Ambus Gray

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Ambus Gray

R.F.D. #1. Biscoe, Arkansas

Age: 80

"I was ten year old when the Civil War come on. I was born Tallapoosy

County, Alabama. I belong to Jim Gray. I recollect the paddyrollers. I

don't recollect the Ku Klux Klan. There was twelve boys and two girls in

our family in time. I was among the older set.

"Bout all I remembers bout slavery was how hard the hands had to work.

We sho did haf to work! When we wasn't clerin new ground and rollin pine

logs an burnin brush we was er buildin fences and shuckin an shellin

corn. Woman you don't know nufin bout work! We cler new groun all day

den burn brush and pile logs at nite. We build fences all day and kill

hogs and shuck corn dat night. No use to say word bout bein tired. Never

heard nobody complainin. They went right on singin or whislin'. Started

out plowin and drappin corn then plantin' cotton. Choppin' time come on

then pullin' fodder and layin' by time be on. Be bout big meetin time

and bout fo that or was over everybody was dun in the cotton field till

dun cold weather. I remembers how they sho did work.

"Both my parents was field hands. They stayed on two years after the war

was over. Jim Gray raised red hogs and red corn, whooper-will peas. He

kept a whole heap of goats and a flock of sheep.

"We didn't see no real hard times after the war. We went to Georgia to

work on Armstrongs farm. We didn't stay there long. We went to Atlanta

and met a fellar huntin' hands down at Sardis, Mississippi. We come on

there. Rob Richardson brought the family out here. I been here round

Biscoe 58 years when it was sho nuf swamps and woods.

"I don't think the Ku Klux ever got after any us but I seen em, I

recken. I don't know but mighty little. The paddyrollers is what I

dreaded. Sometime the overseer was a paddyroller. My folks didn't go to

war. We didn't know what the war was for till it had been going on a

year or so. The news got circulated round the North was fighting to give

the black man freedom. Some of em thought they said that so they'd

follow and get in the lines, help out. Some did go long, some didn't

want to go get killed. Nobody never got nuthin, didn't know much when it

was freedom. I didn't see much difference for a year or more. We

gradually quit gettin' provisions up at the house and had to take a

wagon and team and go buy what we had. We didn't have near as much.

Money then like it is now, it don't buy much. It made one difference.

You could change places and work for different men. They had overseers

just the same as they did in slavery.

"The Reconstruction time was like this. You go up to a man and tell him

you and your family want to hire fer next year on his place. He say I'm

broke, the war broke me. Move down there in the best empty house you

find. You can get your provisions furnished at certain little store in

the closest town about. You say yesser. When the crop made bout all you

got was a little money to take to give the man what run you and you

have to stay on or starve or go get somebody else let you share crop wid

them. As the time come on the black man gets to handle a little mo

silver and greenbacks than he used to. Slaves didn't hardly ever handle

any money long as he live. He never buy nothin, he have no use for

money. White folks burried money durin the war. Some of them had a heap

of money.

"I have voted but I don't keep up wid it no mo. It been a long time

since I voted. This is the white folks country an they goiner run it

theirselves. No usen me vote. No use the women votin as I see it. Jes

makes mo votes to count. The rich white man is goiner run the country


"I farmed all my life. I been here in Biscoe fifty-eight years. I worked

for Richardson, Biscoe, Peeples, Nail. I owned a home, paid $150 for it.

I made it in three years when we had good crops.

"Times are harder now than I ever seen em here. If you have a hog you

have to pen it up and buy feed. If you have a cow, when the grass die,

she is to feed. If you have chickens there ain't no use talkin, they

starve if you don't feed em. No money to buy em wid an no money to buy

feed for em. Times is hard. Durin the cotton boom times do fine (cotton

picking time). The young folks is happy. They ain't got no thought of

the future. Mighty hard to make young folks think they ever get old.

Theys lookin at right now. Havin em a good time while they young."

Ambrose Douglass Amelia Jones facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail