Robert Mckinley

Federal Writers' Project

of the W.P.A.

District #6

Marion County

Anna Pritchett

1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana



1664 Columbia Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

Robert McKinley was born in Stanley County, N.C., in 1849, a slave of

Arnold Parker.

His master was a very cruel man, but was always kind to him, because he

had given him (Bob) as a present to his favorite daughter, Jane Alice,

and she would never permit anyone to mistreat Bob.

Miss Jane Alice was very fond of little Bob, and taught him to read and


His master owned a large farm, but Jane Alice would not let little Bob

work on the farm. Instead, he helped his master in the blacksmith shop.

His master always prepared himself to whip his slaves by drinking a

large glass of whiskey to give him strength to beat his slaves.

Robert remembers seeing his master beat his mother until she would fall

to the ground, and he was helpless to protect her. He would just have to

stand and watch.

He has seen slaves tied to trees and beaten until the master could beat

no longer; then he would salt and pepper their backs.

Once when the Confederate soldiers came to their farm, Robert told them

where the liquor was kept and where the stock had been hidden. For this

the soldiers gave him a handful of money, but it did him no good for his

master took it away from him.

The McKinley family, of course, were Parkers and after the Civil war,

they took the name of their father who was a slave of John McKinley.

A neighbor farmer, Jesse Hayden, was very kind to his slaves, gave them

anything they wanted to eat, because he said they had worked hard, and

made it possible for him to have all he had, and it was part theirs.

The Parker slaves were not allowed to associate with the Hayden slaves.

They were known as the "rich niggers, who could eat meat without

stealing it."

When the "nigger traders" came to the Parker farm, the old mistress

would take meat skins and grease the mouths of the slave children to

make it appear she had given them meat to eat.

Interviewer's Comment

Mr. McKinley is an "herb doctor" and lives very poorly in a dirty little

house; he was very glad to tell of his early life.

He thinks people live too fast these days, and don't remember there is a

stopping place.

Submitted January 10, 1938

Indianapolis, Indiana

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