The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Ella Wilson 1611 McGowan Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: Claims 100
"I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. I don't remember the month. But when the Civil War ceased I was here then and sixteen years old. I'm a hundred years old. Some folks tries to make out like it ain't so. But I reckon I oughter know.
"The white folks moved out from Georgia and went to Louisiana. I was raised in Louisiana, but I was born in Georgia. I have had several people countin' up my age and they all say I is a hundred years old. I had eight children. All of them are free born. Four of them died when they were babies. I lost one just a few days ago.
"I had such a hard time in slavery. Them white folks was slashing me and whipping me and putting me in the buck, till I don't want to hear nothin' about it.
"An old man named Dr. Polk got a dime from me and said it was for the Old Age Pension. He lived in Magnolia, Arkansas. They ran him out of Magnolia for ruining a colored girl and I don't know where he is now. I know he got ten cents from me.
"The first work I ever did was nursing the white children. My old mis' called me in the house and told me that she wanted me to take care of her children and from then till freedom came, I stayed in the house nursing. I had to get up every morning at five when the cook got up and make the coffee and then I had to go in the dining-room and set the table. Then I served breakfast. Then I went into the house and cleaned it up. Then I 'tended to the white children and served the other meals during the day. I never did work in the fields much. My old mars said I was too damned slow.
"They carried me out to the field one evening. He never did show me nor tell me how to handle it and when I found myself, he had knocked me down. When I got up, he didn't tell me what to do, but when I picked up my things and started droppin' the seeds ag'in, he picked up a pine root and killed me off with it. When I come to, he took me up to the house and told his wife he didn't want me into the fields because I was too damned slow.
"My mars used to throw me in a buck and whip me. He would put my hands together and tie them. Then he would strip me naked. Then he would make me squat down. Then he would run a stick through behind my knees and in front of my elbows. My knees was up against my chest. My hands was tied together just in front of my shins. The stick between my arms and my knees held me in a squat. That's what they called a buck. You could [TR: sic: couldn't] stand up an' you couldn't git your feet out. You couldn't do nothin' but just squat there and take what he put on you. You couldn't move no way at all. Just try to. You jus' fall over on one side and have to stay there till you turned over by him.
"He would whip me on one side till that was sore and full of blood and then he would whip me on the other side till that was all tore up. I got a scar big as the place my old mis' hit me. She took a bull whip once-the bull whip had a piece of iron in the handle of it-and she got mad. She was so mad she took the whip and hit me over the head with the butt end of it, and the blood flew. It ran all down my back and dripped off my heels. But I wasn't dassent to stop to do nothin' about it. Old ugly thing! The devil's got her right now!! They never rubbed no salt nor nothin' in your back. They didn't need to.
"When the war come, they made him serve. He would go there and run away and come back home. One day after he had been took away and had come back, he was settin' down talkin' to old mis', and I was huddled up in the corner listenin', and I heered him tell her, 'Tain't no use to do all them things. The niggers'll soon be free.' And she said, 'I'll be dead before that happens, I hope.' And she died just one year before the slaves was freed. They was a mean couple.
"Old mars used to strip my sister naked and make her lay down, and he would lift up a fence rail and lay it down on her neck. Then he'd whip her till she was bloody. She wouldn't get away because the rail held her head down. If she squirmed and tried to git loose, the rail would choke her. Her hands was tied behind her. And there wasn't nothin' to do but jus' lay there and take it.
"I am almost a stranger here in Little Rock. My father was named Lewis Hogan and I had one sister named Tina and one named Harriet. His white folks what he lived with was Mrs. Thomas. He was a carriage driver for her. Pleas Collier bought him from her and took him to Louisiana. All the people on my mother's side was left in Georgia. My grandmother's name was Rachel. Her white folks she lived with was named Dardens. They all lived in Atlanta, Georgia. I remember the train we got on when we left Georgia. Grandma Rachel had one daughter named Siney. Siney had a son named Billie and a sister named Louise. And my grandmother was free when I first got big enough to know myself. I don't know how come she was free. That was a long time before the war. The part of Georgia we lived in was where chestnuts grow, but they wasn't no chinkapins. All my grandmother's people stayed in Atlanta, and they were living at the time I left there.
"My mother's name was Dinah Hogans and my father's name was Lewis Hogans. I don't know where they were borned. But when I knowed him, they was in Georgia. My mother's mars bought my father 'cause my mother heard that Collier was goin' to break up and go to Louisiana. My father told his mars that if he (Collier) broke up and left, he never would be no more good to him. Then my mother found out what he said to Collier, so she told her old mis' if Collier left, she never would do her no more good. You see, my mother was give to Mrs. Collier when old Darden who was Mrs. Collier's father died. So Collier bought my father. Collier kept us all till we all got free. White folks come to me sometimes about all that.
"You jus' oughter hear me answer them. I tells them about it just like I would colored folks.
"'Them your teeth in your mouth?'
"'Whose you think they is? Suttinly they're my teeth.'
"'Ain't you sorry you free?'
"'What I'm goin' to be sorry for? I ain't no fool.'
"'How old is you?'
"I tells them. Some of 'em want to argue with me and say I ain't that old. Some of 'em say, 'Well, the Lawd sure has blessed you.' Sure he's blessed me. Don't I know that?
"I've seen 'em run away from slavery. There was a white man that lived close to us who had just one slave and he couldn't keep him out the woods to save his soul. The white man was named Jim Sales and the colored boy was named-shucks, I can't remember his name. But I know Jim Sales couldn't keep that nigger out the woods nohow.
"I was freed endurin' the Civil War. We was in at dinner and my old mars had been to town. Old man Pleas Collier, our mean mars, called my daddy out and then he said, 'All you come out here.' I said to myself, 'I wonder what he's a goin' to do to my daddy,' and I slipped into the front room and listened. And he said, 'All of you come.' Then I went out too. And he unrolled the Government paper he had in his hand and read it and told us it meant that all of us was free. Didn't tell us we was free as he was. Then he said the Government's going to send you some money to live on. But the Government never did do it. I never did see nobody that got it. Did you? They didn't give me nothin' and they didn't give my father nothin'. They just sot us free and turned us loose naked.
"Right after they got through reading the papers and told us we was free, my daddy took me to the field and put me to work. I'd been workin' in the house before that.
"Then they wasn't payin' nobody nothin'. They just hired people to work on halves. That was the first year. But we didn't get no half. We didn't git nothin'. Just time we got our crop laid by, the white man run us off and we didn't get nothin'. We had a fine crop too. We hadn't done nothin' to him. He just wanted all the crop for hisself and he run us off. That's all.
"Well, after that my daddy took and hired me out up here in Arkansas. He hired me out with some old poor white trash. We was livin' then in Louisiana with a old white man named Mr. Smith. I couldn't tell what part of Louisiana it was no more than it was down there close to Homer, about a mile from Homer. My mother died and my father come and got me and took me home to take care of the chillen.
"I have been married twice. I married first time down there within four miles of Homer. I was married to my first husband a number of years. His name was Wesley Wilson. We had eight children. My second husband was named Lee somepin or other. I married him on Thursday night and he left on Monday morning. I guess he must have been taking the white folks' things and had to clear out. His name was Lee Hardy. That is what his name was. I didn't figure he stayed with me long enough for me to take his name. That nigger didn't look right to me nohow. He just married me 'cause he thought I was a working woman and would give him money. He asked me for money once but I didn't give 'im none. What I'm goin' to give 'im money for? That's what I'd like to know.
"After my first husband died, I cooked and went on for them white folks. That was the only thing I could do. I was cooking before he died. I can't do no work now. I ain't worked for more than twenty years. I ain't done no work since I left Magnolia.
"I belong to the Collins Street Baptist Church-Nichols' church.
"I don't git no pension. I don't git nothin'. I been down to see if I could git it but they ain't give me nothin' yit. I'm goin' down ag'in when I can git somebody to carry me."
Ella Wilson insists that she is one hundred years old and that she was born sixteen years before freedom. The two statements conflict. From her appearance and manner, either might be true.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives