Minerva Davis

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Minerva Davis, Biscoe, Arkansas

Age: 56

"My father was sold in Richmond, Virginia when he was eighteen years old

to the nigger traders. They had nigger traders and cloth peddlers and

horse traders all over the country coming by every few weeks. Papa said

he traveled to Tennessee. His job was to wash their faces and hands and

fix their hair--comb and cut and braid their hair and dress them to be

auctioned off. They sold a lot of children from Virginia all along the

way and he was put up in Tennessee and auctioned off. He was sold to the

highest bidder. Bill Thomas at Brownsville, Tennessee was the one bought

him. Papa was a large strong man.

"He run off and went to war. He had learned to cook and he was one-eyed

and couldn't fight. All the endurin' time he cooked at the camps. Then

he run off from war when he got a chance before he was mustered out and

he never got a pension because of that. He said he come home pretty

often and mama was expecting a baby. He thought he was needed at home

worse. He was so tired of war. He didn't know it would be valuable to

him in his old days. He was sorry he didn't stay till they got him

mustered out. He said it was harder in the war than in slavery. They was

putting up tents and moving all the time and he be scared purt nigh to

death all the time. Never did know when they would be shot and killed.

"Mama said the way they bought grandma was at a well. A drove of folks

come by. It was the nigger traders. She had pulled up her two or three

buckets. She carried one bucket on her head and one in each hand. They

said, 'Draw me up some water to drink.' She was so smart they bragged on

her. They said, 'She such a smart little thing.' They went to see her

owner and bought her on the spot. They took her away from her people and

she never heard tell of none of them no more. She said there was a big

family of them. They brought her to Brownsville, Tennessee and Johnny

Williams bought her. That was my grandma.

"Mother was born there on Johnny Williams' place and she was heired by

his daughter. His daughter married Bill Thomas, the one what done bought

my papa. Her young mistress was named Sallie Ann Thomas. Mama got

married when she was about grown. She said after she married she'd have

a baby about the same time her young mistress had one. Mama had twelve

children and raised eleven to be grown. Four of us are living yet. My

sister was married when I was born. White folks married young and

encouraged their slaves to so they have time to raise big families. Mama

died when I was a year old but papa lived on with Johnny Williams where

he was when she died. I lived with my married sister. I was the baby and

she took me and raised me with her children.

"The Ku Klux wanted to whoop my papa. They all called him Dan. They said

he was mean. His white folks protected him. They said he worked well.

They wouldn't let him be whooped by them Ku Kluxes.

"Miss Sallie Ann was visiting and she had mama along to see after the

children and to help the cook where she visited. They was there a right

smart while from the way papa said. The pattyrollers whooped somebody on

that farm while she was over there. They wasn't many slaves on her place

and they was good to them. That whooping was right smart a curiosity to

mama the way papa told us about it.

"When mama and papa married, Johnny Williams had a white preacher to

read out of a book to them. They didn't jump over no broom he said.

"They was the biggest kind of Methodist folks and when mama was five

years old Johnny Williams had all his slaves baptized into that church

by his own white preacher. Papa said some of them didn't believe niggers

had no soul but Johnny Williams said they did. (The Negroes must have

been christened--ed.)

"Papa said folks coming through the country would tell them about

freedom. Mama was working for Miss Sallie Ann and done something wrong.

Miss Sallie Ann says, 'I'm a good mind to whoop you. You ain't paying

'tention to a thing you is doing the last week.' Mama says, 'Miss Sallie

Ann, we is free; you ain't never got no right to whoop me no more care

what I do.' When Bill come home he say, 'How come you to sass my wife?

She so good to you.' Mama say, 'Master Bill, them soldiers say I'm

free.' He slapped her. That the first time he laid hands on her in his

life. In a few days he said, 'We going to town and see is you free. You

leave the baby with Sallie Ann.' It was the courthouse. They questioned

her and him both. Seemed like he couldn't understand how freedom was to

be and mama didn't neither. Then papa took mama on Johnny Williams'

place. He come out to Arkansas and picked cotton after freedom and then

he moved his children all out here.

"Uncle Albert and grandpa take nights about going out. Uncle Albert was


"They put potatoes on fire to cook when next morning they would be warm

ready to eat. The fire popped out on mama. She was in a light blaze. Not

a bit of water in the house. Her sisters and brothers peed (urinated) on

her to put out the fire. Her stomach was burned and scarred. They was

all disappointed because they thought she would be a good breeder. Miss

Sallie Ann took her and cured her and when Miss Sallie Ann was going to

marry, her folks didn't want to give her Minerva. She tended (contended)

out and got her and Agnes both. Agnes died at about emancipation.

"I'm named for my mother. I'm her youngest child.

"I recollect my grandmother and what she told, and papa's mind went back

to olden times the older he got to be. When folks would run down slavery

he would say it wasn't so bad with them--him and mama. He never seen

times bad as times is got to be now. Then he sure would wanted slavery

back some more. He was a strong hard laboring man. He was a provider for

his family till he got so no 'count.

"Times is changing up fast. Folks is worse about cutting up and

carousing than they was thirty years ago to my own knowledge. I ain't

old so speaking."

Minerva Bendy Minnie B Ross facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail