The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: John Williams County Hospital, ward 11, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 75
"I was born in 1863 in Texas right in the city of Dallas right in the heart of the town. After the War our owners brought us back to Little Rock. That is where they left from. They left here on account of the War. They run off their slaves to keep the Yankees from freeing them. All the old masters were dead. But the young ones were Louis Fletcher, John Fletcher, Dick Fletcher, Jeff Fletcher, and Len Fletcher. Five brothers of them. Their home was here in Little Rock. The War was going on. It went on four years and prior to the end of it I was born.
"My mother's name was Mary Williams. My father's name was John Williams. I was named after him.
"It is funny how they changed their names. Now, his name was John Scott before he went into the army. But after he went in, they changed his name into John Williams.
"His master's name was Scott but I don't know the other part of it. All five of the brothers was named for their mother's masters. She raised them. She always called all of them master. 'Cordin' to what I hear from the old folks, when one of them come 'round, you better call him master.
"In slave time, my father was a field hand, I know that. But I know more about my mother. I heard her say she was always a cook.
"I heard her speak about having cruel treatment from her first masters; I don't know who they were. But after the Fletchers bought them, they had a good time. They come all the way out of Louisiana up here. My mother was sold from her mother and sister-sold some two or three times. She never did get no trace of her sister, but she found her grandmother in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and brought her here. Her sister's name was Fannie and her grandmother's name was Crecie Lander. That is an Indian name. I couldn't understand nothing she would say hardly. She was bright. All my folks were bright but me. My mother had hair way down her shoulders and you couldn't tell my uncle from a dago. My grandmother was a regular Indian color. She spoke Indian too. You couldn't understand nothing she said.
"When I woke up, they had these homemade beds. I couldn't hardly describe them, but they put the sides into the posts with legs. They were stout things too what I am talkin' 'bout. They made cribs for us little children and put them under the bed. They would pull the cribs out at night and run them under the bed during the day. They called them cribs trundles. They called them trundles because they run them under the bed. For chairs and tables accordin' to what I heard my mother say, she was cook and they had everything in the big house and et pretty much what the white folks et. But we just had boxes in the cabins.
"Them that was in the white folks' house had pretty good meals, but them that was in the field they would feed just about like they would the hogs. They had little wooden trays and they would put little fat meat and pot-liquor and corn bread in the tray, and hominy and such as that. Biscuits came just on Sunday.
"They had old ladies to cook for the slave children and old ladies to cook for the hands. What was in the big house stayed in the big house. All the slave men ate in one place and all the slave women ate in one place. They weren't supposed to have any food in their homes unless they would go out foraging. Sometimes they would get it that way. They'd go out and steal ol' master's sweet potatoes and roast them in the fire. They'd go out and steal a hog and kill it. All of it was theirn; they raised it. They wasn't to say stealin' it; they just went out and got it. If old master caught them, he'd give 'em a little brushin' if he thought they wouldn't run off. Lots of times they would run off, and if he thought they'd run off because they got a whippin', he was kinda slow to catch 'em. If one run off, he'd tell the res', 'If you see so and so, tell 'im to come on back. I ain't goin' to whip 'im.' If he couldn't do nothin' with 'em, he'd sell 'em. I guess he would say to hisself, 'I can't do nothin' with this nigger. If I can't do nothing with 'im, I'll sell him and git my money outa him.'
"I have heard my mother say that some of the slaves that ran away would get destroyed by the wild animals and some of them would even be glad to come back home. Right smart of them got clean away and went to free states.
"After the War was over, they all was brought back here and the owners let them know they was free. They had to let them know they were free. I never heard my mother tell the details. I never heard her say just who brought her word or how it was told to her when they was freed.
"I never heard her say much about the church because she was a sinner. After they was freed, I would go many a night and set down in a corner where they was having a big dance.
"The pateroles and jayhawkers were bad. Many of them got hurt too. They tried to hurt the niggers and sometimes the niggers hurt them.
"Right after the War, my folks farmed for a living. They farmed on shares. They didn't have nothing of their own. They never did get nothing out of their work. I know they didn't get a thing. They farmed at first about seven miles out from Little Rock, below Fourche Dam on the Fletcher place. There ain't but one of the Fletchers living now, and that is Molly Daniels. She is old Louis Fletcher's daughter. All their brothers is dead. She's owning all the land now we used to till. It's over a thousand acres. She [HW: mother] stayed down there for about twenty or thirty years. Then she moved here to town. Here she cooked for white folks. My mother died about forty years ago-forty-two or three years; she's been dead sometime. My wife has been dead now for twelve years.
"I didn't get but a little schooling, for my father used to send me after the mules. One day the wheelbarrow had a load of bricks on it. It was upset. They had histed the bricks up on a high platform. It turned over as I was passing underneath, and one fell on me and struck my head. It was a long time after that before they would let me go to school again. After that I never got used to studying any more.
"My first teacher was Lottie Andrews (Charlotte Stephens). I had some more teachers too. Lemme see-Professor Fish was a white man. We had colored teachers under him. Then we had R.B. White. He was Reuben White's brother. R.B. White's wife was a teacher. Professor Fish was the superintendent. There ain't no truth to the tale that Reuben White was put in a coffin before he was dead. Reuben White built the First Baptist Church here and Milton White built a big church in Helena. They were brothers. Them was two sharp darkies.
"When I first started working, I drove teams. I raised crops a while and farmed. Then I left the country and come to town and got up to be a quarry man for years. Then I quit that and went to driving teams for the Merchant Transfer Company for years. Then I quit that and run on the road-the Mountain-for four years. Then I taken a coal chute on the Rock Island and run it for four years. Then I quit and went to working as an all-'round man in the shop. I stayed with them about nine years. Then I taken down in the shape that I am now.
"I have been out here to this hospital for twenty-four years going on twenty-five. Been down so that I couldn't hit a lick of work for twenty-five years. I have been in this building for eleven years. I get along tolerable fair. As the old man says, we can just live.
"I think the young people are going wild and if something isn't done to head them off pretty soon, they'll go too far. They ain't looking at what's going on up the road; they just call theirselves having a good time. They ain't looking to have nothing. They ain't looking to be nothing. They ain't looking to get nothing for the future. Don't know what they would do if they had to work part of the time for nothing like we did. I see men working now for ten dollars a month. I could take a fishing line and go fishing and beat that when I was young. Times is getting back almost as hard as they used to be.
"I am a Christian. I belong to Shiloh Baptist Church in North Little Rock. I helped build that church. Brother Hawkins was the pastor."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives