Hardy Miller

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Hardy Miller

702-1/2 W. Second Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 85

Occupation: Yardman

"Mistress, I'll tell you what my mother said. She said she birthed me on

Christmas morning in 1852 in Sumpter County, Georgia. It was on her old

master's place. Bright Herring was his name. Old mistress' name was Miss

Lizzie. My father belonged to a different owner.

"Mac McClendon and John Mourning was two nigger traders and they brought

my mother and sister Nancy and sister Liza and my sister Anna and Hardy

Miller--that's me--out here on the train from Americus, Georgia to

Memphis and put us on a steamboat and brought us here to Pine Bluff and

sold me to Dr. Pope. He was a poor white man and he wanted a pair of

niggers. He bought me and Laura Beckwith. In them days a doctor examined

you and if your heart was sound and your lungs was sound and you didn't

have no broken bones--have to pay one hundred dollars for every year you

was old. That was in 1862 and I was ten years old so they sold me for

one thousand dollars and one thousand dollars for Laura cause she was

sound too. Carried us down to Monticello and when I got free my mammy

come after me.

"Fore I left Georgia, my daddy belonged to a man named Bill Ramsey. You

see niggers used the name of their masters.

"I can remember when I was a boy Bill Ramsey set my father free and give

him a free pass and anybody hire him have to pay just like they pay a

nigger now. My daddy hired my mammy from her master. My mammy was her

master's daughter by a colored woman.

"My daddy had a hoss named Salem and had a cart and he would take me and

my mammy and my sister Liza and go to Americus and buy rations for the

next week.

"I member when the war started in 1861 my mammy hired me out to Mrs.

Brewer and she used to git after me and say, 'You better do that good or

I'll whip you. My husband gone to war now on account of you niggers and

it's a pity you niggers ever been cause he may get killed and I'll never

see him again.'

"I member seein' General Bragg's men and General Steele and General

Marmaduke. Had a fight down at Mark's Mill. We just lived six miles from

there. Seen the Yankees comin' by along the big public road. The Yankees

whipped and fought em so strong they didn't have time to bury the dead.

We could see the buzzards and carrion crows. I used to hear old mistress

say, 'There goes the buzzards, done et all the meat off.' I used to go

to mill and we could see the bones. Used to got out and look at their

teeth. No ma'm, I wasn't scared, the white boys was with me.

"Dr. Pope was good to me, better to me than he was to Master Walter and

Master Billy and my young Miss, Aurelia, cause me and Laura was scared

of em and we tried to do everything they wanted.

"When the war ended in 1865 we was out in the field gettin' pumpkins.

Old master come out and said, 'Hardy, you and Laura is free now. You can

stay or you can go and live with somebody else.' We stayed till 1868 and

then our mammies come after us. I was seventeen.

"After freedom my mammy sent me to school. Teacher's name was W.H.

Young. Name was William Young but he went under the head of W.H. Young.

"I went to school four years and then I got too old. I learned a whole

lot. Learned to read and spell and figger. I done pretty good. I learned

how to add and multiply and how to cancel and how to work square root.

"What I've been doin' all my life is farmin' down at Fairfield on the

Murphy place.

"Vote? Good lord! I done more votin'. Voted for all the Presidents.

Yankees wouldn't let us vote Democrat, had to vote Republican. They'd be

there agitatin'. Stand right there and tell me the ones to vote for. I

done quit votin'. I voted for Coolidge--we called him College--that's

the last votin' I did. One of my friends, Levi Hunter, he was a colored

magistrate down at Fairfield.

"Ku Klux? What you talkin' about? Ku Klux come to our house. My sister

Ellen's husband went to war on the Yankee side durin' the war--on the

Republican side and fought the Democrats.

"After the war the Ku Klux came and got the colored folks what fought

and killed em. I saw em kill a nigger right off his mule. Fell off on

his sack of corn and the old mule kep' on goin'.

"Ku Klux used to wear big old long robe with bunches of cotton sewed all

over it. I member one time we was havin' church and a Ku Klux was hid up

in the scaffold. The preacher was readin' the Bible and tellin' the

folks there was a man sent from God and say an angel be here directly.

Just then the Ku Klux fell down and the niggers all thought 'twas the

angel and they got up and flew.

"Ku Klux used to come to the church well and ask for a drink and say, 'I

ain't had a bit of water since I fought the battle of Shiloh.'

"Might as well tell the truth--had just as good a time when I was a

slave as when I was free. Had all the hog meat and milk and everything

else to eat.

"I member one time when old master wasn't at home the Yankees come and

say to old mistress, 'Madam, we is foragin'.' Old mistress say, 'My

husband ain't home; I can't let you.' Yankees say, 'Well, we're goin' to

anyway.' They say, 'Where you keep your milk and butter?' Old mistress

standin' up there, her face as red as blood and say, 'I haven't any milk

or butter to spare.' But the Yankees would hunt till they found it.

"After a battle when the dead soldiers was layin' around and didn't have

on no uniform cause some of the other soldiers took em, I've heard the

old folk what knowed say you could tell the Yankees from the Rebels

cause the Yankees had blue veins on their bellies and the Rebels didn't.

"Now you want me to tell you bout this young nigger generation? I never

thought I'd live to see this young generation come out and do as well as

they is doin'. I'm goin' tell you the truth. When I was young, boys and

girls used to wear long white shirt come down to their ankles, cause it

would shrink, with a hole cut out for their head. I think they is doin'

a whole lot better. Got better clothes. Almost look as well as the white

folks. I just say the niggers dressin' better than the white folks used


"Then I see some niggers got automobiles. Just been free bout

seventy-two years and some of em actin' just like white folks now.

"Well, good-bye--if I don't see you again I'll meet you in Heaven."

Happy Day Green Harriet Ann Daves facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail