Lula Jackson

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Lula Jackson

1808 Valentine Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 79?

"I was born in Alabama, Russell County, on a place called Sand Ridge,

about seven miles out from Columbus, Georgia. Bred and born in

Alabama. Come out here a young gal. Wasn't married when I come out

here. Married when a boy from Alabama met me though. Got his picture.

Lula Williams! That was my name before I married. How many sisters do

you have? That's another question they ask all the time; I suppose you

want to know, too. Two. Where are they? That's another one of them

questions they always askin' me. You want to know it, too? I got one

in Clarksdale, Mississippi. And the other one is in Philadelphia; no,

I mean in Philipp city, Tallahatchie (county). Her name is Bertha

Owens and she lives in Philipp city. What state is Philipp city in?

That'll be the next question. It is in Mississippi, sir. Now is thar

anything else you'd like to know?

"My mother's name was Bertha Williams and my father's name was Fred

Williams. I don't know nothing 'bout mama's mother. Yes, her name was

Crecie. My father's mother was named Sarah. She got killed by

lightning. Crecie's husband was named John Oliver. Sarah's husband was

named William Daniel. Early Hurt was mama's master. He had an awful

name and he was an awful man. He whipped you till he'd bloodied you

and blistered you. Then he would cut open the blisters and drop

sealing-wax in them and in the open wounds made by the whips.

"When the Yankees come in, his wife run in and got in the bed between

the mattresses. I don't see why it didn't kill her. I don't know how

she stood it. Early died when the Yankees come in. He was already

sick. The Yankees come in and said, 'Did you know you are on the

Yankee line?'

"He said, 'No, by God, when did that happen?'

"They said, 'It happened tonight, G----D---- you.'

"And he turned right on over and done everything on hisself and died.

He had a eatin' cancer on his shoulder.

Schooling, Etc.

"My mother had so many children that I didn't get to go to school

much. She had nineteen children, and I had to stay home and work to

help take care of them. I can't write at all.

"I went to school in Alabama, 'round on a colored man's place--Mr.

Winters. That was near a little town called Fort Mitchell and Silver

Rim where they put the men in jail. I was a child. Mrs. Smith, a white

woman from the North, was the second teacher that I had. The first was

Mr. Croler. My third teacher was a man named Mr. Nelson. All of these

was white. They wasn't colored teachers. After the War, that was. I

have the book I used when I went to school. Here is the little

Arithmetic I used. Here is the Blue Back Speller. I have a McGuffy's

Primer too. I didn't use that. I got that out of the trash basket at

the white people's house where I work. One day they throwed it out.

That is what they use now, ain't it?

"Here is a book my husband give me. He bought it for me because I told

him I wanted a second reader. He said, 'Well, I'll go up to the store

and git you one.' Plantation store, you know. He had that charged to

his account.

"I used to study my lesson. I turned the whole class down once. It was

a class in spelling. I turned the class down on

'Publication'--p-u-b-l-i-c-a-t-i-o-n. They couldn't spell that. But

I'll tell the world they could spell it the next day.

"My teacher had a great big crocus sack, and when she got tired of

whipping them, she would put them in the sack. She never did put me in

that sack one time. I got a whipping mos' every day. I used to fight,

and when I wasn't fightin' for myself, I'd be fighting for other

children that would be scared to fight for theirselves, and I'd do

their fighting for them.

"That whippin' in your hand is the worst thing you ever got. Brother,

it hurts. I put a teacher in jail that'd whip one of my children in

the hand.

Occupational History and Family

"My mama said I was six years old when the War ended and that I was

born on the first day of October. During the War, I run up and down

the yard and played, and run up and down the street and played; and

when I would make too much noise, they'd whip me and send me back to

my mother and tell her not to whip me no more, because they had

already done it. I would help look after my mother's children. There

were five children younger than I was. Everywhere she went, the white

people would want me to nurse their children, because they said, 'That

little rawboneded one is goin' to be the smartest one you got. I want

her.' And my ma would say:

"'You ain't goin' to git 'er.' She had two other girls--Martha and

Sarah. They was older than me, and she would hire them out to do

nursing. They worked for their master during slave time, and they

worked for money after slavery.

"My mama's first husband was killed in a rasslin' (wrestling) match.

It used to be that one man would walk up to another and say, 'You

ain't no good.' And the other one would say, 'All right, le's see.'

And they would rassle.

"My mother's first husband was pretty old. His name was Myers. A young

man come up to him one Sunday morning when they were gettin'

commodities. They got sorghum, meat, meal, and flour; if what they got

wasn't enough, then they would go out and steal a hog. Sometime they'd

steal it anyhow; they got tired of eatin' the same thing all the time.

Hurt would whip them for it. Wouldn't let the overseer whip them. Whip

them hisself. 'Fraid the overseer wouldn't give them enough. They

never could find my grandfather's meat. That was Grandfather William

Down. They couldn't find his meat because he kept it hidden in a hole

in the ground. It was under the floor of the cabin.

"Old Myers made this young man rassle with him. The young fellow

didn't want to rassle with him; he said Myers was too old. Myers

wasn't my father; he was my mother's first husband. The young man

threw him. Myers wasn't satisfied with that. He wanted to rassle

again. The young man didn't want to rassle again. But Myers made him.

And the second time, the young man threw him so hard that he broke his

collar-bone. My mother was in a family way at the time. He lived about

a week after that, and died before the baby was born.

"My mother's second husband was named Fred Williams, and he was my

father. All this was in slavery times. I am his oldest child. He

raised all his children and all his stepchildren too. He and my mother

lived together for over forty years, until she was more than seventy.

He was much younger than she was--just eighteen years old when he

married her. And she was a woman with five children. But she was a

real wife to him. Him and her would fight, too. She was jealous of

him. Wouldn't be none of that with me. Honey, when you hit me once,

I'm gone. Ain't no beatin' on me and then sleepin' in the same bed

with you. But they fit and then they lived together right on. No

matter what happened, his clean clothes were ready whenever he got

ready to go out of the house--even if it was just to go to work. His

meals were ready whenever he got ready to eat. They were happy

together till she died.

"But when she died, he killed hisself courtin'. He was a young

preacher. He died of pneumonia. He was visiting his daughter and got

exposed to the weather and didn't take care of hisself.

"Right after the War, I was hired as a half-a-hand. After that I got

larger and was hired as a whole hand, me and the oldest girl. I worked

on one farm and then another for years. I married the first time when

I was fifteen years old. That was almost right after slave time. Four

couples of us were married at the same time. They lived close to me. I

didn't want my husband to git in the bed with me when I married the

first time. I didn't have no sense. I was a Christian girl.

"Frank Sampson was his name. It rained the day we married. I got my

feet wet. My husband brought me home and then he turned 'round and

went back to where the wedding was. They had a reception, and they

danced and had a good time. Sampson could dance, too, but I didn't. A

little before day, he come back and said to me--I was layin' in the

middle of the bed--'Git over.' I called to mother and told her he

wanted to git in the bed with me. She said, 'Well, let him git in.

He's yo'r husband now.'

"Frank Sampson and me lived together about twenty years before he got

killed, and then I married Andrew Jackson. He had children and

grandchildren. I don't know what was the matter with old man Jackson.

He was head deacon of the church. We only stayed together a year or


"I have been single ever since 1923, jus' bumming 'round white folks

and tryin' to work for them and makin' them give me somethin' to eat.

I ain't been tryin' to fin' no man. When I can't fin' no cookin' and

washin' and ironin' to do, I used to farm. I can't farm now, and

'course I can't git no work to do to amount to nothin'. They say I'm

too old to work.

"The Welfare helps me. Don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for them. I

git some commodities too, but I don't git any wood. Some people says

they pay house rent, but they never paid none of mine. I had to go to

Marianna and git my application straight before I could git any help.

They charged me half a dollar to fix out the application. The Welfare

wanted to know how I got the money to pay for the application if I

didn't have money to live on. I had to git it, and I had to git the

money to go to Marianna, too. If I hadn't, I never would have got no


Husband's Death

"I told you my first husband got killed. The mule run away with his

plow and throwed him a summerset. His head was where his heels should

have been, he said, and the mule dragged him. His chest was crushed,

and mashed. His face was cut and dirtied. He lived nine days and a

half after he was hurt and couldn't eat one grain of rice. I never

left his bedside 'cept to cook a little broth for him. That's all he

would eat--just a little broth.

"He said to his friend, 'See this little woman of mine? I hate to

leave her. She's just such a good little woman. She ain't got no

business in this world without a husband.'

"And his friend said to him, 'Well, you might as well make up your

mind you got to leave her, 'cause you goin' to do it.'

"He got hurt on Thursday and I couldn't git a doctor till Friday. Dr.

Harper, the plantation doctor, had got his house burned and his hands

hurt. So he couldn't come out to help us. Finally Dr. Hodges come. He

come from Sunnyside, Mississippi, and he charge me fourteen dollars.

He just made two trips and he didn't do nothin'.

"Bowls and pitchers were in style then. And I always kept a pitcher of

clean water in the house. I looked up and there was a bunch of men

comin' in the house. It was near dark then. They brought Sampson in

and carried him to the bed and put him down. I said, 'What's the

matter with Frank?' And they said, 'The mule drug him.' And they put

him on the bed and went on out. I dipped a handkerchief in the water

and wet it and put it in his mouth and took out great gobs of dust

where the mule had drug him in the dirt. They didn't nobody help me

with him then; I was there alone with him.

"I started to go for the doctor but he called me back and said it

wasn't no use for me to go. Couldn't git the doctor then, and if I

could, he'd charge too much and wouldn't be able to help him none

nohow. So we wasn't able to git the doctor till the next day, and then

it wasn't the plantation doctor. We had planted fifteen acres in

cotton, and we had ordered five hundred pounds of meat for our winter

supply and laid it up. But Frank never got to eat none of it. They

sent three or four hands over to git their meals with me, and they et

up all the meat and all the other supplies we had. I didn't want it.

It wasn't no use to me when Frank was gone. After they paid the

doctor's bill and took out for the supplies we was supposed to git,

they handed me thirty-three dollars and thirty-five cents. That was

all I got out of fifteen acres of cotton.


"I sew with rav'lin's. Here is some rav'lin's I use. I pull that out

of tobacco sacks, flour sacks, anything, when I don't have the money

to buy a spool of thread. I sew right on just as good with the

rav'lin's as if it was thread. Tobacco sacks make the best rav'lin's.

I got two bags full of tobacco sacks that I ain't unraveled yet. There

is a man down town who saves them for me. When a man pulls out a sack

he says, 'Save that sack for me, I got an old colored lady that makes

thread out of tobacco sacks.' These is what he has give me. (She

showed the interviewer a sack which had fully a gallon of little

tobacco sacks in it--ed.)

"They didn't use rav'lin's in slave time. They spun the thread. Then

they balled it. Then they twisted it, and then they sew with it. They

didn't use rav'lin's then, but they used them right after the War.

"My mama used to say, 'Come here, Lugenia.' She and me would work

together. She wanted me to reel for her. Ain't you never seen these

reels? They turn like a spinning-wheel, but it is made indifferent.

You turn till the thing pops, then you tie it; then it's ready to go

to the loom. It is in hanks after it leaves the reel and it is pretty,


Present Condition

"I used to live in a four-room house. They charged me seven dollars

and a half a month for it. They fixed it all up and then they wanted

to charge ten dollars, and it wouldn't have been long before they went

up to fifteen. So I moved. This place ain't so much. I pays five

dollars and a half for it. When it rains, I have to go outside to keep

from gittin' too wet. But I cut down the weeds all around the place. I

planted some flowers in the front yard, and some vegetables in the

back. That all helps me out. When I go to git commodities, I walk to

the place. I can't stand the way these people act on the cars. Of

course, when I have a bundle, I have to use the car to come back. I

just put it on my head and walk down to the car line and git on. Lord,

my mother used to carry some bundles on her head."

Interviewer's Comment

According to the marriage license issued at the time of her last

marriage in 1922, Andrew Jackson was sixty years old, and sister

Jackson was fifty-two. But Andrew Jackson was eighty when sister

Jackson married him, she says. Who can blame him for saying sixty to

the clerk? Sister Jackson admits that she was six years old during the

War and states freely and accurately details of those times, but what

wife whose husband puts only sixty in writing would be willing to

write down more than fifty-two for herself?

Right now at more than seventy-nine, she is spry and jaunty and witty

and good humored. Her house is as clean as a pin, and her yard is the


The McGuffy's Primer which she thinks is used now is a modernized

McGuffy printed in 1908. The book bought for her by her first husband

is an original McGuffy's Second Reader.

Luke Towns Lula Jackson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail