Anthony Taylor

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Anthony Taylor

2424 W. Ninth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 68, or 78?

"I was born in Clark County adjoining Hot Spring County, between Malvern

and Arkadelphia. Clark County was named after old man General Clark. He

was worth four or five thousand acres of land.

"My father's name was Anthony McClellan. Why they called me Anthony

Taylor was my stepfather was named Taylor. My mother's name was Lettie

Sunnaville. My mother has been dead thirty or forty years and my father

died six months before I was born. He died a natural death. Sickness. He

was exposed and died of pneumonia.

"Fayette Sunnaville was my grandfather on my mother's side. That was

my mother's father. Rachel Sunnaville was my mother's mother's name. I

don't know the names of my father's people. They was sole[HW:?]

in slavery. But it is been so far back; I don't remember nothing, and I

don't know whether they would or not if they was living.

"We stayed on the old plantation for seven or eight years before we had

sense enough or knowed enough to get away from there and git something

for ourselves. That is how I come to raise such big potatoes. I been

raising them fifty years. These are hill potatoes. You have to know how

to raise potatoes to grow 'em this big. (He showed me some potatoes,

sweet, weighing about seven pounds--ed.)

"I have heard my mother and my grandfather tell lots of stories about

slavery. I can't remember them.

"Old man Bullocks had about eight or ten families that I knew about.

Those were the families that lived right near us in the quarters. I

didn't say eight or ten hands--I said eight or ten families. Them was

the ones that was right near us. We was awful small after freedom but

them what was with him stayed with him quite a while--stayed with the

old master. He would pay them so much after freedom come.

"Lawd. I could tell you things about slavery. But I'm forgitful and I

can't do it all at once. He had the whole county from Arkadelphia clean

down to Princeton and Tulip--our old mars did. Lonoke was between

Princeton and Tulip. Princeton was the county-seat. He must have had a

large number of slaves. Those ten families I knew was just those close

'round us. Most of the farm was fur pine country land. There

would be thirty or forty acres over here of cultivation and then thirty

or forty acres over there of woods and so on. He had more land than

anybody else but it wasn't all under cultivation.

"He's been dead now twenty or thirty years. I don't know that he was

mean to his slaves. If he had been, they wouldn't have gone on after

freedom. They would have moved out. You see, they didn't care for

nothing but a little something to eat and a fine dress and they would

have gone on to somebody else and got that.

"Wasn't no law then. He was the law. I worked all day long for ten cents

a day. They would allowance you so many pounds of meat, so much meal, so

much molasses. I have worked all day for ten cents and then gone out at

night to get a few potatoes. I have pulled potatoes all day for a peck

of meal and I was happy at that. I never did know what the price of

cotton was.

"Where we was, the Ku Klux never did bother anybody. All there was,

every time we went out we had to have a pass.

"My grandfather and grandmother were both whipped sometimes. I don't

know the man that whipped them. I don't know whether it was the agent or

the owner or who, but they were whipped. Lots of times they had work to

do and didn't do it. Naturally they whipped them for it. That was what

they whipped my grandparents for. Sometimes too, they would go off and

wouldn't let the white folks know where they was going. Sometimes they

would neglect to feed the horses or to milk the cows--something like

that. That was the only reason I ever heard of for punishing them.

"I heard that if the boss man wanted to be with women that they had, the

women would be scared not to be with him for fear he would whip them.

And when they started whipping them for that they kept on till they got

what they wanted. They would take them 'way off and have dealings with

them. That is where so much of that yellow and half-white comes from.

"There was some one going through telling the people that they was free

and that they was their own boss. But yet and still, there's lots of

them never did leave the man they was with and lots of them left. There

was lots of white people that wouldn't let a nigger tell their niggers

that they was free, because they wanted to keep them blind to that for

years. Kept them for three or four years anyway. Them that Bullocks

liked was crazy about him. He would give them a show--so much a month

and their keeps. I don't remember exactly how much it was but it was

neighborhood price. He was a pretty good man. Of course, you never seen

a white man that wouldn't cheat a little.

"He'd cheat you out of a little cotton. He would have the cotton carried

to the gin. He would take half the corn and give us five or six shoats.

After he got the cotton all picked and sold, the cotton it would all go

to him for what you owed him for furnishing you. You never saw how much

cotton was ginned, nor how much he got for it, nor how much it was worth

nor nothing. They would just tell you you wasn't due nothing. They did

that to hold you for another year. You got nothing to move on so you

stay there and take what he gives you.

"Of all the crying you ever heard, one morning we'd got up and the pigs

and hogs in the lot that we had fattened to go on that winter, he was

catching them. After we'd done fattened them with the corn that was

our share, he took 'em and sold 'em. We didn't even know we owed him

anything. We thought the crops had done settled things. Nobody told us

nothin'. All we children cried. The old man and the old woman didn't say

nothing, because they was scared. My mother would get up and go down and

milk the cows and what she'd get for the milking would maybe be a bucket

of buttermilk.

"We'd have a spoonful of black molasses and corn bread and buttermilk

for breakfast. We got flour bread once a week. We would work hard all

the week talkin' 'bout what good biscuits we'd have Sunday morning. Sack

of flour would last two or three months because we wouldn't cook flour

bread only once a week--Saturday night or Sunday morning.

"We had no skillet at that time. We would rake the fireplace and push

the ashes back and then you would put the cake down on the hearth or on

a piece of paper or a leaf and then pull the ashes over the cake to cook

it. Just like you roast a sweet potato. Then when it got done, you would

rake the ashes back and wash the cake and you would eat it. Sometimes

you would strike a little grit or gravel in it and break your teeth. But

then I'm tellin' you the truth about it.

"When our hogs was taken that time, we didn't have nothing to go on that

winter. They would compel us to stay. They would allowance us some meat

and make us split rails and clear up land for it. It was a cinch if he

didn't give it to you you couldn't get nothin'. Wasn't no way to get

nothing. Then when crop time rolled 'round again they would take it all

out of your crops. Make you split rails and wood to earn your meat and

then charge it up to your crop anyhow. But you couldn't do nothin' 'bout


"Sometimes a barrel of molasses would set up in the smokehouse and turn

to sugar. You goin' hungry and molasses wastin'. They was determined not

to give you too much of it.

"I made my way by farming. After I got to be some size, I started at it.

I farmed all my life. While I could work, things was pretty good. Wisht

I was on a farm now. Even when I'm 'round here sick, I can git these

potatoes raised with a little help from the neighbors.

"I don't belong to church. I oughter, but I don't. Then again, I figure

that a man can be just as good out of it as he can in it. I've got good

desires, but I never confessed to the public.

"I have had three hundred dollars worth of stuff stolen from me.

Everything I produced is stolen from me because I have no way to protect

myself. What I raise if I don't get shet of it right away, the people

get shet of it for me. I had eighty head of chickens in the barn out

there runnin' 'round. When I got sick and was in the bed and couldn't

help myself, the chickens went. In the daytime, they would fix traps and

jerk a string and pull a board down on them and then go out in the weeds

and get them. I never reported nothin' to the police. I wasn't able to

report nothing. I was just batching, and now and then people would come

in and report them to me. They would wait till they saw somebody come

in and when they saw that I was talking and wouldn't notice them, they

would steal anything they wanted. The police came by here and ran them

once. But that didn't do no good.

"Once somebody stole an automatic shotgun. They stole a colt one time.

They stole all my clothes and pawned them to a whiskey dealer. He got

sent to the pen for selling whiskey, but I didn't get my clothes.

They come in the yard and steal my potatoes, collards, turnips, ochre

(okra?), and so on. I lay there in the bed and see them, but I can't

stop them. All I can do is to holler, 'You better go on and let them

things alone.' Ever since the last war, I haven't been able to work. I

am bare-feeted and naked now on account of not bein' able to support


"I just come out of the hospital. I been too sick even to work in my

garden. After I come home I taken a backset[TR: ?] but I am still

staying here. I am just here on the mercies of the people. I don't

get nothing but what the people give me. I don't get no moddities nor

nothin' from the Government.

"I ain't never been able to get no help from the Government. Long time

ago, I went down to the place and asked for help and they told me that

since I was alone, I oughta be able to help myself. They gimme a ticket

for twenty meals and told me by the time I ate them up, they might have

something else they could do for me. I told them I couldn't go back and

forth to git the meals. I have the ticket now. I couldn't git to the

place to use it none, so I keep it for a keepsake. It is 'round here

somewheres or other. I was past the pension age. I ain't been able to do

no steady work since the war. I was too old for the war--the World War."

Interviewer's Comment [HW: omit]

The spelling of the name Sunnaville is phonetic. I don't recognize the

name and he couldn't spell it of course.

When I called, he had potatoes that weighed at least seven pounds. They

were laid out on the porch for sale. He had a small patch in his yard

which he cultivated, and had gotten about ten bushels from it.

His account of slavery times is so vivid that you would consider his age

nearer eighty than sixty-eight. A little questioning reveals that he

has no idea of his age although he readily gives it as sixty-eight--a

memorized figure.

Anthony Ransome Arey Lamar facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail