Robert R Grinstead

Oklahoma Writers' Project



Age 80 yrs.

Oklahoma City, Okla.

I was born in Lawrence County, Mississippi, February 17, 1857. My

father's name is Elias Grinstead, a German, and my mother's name is

Ann Greenstead after that of her master. I am a son by my mother and

her Master. I have four other half brothers William (Bill) oldest,

Albert, Silas, and John.

I was only eight years of age at freedom and for that reason I was too

young to work and on account of being the son of my Master's I

received no hard treatment and did little or no work. Yet, I wore the

same clothing as did the rest of the slaves: a shirt of lowell for

summer and shirt and trousers for winter and no shoes. I could walk

through a briar patch in my bare feet without sticking one in the

bottom of my feet as they were so hard and resistant.

I was the only child of my Master as he had no wife. When the War

broke out he went to the War and left the plantation in charge of his

overseer and his two sisters. As the overseers were hard for them to

get along with they were oftener without an overseer as with one, and

therefore they used one of the Negroes as overseer for the most of the


Across the river was another large plantation and slave owner by the

name of Master Wilson. We called him Master too, for he was a close

friend and neighbor to our Mistresses. There was one Negro man slave

who decided to not work after Master went to the War and the white

overseer was fired and the Negro overseer was acting as overseer, so

my Mistress gave him a note to take across the river to Master Wilson.

The note was an order to whip this Negro and as he couldn't read he

didn't know what the note contained until after Master Wilson read it

and gave orders to his men to tie him for his whipping. After this,

the whipping was so severe that they never had any more trouble in

making this Negro slave work and they never had to send him back again

to Master Wilson to be whipped. The fun part of this above incidence

was the Negro carried his own note and went alone to be whipped and

didn't know it 'til the lashes was being put on him.

My Master's plantation was about 2 miles long and 1-1/2 mile wide and

he owned between 30 or 40 slaves. The Negro overseer would wake up the

slaves and have them in the field before they could see how to work

each morning and as they would go to work so soon their breakfast was

carried to the field to them. One morning the breakfast was taken to

the field and the slaves were hoeing cotton and among them was a lad

about 15 years of age who could not hoe as fast as the older slaves

and the breakfast was sat at the end of the rows and as they would hoe

out to the end they would eat, and if you would be late hoeing to the

end the first to go to the end would began eating and eat everything.

So, this 15 year old lad in order to get out to eat before everything

was gone did not hoe his row good and the overseer, who was white at

this time, whipped him so severely that he could not eat nor work,

that day.

The Negroes went to church with the white people and joined their

church. The church was Baptist in denomination, and they built a pen

in the church in which the Negroes sat, and when they would take

sacrament the Negroes would be served after the whites were through

and one of the Negro group would pass it around to the others within

the pen.

As there were no dances held on the plantation the Negroes would

oftimes slip off and go at nights to a nearby dance or peanut parching

or rice suppers at nights after work. Some of the slaves would be

allowed to make for themselves rice patches which they would gather

and save for the dances. To prepare this rice for cooking after

harvested they would burn a trough into a log, they called mortar and

with a large wooden mallet they called pessel, and which they would

pound upon the rice until hulled and ready for cooking. This rice

would be boiled with just salt and water and eaten as a great feast

with delight.

During slavery some of the Negro slaves would kill snakes and skin

them and wear these snake skins to prevent being voodooed they said.

When some of the slaves would take sick and the home remedies would

fail to cure them our Mistress would allow one of the Negro men slaves

to go to the white doctor and get some medicine for the patient. The

doctor would ask questions as to the actions of the patient and from

said description would send medicine without ever going to see the

patient and his medicine would always cure the patient of his disease

if consulted in time.

After the news came that brought our freedom a white union officer

with 20 trained Negro soldiers visited the plantations and saw that

the Negroes received their freedom. He would put on a demonstration

with his Negro soldiers by having them line up and then at a command

they would all rush forward and stand their guns up together on the

stock end without a one falling and get back into line and upon

another command they would rush forward and each get his gun again

without allowing one to fall and again reline up.

When I was large enough to pay attention to my color and to that of

the other slaves I wondered to myself why I was not black like the

rest of the slaves and concluded to myself that I would when I got

grown like they were as I knew not then that I was the son of my


During the War and as the men and our Master all went to the War the

Negroes or a Negro would have to go to the Mistress' homes each

morning and start fires and never, did I ever hear of a rape case

under such close conditions as Negroes going into the bed rooms each

morning of the white mistress to start fires.

My first wife was name Tracy Smith. As I had been free for over 12

years. We had ordinary marriage ceremony. I have 11 grown children, 15

or 20 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

I think Abraham Lincoln was a fine old gentlemen and as to Jeff Davis

I don't think he was what he should have been, and as to Booker T.

Washington I think his idea of educating or training Negroes as

servants to serve the white race appealed more to the white race than

the Negroes.

My viewpoint as to slavery is that it was as much detrimental to the

white race as it was to the Negroes, as one elevated ones minds too

highly, and the other degraded ones mind too lowly.

Robert Mullins Robert Shepherd facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail