Bob Benford

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Bob Benford

209 N. Maple Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 79

"Slavery-time folks? Here's one of em. Near as I can get at it, I'se

seventy-nine. I was born in Alabama. My white folks said I come from

Perry County, Alabama, but I come here to this Arkansas country when I

was small.

"My old master was Jim Ad Benford. He was good to us. I'm goin' to tell

you we was better off then than now. Yes ma'am, they treated us right.

We didn't have to worry bout payin' the doctor and had plenty to eat.

"I recollect the shoemaker come and measured my feet and directly he'd

bring me old red russet shoes. I thought they was the prettiest things I

ever saw in my life.

"Old mistress would say, 'Come on here, you little niggers' and she'd

sprinkle sugar on the meat block and we'd just lick sugar.

"I remember the soldiers good, had on blue suits with brass buttons.

"I'se big enough to ride old master's hoss to water. He'd say, 'Now,

Bob, don't you run that hoss' but when I got out of sight, I was bound

to run that hoss a little.

"I didn't have to work, just stayed in the house with my mammy. She was

a seamstress. I'm tellin' you the truth now. I can tell it at night as

well as daytime.

"We lived in Union County. Old master had a lot of hands. Old mistress'

name was Miss Sallie Benford. She just as good as she could be. She'd

come out to the quarters to see how we was gettin' along. I'd be so glad

when Christmas come. We'd have hog killin' and I'd get the bladders and

blow em up to make noise--you know. Yes, lady, we'd have a time.

"I recollect when Marse Jim broke up and went to Texas. Stayed there

bout a year and come back. [HW: migration?]

"When the war was over I recollect they said we was free but I didn't

know what that meant. I was always free.

"After freedom mammy stayed there on the place and worked on the shares.

I don't know nothin' bout my father. They said he was a white man.

"I remember I was out in the field with mammy and had a old mule. I

punched him with a stick and he come back with them hoofs and kicked me

right in the jaw--knocked me dead. Lord, lady, I had to eat mush till I

don't like mush today. That was old Mose--he was a saddle mule.

"Me? I ain't been to school a day in my life. If I had a chance to go I

didn't know it. I had to help mammy work. I recollect one time when she

was sick I got into a fight and she cried and said, 'That's the way you

does my child' and I know she died next week.

"After that I worked here and there. I remember the first run I worked

for was Kinch McKinney of El Dorado.

"I remember when I was just learnin' to plow, old mule knew five hundred

times more than I did. He was graduated and he learnt me.

"I made fifty-seven crops in my lifetime. Me and Hance Chapman--he was

my witness when I married--we made four bales that year. That was in

1879. His father got two bales and Hance and me got two. I made money

every year. Yes ma'am, I have made some money in my day. When I moved

from Louisiana to Arkansas I sold one hundred eighty acres of land and

three hundred head of hogs. I come up here cause my chillun was here and

my wife wanted to come here. You know how people will stroll when they

get grown. Lost everything I had. Bought a little farm here and they

wouldn't let me raise but two acres of cotton the last year I farmed and

I couldn't make my payments with that. Made me plow up some of the

prettiest cotton I ever saw and I never got a cent for it.

"Lady, nobody don't know how old people is treated nowdays. But I'm

livin' and I thank the Lord. I'm so glad the Lord sent you here, lady. I

been once a man and twice a child. You know when you're tellin' the

truth, you can tell it all the time.

"Klu Klux? The Lord have mercy! In '74 and '75 saw em but never was

bothered by a white man in my life. Never been arrested and never had a

lawsuit in my life. I can go down here and talk to these officers any


"Yes ma'am, I used to vote. Never had no trouble. I don't know what

ticket I voted. We just voted for the man we wanted. Used to have

colored men on the grand jury--half and half--and then got down to one

and then knocked em all out.

"I never done no public work in my life but when you said farmin' you

hit me then.

"Nother thing I never done. I bought two counterpins once in my life on

the stallments and ain't never bought nothin' since that way. Yes ma'am,

I got a bait of that stallment buying. That's been forty years ago.

"I know one time when I was livin' in Louisiana, we had a teacher named

Arvin Nichols. He taught there seventeen years and one time he passed

some white ladies and tipped his hat and went on and fore sundown they

had him arrested. Some of the white men who knew him went to court and

said what had he done, and they cleared him right away. That was in the

'80's in Marion, Louisiana, in Union Parish."

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