Lucy Key

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Lucy Key,

Forrest City, Arkansas

Age: 70 plus

"I was born in Marshall County, Mississippi. I seen Yankees go by in

droves. I was big enough to recollect that. Old mis', Ellis Marshall's

mother, named all the colored children on the place. All the white and

colored children was named for somebody else in the family. Aunt Mary

Marshall stayed in the house wid old mis'.

"Old mis' had a polly parrot. That thing got bad 'bout telling on us.

Old mis' give us a brushing. Her son was a bachelor. He lived there.

He married a girl fourteen or fifteen years old and Lawrence Marshall

is their son. His sister was in Texas. They said old man Marshall was

so stingy he would cut a pea in two. Every time we'd go in the orchard

old polly parrot tell on us. We'd eat the turning fruit. One day Aunt

Mary (colored) scared polly with her dress and apron till he took bad

off sick and died. Mr. Marshall was rough. If he'd found that out he'd

'bout whooped Aunt Mary to death. He didn't find it out. He'd have

crazy spells and they couldn't handle him. They would send for Wallace

and Tite Marshall (colored men on his place). They was all could do

anything wid 'em. He had plenty money and a big room full of meat all

the time.

"I recollect what we called after the War a 'Jim Crow.' It was a

hairbrush that had brass or steel teeth like pins 'ceptin' it was

blunt. It was that long, handle and all (about a foot long). They'd

wash me and grease my legs with lard, keep them from looking ashy and

rusty. Then they'd come after me with them old brushes and brush my

hair. It mortally took skin, hair, and all.

"The first shoe I ever wore had a brass toe. I danced all time when I

was a child. We wore cotton dresses so strong. They would hang you if

you got caught on 'em. We had one best dress.

"One time I went along wid a colored girl to preaching. Her fellar

walked home wid 'er. I was coming 'long behind. He helped her over the

rail fence. I wouldn't let him help me. I was sorter bashful. He

looked back and I was dangling. I got caught when I jumped. They got

me loose. My homespun dress didn't tear.

"I liked my papa the best. He was kind and never whooped us. He belong

to Master Stamps on another place. He was seventy-five years old when

he died.

"I milked a drove of cows. They raised us on milk and they had a

garden. I never et much meat. I went to school and they said meat

would make you thick-headed so you couldn't learn.

"I think papa was in the War. We cut sorghum cane with his sword what

he fit wid.

"Stamps was a teacher. He started a college before the War. It was a

big white house and a boarding house for the scholars. He had a

scholar they called Cooperwood. He rode. He would run us children.

Mama went to Master Stamps and he stopped that. He was the teacher. I

think that was toreckly after the War. Then we lived in the boarding

house. Four or five families lived in that big old house. It had

fifteen rooms. That was close to Marshall, Mississippi.

"Me and the Norfleet children drove the old mule gin together. There

was Mary, Nell, Grace. Miss Cora was the oldest. Miss Cora Marshall

married the old bachelor I told you about. She didn't play much.

"When the first yellow fever broke out, Master George Stamps sent papa

to Colliersville from Germantown. The officers stayed there. While he

was waiting for meat he would stay in the bottoms. He'd bring meat

back. Master George had a great big heavy key to the smokehouse. He'd

cut meat and give it out to his Negroes. That meat was smuggled from

Memphis. He'd go in a two-horse wagon. I clem up and look through the

log cracks at him cutting up the meat fer the hands on his place.

"I had the rheumatism but I cured it. I cupped my knee. Put water in a

cup, put a little coal oil (kerosene) on top, strike a match to it and

slap the cup to my knee. It drawed a clear blister. I got it well and

the rheumatism was gone. I used to rub my legs from my waist down'ards

with mule water. They say that is mighty good for rheumatism. I don't

have it no more.

"No sir-ree-bob, I ain't never voted and I don't aim to long as I'm in

my mind.

"Times ain't hard as they was when I was coming on. (Another Negro

woman says Aunt Lucy Key will wash or do lots of things and never take

a cent of pay for it--ed.) Money is scarce but this generation don't

know how to work. My husband gets relief 'cause he's sick and wore

out. My nephew gives us these rooms to live in. He got money. (We saw

a radio in his room and modern up-to-date furnishings--ed.) He is a

good boy. I'm good to him as I can be. Seems like some folks getting

richer every day, other folks getting worse off every day. Times look

dark that way to me.

"I been in Arkansas eight years. I tries to be friendly wid


Lucy Gallman Lucy Mccullough facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail