Bert Luster

Oklahoma Writers' Project


[Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]


Age 85 yrs.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I'll be jest frank, I'm not for sho' when I was born, but it was in

1853. Don't know the month, but I was sho' born in 1853 in Watson

County, Tennessee. You see my father was owned by Master Luster and my

mother was owned by Masters Joe and Bill Asterns (father and son). I

can remember when Master Astern moved from Watson County, Tennessee he

brought me and my mother with him to Barnum County Seat, Texas. Master

Astern owned about twelve slaves, and dey was all Astern 'cept Miriah

Elmore's son Jim. He owned 'bout five or six hundred acres of ground,

and de slaves raised and shucked all de corn and picked all de cotton.

De whites folks lived in a big double log house and we slaves lived in

log cabins. Our white folks fed us darkies! We ate nearly ever'thing

dey ate. Dey ate turkey, chickens, ducks, geese, fish and we killed

beef, pork, rabbits and deer. Yes, and possums too. And whenever we

killed beef we tanned the hide and dere was a white man who made shoes

for de white folks and us darkies. I tell you I'm not gonna lie, dem

white folks was good to us darkies. We didn't have no mean overseer.

Master Astern and his son jest told us niggers what to do and we did

it, but 50 miles away dem niggers had a mean overseer, and dey called

him "poor white trash", "old whooser", and sometime "old red neck",

and he would sho' beat 'em turrible iffen dey didn't do jest like he

wanted 'em to.

Seem like I can hear dem "nigger hounds" barking now. You see whenever

a darky would get a permit to go off and wouldn't come back dey would

put de "nigger hounds" on his trail and run dat nigger down.

De white women wove and spin our clothes. You know dey had looms,

spins, and weavers. Us darkies would stay up all night sometime

sep'rating cotton from the seed. When dem old darkies got sleepy dey

would prop their eyes open wid straws.

Sho', we wore very fine clothes for dem days. You know dey dyed the

cloth with poke berries.

We cradled de wheat on pins, caught the grain, carried it to de mill

and had it ground. Sho', I ate biscuits and cornbread too. Keep

telling you dat we ate.

We got de very best of care when we got sick. Don't you let nobody

tell you dem white folks tried to kill out dem darkies 'cause when a

darkey took sick dey would send and git de very best doctors round dat

country. Dey would give us ice water when we got sick. You see we put

up ice in saw dust in winter and when a slave got sick dey give him

ice water, sometimes sage tea and chicken gruel. Dey wanted to keep

dem darkies fat so dey could git top price for 'em. I never saw a

slave sold, but my half brother's white folks let him work and buy


I was about 14, and I milked the cows, packed water, seeded cotton,

churned milk up at de Big House and jest first one chore and den

another. My mother cooked up at de Big House.

Dey was a lot of talk 'bout conjure but I didn't believe in it. Course

dem darkies could do everything to one another, and have one another

scared, but dey couldn't conjure dat overseer and stop him from

beating 'em near to death. Course he didn't flog 'em till dey done


I married my woman, Nannie Wilkerson, 58 years ago. Dat was after

slavery, and I love her, honest to God I does. Course in dem days we

didn't buy no license, we jest got permits from old Master and jumped

over a broom stick and jest got married.

I sho' did hate when de Yanks come 'cause our white folks was good to

us, and jest take us right along to church with 'em. We didn't work on

Sad'days or Christmas.

We raised gardens, truck patches and such for spending change.

I sho' caught hell after dem Yanks come. Befo' de war, you see de

patroller rode all nite but wouldn't bother a darkey iffen he wouldn't

run off. Why dem darkeys would run off I jest couldn't see.

Dose Yanks treated old master and mistress so mean. Dey took all his

hams, chickens, and drove his cattle out of the pasture, but didn't

bother us niggers honest. Dey drove old master Aster off'n his own

plantation and we all hid in de corn field.

My mother took me to Greenville, Texas, 'cause my step-pappy was one

of dem half smart niggers round dere trying to preach and de Ku Klux

Klan beat him half to death.

Dere was some white folks who would take us to church wid 'em--dis dis

[TR: sic] was aftah the war now--and one night we was all sitting up

thar and one old woman with one leg was dah and when dem Klans shot in

amongst us niggers and white folks aunt Mandy beat all of us home. Yes


My first two teachers was two white men, and dem Klans shot in de

hotel what dey lived in, but dey had school for us niggers jest de

same. After dat, dose Klans got so bad Uncle Sam sent soljers down

dere to keep peace.

After de soljers come and run de Klans out we worked hard dat fall and

made good crops. 'Bout three years later I came to Indian Territory in

search of educating my kids.

I landed here 46 years ago on a farm not far from now Oklahoma City. I

got to be a prosperous farmer. My bale of cotton amongst 5,000 bales

won the blue ribbon at Guthrie, Oklahoma, and dat bale of cotton and

being a good democrat won for me a good job as a clerk on the

Agriculture Board at the State Capitol. All de white folks liked me

and still like me and called me "cotton king."

I have jest three chillun living. Walter is parcel post clerk here at

de post office downtown. Delia Jenkins, my daughter is a housewife and

Cleo Luckett, my other daughter, a common laborer.

Have been a christian 20 years. Jest got sorry for my wicked ways. I

am a member of the Church of God. My wife is a member of the Church of

Christ. I'm a good democrat and she is a good republican.

My fav'rite songs is: "Dark Was the Nite, and Cold the Ground" and

"Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray."

I'm glad slavery is over, but I don't think dem white folks was

fighting to free us niggers. God freed us. Of course, Abraham Lincoln

was a pretty fine man. Don't know much about Jeff Davis. Never seen

him. Yes, and Booker T. Washington. He was one of the Negro leaders.

The first Negro to represent the Negroes in Washington. He was a great


During slavery time never heerd of a cullud man committing 'sault on a

white woman. The white and cullud all went to church together too.

Niggers and white shouted alike.

I remember some of the little games we played now: "Fox in the wall",

"Mollie, Mollie Bride", and "Hide and go seek."

Bert Higgins Bert Mayfield facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail