Robert Solomon

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Robert Solomon, Des Arc, Arkansas

Age: 73

My father was African. He was born in Atlanta. My mother was a Cherokee

Indian. Her name was Alice Gamage. I was born in 1864. I don't know

where I was born--think it was in the Territory--my father stole my

mother one night. He couldn't understand them and he was afraid of her

people. He went back to Savannah after so long a time and they was in

Florida when I first seen any of her people. When I got up any size I

asked my father all about him and my mother marrying. He said he knowed

her 'bout two year 'fore they married. They sorter courted by signs--my

mother learned me her language and it was natural fur me to speak my

father's tongue. I talked for them. She was bout fifteen when she run

away. I don't know if a preacher ever did marry em or not. My father

said she was just so pretty he couldn't help lovin' her. He kept makin'

signs and she made signs. I liked my Gramma Gamage. She couldn't

understand much. We all went to the Indian Territory from Florida and

Georgia. That's how I come out here.

I don't remember the Ku Klux. I remember hearing ma and gramma talk

'bout the way they tried to get way from 'em. My father was a farmer

till freedom. He farmed around here and at Pine Bluff. He died at West

Point. My mother and step-mother both died at Pine Bluff. They took my

mother to her nation in Oklahoma. She was sick a good while and they

took her to wait on her. Then come and took her after she died. There

show is a fambly. My father had twenty-two in his fambly. My mother

had five boys and three girls and me. My stepmother had fourteen more

children. That's some fambly aint it? All my brothers and sisters died

when I was little and they was little. My father's other children jess

somewhar down round Pine Bluff. I guess I'd know em but I aint seed none

of them in I don't know how long.

The first work I ever done was sawmilling at Pine Bluff. Then I went

down in Louziana, still sawmilling--I followed dat trade five or six

years. Den I got to railroading. I was puttin down cross ties and layin'

steel. I got to be straw boss at dat. I worked at dat fifteen years. I

worked doing that in six different states. That was show fine livin'--we

carried our train right along to live in. I married and went to farming.

Then I come to work at this oil mill here (in Des Arc). The reason I

quit. I didn't quit till it went down and moved off. I aint had nothin'

much to do since. I been carryin' water and wood fur Mrs. Norfleet

twenty years and they cooks fur me now. My wife died 'bout a year ago.

She been dead a year last January. She was sick a long time 'fore she

died. Well the relief gives me a little to eat, some clothes and I gets

$5.00 a month and I takes it and buys my groceries and I takes it up to

Mrs. Norfleet's. They says come there and eat. They show is good to me

'cept I aint able to carry the wood up the steps much no more. It hurt

me when I worked at the oil mill. I helped them 'bout the house all the


What I do wid my money I made? I educated my girls. Yes maam I show is

got children. One my girls teaches school in St. Louis and de other at

Hot Springs. They both went to college at Pine Bluff. I sent em. No'm

dey don't help me. They is by my second wife and my first wife live with

my son, down close to Star City. Dey farm. It's down in Lincoln County.

They let me live in this house. It belongs to him. I went to the bank

fo' it closed and got my money whut I had left. I been livin' on it but

it give out.

The conditions are all right. They kin make a right smart but everything

is so high it don't buy much. Some of 'em say they ain't goiner do the

hardest work, hot or cold and liftin' for no dollar a day. Don't nobody

work hard as I used to. There's goiner be another war and a lot of them

killed--'cause people ain't doin right. Some don't treat the others

right. No'm they never did. They used to threaten em and take 'em out in

cars and beat 'em up, just for disputin' their word or not paying 'em

and de lack. The white man has cheated a heap because we was ignorant

and black. They gamble on the cotton and take might' near all of it for

the cheap grub they let out to make de crop on. Conditions are better

but a heap of the young black and white too deblish lazy to work. Some

of dem get killed out goin' on at their meanness.

I heard of uprisings since the war but I never was 'bout none of them.

I votes the Republican ticket. The last I voted was for Hoover. Sure

they have tried to change my way of voting but I ain't goiner change.

I ain't heard nothin' 'bout no restrictions 'bout votin'. If a woman

wanter vote it's all right. My girs and my boy votes right along. They

are all Republicans.

The most money I ever has at one time was $600.00. I did save it. I

spent it on my girls' clothes and education. They did go to college at

Pine Bluff but they went to the Catholic High School first down at Pine

Bluff. No'm they don't help me. They say it's all dey can do to get

along. They never have told me how much they make.

Robert Shepherd Robert Toatley facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail