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Wash Dukes

From: More Arkansas

Interviewer: Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: "Wash" Dukes
2217 E. Barraque
Pine Bluff, Ark.
Age: 83

"Yes'm, Wash Dukes is my name. My mother liked Washington so well, she
named me General Washington Dukes, but I said my name was Wash Dukes.
I'm the oldest one and I'm still here. Me? I was born in the state of
Georgia, Howson County. Perry, Georgia was my closest place. I was born
and raised on the Riggins place. I was born in 1855, you understand. The
first day of March is my birthday. We had it on the Bible, four boys and
four girls, and I was the oldest. House caught fire and burned up the
Bible, but I always say I'm as old as a hoss.

"I can't see as good as I used to--gettin' too old, I reckon.

"Old master and mistis was good to us.

"My mother plowed just like a man. Had a little black mule named Mollie
and wore these big old leggins come up to her knee.

"Old master was a long tall man with black hair.

"You know I was here cause I remember when Lincoln was elected
president. He run against George Washington.

"I seen the Yankees but I never talked to em. I was scared of em. Had
them muskets with a spear on the end. They give my uncle a hoss. When it
thundered and lightninged that old hoss started to dance--thought twas a
battle. And when he come to a fence, just jump right over with me on
him. I say, 'Where you get that hoss?' and uncle say, 'Yankees give him
to me.'

"I know one time they was a fellow come by there walkin'. I guess they
shot his hoss. He had plenty money. I tried to get him to give me some
but he wouldn't give me a bit.

"At Oglethorpe they had a place where they kep the prisoners. They was a
little stream run through it and the Rebels pizened it and killed a lot
of em.

"I was so crazy when I was young. I know one time mama sent me to town
to get a dress pattern--ten yards. She say, 'Now, Wash, when you go
across that bottom, you'll hear somethin' sounds like somebody dyin',
but you just go on, it won't hurt you.' But I say, 'I won't hear it.' I
went through there so fast and come back, mama say, 'You done been to
town already?' I said, 'Yes, here's your dress pattern.' I went through
there ninety to nothin'. I went so fast my heart hurt me.

"In slave times I remember if you wanted to go to another plantation you
had to have a pass. Paddyrollers nearly got me one night. I was on a
hoss. They was shootin' at me. I know the hoss was just stretched out
and I was layin' right down on his neck.

"I stayed in Georgia till '74. I heared em say the cotton grow so big
here in Arkansas you could sit on a limb and eat dinner. I know when I
got here they was havin' that Brooks-Baxter war in Little Rock. I say,
'Press me into the war.' Man say, 'I ain't goin' press no boys.' I say,
'Give me a gun, I can kill em.' I wanted to fight.

"I tell you where I voted--colored folks don't vote now--it was when I
was on the Davis place. I voted once or twice since I been up here. I
called myself votin' Republican. I member since I been up here you know
they had a colored man in the courthouse. When they had a grand jury
they had em mixed, some colored and some white. I say now they ain't got
no privilege. If they don't want em to vote ought not make em pay taxes.

"Up north they all sits together in the deppo but here in the south they
got a 'tition between em.

"When I first went to farmin' I rented the land and the cotton was all
mine, but now you work on the shares and don't have nothin'.

"If I keep a livin', I'm goin' away from here. I'm goin' up north. I
won't go fore it gets warm though. I seen the snow knee deep in
Cleveland, Ohio.

"I was workin' up north once. I had a pretty good job in Detroit doin'
piece work, and doin' well, but I come back here cause my wife's mother
was too old to move. If I had stayed I might have done well.

"I own this property but I'm bout to lose it on account o' taxes.

"I got grown boys and they ain't no more help to me than the spit out o'
my mouth. None of em has ever give me a dime in their life. This younger
generation is goin' to nothin'. They got a good education. I got a boy
can write six different kinds a hands. Write enough to get in the pen. I
got him pardoned and he's in Philadelphia now. Never sends me a dime.

"I never went to any school but night school a little. I was the oldest
and it kep me knockin' around to help take care of the little ones.

"I preach sometimes. I'm not ordained--I'm a floor preacher, just stands
in front of the altar."

Next: Lizzie Dunn

Previous: Isabella Duke

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