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Brown, James

JAMES BROWN, St. blind for the last 12 years and now living alone in a shack at 408 W. Belkacp, Fort Worth, Texas, was born a slave of Mr. Berney in Bell Co., Texas, in 1853. While still an infant, he and his mother were said to Mr. John Blair, who farmed four miles south of Waco. Texas. JAMES has no known living relatives and a pension of $14.00 a month is his sale support.

"My fast Marster was named Marster Berney. I'se don' 'member hims fust name nor nothin' 'bout him. I'se don' know nothin' 'bout my pappy, but Marster Klair told me hims name was John Brown.

"Marster Blair have his farm four miles south of Waco. We'uns lived in de cabins and have do fiddle and de banjoes. We'uns sing and have music on Sundays. Marster never whups we'uns and him was allus good to us. His gives us plenty to sat. and meat, too. Hims keeps 'boat 20 hawgs dere all de time. De women makes do clothes and we'uns have all we need.

"De fust work I does is drivin'. de Marster to town. Marster have fine hosses. Marster have hims office in Waco and we drive dere every day. I'se stays all day ready to drive his home. Mos' every day hims give me five cents or maybe de dine. Hims was a big law man and went to do legislature down in Austin. His picture an in Austin, 'cause I'se down dere years age and seen his picture in a case wid Gov'ner Roes' picture.

"Anudder thing dat Marster does powe'ful good am trade de niggers. He buys and sells 'on all de time. You see, dere was traders dat traveled from place to place dem days and dey takes sometimes as such as 100 niggers for to trade. Dere was sheds outside of town, whar dey keeps de niggers when dey comes to town.

"De Marster and de trader talks dis away: 'How you trade?' 'I'se give you even trade.' 'Ko. I'se wants $25.00 for de diff'runce.' 'I'se gives you $5.00.' Dat's de way dey talks on and on. Maybe dey makes de trade and maybe dey don'.

"Dey have suction sometime and Marster allus tend 'em. At de suction I'se seen den sell a family. Maybe one man buy de mammy, anudder buy de pappy and anudder buy all de chillens or maybe jus' one, like dat. I'se see dem cry like dey at de funeral when dey an parted. Dey has to drag 'em away.

"When de suction begin, he says: 'Dis nigger is so and so ole, he never 'bused, he soun' as a dollar. Jus' look at de muscle and de big shoulders. He's worth a thousan' of any man's money. How much am I offered?' Den de biddin' starts. It goes like dis: '$200 I'se hear, does I'se hear $250, does I hear $300.' Den do nigger takes hims clothes - dey have one extry suit - and goes wid de man dat buys him.

"De day befo' Marster gives we'uns freedom, he says to we'uns, 'I'se wants all you niggers to come to de front of de house Sunday mornin!' We'uns was dere and he was standin' on de gallery, holdin' a paper in hims han' and readin'. Dere was tears in hims eyes and some drap on de paper. I'se have tears in my eyes, too; mos' of 'em have. When hims done readin'. hims says: 'You darkies is as free as I'se is.

You can go or you can stay These dat stay till de crops laid by, I'se will give $5.00 a month.'

"Den he takes de little niggers and says, 'De little follows who I'se have sold deirs mammies will stay wid me till dey an 21 years old. You little follows, I'se know you's age and I'se give yous de statement.'

"Mos' of de niggers stays wid him, but dey lef' fust one and den tudder. I'se stays on wid him for many years and works as coachman. When I lef' de Marster, 'twas to work for a farmer for one year. den I'se comes to Fort Worth. I'se works in lunberya'd for long time.

"For do las' 12 years I'se been blin'. I'se had hard time after dat till de las' year but I'se gits de pension each month, lat am a heap of help. Dis nigger an thankful for what de Lawd have blessed me wid.

Brown, James -- Additional Interview

84, typical negro living at 408 W. Belknap St., Fort Worth, Texas.

He was born, 1863 in Bell County, Fox Texas, a slave of a Mr. Berny. While an infant, his mother and he were sold to John Blair, who conducted a farm, situated four miles south of Waco, Texas.

He has no recollection of his father. Through information furnished by John Blair he learned that his father's name was James Brown.

In 1887 he married. Two children were born of the union. His wife died a short time following the birth of the second child. Both children died in their youth.

He has no known living relatives, and now lives alone, at the address given, in a one room shack.

For the pass twelve years he has been almost blind.

Ise born in Bell County, Texas, my furst Marster was named Berney-I dont 'member his furst name, or 'bout him. My Mammy an Ise whar sold to Marster Blair befoah Ise 'ol 'nough to 'collect.

"Marster Blair hab da farm 'bout foah miles south ob Waco.

"Is don't knows 'bout my father, Ise larned aftah freedom f'om Marster Blair, dat hims name was John Brown.

"No, Marster Blair neber whups weuns. He am allus good to his niggers. He gibs dem plenty to eat, such as da co'n meal, meat him keeps 'bout twenty hawgs alls dere time- veg'bols, milk, 'lasses and biscuts two time da week. Da wemens fo'ks make de cloth and de clothes and weuns hab all dem dat weuns need.

Marster Blair did not hab a w'ite mans fo' da obs'ser, like most udder w'ite fo'ks. He hab one ob de niggers in charge ob de work.

"Da furst work da Ise does 'twas drivin' da marster to town. Has larned dis nigger to driv'n and to be thar co'chman, that am de work Ise does alls de time Ise wid de Marster.

"Ise sho liks de co'chman work. De Marster hab fine hooses, de co'ch hooses am greys, full ob life. Dey would stand wait, but soons youes picks up de lin' deys ready to go. Weuns dribe dat fouah miles to Waco in twenty minutes easy. No body could pass weuns. Lots ob times dey tries, den de Marster would say, "Nigger show how youes can driv'". Den Ise tight de lin', easy like and sez, "gid dap", den off de does. Ise talks to dem, Ise sez, "come on dere boy, steady now steady, don't lets dem pass youes, Ise sez dat sort ob coaxin'. Narary a one could pass weuns. Dat when de Marster would laugh and sez to me, "Thata boy, Jim".

Marster was a great law man and hims goes to de Legislatu', down Austin of'en.

He hab office in Waco and weuns driv' dere eber day, and Ise stays in dere all day, ready to driv' hims here, dere and eber whars. Most eber day hes gib me five cents, or maybe de dimefo' to buy whats Ise wants. Ise always buys pop and candy.

"De Marsters pictu'e am in Austin. Ise down dere yeahs 'ago and in de Capitols dere am a case wid pictu's in it. Ise see de Marster's pict'ue and Gove'nor Boss, ? hims was de Captain in in de Army. Ise see udder dat Ise knows 'cause dems whar out to de Marster's house.

"Annuder thin' dat de Marster does powe'ful good,' sides de law, am trade niggers. He sells and buys dem all de time. Whens dere am niggers trader comes to town de Marster sho goes to see if hims can make a trade.

"Youes see, dem days dere whar nigger trader dat travel f'om place to place, deys car'ies some time mush as hund'ed niggers fo' trade.

"Ise likes whens de trader comes, 'cause Ise know de Marster am sho to go and see dem traders. Ise joys hearin' dem a'guments ober dere niggers.

"Dere am sheds out side ob de town, whar deys keeps de niggers whens dey comes to town.

"De w'ite fo'ks say de Marster could tells de sound nigger soons he looks at dem. Ise see hims tak de pinch ob skin on top 'ob de hand and lift it up, den lets it drap. If dat skin goes back quick, de Marster sez, "dat nigger am still young". He looks at dere teeth, de eyes and hab dem run. Dat how him jedge de nigger.

"De Marster and trader talks des away." How youes trade, Ise gib youes eben trade, no Ise wants twenty fo' de diffe'ent, Ise gib youes five. Dat de way deys talks on and mybe dey makes de trade and mybe not.

"Deys hab auction some time, and Marster always tend dem. Most ob the time he hab niggers fo' de auction man to sell.

At de auction deys puts de nigger up whars ebery body can see dem. Den the auction man sez, "des nigger is so and so ol', he neber been 'bused sound as der dollar, look at de mussel and de big shoulders, hes wo'th a thousand ob any mans money, how much am Ise offe'ed.

"Den de biddin' starts. It goes like des, Two hunde'ed, Ise hear, der Ise hear two fifty, two fifty dos Ise hear three, three does Ise hear foah, foah am bid, dos Ise hear five. Den mybe deys dont bids more, den de auction man sez, goin' fo' five, sold to Marster so and so fo' de small sum of five hund'ed dollars. Den de nigger takes hims clothes, deys hab one extra suit, and goes with de mans dat buys dem.

"At de auction Ise see dem sell a family, mybe one may buy de mother a tudder buy de childs and a tudder buy de pappy. Ise see dem cry like deys am at de fune'al whens de am parted, dey has to drag dem away.

"De day befo' der Marster gibs weuns freedom, he sez to weuns, "Ise wants all youes niggers to come to de f'on ob de house Sunday mo'nin'". Weuns whar dere as he says fo' us to be. De Marster am a standin' on de gallary. He am a holdin' a paper in his hand am am a readin' f'om dat, dere am tears in his eyes and some drap on de paper. Ise habe tears in my eyes too, most ob the niggers hab. Whens he am done readin' he sez, "Youes darkies are now free as Ise am. Darkies youes can go or stay. Those dat stay till de crops am laid by, Ise will gib $5 a month."

"Den he talks to de little niggers and sez, "De little niggers who Ise hab sold dere mothers, will stay wid me tills dey are twenty one yeahs old. Youes little follows, Ise know youes age, and Ise will gib youes de statement. Now de old niggers dat Ise buys, alls Ise know 'bout youes age is dat which am told to me by the trader, Ise gib youes dat statement."

Most ob da niggers stayed on wid de Marster, deys lobs furst on and den the tudder. Ise stays on wid him fo' many yeahs, and works as de co'chman most ob de time.

"Youes ask me to tells 'bout de wah. Ise heard 'bout it and 'bout de "Blue Belles". Ise don't know what 'twas till aftah de wah, Ise den larned dat da 'twas de Yankeman. 'Twass 'bout de same on Marster's place du'in' de war, as 'twas befoah, as Ise can 'membah.

"No weuns niggers did not larn to read, and Ise de only one dat goes to da ch'ch, 'cause Ise driv' de Marster's family dere.

"Weuns libed in de cabins and hab de fiddel and de banjoes, weuns would sing and hab music on Sundays.

"Trubbel on de plase 'mong us niggers, 'twarnt any, dere am little spats some time dat all.

"Whens Ise leb de Marster 'twas fo' to work fo' a farmer fo' one yeah, den Ise comes to Fort Worth. Dat was two yeahs b'fo' de T.P. (Ry) comes to de town. Ise worked fo' a farmer on de W'ite settlement Rd, fo' two yeah and den comes to town and works in de Lumber Yard fo' long times. Ise neber hab trubbel fo' to gets work.

"Ise mai'ied 1879, weuns hab two chilluns, den de wife dies, den de chilluns. Ise all 'lone now.

"Fo' de last twelve yeahs Ise been most blind, so Ise kaint sees fo' to labah. De last work Ise done was raisin hawgs, on de rented place foah miles f'om town. Ise can see fo' to driv' de mule in de country, but in de town Ise habs to lead em. Youes see Ise haul slop f'om town fo' to feed de hawg and Ise done good. Ise hab to quit cause some fo'ks complain to de law-man, den de policeman stops me. Dey says Ise gets killed goin' on de street, leadin' de mule.

"Ise hab hard time aftah dat till de last yeah, Ise now gets $14. Da month pension, dat am a heap ob help.

"No Ise neber hab trubble, likes gettin' in jail and sech. Ise don't drink and hu'ra 'round likes some fool niggers.

"Ise go to ch'ch and des nigger am thankful fo' what de Lawd have blessed me wid.

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