Laura Shelton

Circumstances of interview


NAME OF WORKER--Samuel S. Taylor

ADDRESS--Little Rock, Arkansas

DATE--December, 1938


[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]

1. Name and address of informant--Laura Shelton, 1518 Pulaski Street,

Little Rock, Arkansas.

2. Date and time of interview interview--

3. Place of interview--1518 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, Arkansas.

4. Name and address of person, if any who put you in touch with


5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you--

Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.--

Personal History of Informant

1. Ancestry--mother, Susan Barnett; father, Ben Bearden; grandfather,

Harvey Barnett.

2. Place and date of birth--Arkansas, 1878

3. Family--Three children.

4. Education, with dates--

5. Places lived in with dates--Jerome, Arkansas and Little Rock. No


6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates--Farmed, wash and iron.

7. Special skills and interests--

8. Community and religious activities--Belongs to Baptist Church.

9. Description of informant--

10. Other points gained in interview--

Text of Interview (Unedited)

"My mother used to sit down and talk to us and tell us about slavery.

If she had died when I was young I wouldn't have known much. But by her

living till I was old, I learned a lot.

"My mother's old master was Tom Barnett, so she said. No, not 'so she

said' because I have seed him. He give her her age and all at that

time. I have it in my Bible. He said that she was twelve years old the

Christmas before the surrender. The surrender was in May, wasn't it?

"My mother's name was Susan Bearden. She married Ben Bearden. She worked

in Tom Barnett's house. She milked and churned and 'tended to the

children and all such as that. He never allowed her to go to the field.

Neither her mother, my grandmother. She was the cook. My mother's name

before she married was Susan Barnett.

"An old colored lady that they had there seed after the colored

children. She looked after my mother too. She was so old she couldn't do

nothin' so they had her to look after the children. My grandmother was

kept busy because she had the white folks to cook for and she had all

the colored folks to cook for too.

"There is an old lady down on Spring Street that can give you a lot of

information about slavery times.

"A boy was telling her that somebody was going 'round asking questions

about slavery and she said she wished he would come and see her.

"My mother never had any chance to go to school before freedom and she

never had any chance to go afterwards because she didn't have any money.

When they turned them loose the white folks didn't give 'em anything, so

they had to work. They didn't allow them to pick up a piece of paper in

slave time for fear they would learn.

"My mother remembered the pateroles. She said they used to catch and

whip the colored men and women when they would get out.

"My mother's old master was the one that told mama she was free. He told

her she was free as he was. After they learned that they were free, they

stayed on till Christmas.

"After Christmas, they went to another plantation. My gran'pa, he come

and got them all to come. My gran'pa's name was Harvey Barnett. His old

master's son had married and he had been staying with him. That made

him be on another place. There was a good many of the children in my

grandmother's family. Mama had a sister named Lucy, one named Lethe,

one named Caroline, one named Annie, and one named Jane. She had two

boys--one named Jack, and one named Barnett. She had another sister

named--I don't remember her name.

"After freedom, we sharecropped for a number of years up until my father

died. He died about twenty-four years ago.

"After that mama washed and ironed for about ten or twelve years. Then

she got too old to work and we took care of her. My mother died last

March on the ninth day. She always had good health for an old lady.

Never got so she couldn't get up and do her light work such as dress

herself, cooking, sweeping, and so on. She would even do her own washing

and ironing if we would let her. She would hide from us and pick cotton

till we stopped her.

"She was sick only one week and the doctor said she died of old age. He

said it was just her time. She didn't have nothin' the matter with her

but jus' old age he said so far as he could find. Dr. Fletcher was

our doctor. She died in Jerome, Arkansas about sixteen miles from the

Louisiana line. Leastwise, they tell me it's about sixteen miles from

the line. She always told us that she had her business fixed with the

Lord and that when she taken sick, It wouldn't be long. And sure 'nough,

it wasn't.

"I farmed until my mother and brother died. Then I came up here with my

sister as I had no children living. I jus' wash and iron now whenever I

can get somethin' to do.

"I have been married once. I had three children. All of them are dead.

My children are dead and my husband is dead.

"I belong to the Baptist church down on Spring Street. I always unite

with the church whenever I go to a place. I don't care whether I stay

there or not.

"My mama's master was good as far as white folks generally be in slavery

times. He never whipped my grandmother nor my mother. He was good to the

field hands too. He never whipped them. He would feed them too. He had

right smart of field hands but I don't know just how many. I don't think

he ever sold any of his slaves. I think he come by them from his father

because I have heard them say that his father told him before he died

never to 'part with Black Mammy. That was what he called her. And he

kept them altogether jus' like his father told him to. His father said,

'I you to keep all my Negroes together and Black Mammy I don't want you

let her be whipped because she nursed all of you.' She said she never

was whipped 'cept once when she got a cockle berry up her nose and he

got it out and gave her a little brushing--not as much as grandma would

have given her.

"He kept them all in good shoes and warm clothes and give them plenty to

eat. So many of the slaves on other plantations didn't have half enough

to eat and were half naked and barefooted all the time."

Laura Rowland Laura Sorrell facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail