Campbell Armstrong Interviewed By Samuel S Taylor

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Campbell Armstrong

802 Schiller Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 86

[HW: Boys liked corn shuckings]

"I couldn't tell you when I was born. I was born a good while before

freedom. I was a boy about ten years old in the time of the Civil War.

That would make me about eighty-five or six years old.

"My father's name was Cy Armstrong. My mother's name was Gracie

Armstrong. I don't know the names of my grandparents. They was gone when

I got here. My sister died right there in the corner of the next room.

House and Furniture

"I used to live in an old log house. Take dirt and dob the cracks. The

floors were these here planks. We had two windows and one door. That was

in Georgia, in Houston County, on old Dempsey Brown's place. I know

him--know who dug his grave.

"They had beds nailed up to the side of the house. People had a terrible

time you know. White folks had it all. When I come along they had it and

they had it ever since I been here. You didn't have no chance like folks

have nowadays. Just made benches and stools to sit on. Made tables out

of planks. I never saw any cupboards and things like that. Them things

wasn't thought about then. The house was like a stable then. But them

log houses was better than these 'cause the wind couldn't get through


Work as a Boy

"I wasn't doin' nothin' but totin' water. I toted water for a whole year

when I was a boy about eight years old. I was the water boy for the

field hands. Later I worked out in the fields myself. They would make me

sit on my mammy's row to help keep her up.

Free Negroes

"You better not say you were free them days. If you did, they'd tell you

to get out of there. You better not stop on this side of the Mason Dixie

Line either. You better stop on the other side. Whenever a nigger got so

he couldn't mind, they'd take him down and whip him. They'd whip the

free niggers just the same as they did the slaves.


"You see that broom there? They just lay that broom down and step over

it. That was all the marriage they knowed about.

Corn Shuckings

"The boys used to just get down and raise a holler and shuck that corn.

Man, they had fun! They sure liked to go to those corn shuckings. They

danced and went on. They'd give 'em whiskey too. That's all I know about



"They'd weigh the stuff out and give it to you and you better not go

back. They'd give you three pounds of meat and a quart of meal and

molasses when they'd make it. Sometimes they would take a notion to give

you something like flour. But you had to take what they give you. They

give out the rations every Saturday. That was to last you a week.


"I was at a ball one night. They had fence rails in the fire. Patroller

knocked at the door, stepped in and closed it behind him. Nigger pulled

a rail out of the fire and stuck it 'gainst the patroller and that

patroller stepped aside and let that nigger get by. Niggers used to tie

ropes across the road so that the patrollers' horses would trip up.


"I never seed any mulattoes then. That thing is something that just come

up. Old Dempsey Brown, if he seed a white man goin' 'round with the

nigger women on his place, he run him away from there. But that's gwine

on in the full now.

"That ought not to be. If God had wanted them people to mix, he'd have

mixed 'em. God made 'em red and white and black. And I'm goin' to stay

black. I ain't climbed the fence yet and I won't climb it now. I don't

know. I don't believe in that. If you are white be white, and if you are

black be black. Children need to go out and play but these boys ought

not to be 'lowed to run after these girls.


"Your overseer carried their straps with them. They had 'em with 'em all

the time. Just like them white folks do down to the County Farm. Used to

use a man just like he was a beast. They'd make him lay down on the

ground and whip him. They'd had to shoot me down. That is the reason I

tend to my business. If he wouldn't lay down they'd call for help and

strap him down and stretch him out. Put one man on one arm and another

on the other. They'd pull his clothes down and whip the blood out of

him. Them people didn't care what they done since they didn't do right.


"When I first heard them talking about freedom, I didn't know what

freedom was. I was there standin' right up and looking at 'em when they

told us we was free. And master said, 'You all free now. You can go

where you want to.'

"They never give you a thing when they freed you. They give you some

work to do. They never looked for nothin' only to go to work. The white

folks always had the best of it.

"When Abe Lincoln first freed 'em, they all stood together. If this one

was ill the others went over and sit up with him. If he needed something

they'd carry it to him. They don't do that now. They done well then. As

soon as they quit standing together then they had trouble.

Wages Then

"Fellow said to me, 'Campbell, I want you to split up them blocks and

pile 'em up for me.' I said, 'What you goin' to pay me?' He said, 'I'll

pay you what is right.' I said, 'That won't do; you have to tell me what

you goin' to give me before I start to work.' And he said to me, 'You

can git to hell out of here.'

Selling and Buying Slaves

"They'd put you up on the block and sell you. That is just what they'd

do--sell you. These white folks will do anything,--anything they want to

do. They'd take your clothes off just like you was some kind of a beast.

"You used to be worth a thousand dollars then, but you're not worth two

bits now. You ain't worth nothin' when you're free.

Refugees--Jeff Davis

"They used to come to my place in droves. Wagons would start coming in

in the morning and they wouldn't stop coming in till two or three in the

evening. They'd just be travelin' to keep out the way of the Yankees.

They caught old Jeff Davis over in Twiggs County. That's in Georgia.

Caught him in Buzzard's Roost. That was only about four or five miles

from where I was. I was right down yonder in Houston County. Twigg

County and Houston County is adjoinin'. I never saw any of the soldiers

but they was following them though.


"I have seen plenty of niggers voting. I wasn't old enough to vote in

Georgia. I come in Arkansas and I found out how the folks used

themselves and I come out that business. They was selling themselves

just like cattle and I wouldn't have nothing to do with that.

"I knew Jerry Lawson, who was Justice of Peace. He was a nigger, a

low-down devil. Man, them niggers done more dirt in this city. The

Republicans had this city and state. I went to the polls and there was

very few white folks there. I knew several of them niggers--Mack

Armstrong, he was Justice of Peace. I can't call the rest of them.

Nothing but old thieves. If they had been people, they'd been honest.

Wouldn't sell their brother. It is bad yet. They still stealin' yet.

Ku Klux

"That's another devil. Man, I'll tell you we seen terrible times. I

don't know nothing much about 'em myself. I know one thing. Abe Lincoln

said, 'Kill him wherever you see him.'

Self-Support and Support of Aged Slaves in Slave Times

"A white man asked me how much they givin' me. I said, 'Eight dollars.'

He said, 'You ought to be gittin' twenty-five.' I said, 'Maybe I ought

to be but I ain't.'

"I ain't able to do no work now. I ain't able to tote that wood hardly.

I don't git as much consideration as they give the slaves back yonder.

They didn't make the old people in slavery work when they was my age. My

daddy when he was my age, they turned him out. They give him a rice

patch where he could make his rice. When he died, he had a whole lot of

rice. They stopped putting all the slaves out at hard labor when they

got old. That's one thing. White folks will take care of their old ones.

Our folks won't do it. They'll take a stick and kill you. They don't

recognize you're human. Their parents don't teach them. Folks done quit

teaching their children. They don't teach them the right thing no more.

If they don't do, then they ought to make them do.

Little Rock

"I been here about twenty years in Little Rock. I went and bought this

place and paid for it. Somebody stole seventy-five dollars from me right

here in this house. And that got me down. I ain't never been able to git

up since.

"I paid a man for what he did for me. He said, 'Well, you owe me fifteen

cents.' When he got done he said, 'You owe me fifty cents.' You can't

trust a man in the city.

"I was living down in England. That's a little old country town. I come

here to Little Rock where I could be in a city. I done well. I bought

this place.

"I reckon I lived in Arkansas about thirty years before I left and come

here to Little Rock. When I left Georgia, I come to Arkansas and settled

down in Lonoke County, made crops there. I couldn't tell you how long I

stayed there. I didn't keep no record of it at all. I come out of Lonoke

County and went into Jefferson.

"Man, I was never in such shape as I am in now. That devilish stock law

killed me. It killed all the people. Nobody ain't been able to do

nothin' since they passed the stock law. I had seventy-five hogs and

twenty cows. They made a law you had to keep them chickens up, keep them

hogs up, keep them cows up. They shoots at every right thing, and the

wrong things they don't shoot at. God don't uphold no man to set you up

in the jail when you ain't done nothin'. You didn't have no privilege

then (slave time), and you ain't got none now."

Camilla Jackson Campbell Davis facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail