John Peterson

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: John Peterson, 1810 Eureka Street,

Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 80

"I was small but I can remember some 'bout slavery days. I was born down

here in Louisiana.

"I seed dem Yankees come through. Dey stopped dere and broke up all de

bee gums. Just tore 'em up. And took what dey could eat and went on. Dey

was doin' all dey could do. No tellin' what dey didn't do. People

what owned de place just run off and left. Yankees come dere in de

night. I 'member dat. Had ever'thing excited, so my white folks just

skipped out. Oh, yes, dey come back after the Yankees had gwine on.

"You could hear dem guns shootin' around. I heered my mother and father

say de Yankees was fightin' to free slavery.

"Run off? Oh Lawd, yes ma'am, I heered 'em say dey was plenty of 'em run


"George Swapsy was our owner. I know one thing, dey beat me enough. Had

me watchin' de garden to keep de chickens out. And sometimes I'd git to

playin' and fergit and de chickens would git in de garden, and I'd pay

for it too. I can 'member dat. Yes'm, dat was before freedom. Dey was

whippin' all de colored people--and me too.

"Yes'm, dey give us plenty to eat, but dey didn't give us no clothes. I

was naked half my time. Dat was when I was a little fellow.

"We all belonged to de same man. Dey never did 'part us. But my mother

was sold away from her people--and my father, too. He come from


"No ma'am, dey didn't have a big plantation--just a little place cleared

up in the woods.

"He didn't have no wife--just two grown sons and dey bof went to the


"Mars George died 'fore peace declared. He was a old fellow--and mean as

he could be.

"I never went to school till I was sixteen or seventeen years old. Dere

was a colored fellow had a little learnin' and we hired him two nights

in de week for three dollars a month. Did it for three years. I can read

a little and write my own name and sort of 'tend to my own business.

"Yes'm, I used to vote after I got grown. Yes'm, I did vote Republican.

But de white people stopped us from votin'. Dat was when Seymour and

Blair was runnin', and I ain't voted none since--I just quit. I've known

white people to go to the polls wif der guns and keep de colored folks

from votin'.

"Oh, dey was plenty of Ku Klux. I've known 'em to ketch people and whip

'em and kill 'em. Dey didn't bother me--I didn't give 'em a chance. Ku

Klux--I sure 'member dem.

"Younger generation? Well, Miss, you're a little too hard for me. Hard

to tell what'll become of 'em. I know one thing--dey is wiser. Oh, my

Lawd! A chile a year old know more'n I did when I was ten. We didn't

have no chance. Didn't have nobody to learn us nothin'. People is just

gittin' wuss ever' day. Killin' 'em up ever' day. Wuss now than dey was

ten years ago."

John Payne John R Cox facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail