Windham, Tom (interview)
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Tom Windham, 723 Missouri, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 98
"I was twenty-one years old when the war was settled. My mother and my grandmother kep' my age up and after the death of them I knowed how to handle it myself.
"My old master's name was Butler and he was pretty fair to his darkies. He give em plenty to eat and wear.
"I was born and raised in Indian Territory and emigrated from there to Atlanta, Georgia when I was about twelve or thirteen. We lived right in Atlanta. I cleaned up round the house. Yes ma'm, that's what I followed. When the Yankees come to Atlanta they just forced us into the army. After I got into the army and got used to it, it was fun-just like meat and bread. Yankees treated me good. I was sorry when it broke up. When the bugle blowed we knowed our business. Sometimes, the age I is now, I wish I was in it. Father Abraham Lincoln was our President. I knowed the war was to free the colored folks. I run away from my white folks is how come I was in the Yankee army. I was in the artillery. That deefened me a whole lot and I lost these two fingers on my left hand-that's all of my joints that got broke.
"Before the war my white folks was good to us. I had a better time than I got now.
"My father and mother was sold away from me, but old mistress couldn't rest without em and went and got em back. They stayed right there till they died. Us folks was treated well. I think we should have our liberty cause us ain't hogs or horses-us is human flesh.
"When I was with the Yankees, I done some livin'.
"I went to school two months in my life. I should a gone longer but I found where I could get next to a dollar so I quit. If I had education now it might a done me some good.
"I used to be in a brass band. I like a brass band, don't make no difference where I hear it.
"There was one song we played when I was in the army. It was:
'Rasslin Jacob, don't weep Weepin' Mary, don't weep. Before I'd be a slave I'd be buried in my grave, Go home to my father and be saved.' The Rebels was hot after us then. Another one we used to sing was:
'My old mistress promised me When she die, she'd set me free.' "After the war I continued to work around the white folks and yes ma'm, I seen the Ku Klux many a time. They bothered me sometimes but they soon let me alone. They was a few Yankees about and they come together and made the Ku Klux stay in their place.
"One time after the war I went to Ohio and stayed three months but it was too cold for me. Man I worked for was named Harper and as good a man as ever broke a piece of bread.
"I come back South and learned how to farm. I been here in this country of Arkansas a long time. I hoped clean up this place (Pine Bluff) and make a town of it.
"I got a daughter and two sisters alive in Africa today-in Liberia. I went there after we was free. I liked it. Just the thoughts of bein' where Christ traveled-that's the good part of it. They furnished us transportation to go to Africa after the war and a lot of the colored folks went. I come back cause I had a lot of kin here, but I sent my daughter and two sisters there and they're alive there today."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives