William Porter





Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: William Porter

1818 Louisiana Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 81

Occupation: Janitor of church





"Yes'm I lived in slavery times. I was born in 1856. I was borned in

Tennessee but the most of my life has been in Arkansas.



"I remember when Hood's raid was. That was the last fight of the war. I

recollect seein' the soldiers marchin' night and day for two days. I saw

the cavalry men and the infant men walking. I heard em say the North was

fightin' the South. They called the North Yankees and the South Rebels.



"Some of the Tennessee niggers was called free niggers. There was a

colored man in Pulaski, Tennessee who owned slaves.



"My father was workin' to buy his freedom and had just one more year to

work when peace come. His master gave him a chance to buy his freedom.

He worked for old master in the daytime and at night he worked for

himself. He split rails and raised watermelons.



"My father's master was named Tom Gray at that time. Considering the

times he was a very fair man.



"When the war broke up I was workin' around a barber shop in Nashville,

Tennessee.



"The Queen of England offered to buy the slaves and raise them till they

were grown, then give them a horse, a plow and so many acres of ground

but the South wouldn't accept this offer.



"It was the rule of the South to keep the people as ignorant as

possible, but my mother had a little advantage over some. The white

children learned her to read and write, and when freedom came she could

write her name and even scribble out a letter. She gave me my first

lesson, and I started to school in '67. The North sent teachers down

here after the war. They were government schools.



"I was pretty apt in figgers--studied Bay's Arithmetic through the third

book. I was getting along in school, but I slipped away from my people

and was goin' to get a pocket full of money and then go back. First man

I worked for was a colored man and I kept his books for him and was to

get one-fourth of the crop. The first year he settled with me I had $165

clear after I paid all my debts. I done very well. I farmed one more

year, then I come to Pine Bluff and did government work along the

Arkansas River.



"I've done carpenter work and concrete work. I learned it by doing it. I

followed concrete work for a long time. I've hoped to build several

houses here in Pine Bluff and a lot of these streets.



"I have a brother and sister who graduated from Fisk University.



"I think one thing about the younger generation is they need to be more

educated in the way of manners and to have race pride and to be subject

to the laws."





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