Ben Parr

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Ben Parr, Brinkley, Arkansas

Age: 85 next March (1938)

"I was born in Tennessee close to Ripley. My master was Charles Warpoo

and Catherine Warpoo. They had three boys and two girls. They owned my

mama and me and Gentry was the oldest child. He died last year. My mama

raised twelve children. My papa belong to people over on the Mississippi

River. Their name was Parr but I couldn't tell a thing about them. When

I come to know about them was after freedom. There was Jim Parr, Dick

Parr, Columbus Parr. We lived on their place. Both my parents was farm

hands, and all twelve children wid them.

"Well, the first I recollect is that we lived on the five acre lot, the

big house, and some of the slaves lived in houses around the big yard

all fenced with pailings and nice pickett fence in front of Charlie

Warpoo's house. We played around under the trees all day. The soldiers

come nearly every day and nearly et us out of house and home. The blue

coats seemed the hungriest or greediest pear lack. They both come.

Master didn't go to war; his boys was too young to go, so we was all at

home. My papa shunned the war. He said he didn't give a pickayune

whether he be free or not, it wouldn't do no good if he be dead nohow.

He didn't live with us doe (though). They kept papa pretty well hid out

with stock in the Mississippi River bottoms. He wasn't scared ceptin'

when he come over to see my mama and us. When we come to know anything

we was free.

"I never seen nobody sold. None of my folks was sold. The folks raised

my mama and they didn't want her to leave. The folks raised papa what

had him at freedom. He said him and mama was married long before the war

sprung up. I don't know how they married nor where. She was young when

they married.

"I remember hearing mama say when you went to preaching you sit in the

back of the church and sit still till the preaching was all over. They

had no leaving.

"I know when I was a child people raised children, now they let them

grow up. Children was sent off or out to play, not sit and listen to

what grown folks had to say. Now the children is educated and too smart

to listen to good advice. They are going to ruination. Mama used to have

our girls knit at night and she spin, weave, sew. They would tell us how

to be polite and honest and how to work. Young folks too smart to take

advice now.

"Mama was cooking at the Warpoo's house; she cooked breakfast. One

morning I woke up and here was a yard full of 'Feds.' I was hungry. I

went through the whole regiment--a yard full--to mama hard as I could

split. They didn't bother me. I was afraid they would carry me off

sometimes. They was great hands to tease and worry the little Negro


"Over at Dyersburg, Tennessee the Ku Klux was bad. Jefferie Segress was

pretty prosperous, owned his own home. John Carson whooped him, cut his

ear off, treated him bad. High Sheriff they said was a 'Fed.' He put

twenty-four buck shots in John Carson. That was the last of the Ku Klux

at Dyersburg. The Negroes all left Dyersburg. They kept leaving. The

'Feds' was meaner to them than the owners. In 1886, three weeks before

Christmas, one hundred head of Negroes got off the train here at

Brinkley. The Ku Klux was the tail end of the war, whooping around. It

was a fight between the 'Feds' and the old owners--both sides telling

the Negroes what to do. The best way was stay at home and work to keep

out of trouble.

"The bushwhackers killed Raymond Jones (black man) before the war

closed. Well, I don't know what they ambushed for.

"I paid my own way to Arkansas. I brought my wife. Mama was dead.

"If the Negro is a taxpayer he ought to vote like white folks. But they

can't run the government. That was tried out after that war we been

talking about. Our color has faith in white folks and this is their

country. I vote some. We got a good right to vote. We helped clear out

the country. It is our home now.

"The present times is too fast. I can't place this young generation.

"This is my second wife I'm living wid now. She's got children. I never

had a child. We gets $10 off of the Welfare and I work around at pick-up

jobs. I farmed all my whole life."

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