Martha Johnson

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Martha Johnson,

West Memphis

Age: 71

"I was born at Lake Providence, Louisiana second year after the War.

Mother's mother was left in Jackson, Tennessee. Mother was sold at

Vicksburg, Mississippi. Father's mother was left at Pittsburg,

Virginia. Father was brought to Lake Providence and sold to Master

Ross and Mr. Coleman was his overseer. He was stripped stark naked and

put up on the block. That was Nigger Traders Rule, he said. He was

black as men get to be. Mother was three-fourths white. Her master was

her father. He had two families. They was raised up in the same house

with his white family. Master's white wife raised her and kept her

till her death. He was dead I think.

"Then her young white master sold her. He sold his half-sister. She

met my father at Vicksburg, Mississippi where he mustered out. She was

chambermaid when the surrender came on, on the Gray Eagle boat from

Vicksburg to Memphis. Mother died when I was nine years old. Papa had

no boys, only three girls. I was his 'Tom Boy.' I did the milking and

out-of-door turns. Papa was a small man. He weighed 150 pounds. He

carpentered, made and mended shoes, and was a blacksmith. We farmed

and farmed. I was chambermaid in Haynes, Arkansas hotel three years. I

washed and ironed. I'm not much cook. I never was fond of cooking.

"I never voted. I'm not starting now. I'm too old.

"Times is hard. You can't get ahead no way. It keeps you hustling all

the time to live. Times is going pretty fast. In some ways times is

better for some people and harder for other people.

"These young folks don't want to be advised and I don't advise them

except my own children. I tell them all they listen to. They listen

now better than they did when they was younger. They are all grown.

"I don't get no help from nowhere but my children a little. I own my


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