Felix Street

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Felix Street

822 Schiller Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 74

I was born in Dickson County, Tennessee, fifty miles north of Nashville,

in 1864. It was on December twenty-eighth. My father told me when he was

living how old I was. He told me all the way along, and I remember it.

"Nannie, Jeff, Hardy, John Mack, and Felix (that's me) are my father's

children by his first wife. Lena, Martha, Esther are his children by his

second wife. He had five children by my mother, and four of them lived

to be grown, and one died in infancy. My mother was his first wife. Her

name was Mary Street. Her name before she married--hold a minute, lemme

see--seems like it was Mary--Mary--Street.

"My father and my mother couldn't have lived on the same plantation

because she was a May and he was a Street. I don't know how they met.

"My father's master's name was Jick Street. He owned, to my knowing, my

father, Bill Street; Henry Street, and Ed Street. He might have owned

more but I heard my father say he owned those.

"My father said his white people weren't very wealthy. He and his

brother had to go and cut cordwood, both summer and winter. And they was

allowed so much work for a task. Their task was nine cords a week for

each man. That was equal to a cord and a half a day for each man each

day. My father would cut his wood like a man ought to cut it. But he

said my uncle wouldn't git at his task. He would drink whiskey all the

week. They'd get after him about bein' behind with his work, but he

would say, 'Never mind that; I won't be behind Monday morning.' On

Sunday morning at nine o'clock, he would get up and begin to cut on that

wood. And on Monday morning at nine o'clock, he would have nine cords

cut for his white folks and four or five for himself. It would all be

done before nine o'clock Monday morning.

Living Brother

"I recently seen my brother Jeff Davis Street. I haven't seen him

before for sixty-one years. He blew in here from Texas with a man named

Professor Smuggers. He lives in Malakoff, Texas. It's been sixty-one

years since he was where I could see him, but he says he saw me

fifty-nine years ago. He came back home and I was 'sleep, he says, and

he didn't wake me up. He rambled around a little and stood and looked at

me awhile, he says. He was seventeen years old and I was twelve.

"My brother had a lot of children. He had four girls with him. He had a

boy somewheres. He is older than I am.

"I heard my father say that in time of war, they were taking up folks

that wouldn't join them and putting them in prison. They picked a white

fellow up and had him tied with a rope and carried him down to a creek

and were tying him up by his thumbs. He saw my father coming and said:

'There's a colored man I know.' My father said he knew him. They let

him go when my father said he knew him and that he didn't harbor

bushwhackers. Every time he saw my father after that he would say,

'Bill, you sure did save my life.'

"My father and mother lived in a log cabin. They had homemade furniture.

They had a bunk up side the wall and a trundle bed. That was the cabin

they lived in in slavery time.


"My father said once that when the men were gone, the soldiers came

in and asked the women to cook for them. They wouldn't do it; so the

soldiers made them bring them a chunk of fire. They throwed the fire on

the bed and when it got to burning good, the officer wouldn't let them

put it out. But he told them that they could get some of the boys to

help them carry out their things if the boys were willing to do it. It

was the officers who wanted the women to cook for them. It wasn't the

slaves they asked; it was the white folks.

Sold His Master

"I heard my stepmother--I call her my mother--say some thing once. She

belonged to a white family named Bell. They had a lot of slaves. My

stepmother was the house girl; so she could get on to a lot of things

the others couldn't. She stayed in the house. That was in slavery times.

The speculators who were buying colored folks would put up at that

place. Looked like a town but it all belonged to one person. The name of

the place was Cloverdale, Tennessee. My stepmother said that a gang of

these folks put up at Cloverdale once and then went on to Nashville,

Tennessee. On the next day a nigger sold the speculator. He was educated

and a mulatto, and he sold his master in with a bunch of other niggers.

He was just fixin' to take the money, when his master got aware of it,

and come on up just in time. I don't know what happened to the nigger.

It was just an accident he got caught. My stepmother said it was true.

Good Masters

"My mother had a good master. At least, she said he was good. Slaves

from other plantations would run away and come to her master's place to

stay. They would stay a good while.

"My father said his master was good to him too. My father's young master

has come to see us since the War. He got down low and used to come

'round. My father would give him turns of corn. You know when you used

to go to the mill, you would carry about two bushels of corn and call it

a milling or a turn. My father would let his young master shell a bushel

or two of corn and carry it to the mill. He got poor and sure 'nough you

see. We had moved away from them then, and he got in real hard luck. He

used to come and sit a half day at a time at our house. And father would

give him the corn for his family. We were living in Dickson County,

Tennessee then. Seems like we was on Frank Hudson's place. We hadn't

bought a place for ourselves then.

Ku Klux Klan

"You know they used to ku klux the niggers. They went to the house after

the War of an old man named Hall. They demanded for him to let them in

but he wouldn't. They said that they would break open the door if he

didn't let them in. He didn't let them in, and they broke it down.

When they started in, his wife threw fire brands in amongst 'em and he

knicked one down with an ax. Them that wasn't hurt carried the wounded

man away and it was reported the next day that he was sick. They never

did bother the nigger no more and he never had no charges made against


Runaway Negroes--After Freedom

"It was over forty years ago. Me and my wife lived at a big sawmill near

Elliott, Arkansas, just ten miles outside of Camden. White folks used to

come up there and catch niggers and carry them back to Louisiana with

them, claiming that they owed debts. One time two white men came to

Elliott looking for a nigger. They came through the Negro quarters and

all the men were off that day because it was a holiday. The nigger saw

them first and ran to the woods. They ran after him and caught him. They

came back through the quarters and tied him to one of the horses and

then went on to Louisiana--them ridin' and him walkin' tied up with his

arms behind him and roped to the horse like he was some kind of cattle

or something. The niggers followed them with guns a little distance, but

one nigger telephoned to El Dorado and the officers there were on the

lookout for them. At night, the officers in plain clothes went over and

chatted with them white men. When they saw the nigger, they asked what

it was they had there. They told the one that asked that it was a damn

nigger that owed money back in Louisiana and got smart and run away

without paying up. The officers drew their guns and put handcuffs on

them and carried them and the nigger away to Jail.

"They put everybody in jail that night. But the next morning they

brought them to trial and fined the white men a hundred and fifty

dollars apiece and after the trial they turned the nigger loose. That

broke up the stealing of niggers. Before that they would come and take a

Negro whenever they wanted to.

"Niggers were just beginning to wake up then, and know how to slip away

and run off. We had whole families there that had run off one by one.

The man would run away and leave his children, and as they got old

enough, they would follow him one by one.

Right After the War

"Right after the War, my people farmed on shares. We had a place we

leased on the Hudson place that we stayed on. We leased it for five

years but we stayed there seven or maybe eleven years. When we left

there we bought a place of our own. On the Hudson place we cleared up

about thirty acres of land and 'tended it as long as we stayed there. We

put out a lot of fruit trees on it. Had lots of peaches, and plums, and

quinces--do you know what quinces are?--and danvils (these danvil plums

you know). They are kinda purple looking fruit made in the shape of a

prune. They are about two inches through--jus' about half as big as your


"When we moved to our own place, we stayed in the same county. It was

just about three-fourths of a mile from the Hudson place--west of it.

Moving to Arkansas

"I came to Arkansas with the intention of going to school. But I jus'

messed myself up. Instead of goin' to school, I went and got married.

I was out here just one year before I got married. I married the first

time in 1887--February fourteenth, I think. My first wife taken sick

with rheumatism and she died in 1908. We were married thirty-one years.

I married again about 1913.

Vocational Experiences

"When I was able to work, I worked in the railroad shops--boiler maker's

helper. Before that I farmed and did other things. Went from trackman to

machinist's helper and boilermaker's helper.


"Young folks Just need the right handlin'.

"I don't mix in politics."

Felix Haywood Fleming Clark facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail