Robert James

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Robert James

4325 W. Eighth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 66, or older

Occupation: Cook

"I was born in Lexington, Mississippi, in the year 1872. My mother's

name was Florida Hawkins. Florida James was her slavery name. David

Jones was her old master. That was in Mississippi--the good old

country! People hate it because they don't like the name but it was a

mighty good country when I was there. The white people there were

better to the colored people when I was there than they are here. But

there is a whole lots of places that is worse than Arkansas.

"I have been here forty-eight years and I haven't had any trouble with

nobody, and I have owned three homes in my time. My nephew and my

brother happened to meet up with each other in France. They thought

about me and wrote and told me about it. And I writ to my sister in

Chicago following up their information and got in touch with my

people. Didn't find them out till the great war started. Had to go to

Europe to find my relatives. My sister's people and mine too were born

in Illinois, but my mother and two sisters and another brother were

born in Mississippi. Their kin born in Illinois were half-brothers and

so on.


"I heard my mother say that her master and them had to refugee them to

keep them from the Yankees. She told a ghost tale on that. I guess it

must have been true.

"She said they all hitched up and put them in the wagon and went to

driving down the road. Night fell and they came to a big two-story

house. They went to bed. The house was empty, and they couldn't raise

nobody; so they just camped there for the night. After they went to

bed, big balls of fire came rolling down the stairs. They all got

scared and run out of the house and camped outside for the night.

There wasn't no more sleeping in that house.

"Some people believe in ghosts and some don't. What do you believe?

This is what I have seen myself. Mules and horses were running 'round

screaming and hollering every night. One day, I was walking along when

I saw a mule big as an elephant with ears at least three feet long and

eyes as big as auto lamps. He was standing right in the middle of the

road looking at me and making no motion to move. I was scared to

death, but I stooped down to pick up a stone. It wasn't but a second.

But when I raised up, he had vanished. He didn't make a sound. He just

disappeared in a second. That was in the broad open daylight. That was

what had been causing all the confusion with the mules and horses.

"When I first married I used to room with an old lady named Johnson.

Time we went to bed and put the light out, something would open the

doors. Finally I got scared and used to tell my wife to get up and

close the doors. Finally she got skittish about it. There used to be

the biggest storms around there and yet you couldn't see nothin'.

There wasn't no rain nor nothin'. Just sounds and noises like storms.

My wife comes to visit me sometimes now.

"My mother says there wasn't any such thing as marriage in slave

times. Old master jus' said, 'There's your husband, Florida.'"

Robert Howard Robert Lofton facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail