Sophie D Belle

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Sophie D. Belle, Forrest City, Arkansas

Age: 77

"I was born near Knoxville, Georgia. My mother was a professional pastry

cook. She was a house woman during slavery. She was owned by Lewis Hicks

and Ann Hicks. They had Saluda, Mary, Lewis, and Oscar.

"Mother was never sold. Mr. Hicks reared her. She was three-fourths

Indian. Her father was George Hicks. Gordon carried him to Texas. Mr.

Bob Gordon was mean. He asked Mr. Hicks to keep mother and auntie while

he went to Texas, Mr. Gordon was so mean. My mother had two little girls

but my sister died while small.

"I never saw any one sold. I never saw a soldier. But I noticed the

grown people whispering many times. Mother explained it to me, they had

some news from the War. Aunt Jane said she saw them pass in gangs. I

heard her say, 'Did you see the soldiers pass early this morning?' I was

asleep. Sometimes I was out at play when they passed.

"Master Hicks called us all up at dinner one day to the big house. He

told us, 'You are free as I am.' I never had worked any then. No, they

cried and went on to their homes. Aunt Jane was bad to speak out, she

was so much Indian. She had three children. She went to another place to

live. She was in search of her husband and thought he might be there at

Ft. Valley.

"Mother stayed on another year. Mr. Hicks was good to us. None of the

children ever worked till they was ten or twelve years old. He had a lot

of slaves and about twenty-five children on the place growing. He had

just a big plantation. He had a special cook, Aunt Mariah, to cook for

the field hands. They eat like he did. Master Hicks would examine their

buckets and a great big split basket. If they didn't have enough to eat

he would have her cook more and send to them. They had nice victuals to

eat. He had a bell to ring for all the children to be put to bed at

sundown and they slept late. He said, 'Let them grow.' Their diet was

milk and bread and eggs. We had duck eggs, guinea eggs, goose eggs, and

turkey eggs.

"I don't know what all the slaves had but mother had feather beds. They

saved all kind of feathers to make pillows and bed and chair cushions.

We always had a pet pig about our place. Master Hicks kept a drove of

pea-fowls. He had cows, goats, sheep. We children loved the lambs.

Elvira attended to the milk. She had some of the girls and boys to milk.

Uncle Dick, mother's brother, was Mr. Hicks' coachman. He was raised on

the place too.

"I think Master Hicks and his family was French, but, though they were

light-skin people. They had light hair too, I think.

"One day a Frenchman (white) that was a doctor come to call. My Aunt

Jane said to me, 'He is your papa. That is your papa.' I saw him many

times after that. I am considered eight-ninth white race. One little

girl up at the courthouse asked me a question and I told her she was too

young to know about such sin. (This girl was twenty-four years old and

the case worker's stenographer.)

"Master Hicks had Uncle Patrick bury his silver and gold in the woods.

It was in a trunk. The hair and hide was still on the trunk when the War

ceased. He used his money to pay the slaves that worked on his place

after freedom.

"I went to school to a white man from January till May and mother paid

him one dollar a month tuition. After I married I went to school three

terms. I married quite young. Everyone did that far back.

"I married at Aunt Jane's home. We got married and had dinner at one or

two o'clock. Very quiet. Only a few friends and my relatives. I wore a

green wool traveling dress. It was trimmed in black velvet and black

beads. I married in a hat. At about seven o'clock we went to ny

husband's home at Perry, Georgia. He owned a new buggy. We rode thirty

miles. We had a colored minister to marry us. He was a painter and a

fine provider. He died. I had no children.

"I came to Forrest City 1874. There was three dry-goods and grocery

stores and two saloons here--five stores in all. I come alone. Aunt Jane

and Uncle Sol had migrated here. My mother come with me. There was one

railroad through here. I belong to the Baptist church.

"I married the second time at Muskogee, Oklahoma. My husband lived out

there. He was Indian-African. He was a Baptist minister. We never had

any children. I never had a child. They tell me now if I had married

dark men I would maybe had children. I married very light men both


"I washed and ironed, cooked and kept house. I sewed for the public,

black and white. I washed and ironed for Mrs. Grahan at Crockettsville

twenty-three years and three months. I inherited a home here. Owned a

home here in Forrest City once. I live with my cousin here. He uses that

house for his study. He is a Baptist minister. (The church is in front

of their home--a very nice new brick church--ed.) I'm blind now or I

could still sew, wash and iron some maybe.

"I get eight dollars from the Social Welfare. I do my own cooking in the

kitchen. I am seventy-seven years old. I try to live as good as my age.

Every year I try to live a little better, 'A little sweeter as the years

go by.'"

Sophia Word Spence Johnson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail