Circumstances of Interview
NAME OF WORKER--Mrs. Carol Graham
ADDRESS--El Dorado, Arkansas
1. Name and address of informant--Jack and Talitha Island, Route 1, El
2. Date and time of interview--December, 1938
3. Place of interview--Route 1, El Dorado, Arkansas.
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--
Personal History of Informant
NAME OF WORKER--Mrs. Carol Graham
ADDRESS--EL Dorado, Arkansas
NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANTS--Jack and Talitha Island,
Route 1, El Dorado.
2. Place and date of birth--Talitha was born April 14, 1864 in Arcadia,
Louisiana. Jack was born in 1863.
3. Family--Talitha had three children and Jack had three children.
4. Places lived in, with dates--Talitha lived in Arcadia, Louisiana
until freedom. Jack and Talitha now live in El Dorado.
5. Education, with dates--
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--
7. Special skills and interests--
8. Community and religious activities--Goes to church in schoolhouse
across the road.
9. Description of informant--
10. Other points gained in interview--They tell some of their childhood
Text of Interview (Unedited)
Talitha: "Howdy, chillun, come in. Naw suh, Jack ain't heah right now.
He down tuh the thicket back uv de house gittin' some wood. Naw suh, he
won't be gone long. He soon be back. You all come in and set on the
gallery. Here's a cheer, missy. He be back in no time tall.
"You wants to know how old I am? I was born April 14, 1864 before the
niggers was freed in '65.
"My mother was a field woman (worked in the field) and had seven chillun
when set free. Her mistress raised her from three weeks old. Her mother
burned to death in a house on the plantation. Our home was 'bout four
miles east of Arcadia, Louisiana, or rather Miss Sarah Given's house
was, and we stayed on wid her until I was a big girl, plowin' and
"No ma'am, I never did go to no parties. I was never 'lowed to go. I
been a member of the church since I was ten and now I'm seventy-three.
"I first married a man by the name of Williams and had three chillun by
him, two boys and one girl. Then I was a widow fifteen years before I
married Jack. We ain't never had no chillun, but Jack had three chillun
and I helped to raise them and I've helped raise a bunch of his
"I believes I hear Jack back there now."
Jack: "Howdy, howdy! So you is back for more tales 'bout long ago. I'se
seventy-three and I been in this world a long time I tell you."
Talitha: "Now, Jack, you knows you is heap older 'n me and I'm
seventy-three and I was born jes 'bout a year befo the War closed and
you say you was a big chap then."
Jack: "Well, I guess I was around six years old when the War started. I
was a good big chap. I 'member one evening 'bout three o'clock I was
settin' out in the yard playin' with a mate of mine--Johnnie Cook. I
guess you would call him my mate; he was my mistress's boy and 'bout my
age and we played together all the time even if I was black. I was the
only black boy on the place, all the other cullud chillun was gals. Us
chaps was out in the yard making frog nesties with our bare feet in the
sand. They was fightin' in Vicksburg then. They was doing a whole lot of
shooting. You could hear it one right after the other and it got so
smoky. I thought it was thunder and said something 'bout hit. Mistress
was setting on the gallery sewing and when I said that she said, 'Aw
Lawd, that ain't no thunder,' but she didn' tell us what hit wuz."
Talitha: "Course I wasn't old enough to know anything 'bout hit but I
heard my mother say it got so smoky the chickens didn't get off the
roost while they was bustin' all them big cannons."
Jack: "All us chillun was just as fat and healthy as hogs. Warn't never
sick. They'd feed 'bout this time every evening (4 p.m.) and by sundown
I was in bed. My mother worked in the field and I've heard her say that
sometime she didn't see her chillun from Sunday to Sunday. Old lady
Hannah Banks done the cooking for everybody and she cooked on a big
fireplace. They didn't have no stove. Why, I got here before the stoves
did. Ma and pa and all the grown ones would get up at four o'clock and
eat breakfast and be in the field workin' by sunup. They had a box with
shelves drove up on the side of the wall to the cabin where we slept and
old lady Hannah Banks would put our breakfast in that and when we woke
up we would get it and eat. One morning I woke up before the other
chillun did and 'cided I'd git my breakfast first 'fore they did. I clem
up, rech up and got holt of that box and I was so heavy I pulled it down
and broke all the old blue edge plates. That woke the other chillun up
all right, and I can jes see them old blue edge plates now. For dinner
they would give us boiled greens or beans wid bread and for supper they
would save the slop (liquor), cram it full of bread, pour it in a tray
and give it to all the chilluns and me, sister Julia, Nancy, Lizzie,
Marthy, and all the little nigger chillun."
Talitha: "Huh! Old man Givens had so many little nigger chillun couldn'
feed 'em in no tray. Had to have troughs. They'd take a log and hollow
it out and make three tubs in a row and put peg legs on it and a hole in
the bottom of each one with a pin in it. They would use these tubs to
wash the clothes in and pull the stem up to let all the water run out,
clean 'em out real good, fill with bread and pot-licker or bread and
milk, and feed the nigger chillun."
Jack: "You say our nephew wants to come out and bring a bunch of young
folks and wants me to take them 'possum hunting some moonlight night?
Sho, sho, I'll go."
Talitha: "I don't know how he'd go lessen we totes him. Why, he got the
rheumatism so bad he can't hardly git 'round in the daytime much less at
night. Why, the other day he was out in the field follerin' the boy that
was plowin' up the potatoes and we was goin' on pickin' them up. First
thing I know I hear somethin' behind me go 'plop' and I looked roun and
there lay Jack jes stretched out. Fell down over his own feet. So what
would he do out nights? And you sees that knot on his ankle. Hit was
broke when he was a boy an' hit still gives him trouble when his
rheumatism starts up."
Jack: "You say how did I do it? I was jumpin'. A bunch of us boys was
jumpin' 'cross a ditch jes to see how far we could jump. I was a young
chap 'bout seventeen or eighteen then. I was doin' purty well with my
jumpin' when I made a misjump an' jumped crooked and hit my ankle on a
big old iron rock. My but hit hurt bad. I didn' do no more jumpin' that
day. The next day I was down in the woods getting a load of lider. Had
put on a few pieces on the wagon when I started to turn aroun and down I
went. I jes lay there and hollered till someone come an' got me. That
was in the winter just before Christmas and I didn't get out no more
till in the spring. The woods looked right purty to me when I got out.
The leaves was great big. And that ain't all, I ain't jumped no more
since. 'Sides that I ain't never been sick to 'mount to anything. Had
the whooping cough at the same time that Joe and Tom Snyder had hit.
Still got my natchel teeth, lost four up here and got one that bothers
me some, 'sides that I have 'em all. Yas suh, that the schoolhouse
'cross the road there. We has preachin' there sometimes too. Does Ab
preach there? He, he, he! sometime he do. Did I ever tell you 'bout the
time Ab was preaching out here at and got to stampin' roun wid
that peg-leg of his'n an' hit went through the rotten floor and we had
to pull him out? He, he, he!"
Talitha: "Now, Jack Island, you knows that is jes 'nother one uv yo
tales. I is been to hear Ab preach lots of times and he does storm roun
mighty bad and I ain't got no faith in his religion tall but I warn't
there when he fell through the floo'."
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