George Greene

MAY 11 1938

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: George Greene

Temporary--1700 Pulaski St., Little Rock, Ark.

Permanent--Wrightsville, Ark.

Age: 85?

Birth and Age

"I don't know when I was born. I don't know exactly, but I was born in

slavery time before the War began. I was big enough to wait on the table

when they was fighting. I remember when they was setting the Negroes

free. I was born in Aberdeen, Mississippi, in Monroe County. Seven miles

from the town of Aberdeen, out on the prairies, that is where I was


"I figure out my age by the white woman that raised me. She sent me my

age. When they was working the roads, my road boss, I told him I was

forty-five years old and he didn't believe it. So I sent to the white

woman that raised me from a month-old child. When I left her, I'd done

got grown. Her name was Narcissus Stephenson; she had all our ages and

she sent mine to me.

"She may be dead now. I could've stayed right there if she isn't dead,

because she never did want me to come away. Right out in Arkansas, I

come,--to my sorrow. Well, I done right well till I got crippled. Got

hit by an automobile. That's what I'm doin' here now."

Parents and Relatives

"My father's name was Nathan Greene. I reckon he went by that name, I

can't swear to it. I wasn't with him when he died. I was up in

Mississippi on the Mississippi River and didn't get the news in time to

get there till after he was dead. He was an old soldier. When the

Yankees got down in Mississippi, they grabbed up every nigger that was

able to fight. If I'd get his furlough papers, I'd a been drawin'

pension before I did. But his brother was with him when he died and he

let the dismiss papers get lost, and nobody got nothin'. Don't draw

nothin' from it at all. Couldn't find the papers when I was down there.

"I don't know whether my father used his master's name or his father's

name. His father's name was Jerry Greene, and his master's name was

Henry Bibb. I don't know which name he went by, but I call myself Greene

because his father's name was Jerry Greene. No Bibb owned him at first.

Jerry Greene was born in North, Alabama in Morgan County. That's where

he was born. Bibb bought him and brought him down to Mississippi where I

was born. Lord! Old Man Bibb owned a lot of 'em, too. My father and

grandfather were both colored but my grandfather was an old yellow man.

You know, he had to take his color after his papa. I don't know my

great-grandfather's name. They can't tell nothin' 'bout that in them

days. His papa, my grandfather's papa, I can't tell for sure whether he

was white or black.

"My mother's name was Adeline Greene. Grandpa's wife's name was Louisa.

She was one of these kinder mixed with Indian. She lived to see a many a

year before she died. She lived to be a hundred and fifteen years of age

before she died. I knowed Grandma Louisa. Up until I was a man grown.

She was about my color with long straight hair and black (hair). Old

Lady Bibb was her mistress. She died way after freedom.

"I don't know mama's age. I was here in Arkansas when she died. Didn't

know she was dead until a month after she was buried. She died in

Mississippi. Grandma, mama, and all of them died in Mississippi.

"My grandma on my mother's side was named--I can't remember her name,

but I knowed her. I can't remember what the old man's name was neither.

It's been so long it just went from my memory. They never told me much

neither. Folks didn't talk much to children in those days. I wouldn't

hardly have thought of it now anyway."

House and Furniture

"A old log house was what I was born in,--when I come out from

Mississippi that old house was still standing. Aw, they put up houses

them days. It had one room. Didn't have but one room,--one window, one

door,--didn't have but one door to go in and out. I remember that well.

Didn't have no whole parcel of doors to go in and out. Plank floors. I

wasn't born on the dirt! I was born on planks. Our house was up off the

ground. We had a board roof. We used four foot boards. Timber was

plentiful then where they could make boards easy. Boards was cheap.

There wasn't no such things as shingles. Didn't have no shingle


"We didn't have nothing but on old wooden bed. It wasn't bought. It was

made. Made it at home. Carpenter made it. Making wooden beds was perfect

then. They'd break down every two or three years. They lasted. There was

boards holding then. Wasn't no slats nor nothing. Nail them boards to

the post and to the sides of the house, and that was the end of it with

some people. We had a corded bed. Put them ropes through the sides and

corded them up there as tight as Dick's hatband--and they stayed. They

made their own boards, and made their own ropes, and corded them

together, and they stayed. Chairs! Shucks! They just took boxes. They

made chairs too--took shucks and put bottoms in them. Them chairs

lasted. Them shucks go way, they'd put more there. Wish I had one of

them chairs now. We made a box and put our rations in it. Them days they

made what they called cupboards. They made anything they wanted to. When

they got free, they'd buy dishes. When they got free, boxes and

cupboards went out of style. They bought safes. There wasn't no other

furniture. We used tin pans for dishes in slavery time. When we got

free, we bought plates.

"When them pans fell they didn't break. They even as much as made their

own trays to make bread in. They would take a cypress tree and dig it

out and them scoundrels lasted too. Don't see nothin' like that now. Tin

pan is big enough to make up bread in now. In them days they made

anything. Water buckets,--they did buy them. Old master would give 'em a

pass to go get 'em. Anything they wanted, he would give 'em if he

thought it necessary. Old master would get 'em all the buckets. He was

good and he would buy what you would ask him for. They made milk

buckets. They made 'em just like they make 'em now."

Work of Family in Slave Time

"My people were all field hands. My master had a great big farm--three

or four hundred acres. I waited table when I was a little chap and I

learned to plow before the War was over."

