Henry Lee

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Henry Lee

R.F.D., two and one-half miles, Palestine, Arkansas

Age: 87

"I was born close to Huntsville, Alabama during slavery. My master was

Tom Laughinghouse and Miss Fannie, his wife. They had two children,

Jarman and Mattie. He was Dr. George Laughinghouse's brother. Dr.

George lived at Forrest City.

"He brung us to the old Pope place close to Forrest City after

'mancipation. We didn't know we was free. Finally we kept hearing

folks talk, then Master Tom told us we was free. We cleared land right

on after freedom like we was slaves.

"General Lee, a white man, owned a boat on the Mississippi River. He

owned my father. We took on his name way after freedom. Mother was

Becky Laughinghouse and father was Willis Lee. They had six children.

"After I come to Arkansas I went to school three days to a white man.

He was sont here from the North somewhere.

"My folks was all black pure stock niggers and field folks same as I


"Mother's owners was good to her. They give them all day Saturday to

wash and iron and cook for her folks. They got a whooping if they went

to the field Monday morning dirty. They was very good to us. I can

recollect that. They was a reasonable set of white folks. They weighed

out everything. They whooped their hands. They had a white overseer

but he wasn't hired to whoop Laughinghouse's slaves.

"They 'lowed mother to weave at her home at night. He had seven or

eight families on his farm.

"The well was a curiosity to me then and would sure be one now. We had

a walled and curbed well. A long forked pole, a short chain and a long

rope. We pulled up the water by the long forked pole. Cold! It was

good cold water. Beats our water all to pieces.

"The soldiers come up in a drove one day and ask mother for me. She

didn't let any of us go.

"Our master got killed over here close to Forrest City. We all picked

cotton, then we all went to gin. A coupling pin broke and let a wooden

block come down on him. It weighed one thousand pounds I expect. He

was spreading a sheet and smoothing the cotton. It mashed and

smothered him both. That was first of our scattering.

"The colored folks raised gardens in the fence corners. They raised a

heap of stuff that way. We lived a heap better then than now.

"My father died and mother started sharecropping. First, one-half and

then, one-third went to us. Things went on very well till the

commissary come about. The nigger got figured clean out.

"Nearly all the women of them days wore bonnets or what they called

hoods one the other. Boys wore long shirts to calf of their legs.

"We rode oxen to church. Many time rode to church and home in ox


"Ku Kluxes followed Pattyrollers, then come on White Caps. If the

Pattyrollers kilt a slave he had to pay the master the price. The Ku

Kluxes rode at night. All of 'em's main business was to keep the

slaves at their own places and at work. Iffen the master instructed

them to keep offen his place they kept off. They never come on our

place. But though I was feared of 'em.

"I needs help and I don't git it. I applied. 'Cause a grandson helps

us a little I don't git the welfare pension. I need it and I think I

ought to git it. I worked hard, bought this house, paid my

taxes--still trying. Still they don't aid me now and I passed aiding

my own self. I think I oughten to git lef' out 'cause I help myself

when I could. I sure is left out. Been left out.

"A part of the people is accountable for the way the times is going

on. Some of them is getting it all and don't give the others no show a

tall. Times is powerful hard for some and too easy for others. Some is

turned mean and some cowed down and times hard for them what can't

work hard."

Henry Kirk Miller Henry Long facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail