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Rachel Fairley

From: More Arkansas

Interviewer: S.S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Rachel Fairley
1600 Brown St.
Little Rock, Ark.
Age: 75
Occupation: General Housework
[Jan 23 1938]

[HW: Mother Stole to Get Food]

"My mother said she had a hard time getting through. Had to steal half
the time; had to put her head under the pot and pray for freedom. It was
a large pot which she used to cook in on the yard. She would set it
aside when she got through and put it down and put her head under it to

"My father, when nine years old, was put on the speculator's block and
sold at Charlottesville, North Carolina. My mother was sold on the same
day. They sold her to a man named Paul Barringer, and refugeed her to a
place near Sardis, Mississippi, to the cotton country. Before he was
sold, my father belonged to the Greers in Charlottesville. I don't know
who owned my mother. I never did hear her say how old she was when she
was sold. They was auctioned off just like you would sell goods. One
would holler one price and another would holler another, and the highest
bid would get the slave.

"Mother did not go clear to Sardis but to a plantation ten miles from
Sardis. This was before freedom. We stayed there till two years after

"I remember when my mother moved. I had never seen a wagon before. I was
so uplifted, I had to walk a while and ride a while. We'd never seen a
wagon nor a train neither. McKeever was the place where she moved from
when she moved to Sardis.

"The first year she got free, she started sharecropping on the place.
The next year she moved. That was the year she moved to Sardis itself.
There she made sharecrops. That was the third year after freedom. That
is what my father and mother called it, sharecropping. I don't know what
their share was. But I guess it was half to them and half to him.

"I do general housework. I been doing that for eleven years. I never
have any trouble. Whenever I want to I get off.

"The slaves used to live in one room log huts. They cooked out in the
yard. I have seen them huts many a time. They had to cook out in the
yard in the summertime. If they didn't, they'd burn up.

"My mother seen her master take off a big pot of money to bury. He
didn't know he'd been seen. She didn't know where he went, but she seen
the direction he took. Her master was Paul Barringer. That was on
McKeever Creek near Sardis. It was near the end of the war. I never
heard my mother say what became of the money, but I guess he got it back
after everything was over.

"They had to work all the time. When they went to church on Sunday, they
would tell them not to steal their master's things. How could they help
but steal when they didn't have nothin'? You didn't eat if you didn't

"My mother never would have been sold but the first bunch of slaves
Barringer bought ran away from him and went back to the places where
they come from. Lots of the old people wouldn't stay anywheres only at
their homes. They would go back if they were sold away. It took a long
time because they walked. When my mother and father were sold they had
to walk. It took them six weeks,--from Charlottesville, North Carolina
to Sardis, Mississippi.

"In Sardis my father was made the coachman, and mother was sent to the
field. Master was mean and hard. Whipped them lots. Mother had to pick
cotton all day every day and Sunday. When I first seen my father to
remember him, he had on a big old coat which was given to him for
special days. We called it a ham-beater. It had pieces that would make
it set on you like a basque. He wore a high beaver hat too. That was his
uniform. Whenever he drove, he had to dress up in it.

"My mother tickled me. She said she went out one day and kill a
billygoat, but when she went to get it it was walking around just like
the rest of them. My mother couldn't eat hogshead after freedom because
they dried them and give them to them in slave time. You had to eat what
you could git then.

"My mother said you jumped over a broomstick when you married.

"My father and mother were not exactly sold to Mississippi. My father
was but my mother wasn't. When Paul Barringer lost all of his niggers,
what he first had, his sister give him my mother and a whole lot more of
them. I don't know how many he had, but he had a great many. My father
went alone, but all my mother's people were taken--four sisters, and
three brothers. They were all grown when I first seen them. I never seen
my mother's father at all.

"There was a world of yellow people then. My mother said her sister had
two yellow children; they were her master's. I know of plenty of light
people who were living at that time.

"My mother had two light children that belonged to her sister. They were
taken from her after freedom, and were made to cook and work for their
sister and brother (white). All the orphans were taken and given back to
the people what owned them when freedom came. My mother's sister was
refugeed back to Charlottesville, North Carolina before the end of the
war so that she wouldn't get free. After the war they were set free out
there and never came back. The children were with my mother and they had
to stay with their master until they were twenty years old. Then they
would be free. They wouldn't give them any schooling at all. They were
as white as the white children nearly but their mother was a colored
woman. That made the difference.

"My mother said that the Ku Klux used to come through ridin' horses. I
don't remember her saying what they wore.

"When the Yanks came through, they took everything. Made the niggers all
leave. My mother said they just came in droves, riding horses, killing
everything, even the babies.

"I was born in Sardis, Mississippi, Panolun (?) County, April 10, 1863."

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