Mose Banks Interviewed By Pernella M Anderson
Interviewer: Pernella M. Anderson
Person interviewed: Mose Banks
Douglas Addition, El Dorado, Arkansas
"My name is Mose Banks and I am sixty-nine years old. I was born in
1869. I was born four years after freedom but still I was a slave in a
way. My papa stayed with his old miss and master after freedom until he
died and he just died in 1918, so we all stayed with him too. I had one
of the best easiest times in my life. My master was name Bob Stevenson
and he was a jewel. Never meaned us, never dogged, never hit one of us
in his life. He bought us just like he bought my papa. He never made any
of the girls work in the field. He said the work was too hard. He always
said splitting rails, bushing, plowing and work like that was for men.
That work makes no count women.
"The girls swept yards, cleaned the house, nursed, and washed and
ironed, combed old miss' and the children's hair and cut their finger
and toe nails and mended the clothes. The womens' job was to cook,
attend to the cows, knit all the socks for the men and boys, spin
thread, card bats, weave cloth, quilt, sew, scrub and things like that.
"The little boys drove up the cows, slopped the hogs, got wood and pine
for light, go to the spring and get water. After a boy was twelve then
he let him work in the fields. My main job was hitching the horse to the
buggy for old Miss Stevenson, and put the saddle on old master's saddle
"I was very small but when the first railroad come through old master
took us to see the train. I guess it was about forty or fifty miles
because it took us around four days to make the round trip. The trains
were not like they are now. The engine was smaller and they burned wood
and they had what they called a drum head and they didn't run very fast,
and could not carry many cars. It was a narrow gauge road and the rails
were small and the road was dirt. It was not gravel and rocks like it is
now. It was a great show to me and we all had something to talk about
for a long time. People all around went to see it and we camped out one
night going and coming and camped one night at the railroad so we could
see the train the next day. A man kept putting wood in the furnace in
order to keep a fire. Smoke come out of the drum head. The drum head was
something like a big washpot or a big old hogshead barrel. An ox team
was used for most all traveling. You did not see very many horses or
"The white children taught us how to read and I went to school too.
"I went to church too. We did not have a church house; we used a brush
arbor for service for a long time. In the winter we built a big fire in
the middle and we sat all around the fire on small pine logs. Later they
built a log church, so we had service in there for years.
"We did not live near a school, so old mistress and the children taught
us how to read and write and count. I never went to school in my life
and I bet you, can't none of these children that rub their heads on
college walls beat me reading and counting. You call one and ask them to
divide ninety-nine cows and one bob-tailed bull by two, and they can't
answer it to save their lives without a pencil and paper and two hours'
figuring when it's nothing to say but fifty.
"Wasn't no cook stoves and heaters until about 1890 or 1900. If there
was I did not know about them. They cooked on fireplace and fire out in
the yard on what they called oven and we had plenty of plain grub. We
stole eggs from the big house because we never got any eggs.
"The custom of marrying was just pack up and go on and live with who you
wanted to; that is the Negroes did--I don't know how the white people
married. This lawful marrying came from the law since man made law.
"When anybody died everybody stopped working and moaned and prayed until
after the burying.
"I can say there is as much difference between now and sixty years ago
as it is in day and night."
Morris Sheppard Mose Evans