Phillis Hicks

MAY 11 1938

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Phillis Hicks

Edmondson, Arkansas

Age: 71

"My mother's owner was Master Priest Gates. He had a son in Memphis. I

seen him not long ago. He is an insurance agent. They was rosy rich

looking folks. Mama was a yellow woman. She had fourteen living

children. Her name was Harriett Gates. Papa named Shade Huggins. They

belong to different folks. They was announced married before the War and

they didn't have to remarry.

"She said the overseers was cruel to them. They had white men overseers.

She was a field hand. I heard her say she was so tired when she come to

the house she would take her baby in her arms to nurse and go to sleep

on the steps or under a tree and never woke till they would be going to

the field. She would get up and go on back. They et breakfast in the

field many and many a time. Old people cooked and took care of the

children. She never was sold. I don't know if my father was. They come

from Alabama to Mississippi and my mother had been brought from Georgia

to Alabama.

"She picked geese till her fingers would bleed to make feather beds for

old master I reckon. They picked geese jus' so often. The Gates had

several big quarters and lots of land. They come to be poor people after

the War--land poor. Mother left Gates after the War. They didn't get

nothing but good freedom as I ever heard of. My father was a shoemaker

at old age. He said he learned his trade in slavery times. He share

cropped and rented after freedom.

"I heard 'em say the Ku Klux kept 'em run in home at night. So much

stealing going on and it would be laid at the hands of the colored folks

if they didn't stay in place. Ku Klux made them work, said they would

starve and starve white folks too if they didn't work. They was share

cropping then, yes ma'am, all of them. I know that they said they had no

stock, no land, no rations, no houses to live in, their clothes was

thin. They said it was squally times in slavery and worse after freedom.

They wore the new clothes in winter. By summer they was wore thin and by

next winter they had made some more cloth to make more new clothes. They

wove one winter for the next winter. When they got to share croppin'

they had to keep a fire in the fireplace all night to warm by. The

clothes and beds was rags. Corn bread and meat was all they had to eat.

Maybe they had pumpkins, corn, and potatoes. They said it was squally


"I got a place. I rented it out to save it. My brother rents it. I can't

hardly pay taxes. I'd like to get some help. I could sew if they would

let me on. I can see good. I'm going to chop cotton but it so long till


"I washed and ironed in Memphis till washing went out of style. Prices

are so high now and cotton cheap. I'm counting on better times.

"Times is close. Young folks is like young folks always been. Some are

smart and some lazy. None don't look ahead. They don't think about

saving. Guess they don't know how to save. Right smart spends it

foolish. I'm a widow and done worked down."

Phillip Rice Phoebe Banks facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail