Rachel Perkins

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Rachel Perkins, Goodwin, Arkansas

Age: ? Baby during the Civil War

"I was born in Greensboro, Alabama. Sallie Houston and Peter Houston was

my parents. They had two girls and a boy. They died when they was small,

but me. They always told me mother died when I was three days old in the

cradle. I don't fur a fact know much about my own people. Miss Agnes

took me to raise me fur a house girl. She nursed me wid her Mary. My

mother's and father's owners was Alonso Brown and Miss Agnes Brown.

Their two girls was Mary and Lucy and their three boys was Bobby, Jesse,

and Frank. Miss Agnes rocked the babies to sleep in a big chair out on

the gallery. We slept there all night. Company come and say, 'Where the

babies?' Miss Agnes take them back and show us off. They say, 'Where the

little black chile?' They'd try to get me to come go live wid them. They

say they be good to me. I'd tell 'em, 'No, I stay here.' It was good a

home as I wanted. We slept on the front gallery till Lucy come on, then

we had sheep skin pallets. She got the big chair. She put us out there

because it was cool.

"I left Miss Agnes when I got to be my own woman. Didn't nobody toll me

off. I knowed I ought to go to my own race of people. They come after me

once. Then they sent the baby boy after me what I had nursed. I wanted

to go but I never went. Miss Lucy and Miss Mary both in college. It was

lonesome for me. I wanted to go to my color. I jus' picked up and walked

on off.

"My girl is half Indian. I'm fifteen years older than my girl. Then I

married Wesley Perkins, my husband. He is black fur a fact. He died last

fall. I married at my husband's brother's by a colored preacher. Tom

Screws was his name. He was a Baptist preacher.

"I never went to school a day in my life. I can't read. I can count

money. Seem lack it jus' come natural. I never learned it at no one

time. It jus' come to me.

"In warm weather I slept on the gallery and in cold weather I slept by

the fire. I made down my own bed. I cleaned the house. I took the cows

off to the pasture. I nursed the babies, washed and dried the dishes. I

made up the beds and cleaned the yards.

"Master Brown owned two farms. He had plenty hands on his farms. I did

never go down to the farms much but I knowed the hands. On Saturday

little later than other days they brought the stock to the house and

fed. Then they went to the smokehouse for their rations. He had a great

big garden, strawberries, and grape arbors.

"One thing I had to do was worm the plants. I put the worms in a bottle

and leave it in the row where the sun would dry the worms up. When a

light frost come I would water the plants that would wilt before the sun

riz and ag'in at night. Then the plants never felt the frost. Certainly

it didn't kill 'em. It didn't hurt 'em.

"Julane was the regular milk woman. She milked and strained the milk. I

churned and 'tended to the chickens. Miss Agnes sot the hens her own

self. She marked the eggs with a piece of charcoal to see if other hens

laid by the setting hen. If they did she'd take the new egg out of the


"We had flower gardens. We had mint, rosemary, tansy, sage, mullen,

catnip, horseradish, artichokes, hoarhound--all good home remedies.

"I never knowed when we moved to that farm. I was so small. I heard Miss

Agnes Brown say I was a baby when they moved to Boldan depot, not fur

from Clinton, Mississippi.

"When I left Miss Agnes I went to some folks my own color on another

farm 'joining to their farm. Of course I took my baby. I took Anna and I

been living with Anna ever since. What I'd do now without her. (Anna is

an Indian and very proud of being half Indian.) My husband done dead.

"I get eight dollars welfare help. And I do get some commodities. Anna

does all right but she got hit on the shoulder and about lost use of her

arm. One of the railroad hands up here got mad and hit her. I had

doctors. They done it a little good. It's been hurt three years or more


"I wisht I knowd where to find a bed of mullen. Boil it down to a syrup

and add some molasses, boil that down. It makes a good syrup for coughs

and colds.

"I never went to white folks' church none hardly. Miss Agnes sent me

along with her cook to my own color's church.

"My husband sure was good to me. We never had but one fight. Neither one


"This young generation is going backward. They tired of training. They

don't want no advice. They don't want to work out no more. They don't

know what they want. I think folks is trifling than they was when I come

on. The times is all right and some of the people. I'm talking about

mine and yo' color both."

Rachel Harris Rachel Sullivan facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail