From: More Arkansas
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Mack Brantley, Brinkley, Arkansas
"I was born in Dallas County close to Selma, Alabama. My mother's owners
was Miss Mary Ann Roscoe and her husband was Master Ephriam Roscoe. They
had a good size gin and farm. We would gather 'round and tell ha'nt
tales till we would be scared to go home in the dark. The wind would
turn the old-fashioned screw and make a noise like packing cotton. We
older children would run and make out we thought it was the spirits. We
knowed better but the little children was afraid.
"My parents was Lucindy Roscoe. My pa belong to Warren Brantley. His
name was Silica Brantley.
"I was a stole chile. Ma had a husband the master give her and had
children. My pa lived on a joining farm. She wasn't supposen to have
children by my pa. That is why I'm called Mack Brantley now. Mama died
and Green Roscoe, my older brother, took me to Howell's so they would
raise me. They was all kin. I was six months old when ma died. My sister
nursed me but Miss Mary Ann Roscoe suckled me wid Miss Minnie. When Miss
Minnie got grown and married she went to Mobile, Alabama to live. Later
Brother Silica give me to Master Henry Harrell. They sent me to school.
I never went to colored school. We went to Blunt Springs three months
every year in the summer time. When we come home one year Mr. Hankton
was gone and he never come back. He was my only teacher. The white
population didn't like him and they finally got him away.
"They was good white people. I had a pallet in the room and in the
morning I took it up and put it away in a little room. I slept in the
house till I was good and grown. I made fires for them in the winter
time. Mr. Walter died three years ago. He was their son. He had a big
store there. Miss Carrie married Charlie Hooper. He courted her five
years. I bring her a letter and she tore it up before she read it. He
kept coming. He lived in Kentucky. The last I heard they lived in
Birmingham. Miss Kitty Avery Harrell was my mistress at freedom and
after, and after boss died. I had four children when I left. If Mr.
Walter was living I'd go to him now. Mr. Hooper would cuss. Old boss
didn't cuss. I never liked Mr. Hooper's ways. Old boss was kinder. All
my sisters dead. I reckon I got two brothers. Charles Roscoe was where
boss left him. He was grown when I was a child. Jack Roscoe lives at
Forrest, Mississippi. Brother Silica Roscoe had a wife and children when
freedom come on. He left that wife and got married to another one and
went off to Mississippi. Preachers quit their slavery wives and children
and married other wives. It wasn't right. No ma'am, it wasn't right.
Awful lot of it was done. Then is when I got took to my Miss Kitty.
After freedom is right.
"I tole you I was a stole chile. I never seen my own pa but a few times.
He lived on a joining farm. Ma had a husband her master give her the
first time they had been at a big log rolling and come up for dinner.
They put the planks out and the dinner on it. They kept saying, 'Mack,
shake hands with your papa.' He was standing off to one side. It was
sorter shame. They kept on. I was little. I went over there. He shook
hands with me. I said, 'Hi, papa! Give me a nickel.' He reached in his
pocket and give me a nickel. Then they stopped teasing me. He went off
on Alabama River eighteen miles from us to Caholba, Alabama. I never
seen him much more. Ma had been dead then several years.
"Green, my brother, took me to Miss Mary Ann Roscoe when mama died. She
was my ma's owner. I stayed there till Green died. A whole lot of boys
was standing around and bet Green he couldn't tote that barrel of
molasses a certain piece. They helped it up and was to help him put it
down and give him five dollars. That was late in the ebenin'. He let the
barrel down and a ball as big as a goose egg of blood come out of his
mouth. The next day he died. Master got Dr. Blevins quick as he could
ride there. He was mad as he could be. Dr. Blevins said it weighed eight
hundred pounds. It was a hogshead of molasses. Green was much of a man.
He was a giant. Dr. Blevins said they had killed a good man. Green was
good and so strong. I never could forget it. Green was my standby.
"The Yankees burnt Boss Henry's father's fine house, his gin, his grist
mill, and fifty or sixty bales of cotton and took several fine horses.
They took him out in his shirt tail and beat him, and whooped his wife,
trying to make them tell where the money was. He told her to tell. He
had it buried in a pot in the garden. They went and dug it up. Forty
thousand dollars in gold and silver. Out they lit then. I seen that. He
lived to be eighty and she lived to be seventy-eight years old. He had
owned seven or eight or ten miles of road land at Howell Crossroads.
Road land is like highway land, it is more costly. He had Henry and
Finas married and moved off. Miss Melia was his daughter and her husband
and the overseer was there but they couldn't save the money. I waited on
Misa Melia when she got sick and died. She was fine a woman as ever I
seen. Every colored person on the place knowed where the pot was buried.
Some of them planted it. They wouldn't tell. We could hear the battles
at Selma, Alabama. It was a roar and like an earthquake.
"Freedom--I was a little boy. I cried to go with the bigger children.
They had to tote water. One day I heard somebody crying over 'cross a
ditch and fence covered with vines and small trees. I heard, 'Do pray
master.' I run hid under the house. I was snoring when they found me. I
heard somebody say, 'Slave day is over.' That is all I ever knowed about
freedom. The way I knowed, a Yankee. We was in the road piling up sand
and a lot of blue coats on horses was coming. We got out of the road and
went to tell our white folks. They said, 'Get out of their way, they are
"When I left Alabama I went to Mississippi. I worked my way on a
steamboat. I had been trained to do whatever I was commanded. The man,
my boss, said, 'Mack, get the rope behind the boiler and tie it to the
stob and 'dead man'. I tied it to the stob and I was looking for a dead
man. He showed me what it was. Then I tied it. I went to Vicksburg then.
I had got mixed up with a woman and run off.
"I been married once in my life. I had eighteen children. Nine lived. I
got a boy here and a girl in Pine Bluff. My son's wife is mean to me. I
don't want to stay here. If I can get my pension started, I want to live
with my daughter.
"I used to vote Republican. They claimed it made times better for my
race. I found out better. I don't vote now. Wilson was good as Mr.
Roosevelt, I think. I voted about eight years ago, I reckon. I didn't
vote for Mr. Roosevelt.
"I wish I was young and had the chance this generation has got. Times is
better every way for a good man unless he is unable to work like I am
now. (This old man tends his garden, a large nice one--ed.) My son
supports me now."
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