Word, Sam (2nd interview)
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Sam Word 1122 Missouri, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 78 [TR: Same birthdate as previous informant.]
"I was born February 14, 1859. My birthplace was Arkansas County. Born in Arkansas and lived in Arkansas seventy-eight years. I've kept up with my age-didn't raise it none, didn't lower it none.
"I can remember all about the war, my memory's been good. Old man Bill Word, that was my old master, had a son named Tom Word and long about in '63 a general come and pressed him into the Civil War. I saw the Blue and the Gray and the gray clothes had buttons that said C.S., that meant secessioners. Yankees had U.S. on their buttons. Some of em come there so regular they got familiar with me. Yankees come and wanted to hang old master cause he wouldn't tell where the money was. They tied his hands behind him and had a rope around his neck. Now this is the straight goods. I was just a boy and I was cryin' cause I didn't want em to hang old master. A Yankee lieutenant comes up and made em quit-they was just the privates you know.
"My old master drove a ox wagon to the gold fields in California in '49. That's what they told me-that was fore I was born.
"Good? Ben Word good? My God Amighty, I wish I had one-hundredth part of what I got then. I didn't exist-I lived.
"Ben Word bought my mother from Phil Ford up in Kentucky. She was the housekeeper after old mistress died. I'll tell you something that may be amusing. Mother had lots of nice things, quilts and things, and kept em in a chest in her little old shack. One day a Yankee soldier climbed in the back window and took some of the quilts. He rolled em up and was walking out of the yard when mother saw him and said, 'Why you nasty, stinkin' rascal. You may you come down here to fight for the niggers, and now you're stealin' from em.' He said, 'You're a G-D-liar, I'm fightin' for $14 a month and the Union.'
"I member there was a young man named Dan Brown and they called him Red Fox. He'd slip up on the Yankees and shoot em, so the Yankees was always lookin' for him. He used to go over to Dr. Allen's to get a shave and his wife would sit on the front porch and watch for the Yankees. One day the Yankees slipped up in the back and his wife said, 'Lord, Dan, there's the Yankees.' Course he run and they shot him. One of the Yankees was tryin' to help him up and he said, 'Don't you touch me, call Dr. Allen.' Yes ma'm, that was in Arkansas County.
"I never been anywhere 'cept Arkansas, Jefferson, and Conway Counties. I was in Conway County when they went to the precinct to vote for or against the Fort Smith & Little Rock Railroad. The precinct where they went to vote was Springfield. It used to be the county seat of Conway County.
"While the war was goin' on and when young Tom Word would come home from school, he learned me and when the war ended, I could read in McGuffy's Third Reader. After that I went to school three months for about four years.
"Directly after Emancipation, the white men in the South had to take the Oath of Allegiance. Old master took it but he hated to do it. Now these are stubborn facts I'm givin' you but they's true.
"After freedom mother brought me here to Pine Bluff and put me in the field. I picked up corn stalks and brush and carried water to the hands. Children in them days worked. After they come from school, even the white children had work to do. Trouble with the colored folks now, to my way of thinkin', is they are top heavy with literary learning and feather light with common sense and domestic training.
"I remember a song they used to sing daring the war:
'Jeff Davis is our President Lincoln is a fool; Jeff Davis rides a fine white horse While Lincoln rides a mule.' "And here's another one:
'Hurrah for Southern rights, hurrah! Hurrah for the Bonny Blue Flag That bore the single star.' "Yes, they was hants sixty years ago. The generation they was interested has bred em out. Ain't none now.
"I never did care much for politics, but I've always been for the South. I love the Southland. Only thing I don't like is they don't give a square deal when it comes between the colored and the Whites. Ten years ago, I was worth $15,000 and now I'm not worth fifteen cents. The real estate men got the best of me. I've been blind now for four years and all my wife and I have is what we get from the Welfare."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives