MILLIE FORWARD, about 95 years old, was born a slave of Jason
Forward, in Jasper, Texas. She has spent her entire life in that
vicinity, and now lives in Jasper with her son, Joe McRay. Millie
has been totally blind for fifteen years and is very deaf.
"Us used to live 'bout four mile east of Jasper, on de Newton Highway. I
reckon I's 'bout 95 year old and I thank de Lawd I's been spared dis
long. Some my old friends say I's 100, and maybe I is. I feels like it.
"I's born in Alabama and mammy have jus' got up when de white folks
brung us out west. Pappy's name Jim Forward and mammy name Mary. Dey
lef' pappy in Alabama, 'cause he 'long to 'nother massa.
"My massa name Jason Forward and he own a lot of slaves. I work as
housegirl and wait on de white women. Missus name am Sarah Ann Forward.
Massa Jason he own de fust drugstore in Jasper. I have de sister, Susan,
and de brudder, Tom. Massa and missus, dey treats us jes' like dey us
pappy and mammy.
"Us have more to eat den dan us do now. Us never was knowed to be
without meat, 'cause massa raise plenty pigs. Us have fish and possum
and coon and deer and everything. Us have biscuits and cake, too, but us
drink bran meal coffee. Massa and missus has no chillen and dey give us
feast and have biscuits and cake. Befo' Christmas massa go to town and
buy all kinds candy and toys and say, 'Millie, you go out on de gallery
and holler and tell Santy not forgit fill your stockin' tonight.' I
holler loud as I can and nex' mornin' my stockin' chock full.
"After freedom come, us stays right on with massa and missus. Massa
teach school for us at night. Us learn A B C and how spell cat and dog
and nigger. Den one day he git cross and scold us and us didn't go back
to school no more. Us didn't have sense 'nough to know he tryin' do us
"Den missus git sick, but she dat good, dat when one cullud man git
drown in de 'river she sit up in bed and make he shroud and massa feed
de whole crowd de two days dey findin' de body. After him bury, missus
git worse and say, 'Jason, pull down de blind, de light am so bright it
hurt my eyes.' Den a big, white crane come light on de chimney and us
chillen throw rocks at him, but he jes' shake he head and ruffle he
feathers and still sit dere. I tells you dat de light of Heaven shinin'
on missus and iffen ever a woman went dere, she did. She de bes' white
woman I ever see. De day she die, I cry all day.
"When de sojers go to de war, every man take a slave to wait on him and
take care he camp and cook. After de end of war, when de sojers gwine
home, don't know how many Yankees pass through Jasper, but it sound like
de roar of a storm comin'. Every officer have he wife ridin' right by he
side. Dey wives come to go home with dem. Dey thousands bluecoats,
ridin' two abreas'.
"When I young lady, dey have tourn'ments at Adrian Ryall place west of
Jasper and de one what cotch de hoss bridle de most times, git crown
queen. I gits to be queen every time. I looks like a queen now, doesn't
"After us git free a long time, me and Susan and Tom us work hard and
buy us de black land farm. But de deed git' burnt up and us didn't know
how to git 'nother deed, and a young nigger call McRay, he come foolin'
'round me and makin' love to me. He find out us don't have no deed no
more and he claim dat farm and take it 'way from us and leave me with
li'l baby boy what I names Joe Millie McRay. But never 'gain. I never
"Us done work in de cotton field and wash many a long day to pay for dat
farm. But dat boy growed to be a good man and I live with him and he
wife now. And he boy, Bob, am better still. He jes' work so hard and he
buy fine li'l home in Jasper and marry de bes' gal, mos' white. Dey have
nice fur'ture and gas and lights and everything.
"Dey treat us purty good in slavery days but I'd rather be free, but it
purty hard to be blind so long and most deaf, too, but I thank de Lawd
I's not sufferin'. I gits de pension of 'leven dollars a month. I's so
old I can't 'member much, only sometime, things comes to me I thought I
forgot long time ago. I's had it purty hard to pay for de farm and den
have it stoled from me when I's old and blind, but de good Lawd, he know
all 'bout it and we all got to stand 'fore de jedgment some day soon.
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