Isabella Jackson

Oklahoma Writers' Project


[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]


Age 79 yrs.

Tulsa, Okla.

"Boom ... Boom! Boom ... Boom!" That's the way the old weaver go all

day long when my sister, Margaret, is making cloth for the slaves down

on old Doc Joe Jackson's plantation in Louisiana.

That was near the little place of Bunker, and its my birthplace, and I

guess where all Mammy's children were born because she was never sold

but once and nobody but the old Doc ever did own her after she come to

his place.

He always say couldn't nobody get work out of Mammy but him. I guess

that's just his foolery 'cause if she ain't no good the Old Doc most

likely sell her to some of them white folks in Texas.

That's what they done to them mean, no account slaves--just send them

to Texas. Them folks sure knew how for to handle 'em!

But I was talking about my sister, Margaret. I can still see her

weaving the cloth--Boom!... Boom!--and she hear that all the day and

get mighty tired. Sometimes she drop her head and go to sleep. The

Mistress get her then sure. Rap her on the head with almost anything

handy, but she hit pretty easy, just trying to scare her that's all.

The old Master though, he ain't so easy as that. The whippings was

done by the master and the overseer just tell the old Doc about the

troubles, like the old Doc say:

"You just watch the slaves and see they works and works hard, but

don't lay on with the whip, because I is the only one who knows how to

do it right!"

Maybe the old Master was sickened of whippings from the stories the

slaves told about the plantation that joined ours on the north.

If they ever was a living Devil that plantation was his home and the

owner was It! That's what the old slaves say, and when I tell you

about it see if I is right.

That man got so mean even the white folks was scared of him,

'specially if he was filled with drink. That's the way he was most of

the time, just before the slaves was freed.

All the time we hear about slaves on that place getting whipped or

being locked in the stock--that one of them things where your head and

hands is fastened through holes in a wide board, and you stands there

all the day and all the night--and sometimes we hears of them staying

in the stock for three-four weeks if they trys to run away to the


Sometimes we hears about some slave who is shot by that man while he

is wild with the drink. That's what I'm telling about now.

Don't nobody know what made the master mad at the old slave--one of

the oldest on the place. Anyway, the master didn't whip him; instead

of that he kills him with the gun and scares the others so bad most of

'em runs off and hides in the woods.

The drunk master just drags the old dead slave to the graveyard which

is down in the corner away from the growing crops, and hunts up two of

the young boys who was hiding in the barn. He takes them to dig the


The master stands watching every move they make, the dead man lays

there with his face to the sky, and the boys is so scared they could

hardly dig. The master keeps telling them to hurry with the digging.

After while he tells them to stop and put the body in the grave. They

wasn't no coffin, no box, for him. Just the old clothes that he wears

in the fields.

But the grave was too short and they start to digging some more, but

the master stop them. He says to put back the body in the grave, and

then he jumps into the grave hisself. Right on the dead he jumps and

stomps 'til the body is mashed and twisted to fit the hole. Then the

old nigger is buried.

That's the way my Mammy hears it and told it to us children. She was a

Christian and I know she told the truth.

Like I said, Mammy was never sold only to Master Jackson. But she's

seen them slave auctions where the men, women and children was

stripped naked and lined up so's the buyers could see what kind of

animals they was getting for their money.

My pappy's name was Jacob Keller and my mother was Maria. They's both

dead long ago, and I'm waiting for the old ship Zion that took my

Mammy away, like we use to sing of in the woods:

"It has landed my old Mammy,

It has landed my old Mammy,

Get on board, Get on board,

'Tis the Old Ship of Zion--

Get on board!"

Isabella Duke Isaiah Butler facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail