Aj Mitchell

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: A.J. Mitchell

419 E. 11th Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 78

Occupation: Garbage hauler

"I was 'bout seven when they surrendered. I can remember when my old

master sold Aunt Susan. She raised me. I seen old master when he was

tryin' to whip old Aunt Susan. She was the cook. She said, 'I ain't

goin' let you whip me' and I heard my sister say next day he done sold

Aunt Susan. I ain't seed her since. I called her ma. My mother died when

I was two years old. She was full Injun. My father was black but his

hair was straight. His face was so black it shined. Looked like it was

greased. My father said he was freeborn and I've seen stripes on his

back look like the veins on back of my hand where they whipped him

tryin' to make him disown his freedom.

"Old Jack Clifton was my master. Yes ma'm, that was his name.

"I 'member when they had those old looms--makin' cloth and old shuttle

to put the thread on. I can see 'em now.

"I can 'member when this used to be a Injun place. I've seen old Injun

mounds. White folks come and run 'em out and give 'em Injun Territory.

"I heered the guns in the war and seed the folks comin' home when the

war broke. They said they was fitin' 'bout freedom, tryin' to free the

people. I 'member when they was fitin' at Marks Mill. I know some of the

people said that was where they was sot free.

"I don't know as I seed any Ku Klux when they was goin' round. Hearin'

'bout 'em scared me. I have a good recollection. I can remember the

first dream I ever had and the first time I whistled. I can remember

when I was two or three years old. Remember when they had a big old

conch shell. Old master would blow it at twelve o'clock for 'em to come


"Old master was good to us but I 'member he had a leather strap and if

we chillun had done anything he'd make us younguns put our head 'tween

his legs and put that strap on us. My goodness! He called me Pat and

called his own son Bug--his own son Junie. We played together. Old

master had nicknames for everybody.

"My first mistress was named Miss Mary but she died. I 'member when old

master married and brought Miss Becky home.

"Marse John (he was old master's oldest son) he used to tote me about in

his saddle bags. He was the overseer.

"I 'member old master's ridin' hoss--a little old bay pony--called him

Hardy. I never remember nobody else bein' on it--that was his ridin'


"Old master had dogs. One was Gus and one named Brute (he was a red bone

hound). And one little dog they called Trigger. Old master's head as

white as cotton.

"I do remember the day they said the people was free--after the war

broke. My father come and got me.

"Now I'm givin' you a true statement. I've been stayin' by myself

twenty-three years. I been here in Pine Bluff--well I jest had got here

when the people was comin' back from that German war.

"My God, we had the finest time when we killed hogs--make sausage. We'd

eat cracklin's--oh, we thought they wasn't nothin' like cracklin's. The

Lord have mercy, there was an old beech tree set there in my master's

yard. You could hear that old tree pop ever' day bout the same time,

bout twelve o'clock. We used to eat beech mass. Good? Yes ma'm! I think

about it often and wonder why it was right in old master's yard.

"I've cast a many a vote. Not a bit of trouble in the world. Hope elect

most all the old officers here in town. I had a brother was a constable

under Squire Gaines. Well of course, Miss, I don't think it's right when

they disfranchised the colored people. I tell you, Miss, I read the

Bible and the Bible says every man has his rights--the poor and the free

and the bound. I got good sense from the time I leaped in this world. I

'member well I used to go and cast my vote just that quick but they got

so they wouldn't let you vote unless you could read.

"I've had 'em to offer me money to vote the Democrat ticket. I told him,

no. I didn't think that was principle. The colored man ain't got no

representive now. Colored men used to be elected to the legislature and

they'd go and sell out. Some of 'em used to vote the Democrat ticket.

God wants every man to have his birthright.

"I tell you one thing they did. This here no fence law was one of the

lowest things they ever did. I don't know what the governor was studyin'

'bout. If they would let the old people raise meat, they wouldn't have

to get so much help from the government. God don't like that, God wants

the people to raise things. I could make a livin' but they won't let me.

"The first thing I remember bout studyin' was Junie, old master's son,

studyin' his book and I heard 'em spell the word 'baker'. That was when

they used the old Blue Back Speller.

"I went to school. I'm goin' tell you as nearly as I can. That was,

madam, let me see, that was in sixty-nine as near as I can come at it.

Miss, I don't know how long I went. My father wouldn't let me. I didn't

know nothin' but work. I weighed cotton ever since I was a little boy. I

always wanted to be weighin'. Looked like it was my gift--weighin'


"I'm a Missionary Baptist preacher. Got a license to preach. You go down

and try to preach without a license and they put you up.

"Madam, you asked me a question I think I can answer with knowledge and

understanding. The young people is goin' too fast. The people is growin'

weaker and wiser. You take my folks--goin' to school but not doin'

anything. I don't think there's much to the younger generation. Don't

think they're doin' much good. I was brought up with what they called

fireside teachin'."

Agatha Babino Al Rosboro facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail