Absolom Jenkins





Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Absolom Jenkins,

R.F.D., Helena, Arkansas

Age: 80

[Date Stamp: MAY 31 1938]





"I was born a few years before the break out of the old war (Civil

War). I had a boy fit in this last war (World War). He gets a pension

and he sends me part of it every month. He don't send me no amount

whatever he can spare me. He never do send me less than ten dollars. I

pick cotton some last year. I pick twenty or thirty pounds and it got

to raining and so cold my granddaughter said it would make me sick.



"I was born durin' slavery. I was born 'bout twenty-five miles from

Nolan, Tennessee. They call me Ab Jenkins for my old master. He was A.

B. Jenkins. I don't know if his name was Absolom or not. Mother was

name Liddy Strum. They was both sold on the block. They both come to

Tennessee from Virginia in a drove and was sold to men lived less than

ten miles apart. Then they got consent and got married. I don't know

how they struck up together.



"They had three families of us. We lived up close to A. B. Jenkins'

house. He had been married. He was old man when I knowed him. His

daughter lived with him. She was married. Her husband was brought home

from the war dead. I don't know if he got sick and died or shot. The

only little children on the place was me and Jake Jenkins. We was no

kin but jus' like twins. Master would call us up and stick his finger

in biscuits and pour molasses in the hole. That was sure good eating.

The 'lasses wouldn't spill till we done et it up. He'd fix us up

another one. He give us biscuits oftener than the grown folks got

them. We had plenty wheat bread till the old war come on. My mother

beat biscuits with a paddle. She cooked over at Strum's. I lived over

at Jenkins. Grandma Kizzy done my cooking. Master's girl cooked us

biscuits. Master Jenkins loose his hat, his stick, his specks, and

call us to find 'em. He could see. He called us to keep us outer

badness. We had a big business of throwing at things. He threatened to

whoop us. We slacked up on it. I never heard them say but I believe

from what I seen it was agreed to divide the children. Pa would take

me over to see mama every Sunday morning. We leave soon as I could get

my clean long shirt and a little to eat. We walked four miles. He'd

tote me. She had a girl with her. I never stayed over there much and

the girl never come to my place 'cepting when mama come. They let her

stand on the surrey and Eloweise stand inside when they went to

preaching. She'd ride Master Jenkins' mare home and turn her loose to

come home. Me and papa always walked.



"When freedom come on, the country was tore to pieces. Folks don't

know what hard times is now. Some folks said do one thing for the

best, somebody said do another way. Folks roved around for five or six

years trying to do as well as they had done in slavery. It was years

'fore they got back to it. I was grown 'fore they ever got to doing

well again. My folks got off to Nashville. We lived there by the

hardest--eight in family. We moved to Mississippi bottoms not far from

Meridian. We started picking up. We all got fat as hogs. We farmed and

done well. We got to own forty acres of ground and lost two of the

girls with malaria fever. Then we sold out and come to Helena. We

boys, four of us, farmed, hauled wood, sawmilled, worked on the boats

about till our parents died. They died close to Marion on a farm we

rented. I had two boys. One got drowned. The other helps me out a

heap. He got some little children now and got one grown and married.



"The Ku Klux was hot in Tennessee. They whooped a heap of people. The

main thing was to make the colored folks go to work and not steal, but

it was carpet-baggers stealing and go pack it on colored folks. They'd

tell colored folks not to do this and that and it would get them in

trouble. The Ku Klux would whoop the colored folks. Some colored folks

thought 'cause they was free they ought not work. They got to rambling

and scattered out.



"I voted a long time. The voting has caused trouble all along. I voted

different ways--sometimes Republican and sometimes Independent. I

don't believe women ought to vote somehow. I don't vote. I voted for

Cleveland years ago and I voted for Wilson. I ain't voted since the

last war. I don't believe in war.



"Times have changed so much it is lack living in another world now.

Folks living in too much hurry. They getting too fast. They are

restless. I see a heaps of overbearing folks now. Folks after I got

grown looked so fresh and happy. Young folks look tired, mad, worried

now. They fixes up their face but it still show it. Folks quicker than

they used to be. They acts before they have time to think now. Times

is good for me but I see old folks need things. I see young folks

wasteful--both black and white. White folks setting the pace for us

colored folks. It's mighty fast and mighty hard."





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