Virginia Jennie Davis

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Virginia (Jennie) Davis

Scott Street, Forrest City, Arkansas

Age: 45 or 47

"This is what my father, Isaac Johnson, always told us:

'I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mama died and left three of us

children and my papa. He was a blacksmith.' I don't recollect grandpa's

name now.

'A man come to buy me. I was a twin. My sisters cried and cried but I

didn't cry. I wanted to ride in the surrey. I was sold and taken to

Montgomery, Alabama.'

"Angeline was his oldest sister and Emmaline was his twin sister. He

never seen any of his people again. He forgot their names. His old

master that bought him died soon after he come back from North Carolina.

"His young master didn't even know his age. He tried to get in the army

and he did get in the navy. They said he was younger than he told his

age. He enlisted for three years. He was in a scrimmage with the Indians

once and got wounded. He got twenty dollars then fifty dollars for his

services till he died.

"He wasn't old enough to be in the Civil War. He said he remembered his

mistress crying and they said Lincoln was to sign a freedom treaty. His

young master told him he was free. The colored folks was having a

jubilee. He had nowheres to go. He went back to the big house and sot

around. They called him to eat, and he went on sleeping where he been

sleeping. He had nowheres to go. He stayed there till he joined the

navy. Then he come to Mississippi and married Sallie Bratcher and he

went back to Alabama and taught school. He went to school at night after

the Civil War till he went to the navy. He was a light-brown skin.

"Grandma, Jane Cash, was one brought from Huntingdon, Tennessee in a

gang and sold at auction in Memphis, Tennessee. She said her mother,

father, the baby, her brother and two sisters and herself was sold,

divided out and separated. Grandma said one of her sisters had a

suckling baby. She couldn't keep it from crying. They stopped and made

her give it away.

"Then grandma fell in the hands of the Walls at Holly Springs,

Mississippi. She was a good breeder, so she didn't have to work so hard.

They wouldn't let her work when she was pregnant.

"Mrs. Walls buried her silver in the front yard. She had an old trusty

colored man to dig a hole and bury it. No one ever found it. The

soldiers took their meat and let the molasses run out on the ground.

They ransacked her house. Mr. Walls wasn't there.

"My auntie, Eliza Williamson, was half white. She was one of her

master's son's children. Her first master put her and her husband

together. She lives near Conway, Arkansas now and is very old.

"Grandma was living at Menifee, Arkansas, and a man from De Valls Bluff,

Arkansas come to her house. She saw a scar on his arm. He was marked by

gingerbread. She asked him some questions. Epps was his name and he was

older than herself. He told her about the sale in Memphis. He remembered

some things she didn't. He knowd where they all went. Her sister was

Mary Wright at Milan, Tennessee. Grandma was twelve years old when that

sale come off. She shouted and they cried. She couldn't eat for a week.

"She said old man Walls was good to them. When my mama was a little girl

she was short and fat and light color. Old man Walls would call them in

his parlor, all dress up and show them to his company. He was proud of

them. He'd give them big dances ever so often. In the evening they had

their own preaching in white folks' church. Grandma was good with the

needle. She sewed for the mistress and her own family too. She had

twelve children I think they said. They said her mistress had a large

family too.

"Grandpa belong to Mike Cash. He give her husband what he made on

Saturday evening. I think grandpa was sold from the Walls to Mike Cash.

He took the Cash name and my mother was a Cash and she married Isaac

Johnson. She was raised in Arkansas. Papa was married twice. I was

raised around Holly Grove, Arkansas. That is where my folks lived in the

last of slavery--that is mama's folks. Papa come to Arkansas at a later


"I think times is queer. I work and makes the best of 'em. (Ten dollars

a month house rent.) I work all the time washing and ironing. (She has

washed for the same families years and years. She is a light


"Young folks is lost respect for the truth. Not dependable. That is

their very worst fault, I think.

"No-oom, I wouldn't vote no quicker 'en I'd smoke a cigarette. But I

haben never smoked narry one."

Virginia Jackson Virginia Sims facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail