Isabella Duke

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Isabella Duke

Little Rock, Arkansas (towards Benton)

Visiting in Hazen

Age: 62

[HW: Father Wore a Bonnet]

"My own dear mother was born at Faithville, Alabama. She belong to Sam

Norse. His wife was Mistress Mai Jane. They moved to Little Rock years

after my mother had come there. After seberal months they got trace of

one another. I seed two of the Norse girls and a boy. Master Norse was a

farmer in Alabama. Mother said he had plenty hands in slavery. She was a

field hand. She had a tough time during slavery.

"Pa said he had a good time. 'Bout all he ever done was put on old

mistress' shoes and pull her chair about for her to sit in. He built and

chunked up the fires. Old mistress raised him and he had to wear a

bonnet. He was real light. He said the worse whoopings he ever got was

when he would be out riding stick horses with his bonnet on. The hands

on the place would catch him and whoop him and say, 'Old mis' thinks

he's white sure as de worl'.' The hands on the place sent him to the big

house squalling many a time.

"After he got grown he could be took for a white man easy. He was part

French. He talked Frenchy and acted Frenchy. Every one who knowd him in

Little Rock called him Pa Frazier and called my mother Ma Frazier, but

she was dark. Pa said he et out his mistress' plate more times than he

didn't. She raised him about like her own boy.

"Mother had a hard time. Alex Norse bought my mother and a small brother

from some people leaving her own dear mother when she was fifteen years

old. Her mother kept the baby and the little boy took sick and died. But

there had been an older boy sold to some folks near Norse's place before

she was sold. The brother that was two years old died. There were other

older children sold. My mother never saw her mother after she was sold.

She heard from her mother in 1910. She was then one hundred and one

years old and could thread her needles to piece quilts. Her baby boy six

months old when mother was sold come to visit us. Mother wanted to go

back to see her but never was able to get the money ready. Mother had

good sight when she died in 1920. She was eighty-seven years old and

didn't have to wear glasses to see. Mother's father was on another

place. He was said to be part or all Indian.

"Mother said once a cloth peddler come through the country. Her older

brother John lived on a place close to the Norse place. John told the

peddler that ma took the piece of goods he missed. But John was the one

got the goods mind out. The peddler reported it to Master Norse. He give

my mother a terrible beating. After that it come out on John. He had

stole the piece of cloth. John then took sick, lay sick a long time.

Master Norse wouldn't let her go nigh John. She knowd when he died and

the day he was to be buried. Master Norse wouldn't let her go nigh

there, not even look like she wanted to cry.

"Mother married before freedom, jumped the broom she said. Then after

freedom she married my father. My parents named Clara and George

Frazier. She had twelve children. Pa was a cripple man. He was a

soldier. He said he never was shot and never shot no one. He was on a

horse and going this way (reeling from side to side dodging the

shooting) all time. A horse throwed him and hurt his hip in the army.

After that he limped. He drew a pension. I limps but I'm better as I got

grown. I'm marked after him. One of my children I named after him what

died was cripple like him. My little George died when he was ten. He was

marked at birth after his grandpa. I had ten, jus' got five living


"My husband's father's father was in the Civil War. He didn't want to go

out on battle-field, so in the camps he cut his eyeball with his

fingernail so he could get to go to the horsepital. His eye went out. He

hurt it too near the sight. He said he was sorry the rest of his life he

done that. He got a pension too. He was blind and always was sorry for

his disobedience. He said he was scared so bad he 'bout leave die then

as go into the battlefield.

"In some ways times is better. People are no better. Children jus'

growing up wild. Their education is of the head and not their heart and


"I was raised around Little Rock is about right. I gets a pension. I'm

sixty-two years old but I was down sick with nerve trouble several

years. I'm better now. I've been gradually coming on up for over a year


"Mr. Ernest Harper of Little Rock takes out truckloads of black folks to

work on his place in the country every day. They can get work that way

if they can work."

Isabella Dorroh Isabella Jackson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail