Rachel Fairley

Interviewer: S.S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Rachel Fairley

1600 Brown St.

Little Rock, Ark.

Age: 75

Occupation: General Housework

[Jan 23 1938]

[HW: Mother Stole to Get Food]

"My mother said she had a hard time getting through. Had to steal half

the time; had to put her head under the pot and pray for freedom. It was

a large pot which she used to cook in on the yard. She would set it

aside when she got through and put it down and put her head under it to


"My father, when nine years old, was put on the speculator's block and

sold at Charlottesville, North Carolina. My mother was sold on the same

day. They sold her to a man named Paul Barringer, and refugeed her to a

place near Sardis, Mississippi, to the cotton country. Before he was

sold, my father belonged to the Greers in Charlottesville. I don't know

who owned my mother. I never did hear her say how old she was when she

was sold. They was auctioned off just like you would sell goods. One

would holler one price and another would holler another, and the highest

bid would get the slave.

"Mother did not go clear to Sardis but to a plantation ten miles from

Sardis. This was before freedom. We stayed there till two years after


"I remember when my mother moved. I had never seen a wagon before. I was

so uplifted, I had to walk a while and ride a while. We'd never seen a

wagon nor a train neither. McKeever was the place where she moved from

when she moved to Sardis.

"The first year she got free, she started sharecropping on the place.

The next year she moved. That was the year she moved to Sardis itself.

There she made sharecrops. That was the third year after freedom. That

is what my father and mother called it, sharecropping. I don't know what

their share was. But I guess it was half to them and half to him.

"I do general housework. I been doing that for eleven years. I never

have any trouble. Whenever I want to I get off.

"The slaves used to live in one room log huts. They cooked out in the

yard. I have seen them huts many a time. They had to cook out in the

yard in the summertime. If they didn't, they'd burn up.

"My mother seen her master take off a big pot of money to bury. He

didn't know he'd been seen. She didn't know where he went, but she seen

the direction he took. Her master was Paul Barringer. That was on

McKeever Creek near Sardis. It was near the end of the war. I never

heard my mother say what became of the money, but I guess he got it back

after everything was over.

"They had to work all the time. When they went to church on Sunday, they

would tell them not to steal their master's things. How could they help

but steal when they didn't have nothin'? You didn't eat if you didn't


"My mother never would have been sold but the first bunch of slaves

Barringer bought ran away from him and went back to the places where

they come from. Lots of the old people wouldn't stay anywheres only at

their homes. They would go back if they were sold away. It took a long

time because they walked. When my mother and father were sold they had

to walk. It took them six weeks,--from Charlottesville, North Carolina

to Sardis, Mississippi.

"In Sardis my father was made the coachman, and mother was sent to the

field. Master was mean and hard. Whipped them lots. Mother had to pick

cotton all day every day and Sunday. When I first seen my father to

remember him, he had on a big old coat which was given to him for

special days. We called it a ham-beater. It had pieces that would make

it set on you like a basque. He wore a high beaver hat too. That was his

uniform. Whenever he drove, he had to dress up in it.

"My mother tickled me. She said she went out one day and kill a

billygoat, but when she went to get it it was walking around just like

the rest of them. My mother couldn't eat hogshead after freedom because

they dried them and give them to them in slave time. You had to eat what

you could git then.

"My mother said you jumped over a broomstick when you married.

"My father and mother were not exactly sold to Mississippi. My father

was but my mother wasn't. When Paul Barringer lost all of his niggers,

what he first had, his sister give him my mother and a whole lot more of

them. I don't know how many he had, but he had a great many. My father

went alone, but all my mother's people were taken--four sisters, and

three brothers. They were all grown when I first seen them. I never seen

my mother's father at all.

"There was a world of yellow people then. My mother said her sister had

two yellow children; they were her master's. I know of plenty of light

people who were living at that time.

"My mother had two light children that belonged to her sister. They were

taken from her after freedom, and were made to cook and work for their

sister and brother (white). All the orphans were taken and given back to

the people what owned them when freedom came. My mother's sister was

refugeed back to Charlottesville, North Carolina before the end of the

war so that she wouldn't get free. After the war they were set free out

there and never came back. The children were with my mother and they had

to stay with their master until they were twenty years old. Then they

would be free. They wouldn't give them any schooling at all. They were

as white as the white children nearly but their mother was a colored

woman. That made the difference.

"My mother said that the Ku Klux used to come through ridin' horses. I

don't remember her saying what they wore.

"When the Yanks came through, they took everything. Made the niggers all

leave. My mother said they just came in droves, riding horses, killing

everything, even the babies.

"I was born in Sardis, Mississippi, Panolun (?) County, April 10, 1863."

Rachel Bradley Rachel Gaines facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail