CHRIS FRANKLIN, 82, was born a slave of Judge Robert J. Looney, in
Bossier Parish, Louisiana. Chris now lives in Beaumont, Texas, and
supports himself by gardening and yard work. He is thrifty and owns
his own home.
"Yes, suh, dis is Chris Franklin. I signs my name C.C. Franklin, dat for
Christopher Columbus Franklin. I's born in Bossier Parish, up in
Louisiana, jes' twenty-five miles de other side of Shreveport. I's born
dere in 1855, on Christmas Day, but I's raise up in Caddo Parish. Old
massa move over dere when I 'bout a year old.
"Old massa name Robert J. Looney and he a jedge and lawyer. He have a
boy name R.J., Jr., but I's talkin' 'bout de old head, de old 'riginal.
De missy, her name Lettie Looney. He weren't no farmer, jes' truck farm
to raise de livin' for he household and slaves. He didn't have over a
half dozen growed up slaves. Course, dey rears a lot of young'uns.
"My pappy's name Solomon Lawson. He 'long to Jedge Lawson, what live
near us. When freedom come, he done take de name Sol Franklin, what he
say am he pappy's name.
"Jedge Looney have de ord'nary frame house. Dey 'bout six, seven rooms
in it, all under one roof. De dinin' room and cook room wasn't built off
to deyself, like mos' big houses. It was a raise house, raise up on high
pillars and dey could drive a hoss and buggy under it. He live on de
"Us slaves all live in one big slave cabin, built out of plank. It built
sort-a like de 'partment house. Dey four rooms and each fam'ly have one
room. Dey have a lamp and a candle for our comfort. It jes' a li'l,
ord'nary brass lamp. Dey used to make 'em out of wax and tallow. Dey
raise dere own bees and when dey rob de bee gums dey strain de honey and
melt de wax with tallow to make it firmer. Dey tie one end de wick on
de stick 'cross de mold and put in de melted wax and tallow.
"Dey have a table and benches, too. But a chair de rare thing in a
cabin. Dey make some with de split hick'ry or rawhide bottom. Dey have
hay mattress. De tickin' am rice sacks. Us have mud chimney. Dey fix
sticks like de ladder and mix mud and moss and grass in what dey calls
'cats'. Dey have rock backs, and, man, us have a sho' 'nough fire in
'em. Put a stick long as me and big as a porch post in dat fireplace. In
cold weather dat last all day and all night.
"When de parents workin' in de field, somebody look after de chillen. De
nannies come in and nuss dem when time come. De white folks never put on
'strictions on de chillen till dey twelve, fourteen years old. Dey all
wear de straight-cut slip. Dey give de li'l gals de slip dress and li'l
panties. In wintertime dey give de boy's de li'l coat and pants and
shoes, but no drawers or unnerwear. Dey give dem hard russet shoes in
wintertime. Dey have brass toes. Dey plenty dur'ble. In summertime us
didn't see no shoe.
"Massa Looney jes' as fine de man as ever make tracks. Christmas time
come, he give 'em a few dollars and say go to the store and buy what us
want. He give all de li'l nigger chillen gif's, jes' like he own. He git
de jug of whiskey and plenty eggs and make de big eggnog for everybody.
He treat us cullud folks jes' like he treat he own fam'ly. He never take
no liquor 'cept at Christmas. He give us lots to eat at Christmas, too.
"Sometime old missy come out and call all de li'l niggers in de house to
play with her chillen. When us eat us have de tin plate and cup. Dey
give us plenty milk and butter and 'taters and sich. Us all set on de
floor and make 'way with dem rations.
"Dey had a li'l church house for de niggers and preachin' in de
afternoon, and on into de night lots of times. Dey have de cullud
preacher. He couldn't read. He jes' preach from nat'ral wit and what he
larn from white folks. De whole outfit profess to be Baptis'.
"De marryin' business go through by what massa say. De fellow git de
massa's consen'. Massa mos'ly say yes without waitin', 'cause marryin'
mean more niggers for him comin' on. He git de jedge or preacher to
marry dem. Iffen de man live on one plantation and de gal on 'nother, he
have to git de pass to go see her. Dat so de patterrollers not git him.
"De slaves used to have balls and frolics in dey cabins. But iffen dey
go to de frolic on 'nother plantation dey git de pass. Dat so dey can
cotch runaway niggers. I never heared of stealin' niggers, 'cept
dis-a-way. Sometime de runaway nigger git fifty or hundred miles away
and show up dere as de stray slave. Dat massa where he show up take care
of him so long, den lay claim to him. Dat call harborin' de nigger.
"Dey lots of places where de young massas has heirs by nigger gals. Dey
sell dem jes' like other slaves. Dat purty common. It seem like de white
women don't mind. Dey didn't 'ject, 'cause dat mean more slaves.
"Sometimes de white folks has de big deer drive. Dem and de niggers go
down in de bottoms to drive deers up. Dey rid big, fine hosses and start
de deers runnin'. Dey raise dere own dogs. Massa sho' careful 'bout he
hounds. He train dem good and treat dem good, too. He have somethin'
cook reg'lar for dem. Dey hunts foxes and wolves and plenty dem kinds
"I seen sojers' by de thousands. When 'mancipation come out massa come
to de back door with de paper and say, 'Yous free.' He furnish dem with
all dey needs and give dem part de crop. He 'vide up de pig litters and
such 'mongst dem. He give dem de start. Den after two, three year he
commence takin' out for dere food and boots and clothes and sich.
"De night de pusson die dey has de wake and sing and pray all night
long. Dey all very 'ligious in dere profession. Dey knock off all work
so de slaves can go to de buryin'.
"De white folks 'low dem to have de frolic with de fiddle or banjo or
windjammer. Dey dances out on de grass, forty or fifty niggers, and dem
big gals nineteen year old git out dere barefoot as de goose. It jes' de
habit of de times, 'cause dey all have shoes. Sometimes dey call de jig
dance and some of dem sho' dance it, too. De prompter call, 'All git
ready.' Den he holler, 'All balance,' and den he sing out, 'Swing you
pardner,' and dey does it. Den he say, 'First man head off to de right,'
and dere dey goes. Or he say, 'All promenade,' and dey goes in de
circle. One thing dey calls, 'Bird in de Cage.' Three joins hands round
de gal in de middle, and dance round her, and den she git out and her
pardner git in de center and dey dance dat way awhile.
"After freedom dey have de log cabin schoolhouse. De first teacher was
de cullud women name Mary Chapman. I near wore out dat old blueblack
speller tryin' to larn A B C's.
"I leaves Caddo Parish in 1877 for Galveston, and leaves dere on de four
mast schooner for Leesburg and up de Calcasieu River. Den I goes to de
Cameron Parish and in 1879 I comes to Beaumont. I marries Mandy Watson
in 1882 and she died in 1932. Us never have no chillen but 'dopts two.
Us marry in de hotel dinin'-room, 'cause I's workin' for de hotel man,
J.B. Goodhue. De Rev. Elder Venable, what am da old cullud preacher,
marries us. I didn't git marry like in slavery time, I's got a great big
marriage certif'cate hangin' on de wall of my house.
"I 'longs to several lodges, de Knights of Labor and de Knights of Honor
and de Pilgrims. I never hold no office. I's jes' de bench member. I's a
member of de Live Lake Missionary Baptist Church.
"I's got de big house of my own, on de corner of Roberts Avenue and San
Antonio street. After my wife die, I gits de man to come and live dere
with me. Dat's all I knows.
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