Pauline Howell Nickname Pearl

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Pauline Howell Nickname Pearl

Brinkley, Arkansas

Age: 65 or 70?

"I was born in Paris, Tennessee and come to Arkansas when I was a child.

I don't know how old I am but my mama knowed 'bout when I was born. It

warnt long after the war. I past sixty-five and it is nearer seventy

from what she said. She ain't been dead long. She was about a hundred

years old. I. C. switch killed her. She was going cross there to Fisher

Body and the switch engine struck her head. She dropped something and

stooped to pick it up or the engine wouldn't touched her. She lived in


"She was born at Oaks, Tennessee. She took me down to see the cabin

locks where she was born. They had rotted down and somebody lived in the

big house. It had gone to rack then pretty bad. My father's master was

George Harris. He was Governor of Tennessee. My mother's mistress at

Oaks was Miss Ann LaGuion (or maybe Gwion). I never heard her husband's

name. They had several farms and on each farm was the cabin locks

(little houses all in a row or two rows). The houses was exactly alike.

Grandma cooked for the white folks and mama nursed. The baby was a big

fat heavy sort, a boy, and it was so heavy she couldn't hardly pick it

up. She had to carry it around all day long. When night come she was

wore out. There was several of them. When she go to their houses in

Memphis they honor her. They take her down town and buy her shoes and

dresses. Buy her whatever she say she want. They say they was proud of

her. She was a little black guinea woman (low and stocky). Not long go

Mr. (white man) in Brinkley asked me when my ma coming back here. Said

he ain't seed her for so long. I tole him she was dead. He said he have

to go tell Mrs. (his wife). She come out here and stay and piece

quilts. She sewed so nice. Made pretty little stitches. She'd take the

most time and pains fixing the pieces together to look pretty. She'd set

there and sew and me over there and tell me bout how she was raised and

I'd cry. Cry cause she had so hard a time when she was a girl.

"The old master sent my father to Liverpool, England to bury his money.

He was his own son anyhow. Sent him with his money to keep the Yankees

from taking it. My aunt, my father and Uncle Jesse all his own children.

Course old mistress love them little children like her own. She couldn't

help herself.

"Mariah Steed went in Governor Harrises name after freedom. So did

Randall Travis Harris.

"My mama said she was never sold but her sister and her children were.

She was put upon the auction stile and all her little children. A man in

Mobile, Alabama bought her. They never did see nor hear tell of her no

more. The reason they sold her was she killed two men overseers. They

couldn't manage her. The last one was whipping her with a black snake

whip and she grabbed him. Grabbed his privates and pulled 'em out by the

roots. That the way she killed both the overseers. Cause she knowed that

was show death. My mama said that was the nicest little soft man--the

last man she killed. She said he just clum the walls in so much misery

that night.

"She said they would whisper after they go to bed. They used pine

torches for lights. They had to cover up the fire--cover up fire in the

ashes so it be coals to kindle a fire in the morning--put out the light

pretty early. Old master come stand round outside see if they all gone

to bed.

"When freedom--my mama said old master called all of 'em to his house

and he said: 'You all free, we ain't got nothing to do wid you no more.

Go on away. We don't whoop you no more, go on your way.' My mama said

they go on off then they come back and stand around jess lookin' at him

an' old mistress. They give 'em something to eat and he say: 'Go on

away, you don't belong to us no more you been freed.'

"They go way and they kept coming back. They didn't have no place to go

and nothing to eat. From what she said they had a terrible time. She

said it was bad times. Some took sick and had no 'tention and died.

Seemed like it was four or five years before they got to places they

could live. They all got scattered.

"She said they did expect something from freedom but the only thing old

master give Jesse was a horse and bridle and saddle. It was new. Old

master every time they go back say: 'You all go on away. You been set

free. You have to look out for your selves now.'

"The only way I know this is I remembers from hearin' my dear old mama

tell me when she come here to see me. I was too little. I guess I wasn't

born till two or three years, maybe longer than that, after freedom.

"After my son died here I get $2.50 a month, just my house rent. I work

out when I can get something to do. Work is so scarce I hardly get a


"If you could see my brother in Little Rock he could tell you a heap he

remembers. He is white headed, keeps his hair cut close and goes dressed

up all the time. They say he is a good old man. He does public work in

Little Rock. Henry Travis is his son. His phone is 4-5353. His street is

3106 Arch. My brother is really born a slave, I ain't. Ask for E. K.

Travis, that is his name. He can tell you bout all you want to know."

Pauline Grice Pauline Johnson And Felice Boudreaux facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail