Josie Jordan

Oklahoma Writers' Project


[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]


Age 75 yrs.

840 East King St.,

Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I was born right in the middle of the War on the Mark Lowery

plantation at Sparta, in White County, Tennessee, so I don't know

anything much about them slave days except what my mammy told me long

years ago. 'Course I mean the Civil War, for to us colored folks they

just wasn't no other war as meanful as that one.

My mother she come from Virginia when a little girl, but never nobody

tells me where at my pappy is from. His name was David Lowery when I

was born, but I guess he had plenty other names, for like my mammy he

was sold lots of times.

Salina was my mammy's name, and she belonged to a Mister Clark, who

sold her and pappy to Mark Lowery 'cause she was a fighting,

mule-headed woman.

It wasn't her fault 'cause she was a fighter. The master who owned her

before Mister Clark was one of them white mens who was always whipping

and beating his slaves and mammy couldn't stand it no more.

That's the way she tells me about it. She just figgured she would be

better off dead and out of her misery as to be whipped all the time,

so one day the master claimed they was something wrong with her work

and started to raise his whip, but mammy fought back and when the

ruckus was over the Master was laying still on the ground and folks

thought he was dead, he got such a heavy beating.

Mammy says he don't die and right after that she was sold to Mister

Clark I been telling you about. And mammy was full of misery for a

long time after she was carried to Mark Lowery's plantation where at

I was born during of the War.

She had two children while belonging to Mister Clark and he wouldn't

let them go with mammy and pappy. That's what caused her misery. Pappy

tried to ease her mind but she jest kept a'crying for her babies, Ann

and Reuban, till Mister Lowery got Clark to leave them visit with her

once a month.

Mammy always says that Mark Lowery was a good master. But he'd heard

things about mammy before he got her and I reckon was curious to know

if they was all true. Mammy says he found out mighty quick they was.

It was mammy's second day on the plantation and Mark Lowery acted like

he was going to whip her for something she'd done or hadn't, but mammy

knocked him plumb through the open cellar door. He wasn't hurt, not

even mad for mammy says he climbed out the cellar a'laughing, saying

he was only fooling to see if she would fight.

But mammy's troubles wasn't over then, for Mark Lowery he got himself

a new young wife (his first wife was dead), and mammy was round of the

house most of the time after that.

Right away they had trouble. The Mistress was trying to make mammy

hurry up with the work and she hit mammy with the broom stick. Mammy's

mule temper boiled up all over the kitchen and the Master had to stop

the fighting.

He wouldn't whip mammy for her part in the trouble, so the Mistress

she sent word to her father and brothers and they come to Mister

Lowery's place.

They was going to whip mammy, they was good and mad. Master was good

and mad, too, and he warned 'em home.

"Whip your own slaves." He told them. "Mine have to work and if

they're beat up they can't do a days work. Get on home--I'll take care

of this." And they left.

My folks didn't have no food troubles at Mark Lowery's like they did

somewheres else. I remember mammy told me about one master who almost

starved his slaves. Mighty stingy I reckon he was.

Some of them slaves was so poorly thin they ribs would kinder rustle

against each other like corn stalks a-drying in the hot winds. But

they gets even one hog-killing time, and it was funny too, mammy said.

They was seven hogs, fat and ready for fall hog-killing time. Just the

day before old master told off they was to be killed something

happened to all them porkers. One of the field boys found them and

come a-telling the master: "The hogs is all died, now they won't be

any meats for the winter."

When the master gets to where at the hogs is laying, they's a lot of

Negroes standing round looking sorrow-eyed at the wasted meat. The

master asks: "What's the illness with 'em?"

"Malitis." They tell him, and they acts like they don't want to touch

the hogs. Master says to dress them anyway for they ain't no more meat

on the place.

He says to keep all the meat for the slave families, but that's

because he's afraid to eat it hisself account of the hogs' got


"Don't you-all know what is malitis?" Mammy would ask the children

when she was telling of the seven fat hogs and seventy lean slaves.

And she would laugh, remembering how they fooled the old master so's

to get all them good meats.

"One of the strongest Negroes got up early in the morning," Mammy

would explain, "long 'fore the rising horn called the slaves from

their cabins. He skitted to the hog pen with a heavy mallet in his

hand. When he tapped Mister Hog 'tween the eyes with that mallet

'malitis' set in mighty quick, but it was a uncommon 'disease', even

with hungry Negroes around all the time."

Mammy had me three sisters and a brother while on the Lowery

plantation. They was Lisa, Addie, Alice and Lincoln. It was a long

time after the War and we was all freed before we left old Master


Stayed right there where we was at home, working in the fields, living

in the same old cabins, just like before the War. Never did have no

big troubles after the War, except one time the Ku Klux Klan broke up

a church meeting and whipped some of the Negroes.

The preacher was telling about the Bible days when the Klan rode up.

They was all masked up and everybody crawled under the benches when

they shouted: "We'll make you damn niggers wish you wasn't free!"

And they just about did. The preacher got the worst whipping, blood

was running from his nose and mouth and ears, and they left him laying

on the floor.

They whipped the women just like the men, but Mammy and the girls

wasn't touched none and we run all the way back to the cabin. Layed

down with all our clothes on and tried to sleep, but we's too scairt

to close our eyes.

Mammy reckoned old Master Lowery was a-riding with the Klan that

night, else we'd got a flogging too.

We first moved about a mile from Master Lowery's place and ever week

we'd ask mammy if we children could go see old Master and she'd say:

"Yes, if you-all are good niggers."

The old Master was always glad to see us children and he would give us

candy and apples and treat us mighty fine.

The old plantations gone, the old Masters gone, the old slaves is

gone, and I'll be a going some of these days, too, for I been here a

mighty long time and they ain't nobody needs me now 'cause I is too

old for any good.

Josie Brown Josie Martin facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail