Josephine Ann Barnett
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Josephine Ann Barnett,
R.F.D., De Valls Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 75 or 80
"I do not knows my exact age. I judge I somewhere between 75 and 80
years old. I was born close to Germantown, Tennessee. We belong, that is
my mother, to Phillip McNeill and Sally McNeill. My mother was a milker.
He had a whole heap of hogs, cattle and stock. That not all my mother
done. She plowed. Children done the churnin'.
"The way it all come bout I was the onliest chile my mother had. Him and
Miss Sallie left her to help gather the crop and they brought me in the
buggy wid them. I set on a little box in the foot of the buggy. It had a
white umbrella stretched over it. Great big umbrella run in between
them. It was fastened to the buggy seat. When we got to Memphis they
loaded the buggy on the ship. I had a fine time coming. When we got to
Bucks Landing we rode to his place in the buggy. It is 13 miles from
here (De Valls Bluff). In the fall nearly all his slaves come out here.
Then when my mother come on. I never seen my papa after I left back home
[TR: Crossed out: (near Germantown)]. My father belong to Boston Hack.
He wouldn't sell and Mr. McNeill wouldn't sell and that how it come.
"I muster been five or six years old when I come out here to Arkansas.
My grandma was a midwife. She was already out here. She had to come with
the first crowd cause some women was expecting. I tell you it sho was
squally times. This country was wild. It was different from Tennessee or
close to Germantown where we come from. None of the slaves liked it but
they was brought.
"The war come on direckly after we got here. Several families had the
slaves drove off to Texas to save them. Keep em from following the
Yankee soldiers right here at the Bluff off. I remember seein' them come
up to the gate. My mother and two aunts went. His son and some more men
drove em. After freedom them what left childern come back. I stayed with
my grandma while they gone. I fed the chickens, shelled corn, churned,
swept. I done any little turns they sent me to do.
"One thing I remember happened when they had scrimmage close--it mighter
been the one on Long Prairie--they brought a young boy shot through his
lung to Mr. Phillip McNeill's house. He was a stranger. He died. I felt
so sorry for him. He was right young. He belong to the Southern army.
The Southern army nearly made his place their headquarters.
"Another thing I remember was a agent was going through the country
settin' fire to all the cotton. Mr. McNeill had his cotton--all our crop
we made. That man set it afire. It burned more than a week big. He
burned some left at the gin not Mr. McNeill's. It was fun to us children
but I know my grandma cried and all the balance of the slaves. Cause
they got some Christmas money and clothes too when the cotton was sold.
"The slaves hated the Yankees. They treated them mean. They was having a
big time. They didn't like the slaves. They steal from the slaves too.
Some poor folks didn't have slaves.
"After freedom my mother come back after me and we come here to De Valls
Bluff and I been here ever since. The Yankee soldiers had built shacks
and they left them. They would do. Some was one room, log, boxed and all
sorts. They give us a little to eat to keep us from starvin'. It sho was
a little bit too. My mother got work about.
"The first schoolhouse was a colored school. We had two rooms and two
teachers sent down from the North to teach us. If they had a white
school I didn't know it. They had one later on. I was bout grown. Mr.
Proctor and Miss Rice was the first teachers. We laughed bout em. They
was rough looking, didn't look like white folks down here we'd been used
to. They thought they sho was smart. Another teacher come down here was
Mr. Abner. White folks wouldn't have nothin' to do with em. We learned.
They learned us the ABC's and to write. I can read. I learned a heap of
it since I got grown just trying. They gimme a start.
"Times is hard in a way. Prices so high. I never had a hard time in my
life. I get $40 a month. It is cause my husband was a soldier here at De
"I do not vote. I ain't goiner vote.
"I don't know what to think of the young generation. They are on the
road to ruin seems like. I speakln' of the real young folks. They do
like they see the white girls and boys doin'. I don't know what to
become of em. The women outer stay at home and let the men take care of
em. The women seems like taking all the jobs. The colored folks cookin'
and making the living for their men folks. It ain't right--to me. But I
don't care how they do. Things ain't got fixed since that last war."
Josephine Anderson Josephine Bacchus