Allen Johnson

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Allen Johnson

718 Arch Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: About 82

"I was born in Georgia about twelve miles from Cartersville, in Cass

County, and about the same distance from Cassville. I was a boy about

eight or nine years old when I come from there. But I have a very good

memory. Then I have seed the distance and everything in the Geography.

My folks were dead long ago now. My oldest brother is dead too. He was

just large enough to go to the mills. In them times, they had mills.

They would fix him on the horse and he would go ahead.

"My father's name was Clem Johnson, and my mother's name was Mandy.

Her madam's name I don't know. I was small. I remember my grandma.

She's dead long long ago. Long time ago! I think her name was Rachel.

Yes, I'm positive it was Rachel. That is what I believe. I was a

little bitty fellow then. I think she was my mother's mother. I know

one of my mother's sisters. Her name was Lucinda. I don't know how

many she had nor nothin'.

"Johnsons was the name of the masters my mother and father had. They

go by the name of Johnson yet. Before that I don't know who they had

for masters. The pastor's name was Lindsay Johnson and the old missis

was Mary Johnson. People long time ago used to send boys big enough to

ride to the mill. My brother used to go. It ran by water-power. They

had a big mill pond. They dammed that up. When they'd get ready to run

the mill, they'd open that dam and it would turn the wheel. My oldest

brother went to the mill and played with old master's son and me.

"They used to throw balls over the house and see which could catch

them first. There would be three or four on a side of the house and

they would throw the ball over the house to see which side would be

quickest and aptest.

"My mother and father both belonged to the same man, Lindsay Johnson.

I was a small boy. I can't tell you how he was to his folks. Seems

like though he was pretty good to us. Seemed like he was a pretty good

master. He didn't overwork his niggers. He didn't beat and 'buse them.

He gave them plenty to eat and drink. You see the better a Negro

looked and the finer he was the more money he would bring if they

wanted to sell them. I have heard my mother and father talk about it

plenty of times.

"My father worked in the field during slavery. My mother didn't do

much of no kind of work much. She was a woman that had lots of

children to take care of. She had four children during slavery and

twelve altogether. Her children were all small when freedom was

declared. My oldest brother, I don't remember much about slavery

except playing 'round with him and with the other little boys, the

white boys and the nigger boys. They were very nice to me.

"I was a great big boy when I heard them talking about the pateroles

catching them or whipping them. At that time when they would go off

they would have to have a pass. When they went off if they didn't have

a pass they would whip and report them to their owners. And they would

be likely to get another brushing from the owners. The pateroles never

bothered the children any. The children couldn't go anywhere without

the consent of the mother and father. And there wasn't any danger of

them running off. If they caught a little child between plantations,

they would probably just run them home. It was all right for a child

to go in the different quarters and play with one another during

daytime just so they got back before night. I was a small boy but I

have very good recollections about these things. I couldn't tell you

whether the pateroles ever bothered my father or not. Never heard him

say. But he was a careful man and he always knew the best time and way

to go and come. Them old fellows had a way to git by as well as we do


"They fed the slaves about what they wanted to. They would give them

meat and flour and meal. I used to hear my father say the old boss fed

him well. Then again they would have hog killln' time 'long about

Christmas. The heads, lights, chittlings and fats would be given to

the slaves. 'Course I didn't know much about that only what I heard

from the old folks talking about it. They lived in the way of eating,

I suppose, better than they do now. Had no expense whatever.

"As to amusements, I'll tell you I don't know. They'd have little

dances about like they do now. And they give quiltings and they'd have

a ring play. My mother never knew anything about dances and fiddling

and such things; she was a Christian. They had churches you know. My

white folks didn't object to the niggers goin' to meetin'. 'Course

they had to have a pass to go anywhere. If they didn't they'd git a

brushin' from the pateroles if they got caught and the masters were

likely to give them another light brushin' when they got home.

"I think that was a pretty good system. They gave a pass to those that

were allowed to be out and the ones that were supposed to be out were

protected. Of course, now you are your own free agent and you can go

and come as you please. Now the police take the place of the

pateroles. If they find you out at the wrong time and place they are

likely to ask you about it.

"A slave was supposed to pick a certain amount of cotton I have heard.

They had tasks. But we didn't pick cotton. Way back in Georgia that

ain't no cotton country. Wheat, corn, potatoes, and things like that.

But in Louisiana and Mississippi, there was plenty of cotton. Arkansas

wasn't much of a cotton state itself. It was called a 'Hoojer' state

when I was a boy. That is a reference to the poor white man. He was a

'Hoojer'. He wasn't rich enough to own no slaves and they called him a


"The owners would hire them to take care of the niggers and as

overseers and pateroles. They was hired and paid a little salary jus'

like the police is now. If we didn't have killing and murderin', there

wouldn't be no need for the police. The scoundrel who robs and kills

folks ought to be highly prosecuted.

"I reckon I was along eight or nine years old when freedom came. My

oldest brother was twelve, and I was next to him. I must have been

eight or nine--or maybe ten.

"My occupation since freedom has been farming and doing a little job

work--anything I could git. Work by the day for mechanic and one thing

and another. I know nothin' about no trade 'ceptin' what I have picked

up. Never took no contracts 'ceptin' for building a fence or somethin'

small like that. Mechanic's work I suppose calls for license."

Alice Rivers Allen V Manning facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail