Rachel Hankins

Interviewer: Pernella M. Anderson

Person interviewed: Rachel Hankins

El Dorado, Arkansas

Age: 88

"I was born in Alabama. My old mistress and master told me that I was

born in 1850. Get that good--1850! That makes me about 88 but I can't

member the day and month. I was a girl about twelve or fourteen years

old when the old darkies was set free. My old mistress and master did

not call us niggers; they called us darkies. I can't recollect much

about slavery and I can recollect lots too at times. My mind goes and

comes. I tell you children you all is living a white life nowdays. When

I was coming up I was sold to a family in Alabama by the name of

Columbus. They was poor people and they did not own but a few slaves and

it was a large family of them and that made us have to work hard. We

lived down in the field in a long house. We ladies and girls lived in a

log cabin together. Our cabin had a stove room made on the back and it

was made of clay and grass with a hearth made in it and we cooked on the

hearth. We got our food from old mistress's and master's house. We

raised plenty of grub such as peas, greens, potatoes. But our potatoes

wasn't like the potatoes is now. They was white and when you eat them

they would choke you, especially if they was cold. And sorghum molasses

was the only kind there was. I don't know where all these different

kinds of molasses come from.

"They issued our grub out to us to cook. They had cows and we got milk

sometimes but no butter. They had chickens and eggs but we did not. We

raised cotton, sold part and kept enough to make our clothes out of.

Raised corn. And there wasn't no grist mills then so we had a pounding

rock to pound the corn on and we pound and pound until we got the corn

fine enough to make meal, then we separated the husk from the meal and

parched the husk real brown and we used it for coffee. We used brown

sugar from sorghum molasses. We spun all our thread and wove it into

cloth with a hand loom. The reason we called that cloth home-spun is

because it was spun at home. Splitting rails and making rail fences was

all the go. Wasn't no wire fences. Nothing but rail fences. Bushing and

clearing was our winter jobs. You see how rough my hands is? Lord have

mercy! child, I have worked in my life.

"Master Columbus would call us niggers up on Sunday evening and read the

Bible to us and tell us how to do and he taught us one song to sing and

it was this 'Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning' and he'd have us to

sing it every Sunday evening and he told us that that song meant to do

good and let each other see our good. When it rained we did not have

meeting but when it was dry we always had meeting.

"I never went to school a day in my life. I learned to count money after

I was grown and married.

"My feet never saw a shoe until I was fourteen. I went barefooted in ice

and snow. They was tough. I did not feel the cold. I never had a cold

when I was young. If we had ep-p-zu-dit we used different things to make

tea out of, such as shucks, cow chips, hog hoofs, cow hoofs. Ep-p-zu-dit

then is what people call flu now.

"When war broke out I was a girl just so big. All I can recollect is

seeing the soldiers march and I recollect them having on blue and gray

jackets. Some would ride and some would walk and when they all got

lined up that was a pretty sight. They would keep step with the music.

The Southern soldiers' song was 'Look Away Down in Dixie' and the

Northern soldiers' song was 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.' So one day after

coming in from the field old master called his slaves and told us we was

free and told us we could go or stay. If we stayed he would pay us to

work. We did not have nothing to go on so we stayed and he paid us.

Every 19th of June he would let us clean off a place and fix a platform

and have dancing and eating out there in the field. The 19th of June

1865 is the day we thought we was freed but they tell me now that we was

freed in January 1865 but we did not know it until June 19, 1865. Never

got a beating the whole time I was a slave.

"I came to north Arkansas forty years ago and I been in Union County a

short while. My name is Rachel Hankins."

Rachel Gaines Rachel Harris facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail