Ellen Brass

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Ellen Brass

1427 W. Eighth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: About 82

[HW: White Folks want Niggers]

"I was born in Alabama in Green County. I was about four years old when

I came from there; so I don't know much about it. I growed up in

Catahoula, Louisiana. My mother's name was Caroline Butler and my

father's name was Lee Butler. One of my father's brothers was named Sam

Butler. I used to be a Butler myself, but I married. My father and

mother were both slaves. They never did any slave work.

Father Free Raised

"My father was free raised. The white folks raised him. I don't know how

he became free. All that I know is that he was raised right in the house

with the white folks and was free. His mother and father were both

slaves. I was quite small at the time and didn't know much. They bought

us like cattle and carried us from place to place.

Slave Houses

"The slaves lived in log cabins with one room. I don't know what kind of

house the white folks lived in. They, the colored folks, ate corn bread,

wheat bread (they raised wheat in those times), pickled pork. They made

the flour right on the plantation. George Harris, a white man, was the

one who brought me out of Louisiana into this State. We traveled in

wagons in those days. George Harris owned us in Louisiana.

Slave Sales

"We were sold from George Harris to Ben Hickinbottom. They bought us

then like cattle. I don't know whether it was a auction sale or a

private sale. I am telling it as near as I know it, and I am telling the

truth. Hickinbottom brought us to Catahoula Parish in Louisiana. Did I

say Harris brought us? Well, Hickinbottom brought us to Louisiana. I

don't know why they went from one place to the other like that. The

soldiers were bad about freeing the slaves. From Catahoula Parish,

Hickinbottom carried us to Alexandria, Louisiana, and in Alexandria, we

was set free.

How Freedom Came

"According to my remembrance the Yankees come around and told the people

they was free. I was in Alexandria, Louisiana. They told the colored

folks they was free and to go and take what they wanted from the white

folks. They had us all out in the yard dancing and playing. They sang

the song:

'They hung Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree

While we all go marching on.'

It wasn't the white folks on the plantation that told us we was free. It

was the soldiers their selves that came around and told us. We called

'em Yankees.

Right After the War

"Right after the War, my folks farmed--raised cotton and corn. My mother

had died before I left Alabama. They claimed I was four years old when

my mother died in Alabama. My father died after freedom.


"My first occupation was farming--you know, field work. Sometimes I used

to work around the white people too--clean house and like that.

Random Opinions

"The white folks ain't got no reason to mistreat the colored people.

They need us all the time. They don't want no food unless a nigger cooks

it. They want niggers to do all their washing and ironing. They want

niggers to do their sweeping and cleaning and everything around their

houses. The niggers handle everything they wears and hands them

everything they eat and drink. Ain't nobody can get closer to a white

person than a colored person. If we'd a wanted to kill 'em, they'd a all

done been dead. They ain't no reason for white people mistreating

colored people."

Ellen Betts Ellen Briggs Thompson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail