Bert Higgins

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Bert Higgins

611 Missouri Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 88

"I was born in slavery times. I was thirteen when peace declared. I was

workin' in the field.

"No ma'am, I wasn't born in Arkansas. I was born in Macon, Mississippi.

"Marcus Higgins was my old master. He was good to me. He treated me all


"He had a good big plantation--had two plantations. One in North

Carolina and one in Mississippi.

"Sold? Yes'm, I was put up on the block, but they couldn't quite make

it. Had six of us--boys and girls--and he sold one or two I 'member. But

that's been a long time.

"Yes'm, I can 'member when I was a boy in slavery. Run off too. Old

master ketch me and switch me. Look like the switch would sting so.

'Member the last switchin' I got. Dr. Henderson--I think he was old

master's son-in-law. Me? Well, he whipped me 'cause I'd steal his eggs.

I don't reckon I would a been so bad but I was raised up a motherless

child. My mother died and my stepmother died.

"I can 'member pretty well way back there.

"He'd send me off on a mule to carry the mail to his people around. And

I used to tote water. He had a heap a darkies.

"I could do very well now if I could see and if I wasn't so crippled up.

I was a hard worker.

"We had a plenty to eat and plenty to wear in slavery times.

"Old master would whip me if I went any further than the orchard. If I

did happen to go outside the field, I come in 'fore night. But I hardly

ever went outside. Sometimes I run off and when I come back to the

house, he'd give me a breshin'.

"I seen the Yankees durin' of the War. I run from 'em and hid. I thought

they was tryin' to carry me off. White folks never did tell me nothin'.

They'd come in and throw things outdoors and destroy 'em--old master's

provisions. And they'd take things to eat too.

"My father belonged to Marcus Higgins when I first could remember.

"After freedom we stayed there till I was grown. I don't never 'member

him payin' me, but I got somethin' to eat and a place to stay.

"I never went to school; I had to work. I farmed all my life till I come

to the city of Pine Bluff. I worked here 'bout thirty years.

"I've always been well treated by my white folks. I never sassed a white

person in my life as I remember of--never did. I think that's the reason

I was so well took care of 'cause I never sassed 'em. I've always tried

to do what was right.

"I think these here government people have treated us mighty well. They

have give us money and other things.

"When we got free old master read it to us out of the paper. We was out

in the field and I was totin' water. Some of 'em struck work and went to

the house and set around a while but they soon went back to the field.

And a few days after that he hired 'em.

"Old master was good. He'd let you stop and rest. He hired a overseer

but he didn't do no work. The time run out 'fore he got started.

"I think this younger generation is havin' a heap harder time than the

old folks did. Their disbehavior and the way they carry theirselves

now'days. So many of 'em will pick up things don't belong to 'em.

"I don't believe in these here superstitions. I tried carryin' a rabbit

foot and I know it never brought me no good luck. If you serve the Lord

and try to live right, pray and serve the Lord, and whatever you need

you'll get it."

Berry Clay Bert Luster facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail