Location: Pine Bluff Arkansas

Slave Narrative of Hula Williams

Person Interviewed: Hula Williams Place of Birth: Arkansas Date of Birth: July 18, 1857 My mammy use to belong to the Burns plantation back in old Mississippi; that was before I was born, but the white overseer, a man named Kelly, was my father, so my mammy always said. She stayed with the Burns’ until her Master’s daughter married a man named Bond and moved to Jefferson County, Arkansas, about 25 miles south of Little Rock. The old Master give mammy and two other slaves to the girl when she married, that’s how come mammy to be in Arkansas when I was born, in 1857. The record says July 18. Mammy was named Emmaline and after she got to Arkansas she married one of the Bond slaves, George Washington Bond. My step-father told me one time that Master Bond tell him to get some slippery-elm bark, but step-paw forget it. And it seem like the Master done forgot it too, but on the next Sunday morning he called out for step-pappy. “Come here,” he said. “I’m going to give you a little piece of remembrance!” That was a good flogging, and some of the white neighbors look on and laugh. But there was one slave, Boyl Green, who lived on a plantation nearby that my husband told me about after we was married. That Negro said he never would...

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Slave Narrative of Rev. Wamble

Interviewer: Archie Koritz Person Interviewed: Rev. Wamble Location: Gary, Indiana Place of Birth: Monroe County, Mississippi, Date of Birth: 1859 Place of Residence: 1827 Madison Street, Gary, Indiana Occupation: Wagon-maker Archie Koritz, Field Worker Federal Writers’ Project Porter County-District #1 Valparaiso, Indiana EX-SLAVES REV. WAMBLE 1827 Madison Street Gary, Indiana [TR: above ‘Wamble’ in handwriting is ‘Womble’] Rev. Wamble was born a slave in Monroe County, Mississippi, in 1859. The Westbrook family owned many slaves in charge of over-seers who managed the farm, on which there were usually two hundred or more slaves. One of the Westbrook daughters married a Mr. Wamble, a wagon-maker. The Westbrook family gave the newly-weds two slaves, as did the Wamble family. One of the two slaves coming from the Westbrook family was Rev. Wamble’s grandfather. It seems that the slaves took the name of their master, hence Rev. Wamble’s grandfather was named Wamble. Families owning only a few slaves and in moderate circumstances usually treated their slaves kindly since like a farmer with only a few horses, it was to their best interest to see that their slaves were well provided for. The slaves were valuable, and there was no funds to buy others, whereas the large slave owners were wealthy and one slave more or less made little difference. The Reverend’s father and his brothers were children of original African slaves and...

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Slave Narrative of Liza Smith

Person Interviewed: Liza Smith Location: Muskogee, Oklahoma Age: 91 Both my mammy and pappy was brought from Africa on a slave boat and sold on de Richmond (Va.) slave market. What year dey come over I don’t know. My mammy was Jane Mason, belonging to Frank Mason; pappy was Frank Smith, belonging to a master wid de same name. I mean, my pappy took his Master’s name, and den after my folks married mammy took de name of Smith, but she stayed on wid de Masons and never did belong to my pappy’s master. Den, after Frank Mason took all his slaves out of de Virginia county, mammy net up wid another man, Ben Humphries, and married him. In Richmond, dat’s where I was born, ’bout 1847, de Master said; and dat make me more dan 90-year old dis good year. I had two brothers named Webb and Norman, a half-brother Charley, and two half-sisters, Mealey and Ann. Me, I was born a slave and so was my son. His father, Toney, was one of de Mason slave boys; de Master said I was ’bout 13-year old when de boy was born. Frank Mason was a young man when de war started, living wid his mother. Dey had lots of slaves, maybe a hundred, and dey always try to take good care of ’em; even after de war was...

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Slave Narrative of Stephen McCray

Person Interviewed: Stephen McCray Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Place of Birth: Huntsville County, Alabama Date of Birth: 1850 Age: 88 Occupation: Fisherman I was born in Huntsville County, Alabama, right where the Scottsboro boys was in jail, in 1850. My parents was Wash and Winnie McCray. They was the mother and father of 22 chillun. Jest five lived to be grown and the rest died at baby age. My father’s mother and father was named Mandy and Peter McCray, and my mother’s mother and father was Ruthie and Charlie McCray. They all had the same Master, Mister McCray, all the way thoo’. We live in log huts and when I left home grown, I left my folks living in the same log huts. Beds was put together with ropes and called rope beds. No springs was ever heard of by white or cullud as I knows of. All the work I ever done was pick up chips for my grandma to cook with. I was kept busy doing this all dey. The big boys went out end got rabbits, possums and fish. I would sho’ lak to be in old Alabama fishing, ’cause I am a fisherman. There is sho’ some pretty water in Alabama and as swift as cars run here. Water so clear and blue you can see the fish way down, and dey wouldn’t bite to...

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Slave Narrative of Rose Adway

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: Rose Adway Location: 405 W. Pullen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 76 Occupation: Farmed “I was born three years ‘fore surrender. That’s what my people told me. Born in Mississippi. Let me see what county I come out of. Smith County—that’s where I was bred and born. “I know I seen the Yankees but I didn’t know what they was. My mama and papa and all of ’em talked about the War. “My papa was a water toter in durin’ the War. No, he didn’t serve the army—just on the farm. “Mama was the cook for her missis in slavery times. “I think my folks went off after freedom and then come back. That was after they had done been sot free. I can remember dat all right. “I registered down here at the Welfare and I had to git my license from Mississippi and I didn’t remember which courthouse I got my license, but I sent letters over there till I got it up. I got all my papers now, but I ain’t never got no pension. “I been through so much I can’t git much in my remembrance, but I was here—that ain’t no joke—I been here. “My folks said their owners was all right. You know they was ’cause they come back. I remember dat all right. “I been farmin’ till...

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Slave Narrative of Sarah Anderson

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: Sarah Anderson Location: 3815 W. Second Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 78? “I don’t know when I was born. When the Civil War ended, I was bout four or five years old. “I jes’ remember when the people come back—the soldiers—when the War ended. We chillun run under the house. That was the Yankees. “I was born in Bibb County, Georgia. That’s where I was bred and born. “I been in Arkansas ever since I was fourteen. That was shortly after the Civil War, I reckon. We come here when they was emigratin’ to Arkansas. I’m tellin’ you the truth, I been here a long time. “I member when the soldiers went by and we chillun run under the house. It was the Yankee cavalry, and they made so much noise. Dat’s what the old folks told us. I member dat we run under the house and called our self hidin’. “My master was Madison Newsome and my missis was Sarah Newsome. Named after her? Must a done it. Ma and her chillun was out wallowin’ in the dirt when the Yankees come by. Sometimes I stayed in the house with my white folks all night. “My mother and father say they was well treated. That’s what they say. “Old folks didn’t low us chillun round when they was talkin’ bout their business,...

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Slave Narrative of Katie Arbery

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: Katie Arbery Location: 815 W. Thirteenth, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 80 “I am eighty years old. My name ‘fore I was a Arbery was Baxter. My mother was a Baxter. Born in Union County. “My mother’s first people was Baxter and my grandmother was a Baxter and they just went by that name; she never did change her name. “The boss man—that was what they called our master—his name was Paul McCall. He was married twice. His oldest son was Jim McCall. He was in the War. Yes ma’am, the Civil War. “Paul McCall raised me up with his chillun and I never did call him master, just called him pappy, and Jim McCall, I called him brother Jim. Just raised us all up there in the yard. My grandmother was the cook. “There wasn’t no fightin’ in Union County but I ‘member when the Yankees was goin’ through and singin’ ‘The Union forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah We’ll rally ’round the flag, boys, Shouting the battle cry of freedom.’ (She sang this—ed.) And I ‘member this one good: ‘Old buckwheat cakes and good strong butter To make your lips go flip, flip, flutter. Look away, look away, look away, Dixie land.’ “Pappy used to play that on his fiddle and have us chillun tryin’ to dance. Used to call us chillun and say,...

