F H Brown

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: F. H. Brown

701 Hickory Street, North Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 75

[HW: Builds Church and School]

"I was born in Marion County, Mississippi. Columbus is the county-seat.

My father's name was Hazard Brown, and my mother's name was Willie

Brown. She was a Rankin before she married. My mother was born in

Lawrence County, Mississippi, and married father there. My father was

born in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. I was born in three feet of the

line in Louisiana. I was born in the old slave quarters. The house was

just across the line between Mississippi and Louisiana. The lower room

was in Louisiana and the other was in Mississippi. There was a three

foot hall between the rooms. It was a matter of convenience that I was

born in Mississippi. I might have been just as well born in Louisiana.

The house was in both states.

"My father's master was Black Bill Warren. Black Bill was just a title

they give him. I think that his name was Joe Warren, but they nicknamed

him Black Bill, and everybody called him that. My mother belonged to the


"My mother's mother was named Dolly Ware. My father's mother was named

Maria. Their papa's father was named Thomas, and I forget my mother's

father's name. I know it but I forget it just now. I haven't thought

over it for a long time.

"My father when he died was eighty-five years old. He was treated pretty

good in slavery time. He did farm work. His mars had about ninety

slaves, that is, counting children and all. When I was a boy, I was in

those quarters and saw them. I went back there and though it was some

time afterward, taught in them. And later on, I preached in them, since

I have been a preacher, of course. I have a cousin there now. He is

about a hundred years old. He belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

"My father lived to see freedom. He has been dead more than twelve

years. He died at my home.

"He was so close to the fighting that he could hear the guns and the

firing. When they was freed, some white people told him, 'You are just

as free as we are.' I was born after the Emancipation proclamation. The

proclamation was issued in September and I was born in October. It

didn't become effective till January first. So I was born a slave any

way you take it.

"The farm my father worked on was on the Pearl River. It was very

fertile. It was in Mississippi. A very big road runs beside the farm.

The road is called the Big Road. The nigger quarters were across the

road on the south side.

"My mother's folks treated her nicely too. Mr. Rankins didn't have any

slaves but Mrs. Rankins had some. Her people gave them to her. My

grandma who belonged to her had twenty-six children. She got her start

off of the slaves her parents gave her, and finally she had about

seventy-five. She ran a farm. My mother's work was house woman. She

worked in the house. Her mistress was good to her. The overseer couldn't

whip the niggers, except in her presence, so that she could see that it

wasn't brutal. She didn't allow the women to be whipped at all. When an

overseer got rough, she would fire him. Slaves would run away sometimes

and stay in the woods if they thought that they would get a whipping for

it. But she would send word for them to come on back and they wouldn't

be whipped. And she would keep her word about it. The slaves on her

place were treated so good that they were called free niggers by the

other white people. When they were whipped, they would go to the woods.

"I have heard them speak of the pateroles often. They had to get a pass

and then the pateroles wouldn't bother them. They would whip you and

beat you if you didn't have a pass. Slavery was an awful low thing. It

was a bad system. You had to get a pass to go to see your wife. If you

didn't have that pass, they would whip you. The pateroles carried on

their work for a good while after slavery was over, and the Civil War

had ended.

"I was pretty good when I was a boy. So I never had any trouble then. I

was right smart size when I saw the Ku Klux. They would whip men and

women that weren't married and were living together. On the first day of

January, they would whip men and boys that didn't have a job. They kept

the Negroes from voting. They would whip them. They put up notices, 'No

niggers to come out to the polls tomorrow.' They would run them off of

government land which they had homesteaded. Sometimes they would just

persuade them not to vote. A Negro like my father, they would say to

him, 'Now, Brown, you are too good to get messed up. Them other niggers

'round here ain't worth nothing, but you are, and we don't want to see

you get hurt. So you stay 'way from the polls tomorrow.' And tomorrow,

my father would stay away, under the circumstances. They had to depend

on the white people for counsel. They didn't know what to do themselves.

The other niggers they would threaten them and tell them if they came

out they would kill them.

"Right after the war, we farmed on shares. When we made our last

share-crop, father farmed on Senator Bilbo's mother's farm on the State

line. I nursed Senator Bilbo when he was a baby. Theoda Bilbo. He is the

one who says Negroes should be sent to Africa. Then there wouldn't be

nobody here to raise people like him. He fell into the mill pond one day

and I pulled him out and kept him from drowning. If it weren't for that,

he wouldn't be here to say, 'Send all the Negroes to Africa.' If I'd see

him right now, he'd give me ten dollars.

"Mrs. Bilbo's first husband was a Crane. He killed himself. He didn't

intend to. It was in a horse race. The horse ran away with him and

killed him. Then Theoda's father married her. He was a poor man. He

married that widow and got up in the world. They had a gin mill, and a

grist mill, and a sawmill. They got business from everybody. That was

Theoda's daddy--old man Bilbo.

"In 1870, we stayed on Elisha McGhee's farm. We called him Elisha but

his name was Elijah. I began to remember them. The next year, we farmed

for old man William Bilbo. But we didn't get along so well there because

daddy wouldn't let anybody beat him out of anything that was his. That

was Theoda's gran'daddy. Then we went to (Mississippi) Miss Crane's. The

next year she married Theoda Bilbo's daddy and in 1874, my daddy moved

up on his own place at Hurricane Creek. There he built a church and

built a school, and I went to the school on our own place. He stayed

there till 1880. In 1880, we moved to Holly Springs. That was right

after the yellow fever epidemic. I went to school there at Shaw

University. I stayed in that school a good while. It's called Rust

College now. It's named after the Secretary of the Freedman's Aid

Society. Rust was the greatest donor and they named the school after

him. I went to the state school in my last year because they would give

you a lifetime certificate when you finished there. I mean a lifetime

teaching certificate for Mississippi. I finished the course and got the

certificate. There is the diploma up there on the wall. J.H. Henderson

was the principal and he was one of my teachers too. Henderson was a

wonderful man. You know he died out here in the county hospital sometime

ago. Sometime I'll tell you all about him. He was a remarkable man. He

taught there behind Highgate, a Northern man. I'll tell you all about

him sometime.

"I farmed with my father in the early part of my life. When I went to

Holly Springs in 1881, I worked for Dr. T.J. Malone, a banker there, and

a big farmer--President of the Holly Springs Bank. I worked for him

mornings and evenings and slept at home of nights. I would work in

vacation times too at whatever I could find to do till I got about able

to teach. When I first commenced to teach, I taught in several

counties--Lincoln, Simpson, Pike, Marion (the place I went to school),

and Copiah. I built the school at Lawrence County. I organized the

Folsom High School there. It was named after President Cleveland's wife.

I taught there nine years. I married there. My wife's name was Narcissa

Davis. She was a teacher and graduated from the same school I did. She

lived in Calhoun County. She died in 1896, in Conway.

"I taught school at Conway in Faulkner County, and joined the ministry

as a local preacher, in 1896. I moved from there to White County and

taught in Searcy one term. Taught at Beebe ten years. Married again in

1898--Annie Day. I taught at Beebe and lived in White County. Then I

bought me a home at Higginson, and went into the ministry solely. I left

Higginson and taught and pastored seven years at Des Arc. I know

practically everybody in Des Arc. I was thinking today about writing

Brick Williams. He is the son of old man Williams, the one you know I

think. Then I come to what is called Sixteen Section three miles from

Galloway and taught there seven years and pastored. I presided too as

Elder some of those years--North Little Rock District. Then I went back

and pastored there and taught at West Point, Arkansas four years. Then I

pastored at Prescott and was on the Magnolia District as Presiding Elder

two years. Then I presided over the North Little Rock District again.

Pastored St. Luke Circuit in southwest part of Arkansas below

Washington. Then I built a church at Jonesboro. I pastored twenty-nine

years altogether, built five churches, and have been responsible for

five hundred conversions.

"I think the prospects of the country and the race are good. I don't see

much dark days ahead. It is just a new era. You are doing something

right now I never saw done before in my life. Even when they had the

census, I didn't see any colored people taking it.

"I don't get any assistance in the form of money from the government. I

have been trying to get it but I can't. Looks like they cut off a lot of

them and can't reach it. Won't let me teach school. Say I am too old for

WPA teaching. Superannuate me in the church, and say I'm too old to

preach, and still I haven't gotten anything from my church since last

January. I get some commodities from the state. I belong to the C.M.E.

Church. I have lived in this community twenty-five years."

Interviewer's Comment

Hanging on the wall was the old man's diploma from the Mississippi State

Normal School for colored persons. It was dated May 30, 1888, and it

bore the signatures of J.R. Preston, State Superintendent; E.D. Miller,

County Superintendent (both members of the Board of Directors); J.H.

Henderson, Principal; Narcissa Hill and Maria Rabb, faculty members.

Ezra Adams Fannie Alexander Helena Arkansas Interviewed By Irene Robertson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail