Mary Ann Brooks

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Mary Ann Brooks

James Addition, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 90

"I was born here in Arkansas. Durin' the war we went to Texas and stayed

one year and six months.

"My old master was old Dr. Brewster. He bought me when I was a girl

eight yeers old. Took me in for a debt. He had a drug store. I was a

nurse girl in the house. Stayed in the house all my life.

"I stayed here till Dr. Brewster--Dr. Arthur Brewster was his

name--stayed here till he carried me to his brother-in-law Dr. Asa

Brunson. Stayed there awhile, then the war started and he carrled us all

to Texas.

"I seen some Yankeee after we come back to Arkansas. I wes scared of em.

"I don't knew nothln' bout the war. I wasn't in it. I was livin' but we

was in Texas.

"The Ku Klux got after us twice when we was goin' to Texas. We had six

wagons, a cart, and a carriage. Old Dr. Brunson rode in the carriage.

He'd go ahead and pilot the way. We got lost twice. When we come to Red

River it was up and we had to camp there three weeks till the water


"We took some sheep and some cows so we could kill meat on the way. I

member we forded Saline River. Dr. Brunson carried us there and stayed

till he hired us out.

"After the war ceasted he come after us. Told as we didn't belong to him

no more--said we was free as he was. Yankees sent him after us. All the

folks come back--all but one famlly.

"I had tolerable good owners. Miss Fanny Brewster good to me.

"Old master got drunk so much. Come home sometimes muddy as a hog. All

his chillun was girls. I nursed all the girls but one.

"I was a mighty dancer when I was young--danced all night long.

Paddyrollers run us home from dancin' one night.

"I member one song we used to sing:

'Hop light lady

Cake was all dough--

Never mind the weather,

So the wind don't blow.'

"How many chillun I have? Les see--count em up. Ida, Willie, Clara--had


"Some of the young folks nowadays pretty rough. Some of em do right and

some don't.

"Never did go to school. Coulda went but papa died and had to go to


"I thinks over old times sometimes by myself. Didn't know what freedom

was till we was free and didn't hardly know then.

"Well, it's been a long time. All the Brewsters and the Bransons dead

and I'm still here--blind. Been blind eight years."

Waters Brooks

1814 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, Ark.

Retired railroad worker, No. Pac. 75

[TR: Information moved from bottom of each page.]

[HW: A Railroad Work History]

I was only three years old when peace (1865) was declared. I was born in

1862. Peace was declared in 1865. I remember seeing plenty of men that

they said the white folks never whipped. I remember seeing plenty of men

that they said bought their own freedom.

I remember a woman that they said fought with the overseer for a whole

day and stripped him naked as the day he was born. She was Nancy Ward.

Her owner was named Billie Ward. He had an overseer named Roper. Her

husband ran away from the white folks and stayed three years. He was in

the Bayou in a boat and the bottom dropped out of it. He climbed a tree

and hollered for someone to tel his master to come and get him if he

wanted him.


My father's master was John T. Williams. He went into the army--the

rebel army--and taken my father with him. I don't know how long my

father stayed in the army but I was only 6 months old when he died. He

had some kind of stomach trouble and died a natural death.


My mother and father both belonged to Joe Ward at first but Ward died

and his widow married Williams. My mother told me and not only told me

but showed me knots across her shoulder where they whipped her from

seven in the morning until nine at night. She went into the smoke house

to get some meat and they closed in on her and shut the door and strung

her up by her hands (her arms were crossed and a rope run from her

wrists to the hook in the ceiling on which meat was hung). There were

three of them. One would whip until he was tired, and then the other

would take it up.

Some years after she got that whipping, her master's child was down to

the bayou playing in the water. She told the child to stop playing in

the water, and it did not. Instead it threw dirt into the water that had

the bluing in it. Then she took the child and threw it into the Bayou.

Some way or other the child managed to scramble out. When the child's

aunt herd it from the child, she questioned my mother and asked her if

she did it. My mother told her "Yes". Then she said. "Well what do you

want to own it for? Don't you know if they find it out they will kill



My mother said that an old white man came through the quarters one

morning and said that they were all free--that they could go away or

stay where they were or do what they wanted to. If you will go there, I

can send you to an old man eighty-six years old who was in General

Sherman's army. He came from Mississippi. I don't know where he was a

slave. But he can tell you when peace was declared aad what they said

and everything.


The slaves were not expecting much but they were expecting more than

they got. I am not telling you anything I read in history but I have

heard that there was a bounty in the treasury for the ex-slaves, and

them alone. And some reason or other they did not pay it off, but the

time was coming when they would pay it off. And every man or woman

living that was born a slave would benefit from it. They say that

Abraham Lincoln principally was killed because he was going to pay this

money to the ex-slaves end before they would permit it they killed him.

Old man White who lives out in the west part of town was an agent for

some Senator who was in Washington, and he charged a dime and took your

name and age and the place where you lived.


They called the K.K.K. "White Cape". Right there in my neighborhood,

there was a colered man who hadn't long come in. The colored man was

late coming into the lot to get the mule for the white man and woman he

was working for. The white man hit him. The Negro knocked the white man

down and was going to kill him when the white man begged him off,

telling him that he wouldn't let anybody else hurt him. He (the Negro)

went on off and never came back. That night there were two hundred White

Caps looking for him but they didn't find him.

Another man got into an argument. They went to work and it started to

rain. The Negro thought that they would stop working because of the

rain; so he started home. The man he was working for met him and asked

him where he was going. When he told him he started to hit him with the

butt end of the gun he was wearing. The Negro knocked his gun up, took

it away from him, and drawed down and started to kill him when another

Negro knocked the gun up, and saved the white man's life. But the Nigger

might as well have killed him because that night seventy-five masked men

hunted him. He was hid away by his friends until he got a chance to get

away. This man was named Matthew Collins.

There was another case. This was a political one. The colored man wanted

to run for representative of some kind. He had been stump speaking. He

lived on a white man's place, and the owner came to him and told him he

had better get away because a mob was coming after him (not just

K.K.K.). He told his wife to go away and stay with his brother but she

wouldn't. He hid himself in a trunk and his wife was under the floor

with his two children. The white men fired into the house and that

didn't do anything, so they throwed a ball of fire into the house and

burned his wife and children. Then he rose up and came out of the trunk

and hollered, "Look out I'm coming", and he fired a load of buck shot

and tore one man nearly in two and ran away in the confusion. The next

day he went to the man on whose place he lived, but he told him he

couldn't do anything about it.

Another man by the name of Bob Sawyer had a farm near my home and

another farm down near Maginty's place. He worked the ????[TR:

Illegible] Niggers from one farm to the other.

His boy would ride in front with a rifle and he would be in the rear

with a big gun swinging down from his hip. There wae one Nigger who got

out and went down to Alexandria (Louisiana). He wrote to the officers

and they caught the Nigger and put him into the stocks and brought him

back, and the man hadn't done a thing but run away. After that they

worked him with a chain holding his legs together so that he could only

make short steps.

They had an old white man who worked there and they treated him so mean

he ran away and left his wife. They treated the poor whites about as bad

as they treated the colored.

If Bob met a Negro carrying cotton to the Gin, he would ask "Whose

cotton is that?", and if the Nigger said it was some white man's, he

would let him alone. But if he said. "Mine", Bob would tell him to take

it to some Gin where he wanted it taken. He was the kind of man that if

you seen him first, you wouldn't meet him.

One night he slipped up on a Nigger man that had left his place and

killed him as he sat at supper. I had an aunt with five or six children

who worker with him. He married my young Mistress after I was freed.

I saw him do this. The white folks had a funeral at the church down

there one Sunday. He came along and young Billie Ward (white man) was

sitting in a buggy driving with his wife. When he saw Billie, he jumped

down out of his buggy and horse-whipped him until he ran away. All the

while, Sawyer's mother-in-law was sitting in his buggy calling out,

"Shoot him, Bob, shoot him." this was because Billie and another man

had done some talk about Bob.


I came to Brinkley, Arkansas, March 4, 1900, and have been in Arkansas

ever since. Why I came, the postmaster where I was rented farm on which

I was farming. In March he put hands in my field to pick my cotton. All

that was in the field was mine. I knew that I couldn't do anything about

it so I left. A couple of years before that I rented five acres of land

from him for three dollars as acre (verbal agreement) sowed it down in

cotton. It done so well I made five bales of cotton on it. He saw the

prospects were so good that he went to the man who furnished me supplies

and told him that I had agreed to do my work on a third and fourth

(one-third of the seed and one-fourth of the cotton to go to the owner).

He get this although if he had stuck to the agreement he would not have

gotten but fifteen dollars. So he dealt me a blow there, but I got over


Before this I had bought a piece of timber land in Moorehouse parish

(Louisiana) and was expecting to get the money to finish paying for it

from my cotton. The cost was $100.00. So when he put hands in my field,

it made me mad, and I left. (Brooks would have lost most of his cotton

if the hands had picked it.)

At Brinkley, I farmed on halves with Will Carter, one of the richest men

in Monroe County (Arkansas). I done $17.50 worth of work for Carter and

he paid me for it. Then he turned around and charged me up with it. When

we came to settle up, we couldn't settle. So finally, he said, "Figures

don't lie." and I said, "No, figures don't lie but men do." When I sed

that I stepped out and didn't get scared until I was half way home. But

nobody did anything. He sent for me but I wouldn't go back because I

knew what he was doing.

After that I went to Wheatley, Arkansas, about five miles west of

Brinkley. I made a crop for Goldberg. Jake Readus was Goldberg's agent.

The folks had told the white folks I wasn't no account, so I couldn't

get nothing only just a little fat meat and bread, and I got as naked as

a jaybird. About the last part of August, when I had done laid by and

everything. Jake Readus came by and told me what the Niggers had said

and said he knowed it was a lie because I had the best crop on the


When Goldberg went to pay me off, he told Dr. Beauregard to come and get

his money. I said. "You give me my money; I pay my own debts. You have

nothing to do with it." When I said that you could have heard a pin

drop. But he gave it to me. Then I called the Doctor and gave him his

money and he receipted me. I never stayed there but one year.

I moved then down to Napel[TR: Possibly Kapel] Slough on Dr. West's

place. I wanted to rent but Dr. West wouldn't advance me anything unless

he took a mortgage on my place; so I wouldn't stay there. I chartered a

car and took my things back to Brinkley at a cost of ten dollars. I

stayed around Brinkley all the winter.

While I was at Wheatley, there was a man by the name of Will Smith who

married the daughter of Dr. Paster, druggist at Brinkley. Now Jim Smith,

poor white trash, attempted to assault Will Thomas' daughter. Negro

girl. When Thomas heard it, he hunted Jim with a Winchester. When that

got out, Deputy Sheriff arrested Will and they said that he was chained

when he was brought to trial. He got away from them somehow and went to

Jonesboro. I took my horse and rid seven or eight miles to carry his

clothes. Another Nigger who had promised to make a crop when he left had

the blood beat out of his back because he didn't do it.

The winter, I worked at the Gin and Black Saw Mills. That spring I pulls

up and goes to Brises. That was in the year 1903. I made a crop with old

man Wiley Wormley one of the biggest Niggers there. I fell short. George

Walker furnished what I had.

Then I left and went back to Brinkley and worked at the Sawmill again.

That was in 1904. I went to Jonesboro. I had just money enough to go to

Jonesboro, and I had a couple of dollars over. I had never been out

before that; so I spent that and didn't get any work. I stayed there

three days and nights and didn't get anything to eat. Lived in a box

car. Then I went to work with the Cotton Belt.

My boarding mistress decided to go up to fifteen dollars for board. I

told her I couldn't pay her fifteen dollars for that month, but would

begin next month. She wouldn't have that and got the officers to look

for my money so I caught the train and went back to Brinkley and worked

on the railroad again from the Cotton Belt to the Rock Island.

I was getting along all right and I done my job, but when the foreman

wanted me to work on the roof and I told him if that was all he had for

me to do he could pay me off because that was off the ground and I was

fraid of falling. He said that I was a good hand and that he hated to

lose me.

In March, 4, 1907, I came here (Little Rock) and at first rolled

concrete in Niemeyer's at $1.50 a day where the other men were getting

from two to two and a half dollars. They quit for more wages and I had

to quit with them. Then I worked around till May 24 when I was hired at

the Mountain Shops as Engine wiper for about six or eight months, then

painted flues for three or four months, then was wood hauler for about

thirteen or more years, then took care of the situation with shavings

and oil, then stayed in wash room six or seven years until I was

retired. I had control of the ice house, too.


Young people are just going back to old Ante-Bellum days. They are going

to destruction. They got a way of their own and you can't tell them

anything. They don't educate anything but their heads. The heart isn't

educated and if my heart is black as my hat, can I do anything for God?

The old people are not getting a square deal. Some of them are being



I did not get much schooling. Between the time I was old enough to go to

school and the time I went to the field, I got a little. I would go to

school from July to September, and also about six weeks in January.

They had public school taught by some of the people. I went to a white

man once. An old white woman taught there before him. I went to a Negro

woman, Old Lady Abbie Lindsay. She lives here now down on State Street.

She is about ninety years old. I went to Jube Williams (white), Current

Lewis, Abbie Lindsay, and A.G. Mertin. They did n't paas you by grades

then. I got through the fourth reader. If you got through, they would go

back and carry you through again. They had the old Blue Back Speller. I

got ready for the fifth reader but I quit. I had just begun to cipher,

in arithmetic, but I had to quit because they could n't spare me out of

the field. In fact they put me into the field when I was eight years

old, but I managed to go to school until I was about twelve years old or

something like that. I never got a year's schooling all put together. My

mother was a widow and had five or six children, none of them able or

big enough to work but my oldest sister. She raised five of us.

If I had done as she told me, I might have been a good scholar. But I

played around and went off with the other children. I learnt way

afterwards when I was grown how to write my name. I could work addition

and I could work some in multiplication, but I couldn't work division

and couldn't work subtraction. Come around any time, specially on Sunday


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