Tom Douglas

Interviewer: Pernella M. Anderson

Person interviewed: Tom Douglas

Route 2, Box 19-A, El Dorado, Arkansas

Age: 91

"I was born in Marion, Louisiana September 15, 1847 at 8 o'clock in the

morning. I was eighteen years of age at surrender. My master and missus

was B.B. Thomas and Miss Susan Thomas. Old master had a gang of slaves

and we all worked like we were putting out fire. Lord child, wasn't near

like it is now. We went to bed early and got up early. There was a gang

of plow hands, hoe hands, hands to clear new ground, a bunch of cooks, a

washwoman. We worked too and didn't mind it. If we acted like we didn't

want to work, our hands was crossed and tied and we was tied to a tree

or bush and whipped until we bled. They had a whipping post that they

tied us to to whip us.

"We was sold just like hogs and cows and stock is sold today. They built

nigger pens like you see cow pens and hog pens. They drove niggers in

there by the hundred and auctioned them off to the highest bidder. The

white folks kept up with our age so when they got ready to sell us they

could tell how old we were. They had a 'penetenture' for the white folks

when they did wrong. When we done wrong we was tied to that whipping

post and our hide busted open with that cow hide.

"We stayed out in the field in a log house and old master would

allowance our week's rations out to us and Sunday morning we got one

biscuit each. If our week's allowance give out before the week we did

not get any more.

"Cooked on fireplaces, wasn't no stoves. We did not have to worry about

our clothes. Old missus looked after everything. We wore brogan shoes

and homespun clothes. There was a bunch of women that did the spinning

and weaving just like these sewing room women are now. I was a shoe

maker. I made all the shoes during the time we wasn't farming. We had to

go nice and clean. If old missus caught us dirty our hide was busted. I

got slavery time scars on my back now. You ought to see my back. Scars

been on my back for seventy-five years.

"I never went to school a day in my life. I learned my ABC'S after I was

nineteen years old. I went to night school, then to a teacher by the

name of Nelse Otom. I was the first nigger to join the church on this

side of the Mason and Dixie line. During slavery we all joined the white

folk's church set in the back. After slavery in 1866 they met in

conference and motioned to turn all of the black sheep out then. There

was four or five they turned out here and four or five there, so we

called our preacher and I was the first one to join. Old master asked

our preacher what we paid him to preach to us. We told him old shoes and

clothes. Old master says, 'Well, that's damn poor pay.' Our preacher

says, 'And they got a damn poor preacher.'

"I did not know anything about war. Only I know it began in 1861, closed

in 1865, and I know they fought at Vicksburg. That was two or three

hundred miles from us but we could not keep our dishes upon the table

whenever they shot a bomb. Those bombs would jar the house so hard and

we could see the smoke that far.

"We was allowed to visit Saturday night and Sunday. If you had a wife

you could go to see her Wednesday night and Saturday night and stay with

her until Monday morning and if you were caught away any other time the

patrollers would catch you. That is where the song come from, 'Run

nigger run, don't the patarolls will catch you.' Sometimes a nigger

would run off and the nigger dogs would track them. In slavery white

folks put you together. Just tell you to go on and go to bed with her or

him. You had to stay with them whether you wanted them or not.

"After freedom old master called all us slaves and told us we was free,

opened a big gate and drove us all out. We didn't know what to do--not a

penny, nowhere to go--so we went out there and set down. In about thirty

minutes master came back and told us if we wanted to finish the crop for

food and clothes we could, so we all went back and finished the crop and

the next year they gave us half. So ever' since then we people been

working for half.

"Here is one of my boy songs:

'Sadday night and Sunday too,

A pretty girl on my mind

As soon as Monday morning come

The white folks get me gwi-ng.'"

Tom Chisolm Tom Hawkins facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail