Mack Brantley

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Mack Brantley, Brinkley, Arkansas

Age: 80

"I was born in Dallas County close to Selma, Alabama. My mother's owners

was Miss Mary Ann Roscoe and her husband was Master Ephriam Roscoe. They

had a good size gin and farm. We would gather 'round and tell ha'nt

tales till we would be scared to go home in the dark. The wind would

turn the old-fashioned screw and make a noise like packing cotton. We

older children would run and make out we thought it was the spirits. We

knowed better but the little children was afraid.

"My parents was Lucindy Roscoe. My pa belong to Warren Brantley. His

name was Silica Brantley.

"I was a stole chile. Ma had a husband the master give her and had

children. My pa lived on a joining farm. She wasn't supposen to have

children by my pa. That is why I'm called Mack Brantley now. Mama died

and Green Roscoe, my older brother, took me to Howell's so they would

raise me. They was all kin. I was six months old when ma died. My sister

nursed me but Miss Mary Ann Roscoe suckled me wid Miss Minnie. When Miss

Minnie got grown and married she went to Mobile, Alabama to live. Later

Brother Silica give me to Master Henry Harrell. They sent me to school.

I never went to colored school. We went to Blunt Springs three months

every year in the summer time. When we come home one year Mr. Hankton

was gone and he never come back. He was my only teacher. The white

population didn't like him and they finally got him away.

"They was good white people. I had a pallet in the room and in the

morning I took it up and put it away in a little room. I slept in the

house till I was good and grown. I made fires for them in the winter

time. Mr. Walter died three years ago. He was their son. He had a big

store there. Miss Carrie married Charlie Hooper. He courted her five

years. I bring her a letter and she tore it up before she read it. He

kept coming. He lived in Kentucky. The last I heard they lived in

Birmingham. Miss Kitty Avery Harrell was my mistress at freedom and

after, and after boss died. I had four children when I left. If Mr.

Walter was living I'd go to him now. Mr. Hooper would cuss. Old boss

didn't cuss. I never liked Mr. Hooper's ways. Old boss was kinder. All

my sisters dead. I reckon I got two brothers. Charles Roscoe was where

boss left him. He was grown when I was a child. Jack Roscoe lives at

Forrest, Mississippi. Brother Silica Roscoe had a wife and children when

freedom come on. He left that wife and got married to another one and

went off to Mississippi. Preachers quit their slavery wives and children

and married other wives. It wasn't right. No ma'am, it wasn't right.

Awful lot of it was done. Then is when I got took to my Miss Kitty.

After freedom is right.

"I tole you I was a stole chile. I never seen my own pa but a few times.

He lived on a joining farm. Ma had a husband her master give her the

first time they had been at a big log rolling and come up for dinner.

They put the planks out and the dinner on it. They kept saying, 'Mack,

shake hands with your papa.' He was standing off to one side. It was

sorter shame. They kept on. I was little. I went over there. He shook

hands with me. I said, 'Hi, papa! Give me a nickel.' He reached in his

pocket and give me a nickel. Then they stopped teasing me. He went off

on Alabama River eighteen miles from us to Caholba, Alabama. I never

seen him much more. Ma had been dead then several years.

"Green, my brother, took me to Miss Mary Ann Roscoe when mama died. She

was my ma's owner. I stayed there till Green died. A whole lot of boys

was standing around and bet Green he couldn't tote that barrel of

molasses a certain piece. They helped it up and was to help him put it

down and give him five dollars. That was late in the ebenin'. He let the

barrel down and a ball as big as a goose egg of blood come out of his

mouth. The next day he died. Master got Dr. Blevins quick as he could

ride there. He was mad as he could be. Dr. Blevins said it weighed eight

hundred pounds. It was a hogshead of molasses. Green was much of a man.

He was a giant. Dr. Blevins said they had killed a good man. Green was

good and so strong. I never could forget it. Green was my standby.

"The Yankees burnt Boss Henry's father's fine house, his gin, his grist

mill, and fifty or sixty bales of cotton and took several fine horses.

They took him out in his shirt tail and beat him, and whooped his wife,

trying to make them tell where the money was. He told her to tell. He

had it buried in a pot in the garden. They went and dug it up. Forty

thousand dollars in gold and silver. Out they lit then. I seen that. He

lived to be eighty and she lived to be seventy-eight years old. He had

owned seven or eight or ten miles of road land at Howell Crossroads.

Road land is like highway land, it is more costly. He had Henry and

Finas married and moved off. Miss Melia was his daughter and her husband

and the overseer was there but they couldn't save the money. I waited on

Misa Melia when she got sick and died. She was fine a woman as ever I

seen. Every colored person on the place knowed where the pot was buried.

Some of them planted it. They wouldn't tell. We could hear the battles

at Selma, Alabama. It was a roar and like an earthquake.

"Freedom--I was a little boy. I cried to go with the bigger children.

They had to tote water. One day I heard somebody crying over 'cross a

ditch and fence covered with vines and small trees. I heard, 'Do pray

master.' I run hid under the house. I was snoring when they found me. I

heard somebody say, 'Slave day is over.' That is all I ever knowed about

freedom. The way I knowed, a Yankee. We was in the road piling up sand

and a lot of blue coats on horses was coming. We got out of the road and

went to tell our white folks. They said, 'Get out of their way, they are


"When I left Alabama I went to Mississippi. I worked my way on a

steamboat. I had been trained to do whatever I was commanded. The man,

my boss, said, 'Mack, get the rope behind the boiler and tie it to the

stob and 'dead man'. I tied it to the stob and I was looking for a dead

man. He showed me what it was. Then I tied it. I went to Vicksburg then.

I had got mixed up with a woman and run off.

"I been married once in my life. I had eighteen children. Nine lived. I

got a boy here and a girl in Pine Bluff. My son's wife is mean to me. I

don't want to stay here. If I can get my pension started, I want to live

with my daughter.

"I used to vote Republican. They claimed it made times better for my

race. I found out better. I don't vote now. Wilson was good as Mr.

Roosevelt, I think. I voted about eight years ago, I reckon. I didn't

vote for Mr. Roosevelt.

"I wish I was young and had the chance this generation has got. Times is

better every way for a good man unless he is unable to work like I am

now. (This old man tends his garden, a large nice one--ed.) My son

supports me now."

Lyttleton Dandridge Mack Mullen facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail