Talitha Lewis

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Talitha Lewis

300 E. 21st Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 86

[Date Stamp: MAY 31 1938]

"I should say I was born in slavery times! Now if you ask me something

I don't know, I couldn't tell you, honey, 'cause I believe in people

tellin' the truth.

"In a way I know how old I is. I give what my white folks give me.

They told me I was born in 1852. Yes ma'am, my young missis used to

set down and work on me. She'd say, 'Get it in your head' 'cause I

ain't got no education.

"I 'member my old missis. Know her name as good as I do mine. Name was

Maria Whitley. After old master died, his property was divided and Jim

Whitley drawed me and my mother and my sister. Yes ma'am, it was my


"Goldsboro, North Carolina is where I was born, in Johnston County.

"Do I 'member anything 'bout peace declared? I should say I

do--'member long time 'fore it come.

"I seed so many different regiments of people I didn't know which was

which. I know the Yankees called ever'body Dinah. They'd say to me,

'Dinah, hold my horse,' and my hands would be full of bridles. And

they'd say, 'You got anything buried?' The white folks had done buried

the meat under my mother's house. And say, 'Is they good to you?' If

they hadn't a been we wouldn't a known any better than to tell it.

"I 'member they found where the meat was buried and they ripped up my

mother's feather bed and filled it full of hams and shoulders, and

there wasn't a middlin' in the lot. And kill chickens and geese! They

got ever'thing and anything they wanted.

"There was a battle-field about four miles from us where they fit at.

"Honey, I can't tell it like I know it, but I know it.

"Old master was a good man. You had plenty to eat and plenty to wear.

And on Monday morning all his colored folks had clean clothes. I wish

I could tell it like I know. He was a good man but he had as mean a

wife as I ever saw. She used to be Nettie Sherrod and she did not

like a black face. Yes ma'am, Jim Whitley was a good man but his

father was a devil.

"If Massa Jim had a hand he couldn't control, he sold him. He said he

wasn't goin' to beat 'em or have 'em run off and stay in the woods.

Yes'm, that was my master, Jim Whitley.

"His overseer was Zack Hill when peace declared.

"How long I been in Arkansas? Me? We landed at Marianna, Arkansas in

1889. They emigranted us here. They sure said they had fritter trees

and a molasses pond. They said to just shake the tree and the fritters

would fall in the pond. You know anybody that had any sense wouldn't

believe that. Yes ma'am, they sure told that lie. 'Course there was

times when you could make good money here.

"I know I is a slave time chile. I fared well but I sure did see some

that didn't.

"Our white folks had hands that didn't do nothin' but make clothes and

sheets and kivers.

"Baby, them Ku Klux was a pain. The paddyrollers was bad enough but

them Ku Klux done lots of devilment. Yes ma'am, they done some


"I worked for a white man once was a Ku Klux, but I didn't know it for

a long time. One time he said, 'Now when you're foolin' around in my

closet cleanin' up, I want you to be pertickler.' I seed them rubber

pants what they filled with water. I reckon he had enough things for a

hundred men. His wife say, 'Now, Talitha, don't let on you know what

them things is.'

"Now my father belonged to the Adkins. He and my mother was married

with a stiffcate 'fore peace declared and after peace declared they

got a license and was married just like they marry now.

"My master used to ask us chillun, 'Do your folks pray at night?' We

said 'no' 'cause our folks had told us what to say. But the Lawd have

mercy, there was plenty of that goin' on. They'd pray, 'Lawd, deliver

us from under bondage.'

"Colored folks used to go to the white folks' church. I was raised up

under the old Primitive Baptist feet washin' church. Oh, that's a

time, baby!

"What I think of the younger generation? I don't know what to think of

'em. I don't think--I know they is goin' too fast.

"I learned how to read the Bible after I 'fessed religion. Yes ma'am,

I can read the Bible, praise the Lawd!"

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