Henry Banner Interviewed By S S Taylor
Interviewer: S. S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Henry Banner
Little Rock, Ark.
[HW: Forty Acres and a Mule]
"I was sold the third year of the war for fifteen years old. That would
be in 1864. That would make my birthday come in 1849. I must have been
12 year old when the war started and sixteen when Lee surrendered. I was
born and raised in Russell County, Ol' Virginny. I was sold out of
Russell County during the war. Ol' Man Menefee refugeed me into
Tennessee near Knoxville. They sold me down there to a man named Jim
Maddison. He carried me down in Virginny near Lynchburg and sold me to
Jim Alec Wright. He was the man I was with in the time of the surrender.
Then I was in a town called Liberty. The last time I was sold, I sold
for $2,300,--more than I'm worth now.
"Police were for white folks. Patteroles were for niggers. If they
caught niggers out without a pass they would whip them. The patteroles
were for darkies, police for other people.
"They run me once, and I ran home. I had a dog at home, and there wasn't
no chance them gettin' by that dog. They caught me once in Liberty, and
Mrs. Charlie Crenchaw, Ol' John Crenchaw's daughter, came out and made
them turn me loose. She said, 'They are our darkies; turn them loose.'
"One of them got after me one night. I ran through a gate and he
couldn't get through. Every time I looked around, I would see through
the trees some bush or other and think it was him gaining on me. God
knows! I ran myself to death and got home and fell down on the floor.
"The slaves weren't expecting nothing. It got out somehow that they were
going to give us forty acres and a mule. We all went up in town. They
asked me who I belonged to and I told them my master was named Banner.
One man said, 'Young man, I would go by my mama's name if I were you.' I
told him my mother's name was Banner too. Then he opened a book and told
me all the laws. He told me never to go by any name except Banner. That
was all the mule they ever give me.
"I started home a year after I got free and made a crop. I had my gear
what I had saved on the plantation and went to town to get my mule but
there wasn't any mule.
"Before the war you belonged to somebody. After the war you weren't
nothin' but a nigger. The laws of the country were made for the white
man. The laws of the North were made for man.
"Freedom is better than slavery though. I done seed both sides. I seen
darkies chained. If a good nigger killed a white overseer, they wouldn't
do nothin' to him. If he was a bad nigger, they'd sell him. They raised
niggers to sell; they didn't want to lose them. It was just like a mule
killing a man.
"Yellow niggers didn't sell so well. There weren't so many of them as
there are now. Black niggers stood the climate better. At least,
everybody thought so.
"If a woman didn't breed well, she was put in a gang and sold. They
married just like they do now but they didn't have no license. Some
people say that they done this and that thing but it's no such a thing.
They married just like they do now, only they didn't have no license.
"Ol' man came out on April 9, 1865. and said, 'General Lee's whipped now
and dam badly whipped. The war is over. The Yankees done got the
country. It is all over. Just go home and hide everything you got.
General Lee's army is coming this way and stealing everything they can
get their hands on.' But General Lee's army went the other way.
"I saw a sack of money setting near the store. I looked around and I
didn't see nobody. So I took it and carried it home. Then I hid it. I
heard in town that Jeff Davis was dead and his money was no good. I took
out some of the money and went to the grocery and bought some bread and
handed her five dollar bill. She said, 'My goodness, Henry, that money
is no good; the Yankees have killed it.' And I had done gone all over
the woods and hid that money out. There wasn't no money. Nobody had
anything. I worked for two bits a day. All our money was dead.
"The Yankees fed the white people with hard tacks (at Liberty,
Virginia). All around the country, them that didn't have nothin' had to
go to the commissary and get hard tacks.
"I started home. I went to town and rambled all around but there wasn't
nothin' for me.
"I was set free in April. About nine o'clock in the morning when we went
to see what work we would do, ol' man Wright called us all up and told
us to come together. Then he told us we were free. I couldn't get
nothing to do; so I jus' stayed on and made a crop."
Henry Anthony Interviewed By Irene Robertson Henry Blake