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Slave Narrative of Jeff Bailey

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person Interviewed: Jeff Bailey Location: 713 W. Ninth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 76 or 77 Occupation: Hostler [HW: A Hostler’s Story] “I was born in Monticello. I was raised there. Then I came up to Pine Bluff and stayed there thirty-two years. Then I came up here and been here thirty-two years. That is the reason the white folks so good to me now. I been here so long, I been a hostler all my life. I am the best hostler in this State. I go down to the post office they give me money. These white folks here is good to me. “What you writing down? Yes, that’s what I said. These white folks like me and they good to me. They give me anything I want. You want a drink? That’s the best bonded whiskey money can buy. They gives it to me. Well, if you don’t want it now, come in when you do. “I lost my wife right there in that corner. I was married just once. Lived with her forty-three years. She died here five months ago. Josie Bailey! The white folks thought the world and all of her. That is another reason they give me so much. She was one of the best women I ever seen. “I gits ten dollars a month. The check comes right up...

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Slave Narrative of Joseph Samuel Badgett

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person Interviewed: Joseph Samuel Badgett Location: 1221 Wright Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 72 [HW: Mother was a Fighter] “My mother had Indian in her. She would fight. She was the pet of the people. When she was out, the pateroles would whip her because she didn’t have a pass. She has showed me scars that were on her even till the day that she died. She was whipped because she was out without a pass. She could have had a pass any time for the asking, but she was too proud to ask. She never wanted to do things by permission. Birth “I was born in 1864. I was born right here in Dallas County. Some of the most prominent people in this state came from there. I was born on Thursday, in the morning at three o’clock, May the twelfth. My mother has told me that so often, I have it memorized. Persistence of Slave Customs “While I was a slave and was born close to the end of the Civil War, I remember seeing many of the soldiers down here. I remember much of the treatment given to the slaves. I used to say ‘master’ myself in my day. We had to do that till after ’69 or ’70. I remember the time when I couldn’t go nowhere without asking the ‘white...

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Slave Narrative of Matilda Bass

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: Matilda Bass Location: 1100 Palm Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 80 Occupation: Farmed “Yes ma’am, I was eight years old when the Old War ceasted. “Honey, I’ve lived here twenty years and I don’t know what this street is. “I was born in Greenville, Mississippi. They took my parents and carried ’em to Texas to keep ’em from the Yankees. I think they stayed three years ’cause I didn’t know ’em when they come back. “I ‘member the Yankees come and took us chillun and the old folks to Vicksburg. I ‘member the old man that seed after the chillun while their parents was gone, he said I was eight when freedom come. We didn’t know nothin’ ’bout our ages—didn’t have ‘nough sense. “My parents come back after surrender and stayed on my owner’s place—John Scott’s place. We had three masters—three brothers. “I been in Arkansas twenty years—right here. I bought this home. “I married my husband in Mississippi. We farmed. “The Lord uses me as a prophet and after my husband died, the Lord sent me to Arkansas to tell the people. He called me out of the church. I been out of the church now thirty-three years. Seems like all they think about in the churches now is money, so the Lord called me...

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Slave Narrative of J. H. Beckwith

Interviewer: Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: J. H. Beckwith Age: 68 Location: 619 North Spruce Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas “No ma’m I was not born in the time of slavery. I was sixty-eight last Friday. I was born November 18, 1870 in Johnson County, North Carolina. “My mother was born in Georgia and her name was Gracie Barum. Father was born in North Carolina. His name was Rufus Beckwith. He belonged to Doctor Beckwith and mother, I think, belonged to Tom Barum. Barum was just an ordinary farmer. He was just a second or third class farmer—just poor white folks. I think my mother was the only slave he owned. “My father had to walk seven miles every Saturday night to see my mother, and be back before sunrise Monday. “My parents had at least three or four children born in slavery. I know my father said he worked at night and made shoes for his family. “My father was a mulatto. He had a negro mother and a white father. He had a mechanical talent. He seemed to be somewhat of a genius. He had a productive mind. He could do blacksmithing, carpenter work, brick work and shoe work. “Father was married twice. He raised ten children by each wife. I think my mother had fifteen children and I was the the thirteenth child. I am the only boy...

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Slave Narrative of Kato Benton

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: Kato Benton Age: 78 Location: Creed Taylor Place, Tamo Pike, Pine Bluff, Arkansas “I was born in South Carolina before the War. I ain’t no baby. I wasn’t raised here. No ma’am. “My daddy’s name was Chance Ayers and my mammy’s name was Mary Ayers. So I guess the white folks was named Ayers. “White folks was good to us. Had plenty to eat, plenty to wear, plenty to drink. That was water. Didn’t have no whisky. Might a had some but they didn’t give us none. “Oh, yes ma’am, I got plenty kin folks. Oh, yes ma’am, I wish I was back there but I can’t get back. I been here so long I likes Arkansas now. “My mammy give me away after freedom and I ain’t seed her since. She give me to a colored man and I tell you he was a devil untied. He was so mean I run away to a white man’s house. But he come and got me and nearly beat me to death. Then I run away again and I ain’t seed him since. “I had a hard time comin’ up in this world but I’m livin’ yet, somehow or other. “I didn’t work in no field much. I washed and ironed and cleaned up the house for the white folks. Yes ma’am! “No ma’am,...

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Slave Narrative of George Benson

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: George Benson Age: 80 Location: Ezell Quarters, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Occupation: Cotton Farmer “I was here in slavery days—yes ma’m, I was here. When I come here, colored people didn’t have their ages. The boss man had it. After surrender, boss man told me I ought to keep up with my age, it’d be a use to me some day, but I didn’t do it. “I member the soldiers would play with me when they wasn’t on duty. That was the Yankees. “I was born down here on Dr. Waters’ place. Born right here in Arkansas and ain’t been outa Arkansas since I was born. So far as I know, Dr. Waters was good to us. I don’t know how old I was. I know I used to go to the house with my mother and piddle around. “My father jined the Yankees and he died in the army. I heered the old people talkin’, sayin’ we was goin’ to be free. You know I didn’t have much sense cause I was down on the river bank and the Yankees was shootin’ across the river and I said, ‘John, you quit that shootin’!’ So you know I didn’t have much sense. “I can remember old man Curtaindall had these nigger dogs. Had to go up a tree to keep em from bitin’ you....

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Slave Narrative of Bob Benford

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person Interviewed: Bob Benford Age: 79 Location: 209 N. Maple Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas “Slavery-time folks? Here’s one of em. Near as I can get at it, I’se seventy-nine. I was born in Alabama. My white folks said I come from Perry County, Alabama, but I come here to this Arkansas country when I was small. “My old master was Jim Ad Benford. He was good to us. I’m goin’ to tell you we was better off then than now. Yes ma’am, they treated us right. We didn’t have to worry bout payin’ the doctor and had plenty to eat. “I recollect the shoemaker come and measured my feet and directly he’d bring me old red russet shoes. I thought they was the prettiest things I ever saw in my life. “Old mistress would say, ‘Come on here, you little niggers’ and she’d sprinkle sugar on the meat block and we’d just lick sugar. “I remember the soldiers good, had on blue suits with brass buttons. “I’se big enough to ride old master’s hoss to water. He’d say, ‘Now, Bob, don’t you run that hoss’ but when I got out of sight, I was bound to run that hoss a little. “I didn’t have to work, just stayed in the house with my mammy. She was a seamstress. I’m tellin’ you the truth now. I...

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Slave Narrative of Boston Blackwell

Interviewer: Beaulah Sherwood Hagg Person Interviewed: Boston Blackwell Age: 98 Location: 320 Plum, North Little Rock, Arkansas Make yourself comfoble, miss. I can’t see you much ’cause my eyes, they is dim. My voice, it kinder dim too. I knows my age, good. Old Miss, she told me when I got sold—”Boss, you is 13—borned Christmas. Be sure to tell your new misses and she put you down in her book.” My borned name was Pruitt ’cause I got borned on Robert Pruitt’s plantation in Georgia,—Franklin County, Georgia. But Blackwell, it my freed name. You see, miss, after my mammy got sold down to Augusta—I wish’t I could tell you the man what bought her, I ain’t never seed him since,—I was sold to go to Arkansas; Jefferson county, Arkansas. Then was when old Miss telled me I am 13. It was before the Civil War I come here. The onliest auction of slaves I ever seed was in Memphis, coming on to Arkansas. I heerd a girl bid off for $800. She was about fifteen, I reckon. I heerd a woman—a breeding woman, bid off for $1500. They always brought good money. I’m telling you, it was when we was coming from Atlanta. Do you want to hear how I runned away and joined the Yankees? You know Abraham Lincoln ‘claired freedom in ’63, first day of January....

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