Oliver Hill

OCT 18 19--

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Oliver Hill

1101 Kentucky Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 94

Oliver Hill is ninety-four years old, erect, walks briskly with the aid

of a cane, only slightly hard of hearing and toothless.

He was born and lived in the state of Mississippi on the plantation of

Alan Brooks where he said his father was an overseer and not a slave.

Said his mother was a full-blooded Indian. (I have never talked to a

Negro who did not claim to be part Indian.) He cannot read or write and

made rather conflicting statements about the reason why. "White folks

wouldn't let us learn." Later on in the conversation he said he went to

school about one month when his "eyes got sore and they said he didn't

have to go no more."

"I was nineteen years old when de wa' begun. De white folks never tole

us nothin' 'bout what it was fo' till after de surrender. Dey tole us

then we was free. They didn't give us nothin'."

After the surrender most of the slaves left the plantations and were

supported by the Bureau. In the case of Oliver Hill, this lasted five

months and then he went back to his former master who gave him one-fifth

of what he made working in the field. Alan Brooks grieved for the loss

of his slaves but at no time were they under any compulsion to remain

slaves. After a long time about half of them came back to work for pay.

The Ku Klux Klan was "de devil", but about all they wanted, according to

Oliver, was to "make a Democrat" of the ex-slaves. They were allowed to

vote without any trouble, but "de Democrats robbed de vote. Yes'm I

knowed they did."

Concerning the present restricted suffrage, he thinks the colored people

should be allowed to vote. In general, his attitude toward the white

people is one of resentment. Frequent comments were:

"Dey won't let de colored people bury in de same cemetery with de white


"Dey don't like it if a colored man speak to a white woman."

"Dey kill a colored man and de law don't do nothin' 'bout it."

"Old Man Brooks" when referring to his former master.

He lived with the Brooks family for five years after freedom, and seems

to have been rather a favored one with not much to do but "ride around"

and going to dances and parties at night. When Alan Brooks died he left

Oliver $600 in cash, a cow and calf, horse, saddle and bridle and two

hogs. He went to live with his father taking his wife whom he had

married at the age of twenty-one.

As soon as the inheritance was gone, the scene changed. In his words, "I

thought it gwine last forever." But it didn't and then he began to hold

a succession of jobs--field hand, sorghum maker, basket weaver, gardener

and railway laborer--until he was too old to work. Now he is supported

by the Welfare Department and the help a daughter and granddaughter can


About the younger generation--"I don't know what gwine come of 'em. The

whites is as bad as the blacks." He thinks that present conditions are

caused by the sinfulness of the people.

There were no slave uprisings but sometimes when they did not work fast

enough or do the task right, they were "whupped" by the overseer and

given no food until it was done right.

Oliver came to Arkansas in 1910. He has had two wives and "de Lawd took

both of 'em." His second wife was "'ligious" and they "got along fine."

All in all he had a good time during his active days "and didn't have no

trouble with de white folks". He does not believe God ever intended some

of the people to be slaves.

Octavia George Olivia Morgan facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail