Bess Mathis

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Bess Mathis, Hazen, Arkansas

Age: 82

"I was born in De Sota County, Mississippi. My parents' owners was Mars

Hancock. Mama was a cook and field hand. Papa milked and worked in the

field. Mama had jes' one child, that me. I had six childern. I got five

livin'. They knowed they free. It went round from mouth to mouth. Mama

said Mars Hancock was good er slave holder as ever lived she recken. I

heard her come over that er good many times. But they wanted to be free.

I jes' heard em talk bout the Ku Klux. They said the Ku Klux made lot of

em roamin' round go get a place to live and start workin'. They tell how

they would ride at night and how scarry lookin' they was. I heard em say

if Mars Hancock didn't want to give em meat they got tree a coon or

possum. Cut the tree down or climb it and then come home and cook it.

They had no guns. They had dogs or could get one. Game helps out lots.

"The women chewed for their children after they weaned em. They don't

none of em do that way now. Women wouldn't cut the baby's finger nails.

They bite em off. They said if you cut its nails off he would steal.

They bite its toe nails off, too. And if they wanted the children to

have long pretty hair, they would trim the ends off on the new of the

moon. That would cause the hair to grow long. White folks and darkies

both done them things.

"I been doin' whatever come to hand--farmin', cookin', washin', ironin'.

"I never expects to vote neither. I sure ain't voted.

"Conditions pretty bad sometimes. I don't know what cause it. You got

beyond me now. I don't know what going become of the young folks, and

they ain't studyin' it. They ain't kind. Got no raisin' I call it. I

tried to raise em to work and behave. They work some. My son is takin'

care of me now."

Bert Mayfield Bessie Lawsom facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail