William Gant

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: William Gant

Forrest City, Arkansas

Age: 101

"I was one hundred and one years old last Saturday (1938). I was born in

Bedford County, middle Tennessee. My parents' names was Judy and Abraham

Gant. They had the same master. They had three boys and two girls. Our

owners was Jim Gant and Elizabeth Gant. Ma had seven children, four gals

and three boys. We called her Miss Betsy. Jim Gant owned seven hundred

acres of good land in one body and some more land summers else. My young

masters and mistresses was: Malindy, Jennie, Betsy, Mary, Jim, John,

Andy. They had twenty-five or thirty slaves I knowed. He was pretty good

to his slaves. He didn't whoop much. Give 'em three or four licks. He

fed 'em all well. We had warm clothes in winter.

"I never seen nobody sold. My brothers and sisters was divided out. Miss

Betsy was my young mistress. I could go to see all my folks. I never

seen no hard times in my life. I had to work or be called lazy. I loved

to work. I been in the field when the sun come up and got part my

ploughing done. Go back to the house and eat and feed my mule, rest

around in the shade. Folks didn't used to dread work so bad like they do

now. I lay down and rest in the heat of the day. They had big shade

trees for us niggers to rest under, eat under, spring water to drink.

I'd plough till smack dark I couldn't see to get to the barn. We had

lighted knots to feed by. The feed be in the troughs and water in the

big trough in the lot ready. My supper would be hot too. It would be all

I could eat too. Yes, I'd be tired but I could sleep till next morning.

"We had big todoos along over the country. White and black could go

sometimes. Picnics and preachings mostly what I went to. Sometimes it

was to a house covering, a corn shucking, a corn shelling, or log

rolling. We went on hunts at night some.

"Sassy (saucy) Negroes got the most licks. I never was sassy. I never

got but a mighty few licks from nobody. We was slaves and that is about

all to say.

"I learned to fiddle after the fiddler on the place. Uncle Jim was the

fiddler. Andy Jackson, a white boy, raised him. He learned him to read

and write in slavery. After slavery I went to learn from a Negro man at

night. I learned a little bit. My master wouldn't cared if we had

learned to read and write but the white folks had tuition school. Some

had a teacher hired to teach a few of them about. I could learned if I'd

had or been 'round somebody knowed something. He read to us some. He

read places in his Bible. Anything we have and ask him. We didn't have

books and papers. I loved to play my fiddle, call figures, and tell

every one what to do. I didn't take stock in reading and writing after

the War.

"My parents had the name of being a good set of Negroes. She was raised

by folks named Morrow and pa by folks named Strahorn. When ma was a

little gal the Morrows brought her to Tennessee. My parents both raised

in South Carolina by the Morrows and Strahorns. I was twenty years old

in the War.

"They had a big battle seven or eight miles from our homes. It started

at daylight Sunday morning and lasted till Monday evening. I think it

was Bragg and Buel. The North whooped. It was a roar and shake and we

could hear the big guns plain. It was in Hardin County close to

Savannah, Tennessee. It was times to be scared. We was all distressed.

"My master died, left her a widow.

"We farmed, made thirty or forty acres of wheat, seventy-five acres of

oats, some rye. I pulled fodder all day and take it down at night while

the dew would keep it in the bundle. Haul it up. We was divided out when

the War was on.

"Somebody killed Master Jim Gant. He was murdered in his own house. They

never did know who done it. They had two boys at home. One went

visiting. They knocked her and the boy senseless. It was at night. They

was all knocked in the head.

"Will Strahorn owned my wife. He was tolerable good to his Negroes.

Edmond Gant was a black preacher in slavery. He married us. He married

us in white folks' yard. They come out and looked at us marry. I had to

ask my master and had to go ask for her then. Our children was to be

Strahorn by name. Will would own them 'cause my wife belong to him. My

first wife had five girls and three boys. My wife died. I left both my

two last wives. I never had no more children but them eight.

"Freedom--my young master come riding up behind us. We was going in

dragging our ploughs. He told us it was freedom. The Yankees took

everything. We went to Murray County to get my horse. I went off the

next day. The Yankees stayed in Lawrence County. The Yankees burnt Tom

Greenfield out. Tom and Jim had joining farms. They took everything he

had. Took his darkies all but two girls. He left. Jim was good and they

never went 'bout him. Jim stayed at home. I went over there. He put me

on his brother's place.

"I come to Arkansas by train. I come to Jackson, Tennessee, then to

Forrest City, brought my famlee. My baby child is grown and married.

"The Ku Klux never bothered me. It was a mighty little I ever seen of


"I never have had a hard time. I have worked hard. I been ploughing,

hoeing, cradling grain, picking cotton all my life. I love to plough and

cradle grain. I love to work.

"There is a big difference now and the way I was raised up. They used to

be whooped and made mind. They learned how to work. Now the times run

away from the people. They used to buy what they couldn't raise in

barrels. Now they buy it in little dabs. I ain't used to it. White folks

do as they pleases and the darkies do as they can. Everybody greedy as

he can be it seem like to me. Laziness coming on more and more every

year as they grow up. I ain't got a lazy bone in me. I'm serving and

praising my Lord every day, getting ready to go over in the next


William Davis William George Hinton facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail