John Johnson

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: John Johnson

R.F.D., Clarendon, Arkansas

Age: 73

"I was born sixteen miles on the other side of Jackson, Tennessee. The

old mistress was Miss Sally, and old master was Mr. Steve Johnson,

same name as mine. My papa's name was Louis Johnson but my mama

belonged to the Conleys and befo' she married papa her name was Martha

Conley. My folks fur as I knowed was field hands. They stayed on at

Johnsons and worked a long time after freedom. I was born just befo'

freedom. From what I heard all of my folks talkin' the Ku Klux 'fected

the colored folks right smart, more than the war. Seemed 'bout like

two wars and both of 'em tried their best to draw in the black race.

The black race wanted peace all the time. It was Abraham Lincoln whut

wanted to free the black race. He was the President. The first war was

'bout freedom and the war right after it was equalization. The Ku Klux

muster won it cause they didn't want the colored folks have as much as

they have. I heard my folks say they knowed some of the Ku Klux. They

would get killed sometimes and then you hear 'bout it. They would be

nice as pie in day time and then dress up at night and be mean as they

could be. They wanted the colored folks think they was hants and

monsters from the bad place. All the Yankees whut wanted to stay after

they quit fighting, they run 'em out wid hounds at night. The Ku Klux

was awful mean I heard 'em say. Mr. Steve Johnson looked after all his

hands. All that stayed on to work for him. He told 'em long as they

stayed home at night and behave 'em selves they needn't be scared.

They wanter go out at night they had to have him write 'em a pass.

Jess like slavery an' they were free.

"The master didn't give 'em nuthin'. He let 'em live in his

houses--log houses, and he had 'em fed from the store stead of the

smoke house. He give 'em a little money in the fall to pay 'em. 'Bout

all the difference they didn't get beat up. If they didn't work he

would make 'em leave his place.

"That period--after the Civil War, it sure was hard. It was a

de'pression I'll tell you. I never seed a dollar till I was 'bout

grown. They called 'em 'wagon wheels.' They was mighty scarce. Great

big heavy pieces of silver. I ain't seed one fer years. But they used

to be some money.

"Lady, whut you wanter know was fo my days, fo I was born. My folks

could answered all dem questions. There was 4 girls and 6 boys in my


"Course I did vote. I used to have a heap a fun on election day. They

give you a drink. It was plentiful I tell you. I never did drink much.

I voted Republican ticket. I know it would sho be too bad if the white

folks didn't hunt good canidates. The colored race got too fur behind

to be able to run our govmint. Course I mean education. When they git

educated they ain't studyin' nuthin' but spendin' all they make and

havin' a spreein' time. Lady, that is yo job. The young generation

ain't carin' 'bout no govinment.

"The present conditions--that's whut I been tellin' you 'bout. It is

hard to get work heap of the time. When the white man got money he

sure give the colored man and woman work to do. The white man whut

live 'mong us is our best friend. He stand by our color the best. It

is a heap my age, I reckon, I can't keep in work. Young folks can pick

up work nearly all time.

"I started to pay fer my home when I worked at the mill. I used to

work at a shoe and shettle mill. I got holt of a little cash. I still

tryin' to pay fer my home. I will make 'bout two bales cotton this

year. Yes maam they is my own. I got a hog. I got a garden. I ain't

got no cow.

"No maam I don't get no 'sistance from the govmint. No commodities--no

nuthin'. I signed up but they ain't give me nuthin'. I think I am due

it. I am gettin' so no account I needs it. Lady, I never do waste no

money. I went to the show ground and I seed 'em buyin' goobers and

popcorn. I seed a whole drove of colored folks pushin' and scrouging

in there so feared they wouldn't get the best seat an' miss somepin.

Heap of poor white people scrouging in there too all together. They

need their money to live on fo cold weather come. Ain't I tellin' you

right? I sho never moved outer my tracks. I never been to a show in my

life. Them folks come in here wid music and big tent every year. I

never been to a show in my life. That what they come here fur, to get

the cotton pickin' money. Lady, they get a pile of money fore they

leave. Course folks needs it now.

"When I had my mules and rented I made most and next to that when I

farmed for a fourth. When I was young I made plenty. I know how cotton

an' corn is made now but I ain't able to do much work, much hard work.

The Bible say twice a child and once a man. My manhood is gone fur as

work concerned.

"I like mighty well if you govmint folks could give me a little

'sistance. I need it pretty bad at times and can't get a bit."

John James John Jones facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail