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Anna Baker

From: Mississippi

Anna Baker, Ex-slave, Monroe County
Mrs. Richard Kolb
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes

Aberdeen, Mississippi

Anna Baker, 80-year old ex-slave, is tall and well built. She is what
the Negroes term a "high brown." Her high forehead and prominent cheek
bones indicate that there is a strain of other than the pure African in
her blood. She is in fair health.

"Lemme see how old I is. Well, I tells you jus' lak I tol' dat Home Loan
man what was here las' week. I 'members a pow'ful lot 'bout slavery
times an' 'bout 'fore surrender. I know I was a right smart size den,
so's 'cording to dat I mus' be 'roun' 'bout eighty year old. I aint sho'
'bout dat an' I don't want to tell no untruth. I know I was right smart
size 'fore de surrender, as I was a-sayin', 'cause I 'members Marster
comin' down de road past de house. When I'd see 'im 'way off I'd run to
de gate an' start singin' dis song to 'im:

'Here come de marster, root toot too!
Here come Marster, comin' my way!
Howdy, Marster, howdy do!
What you gwine a-bring from town today?'

Dat would mos' nigh tickle him to death an' he'd say, 'Loosahna (dat was
his pet name for me) what you want today? I'd say, 'Bring me some
goobers, or a doll, or some stick candy, or anything. An' you can bet
yo' bottom doller he'd always bring me somp'n'.

"One reason Marse Morgan thought so much o' me, dey say I was a right
peart young'n' an' caught on to anything pretty quick. Marster would
tell me, 'Loosanna, if you keep yo' ears open an' tell me what de
darkies talk 'bout, dey'll be somp'n' good in it for you.' (He meant for
me to listen when dey'd talk 'bout runnin' off an' such.) I'd stay
'roun' de old folks an' make lak I was a-playin'. All de time I'd be
a-listenin'. Den I'd go an' tell Marster what I hear'd. But all de time
I mus' a-had a right smart mind, 'cause I'd play 'roun' de white folks
an' hear what dey'd say an' den go tell de Niggers.--Don't guess de
marster ever thought 'bout me doin' dat.

"I was born an' bred 'bout seven miles from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was
de baby of de fam'ly. De house was on de right han' side o' de road to
town. I had four sisters an' one brother dat I knows of. Dey was named
Classie, Jennie, Florence, Allie, an' George. My name was Joanna, but
dey done drap de Jo part a long time ago.

"I don't recollec' what my ma's mammy an' pappy was named, but I know
dat her pappy was a full blooded Injun. (I guess dat is where I gits my
brown color.) Her mammy was a full blooded African though, a great big

"I recollec' a tale ray mammy tol' me 'bout my gran'pa. When he took up
wid my gran'mammy de white man what owned her say, 'If you want to stay
wid her I'll give you a home if you'll work for me lak de Niggers do.'
He 'greed, 'cause he thought a heap o' his Black Woman. (Dat's what he
called her.) Ever'thing was all right 'til one o' dem uppity overseers
tried to act smart. He say he gwine a-beat him. My gran'pappy went home
dat night an' barred de door. When de overseer an' some o' his frien's
come after him, he say he aint gwine a-open dat door. Dey say if he
don't dey gwine a-break it in. He tell' em to go 'head.

"Whilst dey was a-breakin' in he filled a shovel full o' red hot coals
an' when dey come in he th'owed it at 'em. Den whilst dey was
a-hollerin' he run away. He aint never been seen again to dis good day.
I'se hear'd since den dat white folks learnt dat if dey started to whip
a Injun dey'd better kill him right den or else he might git dem.

"My mammy's name was Harriet Clemens. When I was too little to know
anything 'bout it she run off an' lef' us. I don't 'member much 'bout
her 'fore she run off, I reckon I was mos' too little.

"She tol' me when she come after us, after de war was over, all 'bout
why she had to run away: It was on 'count of de Nigger overseers. (Dey
had Niggers over de hoers an' white mens over de plow han's.) Dey kep'
a-tryin' to mess 'roun' wid her an' she wouldn' have nothin' to do wid
'em. One time while she was in de fiel' de overseer asked her to go over
to de woods wid him an' she said, 'All right, I'll go find a nice place
an' wait.' She jus' kep'a-goin. She swum de river an' run away. She
slipped back onct or twict at night to see us, but dat was all. She
hired out to some folks dat warnt rich' nough to have no' slaves o' dey
own. Dey was good to her, too. (She never lacked for work to do.)

"When my ma went off a old woman called Aunt Emmaline kep' me. (She kep'
all de orphunt chillun an' dem who's mammas had been sent off to de
breedin' quarters. When dem women had chillun dey brung 'em an' let
somebody lak Aunt Emmaline raise em.) She was sho' mean to me. I think
it was 'cause de marster laked me an' was always a-pettin' me. She was

"She was always a-tryin' to whip me for somethin' or nother. One time
she hit me wid a iron miggin. (You uses it in churnin'.) It made a bad
place on my head. She done it 'cause I let some meal dat she was
parchin' burn up. After she done it she got sort a scared an' doctored
me up. She put soot on de cut to make it stop bleedin'. Nex' day she
made me promise to tell de marster dat I hurt my head when I fell out o'
de door dat night he whip Uncle Sim for stealin' a hog. Now I was asleep
dat night, but when he asked me I said, 'Aunt Emmaline say tell you I
hurt my head fallin' out de door de night you whip Uncle Sim.' Den he
say, 'Is dat de truf?' I say, 'Naw sir.' He took Aunt Emmaline down to
de gear house an' wore her out. He wouldn' tell off on me. He jus' tol'
her dat she had no bus'ness a-lettin' me stay up so late dat I seen him
do de whippin'.

"My pa was named George Clemens. Us was all owned by Marster Morgan
Clemens. Master Hardy, his daddy, had give us to him when he 'vided out
wid de res' o' his chillun. (Marster Morgan was a settled man. He went
'roun' by hisse'f mos' o' de time. He never did marry.)

"My pa went to de war wid Marster Morgan an' he never come back. I don't
'member much 'bout 'em goin', but after dey lef' I 'member de Blue Coats
a-comin'. Dey tore de smoke house down an' made a big fire an' cooked
all de meat dey could hol'. All us Niggers had a good time, 'cause, dey
give us all us wanted. One of 'em put me up on his knee an' asked me if
I'd ever seen Marster wid any little bright 'roun' shiny things. (He
held his hand up wid his fingers in de shape of a dollar.) I, lak a
crazy little Nigger said, 'Sho', Marster draps 'em 'hind de
mantelpiece.' Den, if dey didn' tear dat mantel down an' git his money,
I's a son-of-a-gun!

"After de war was over my ma got some papers from de progo[FN: provost]
marshal. She come to de place an 'tol' de marster she want her chillun.
He say she can have all 'cept me. She say she want me, too, dat I was
her'n an' she was gwine a-git me. She went back an 'got some more papers
an' showed 'em to Marster Morgan. Den he lemme go.

"She come out to de house to git us. At firs' I was scared o' her,
'cause I didn' know who she was. She put me in her lap an' she mos' nigh
cried when she seen de back o' my head. Dey was awful sores where de
lice had been an' I had scratched 'em. (She sho' jumped Aunt Emmaline
'bout dat.) Us lef' dat day an' went right on to Tuscaloosa. My ma had
married again an' she an' him took turns 'bout carrying me when I got
tired. Us had to walk de whole seven miles.

"I went to school after dat an' learnt to read an' write. Us had white
Yankee teachers. I learnt to read de Bible well' nough an' den I quit.

"I was buried in de water lak de Savior. I's a real Baptis'. De Holy
Sperrit sho' come into my heart.

"I b'lieves in de Sperrit. I b'lieves all o' us when us dies is
sperrits. Us jus' hovers 'roun' in de sky a-ridin' on de clouds. Course,
some folks is born wid a cloud over dey faces. Dey can see things dat us
can't. I reckon dey sees de sperrits. I know' bout dem Kloo Kluxes. I
had to go to court one time to testify 'bout' em. One night after us had
moved to Tuscaloosa dey come after my step-daddy. Whilst my ma an' de
res' went an' hid I went to de door. I warnt scared. I says, 'Marster
Will, aint dat you?' He say, 'Sho', it's me. Whar's yo' daddy?' I tol'
'im dat he'd gone to town. Den dey head out for 'im. In de meantime my
ma she had started out, too. She warned him to hide, so dey didn' git

"Soon after dat de Yankees hel' a trial in Tuscaloosa. Dey carried me. A
man hel' me up an' made me p'int out who it was dat come to our house. I
say, 'Dat's de man, aint it Marster Will?' He couldn' say "No", 'cause
he'd tol' me twas him dat night. Dey put 'em in jail for six months an'
give 'em a big fine.

"Us moved from Tuscaloosa while I was still a young girl an' went to
Pickensville, Alabama. Us stayed dar on de river for awhile an' den
moved to Columbus, Mississippi. I lived dar 'til I was old 'nough to git
out to myse'f.

"Den I come to Aberdeen an' married Sam Baker. Me an' Sam done well. He
made good money an' us bought dis very house I lives in now. Us never
had no chillun, but I was lef' one by a cousin o' mine what died. I
raised her lak she was my own. I sont her to school an' ever'thing. She
lives in Chicago now an' wants me to come live wid her. But shucks! What
would a old woman lak me do in a place lak dat?

"I aint got nothin' lef now 'cept a roof over my head. I wouldn' have
dat 'cept for de President o' de United States. Dey had loaned me some
money to fix up de house to keep it from fallin' down on me. Dey said
I'd have fifteen year to pay it back in. Now course, I knowed I'd be
dead in dat time, so I signed up wid' em.

"Las' year de men dat collec' nearly worrit me to death a-tryin' to git
some money from me. I didn' have none, so dey say dey gwine a-take my

"Now I hear tell o' dat barefoot Nigger down at Columbus callin' de
president an' him bein' so good to 'im. So I 'cided to write an' tell
'im what a plight dis Nigger was in. I didn' say nothin noxious[FN:
obnoxious], but I jus' tol' him plain facts. He writ me right back an'
pretty soon he sont a man down to see me. He say I needn' bother no
more, dat dey won't take my house 'way from me. An' please de Lawd! Dey
aint nobody else been here a-pesterin' me since.

"Dat man tol' me soon as de old age pension went th'ough I'd git thirty
dollars a mont' stid[FN: instead] o' de four I's a-gittin' now. Now
won't dat be gran'? I could live lak de white folks on dat much.

"I'se had 'ligion all my born days. (I never learnt to read de Bible an'
'terpet de Word 'til I was right smart size, but I mus' o' b'lieved in
de Lawd since 'way back.) I'se gwine a-go right 'long an' keep
a-trustin' de good Lawd an' I knows ever'thing gwine a-come out all

"'Twixt de Lawd an' de good white folks I know I's gwine always have
somethin' t'eat. President Roosevelt done 'tended to de roof over my

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