Lou Smith





Oklahoma Writers' Project

Ex-Slaves

[Date Stamp: Aug 12 1937]



LOU SMITH

Age 83 yrs.

Platter, Okla.





Sho', I remembers de slavery days! I was a little gal but I can tell

you lots of things about dem days. My job was nussing de younguns. I

took keer of them from daylight to dark. I'd have to sing them to

sleep too. I'd sing:



"By-lo Baby Bunting

Daddy's gone a-hunting

To get a rabbit skin

To wrap Baby Bunting in."



Sometimes I'd sing:



"Rock-a-bye baby, in a tree top

When de wind blows your cradle'll rock.

When de bough breaks de crad'll fall

Down comes baby cradle'n all."



My father was Jackson Longacre and he was born in Mississippi. My

mother, Caroline, was born in South Carolina. Both of them was born

slaves. My father belonged to Huriah Longacre. He had a big plantation

and lots of niggers. He put up a lot of his slaves as security on a

debt and he took sick and died so they put them all on de block and

sold them. My father and his mother (my grandma) was sold together. My

old Mistress bought my grandmother and old Mistress' sister bought my

grandma's sister. These white women agreed that they would never go

off so far that the two slave women couldn't see each other. They

allus kept this promise. A Mr. Covington offered old Master $700 for

me when I was about ten years old, but he wouldn't sell me. He didn't

need to for he was rich as cream and my, how good he was to us.



Young Master married Miss Jo Arnold and old Master sent me and my

mother over to live with them. I was small when I was took out of old

man McWilliams' yard. It was his wife that bought my grandmother and

my father. My mother's folks had always belonged to his family. They

all moved to Texas and we all lived there until after the surrender.



Miss Jo wasn't a good Mistress and mother and me wasn't happy. When

young Master was there he made her treat us good but when he was gone

she made our lives a misery to us. She was what we called a

"low-brow." She never had been used to slaves and she treated us like

dogs. She said us kids didn't need to wear any clothes and one day she

told us we could jest take'em off as it cost too much to clothe us. I

was jest a little child but I knowed I oughten to go without my

clothes. We wore little enough as it was. In summer we just wore one

garment, a sort of slip without any sleeves. Well, anyway she made me

take off my clothes and I just crept off and cried. Purty soon young

Master come home.



He wanted to know what on earth I was doing without my dress on. I

told him, and my goodness, but he raised the roof. He told her if she

didn't treat us better he was going to take us back to old Master. I

never did have any more good times 'cepting when I'd get to go to

visit at old Master's. None of our family could be sold and that was

why old Master just loaned us to young Master. When old Master died,

dey put all our names in a hat and all the chilluns draw out a name.

This was done to 'vide us niggers satisfactory. Young Master drawed my

mother's name and they all agreed that I should go with her, so back

we went to Miss Jo. She wouldn't feed us niggers. She'd make me set in

a corner like a little dog. I got so hungry and howled so loud they

had to feed me. When the surrender come, I was eleven years old, and

they told us we was free. I ran off and hid in the plum orchard and I

said over'n over, "I'se free, I'se free; I ain't never going back to

Miss Jo." My mother come out and got me and in a few days my father

came and lived with us. He worked for young Master and the crops was

divided with him. Miss Jo died and we lived on there. My mother took

over the charge of the house and the chillun for young Master and we

was all purty happy after that.



They was a white man come into our settlement and bought a plantation

and some slaves. My, but he treated them bad. He owned a boy about

fifteen years old. One day he sent him on a errand. On the way home he

got off his mule and set down in the shade of a tree to rest. He fell

asleep and the mule went home. When he woke up he was scared to go

home and he stayed out in de woods for several days. Finally they

caught him and took him home and his master beat him nearly to death.

He then dug a hole and put him in it and piled corn shucks all around

him. This nearly killed him 'cause his body was cut up so with the

whip. One of the niggers slipped off and went to the jining plantation

and told about the way the boy was being treated and a bunch of white

men came over and made him take the child out and doctor his wounds.

This man lived there about ten years and he was so mean to his slaves

'til all the white men round who owned niggers finally went to him and

told him they would just give him so long to sell out and leave. They

made him sell his slaves to people there in the community, and he went

back north.



My mother told me that he owned a woman who was the mother of several

chillun and when her babies would get about a year or two of age he'd

sell them and it would break her heart. She never got to keep them.

When her fourth baby was born and was about two months old she just

studied all the time about how she would have to give it up and one

day she said, "I just decided I'm not going to let old Master sell

this baby; he just ain't going to do it." She got up and give it

something out of a bottle and purty soon it was dead. 'Course didn't

nobody tell on her or he'd of beat her nearly to death. There wasn't

many folks that was mean to their slaves.



Old Master's boys played with the nigger boys all the time. They'd go

swimming, fishing and hunting together. One of his boys name was

Robert but everybody called him Bud. They all would catch rabbits and

mark them and turn them loose. One day a boy come along with a rabbit

he had caught in a trap. Old Master's boy noticed that it had Bud's

mark on it and they made him turn it loose.



Old Master was his own overseer, but my daddy was the overlooker. He

was purty hard on them too, as they had to work just like they never

got tired. The women had to do housework, spinning, sewing and work in

the fields too. My mother was housewoman and she could keep herself

looking nice. My, she went around with her hair and clothes all

Jenny-Lynned-up all the time until we went to live with Miss Jo. She

took all the spirit out of poor mother and me too.



I remember she allus kept our cabin as clean and neat as a pin. When

other niggers come to visit her they would say, "My you are Buckry

Niggers (meaning we tried to live like white folks)."



I love to think of when we lived with old Master. We had a good time.

Our cabin was nice and had a chimbley in it. Mother would cook and

serve our breakfast at home every morning and dinner and supper on

Sundays. We'd have biscuit every Sunday morning for our breakfast.

That was something to look forward to.



We all went to church every Sunday. We would go to the white folks

church in the morning and to our church in the evening. Bill

McWilliams, old Master's oldest boy, didn't take much stock in church.

He owned a nigger named Bird, who preached for us. Bill said, "Bird,

you can't preach, you can't read, how on earth can you get a text out

of the Bible when you can't even read? How'n hell can a man preach

that don't know nothing?" Bird told him the Lord had called him to

preach and he'd put the things in his mouth that he ought to say. One

night Bill went to church and Bird preached the hair-raisingest

sermon you ever heard. Bill told him all right to go and preach, and

he gave Bird a horse and set him free to go anywhere he wanted to and

preach.



Old Master and old Mistress lived in grand style. Bob was the driver

of their carriage. My, but he was always slick and shiny. He'd set up

in front with his white shirt and black clothes. He looked like a

black martin (bird) with a white breast. The nurse set in the back

with the chillun. Old Master and Mistress set together in the front

seat.



Old Master and Mistress would come down to the quarters to eat

Christmas dinners sometimes and also birthday dinners. It was sho' a

big day when they done that. They'd eat first, and the niggers would

sing and dance to entertain them. Old Master would walk 'round through

the quarters talking to the ones that was sick or too old to work. He

was awful kind. I never knowed him to whip much. Once he whipped a

woman for stealing. She and mother had to spin and weave. She couldn't

or didn't work as fast as Ma and wouldn't have as much to show for her

days work. She'd steal hanks of Ma's thread so she couldn't do more

work than she did. She'd also steal old Master's tobacco. He caught up

with her and whipped her.



I never saw any niggers on the block but I remember once they had a

sale in town and I seen them pass our house in gangs, the little ones

in wagons and others walking. I've seen slaves who run away from their

masters and they'd have to work in the field with a big ball and chain

on their leg. They'd hoe out to the end of the chain and then drag it

up a piece and hoe on to the end of the row.



Times was awful hard during the War. We actually suffered for some

salt. We'd go to the smoke house where meat had been salted down for

years, dig a hole in the ground and fill it with water. After it would

stand for a while we'd dip the water up carefully and strain it and

cook our food in it. We parched corn and meal for coffee. We used

syrup for sugar. Some folks parched okra for coffee. When the War was

over you'd see men, women and chillun walk out of their cabins with a

bundle under their arms. All going by in droves, just going nowhere in

particular. My mother and father didn't join them; we stayed on at the

plantation. I run off and got married when I was twenty. Ma never did

want me to get married. My husband died five years ago. I never had no

chillun.



I reckon I'm a mite superstitious. If a man comes to your house first

on New Years you will have good luck; if a woman is your first visitor

you'll have bad luck. When I was a young woman I knowed I'd be left

alone in my old age. I seen it in my sleep. I dreamed I spit every

tooth in my head right out in my hand and something tell me I would be

a widow. That's a bad thing to dream about, losing your teeth.



Once my sister was at my house. She had a little baby and we was

setting on the porch. They was a big pine tree in front of the house,

and we seen something that looked like a big bird light in the tree.

She begun to cry and say that's a sign my baby is going to die. Sho'

nuff it just lived two weeks. Another time a big owl lit in a tree

near a house and we heard it holler. The baby died that night. It was

already sick, we's setting up with it.



I don't know where they's hants or not but I'se sho heard things I

couldn't see.



We allus has made our own medicines. We used herbs and roots. If

you'll take poke root and cut it in small pieces and string it and put

it 'round a baby's neck it will cut teeth easy. A tea made out of dog

fennel or corn shucks will cure chills and malaria. It'll make 'em

throw up. We used to take button snake root, black snake root, chips

of anvil iron and whiskey and make a tonic to cure consumption. It

would cure it too.





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