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 check 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 mighty 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 karster, root toot tool
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, 'Loosanna (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 dollar 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' cars 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 woman.
"I recollec' a tale my 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 'great, '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 o' 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 swam de river an' run away. She slipped back onet 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 jealous.
"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 churnint) 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 sorta 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 hises'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 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 day 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 'im.
"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 to' 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 home.
"Now I hear tell o' dat barefoot Nig er 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, 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 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 right.
"'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 head.""
Baker, Anna -- Additional Interview
Ex-slave, 80 years old.
Anna is a tall, moderately built, high brown, negro woman. 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, suffering occasional heart attacks, which she declares will be the end of her yet. With her lives the orphan daughter of her foster grandaughter, quite a complicated relationship but true never-the-less, for the child's grandmother was given to Anna when she was a baby and Anna raised her as if she were her own. Anna is an intelligent, though an uneducated, person. She is well liked by both her own people and the white people in Aberdeen. She has no visible means of support but she manages to get along exceptionally well on the $4.00 relief check she gets each month. She says that the Lord provides the rest.
"How old is I? Well, I tells you jest lak I tells dat Home Loan man what was here last week. I members a powerful lot 'bout slavery times and 'bout 'fore Surrender; I knows I was a right smart size den so's 'cording to dat I must be round 'bout eighty years old. I ain't sho' bout dat and I sho' doan wanta tell no untruth 'bout it but I spect that 'bout gets it right. De reason I knows I was right smart size 'fore Surrender was 'case I members Marster comin' down de road past our house and when I see him way off I'd run to de gate and start singin' dis song to him:
"Here come de marster, root toot too! Here come marster, comin' my way! Howdy, marster, howdy do! What you gwine bring from town today?"
"Dat would most nigh tickle him to death and you can bet your bottom dollar he'd allus bring me somethin'. He'd say, "Loosanna (dat was his pet name for me) what you want to-day?" and I'd say, "Bring me some goobers, or a doll, or some stick candy or anything." And he would sho' bring it to me."
"I was de baby of my family and while I was to little to know anything 'bout it my ma runned off and left us. My pa, what was named George Gaines Clemens, got another nigger woman to take care of us on de place. My mother's name was Harriet Clemens, and we was all owned by Marse Morgan Clemens. Marse Hardy, his daddy had give him us when he 'vided out with the rest of his chillen. I doan recollect what my ma's mammy and pappy was named but I do know dat her pappy was a full blooded Injun. I guess dat is where I gets my brown color. Her mammy was a full blooded African tho', a great big woman. I was born and bred 'bout seven miles from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and our house was right on de road to town. I had four sisters and one brother dat I knows of. Dey was name Classie, Jennie, Florence, Allie and George. My name was Joanna, but dey done drap de Jo part now."
"I doan remembers much 'bout my ma 'fore she runned off case I guess I was most nigh too little but she tole me after she come after us, when de war was over, all 'bout why she had to run away. It was case de nigger overseers, dey had niggers over de hoers and white mens over de plowin', dey kept a tryin' to mess 'round wid her and she wouldn't have nothing to do wid dem. One time while she was in de field de overseer asked her to go over to de woods wid him and she said, all right, she'd go find a nice place and wait for him and she just kept a goin' and swam de river and runned away. She slip back once or twice at night to see us but dat was all. She hired out to some folks who woan rich enough to have no slaves of dey own. Dey was good to her too, and she never lacked work to do."
"Pa, he was killed in de war. He went wid Marse Morgan and he never come back. Marse Morgan was a settled man and he went round by his self most of de time. He never did marry. I doan 'member much 'bout him goin' off to war but after he left I do member de Blue Coats comin' in and tearin' de smoke house down and makin' a big fire and cookin' all de meat dey could hold. All us niggers had a good time case dey give us all we wanted. One of dem put me up on his knee and asked me if I had ever seen marster wid any bright round shiny little things and held his hand up, wid his fingers in shape of a dollar. I lak a crazy little nigger dat I was said, "Sho, Marster draps dem 'hind de mantle piece, and den if dey didden tear dat mantle down and get his money I is a son of a gun!"
"When my ma went off a old woman called Aunt Emmaline kept us. She kept all de orphunt chillen and dose who's mamas had been sent off to what I heared called de breedin' quarters. When dose women had chillen dey brung dem in and let somebody lak Aunt Emmaline raise dem. She was sho mean to me. I think it was case de marster liked me and was allus pettin' me. She was jealous. She was allus tryin' to whip me for somethin' or nother. One time she hit me wid a iron miggen, I doan guess you know what dat is, you uses it in churnin', and made a bad place on my head. She did it case I let some meal dat she was parchin' burn up. After she did it she got sorter scared and doctored me up, she put soot on de cut to make it stop bleedin'. Next day, tho' she made me promise I tell de marster dat I hurt my head when I fell outen de door dat night he whup 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 other night when you whup Uncle Sim." Den he say, "Is dat de truf?" and I say, "Naw sir." He took Aunt Emmaline down to de gear house and wore her out. He wouldn't tell off on me tho' but just told her dat she had no business lettin' me stay up so late dat I see him do de whippin'."
"After de war was over my ma got some papers from de Progro Marshall and come to de place and tell de marster she want her chillen. He say she can have all cepten me but she say she want me too and dat I was hern and she was gwineter get me. She went back and got some more papers and come show dem to Marse Morgan, and he say, "G-- D------, take dem all!" She came out of de house to get us and at fust I was scared of her case I didden know who she was. But she put me up in her lap and loved me and I knowed den I love her too. She most nigh cried when she look at de back of my head. Dere was awful sores whar de lice had been and I had scratched dem. She sho' jump on Aunt Emmaline for dat. We left dat day and went on right to Tuscaloosa. Ma had married again and she and him took turns 'bout carrying me when I get tired dat day case we had to walk de whole seven miles."
"I went to school after dat and larnt to read and write. We had white Yankee teachers. I larnt to read de Bible well enuf and den I quit. I jined de church when I was a little thing and has been a Christian since. I was buried in de water lak de Saviour and is a real Babtist. De Holy Sperrit really come into my heart. Cose I believes in de Sperrit. I believes all of us when we dies is sperrits and we hovers round in de sky a ridin' on de clouds. Course some folks is born wid a cloud over dey faces and dey can see things that us can't and I guesses dey sees de sperrits."
"'Bout de Ku Klux? Yas, ma'm. I had to go to court one time to testify 'bout dem. One night after us had moved to Tuscaloosa dey come after my step-daddy and whilest my ma and de rest went and hid I went to de door. I woan scared and when I got dere I recognized one of de men and I says, Marse Will, ain't dat you? He thought I was such a little kid dat I wouldn't member bout it and he say, "Sho', hits me. Whar's your daddy?" I tole him dat he was gone to town and dey head out for him. But in de mean time my ma had started out and she had warned him to hide, so dey didn't get him. De Yankees held a trial in Tuscaloosa den, soon after dat and dey carried me and a man held me up in his arms and made me point out who it was dat come to our house and I say, "Dis de man, ain't it Marse Will?" And he couldn't say no case he had told me twas him dat night. Dey put dem in jail for six months and give dem a big fine."
"We moved from Tuscaloosa while I was still a young girl and went to Pickensville, Alabama. We stayed dar on de river for a while and den moved to Columbus, Mississippi. I lived dar til I was old enuf to get out to myself and den I come to Aberdeen and married Sam Baker. Me and Sam did well. He made good money and we bought our own home, dis very house I lives in now. We never had no chillen of our own but I was left one by a cousin of mine when she died and I raised her lak she was my own. I sont her to school and everything. She lives in Chicago now and wants me to come live wid her but, shucks, what would an old woman lak me do in a big place lak dat? She had one girl, her name was Anna and she live here with me after her mammy went to Chicago. She married a no-count nigger down here, dats Anna I's talkin' 'bout and bout three years ago when us comed out of de church acrost de street he shot her and killed her right 'fore my eyes. Now woan dat awful? I'll never get over it. Dat was right after Sam died too and I didden have nobody here wid me cept Anna's little gal. Dem was sho' bad days, wid de police and all round here all de time."
"I ain't got nothin' left now cept a roof over my head and I wouldn't have dat cept for de president of de United States. Dey had loaned me some money to fix up de house, to keep it from fallin' down on me and say I could have fifteen years to pay it back in. Now cose I knowed I'd be dead in dat time so's I signed up wid dem to get it fixed. Last year de mens dat collect nearly worry me to death tryin' to get some money from me. I didden have none and so dey say dey gwineter take my house away from me. Now I hear tell of dat barefoot nigger down at Columbus callin' de president and him bein' so good to dat black nigger dat I 'cided to write him and tell him what a plight dis nigger was in. I didden say nothin' obnoxious but I jest told him plain facts. He write me right back and purty soon he sont a man down here to see me and he say I needn't bother no more, dat dey woan take my house away from me, and please de Lawd, dey ain't been nobody else here a pesterin' me since. Dat man told me too soon as de old age pension went thru I would get $30.00 a month instead of de four I is gettin' now. Now woan dat be grand? I could live lak de white folks on dat much."
"I is gwine go right along and keep on trustin' de good Lawd and I know's everything gwine come out all right. 'Tween de Lawd and de good white folks I knows I'se gwine allus have somethin' to eat and Marse President done tended to de roof over my head."
"Howdy, Miss, I knowed you'd be a coming back to see me case you said you would, and I knowed you wouldn't tell no lie. I'se been looking for you and I'se had my thinkin' cap on tryin' to recollect some more 'bout slavery times."
"I told you my grandpappy was a full blooded Injun, didn't I? Well, I recollects a tale my mammy told me 'bout him. When he took up wid my grandmammy de white man what owned her tells him iffen he want to stay wid her dat he'd give him a home iffen he'd work for him lak de niggers on de place. He 'greed case he thought a heap of his black woman, dat was what he called her. Everything was all right til one of dose uppity overseers tried to act smart and say he gwine beat him. My grandpappy went home dat night and bar de door and when de overseer and some of his friends come after him, he say he ain't gwine open de door. Dey say iffen he don't dey gwineter break it in. He tell dem to go ahead and whilest dey was breakin' in he filled a shovel full of red hot coals and when dey comes in he throws it at dem and while dey is a hollerin' he runs away and ain't never been seen again to dis good day. I is heared since den dat white folks larnt dat if dey start to whip an Injun dey had better kill him right den or else he might get dem."
"You know one reason Marse Morgan thought so much of me? Well, dey say dat I was a right peart youngun and I'd catch on to anything purty quick. Marster would tell me, "Loosanna, if you keep your ears open, and tell me what de darkies talks about, dey'll be somethin' good in it for you." He meant for me to listen when dey talk about runnin' off and de sech. I'd stay 'round de old folks and make lak I was a playin' and all de time I'd be a listenin'. Den I'd go and climb up on de marster's knee and tell him what I hear. But you know, all de time I must have had a right smart mind case I'd play round de white folks and hear what dey say and den go tell de niggers 'bout dat. Doan guess de marster ever thought 'bout me doin' that, does you?"
"Is I had 'ligion? Sho I has, all my bawn days, I thinks. I never larned to read de Bible and 'terpret de Word til I was right smart size but I must a believed in de Lawd since way back. Right fore Surrender I was a settin' on de back steps and I heared a band of angels singin' "Peace on Earth". And sho nuff purty soon dey was peace and de war was over. Now I reckons dat must have been de Lawd tellin' me dat, don't you?"
"Cose I is had my troubles lak everybody else, fact is I 'spect dey is been a little wusser dan most folks. But I is tried to take dem all wid grace and de Lawd sho knows de best and I just 'cepts what he sends."