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Gaines, Mary

Brinkley, Arkansas

Age : Born 1872

"I was born in Courtland, Alabama. Mother was twelve years old at the first of the surrender.

"Grandfather was a South Carolinian. Master Harris bought him, two more, his brothers and two sisters and his mother at one time. He was real African. Grandma on mother's side was dark Indian. She had white hair nearly straight. I have some of it now. Mother was lighter. That is where I gets my light color.

"Master Harris sold mother and grandma. Mother said she was fat, tall strong looking girl. Master Harris let a Negro trader have grandma, mother and her three brothers. They left grandpa. Master Harris told the nigger traders not divide grandma from her children. He didn't believe in that. He was letting them go from their father. That was enough sorrow for them to bear. That was in Alabama they was auctioned off. Master Harris lived in Georgia. The auctioneerer held mother's arms up, turned her all around, made her kick, run, jump about to see how nimble and quick she was. He said this old woman can cook. She has been a good worker in the field. She's a good cook. They sold her off cheap. Mother brought a big price. They caught on to that. The man nor woman wasn't good to them. I forgot their names what bought them. The nigger traders run her three brothers on to Mississippi. The youngest one died in Mississippi. They never seen the other two or heard of them till after freedom. They want back to Georgia. All of them went back to their old home place.

"In Alabama at this new master's home mother was nursing. Grandma and another old woman was the cooks. Mother want to their little house and told them real low she had the baby and a strange man in the house said, 'Is that the one you goiner let me have?' The man said, 'Yes, he's goiner leave in the morning b'fore times.'

"The new master come stand around to see when they went to sleep. That night he stood in the chimney corner. There was a little window; the moon throwed his shadow in the room. They said, 'I sure do like my new master.' Another said, 'I sure do.' The other one said, 'This is the best place I ever been they so good to us.' Then they sung a verse and prayed and got quiet. They heard him leave, seen his shadow go way. Heard his house door squeak when he shut his door. Then they got up easy and dressed, took all the clothes they had and slipped out. They walked nearly in a run all night and two more days. They couldn't carry much but they had some meat and meal they took along. Their grub nearly give out when they come to some camps. Somebody told them, 'This is Yankee camps.' They give them something to eat. They worked there a while. One day they took a notion to look about and they hadn't gone far 'fore Grandpa Harris grabbed grandma, then mama. They got to stay a while but the Yankees took them to town and Master Harris come got them and took them back. Their new master come too but he said his wife said bring the girl back but let that old woman go. Master Harris took them both back till freedom.

"When freedom come folks about and knock down things so glad they was free. Grandpa come back. Master Harris said, You can have land if you can get anything to work.' Grandpa took his bounty he got when he left the army and bought a pair of mules. He had to pay rent the third year but till than he got what they called giving all that stayed a start.

"Grandma was Marish and grandpa was Ned Harris. The two boys came back said the baby boy died at Selma, Alabama.

"Grandpa talked about the War when I was a child. He said he was in the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi. He said blood run sho enough deep in places. He didn't see how he ever got out alive. Grandma and mama said they was glad to get away from the camps. They looked to be shot several times. Colored folks is peace loving by nature. They don't love war. Grandpa said war was awful. My mother was named Lottie.

"One reason mother said she wanted to get away from their new master, he have a hole dug out with a hoe and put pregnant women on their stomach. The overseers beat their back with cowhide and them strapped down. She said 'cause they didn't keep up work in the field or they didn't want to work. She didn't know why. They didn't stay there very long. She didn't want to go back there.

"My life has never been a hard one. I have always worked. He and my husband run a cafe till he got drowned. Since then I have to work harder. I wash and iron, cook wherever some one comes for me. When I was a girl I was so much like mother--a fast, strong hand in the field, I always had work.

"Mother said, 'Eat the beans and greens, pot-liquor and sweet milk, make you fat and lazy.' That was what they put in the children's wooden trays in slavery. They give the men and women meat and the children the broth and dumplings, plenty molasses. Sunday mother could cook at home in slavery if she'd 'tend to the baby too. All the hands on Harrises place et dinner with their family on Sunday. He was fair with his slaves.

"For the life of me I can't see nothing wrong with the times. Only thing I see, you can't get credit to run crops and folks all trying to shun farming.

When I was on a farm I dearly loved it. It the place to raise young black and white both. Town and cars ruined the country."

Owns two houses in among white people.

Interviewer Miss Irene Robertson

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