Leonard Franklin

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Leonard Franklin

Temporary: 301 Ridgeway, Little Rock, Arkansas

Permanent: Warren, Arkansas

Age: 70

[HW: Mother Whipped Overseer]

"I don't know exactly the year I was born. But my father told me I was

born since the Civil War. I am seventy years old. They always tell me

when my birthday come 'round it will be in January--the eighteenth of


"My father's name was Abe Franklin and my mother's name was Lucy

Franklin. I know my father's mother but I didn't ever know his father.

His mother's name was Maria Franklin. My mother's father was Harris

Pennington. I never did see her mother and never did see her.

"I was born in Warren, Arkansas. My mother and father were born in

Warren. That is on the outer edge of Warren. My mother's slavery farm

was on what they called Big Creek. It is named Franklin Creek. Two or

three miles of it ran through Franklin's Farm.

"My father's master was Al Franklin. And my mother's master's name was

Hill Pennington. One of Hill Pennington's sons was named Fountain

Pennington. He lives about five miles from Warren now on the south


"My mother had about three masters before she got free. She was a

terrible working woman. Her boss went off deer hunting once for a few

weeks. While he was gone, the overseer tried to whip her. She knocked

him down and tore his face up so that the doctor had to 'tend to him.

When Pennington came back, he noticed his face all patched up and asked

him what was the matter with it. The overseer told him that he went down

in the field to whip the hands and that he just thought he would hit

Lucy a few licks to show the slaves that he was impartial, but she

jumped on me and like to tore me up. Old Pennington said to him, 'Well,

if that is the best you could do with her, damned if you won't just have

to take it.'

"Then they sold her to another man named Jim Bernard. Bernard did a lot

of big talk to her one morning. He said, 'Look out there and mind you do

what you told around her and step lively. If you don't, you'll get that

bull whip.' She said to him, 'Yes, and we'll both be gittin' it.' He had

heard about her; so he sold her to another man named Cleary. He was good

to her; so she wasn't sold no more after that.

"There wasn't many men could class up with her when it come to working.

She could do more work than any two men. There wasn't no use for no one

man to try to do nothin' with her. No overseer never downed her.

"They didn't kill niggers then--not in slavery times. Not 'round where

my folks were. A nigger was money. Slaves were property. They'd paid

money to git 'im and money to keep 'im and they couldn't 'ford to kill

'em up. When they couldn't manage them they sold them and got their

money out of them.

"The white people started to Texas with the colored folks near the end

of the war and got as far as El Dorado. Word come to 'em that freedom

had come and they turned back.

"A paterole come in one night before freedom and asked for a drink of

water. He said he was thirsty. He had a rubber thing on and drank two or

three buckets of water. His rubber bag swelled up and made his head or

the thing that looked like his head under the hood grow taller. Instead

of gettin' 'fraid, mother threw a shovelful of hot ashes on him and I'll

tell you he lit out from there and never did come back no more.

"Right after the war my folks went to work on the farm. They hired out

by the month. [HW: My father] didn't never say how much he got. When

they had a settlement at the end of the year, the boss said his wages

didn't amount to nothing because his living took it up. Said he had ate

it all up. After that, he took my mother's advice and took up part of

his wages in a cow and so on, and then he'd always have something to

show for his work at the end of the year when it come settling up time.

It was ten years before he got a start. It was hard to get ahead then

because the niggers had just got free and didn't have nothin' and didn't

know nothin'. My father had two brothers that just stayed on with the

white folks. They stayed on till they got too old to work, then they had

to go. Couldn't do no good then. My father was always treated well by

his master.

"I got my schooling at Warren. I went to the tenth grade. Could have

gone farther but didn't want to. I was looking at something I thought

was better than education. When I got of age, I come up here and just

run about. I was what you might say pretty fine. I was looking so high I

couldn't find nothing to suit me. I went 'round to a number of places

and none of them suited me. So I went on back home and been there ever


"I married once in my life. My wife is still living. My wife is a good

woman. No, if I got rid of this one, wouldn't do to take another one. I

am the father of ten living children. I made a living by doing anything

that come up--housework, gardening, anything.

"I don't get no government help. I don't want none yet. God has seen me

this far. I think He'll see me to the end. He is good to me; He's given

me such a good time I couldn't help but serve Him. Only been sick once

in seventy years.

"I belong to the Baptist church. God is my boss now. He has brought me

this far and He's able to carry me across"

Lenneth Jones Leroy Day facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail