Moses Jeffries


Name of Interviewer: S. S. Taylor

Subject: [HW: Moses Jeffries]

Story--Information (If not enough space on this page add page.)

This information given by: Moses E. Jeffries

Place of Residence: 1110 Izard Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Occupation: Plasterer

Age: 81 [TR: Age: 75 on 4th page of form.]

[TR: Personal information moved from bottom of form.]

"I was born in 1856. My age was kept with the cattle. As a rule, you

know, slaves were chattels. There was a fire and the Bible in which

the ages were kept was lost. The man who owned me couldn't remember

what month I was born in. Out of thirteen children, my mother could

only remember the age of one. I had twelve brothers and sisters--Bob

Lacy, William Henry, Cain Cecil, Jessie, Charles, Harvey, Johnnie,

Anna, Rose, Hannah, Lucy, and Thomas. I am the only one living now. My

parents were both slaves. My father has been dead about fifty-nine

years and my mother about sixty or sixty-one years. She died before I

married and I have been married fifty years. I have them in my Bible.

I remember when Lincoln was elected president and they said there was

going to be war. I remember when they had [HW: a] slave market in New

Orleans. I was living betweeen [TR: between] Pine Bluff and New

Orleans (living in Arkansas) and saw the slaves chained together as

they were brought through my place and located somewhere on some of

the big farms or plantations.

I never saw any of the fighting but I did see some of the Confederate

armies when they were retreating near the end of the war. I was just

about ten years old at the time and was in Marshall, Texas.

The man that owned me said to the old people that they were free,

that they didn't belong to him any more, that Abraham Lincoln had set

them free. Of course, I didn't know what freedom was. They brought the

news to them one evening, and them niggers danced nearly all night.

I remember also seeing a runaway slave. We saw the slaves first, and

the dogs came behind chasing them. They passed through our field about

half an hour ahead of the hounds, but the dogs would be trailing them.

The hunters didn't bother to stop and question us because they knew

the hounds were on the trail. I have known slaves to run away and stay

three years at a time. Master would whip them and they would run away.

They wouldn't have no place to go or stay so they would come back

after a while. Then they would be punished again. They wouldn't punish

them much, however, because they might run off again.


If I went on a plantation and saw a girl I wanted to marry, I would

ask my master to buy her for me. It wouldn't matter if she were

somebody else's wife; she would become mine. The master would pay for

her and bring her home and say, "John, there's your wife. That is all

the marriage there would be. Yellow women used to be a novelty then.

You wouldn't see one-tenth as many then as now. In some cases,

however, a man would retain his wife even after she had been sold

away from him and would have permission to visit her from time to



If a man died, he often stated in his will which slaves should go to

each child he had. Some men had more than a hundred slaves and they

divided them up just as you would cattle. Some times there were

certain slaves that certain children liked, and they were granted

those slaves.


Nothing was given to my parents at freedom. None of the niggers got

anything. They didn't give them anything. The slaves were hired and

allowed to work the farms on shares. That is where the system of share

cropping came from. I was hired for fifty dollars a year, but was paid

only five. The boss said he owed me fourteen dollars but five was all

I got. I went down town and bought some candy. It was the first time I

had had that much money.

I couldn't do anything about the pay. They didn't give me any land.

They hired me to work around the house and I ate what the boss ate.

But the general run of slaves got pickled pork, molasses, cornmeal and

sometimes flour (about once a week for Sunday). The food came out of

the share of the share cropper.

You can tell what they did by what they do now. It (share cropping)

hasn't changed a particle since. About Christmas was the time they

usually settled up. Nobody was forced to remain as a servant. I know

one thing,--Negroes did not go to jail and penitentiary like they do



The Ku Klux Klan to the best of my knowledge went into action about

the time shortly after the war when the amendments to the Constitution

gave the Negroes the right to vote. I have seen them at night dressed

up in their uniform. They would visit every Negro's house in the

comunity [TR: community]. Some they would take out and whip, some they

would scare to death. They would ask for a drink of water and they had

some way of drinking a whole bucketful to impress the Negroes that

they were supernatural. Negroes were very superstitious then. Colonel

Patterson who was a Republican and a colonel or general of the

militia, white and colored, under the governorship of Powell Clayton,

stopped the operation of the Klan in this state. After his work, they

ceased terrorizing the people.


Many an ex-slave was elected sheriff, county clerk, probate clerk,

Pinchback[A] was elected governor in Louisiana. The first Negro

congressman was from Mississippi and a Methodist preacher Hiram

Revells[B]. We had a Nigger superintendent of schools of the state of

Arkansas, J. C. Corbin[C]--I don't remember just when, but it was in

the early seventies. He was also president of the state school in Pine

Bluff--organized it.


The ex-slave voted like fire directly after the war. That was about

all that did vote then. If the Niggers hadn't voted they never would

have been able to elect Negroes to office.

I was elected Alderman once in Little Rock under the administration of

Mayer Kemer. We had Nigger coroner, Chief of Police, Police Judge,

Policemen. Ike Gillam's father was coroner. Sam Garrett was Chief of

Police; Judge M. W. Gibbs was Police Judge. He was also a receiver of

public lands. So was J. E. Bush, who founded the Mosaics [HW: (Modern

Mosaic Templars of America)]. James W. Thompson, Bryant Luster, Marion

H. Henderson, Acy L. Richardson, Childress' father-in-law, were all

aldermen. James P. Noyer Jones was County Clerk of Chicot County, S.

H. Holland, a teacher of mine, a little black nigger about five feet

high, as black as ink, but well educated was sheriff of Desha County.

Augusta had a Negro who was sheriff. A Negro used to hold good offices

in this state.

I charge the change to Grant. The Baxter-Brooks matter caused it.

Baxter was a Southern Republican from the Northeastern part of the

state, Batesville, a Southern man who took sides with the North in the

war. Brooks was a Methodist preacher from the North somewheres. When

Grant recognized the Baxter faction whom the old ex-slaveholders

supported because he was a Southerner and sided with Baxter against

Brooks, it put the present Democratic party in power, and they passed

the Grandfather law barring Negroes from voting.

Negroes were intimidated by the Ku Klux. They were counted out. Ballot

boxes were burned and ballots were destroyed. Finally, Negroes got

discouraged and quit trying to vote."

[Footnote A: [HW: P. B. S. Pinchback, elected Lieutenant-Governor of

La. Held office 43 days.]]

[Footnote B: [HW: Hiram Revells, elected to fill the unexpired term of

Jefferson Davis.]]

[Footnote C: [HW: J. C. Corbin appointed state superintendent of

public instruction in 1873--served until the end of 1875.]]

Moses Hursey Mrs Amanda Jackson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail