Malindy Maxwell

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Malindy Maxwell, Madison, Arkansas

Age: Up in 80's

"I was born close to Como and Sardis, Mississippi. My master and

mistress was Sam Shans and Miss Cornelia Shans. I was born a slave. They

owned mama and Master Rube Sanders owned pa. Neither owner wouldn't sell

but they agreed to let ma and pa marry. They had a white preacher and

they married out in the yard and had a big table full of weddin' supper,

and the white folks et in the house. They had a big supper too. Ma said

they had a big crowd. The preacher read the ceremony. Miss Cornelia give

her a white dress and white shoes and Miss Cloe Wilburn give her a veil.

Miss Cloe was some connection of Rube Sanders.

"They had seven children. I'm the oldest--three of us living.

"After 'mancipation pa went to see about marrying ma over agen and they

told him that marriage would stand long as ever he lived.

"Mama was sold at twelve years old in Atlanta, Georgia. Ma and pa was

always field hands. Grandma got to be one of John Sanders' leading hands

to work mong the women folks. They said John Sanders was meanest man

ever lived or died. According to pa's saying, Mars Ruben was a good

sorter man. Pa said John Sanders was too mean a man to have a wife. He

was mean to Miss Sarah. They said he beat her, his wife, like he beat a

nigger woman.

"Miss Sarah say, 'Come get your rations early Saturday morning, clean up

your house, wash and iron, and we'll go to preaching tomorrow--Sunday. I

want you to all come out clean Monday morning.' They go ask Mars John

Sanders if they could go to preaching. I recken from what they said they

walked. Mars John, when they git their best clothes on, make them turn

round and go to the field and work all day long. He was just that mean.

Work all day long Sunday.

"Miss Sarah was a Primitive Baptist and that is what I am till this day.

Some folks call us Hardshell Baptist. The colored folks set in the back

of the church. The women all set on one side and the men on the other.

If they had a middle row, there was a railing dividing mens' seats from

the womens' seats on the very same benches.

"Miss Cloe, Miss Cornelia, and Miss Sarah cook up a whole lot of good

things to eat and go to camp meeting. Sometimes they would stay a week

and longer. They would take time bout letting the colored folks go long.

We had big times. My grandpa took a gingercake cutter with him and sold

gingercakes when they come out of the church. He could keep that money

his own. I don't know how he sold them. My sister has the cutter now I

expect. My girl has seen it. It was a foot long, this wide (5 inches),

and fluted all around the edges, and had a handle like a biscuit cutter.

They was about an inch thick. He made good ones and he sold all he could

ever make. Grandpa took carpet sacks to carry his gingercakes in to sell

them. I remember that mighty well. (The shape of the cutter was like

meetings. Folks got happy and shouted in them days. It would be when

somebody got religion. At some big meetings they didn't shout.

"When I was born they had a white mid-wife, Miss Martin. My mistress was

in the cabin when I was born. I was born foot foremost and had a veil on

my face and down on my body a piece. They call it a 'caul.' Sometimes I

see forms and they vanish. I can see some out of one eye now. But I've

always seen things when my sight was good. It is like when you are

dreaming at night but I see them at times that plain in day.

"I don't know how old I am but I was a good size girl when 'mancipation

come on. Miss Cornelia had my age in her Bible. They done took me from

the cabin and I was staying at the house. I slept on a trundle bed under

Miss Cornelia's bed. Her bed was a teaster--way high up, had a big stool

to step on to go up in there and she had it curtained off. I had a good

cotton bed and I slept good up under there. Her bed was corded with sea

grass rope. It didn't have no slats like beds do now.

"Colored folks slept on cotton beds and white folks--some of em at

least--picked geese and made feather beds and down pillows. They carded

and washed sheep's wool and put in their quilts. Some of them, they'd be

light and warm. Colored folks' bed had one leg. Then it was holes hewed

in the wall on the other three sides and wooden slats across it. Now

that wasn't no bad bed. Some of them was big enough for three to sleep

on good. When the children was small four could sleep easy cross ways,

and they slept that way.

"They had shelves and tables and chairs. They made chests and put things

in there and set on top of it too. White folks had fine chests to keep

their bed clothes in. Some of them was made of oak, and pine, and

cypress. They would cook walnut hulls and bark and paint them dark with

the tea.

"I recollect a right smart of the Civil War. We was close nough to hear

the roar and ramble and the big cannons shake the things in the house. I

don't know where they was fighting--a long ways off I guess.

"I saw the soldiers scouting. They come most any time. They go in and

take every drop of milk out of the churn. They took anything they could

find and went away with it. I seen the cavalry come through. I thought

they looked so pretty. Their canteens was shining in the sun. Miss

Cornelia told me to hide, the soldiers might take me on with them. I

didn't want to go. I was very well pleased there at Miss Cornelia's.

"I seen the cavalry come through that raised the 'white sheet.' I know

now it must have been a white flag but they called it a white sheet to

quit fighting. It was raised a short time after they passed and they

said they was the ones raised it. I don't know where it was. I reckon it

was a big white flag they rared up. It was so they would stop fighting.

"Mars Sam Shan didn't go to no war; he hid out. He said it was a useless

war, he wasn't going to get shot up for no use a tall, and he never went

a step. He hid out. I don't know where. I know Charles would take the

baskets off. Charles tended to the stock and the carriage. He drove the

wagon and carriage. He fetched water and wood. He was a black boy. Mars

Sam Shan said he wasn't goiner loose his life for nothing.

"Miss Cornelia would cook corn light bread and muffins and anything else

they had to cook. Rations got down mighty scarce before it was done wid.

They put the big round basket nearly big as a split cotton basket out on

the back portico. Charles come and disappear with it.

"Chess and Charles was colored overseers. He didn't have white

overseers. Miss Cornelia and Miss Cloe would walk the floor and cry and

I would walk between. I would cry feeling sorry for them, but I didn't

know why they cried so much. I know now it was squally times. War is


"Mars Sam Shan come home, went down to the cabins--they was scattered

over the fields--and told them the War was over, they was free but that

they could stay. Then come some runners, white men. They was Yankee men.

I know that now. They say you must get pay or go off. We stayed that

year. Another man went to pa and said he would give him half of what he

made. He got us all up and we went to Pleasant Hill. We done tolerable


"Then he tried to buy a house and five acres and got beat out of it. The

minor heirs come and took it. I never learnt in books till I went to

school. Seem like things was in a confusion after I got big nough for

that. I'd sweep and rake and cook and wash the dishes, card, spin, hoe,

scour the floors and tables. I would knit at night heap of times. We'd

sing some at night.

"Colored folks couldn't read so they couldn't sing at church lessen they

learnt the songs by hearing them at home. Colored folks would meet and

sing and pray and preach at the cabins.

"My first teacher was a white man, Mr. Babe Willroy. I went to him

several short sessions and on rainy days and cold days I couldn't work

in the field. I worked in the field all my life. Cook out in the winter,

back to the field in the spring till fall again.

"Well, I jes' had this one girl. I carried her along with me. She would

play round and then she was a heap of help. She is mighty good to me


"I never seen a Ku Klux in my life. Now, I couldn't tell you about them.

"My parents' names was Lou Sanders and Anthony Sanders. Ma's mother was

a Rockmore and her husband was a Cherokee Indian. I recollect them well.

He was a free man and was fixing to buy her freedom. Her young mistress

married Mr. Joe Bues and she heired her. Mr. Joe Bues drunk her up and

they come and got her and took her off. They run her to Memphis before

his wife could write to her pa. He was Mars Rockmore.

"Grandma was put on a block and sold fore grandpa could cumerlate nough

cash to buy her for his wife. Grandma never seen her ma no more. Grandpa

followed her and Mr. Sam Shans bought her and took her to Mississippi

with a lot more he bought.

"My pa's ma b'long to John Sanders and grandpa b'long to Rube Sanders.

They was brothers. Rube Sanders bought grandpa from Enoch Bobo down in

Mississippi. The Bobo's had a heap of slaves and land. Now, he was the

one that sold gingercakes. He was a blacksmith too. Both my grandpas was

blacksmiths but my Indian grandpa could make wagons, trays, bowls,

shoes, and things out of wood too. Him being a free man made his living

that way. But he never could cumolate enough to buy grandma.

"My other grandma was blacker than I am and grandpa too. When grandpa

died he was carried back to the Bobo graveyard and buried on Enoch

Bobo's place. It was his request all his slaves be brought back and

buried on his land. I went to the burying. I recollect that but ma and

pa had to ask could we go. We all got to go--all who wanted to go. It

was a big crowd. It was John Sanders let us go mean as he was.

"Miss Cornelia had the cistern cleaned out and they packed up their

pretty china dishes and silver in a big flat sorter box. Charles took

them down a ladder to the bottom of the dark cistern and put dirt over

it all and then scattered some old rubbish round, took the ladder out.

The Yankees never much as peared to see that old open cistern. I don't

know if they buried money or not. They packed up a lot of nice things.

It wasn't touched till after the War was over.

"I been farming and cooking all my life. I worked for Major Black, Mr.

Ben Tolbert, Mr. Williams at Pleasant Hill, Mississippi. I married and

long time after come to Arkansas. They said you could raise stock

here--no fence law.

"I get $8 and commodities because I am blind. I live with my daughter


Mahalia Shores Malindy Robinson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail