Robert Lofton


Name of Interviewer: S. S. Taylor

Subject: Biographical Sketch of Robert Lofton

Story--Information (If not enough space on this page add page)

This information given by: Robert Lofton

Place of Residence: 1904 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Occupation: Farmer (no longer able to work)

Age: 82

[TR: Personal information moved from bottom of form.]

Robert Lofton was born March 11, 1855 in McDonogh, Georgia. His master

lived in town and owned two Negro women and their children. One of

these was Lofton's mother.

His father was a Negro who lived back of him and belonged to the local

postmaster. He had a wagon and did public hauling for his master, Dr.

Tie. He was allowed to visit his wife and children at nights, and was

kept plentifully supplied with money by his master.

Lofton's master, Asa Brown, bought, or acquired from time to time in

payment of debts, other slaves. These he hired out to farmers,

collecting the wages for their labor.

After the war, the Lofton family came to Arkansas and lived in Lee

County just outside of Oak Forest. They were share croppers and

farmers throughout their lives. He has a son, however, a war veteran

and unusually intelligent.

Robert Lofton is a fine looking old man, with silky white hair and an

octoroon appearance, although the son of two colored persons.

He remembers scarcely anything because of fading mental powers, but

he is able to take long walks and contends that only in that way can

he keep free from rheumatic pains. He speaks of having died recently

and come back to life, is extremely religious, and is fearful of

saying something that he should not.

"I was in McDonogh, Georgia when the surrender came. [HW: That is

where I was born on March 11, 1855.] There was plenty of soldiers in

that little town--Yankees and Rebels. And they was sending mail out

through the whole country. The Rebels had as good chance to know what

was in the mail as the Yanks (his mother's husband's master was

postmaster) did.

How Freedom Came

"The slaves learned through their masters that they were free. The

Yankees never told the niggers anything. They could tell those who

were with them that they were free. And they notified the people to

notify their niggers that they were free. 'Release him. If he wants to

stay with you yet, he may. We don't require him to go away but you

must let him know he is free.'

"The masters said, 'You are free now, Johnnie, just as free as I am.'

Many of them put their things in a little wagon and moved to some

other plantation or town or house. But a heap of them stayed right

where they were.

"My father found out before my mother did. He was living across town

behind us about one-fourth of a mile. Dr. Tie, his master, had a post

office, and that post office was where they got the news. My father

got the news before my master did. He got on to it through being on

with Dr. Tie. So my father got the news before my master, Asa Brown,

did and he come over and told my mother before my master did. But my

master came out the next thing and told her she could go or come as

she pleased. She said she'd stay right along. And we got along just as

we always did--until my father came and told us he was going to

Atlanta with a crew of Yankees.

Employment and Post-War Changes in Residence

"He got a wagon and a team and run us off to the railroad. He got a

job at Atlanta directly. After he made a year in Atlanta, he got

dissatisfied. He had two girls who were big enough to cut cotton. So

he decided to go farm. He went to Tennessee and we made a crop there.

Then he heard about Arkansas and came here.

"When he came here, somehow or other, he got in a fight with a colored

man. He got the advantage of that man and killed him. The officers

came after him, but he left and I ain't never seen nor heard of him

since. He went and left my poor mother and her five children alone.

But I was getting big enough to be some help. And we made crops and

got along somehow.

"I don't know what we expected. I never heerd anyone say a word. I was

children you know, and it was mighty little that children knew because

the old folks did not talk with them much.

What They Got

"I never heerd of anything any of them got. I never heerd of any of

them getting anything except work. I don't recollect any pension or

anything being given them--nothing but work.

Folks on this place would leave and go over on that place, and folks

on that place would come over here. They ate as long as the white

folks ate. We stayed with our old master and mistress, (Mr. Asa Brown

and Mrs. Sallie Brown).

Good Master and Mistress

"They did not whip us. They didn't whip nobody they had. They were

good white folks. My mother never was whipped. She was not whipped

after the surrender and she wasn't whipped before. [We lived in the

same house as our master] [HW: (in margin) see p. 6] and we ate what

he ate.

Wives and Husbands

"There was another woman my master owned. Her husband belonged to

another white man. My father also belonged to another white man. Both

of them would come and stay with their wives at night and go back to

work with their masters during the day. My mother had her kin folks

who lived down in the country and my mother used to go out and visit

them. I had a grandmother way out in the country. My mother used to

take me and go out and stay a day or so. She would arrange with

mistress and master and go down Saturday and she would take me along

and leave her other children with this other woman. Sunday night she

would make it back. Sometimes she wouldn't come back until Monday.

"It didn't look like she was any freer after freedom than she was

before. She was free all the time she was a slave. They never whipped

her. Asa Brown never whipped his niggers.

Letting Out Slaves

"Asa Brown used to rent out his niggers, sometimes. You know, they

used to rent them. But he never rented my mother though. He needed her

all the time. She was the cook. He needed her all the time and he kept

her all the time. He let her go to see grandmother and he let her go

to church.

"Sometimes my mother went to the white church and sometimes she went

to the colored folks church. When we went to the white folks church,

we took and sat down in the back and behaved ourselves and that was

all there was to it. When they'd have these here big

meetings--revivals or protracted meetings they call them--she'd go to

the white and black. They wouldn't have them all at the same time and

everybody would have a chance to go to all of them.

"They wouldn't allow the colored to preach and they wouldn't even call

on them to pray but he could sing as good as any of them.

"Generally all colored preachers that I knowed of was slaves. The

slaves attended the churches all right enough--Methodists and Baptists

both white and black. I never heard of the preachers saying anything

the white folks did not like.

"The Methodists' church started in the North. There was fourteen or

fifteen members that got dissatisfied with the Baptist church and went

over to the Methodist church. The trouble was that they weren't

satisfied with our Baptism. The Baptists were here before the

Methodists were thought of. These here fourteen or fifteen members

came out of the North and started the Methodist church going.

Share Cropping

"Share cropping has been ever since I knowed anything. It was the way

I started. I was working the white man's land and stock and living in

his house and getting half of the cotton and corn. We had a garden and

raised potatoes and greens and so on, but cotton and corn was our

crop. Of course we had them little patches and raised watermelon and

such like.

Food and Quarters

"We ate whatever the white man ate. My mother was the cook. She had a

cook-room joined to her room [which reached clear over to the white

folks' house.] [HW: see p. 4] Everything she cooked on that stove, we

all ate it, white and black--some of the putting, [HW: pudding] some

of the cakes, some of the pies, some of the custard, some of the

biscuits, some of the corn bread--we all had it, white and black. I

don't know no difference at all. Asa Brown was a good old man. There

was some mean slave owners, but he wasn't one.


"You could hear of some mean slave owners taking switches and beating

their niggers nearly to death. But I never heard of my old master

doing that. Slaves would run away and it would be a year or two before

they would be caught. Sometimes they would take him and strip him

naked and whip him till he wasn't able to stand for running away. But

I never heard of nothing like that happening with Asa Brown. But he

sometimes would sell a hand or buy one sometimes. He'd take a nigger

in exchange for a debt and rent him out.


"There wasn't any voting by the slaves. But ever since freedom they

have been voting. None of my friends ever held any office. I don't

know anything about the niggers not voting now. Don't they vote?

Patter Rollers, K. K. K., White Carmelias, Etc.

"My mother and father knowed about Patter Rollers, but I don't know

nothing about them. But they are dead and gone. I have heard of the Ku

Klux but I don't know nothing about it. I don't know what I used to

know. No sir, I am out of the question now.

"There is one thing I keep straight. When I wants to drink or when I

wants to eat--oh yes, I know how to go to bed.

"You know I have seen the time when they would get in a close place

and they would make me preach, but it's all gone from me now. I can't


Robert James Robert Mckinley facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail