Cella Perkins

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Cella Perkins

Marvell and Palestine, Arkansas

Age: 67

"I was born close to Macon, Georgia. Mama's old mistress, Miss Mari

(Maree) Beth Woods, brung her there from fifteen miles outer Atlanta.

"After emancipation Miss Mari Beth's husband got killed. A horse kicked

him to death. It shyed at something and it run in front of the horse. He

held the horse so it couldn't run. It kicked the foot board clean off,

kicked him in the stomach. His boy crawled out of the buggy. That's the

way we knowed how it happened. She didn't hurt the boy. His name was

Benjamin Woods.

"Pa went to war with his master and he never come back to mama. She

never heard from him after freedom. He got captured and got to be a

soldier and went 'way off. She didn't never know if he got killed or

lost his way back home.

"Mama cooked and kept up the house. Miss Mari Beth kept a boarding house

in Macon till way after I was a big girl. I stood on a box and washed

dishes and dried them for mama.

"Mr. Ben was grown when we come to Arkansas. He got his ma to go to

Kentucky with him and I heard about Arkansas. Me and mama come to

Palestine. We come in a crowd. A man give us tickets and we come by our

lone selves till we got to Tennessee. A big crowd come from Dyersburg,

Tennessee. Ma got to talking and found out we was headed fo' the same

place in Arkansas.

"Ma talked a whole heap at tines more 'an others (times) about slavery

times. Her master didn't take on over her much when he found out she was

a barren woman. The old man Crumpton give her to his youngest daughter,

Miss Mari Beth. She always had to do all kinds of work and house turns.

"After mama's slavery husband didn't come back and she was living in

Macon, she fell in love with another man and I was a picked-up baby.

Mama said Miss Mari Beth lost faith in her when I was born but she

needed her and kept her on. Said seem like she thought she was too old

to start up when she never had children when her papa owned her. They

didn't like me. She said she could trust mama but she didn't know my

stock. He was a black man. Mama was black as I is.

"Miss Mari Beth had a round double table. The top table turned with the

victuals on it. I knocked flies three times a day over that table.

"I never had a store-bought dress in my life till mama bought me one at

Madison, Arkansas. I wanted a pure white dress. She said if we made a

good crop she was going to give me a dress. All the dresses I ever had

was made out of Miss Mari Beth's dresses but I never had a pure white

one. I never had one bought for me till I was nearly grown. I was so

proud of it. When I would go and come back, I would pull it off and put

it away. I wore it one summer white and the next summer I blued it and

had a new dress. I had a white dress nearly every year till I got too

old to dress up gay now. I got a white bonnet and apron I wears right


"Mama said Master Crumpton bought up babies to raise. She was taken away

from her folks so soon she never heard of them. Aunt Mat raised her up

in Atlanta and out on his place. He had a place in town but kept them on

a place in the country. He had a drove of them. He hired them out. He

hired mama once to a doctor, Dr. Willbanks. Mama said old master thought

she would learn how to have children from him the reason he sent her

there so much. When they had big to-dos old master sent mama over there.

She never seen no money till about freedom. She loved to get hired out

to be off from him. They all had young babies about but her. He was

cross and her husband was cross. She had pleasure hired out. She said he

didn't whoop much. He stamped his foot. They left right now.

"I hab three girls living; one here (Palestine), one at Marvell, and one

in St. Louis. My youngest girl teaches music at a big colored school.

She sends me my money and I lives with these girls. I been up there and

I sure don't aim to live in no city old as I is. It's too dangerous slow

as I got to be and so much racket I never slept a night I was there. I

was there a month. She brung me home and I didn't go back.

"I cooked and washed and ironed and worked in the field. I do some work

yet. I helps out where I am.

"The times is better I think from accounts I hear. This generation all

living too fast er lives. They don't never be still a minute."

Celina Robinson Chana Littlejohn facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail