt some at night. Didn't have nothin' to make no quilts out of.
"The very first work I did was to nurse babies. After that when I got a little bigger they carried me to the field-choppin' cotton. Then I went to picking cotton. Next thing-pullin' fodder. Then they took me from that and put me to plowin', clearin' land, splittin' rails. I believe that is about all I did. You worked from the time you could see till the time you couldn't see. You worked from before sunrise till after dark. When that horn blows, you better git out of that house, 'cause the overseer is comin' down the line, and he ain't comin' with nothin' in his hand.
"They weighed the rations out to the slaves. They would give you so many pounds of meat to each working person in the family. The children didn't count; they didn't git none. That would have to last till next Sunday. They would give them three pounds of meat to each workin' person, I think. They would give 'em a little meal too. That is all they'd give 'em. The slaves had to cook for theirselves after they come home from the field. They didn't get no flour nor no sugar nor no coffee, nothin' like that.
"They would give the babies a little milk and corn bread or a little molasses and bread when they didn't have the milk. Some old person who didn't have to go to the field would give them somethin' to eat so that they would be out of the way when the folks come out of the field.
"The slaves lived in old log houses-one room, one door, one window, one everything. There were plenty windows though. There were windows all [HW: ?] around the house. They had cracks that let in more air than the windows would. They had plank floors. Didn't have no furniture. The bed would have two legs and would have a hole bored in the side of the house where the side rail would run through and the two legs would be out from the wall. Didn't have no springs and they made out with anything they could git for a mattress. Master wouldn't furnish them nothin' of that kind.
"The jayhawkers were white folks. They didn't bother we all much. That was after the surrender. They go 'round here and there and git after white folks what they thought had some money and jerk them 'round. They were jus' common men and soldiers.
"I was not in the army in the War. I was right down here in Union County then. I don't know just when they freed me but it was after the War was over. The old white man call us up to the house and told us now we was free as he was; that if we wanted to stay with him it was all right, if we didn't and wanted to go away anywheres, we could have the privilege to do it.
"Marriage wasn't like now. You would court a woman and jus' go on and marry. No license, no nothing. Sometimes you would take up with a woman and go on with her. Didn't have no ceremony at all. I have heard of them stepping over a broom but I never saw it. Far as I saw there was no ceremony at all.
"When the slaves were freed they expected to get forty acres and a mule. I never did hear of anybody gettin' it.
"Right after the War, I worked on a farm with Ben Heard. I stayed with him about three years, then I moved off with some other white folks. I worked on shares. First I worked for half and he furnished a team. Then I worked on third and fourth and furnished my own team. I gave the owner a third of the corn and a fourth of the cotton and kept the rest. I kept that up several years. They cheated us out of our part. If they furnished anything, they would sure git it back. Had everything so high you know. I have farmed all my life. Farmed till I got so old I couldn't. I never did own my own farm. I just continued to rent.
"I never had any trouble about voting. I voted whenever I wanted to. I reckon it was about three years after the War when I began to vote.
"I never went to school. One of the white boys slipped and learned me a little about readin' in slave time. Right after freedom come, I was a grown man; so I had to work. I married about four or five years after the War. I was just married once. My wife is not living now. She's gone. She's been dead for about twelve years.
"I belong to the A.M.E. Church and my membership is in the New Home Church out in the country in Ouachita County."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives