Frank Briles

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Frank Briles

817 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: About 82 or 83

[HW: Gives up the Ghost]

"I was born right here in Arkansas. My father's name was Moses Briles.

My mother's name was Judy Briles. Her name before she was married I

don't know. They belonged to the Briles. I don't know their first name


"My father was under slavery. He chopped cotton and plowed and scraped

cotton. That is where I got my part from. He would carry two rows along

at once. I was little and couldn't take care of a row by myself. I was

born down there along the time of the War, and my father didn't live

long afterwards. He died when they was settin' them all free. He was a

choppin' for the boss man and they would set them up on blocks and sell

them. I don't know who the man was that did the selling, but they tell

me they would sell them and buy them.

"I am sick now. My head looks like it's goin' to bust open.

"I have heard them tell about the pateroles. I didn't know them but I

heard about them. Them and the Ku Klux was about the same thing. Neither

one of them never did bother my folks. It was just like we now, nobody

was 'round us and there wasn't no one to bother you at all at Briles'

plantation. Briles' plantation I can't remember exactly where it was. It

was way down in the west part of Arkansas. Yes, I was born way back

south--east--way back. I don't know what the name of the place was but

it was in Arkansas. I know that. I don't know nothing about that. My

father and mother came from Virginia, they said. My father used to drive

cattle there, my mother said. I don't know nothin' except what they told


"I learnt a little some thing from my folks. I think of more things

every time I talk to somebody. I know one thing. The woman that bossed

me, she died. That was about--Lord I was a little bitty of a fellow,

didn't know nothin' then. She made clothes for me. She kept me in the

house all the time. She was a white woman. I know when they was setting

them free. I was goin' down to get a drink of water. My father said.

'Stop, you'll be drowned.' And I said, 'What must I do?' And he said,

'Go back and set down till I come back.' I don't know what my father was

doing or where he was going. There was a man--I don't know who--he come

'round and said, 'You're all free.' My mama said, 'Thank God for that.

Thank God for that.' That is all I know about that.

"When I got old enough to work they put me in the woods splitting rails

and plowing. When I grew up I scraped cotton and worked on the farm.

That is where my father would come and say, 'Now, son, if anybody asks

you how you feel, tell them the truth.'

"I went to school one session and then the man give down. He got sick

and couldn't carry it no longer. His pupils were catching up with him I

reckon. It was time to get sick or somethin'.

"I never did marry. I was promised to marry a woman and she died. So I

said, 'Well, I will give up the ghost. I won't marry at all.'

"I ain't able to do no work now 'cept a little pittling here and there.

I get a pension. It's been cut a whole lot."

Frank Berry Frank Cannon facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail