Eliza Hays

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Eliza Hays

2215 W. Twentieth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 77 or more

"On the fourth of August, my birthday, and directly after the colored

people were set free, all the white people gave a great big dinner to

the slaves. All the white people at my home came together and gave a big

dinner to us. It was that way all over the United States. My mother told

me I was four years old at that big dinner. They went to a great big

book and throwed it open and found my birthday in it. I never will

forget that. You can figure from that exactly how old I am.

(Seventy-seven or seventy-eight--ed.)

"My mother's name was Elizabeth Tuggle and my father's name was Albert

Tuggle. My mother was the mother of sixteen children. They were some of

them born in freedom and some born in slavery. They are all dead but

three. My mother was married twice.

"Old Tom Owens was my mother's master. I just do remember him. My

father's master was named Tom Tuggle. My mother and my father got

together by going different places and meeting. They went together till

freedom and weren't married except in the way they married in slavery.

During slavery times, old master gave you to some one and that was all

of it. My father asked my mother's old master if he could go with my

mother and old man Owens said yes. Then father went to her cabin to see

her. When freedom came, he taken her to his place and married her

accordin' to the law.

"Aunt Mariny Tuggle was my father's mother. I don't know anything about

his father. She has been dead! She died when I was young. I can remember

her well, though.

"I can remember my mother's mother. Her name was Eliza Whitelow. Her

husband was named Jack Whitelow. They was my grandfather and my

grandmother on my mother's side. They old people. I can remember seeing


"I never saw my grandfather on my father's side. That was way back in

slavery time. I used to hear them say he was a guinea man. He was short.

My own father was small too. But my father's father was short as I am. I

am about four and a half feet tall. (I stopped here and measured her,

and she was exactly four feet six inches tall--ed.) I never heard nobody

say where he came from. My father's sisters were part Indian. Their hair

was longer than that ruler you got in your hand there. It came down on

their shoulders. They was a shade brighter than I am.

"My father's mother was small too. His sisters were not whole sisters;

their daddy was Indian."


"My father and his father and mother were all farmers. My mother and her

mother were farmers too. All my people were long-lived. Grandpa,

grandma, and all of them. I reckon there about a hundred children

scattered back there in Tennessee. Brother's children and sister's

children. I believe my folks would take care of me if they knew about my

condition. These folks here are mean. Them folks would take care of me

if I were home."

Slave Houses

"The slaves lived in old log houses; just one room, one door, one

window, one everything. They had any kind of furniture they could git.

Some of them had old homemade beds and some of them one thing and

another. You know the white folks wasn't goin' to give them no


"They had plenty of meat and bread and milk to eat. Coarse food--the

commonest kind of food they could get 'hold of! When I knowed anything,

I was in the big house eating the bes' with the white folks. Some of

them could live well then. My mama gave me to the Owenses--her old

mistress. I was raised on a pallet in the house. I was in the house from

the time I was large enough to be taken from my mother. I didn't never

do any work till I was married. Old mistress wouldn't let me work. Just

keep by her and hand her a drink of water, and on like that. She's dead

now--dead, dead, dead! They didn't leave but two children, they was

'round in the country somewheres then I left there.

"After I married I went to her husband's first wife's child. She had

about nine or ten boys and one girl. I raised part of them. But most of

them was great big children--big enough for me to throw a glass of milk

at their heads. I would fight. Sometimes they used to hear them

hollering and come out, and I would be throwing a glass at one and

jumping across the table at the other. But when them boys grew up, they

loved me just the same as anybody. Nobody in town could touch me, right

or wrong."

Mean Masters

"My mother's masters used to tie her down before the dairy door and have

two men beat her. She has told me that they used to beat her till the

blood ran down on the bricks. Some white people in slavery times was

good to the niggers. But those were mean, that's the reason I ain't got

no use for white folks. I'm glad I was not old in that time. I sure

would have killed anybody that treated me that way. I don't know that

my father's people beat him up. I think his people were kinder and

sorter humored him because he was so small."


"They tell me some of them would have a big supper and then they would

hug and kiss each other and jump over the broomstick and they were

supposed to be married."

Amusement and Recreation

"They used to go out and dance and carry on for amusement, and they

would go to church too. It was just about like it is now. Dancing and

going to church is about all they do now, isn't it? They got a gambling

game down there on the corner. They used to do some of that too, I



"I have heard my mother say many times that a woman would be put up on

the block and sold and bring good money because she was known to be a

good and fast breeder."

Ku Klux, Patrollers, Robbers

"I've heard of the pateroles and Ku Klux. I thought they said the Ku

Klux was robbers. I think the Ku Klux came after the War. But there was

some during the War that would come 'round and ask questions. 'Where's

yo' old master?' 'Where's his money hid?' 'Where's his silverware?' And

on like that. Then they would take all the money and silver and anything

else loose that could be carried away. And some of them used to steal

the niggers theirselves 'specially if they were little childrens. They

was scared to leave the little children run 'round because of that."


"I don't know. I better keep my 'pinions to myself. You just have to go

on and be thankful and look to the Lord."

Support and Later life

"I haven't done a day's work for seven years. I haven't been able. I

have a son, but he has a family of his own to support and can't do

nothin' for me. I have another son but he is now out of work himself. He

can't get anything to do. I just have to git along on what little I can

turn up myself, and what little I get from my friends.

"My husband died about seven years ago. I have lost two boys inside of

seven years. After they died, I went right on down. I ain't been no good

since. The youngest one, Mose, got killed on a Sunday night. I felt it

on Saturday night and screamed so that people had to come 'round me and

hold me and comfort me. Then on Sunday night Mose got shot and I went

crazy. He was my baby boy and he and his brother were my only support.

My other boy got sick and died at the hospital. When the man stepped on

the porch to tell me he was dead, I knew it when I heard him step up

before he could say a word. I can't git to see his wife now. She was the

sweetest woman ever was. She was sure good to my son. She treated him

like he was a baby. She was devoted to him and his last request to her

was to see to me. I don't know just where she is now, but she's in the

city somewheres. She would help me I know if I could get to her.

"My husband was a preacher. He pastored the St. John Baptist Church for

fifteen years. He lived here over thirty years before he died. I left a

good home in Brownsville, Tennessee. That's where we were married. I

have been married twice. I lived with my first husband, George Shaver, a

year. I married him about 1876. I was single for two years. After that

I married Rev. Hays. I lived with Rev. Hays about twenty-one years in

Brownsville, Tennessee. We bought a house and lot there. We were gettin'

along fine when we decided to come here. He was a shoemaker then. He

made shoes after he came here, too. I ran a restaurant in Brownsville. I

guess we lived together more then fifty years in all. He died seven

years ago.

"I rent these two rooms in this little shack. They won't give me no help

at the Welfare."

Eliza Hasty Eliza Holman facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail