Wright, Hannah Brooks
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Hannah Brooks Wright W. 17th, Highland Addition, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 85 Occupation: Laundress
"Yes ma'am, I was born in slavery times. I was born on Elsa Brooks' plantation in Mississippi. I don't know what year 'twas but I know 'twas in slavery times.
"I was a great big gal when the Yankees come through. I was Elsa Brooks' house gal.
"I remember when a man come through to 'vascinate' all the chillun that was born in slavery times. I cut up worse than any of 'em-I bit him. I thought he was gwine cut off my arm. Old missis say our names gwine be sent to the White House. Old missis was gwine around with him tryin' to calm 'em down.
"And the next day the Yankees come through. The Lord have mercy! I think I was 'bout twelve years old when freedom come. We used to ask old missis how old we was. She'd say, 'Go on, if I tell you how old you is, your parents couldn't do nothin' with you. Jus' tell folks you was born in slavery times!' Gramma wouldn't tell me neither. She'd say, 'You hush, you wouldn't work if you knowed how old you is.'
"I used to sit on the lever a many a day and drive the mule at the gin. You don't know anything 'bout that, do you?
"I remember one time when the Yankees was comin' through. I was up on top of a rail fence so I could see better. I said, 'Just look a there at them bluebirds.' When the Yankees come along one of 'em said, 'You get down from there you little son of a b----.' I didn't wait to climb down, I jus' fell down from there. Old missis come down to the quarters in her carriage-didn't have buggies in them days, just carriages-to see who was hurt. The Yankees had done told her that one of her gals had fell off the fence and got hurt. I said, 'I ain't hurt but I thought them Yankees would hurt me.' She said, 'They won't hurt you, they is comin' through to tell you you is free.' She said if they had hurt me she would jus' about done them Yankees up. She said Jeff Davis had done give up his seat and we was free.
"Our folks stayed with old missis as long as they lived. My mammy cooked and I stayed in the house with missis and churned and cleaned up. Old master was named Tom Brooks and her name was Elsa Brooks. Sometimes I jus' called her 'missis.'
"Old missis told the patrollers they couldn't come on her place and interfere with her hands. I don't know how many hands they had but I know they had a heap of 'em.
"Sometimes missis would say it looked like I wanted to get away and she'd say, 'Why, Hannah, you don't suffer for a thing. You stay right here at the house with me and you have plenty to eat.'
"I was the oldest one in my mammy's family.
"I just went to school a week and mammy said they needed me at the house.
"Then my daddy put me in the field to plow. Old missis come out one day and say, 'Bill, how come you got Hannah plowin'? I don't like to see her in the field.' He'd say, 'Well, I want to learn her to work. I ain't gwine be here always and I want her to know how to work.'
"They had me throwin' the shickles (shuttles) in slavery times. I used to handle the cyards (cards) too. Then I used to help clean up the milk dairy. I'd be so tired I wouldn't know what to do. Old missis would say, 'Well, Hannah, that's your job.'
"We used to have plenty to eat, pies and cakes and custards. More than we got now.
"I own this place if I can keep payin' the taxes.
"Old missis used to say, 'You gwine think about what I'm tellin' you after I'm dead and gone.'
"Young folks call us old church folks 'old ism folks,' 'old fogies.' They say, 'You was born in slavery times, you don't know nothin.' You can't tell 'em nothin'.
"I follows my mind. You ain't gwine go wrong if you does what your mind tells you."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives