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Grant, Dennis

Of medium height and stockily built, Dennis Grant, Jasper negro, has the high cheek bones, broad forehead and bronze coloring of his part Indian ancestry. His laughing mouth and eyes indicate that he can always see the funny side of everything, although often 'down in the back', arrayed in tatters and with many a hard time to recount. His grizzled, kinky hair is usually covered with a well-worn gray felt hat, which he never forgets to remove in the presence of ladies. He repeats, "yes, mam, dats d' troof", after every statement, whether he knows anything about the subject or not. As Dee Blackmon, he was the slave of Joshua Grant, and his name was changed by this master. Born in Houston about 80 years ago, he moved to Spring Hill Road, near Jasper, while just a child. Dennis has been married twice. His present wife was a buxom young colored woman with two little boys, whom he met in another section of the country. As she was not well-known in the neighborhood, a neighboring white man once asked him, "Dennis, was Nora a widow when you married her?" "No sah," he replied innocently, "jes' engaged a couple 'r' times." With eight children of his own, Dennis has gone to particular pains to keep Nora right at home, and boasted, "Guess I kin support my fambly 'thout her wukin' out."

Now, however, advancing years keep him closer to home, and the younger wife and boys are beginning to work out to help support the family.

"My name's Dennis Grant. Dat ain' really my name but eb'rybudy call me dat. My sho' nuf name was Dee Blackmon, 'n' my daddy name been Andy Blackmon. I was his on'lies' boy 'n' atter I's bo'n he tuk pneumony 'n' die. My marster name was Joshua Grant so dey calls me Grant atter him. I lib on d' Spring Hill Road jus' outn' d' sou'f en' 'r' Jasper."

"I's bo'n in Houston a few year' befo' d' war. Dat mek me 'roun' my 80's dis comin' Crissmus. I come wid my mudder 'n' some mo' slaves t' Belgrade. Us stay dere a year 'n' den us move t' Jasper. I's 'bout two year' ol' w'en my daddy die."

"My marster name' was Joshua Grant. He was a sargent in d' army. He come home on furlough t' see he wife 'n' two daughters 'bout d' close 'r' d' war 'n' den he tuk pneumony 'n' die while he at home. My boss he jus' d' fines' kin' 'r' man. He ain' whip us much but he wuk us purty hard. He jus' wanter wear me out iffen I didn' do like he want. He cut at me but I jus' skin't under d' bed 'n' he neber could tech me."

"I didn' hab t' do so much wuk, do' (though). I 'member d' berry (very) fus' money I eber did hab fo' myse'f. I brung a young man some water in d' go'd (gourd) 'n' he gimme a whole nickle. I run quick 'n' buy some sugah cane wid it. He name was Billy Powell."

"I go'd t' school jus' one time w'en d' school 's runnin'. Den my mudder, Julie, she marry a cripple' man 'n' he mek me stay t' home 'n' wait on him w'ile he try t' gyarden 'n' wuk. But he die befo' long 'n' she marry Sam Grant. He was d' boss' house servant. He die 'n' den she up 'n' marry Lewis Grant 'n' nex' atten' him, Tom Grant he come 'long 'n' she marry him. Her las' husban' he was ol' Henry Lanier, 'n' she outlib him. I don' know how come dey all die. Guess she run dem all a purty hard race."

"My mudder she was a pyo-bred (pure bred) Injun gal. Dr. Black 'n' Andy Blackmon, dat d' one w'at was my daddy, one time dey go fishin' down d' bayou close t' Beaumont. Dey see dis good lookin' Injun gal 'n' Andy he tuk a likin' t' her. So Mister Black mek him steal her 'n' den dey tuk her back wid dem t' Jasper. D' boss he gib her t' he wife fo' a house gal. She couldn' talk nuthin' but Injun talk. Dey teach her t' talk us talk 'n' mek her wait on d' ol' mistus 'til she satisfy t' stay."

"My marster he hab lots 'r' slaves. He lib in Jasper but he hab a farm down in d' country w'er d' ol'er niggers wuk. Dey hab 'bout 20 pick'ninnies w'at dey lef' wid d' ol' marster. He buil' a high stone pen 'n' put all d' chillen in dere so dey wouldn' run 'way 'n' git los' in d' cane brake 'n' wood all ober d' country 'roun' Jasper. Ol' Aunt Peggy she was a ol' nigger w'at fall down outn' a tree w'at she clum (climbed) up in fo' t' git a li'l nigger w'at gone up in d' tree 'n' couldn' git down, 'n' break her back, she tuk care 'r' dem. 'Nuder woman she hep her. Aunt Peggy she so cripple' she hafter crawl on a' fo's (all fours)."

"Boss he kep' 20 cow. One t'ing I hafter do was t' hep milk dem cow. He mek a long troff (trough) fo' all d' li'l darkies 'n' put two big bucket' 'r' milk in dem at a time 'n' gib each one a long han'l (handle) wood spoon 'n' all d' bread dey want, 'n' dat how he feed dem. He lef' all d' cream on d' milk 'n' dey git rollin' fat. Dey didn' hab no natural spoons like dey's now. Dey mek spoons outn' holler out gum wood."

"Mandy Jane she uster tek all d' pick'ninnies down t' ch'uch at Magnolia Spring close by d' farm on Sunday so dey mammies could see dem. Dey all come t' chu'ch 'n' us hab t' sit still 'n' lissen w'ile d' w'ite man 'spounded. Atter chu'ch was ober dey all come 'roun' 'n' shuck han's wid Mandy Jane 'n' visit wid dey chillen. Den Mandy Jane she lead us all t' d' big wagon 'n' mek us git in 'n' tek us all back t' town. D' daddies 'n' d' mammies dey all stay on d' farm 'n' wuk. Mandy Jane she like d' chillen so she kep' dem on a year 'r' two atter d' war been ober' 'til d' folks git a start."

"Miss Susie Adam she gimme d' fus' bake' 'taters I eber eat. I scare' t' eat dem so'se I didn' know w'at dey was. Dey was red pertater wid w'ite inside. Dey call dem nigger killers all d' time. Us mudders brung us chillens dem 'taters w'en dey visit us on Sundays. Eb'ry one 'r' d' chillen know he mammy's voice, but he neber see her cep'n' on Sundays."

"W'en us fus' come yere, Jasper county was jus' a big t'icket (thicket) wid big timber 'n' cane brake. Dey was on'y Injun paths 'n' Injuns was camp' all ober d' country. Dat d' way it was w'en d' w'ite folks come yere t' settle. Dey camp under a tree 'til dey clear 'way d' timber 'n' buil' a house. I's wukked all ober d' country 'n' as far souf's d' Gulf."

"Dey hab some co'n hollers. One was sump'n like dis, 'Rabbit gittin' up in a holler fo' niggers kotch fo' bre kfas'---'Ol' cow Piedy, Ol' cow Piedy'. Sometime' my mudder sing t' d' li'l pick'ninnies. She jump dem up in d' air 'n' sing. She sing 'nudder one:

'Sugar in d' gou'de (gourd), Sugar in d' gou'de. Iffen you wanter git D' sugar out-- R-r-o-o-ll d' gou'de ober.'

'N' all d' time she jumpin' dem right straight up in d' air."

"W'en I's free I was in d' yard at d' ol' Wesley McKee place in Wes' Jaspter. Tom Grant he was my step-daddy den. He carry his fambly souf' 'r' Jasper 'n' farm d' ol' Parker place fo' fo' (four) year'. Lots 'r' people was campin' 'n' libin outdo's (outdoors) durin' d' war. W'en us lef' d' Parker place us move t' d' eas' 'r' Jasper on d' Crab Norseworthy's place 'n' stay dere sebenteen year'. Nex' us move t' d' John V. Bevil place on Walnut Run, eas' 'r' Jasper. My step-daddy he die yere 'n' mudder she put all d' eight chillen out t' wuk 'mongst d' w'ite folks."

"I lib wid d' Norseworthy's. I wash 'n' i'on (iron), 'n' cook 'n' milk 'n' go down t' d' sto' (store) 'n' draw d' 'lasses outn' d' bahr'l fo' d' cust'mers. He mek me tek a bafe (bath) 'n' change my clo's eb'ry day. I uster git so tired 'r' washin' 'n' i'onin' (ironing) I say I war'n' (was not) gwinter do it no mo'. Den Miss Norseworthy she mek like she st't (start) t' whip me 'n' I run 'n' crawl under d' bed, but I come out purty soon 'n' do d' wuk so she didn' hafter bresh (spank wid a limb 'r' breshwood) me."

"I uster jump in d' creek in front 'r' d' ol' Joshua place. He was a sargent in d' war. He uster be a sort 'r' bootlegger too. Some 'r' d' marsters gib d' niggers barbecue on d' Fo'th 'r' July, but Joshua gib big dance. I uster dance all night. Us chillen uster dig a hole undah d' stone fence 'n' go swipe peaches in d' nex' orchard. D' ol' mistus she go atter us 'n' brung us back by her han', one trailin' right behin' d' 'tothern'. Dey shut us in d' pen fo' a w'ile but den dey leave us out."

"My mudder she allus say she sorry I kaint go t' school cause I hab d' bes' mem'ry she eber see. I 'member in slav'ry dey was plenty 'r' patterroles t' keep d' darkies straight. My fadder say one day d' patterroles git atter him but he cut 'cross d' country 'n' jump seben (seven) fences 'n' git 'way."

"Wilson Grant he's one 'r' d' Grant slaves w'at dey couldn' do nuthin' wid so dey let him go 'n' he go'd (went) down on Walnut Run 'n' lib in a big pit 'n' hunt 'n' fish. In dem day dey hab pens fo' d' niggers dey was gwineter sell, jus' like cattle pen' 'n' some 'r' d' w'ite men mek it a bus'ness 'r' snipin' 'n' sellin' niggers."

"Dey hab a bull pen near Jasper w'at dey put niggers in. It was a tall house like dat wid wire 'roun' d' top. Dr. Black 'n' Cunnel McCray dey buy niggers 'roun' yere 'n' dere 'n' kep' dem in dat pen. W'en dey sell one dey mek out d' papers. W'en d' people want fiel' han's 'r' house servant 'r' any kin' 'r' wukkin' dey go dere 'n' buy dem."

"I's been marry twict 'n' got ten boys 'n' one gal. Two d' boys my step-son. Mos' 'r' dem all done grow up by now. I belong' t' d'

Baptis' chu'ch 'n' uster preach a li'l. I gits eight dollar' a mont' pension. I got li'l gyarden 'r' my own 'n' wuks 'roun' my ol' w'ite folkses place a li'l. I wuk long time fo' Mister Red Adam 'n' w'en he die he tol' dem t' look out fo' Dennis. So I's wuk fo' he ol'es' son, Mister Will, a lot since den. But I's broke down now so's I ain' wuth much no mo'."

"'N' I tells my secon' wife w'ats lots younger dan w'at I is, dat w'en I's dead, don' her mo'rn (mourn) fo' me, but fin' herse'f anudder nigger."

B. E. Davis Madisonville, Texas (March 6, 1938 (No))

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