Good Master

"Old Man Bibb was as good and clever a man as ever you knowed. That

overseer down there, if he whipped a man Old Man Bibbs would say,

'Here's your money. Don't want you beating up my niggers so they can't

work. I don't need you.' He'd tell 'im quick he don't need him and he

can git. That's the kind of man he was. Wouldn't let you be mobbed up.

He was a good christian man. I'll give that to him. In the time of the

War when they was freeing slaves and I was a little old eight-year-old

kid, there was a little old Dutchman, a Tennessee man, he came out in

the country to get feed. Out there in Alabama.

"I was in Alabama then. The white woman that raised me had taken me

there. She had done married again and left me with mama awhile. While I

was little, that was. When I was about seven, she came and got me again

and carried me down in Alabama and raised me with her children. That

white woman never called me nothin' but baby as long as she lived. You

know she cared for me just like I was one of her's. When a person raise

a child from a month old she can't help from loving it.

"This Dutchman come and asked me where my parents was and I told him

they was in Mississippi. He slipped me away from my folks and carried me

to Decatur and they got cut off there. He was a Yankee soldier, and old

Forrest's army caught 'em and captured me and then carried me first

nearly to Nashville. They got in three miles of the town and couldn't

get no closer. They ran us so we never got no res' till we got to

Booneville, Mississippi. Then I sent word to Bibb and my uncle came up

and got me. Him and Billie Bibb, my young master. Billie Bibb was a

soldier too. He was home on a furlough. I was glad to see him because I

tell you in the army there was suffering. But I'll tell you I'll give

them credit, those Tennessee men took care of me just as though I was

their own. I was in a two mule wagon. I drove it. I was big enough to

drive. The ambulance man stopped in Nashville to see his folks and got a

furlough and went on home."


"I learned how to work--work in the field. Wasn't nothing but field

work. I learned how to hoe first. But in Alabama I learned how to plow.

I didn't want to be no hoe man; I wanted to plow. When I went back to

Mississippi, they put me on the plow. I was just eight years old when I

learned to plow."

Share cropping

"Right after freedom, I just kept on plowing. We share cropped. My mama

and I would take a crop. She'd work. We'd all work like the devil until

I got a job and went to town. She was willing to let me go. That was

when I married too."

How Freedom Came

"All I know about freedom was Old Man Henry Bibb come out and told us we

was free. That is how I came to know it. He came out there on the farm

and said, 'Well, you all free as I am. You can stay here if you want to

or you can go somewhere else.' We stayed. Mama stayed there on the farm

plumb till she come to town. I don't know how many years. I was there in

town and so she come onto town later. Moved in with the people she was

with. They gave up their place. I was nineteen years old when I left the

country. My mother gave me her consent,--to marry then, too. She came to

town a few years later.

"The slaves weren't given nothin' after they was freed. Nothing but what

they worked for. They got to be share croppers."

Ku Klux Klan

"The Ku Klux never bothered me but they sure bothered others. Way yonder

in Mississippi directly after the surrender, they'd hated it so bad they

killed up many of them. They caught white men there and whipped them and

killed them. They killed many a nigger. They caught a white man there

and whipped him and he went on up to Washington, D. C. and came back

with a train load of soldiers. They came right down there in the south

end of our town and they carried them Ku Kluxers away by train loads

full. They cleaned out the east side of the river. The Ku Klux had been

stringing up niggers every which way. 'Twasn't nothin' to find a nigger

swinging up in the woods. But those soldiers come from Washington City.

If they didn't clean 'em up, I'll hush.

"I don't know what become of 'em. They never did come back to Aberdeen."

Occupations Followed and Life Since Freedom

"I ain't worked a lick in four or five years. If I lived to see August

tenth, I will be eighty-six years old. I used to follow railroading or

saw milling or farming. That is what I followed when I was able to work.

The last work I did was farming, working by the day--a dollar and a half

a day. And they cut it down and cut me down. Now they ain't giving

nothing. If a man gets six bits a day he doing good. Harder times in

Arkansas now than I have ever seen before. If a man is able to take care

of his family now, he is doing well. They don't give niggers nothing


"The only way I live is I get a little pension. They give me eight

dollars a month and commodities. That is all I live on now. That keeps

me up, thank God. I have been getting the pension about ever since they

started. I reckon it is about two years. I have been receiving it every

month. It ain't failed yet. They been taking care of me pretty well ever

since they started. First start it wasn't nothin' but rations. They give

me groceries enough to las' me every month. I had a wife then.

"I have been a widow now four years. Four years I've been a widow. But

there ain't nothin' like a man staying in his own house. I have made out

now for four years. Right there cooking and washing for George! I didn't

have nothing else to do. Fellow can't tell what day the Lord will say,

'Stop', but as long as I am this way, I'll keep at it.

"This soreness in my leg keeps me in bad shape. I came here to get my

leg fixed. It gets so I can't walk without a stick. I don't like to stay

with other folks. They're sinners and they use me sorta sinful--speak

any sort of language. But they sure 'nough treats me nice.

"I got my leg hurt last December. Car ran into me at Wrightsville, and

knocked me down and threw me far as from here to that thing (about

fifteen feet). After they flung me down, I was flat on my back a long

while. I couldn't move. When a fellow gets old and then gets crippled

up, it's hard. But I'm gettin' 'long pretty well now, 'cept that this

leg ain't strong."

George Govan George Henderson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail