George Johnson

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: George Johnson

814 W. Ninth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 75

"I was born in Richmond, Virginia, September 28, 1862, and came to

this country in 1869. My father was named Benjamin Johnson and my

mother was named Phoebe Johnson. I don't know the names of my

grandmother and grandfather. My father's master was named Johnson; I

forget his first name. He was a doctor and lived on Charleston and

Morgan Streets. I don't know what my mother's name was before she

married my father. And I don't know what her master's name was. She

died when I was just three years old.

"The way my father happened to bring me out here was, Burton Tyrus

came out here in Richmond stump speaking and telling the people that

money grew like apples on a tree in Arkansas. They got five or six

boat loads of Negroes to come out here with them. Father went to share

cropping on the Red River Bottom on the Chickaninny Farm. He put in

his crop, but by the time he got ready to gather it, he taken sick and

died. He couldn't stand this climate.

"Then me and my sisters was supposed to be bound out to Henry Moore

and his wife. I stayed with them about six years and then I ran off.

And I been scouting 'round for myself ever since.

"My occupation has been chiefly public work. My first work was rail

roading and steam boating. I was on the Iron Mountain when she was

burning wood. That was about fifty some years ago. After that I worked

on the steamboats Natchez and Jim Lee. I worked on them as

roustabout. After that I would just commence working everywhere I

could get it. I came here about forty-five years ago because I liked

the city. I was in and out of the city but made this place my


"I'm not able to do any work now. I put in for the Old Age Pension two

years ago. They told me I would have to prove my age but I couldn't do

it any way except to produce my marriage license. I produced them. I

got the license right out of this county courthouse here. I was

married the last time in 1907 and was forty-five years old then. That

will make me seventy-six years old this year--the twenty-eighth day of

this coming September. My wife died nine years ago.

"I have heard my father talking a little but old folks then didn't

allow the young ones to hear much. My daddy sent me to bed at night.

When night came you went to bed; you didn't hang around waiting to

hear what the old folks would say.

"My daddy got his leg shot in the Civil War. He said he was in that

battle there in Richmond. I don't know which side he was on, but I

know he got his leg shot off. He was one-legged. He never did get any

pension. I don't know even whether he was really enlisted or not. All

I know is that he got his leg shot off in the war.

"When the war ended in 1865, the slaves around Richmond were freed. I

never heard my father give the details of how he got his freedom. I

was too young to remember them myself.

"I don't know how many slaves Dr. Johnson had but I know it was a good

many, for he was a tobacco raiser. I don't remember what kind of

houses his slaves lived in. [And I never heard the kind of food we

et.] [HW: ?]

"I never heered tell of patrols till I came to Arkansas. I never

heered much of the Ku Klux either. I guess that was all the same,

wasn't it? Peace wasn't declared here till 1866. I never heered of

any of my acquaintances being bothered but I heered the colored people

was scared. All I know was that you had to come in early. Didn't, they

get you.

"What little schooling I got, I got it by going to night school here.

That is been a good many years back--forty years back. I forgot now

who was teaching night school. It was some kin of Ishes out here I



"I think times is tight now. Tighter than I ever knowed 'em to be

before. Quite a change in this world now. There is not enough work now

for the people and from what I can see, electricity has knocked the

laboring man out. It has cut the mules and the men out.

"My opinion of these young people is that they got all the education

in the world and no business qualifications. They are too fast for any


George Jackson George Jones facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail